A Paupered Chef Update

It's been awhile.

nick and blake

As many of you have noticed, it's been quite a while since we posted on the site. For that—and mostly for the lack of any news—we apologize. The story of our absence isn't as exciting as we'd like it to be. Basically, due to new jobs for the both of us, we've been busy. Really busy. So we took a little break from posting while we focused on jobs that pay money. Obviously, a note saying so wo...

Weekend Project: Freeze Chicken Stock in Ice Cube Trays

The Paupered Chef officially endorses the convenient practice.

19th Oct 2011

I, Nick Kindelsperger, wholeheartedly endorse the practice of freezing chicken stock in ice cube trays. Doing so allows one to crack them into zip-lock bags and stash them in the freezer for safe keeping. It is convenient, fairly easy to do, and downright practical (in a slightly embarrassing way). Of course, the problem with dishing out little kitchen tips and tricks like this one is that ther...

For the Love of Un-Simple Things: Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Just a little love for laborious cooking projects.

17th Oct 2011

The older I get, the more I appreciate the un-simple things. Sure, I admire the shining brilliance of singularly perfect foods — like the best summer tomatoes or a properly aged steak — but I'm far more interested in dishes that combine dozens of components into a complex and bewildering whole. I speak of Mexican moles, feisty Thai salads, balanced Indian curries, and, of course, a certain C...

How Absinthe Can Improve Just About Any Cocktail

Forget about the hallucinations; one needs to dish this thing out in drops.

6th Oct 2011

I'm not sure if there is a better drink to write about for the launch of an improved website design than my favorite cocktail of the moment — a drink so good it's literally called an "Improved Cocktail." (If only modern drinks had enough courage to pronounce their worth.) Think of it as a relaunched product's "new and improved" guarantee, except that this one was made back in 1876 and is alcoh...

Making Andouille at Home

Saving andouille from the supermarket.

22nd Aug 2011

This didn't start off as a gumbo mission, though I did end up there (more to come on that front soon.) No, the saga began simply: about three weeks ago I needed andouille for a Dinner Tonight . All I could find at the grocery store was a product that claimed to be the right stuff, but had all the character of cheap bologna and about as much spice as, well, cheap bologna. I was angry.

Then...

The Tomato Sandwich: Why You Don''t Always Need Bacon to Be a Glutton

Adventures with buttered toast, ripe tomatoes, and Duke's mayonnaise.

2nd Aug 2011

Most people return from the beach with tans; I returned with tomatoes. It was a half-bushel, to be exact, and they were stashed in the back of a car as it wound its way from North Carolina, through the Great Smoky Mountains, and, some 16 hours later, finally to Chicago. Why such extravagant measures for tomatoes?

When it comes to tomatoes, I don't suffer fools, and I simply can't accept sub-p...

How to Enjoy Hotel Bars and the Seelbach Cocktail

Nick enjoys the comforts of a 100 year old recipe.

12th Jul 2011

I have a thing for hotel bars. It helps if they are opulent old ones, designed to comfort the wealthy traveler from a 100 years ago. Sure, the drinks aren't necessarily the best, and the service can be uninspired and overly corporate, but I feel immediately relieved when I walk into some grand old space like Chicago's exquisite Palmer House in the Loop. Plus, I'm just not sure there is a bet...

In Praise of Cincinnati Chili

Nick finally takes a look back at the chili of his youth.

13th Jun 2011

Cockaigne: an imaginary land of great luxury and ease.
—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

"Cockaigne was the name of the family home...Any time there's a recipe with this in the title, it means it's an old family favorite."
— 'Joy Of Cooking': 75 Years Young, CBS

When the words "imaginary land of great luxury" and "chili" collide, usually that means we're set for some hyperbolic descri...

Homemade Rhubarb Syrup and the Rhubarb Daisy

For those who don't particularly like rhubarb.

24th May 2011

"I hate rhubarb." That was the first sentence uttered by my local butcher after I described this sauce I wanted to make to pair with some pork chops. To be fair, rhubarb is a much-maligned spring vegetable. I was just convinced that I had to love it, and that I’d instantly find all kind of amazing uses for it.

Though rhubarb and I don’t have much history to contend with, in cooking more tha...

How to Make Shoyu Ramen at Home

With a lot of help from Takashi's Noodles.

19th Apr 2011


One sip of real ramen is enough. That’s all I needed to permanently erase all those memories of those pathetic packaged noodles, which I greedily warmed up in the microwave during college. One sip. Done. It was also enough to make me question whether there was a better soup on the planet. Fragrant, rich, and soothing, it has no parallel in the Midwest cuisine I grew up on, and while other marve...

Building the Best Ramen: The Noodle Question

Leaving the packaged noodles behind...

4th Apr 2011

Ramen is Japan’s ultimate comfort food, the equivalent of a cheeseburger, fried chicken, and deep-dish pizza into one.
- Takashi Yagihashi from Takashi’s Noodles

I may live in Chicago, but I’ll admit that I'd probably pick ramen before those other foods when I'm in need of something truly comforting. Those big bowls of noodles and broth seem especially perfect at warding off a brutal...

The Case for Going Animal Style: The Double-Double In-N-Out Clone

I don't really care for big burgers.

23rd Mar 2011

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one railing against the big burger tide. While nearly every new restaurant opening in Chicago features a big, fat burger on its menu, I’m that guy that prefers thin little griddled burgers. Usually I can only find them at old school joints, but even these are frequently harder to find these days. It’s getting to the point where I haven’t eaten a burger...

