Friday, August 29, 2014

Backyard Fajitas

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

It's been a LONG time since I posted a recipe on here. Apologies as I've been traveling so much this summer I havent really been cooking much. That changed last weekend when I catered a little party for a friend who requested I make some steak and chicken fajitas. No problem I said as this is a really easy dish that always gets lots of likes. There's not too many ways one can make fajitas as the ingredients come down to just a handful of things. However if you're making chicken then the marinade plays the most important role. Chicken breast is boring but a good marinade can elevate it to eatable status. I decided to rely on the Homesick Texan who got her recipe from her uncle.

Click HERE for Uncle Homesick Texan's Chicken Fajita Marinade

I don't have an exact recipe as it's simple as far as what you need. Figure two bell peppers and one medium onion for every two pounds of meat. Cut them both in strips. I prefer flour tortillas for fajitas so that's what I use and sometimes if they're in season I like to flash pan fry a batch of cherry tomatoes and sprinkle them with cumin and use those too. Typical sides are rice and beans. It's hard to believe but many people mess up this simple dish. There's a few things you should know if you plan on making some soon. As far as the peppers and onions go you want to blister them which means you want your pan to be extra hot when they're thrown in. Do so in batches and do the peppers and onions separate. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on them and take off when nicely colored.

Peppers and Onions

Next up is something I decided to try for a little change of pace. My always reliable cookbook collection from Robb Walsh had a recipe in one of them that suggests substituting a black bean hummus in place of regular refried beans. Perfect for a hot summer day this recipe turned the food from Tex-Mex to Leb-Mex.

Black Bean Hummus is great spread on the tortilla of the fajita

This turned out to be the star of the show for both me and many guests. I found it worked better with the chicken the beef but it was also really satisfying as a dip used with tortilla chips. Next up as far as important notes for making fajitas goes is the cooking of the meats. You better be doing it on a grill. Fajitas aren't made in the kitchen folks. Just like the tip for the peppers and onions you need to make sure the grill is both hot and well lubed. When ready cook the chicken first if making both. I should note that I prefer using tenders from Costco as they cook faster and are easily chopped once ready. For me it's all about the steak when it comes to fajitas. The perfect pair there's only one cut to use in my eye and thats skirt steak. I get mine from Tony's Finer Foods which has multiple locations in Chicagoland. They'll clean it up and slice it down the middle so it's a quick grill job when ready. I only use mesquite smoked salt and pepper as that's all you need. Slice against the grain.

Chicken and Steak for Fajitas

Once all the meat is chopped you're now ready to assemble your plate. Barring you warmed the tortillas up on the grill to give them a little color. Assemble as you like and enjoy.

Carne Asada (L) and Chicken (R) Fajitas

See ya next time @chibbqking

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thai Salad Special

 -Grubbing in Chicago
Where the Thai Salads at?

Today's post is a tribute to the country which I feel makes the most tongue tingling salads. I'm not big on raw greens and diced veggies and thats ok because the salads of Thai cuisine are hardly just that. Wikipedia states that Thai salads fall into four categories - Yam, Tam, Lap and Phla - with each one having a different flavor, texture and preparation profile. I still consider myself a novice with this as I'm learning much of it as I type. That said I became much more experienced in the eating of them department this past summer. Here are 17 Thai salads I've tried  from some of Chicago's best Thai restaurants. They make for the perfect snack on a hot summer day. I wont waste your time trying to describe each and every one because they should all be tried as they're each unique and tasty in their own ways. That said some of the many words that can be used to recount them are comforting, exotic, lip-smacking, tangy, sour, succulent, and just plain good.

Spoon Thai

Larb Kor Moo - sliced pork neck grilled to perfection and flavored with chili powder and tossed with cilantro, onion and roasted rice powder in spicy lime dressing

Thai Valley

Spicy Rice Namsod - tasty Thai curry rice mixture combined with ground pork, red onions roasted peanut ginger in tasty spicy sauce served

Siam Country

Thai Crispy Egg Salad - crispy egg, cucumbers, red onions, carrots with sweet and sour dressing and ground peanuts

Silom 12

Silom Salad - fried papaya, green beans, grape tomato, peanut, dried shrimp, and spicy som tum dressing

Yum Pla Duuk Fu Salad - crispy catfish, peanut, green mango and spicy sweet salad dressing

Opart Thai House

Miang Sa-Wan - dried pork, peanuts, lime, fresh ginger, onions, cilantro and thai hot peppers, served with green lettuce leaves to wrap

TAC Quick 

Crispy On Choy - tempura Chinese watercrest, shrimp, ground chicken, mint leaf and onions with spicy chili paste lime dressing

