Field Roast Franks, Chicago Style

Field Roast Frank, Baked Beans

Where I live in Greater Chicagoland, there is a particular way that we eat hot dogs, with yellow mustard, chopped onion, and a sweet fluorescent green relish that looks like something from a toxic waste spill. This is all usually topped with hot sport peppers, a dill pickle spear, some tomato wedges and celery salt for the finishing touch. You get extra points if you place all of this in a steamed bun, and if the hot dog in question is Vienna brand.

I broke with tradition for our Labor Day cookout this year. Instead of grilling burgers or bratwurst, or Vienna dogs, I cooked Field Roast vegan Frankfurters. I grilled off some Italian style chicken patties for the girls (who are carnivores), and made some sweet and savory baked beans as well.

I have to say that these Field Roast products are fabulous. I have never been one for “meat substitutes” and would rather just leave the meat out of a dish (for instance, chili or red sauce) or eat something else. The thing about these products is that they are meat. It’s just that they are grain meat instead of animal flesh.

Highly recommended.

Happy Labor Day!

St. Paddy’s Day 2019

Sunday Dinner – 17 March 2019

St. Paddy Snow

The scene out our back windows Sunday Morning showed no hint of green, as a late season snow had covered everything in downy white. Inside the mood was festive though, with St. Paddy’s Day Radio from Sirius XM streaming throughout the house. I began peeling carrots about 7:30, and had them sautéing with onions and shallots before eight. I’d picked up two nice flat cut corned beef briskets (Morton’s of Omaha) from Aldi. They went into the pot next, along with malt vinegar, pickling spices and a can of Guinness.

Corned Beef in the Pot

After that simmered for five hours, I added about three pounds of red potatoes and a couple small heads of cabbage cut into wedges.

This was the second year using this recipe from Sunset Magazine. It turned out perfect this time. Last year I’d used cheaper point cuts from Jewel or somewhere, and it was good, but this year’s meal was dramatically better.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Claudia made dark chocolate Guinness cupcakes with vanilla icing and caramel that were awesome.

Guinness Cupcakes

For the wine pairing, surely you jest.

Irish Libations

So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

New Year’s Eve 2019

After Mass on New Year’s Eve, Claudia made a lovely meal of stuffed chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, and broccoli steamed with lemon. Grammy put together a cheese plate and Claudia stuffed some Portobello caps for appetizers. We drank one of my favorite wines, a Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc cuveé from South Africa called “Gooseberry Bush.”

The evening was relatively quiet. We watched Grace and Frankie for awhile with the folks, and then after they went home we watched WLS TV’s Countdown Chicago, sharing a bottle of Asti around Midnight. I made a Champagne Cocktail for my second glass. Kid drank ginger ale from a crystal flute.

Thankful to see another year in. Here’s wishing everyone a beautiful 2019.

Holiday Meals 2018

Here are some photos from around our table Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve, Claudia prepared a lovely meal for after Mass. There was a shrimp ring, lobster and crab cakes, crudités, Feta stuffed phyllo, and a choice of potato soup or oyster stew. The oyster stew is our Christmas Eve tradition, and it was the most delicious ever this year. Wine was a very nice Chardonnay from Franc Dusak.

On Christmas Day, we cooked a ham on the Weber Genesis, using Jamie Purviance’s molasses and mustard glaze. Claudia also made pasta shells with cheese sauce, a Pampered Chef holiday appetizer wreath, and a lovely green salad. Grammy brought a tasty cauliflower, broccoli and raisin salad, and Aunt Pat brought a vibrant and fresh Jello and fruit salad. The wine was Jacqueline Bahue’s 2015 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir.

Of course, there was an incredible variety of Christmasy baked goods – cookies, candies, fudge and more.

Fourth of July Cookout

We had an old fashioned cookout for Independence Day this year.

Memorial Day Cookout

28 May 2018

Memorial Day Dinner

We stuck to traditional Mid-Century American fare for our Memorial Day cookout this year, with hamburgers and grilled roastin’ ears.

I also made one of my favorite desserts from childhood, a “cherry salad” consisting of cherry pie filling, coconut flakes, little marshmallows and banana slices.