Engineering the Perfect Risotto

From Bone Marrow to Saffron

28th Feb 2011

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Learning how to make risotto at home was one of the more liberating experiences of my early culinary career. The idea that I could create a perfectly legitimate risotto by just buying arborio rice and stirring like mad, was enough to make me wonder what else I couldn’t cook. I’m not going to say it single-handedly helped launch this blog and my writing career, but it was crucial. It was...

We Are Proud to Present Appetites for iPad

Cooking step-by-step with "the cookbook reimagined"

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Late last year our Paupered Chef inbox dinged with slightly cryptic e-mail about a "new top-secret project" from LA's Clear-Media. We called them up and they shared with us their idea: a step-by-step cooking app built for the iPad. They were gathering up the coolest food bloggers on the planet, and wanted us along. We said yes. The result is Appetites , which has just been released at the Ap...

Idea Lab | Is it Possible to Make Transcendent Risotto at Home?

And: Should Risotto Spread?

17th Feb 2011

If you’re a Top Chef junkie like me then you probably remember that Tre got kicked off episode 8 this season after serving a risotto that didn’t “spread.” At least, that’s what judge Tom Colicchio said. It’s always hard to know exactly why contestants are booted off the show when you can't taste the food, but this was one of those cases where you could visibly see that his riso...

My Top 10 Chinese Recipes of the Year

The Chinese New Year is the perfect time to look back on a spicy year.

3rd Feb 2011

Greetings from bitterly cold and blustery Chicago. Currently the city is buried under two feet of snow, and battling some of the coldest temperatures in years. Though it seems like everyone is putting a post about where to eat Chinese food tonight in honor of the Chinese New Year, I decided to take the time and talk about what it has been like to cook Chinese dishes at home. I fell hard for this...

The Trick to Better Refried Black Beans

Some pasilla chiles and avocado leaves make all the difference.

26th Jan 2011

If you happened to stumble across the recipe for “Seasoned Black Beans” in Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca al Gusto there wouldn’t be much to immediately keep you from turning the page. Dont get me wrong, it is housed in a beautiful book, it is just that besides the boring name and lack of picture, this is all Kennedy says in the headnote: “This fried bean paste is used for filling tamales, for t...

The Paupered Chef 2.0

Welcome to our redesign!

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We would like to welcome you, at long last, to the newly designed home of The Paupered Chef. Let us all breathe a sigh of collective relief. We’re back.

Well, things look a lot different. The pictures everywhere on the site are bigger, and we've laid out the homepage so that the articles we write get some prime real estate on the site. We've also instituted a Tumblr-style blog below, where we...

Guide to the River Cottage: Why Hugh Fearnley-Whittingtsall Should Be Your Food Celebrity

The British television star that has inspired us time and again

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The River Cottage TV show begins with a ridiculously cheesy cartoon showing a curly haired driver fleeing a polluted city for an idyllic paradise, complete with jumping fish, smiling cows, and some friendly pigs. During the course of three seasons of River Cottage and the many years of spinoffs, host Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall manages to kill and eat every single one of those creature...

Smoking Success: Homemade Allen and Sons Barbecue

How to make chopped (not pulled) pork

14th Dec 2010

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Just add sauce...

Does anyone have the recipe for Allen and Son's barbecue sauce, because I'll lay down a sizable chunk of change to get my hands on it. It's one my favorite barbecue restaurants in the country , and it's almost all down to that tangy, vineger based sauce. It doesn't coat the meat like a thick Kansas City-style sauce, but seems to disappear into the meat, making each bite...

Gorgefest | Los Angeles Edition

A mad dash for LA's best food in one afternoon.

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We had four hours to eat in L.A., a period of time which all of us agreed wasn't long enough. While most people would have simply given up and spent the time driving around Hollywood or lounging on the beach, we plowed ahead, sure we could catch a plane and sample some of the best food in the city along way. So our afternoon in L.A. was spent cruising the endless sprawl of concrete and zig zag...

Two Hours in Detroit: Buddy''s, Lafayette, and Telway Sliders

Pizza, Hot Dogs, and Sliders: Detroit's best in one afternoon

3rd Dec 2010

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Just a sampling.

Whether it’s research for Serious Eats, city guides for Grub Street Chicago, or "work" for this site, if you happen to call me on a Saturday you’ll probably find me in the midst of some misguided eating tour. I call it research, and yet I realize that it starts to drive one slightly mad. It’s to the point now where I can’t imagine being close to any major metropolita...

The Plea for Turkey with Mole

Ditch the roast turkey this Thanksgiving

24th Nov 2010

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How turkey should taste.

Question: What iconic Thanksgiving food would you get rid of?
Answer: Twenty percent of chefs would prefer to get rid of the turkey altogether.
- GQ's The Great Eat Like a Man Thanksgiving Chef Survey

Here’s the question: Why is everyone working so hard to not screw something up when Mexican cuisine has figured how to make one of the greatest dishes in...

The Allen & Son Barbecue Sauce Dilemma

What to do with a jar of barbecue's liquid gold?

11th Nov 2010

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sacred...

Moments like this don’t happen often. I recently met up with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while, when he handed me a white bag with something surprisingly heavy in it. He’d just gotten back from North Carolina, and while he had hinted at some kind of “precious cargo” in a previous e-mail, how was I supposed to guess that I’d look into the white bag and find the abov...

The Homemade Hummus Challenge: Are Dried Chickpeas Better Than Canned?

A fool-proof method discovered.

3rd Nov 2010

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If you don’t want to go to all the bother of soaking and cooking them, canned chickpeas work extraordinarily well
- James Beard, Beard on Food

I wanted to go to all the bother of cooking dried chickpeas from scratch. Why? Well, because I never had cooked dried chickpeas before, and I really wanted to see whether taking the time to cook them from scratch would make for a more delicious...

