Repertoire | The Working Lunch

An Argument for Grains and Vegetables

13th Oct 2011

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I’ve worked enough days in my life, from my desk at home to mind-numbing office temp gigs, to have developed some theories on lunch. To me, the working lunch is a series of balances: it should be fast, yet not fast-food; it should be a break from work, but not so indulgent you can’t get moving again; it should be fulfilling, but not a cause of sluggishness. Lunch should work for you, but so...

Department of Basics | The Fruit Crisp

One dessert it doesn't hurt to have in the repertoire

5th Sep 2011

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It's probably become clear to most readers that this is not a food blog where you read about desserts, and for that matter, about baking at all. There's a good reason. We're no good at it.

Cupcakes and chocolate cakes and other frivolous foods are the specialty of other writers.  Besides a post or two about bread (we're pretty proud of our olive-and-herb-studded foccacia and the lengths...

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 Make Proper Barbecue Chicken

No offense, but you're probably doing it wrong

22nd Jul 2011

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There's a lot of misconception when it comes to "barbecue." The problem is the word itself. It's used as a synonym for grilling, refers to the grill itself, or to the meat being grilled; it also has a sauce named after it; and sometimes it's just the word for the party itself held outdoors in somebody's backyard. What, actually, is "barbecue"?

American purists see things a little differently....

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...

Introducing The Soft Shell Crab Sandwich...with Bacon

Getting a head start on the season

16th May 2011

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Soft shell crab season is here, generally considered to begin at some point in May.  So we here at The Paupered Chef decided it was time to take advantage.  Generally, the soft shell crab  is dusted with flour and fried up in a skillet, and I'm not sure there is a better way to prepare this crustacean than this recipe by David Lentz from Food & Wine magazine : stuffed into a crusty baguette...

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...

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...

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....

The Problem with Oatmeal (And How to Eat it Cold)

A summer alternative with grated apple and almonds

21st Sep 2010

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Oatmeal at Cafe Fanny in Berkeley

I think I've always loved the idea of oatmeal for breakfast: it's simple to make, it sticks to your ribs until lunch, and it's economical. I don't always put a lot of time into breakfast, or much thought, save the occasional calm morning of a slow-fried egg on toast or scrambled eggs with chives from the windowsill garden . Oatmeal seems like a good,...

Authentic Caesar Salad From a Windowsill Garden

Urban gardening in Chicago

25th Jun 2010

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I've started an experiment this year: how easy is it, really, to grow vegetables and herbs in a windowsill?

When I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan three years ago, I was rather taken with the idea of urban agriculture, romanticizing the rustic life of the small producer who grows his own vegetables, raises his own livestock, and scavenges the seas for the rest. (This fantasy was fueled rat...

The Comfort of Eggs in a Basket

One of the best 5 minute meals on the planet--and one of the only meals that literally takes 5 minutes

3rd Jun 2010

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Eggs in a basket was the first meal I ever cooked. I was in 5th grade, and it was a Sunday morning at my best friend's house after a sleepover. We woke up hungry, and for some reason his parents weren't home. This confused me--my parents would never do that--but more important than confusion was the fact that I was terribly hungry, and I didn't see how that problem was going to be solved, s...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

In Praise of Open-Faced Sandwiches

Some sandwiches don't need a top.

21st Jan 2010

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Personally, I didn't need any convincing, but after seeing the above picture, I can see why you might. It's the same reason Alton Brown went to great lengths on a recent episode of Good Eats to hide a central ingredient in his recipe. Something small, something oily, something canned, something with a rather poor reputation. This particular foodstuff was apart of a puzzling, yet intriguing...

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...

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...

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...

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...

How to Make Hard Apple Cider

Our guide to turning apple juice into booze.

29th Oct 2009

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As we realized on our last post , it was time to stop talking emphatically about the cultural significance of cider, and start getting to the business of making it. Though we had read more websites, emails, and books than we could know what to do with, we were still confused, and more importantly, l didn't have a solid recipe. It was beginning to be a problem.

At its simplest, hard appl...

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...

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...

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...

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...

How to Make a Chicago-Style Hot Dog

A step-by-step guide to every condiment and step in making the perfect, authentic Chicago-style hot dog.

22nd Jul 2009

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The Chicago Hot Dog is, perhaps, one of the most improbable food combinations in the world. We do know this: it shouldn't work. A towering, precipitous bundle, loaded up with so many condiments that it's twice the volume of the dog itself. It threatens to fall apart, to be so absurd it forgets its provenance as a hot dog. It's misguided, it's madness. Yet it's mad enough to succeed brilliantly...

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...

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...

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...

The Elements of Chili

A recipe for Texas-style chili.

30th Jan 2009

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Diced instead of Ground Meat
I had stopped using ground beef a few years back, after watching a Good Eats episode. The reasoning makes sense.  When ground beef is used, the fat either needs to be drained off immediately, or needs to be skimmed off the day after when all the fat has accumulated at the top.  But if you use chunks a lot of the juices stay inside, leaving both the chili less...

First Step: Chili Powder

The best chili starts with the best chili powder.