Cherry Salad

Souvlaki

Sunday Dinner – May 27th 2018

For this Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we had one of our favorite kabob dishes, Souvlaki (which literally means “little skewers” in Greek).

The recipe comes from The Spruce. I found it after we attended the Annunciation Church picnic a few years ago, and loved the flavors. We’ve had these maybe half a dozen times in the years since, and they’re always delicious. We served the pork in pitas with cabbage shreds and yogurt Tzatziki, using a recipe from the same site. The Greek-inspired flavors were echoed in a pasta salad recipe from the Hamilton Beach food blog.

For dessert, I tried my hand at classic Southern banana pudding. I’ve made custards a few times in the past (mostly for homemade ice cream), but this was my first attempt at pudding proper. Although I made a rookie mistake (misreading tablespoons versus teaspoons for the vanilla), it turned out fine. Claudia made fresh whipped cream to go on top, which certainly helped. We served it in vintage Currier & Ives bowls that had belonged to Claudia’s Grandma Wulff, bringing back fond memories of her Sunday Dinners long ago.

One of the nice things about this meal is that everything could be prepared the day before. It only took about twenty minutes to grill the skewers, so the rest of the day was spent enjoying the company of our regular Sunday crew.

We opened a very nice Rosé of Pinot Noir from Evangelos Bagias before the meal, and served a hearty Scott Peterson Rumpus Chaos (a cuvée of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchset and Grenache) with the food.

Monday’s meal will be more traditional American fare including cheeseburgers, three bean salad – and one of my childhood favorites, a cherry salad that my mom used to make. Here’s wishing everyone happiness, health, peace and safety as we observe Memorial Day 2018.

First Long Cook of the Year: Spare Ribs

Sunday Dinner – Mothers Day – 13 May 2018

Weber Kettle Smoke

For dinner on Mothers Day, along with the regular Sunday Dinner crew, we were pleased to welcome Claudia’s cousin Dan and his partner who were visiting from Florida. I prepared St. Louis Style spareribs, baked beans and coleslaw. Dan brought macaroni salad and Aunt Pat made an Angel Food Cake with macerated strawberries. Claudia also prepared some nice appetizers, including skewers of fruit, veggies and cheese. We also grilled some small peppers stuffed with cream cheese filling.

I got the grill going early, around 7:30 AM, and had the ribs on the rack by 8. I’d removed the silver skin and rubbed them the night before with my usual mix of Kosher salt, black pepper, Turbinado sugar, cumin, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. The grill was set up with ten unlit coals on each side of a water pan, five lit coals on top of each side, and some chunks of apple and hickory. Bottom vents started with two open and one closed, then I damped one as needed to keep the temp at 250°F. The sweet smoke smelled heavenly as we enjoyed our morning coffee.

I had knocked out both the coleslaw and crock pot baked beans on Saturday evening, but there still seemed little time for relaxation. Attending the ribs meant monitoring the temperature, adding coals as needed, and mopping the slabs every hour with a combination of apple juice, coffee and Schlitz from a spray bottle. We also had to attend some last minute gift wrapping for the moms, and Claudia and our daughter did some tidying and cleaning to prepare for company.

The cook was a classic 3/2/1 (three hours on a rack over smoke, two hours wrapped in foil, one final hour over smoke again to finish) and the ribs turned out great. The rest of the meal was fabulous as well, likewise the conversation.

In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we failed to take food photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination. 🙂

We had a bottle of Alma Andina Malbec first, which was just sort of alright. Then I opened a California Zin from F. Stephen Millier. It was scrumptious.

It’s hard to beat a long cook, particularly when you’re sharing the results with good company. I’m especially appreciative of time spent with Claudia’s family, and the opportunity to honor her (and her mom) again this Mothers Day. She has created an exceptionally happy and loving home. Very literally a dream come true.

Easter Brunch and Dinner 2018

Easter Brunch

We had Claudia’s folks and her sister’s family over for Easter this year. We started with Mimosas and Bloody Marys, and enjoyed a marvelous brunch including egg casserole, Kiełbasa, fresh fruits, baked goods and more.