Can You Make Homemade Tahini?

On a search for the lesser-known ingredient in hummus

13th Oct 2010

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Is store bought tahini best?

The goal is to make hummus at home with no shortcuts. I’m an apprehensive hummus fan at best, having dipped one carrot stick too many into something chalky and pasty, which claimed to be hummus but was purchased quickly from the grocery store. You could say that I’ve been ruined by the silky smooth texture of real hummus, the kind the comes with a sheen of ri...

Forget the Tomato: Chicago-Style Hot Dogs with Pickled Green Tomatoes

Tweaking the classic Chicago hot dog (aka The Superdawg)

29th Sep 2010

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Though it pains me to say this, the Chicago hot dog has one little flaw. It’s not always an issue, but it’s there just the same. Most of the seven toppings which make up a proper Chicago-style Hot Dog can be had at any time: mustard and relish are condiments, celery salt is a seasoning, the sport peppers and pickle come from a jar, and onions can be freshly cut up at any time of the year....

Beyond the Tortilla Chip: Three Mexican Snacks that Aren''t Deep Fried

Plus a recipe for Oaxacan-Style Peanuts with Chile and Garlic

16th Sep 2010

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Forget the chips.

You know the drill. You walk into a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the country. You sit down. Within moments -often before drink orders are taken- a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa are rushed out to the table. You immediately dig in. Time disappears. Before you order, before you even think about ordering, salsa stains the tablecloth and all the chips are mysteriously gone....

The Five Dishes that Surprised Me In Mexico

2 weeks in Oaxaca

1st Sep 2010

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The Al Pastor was way better...

We travel to be surprised, right? While picking my favorite five dishes took some deliberation, coming up with five different foods or dishes that surprised me on a trip to Mexico should have taken me all of five minutes. But for some reason I wasn't expecting this. I have a vertiable library of Mexican cuisine in my condo courtesy of Rick Bayless, Diana K...

The Five Best Things I Ate in Oaxaca, Mexico

These are the five things I can't stop thinking about

25th Aug 2010

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I went to Mexico to eat, and I handpicked the region of Oaxaca specifically because I figured I could eat there best. It’s a place where chiles, chocolate, and tomatoes have been growing for thousands of years, and where the holy trinity of corn, beans, and squash make up the local diet. Forget Italy, France, or Spain. Oaxaca is where my favorite food in the world comes from.

I spent two we...

What Should I Eat in Mexico City?

I’ll only have 36 hours in the capital to eat as much as I possibly can

30th Jul 2010

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jamidwyer /Flickr

Next Friday my wife and I will hop on the Blue Line, head north to O’Hare, and then take a plane halfway across North America to Mexico City for one of the most intense eating experiences of my life. As you may have noticed over the four years or so that I’ve been writing, I adore Mexican cuisine all out of proportion. It’s my favorite cuisine--from complex and elegant ...

Don''t Waste Time: How to Make Quick Pickles

Two pickle recipes that take less than a day to make

13th Jul 2010

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You know how you see scallops at the fish market and think to yourself, I could sauté those with?...When I’m at the farmers’ market, I see bushels and baskets of potential pickles...
- David Chang, Momofuku

It's been over three years, and yet I can still vividly remember an appetizer I ate at Momofuku Ssäm Bar . In a meal filled with gloriously fatty meat laced with spice, this s...

Griddled Carne Asada Tacos

Or, the best carne asada tacos we've ever had

9th Jul 2010

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As far as I know there are only two kinds of ways to make carne asada. The first method is to take thinly sliced flank or skirt steak, sear it over mad charcoal fire, chop it up, and then stuff it into warm corn tortillas. It's almost always great. The second method is the kind that most taquerias use, which is to scoop some bits of raw steak, plop it on a grill, and sauté until it is cooked....

Pork Larb and the Search for Toasted Rice Powder

A Thai salad meaty and acidic, packed with cilantro and mint, served with crisp cabbage

2nd Jul 2010

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The only time in the past two years that my wife and I have ordered takeout was this New Years, when, after cleaning up our place from our annual carnitas feast and trying to kick a massive hangover, we basically camped out in the living room on a trundle bed and ate Thai food in our pajamas. Surely, this is why takeout was invented. The idea of doing anything but drinking loads of water and w...

Thai Salads for the Summer

The Thai salad is bracingly good, a dish to banish all memory of bad takeout

22nd Jun 2010

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Joe said we should meet for dinner at Thai Aree . You may all remember Joe for his helpful advice on J. P. Graziano's , but I still wasn't sure whether I trusted him completely. l rattled off a few alternatives, slyly attempting to change his mind, but he insisted. "The food is wonderful and the prices are great too." Fine, whatever. I didn't really have the courage to admit that I did...

How to Fall in Love With Sichuan Food: Mapo Doufu

A mixture of tofu, ground meat, and chile bean paste suspended in a bright red and dangerously spicy sauce

11th Jun 2010

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Had you put a gun to my head a few years ago and asked me what my least favorite kind of food was, I'd have A) asked you why wanted to shoot me, and then B) probably said Chinese. Bad broccoli and beef, greasy fried rice, those strange orange packets of sauce--these were my impressions of the entirety of Chinese cuisine and what a billion people ate for dinner. Though I probably knew better, I...