Sticky Rice 

Larb Catfish - chop fried catfish, cilantro, onion, basil, mint, roasted rice powder mixed with lime sauce

Tilapia Apple Salad -  deep-fried tilapia topped with onions, ginger, apple, pineapple, cilantro and mint mixed with Thai spicy dressing

Nine Classic Thai

Catfish Salad - deep fried pieces of catfish topped with shredded carrot, green onion, chile and Thai Spicy Dressing

Andy's Thai Kitchen

Yum Woon Sen Salad - glass noodle, shrimp, ground chicken, peanut, fried garlic, onion and cilantro with a spicy lime juice

Aroy Thai

Grilled Pork Neck Salad - grilled pork salad with red onion, green onions, roasted rice powder and thai chili

Siam Noodle & Rice 

Bean Thread Salad - tossed, seasoned clear noodle with minced shrimp, ground pork, red onion, celery and chili over a bed of fresh lettuce

Spicy Thai Lao (Burbank)

Laotian Jackfruit Salad - young jackfruit, rice powder, fish sauce, onion, cilantro, basil, tamarind, lime juice and dried Thai chiles

White Pearl (Elgin)

Northeastern Spicy Chopped Beef Salad - As rec'd by Leela of SheSimmers which you can learn all about HERE

B&V Market (Elgin)

 Nam Kaho Tod - a deep-fried rice salad with northern Thai-style pressed ham tossed with ginger, peanuts, onion and cilantro in spicy lime dressing

LTHforum Picnic

Grilled Beef Heart Nam Tok - as made by @brbinchicago for the LTHforum Picnic. Get the awesome recipe HERE

Spoon Thai
4608 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 769-1173

Thai Valley
4600 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 588-2020

Siam Country
4637 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 271-0700

Silom 12
1846 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-1212

Opart Thai House
4658 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 989-8517

Thai Quick
3930 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 327-5253

Sticky Rice
4018 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 588-0133

Nine Classic Thai
2349 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 360-7087

Andy's Thai Kitchen
946 W Wellington Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 549-7821

Aroy Thai
4654 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 275-8360

Siam Noodle & Rice
4654 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 769-6694

Spicy Thai Lao
5357 State Rd
Burbank, IL 60459
(708) 424-1758

White Pearl Restaurant
265 S McLean Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
(847) 695-3399

B & V Asian Market
347 N Mclean Blvd
South Elgin, IL 60177
(847) 931-7188

Friday, August 22, 2014

Stopping in at three Galesburg Favorites

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Land of Old School Eats

Galesburg is a small Illinois town with some real history behind it. A regular stop on the Underground Railroad it was also the site of the fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate and birthplace of poet, author and historian Carl Sandburg. It's long had ties to the railroad industry which to this day remains the city's largest employer. Home to a handful of festivals I roamed thru this Main street community last April before  wandering the Quad Cities area with Grub Seeker.  So of course we would be stopping in at some local food favorites. Hope you enjoy the journey.

Gray's Sandwich Shop

Tucked away on main street is this locals breakfast and lunch favorite. They describe themselves as an "Old Fashioned American Diner" and I can oblige with that. It's a classic as far as looks and feel go. As far as the food went it was mostly on par with what you'd expect from a longtime locals favorite. I cant find the dates they've been around online but you have to imagine the place is at least 20 years old. Busy day on this afternoon as I stopped in right as the lunch rush was forming.

The Menu which in these parts is always sponsored by Pepsi

My original reason for stopping in was to try what they claim to be "the best tenderloin in town" and since we're not too far from Iowa I figured they might be putting out a good one. But then upon glancing the menu and seeing 20+ balls of fresh beef go onto the griddle for burgers, I went all in.

Tenderloin - BAD. Just a frozen 'loin that many old folks from around the way must have trouble eating without any teeth in place.

Cheeseburger - Pretty Good. Freshly made this hit the spot but didn't reach any stars or anything like that. The beef might of been a little too lean.

Grilled Cheese Rite - Awesome. You might of noticed on the menu that they serve "Steam Rites" which are loose meat sandwiches, again were not far from Iowa. I asked what a grilled cheese rite was and was told it's loose meat in grilled cheese which sounded too comfortable not to try.

Served with standard burger toppings inside, this was perfectly executed Midwestern mom food. Nothing special but it did hit the spot to the point where I'll be making my own come one cold winter day.