Later in the day, we served ham, green beans, pasta and Wulff Salad.

Easter Ham

The salad, by the way, is named for Claudia’s mom’s family. She learned to prepare this simple vinaigrette growing up. It’s unique in that the ingredients are added directly to the greens, one-by-one, rather than combining in a cruet first. It includes oil (she generally uses EVOO these days, but it could be any vegetable oil), vinegar (usually balsamic or red wine), salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. Nothing is measured, so far as I can tell.

I cook the ham on the grill each year, using Jamie Purviance’s Mustard-Molasses Glaze recipe from Weber’s Real Grilling. The first time I made this glaze, Claudia commented that it smelled like her grandma’s kitchen, which is about the highest compliment one can receive. Here’s the recipe.

  • ½ cup stone-ground mustard
  • ¼ cup unsulphured dark molasses
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Combine these in a saucepan and simmer a bit.

Score a 10 pound, bone-in (butt end) cooked ham with cross hatches, and place it cut side down in a foil pan. I add a can of 7-Up or ginger ale to the pan, and grill over indirect medium heat for two or three hours, brushing with the glaze after an hour or so, and again toward the end of the cook. This year I cooked it on the Weber Genesis gas grill, adding a few chunks of apple wood to the smoker box.

Claudia had baked an assortment of sugar cookies and almond/oat cookies. And of course, there were hard boiled eggs galore.

I had been sick the prior week and had barely been eating, so I overdid with all of the delicious goodies in the morning, and didn’t really get to enjoy dinner. But the ham was wonderful for days on end. Claudia made grilled ham and Swiss sandwiches Monday evening, and we used the bone to flavor some incredible split pea soup later in the week.

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

Sunday Brunch and Dinner – 18 March 2018

Green Flowers

Aunt Pat’s Lovely Bouquet

We had the folks and Aunt Pat over early this Sunday so we could work in a late breakfast as well as dinner. Claudia was up before 7 AM putting together her white chocolate and raspberry scones, which involved a very labor intensive process of grating frozen butter into the dry ingredients mixture. We tried using a food processor for this bit, but that didn’t work out, so she went back to the box grater, painstakingly dispensing two pounds of Irish butter. Once the dough was resting in the fridge, she headed out to Yoga while I started preparing a huge pot of veggies and corned beef.

We had Pandora’s St. Patrick’s Day station streaming as the family arrived, and Claudia baked the scones. I had some sausages and Potatoes O’Brien ready, and a fresh pot of coffee on. Claudia, Pat and Mom added a wee nip o’ Tullamore Dew to their mugs. Aunt Pat brought a lovely, festive bouquet.

Claudia had also made Shamrock Bark on Saturday evening as an additional treat.

After breakfast, the folks and Pat settled in for some games of cribbage while dinner continued to simmer. In past years, we had always cooked the corned beef in a crock pot, but this year I decided to try a recipe we’d seen in Sunset Magazine for Patrick’s Corned Beef and Cabbage. I honestly don’t know how we survived before we got a 12 quart stock pot, and toward the end of the cook, it was almost too small.

We used two point cut briskets, over seven pounds together, along with five medium onions, 2 pounds of carrots, 2 1/2 pounds of red potatoes and two full heads of cabbage. The addition of malt vinegar, Guinness and lots of whole spices to the pot added something special, but what was most notable about the recipe was that the cabbage was cooked perfectly. Instead of the limp, slimy mess that usually comes out of the crock, this still had a little firmness to it, since it was added late in the cooking.

I also tried a new soda bread recipe from BTE this year. The other recipe I’ve always used includes caraway seeds and raisins, and is a little sweeter, almost like a thick scone. This one turned out to be a much better compliment to the meal, with a dense, fluffy crumb and nice crunchy crust.

Claudia also served three varieties of Irish cheeses with the meal. The wine was a very nice Matt Iaconis Cabernet Sauvignon from 2015. Some Guinness Stout, Smithwick’s Red Ale and Tullamore Dew were also consumed, and after dinner one round of Grasshoppers with mint chocolate ice cream for dessert. 🙂

Sláinte Mhaith!