My First Mole: Rich Red Mole with Chicken

Tackling Mexico's national dish

1st Jun 2010

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You can shave truffles over a dish and call it special, but it's not; it's just expensive.
- Rick Bayless

I've been a fan of Rick Bayless since this blog started over four years ago, but it wasn't until he blurted out the above statement during the Top Chef Masters finale last year that I really figured out why. I already knew that I loved so many Mexican dishes because they balanc...

The Silver Fizz: The Perfect Chicago Summer Cocktail

Gin, lemon juice, and egg white make for a drink designed to cool you down

25th May 2010

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I'm not sure if the Silver Fizz was developed in Chicago, or if it was just popular for a time around 1883. But I have to believe that there is a correlation between cocktails and the cities that embrace them. Wine has a tie to the land, and cuisines are based around what's local and fresh. So it's my humble opinion that the Silver Fizz was built to cool the heads and stomachs of men without a...

Better Homemade Biscuits and Gravy

It's my opinion that the secret to great biscuits and gravy is that there is no secret

19th May 2010

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I know that biscuits and gravy together don't make sense. It's meat, thickened with flour and milk, ladled atop a starchy biscuit. There is no balance, no acid, and no spice. Compared to the dynamic Szechuan food I've been making lately, it can seem safe and boring. But that's not how I think of it. Perhaps it's something that needs to be injected to your blood as a child, because I have a fon...

How Do You Make Great Biscuits?

We need your help

14th May 2010

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Last night I made the best batch of biscuits and gravy ever. That's not something I ever thought I'd say out loud, but I cannot tell a lie. I started with some homemade breakfast sausage, which formed the base of a sensational gravy. The buttermilk biscuits were baked from scratch. It was nearly perfect.

The problem? The biscuits didn't rise, or at least not enough. I followed a fairly well...

Birth of the Martini: The Turf Club

The Turf Club is an ancestor to the martini: less shockingly dry, and a little more vivacious

12th May 2010

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Do you remember your first Martini? Mine came while I was still working as a waiter. After a long, hard shift, all of us would sit around a table and get one free drink before heading home. Usually I went for the coldest beer I could fine, but that day I held my head high and ordered a Martini. It felt good to say it out loud, and it arrived all handsome and clean with a single olive in it. It...

The Case for Hot Pimentón

Smoked paprika transforms a Spanish garlic soup

5th May 2010

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In today's Dinner Tonight column (the post will be up later this afternoon) I walk through a very simple garlic soup recipe from Mario Batali's Spain: A Culinary Road Trip . It's the kind of a soup I adore, being nothing more than a few cloves of garlic, good chicken stock, and a few pieces of stale bread. The one wild card is hot pimentón, which is a Spanish smoked paprika .

I...

Baked Bean Failures

Trying (and for now failing) to recreate British Heinz baked beans

23rd Apr 2010

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Baked beans should have been the easiest part. When I set off on this crazy Full English Breakfast challenge I figured I'd spend most of my time stuffing sausages , or learning how to cure a completely different kind of bacon . The beans should have required a few hours on lazy Saturday afternoon. The one problem -- the only problem -- was finding a recipe.

There are no recipes....

The Creation of Will''s Special

The brief, wondrous history of a Chicago sandwich.

14th Apr 2010

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A few weeks ago, a mad group of seven men took part in the great Chicago Italian Sub Tour of 2010 . We visited six places, ate way more than we should have, and came away with the pretty definite conclusion that J.P. Graziano served the best Italian sub of the day. They used the best bread, and paid the most attention to each individual element of the sandwich. Oddly though, mixed in w...

Homemade British Bangers and the Search for Rusk

How to make better bangers

30th Mar 2010

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As I was digging into making my own British bangers for my Full English Breakfast challenge , I kept stumbling onto the same sad story which may or may not be complete bullshit: During the early 20th century thanks to two World Wars, meat was scarce in England and pork sausages were padded with some grains and extra liquid to help stretch the meat reserves. When cooked, these padded sausa...

Idea Lab: Full English Breakfast from Scratch

Can you replicate the best English breakfast at home?

16th Mar 2010

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To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.
- W. Somerset Maugham

I survived my half a year in England on a diet of boiled potatoes, canned peas, Heinz beans, and 99p egg and cress sandwiches I purchased from a convenient store. The dollar was nearly worthless next to the mighty pound at that time, and I hoarded what little cash I could for bus passes and the od...

The Best Italian Sub in Chicago: A Tour of Six Delis

Which Italian deli in Chicago makes the best subs?

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We assembled at 11 a.m., seven hungry men, at J. P. Graziano's. This unadorned storefront in the restaurant supply district of Chicago's West Loop seemed like an odd place to begin a journey to find the best Italian sub in Chicago. The shop's exterior had no tell-tale signals that it made sandwiches--just a sign stating their business as wholesale importers. The interior contained no vine...

I Hate the Mac Snack Wrap: A Rant

The Big Mac will always be better.

2nd Mar 2010

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I should apologize in advance for this fast food rant. I've never indulged in such a tirade before, but I simply couldn't resist this one. Regularly scheduled content will return later this week, I promise.

The Mac Snack wrap is the stupidest, most idiotic, dumbest fast food creation I've ever seen. It purports to be a Big Mac in flour tortilla, except it betrays logic and any culinary...

Homemade Compound Gin (No Bathtub Required)

What we did with an unwanted bottle of vodka

25th Feb 2010

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I cannot be fooled. If a bartender accidentally swaps vodka for some gin in my drink, I can tell. I'm not trying to be difficult, but I will send it back. Why?

Because I hate vodka. Hate hate hate hate it. I hate the way it smells, and how it makes me feel. While I can talk your ear off about every other spirit you throw at me (Gin, Rum, Tequila, and especially Bourbon), I don't really have...

