Noodle Noshing

Chicago Chili Mac

September 26, 2016
chilimacforweb2

Ask about the origins of this belly-filling, budget-stretching American favorite and you’ll get different answers. Some point to Cincinnati’s habit of eating chili with spaghetti…but those are spaghetti noodles, and the chili is spiced with chocolate & cinnamon. So….not really what we think of as the “classic.” In other parts of the Midwest, chili mac lovers expect to find elbow macaroni in the dish—plus chili made with plenty of cumin, chili powder and green peppers. This version from Chicago’s Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap (the comfortable Levy restaurant & bar that replaced the Blackhawk Lodge) has all of that, plus some nice tweaks. It’s really two recipes—one for a mildly spiced chili that uses tangy green tomatillos instead of tomatoes, and one for a classic creamy macaroni & cheese. The two recipes taste good on their own, but together? Even better. Note: Earlier versions of the chili mac at Jake Melnick’s included crushed Chili-Fritos. For that version, just mix in 1 1/2 cups of crushed Chili-Fritos when you combine the macaroni and chili, before baking. Or, include crushed Fritos as one of your toppers, along with sour cream, green onions, sliced radishes, avocado, and fresh cilantro leaves.

Continue Reading…

Meaty Mainstays

Kirk Douglas’ Favorite Meatloaf

September 26, 2016
kirkdouglasfavoritemeatloaf_hires_10

Before there was Michael Douglas (Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and a zillion more movies,) there was Kirk Douglas, a 1940s matinee idol with the deep cleft in his chin some of my boys have, but dislike. (They call it a “butt chin”…) If it weren’t for Ant Man, in which Michael had a nice role, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which Noah considers “epic” for it’s crude special effects (first sci-fi shot in Cinemascope), my kids would be unfamiliar with either of these actors. But back in the seventies, Kirk was still, very much, a familiar film legend. Which is where this meatloaf comes in… Continue Reading…

Cake Walk

Very Airy No-Bake Cheesecake

September 8, 2016
very-airy-no-bake-cheesecake-450


  • Cheesecakes come in dozens of flavors and textures. Contrasting with the dense, baked cheesecakes many know, this vintage 1959 no-bake version is so light and airy, it about levitates above the plate. If you have cheesecake lovers in your crowd, definitely try this one. You can make it two days in advance–keep it well-covered in a domed cake-keeper in the fridge until service.

Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

The Original Chocolate Fudge Brownie (Palmer House)

September 8, 2016
palmerhousechocfudgebrownielowres

The Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a chocolate-lovers dream: Boston-based chocolatier Walter M. Lowney brought the first American chocolate bars. America’s oldest chocolate maker, Walter Baker & Company, handed out samples and showed visitors how chocolate was made. And the Palmer House introduced the first chocolate brownie, because Bertha Palmer wanted a portable dessert that ladies could have in boxed lunches at the fair.

Unlike other brownie recipes which started appearing in 1904 and specified that butter and sugar were first creamed before being combined with a small amount of melted chocolate, the Palmer House brownie is made with more than a pound of melted chocolate and a pound of melted butter. The finished brownie is also glazed with apricot jelly.  A combination of chocolate fudge and brownie, crispy-chewy on the edges, ultra dense and chocolatey, we think it’s best served frozen, or very cold…otherwise, gooey things happen. (Not sure how this worked in a boxed lunch…) Chef Stephen Henry says for cleanest slices, freeze the brownies for three hours after glazing. Then cut, and serve while very firm and cold. For more story on Bertha Palmer and the Palmer House Hilton history, see our Palmer House Hilton Prosciutto-Wrapped Filet story.

Continue Reading…

Soda Fountain

Summer Girl Soda

August 26, 2016
SummerGirl

Still hot? Me too! How about this vintage soda fountain creation? Raspberry, orange and vanilla in frothy foam…with all those pastels, it’s no wonder the Pacific Northwest, Meier & Frank department-store chain called this the Summer Girl Soda. According to fourth-generation Frank family-member Gerry Frank, Continue Reading…

Featuring Fruit

Fig Preserves & Fig Cake

August 14, 2016
FigsOnMetalRule_Ready_1920

It probably wasn’t an apple. Apricot, pear or pomegranate…maybe. But mythologists suggest that the eye-opening, original-sin-ushering fruit Eve plucked from the Tree of Knowledge was likely a fig. “Ancient Hebrews wouldn’t have known an apple from a hole in the ground,” sums Alan Ridenour, writing in his Offbeat Food: Adventures in an Omnivorous World, “They knew figs however and specifically mentioned fig trees growing in Eden,” leading scholars to suggest that the fig was the fruit intended. And honestly? With its lush fecundity, tender fruit and beguiling fragrance, it’s hard not to give a fiddle for a fig. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Homemade Fig Bars

August 14, 2016
Figbarsforweb

There are lots of new takes on “newtons” out there. Our vintage version riffs on Ann Pillsbury’s classic ’50s recipe for Fig-Filled Bars, featured in her beloved Butter Cookie Cookbook pamphlet, but uses the recipe we’ve featured from Belinda Hulin (of fig cake awesomeness.) Continue Reading…

Southern Stylings

New Orleans Okra Giardiniera

July 29, 2016
GiardinieraBEST450

When Liz Williams, director of New Orleans’ Southern Food & Beverage Museum was little, her mama couldn’t stand okra. “So, I didn’t eat it either,” says Liz. But Liz’ Louisiana-born-and bred daddy loved the stuff.  He bought a jar of pickled okra on a picnic outing and won  Liz over with the crunchy spears. “When I figured out what it was, I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my mom that she was wrong about okra,” Liz laughs. “Eventually, she grew to like it.” For anybody else out there who is skittish about okra, pickling it is the way to go.  This vibrant, crunchy and lightly spicy giardiniera–a Williams family favorite–is a showcase for pickled okra. Continue Reading…

Pie Revival

Banoffee (Banana Toffee Coffee) Tarts

July 19, 2016
BanoffeePiePhoto

This recipe story moves from Chicago to England to California and back again : ) It started back when I was doing Lost Recipes Found as a Chicago Tribune column. A woman wrote in to say she’d heard you could boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk to make some kind of dessert, and could I find it? Imagining exploding tins of hot milk, I tossed that request into the “not likely” bin and moved on. Until this… Continue Reading…

Pie Revival

Sweetcorn & Bacon Pie

July 17, 2016
CornPie450x450

The waitress at Ernie Risser’s family restaurant in Womelsdorf, PA, watches me looking dubiously at the gravy she just plunked down with the corn pie I ordered.  Assuming we’re in cahoots, she leans in, whispers, “I like to eat corn pie with hot milk, too!” and smiles conspiratorily. Whisking away the gravy boat she soon returns with a little pitcher of milk. Strange upon strange, think I…but, it turns out, not awful. Still, I left plotting something better & more akin to my Midwest upbringing: homemade creamed corn with bacon and onion in a flaky pie crust. The result? This recipe. Continue Reading…