Coney Island

Continuing on in my quest to visit every remaining Coney Island Hot Dog shop in the States, well outside of Detroit proper anyway, this would be our second stop. According to the plaque outside this is Galesburg's oldest restaurant. They've been at it since 1921. Stepping inside it feels as much like an old time ice cream parlor as it does a Coney Island stand.

As we enter

Notice the "Maid Wrong" on the Pepsi promoted menu, I gotta small chuckle out of that

Wieners in the window like every other old time Coney haunt

No need to mention what we were here for, only question was would it be one or two?

One as we were just coming from Gray's. So as you can see they're still preparing them like they used to and while I didn't ask I'm pretty sure the lady behind the counter has been there for a while. That's pretty much the case at every one of these stops I've made. You may of noticed the Red Hot Chicago neon in the window and or the Vienna Beef poster behind her in the picture. They make other types of hot dogs so I'm not sure what kind of wiener they use for them but the Eckrich brand Turkey/Pork hot dogs used for these ruined them. I'm not opposed to the use of cheap wieners in a Coney, most places outside Detroit and Flint use them but these taste too much like them to the point where the coney sauce was barely noticeable. All I tasted was the distinct flavor of the turkey blended hot dogs which I cant stand. Oh well, you win some you lose some.

Coney Island Hot Dog

John's Taco Hideout

Too dark for a picture but if you could see the large trailer with motorcycles parked out front you'd get the feeling I got that this place both looked and then once inside felt like a real deal Texas roadhouse. They've been around since the 60's and as expected not much has changed. Prices still dirt cheap.

Pepsi Menu

There seems to be a handful of these 1960's Mexican-American eateries around this way and maybe one day I'll get around to a post on them. Anyway a few of them serve Tacoburgers which closely resemble loose meat sandwiches and are also popular at old school Drive-in's around Los Angeles. These are made using the spiced ground beef for the tacos served on a bun. Taco Hideout has them but for some reason I just couldn't dig in. I should of for documentation purposes but this was the last stop of many on this day. I did get an order of beef and bean dip which again felt straight out of the 1960's. That said I liked it. Good gameday grub.

Dip served with Chips

Reason for the visit was the fact they have crispy tacos. If you've read other stuff I've posted you know I'm a fan. These are my ultimate guilty pleasure which in some ways shouldn't even be that since tacos dorados are common in many Mexican states. Note: Crispy tacos meaning freshly fried tortilla, not some store bought ones from a box. These little guys came three to a basket and cost near to nothing. They weren't amazing but they were sufficient. Authentic? Who cares the guy that owns the place is Mexican so who is this gringo to tell him otherwise. Admittedly there probably aren't any places in Mexico serving tacos dorados with shredded cheddar but that's why we call it Tex-Mex. I'm a sucker for these type of spots.

Taco Basket

No room for another locals favorite on this trip but we did have to stop for a snap of the sign. 

See ya next time.

Gray's Sandwich Shop
1160 W Main St
Galesburg, IL 61401
(309) 342-6615

Coney Island
77 S Cherry St
Galesburg, IL 61401
(309) 343-4990

Taco Hideout
1256 W Berrien St
Galesburg, IL 61401
(309) 343-5610

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jim Shoe Fever

-The Sammy's of Chi

Sweet tasting Chicago. You know all about the Italian beefs, hot dogs, pizza pies, tacos and even the Big Baby, Mother-in-Law and the Freddy. But today's post is all about the great unknown. For those of us that live in a different Chicago, the one that doesn't make the news as much, this is for the most part a foreign sandwich. It'd be that way to me if not for the great Peter Engler, the man who introduced Anthony Bourdain to the Mother-in-Law is also responsible for introducing 100's of us to the Jim Shoe. Or is it the Gym Shoe? No one's quite sure. It took Peter close to a decade to dive into the history of this sandwich which is typically found at sub shops located mostly on the city's south and west sides. Another common trait amongst the places that offer this sandwich is they tend to be Pakistani owned. That much we know thanks to Peter who's complete report can be found HERE. You're probably wondering what makes a Jim Shoe so lets get that out of the way before we check out some spots making them. The main parts to a Jim Shoe Sandwich are the corned beef, roast beef and gyros. No you don't choose which one you want, they come with all three. Toppings vary but standard orders incl. lettuce, sliced tomato, tzatziki sauce, mayo or bright yellow mustard while stuff like cheese, onions, and giardiniera is sometimes used. Mess is an understatement.