Salad For Breakfast

Cereal isn't the option in the morning.

16th Feb 2010

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For the past few weeks I've been eating salads for breakfast. I eat huge bowls of mixed greens sprinkled with dried fruits, toasted nuts, and whatever else happens to be on hand. If there is half an avocado in the fridge I'll cut it up and toss it in, same with roasted vegetables, chickpeas, goat cheese, carrots...you get the idea. I eat until I am no longer hungry. It has nothing to do with a...

How to Make a 3 Dollar Pizza Stone

Great pizza doesn't have to cost much.

12th Feb 2010

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If you're not down with pizza stones, it's time. Bread-bakers and home pizza afficionados praise them for their heat-retaining, moisture-wicking ability to imitate the floor of a brick oven. You put it in your oven and it not only provides a rustic surface to bake the bread on, but it also keeps the heat of the oven steady. Especially when it comes to pizza, that ever-important underside char...

Can You Make Hot Sauce at Home?

How to take 60 arbol chiles and make hot sauce.

11th Feb 2010

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Can you make hot sauce at home that's better than stuff from the store? For years I've considered hot sauce to be something you just had to buy in those little glass bottles. I have a half-dozen of them to prove it. Open up my fridge door, and they clank around for a good 15 seconds, announcing that they are ready to be used. And you know what? I like them all. Franks, Tabasco, El Yucateco, L...

Idea Lab: What To Do With An Unwanted Bottle of Vodka?

Other uses for the unloved spirit.

2nd Feb 2010

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I have this large bottle of vodka and I don't know what to do with it. It was lugged over by a friend (Blake) during a party as some kind of gift for the festivities, but I could see through his evil plan. He was trying to pawn this half finished bottle off on me because he didn't want to drink it. Sure enough, while the whiskey and gin were manhandled during the party, stirred and shaken into...

Homemade Sliders

The PC guide to little burgers.

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What is a slider? A slider is a particular thing. It's particularly American. It's a small subset of our great culinary tradition, the hamburger. But as I explained last week , it's not just a mini-hamburger. To be a slider, it cannot be perverted with expensive ingredients like foie gras or tuna tartar, a cutesy version of a burger for a chef to play with. A slider consists of a thin laye...

Idea Lab: Sliders

How do you make the best mini burgers?

19th Jan 2010

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First things first: there's something to clear up about " sliders ." They are not mini hamburgers. Along with Adam Kuban over at A Hamburger Today, I actually sort of hate mini hamburgers and the implied cuteness . Sliders are a different beast, and not cute. They are compact and small, yes, but they are also haunted by sauteed onion, which they are cooked on top of to create a sort of...

Faux Confit: Steamed Duck Legs

Can steamed duck legs tasted better than ones poached in duck fat?

14th Jan 2010

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The question about whether a steamed duck leg tastes as good duck confit has been boggling my mind for months ever since I read this article in the New York Times . Finally, last night, after spending the previous three days hacking up two ducks, rendering loads of fat, and figuring out what to do with the heads ( Jonathan Gold actually sent me some interesting options on Twitter), I f...

My Chicago: Spicy Yeul Ramyon from the Joong Boo Market

How to dress up cheap ramen.

8th Jan 2010

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Every Friday, we publish a story about life as a cooks and eaters in Chicago. Markets, restaurants, secret finds, really tasty bites--or just a great story. We're lucky to live here.

Close your eyes and think about instant ramen...I know it's probably been a while. You probably have in mind some MSG-laden bastion of cheap college eating, because that's where I used to be, too.

But now it...

Idea Lab: Steamed Duck Confit?

Can you really leave behind all the fat??

5th Jan 2010

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Welcome to the Idea Lab, where we explore topics before we head into the kitchen. We welcome your thoughts, opinions, and ideas, so please leave them in the comments!

Is duck confit a lie? According to Dr. Myhrvold, who runs Intellectual Ventures in Seattle, the technique is actually rather pointless.

...confit, the French technique of cooking slowly in fat, is supposed to impart a uniq...

Year in Review: The Allure of Alcohol

Our favorite drinks of 2009.

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Obviously, this site is mostly devoted to cooking, and always has been. But watchful readers may have noticed over the years the occasional post slipped in about drinking. We've thankfully improved our recipes since the very first drinking post on this site, which involved mixing dark beer from New York's oldest pub, McSorley's, and some cheap vanilla ice cream. The result was the beer shake...

Year in Review: An Obsession with Beef

Best of the beef.

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When Blake and I sat back and looked at what food obsessed us in 2009, we noticed an unusual interest in beef. Pork is still the hippest meat around, and praise for beef sometimes seems limited to talk about steaks or short ribs. We wrote about both of those cuts this year, but we did it our way.  We also managed to dress up mounds of round, tenderize brisket, turn chuck into the tender found...

My Perfect Daisy with Homemade Grenadine

It's pink, but manly

9th Dec 2009

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To stretch the metaphor, the essential DNA of the Daisy involves adding a little soda water to a Sour (spirit, citrus, sweetener). Beyond that, though, you can take some liberties .
- Imbibe Magazine

If you're not too careful, cocktails can swallow you into an alternative universe of reason where there are no right answers. The perfectly proportioned Negroni , which I wrote a...

In Search of the Cheapest Sous-Vide Steak

How to transform cheap meat.

4th Dec 2009

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This is why beef chuck roast cooked in a 131°F–140°F (55°C–60°C) water bath for 24–48 hours has the texture of filet mignon.
- Douglas Baldwin, A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking

After my experiments with sous-vide chicken resulted in one of the finest birds I'd ever eaten, I immediately set off on a crusade to transform the cheapest cut of beef I could find into filet mignon...