29th Jan 2009

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That meant forgoing the blend I had in my spice rack and picking up a load of dried chilies from the local Mexican market.  I needed to create my own blend, something that was completely unique to me, but where do I start?  There honestly aren't that many recipes for chili powder out there.  My only real resources were Homesick Texan (great site) and Alton Brown .

Thanks to the larg...

The Smash Technique and Skinny Burger Perfection

How to make the best burger at home.

11th Dec 2008

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You know the burger obsession is going off the deep end when semi-serious discussion takes place over the burger making skills of a cartoon .  Please stick with me.  This cartoon happened feature J. Wellington Wimpy, the burger-loving sidekick of Popeye.  Hamburger America author George Motz found this clip and was there to comment on Wimpy's burger making skills: "Notice how even in...

GG''s Coffee Cake

Start a holiday morning tradition with delicious coffee cake.

3rd Dec 2008

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The holidays are incredibly food-centric times.  From the Thanksgiving turkey all the way until the Christmas ham, it seems like the whole country is suddenly swept up into mass foodie-ism.  Grandmothers start talking about their recipes.  Aunts compete with casseroles.  Somebody's got their secret, "this-will-change-your-life" salad, as if life-changing experiences didn't seem all that im...

The Wait of Dill Pickles

How to make pickles at home without filling your place with the smell of pickles.

10th Sep 2008

But all I did was worry.  Why was there no garlic in the dill pickles? Every other jar of dill pickles I had bought contained garlic.  And why did the pickling spice smell so sweet?  Dill pickles weren't sweet.  I worried that Ruhlman's recipe was too refined.  I wanted simple dill pickles.  I'd have to look elsewhere.

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I pulled out Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking and found Dill Pi...

The Quick-Flipped Fat Burger

Keep that spatula at hand.

26th Aug 2008

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At first everything was fine. Taking a cue from Adam Kuban , we decided to make our own onion rings instead of the normal burger pairing of fries. The recipe was taken from Simply Recipes , which soaked the onions in buttermilk and coated them in flour and cornmeal.

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We fried them in canola oil set to 350 degrees for a few minutes, until nice and golden brown.  We stashed them i...

Apple City Barbecue''s Smoked Pulled Pork

Make pulled pork at home.

5th Aug 2008

Apple City Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Day 1

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  • 1 pork butt (4-6 pounds), preferably with the bone-in

Prick the pork butt all over with a fork.

Magic Dust: AKA the Rub

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  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup granulated garlic...

Real Homemade American Bacon

How to smoke pork belly at home.

2nd Jul 2008

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First, I needed to find some pork belly with its skin still firmly on. My previous attempt removed it , along with a lot of precious fat directly underneath.  My bacon didn't have nearly enough fat on it to fry up, so instead cooking up beautifully in a pan, it burned .  My local butcher wouldn't sell me a piece with the skin on unless I bought 10 pounds, a fact I still find ridicu...

They Came, I Ground, We Ate: Which Cuts Make for the Best Burger?

How to make a better burger at home.

21st Feb 2008

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Grinding meat may seem like an exercise for those with too much time on their hands, or those overly devoted to doing things from scratch--which I am.  But I'm here to argue that there are more compelling and more logical reasons for doing so: for one, the meat will taste better.  You'll also know where it omes from, unlike with a styrofoam tray from the grocery store, which is likely the su...

Adventures in Homemade Bacon

Make your bacon at home.

8th Feb 2008

The bacon most of us know it is made from pork belly, but there are also variations made from other cuts, notably the cheeks and jowl, which makes guanciale --a porkier tasting, fattier cut that's a staple in properly-made Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Bucatinia alla Amatraciana . Hog jowls are difficult to find, though, especially because a butcher would probably need to order an entire he...

The Proper Way to Cook a Hot Dog?

A nice technique for cooking hot dogs at home.

26th Oct 2007

By Blake Royer I hardly ever cook hot dogs at...

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I hardly ever cook hot dogs at home--it's the kind of food that I buy on a street corner in a rush.  On the way to a concert. When I don’t have more than 5 minutes for lunch. When it’s three days before my paycheck and rent's due.  Two bucks on a street corner, less than that if I'm lucky to be near a Papaya King (or Gray's Papaya ),...

The Paupered Chefs Attend an Art Brut Concert at Bowery Ballroom and Make Beer Shakes and Gourmet Cheeseburgers Before the Show

Yes, you read right: beer shakes

9th Apr 2006

We asked Schnack what the beer shake recipe was, and they said they use 3 oz. of ice cream mixed with 3 oz. of dark beer.  We went with the cheapest vanilla we could find and a six pack of McSorley's ale, which is pretty cheap and basically tasty.  On second thought, a dark stout might have been the better choice--Guiness is practically a milkshake anyway.  The carbonation in our version made i...

The Great Potato Contest

A bag of potatoes and a quest for the cheapest dinner possible

With minds planted firmly in the dirt, we probed the...

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With minds planted firmly in the dirt, we probed the starchy tuber for secrets buried within, all in search of the perfect cooked potato.   Armed with a bag of $2.99 Idahos, we set aflame preconcieved notions, sexed things up, and tried to find the courage (and stomachs) to eat nothing but potatoes like our poor brethren of the 19t...