Super Sub

Locals favorite in Marquette Park

Jim Shoe listed on the menu

My first ever Jim shoe sandwich was consumed with the man who introduced me to them. I joined Peter and a couple other explorers for one at a place he would say has one of the better Shoe's in town. They also offer a Super Jim Shoe taco which is the same as thw sandwich except it comes on pita bread instead of the sub roll. The super taco is a pretty common offering at these shops but this is the only place I've seen them making a Super Jim Shoe Taco. While we contemplated ordering it in line the guy behind us said "you gotta do it, they're the best" but due to the fact me and one other were Jim Shoe virgins we had to go with the sandwich which the guy in line totally understood. He was impressed we were there indulging in one. The friendly proprietor behind the bullet proof glass took our order laughing as they got to work on it.

Jim Shoe Sandwich from Super Sub 

Super Sub does a really nice presentation and good overall tasting sandwich. How each place makes a Jim Show varys as far as technique. At Super Sub they throw the meats on the griddle and chop them down into a taco filling consistency before adding the layer of gyro sauce (tzatziki), lettuce, tomato and whatever else I'm forgetting. To date this is the best Jim Shoe I've ate but it gets crazier than this. Another common item offered at these sub shops are deep fried cheese steaks. I don't even know if they offer these at the State Fair! Insane but people order them. They take everything that makes a cheese steak and stuff it into a tortilla like they're making a burrito except instead of ending it there they place it in a deep fryer basket and place another basket on top, this prevents it from opening, and deep fry the entire thing. Not listed on the menu we asked if they could make us a deep fried Jim Shoe and the guy happily obliged while other customers were in awe.

Deep Fried Jim Shoe 

There was no warning label on the box but if these things take main stream best believe some congressman out there will be pushing for a label that lets you know the health issues you can have if you eat too many of these. That said, you kind of got the feeling that it could be good and it was.

Note: I wasn't drunk

Stony Sub

This 24 hour shack boasts some of the best artwork which is a common characteristic at many of these southside eating establishments. Peter, who happens to know everything, mentioned that it's one guy who does them for most of the spots. No Jim Shoe listed on the outside but we were there for one and when we stepped inside they had Peter's report printed out and taped to the glass. I asked and another customer brought it in and they were very happy to see. As Peter described it "Stony Sub’s sandwich is exceptionally generous, well chopped and griddled, extremely juicy, and bursting with giardiniera." This was much messier than others though it's description is on point.

Jim Shoe Sandwich from Stony Sub

Super Fast Food 

Located on 71st Street in the South Shore Neighborhood

We stopped into this spot on a later excursion that was trying to get to the bottom of the sandwiches origin. As of then it was Peter's belief that it may have started somewhere in the Roseland neighborhood but there was a reason that we were here. I don't believe we ever did find out what we were there too but we did enjoy a pretty decent Jim Shoe. Further proof that no two shoes are the same as this one was really lacking in the toppings and bread department but the finely chopped meat is my preferred way of eating one. Unfortunately the bread couldn't hold this monster together.

Disintegrating Jim Shoe Sandwich

Sun Submarine

Mini-Chain on North avenue in the Austin neighborhood

"Gym" Shoe Sub on the Menu...or go one up and get the Sun Sub with steak meat included too

Jim Shoe's aren't local to just the southside, while it's most likely they started somewhere over there they've flocked all over the city and even across state lines. In Austin there's a place called Sun Submarine that was profiled by Peter in his report. As far as the pictures go this one looked the most delectable, go ahead and laugh but it really looked good. Specifically the chopped meats inside a perfectly toasted sub roll. I rolled into here on Super bowl Sunday last year with a Jim Shoe virgin named Jim. While it wasn't nearly as good as it looked nor quite as finely constructed as my first and to date best Jim Shoe ate, it was a nice soaker-upper for the shots of booze that ensued.

Gym Shoe Sandwich from Sun Submarine

Just like Chicago style hot dogs and also Italian beef once did, the Jim Shoe has started to become a little more well known. I've seen it on menus at Halal fast food shops and even at Submarine sandwich stops in Milwaukee. Others have chowed on them in Indianapolis and I've said before that in time you'll see them pop up somewhere very mainstream. Maybe a cocktail bar or some yet to open place that tries to elevate Chicago style street food. Stay tuned, more shoes to fill.

Gym Shoe Sandwich Value Meal (#13) at a Halal fast Food Spot in Albany Park

Jim Shoe Sandwich mentioned on the wall of a Milwaukee (WI) Sub Shop

Super Sub and Gyro
2810 W Marquette Rd
Chicago, IL 60629
(773) 434-2222

Stony Sub
8440 S Stony Island Ave
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 978-4000

Super Fast Food
2247 E 71st St
Chicago, IL 60649
(773) 643-2400

Sun Sub
5542 W North Ave # 1
Chicago, IL 60639
(773) 622-8240


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