Happy Thanksgiving, With a Little Help from Time Out Chicago

A little holiday help

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We're signing off for the week, ready to see family, drink some of our homemade hard apple cider , and fatten ourselves on turkey.  We hope you're off to do the same!  But before you do, please direct your attention to this week's Time Out Chicago , were you will discover a cheesy picture of your humble correspondents (above).

A month ago we met up with the dashing food folks over a...

Experiments with Sous-Vide Chicken

Perhaps the best way to cook chicken.

18th Nov 2009

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In my opinion, the best chicken is chicken sous-vide. Each bite is tender and succulent in a way I never thought chicken could possibly be. It's kind of changed everything for me. Even the appearance of the meat is different, instead of stringy and tough, a fork can simply cut through the meat. It's enough to make anyone convert.

So for the past few weeks I've been proselytizing about the p...

The Negroni

Perhaps the most perfect cocktail.

13th Nov 2009

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"A proper Negroni is as perfectly and tripodically balanced as, say, a water molecule. "
- Jonathan Miles

The Negroni is an incorruptible drink. While the martini can be perverted by nefarious substances like apple pucker and vodka and many places make Margaritas by simply drizzling a little tequila in a cup of sugary mix, a Negroni is a Negroni. It has three ingredients (gin, sw...

The Final Word (for now) on Homemade Hard Cider

Thoughts about our first batch of cider.

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There is no feeling in the world like popping open a batch of cider and realizing what you have created alcohol. It's really hard to describe. We've made all kinds of recipes before, including some meals that have taken days to prepare. But alcohol always seemed a little unreal, and dangerous. Making alcohol always felt too technical and lab-like. And if you're brewing beer, that's sort of tru...

The Case for Hard Cider

Why every American should drink more cider.

22nd Oct 2009

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Currently Blake and I have four gallons of apple cider fermenting in the back of his bedroom closet. The hope is that in a few days, thanks to some hungry yeast, we'll have something that might resemble hard apple cider. We're honestly nervous. We've undertaken ridiculous experiments before, but nothing that could potentially get us hammered. If it works, then we'll have made an alcoholic drin...

The Kimchi Contest Results

And the best kimchi award goes to...

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After a tasting of both kimchi projects, the results are in. We have a winner!

It wasn't easy to decide: there were things about Nick's kimchi that were better, and things about Blake's Kimchi that were better. We went back and forth about who should take the title. We tasted, waited, tasted again.

First, the recipes. Though our recipes were similar, there were some crucial diffe...

Homemade Kimchi Contest, Part II

Nick gives kimchi his best shot.

14th Oct 2009

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Though Blake was thrilled to jump right into this Kimchi-making process , I dragged my feet the whole way. It's not that I don't love kimchi. That's far from the case . It's just that I've been really happy with the jars of kimchi I've been buying from the Korean market. Uncovering the ways of kimchi, however enlightening the process may be, would sort of remove the magic from the who...

Building a Better Chicken Soup

Some tricks to improve this classic soup.

7th Oct 2009

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It's cold season, and everyone's coming down with something.  Chicken soup is a nourishing potion, one that seems almost automatic even though I've never really questioned why. Most of the time this tradition involves nothing more than opening a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup: somehow those minuscule pellets of chicken and mushy noodles are okay once your temperature is above 100.

Bu...

The Search: Cabbage Kimchi

What is your kimchi secret?

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Vinegary, spicy, crunchy, and addictive. These are just some of the words we use to describe Korean dish kimchi. We could go on, but the idea is this: Kimchi fascinates us. We put it into stews , mix it with noodles and sesame oil , chop it up with fried rice , and side it up with Korean barbecue . We've been known to eat it straight out of the jar when we need a fix.

There...

Homemade Ketchup and French Fries

Make both of those at home.

24th Sep 2009

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The tomatoes were turning on me. A few weeks ago they were red and rosy, destined for a starring role in a BLT. Now, I'm not sure if they can withstand the scrutiny of the spotlight. They are still light years beyond what appears during the winter here in the Midwest, but not quite the ones you can slice up, sprinkle with salt, and eat raw. I kind of wish I would have known this before I bough...

Oi-Sobagi: Cucumber Kimchi and the Purpose of Banchan

Try this awesome Korean appetizer.

18th Sep 2009

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I began to wonder whether the banchan were going to overwhelm the table. We had placed the little Korean side dishes on the smallest plates I owned, but the shear number of them added up. It was our own fault. When Blake and I decided to do a Korean Barbecue feast last weekend we figured it was time to lavish attention on banchan, giving them the attention and care usually just reserved...

Chiles Rellenos

This Mexican classic deserves a little love.

31st Aug 2009

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Around hour five, I became terribly exhausted from what felt like continuous marathon of chopping, sautéing, blending, grinding, broiling, stuffing, whisking, dipping, and frying. It was the most complex and curious chile relleno I'd ever laid eyes on and the flavor nearly bawled me over. Every bite revealed layers of flavor, from the salsa, pork stuffing, to the batter. Nothing was an aft...

Part Two of My Cucumber Sandwich Revenge: Tea Time

How to create the perfect cucumber sandwich.

21st Aug 2009

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I feel like I finally understand the cucumber sandwich. After weeks of thinking about it, and trying to recreate the most authentic version I could muster, it finally sunk in. The taste isn't rich, indulgent, spicy, acidic, comforting, salty, or fatty. It's cool, calm, and collected. The strongest reaction I had towards one was a contented sigh, a sort of momentary delight.

So why was I bre...

Part One of My Cucumber Sandwich Revenge: Pain de Mie

Starting with the perfect loaf of bread.

18th Aug 2009

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(Check out Part Two of My Cucumber Sandwich Revenge for the sandwich recipe)

I went to see a man about a loaf pan. All the traditional outlets had failed (Crate and Barrel, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and four restaurant supply stores) and I was starting to get desperate. See, I needed a very peculiar kind of loaf pan, one that would help me create the mysterious loaf, pain...

The Importance of Jus: Two Chickens in One Meal

How the most chickeny chicken dish imaginable.

10th Aug 2009

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Every morning we would roast thirty-six chickens just for their juices, rather than for the meat...Thirty-six chicken provided enough juices for thirty portions of freshly cooked chicken. In other words, the customer had the juice of more than one whole chicken accompanying his dish...It was extreme.
- Marco Pierre White, Devil in the Kitchen

The flavor of natural roasting juices...can...

The Sides of Barbecue: Homemade Red Coleslaw, Hushpuppies, and Black Eyed Peas

What to pair with North Carolina-style barbecue.

6th Aug 2009

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The crisp bite of coleslaw, the crunchy crust of freshly fried hushpuppies, and the porky punch of black eyed peas: I realized after a mad dash through the barbecue trail in North Carolina that these were not just side dishes, but essentials. Without them my meals would have fallen apart, lost in meat gluttony. They helped achieve a barbecue balance, where everything complimented and heigh...

North Carolina Barbecue: A Tale of Vinegar, Hush Puppies, and the Whole Hog

My first trip through North Carolina.

28th Jul 2009

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After the fifth barbecue stop in North Carolina my brother-in-law and I were delirious. We stumbled out of the door of the last joint, nearly tripping over ourselves like a couple of drunk freshman.  I called my wife but when I attempted to speak the right words wouldn’t come out.  Sure my belly was full of pork, but it was something about the addition of coleslaw, hush puppies, and glass...

Chicken Satay

There's more than one way to grill a chicken.

14th Jul 2009

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Cooking chicken satay at a July 4th cookout is, I admit, a little odd.  It's especially so if you consider that my wife and I subjected our parents and grandparents to the ordeal.  While everyone else around the country casually flipped hamburgers and hot dogs, I rounded up everyone available to help me skewer tiny pieces of highly marinated chicken onto wooden skewers.  That marinade also...

A Weekend of Beans and Brats

Insight into perfecting 90 minute, no-soak beans and homemade bratwursts.

24th Jun 2009

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It's been a delicious week.  I've been doling out my homemade bratwurst to close friends and making batches of 90 Minute, No-Soak beans just because I can.  I know some people had some questions about both of these posts, and this week has given me a few more insights to both processes which hopefully will answer some of them.  Also, Michael Ruhlman wanted to see my amateurish sp...

Wisconsin-Style Bratwurst

The ultimate guide to the Midwest's finest encased meat.

18th Jun 2009

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My little adventure with bratwurst reached its pinnacle after a tortuous three hour process of grinding, mixing, stuffing, poaching, and charcoal grilling.  What I faced, fortunately, looked a lot like the bratwurst of my wildest fantasies.  It was perfectly plump, gushing with juice, and absolutely haunted by charcoal smoke.  I stuffed that sausage into a huge roll and piled it high wi...

The Bratwurst Mystery

How do you make this Wisconsin classic?

11th Jun 2009

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I have been thinking about bratwurst for days.  What started as an idea for a simple cookout on my little Webber Grill has now completely consumed me because I simply can't find the right recipe.  The question eventually led me to walk into Hot Dougs on a recent Wednesday and ask Mr. Doug himself what was in the sausage.

But first, do you know?  What is it, exactly, that makes a bratwu...

90 Minute, No-Soak Beans

How to make great beans in less time.

9th Jun 2009

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It seems that in the past few years there have been a few monumental revelations of the "everything you thought you knew about cooking was wrong" variety.
- Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy", Executive Director, eGullet Society

When the timer sounded, I was caught off guard.  I reached for a kitchen towel, carefully folded it around the hot handles of my dutch oven, and transfered the...

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

The spiciest way to grill your chicken.

3rd Jun 2009

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My first bite of jerk chicken, fresh from two hours of mingling with smoke, was everything I wanted it to be.  The rub of allspice berries and black peppercorns mixed with fresh ginger and thyme and created this incredible aroma --one that I couldn't help but adore.  I was completely happy and content until quickly, and without much warning, the spice hit.  A double dose of habanero cut thr...

Memphis Barbecue

Nick's tour of the South's barbecue capital.

27th May 2009

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Memphis has insanely good ribs, some so mouthwatering and juicy that they make most of the barbecue I've ever eaten fall of their bones in shame.  The rub is better, the smoke more lingering, and the sauce more lip-smacklingly suited to the cause.  What cause?  Sublime barbecue.  I wanted to see how good it could be.  Which isn't to say that everything went perfectly or that every bite le...

Do You Microwave?

How to use a foodie's most scorned appliance.

17th May 2009

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Do most people use their microwaves often?  Or am I just now coming round to what most people know?

I bought my microwave at a sidewalk sale for 10 bucks.  I simply asked the sellers if it still worked, and they assured me that it did.  That was good enough for me.  My previous model had just stopped working a few weeks before and Abby and I had nowhere to make popcorn.  Though I used i...

Corned Beef

How to pickle brisket.

13th May 2009

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I was standing in the meat section of my local Korean grocery store (the excellent Joong Boo Market ) with fellow food blogger Brian, from the Daily Ikura .  He was talking me through his favorite Korean dishes and ingredients, and I was loving it.  We were discussing uses of red bean paste, which ramen was worth its price, and whether some brands of soy sauce were really so good you...

Benedictine Spread and a Mint Julep or Two

Nick throws a perfect Derby party.

30th Apr 2009

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The authentic Julep is a drink from the Heroic Age of American Tippling, and as such is not for novices. That's perhaps the chief reason it's fallen out of favor in these weak-livered times.
- David Wondrich

I'll get to the julep soon enough.  But first I want to talk about the Kentucky Derby.  Though I grew up on the Indiana side of the Ohio River, I don't care much about the Indy 5...

In Search of Dashi and Perfect Miso Soup

A better way to make Japanese soup.

23rd Apr 2009

Turns out, once you have all the ingredients, the process is rather straight forward and won't take longer than 30 minutes or so.  And since most of the ingredients besides the tofu are pantry items, whipping up a new batch of miso soup in the future should be a breeze.

Bonito smells like, well, dried fish, but it looks more like pencil shavings. They are the body behind the miso, and make the...

In Honor of Honey 1 Barbecue: Barbecue Ribs

How to make Grand World Champion ribs.

16th Apr 2009

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I returned home from a weekend in Ohio to to find that a fire had struck Honey 1 Barbecue .  The building was still intact, but the smoking aquarium where they cook all their meat had been destroyed.  According to owner, it might take a few months to get back in order if smoker is salvageable and the insurance company gives up the money quickly.  It could take much longer.

I found the n...

The Butter Steak: What''s the Best Way to Cook a Steak?

How to cook your next porterhouse.

9th Apr 2009

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I'm not interested in carbonizing the surface of the meat. To me that ruins the flavor.
- Alain Ducasse

It was a bachelor weekend of sorts. My wife mercifully let me pass on attending a wedding of an old family family friend, so I had the whole weekend alone in the apartment to get work done.  I had some crazy projects planned including a mad braise of a cow tongue, but the first nigh...

Deep-Dish Pizza: Round 2

Nick learns from his mistakes and makes a good deep-dish pie at home.

3rd Apr 2009

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I was determined not to fail this time.  My last attempt at deep-dish wasn't an absolute failure, but it was close.  It was too soggy and messy , and had none of the glorious qualities that my favorite Chicago pizzeria, Pequods , displayed.  I theorized about all kinds reasons for the failure, thinking it had something to do with the crust.  Then I just gave up and asked you all...

Giardiniera

How to make Chicago's favorite condiment.

30th Mar 2009

Most of the recipes online are found on generic websites and just have a bunch of cut up vegetables mixed with olive oil, which I already knew was completely wrong.  There needed to be some kind of acidic kick, something to balance the aggressive heat and the fair amount of oil.

I had my first breakthrough when I found this random video from the Food Network show "Unwrapped".  They were visiti...

Digging into Deep-Dish

Nick struggles to perfect deep-dish pizza at home.

17th Mar 2009

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Or at least, that was my hunch.  I searched for a long time and finally settled on this recipe from pizzamaking.com.  Deep-dish dough is very different from its thin crust counterpart. The crust has a healthy dose of cornmeal, which gives it an interesting crunch and texture.  All the elements seemed to be here.  I tracked down some tomatoes, cheese, and even decided to add some spinach (a...

Korean Short Ribs

Korean barbecue solves the challenges of cooking short ribs.

12th Mar 2009

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Short ribs and I don't have a good history. The first time I tried to make these with Blake we ended up with a collection of tough, greasy, hunks of impenetrable meat. The second time I solved the toughness factor by cooking them for ages, but forgot about the fat.  Even after stashing the pot of short ribs in the fridge for a day so I could easily skim some off, I still felt like I h...

A Return Home: Roast Chicken with Crispy Drippings Croûtons

What Nick cooks when he feels nostalgic for simplicity.

10th Mar 2009

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I think part of the reason I took a break from roast chicken was the rising absurdity of my preparations.  A few years ago I had chased after juicy meat and crispy skin, by trying various combinations of slow roasting , extreme slow roasting , experiments with baking soda , and high, high heat .  The results were often spectacular, if never quite practical.  And somewhere alo...

Top that Pie: Fresh Italian Sausage

Make the perfect topping for your pizza.

23rd Feb 2009

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For the sausage novices, nothing could be quite so easy as this recipe from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie.  Because I was using it straight away I had no need to stuff it into casing only break them free a moment a latter.  I essentially just mixed everything together, ground it on the small die of my meat grinder, and cooked it.  It was about as time consuming as cutting up a bunch of vege...

Homemade Italian Beef

How to make this Chicago classic.

13th Feb 2009

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The other issue I had to face was how to cut the meat.  As I remembered from my visit to Al's #1, the beef should be shaved as thinly as possible.  Al's used an huge deli slicer, which I obviously didn't have.  Saveur recommended just tossing the meat in the freezer for 2 hours before serving and then slicing it as thinly as possible with a chef's knife.  Some recipes recommended taking th...

Dipping Into the Italian Beef

Discovering Chicago's distinctive beef sandwich.

11th Feb 2009

The mystery is that while the sandwich's meat is incredibly tender, it isn't made from some expensive cut of beef.  From the research that I've done, most Italian beef recipes call for round or the sirloin tip, which are both tough and lean cuts.  The use of a cheap, neglected cut really interested me.

At first glance, the sandwich looks a lot like a cheese-less Philly cheesesteak.  But I've b...