Posts Tagged ‘best’

At some point, I think we’ve all heard that what has commonly been regarded as “stuffing” should actually never be stuffed inside of anything. While pictures from the 1940s and 1950s showed an iconic turkey bursting with goodness, putting stuffing inside a turkey or chicken actually slows down the cooking process and leads to what I believe is a lesser quality flavor. So yes, for your geniuses out there that will inevitably critique my recipe, this should be called “dressing” and not stuffing, but I suppose if you really wanted to, you could easily stuff this inside a chicken or turkey after everything is cooked separately.

Ingredients

  • 16oz unseasoned croutons
  • 1 lb lean pork sausage (without casing)
  • 1/2 lb thick cut bacon
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 3c chicken stock
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp sage, ground
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tsp basil, dried

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon strips. You are probably going to have to do this in two batches. The goal is to achieve a beautiful crispiness that will not become soggy once inside the stuffing. Set aside to cool on some paper towels.

2. Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat. Keep the heat on medium high and place the carrots, celery, onion, and apple in the pan. Saute for 5 minutes or until the carrot just begins to soften. Add the garlic, oregano, basil, and sage and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add the white wine to deglaze. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Place the cooked vegetables inside a large mixing bowl.

3. In the same pan, add the sausage and cook through. You can choose to cut the sausage into small bits, or keep in large clumps. The choice is yours. Cook until you cannot see any pink. Add the sausage to the vegetables.

4. Chop the bacon and add to the mixing bowl with the croutons. Add the chicken stock 1/4 c at a time until the croutons begin to get soggy and fall apart slightly. Combine the vegetable and meat mixture to the bread crumbs. Add to a casserole dish.

5. Cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until the top begins to get crispy. While cooking, the outside will get brown and crispy, the inside will remain moist and delicious. Serve piping hot.

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Buffalo Joe’s is a staple of the downtown Evanston scene. Tucked in between boutiques, retail shops, and Northwestern University eateries, Buff Joe’s is by far one of the best wing places I have visited. However, when I first walked by, I imagined that this restaurant was no better than any other wing or pizza joint, which I think adds to its appeal.

Although Buff Joe’s does have burgers, baked potatoes, and hot dogs, I believe strongly that the only reason for this place to exist falls into line with my chicken at a steakhouse rule in that I could never imagine ordering anything except for the wings. I mean, come on, just have a look at the double order my wife and I split.

Sauce is every bit as important to a chicken wing and Buff Joe’s makes all their sauces in house. For those of you looking for a bit more spice, Buff Joe’s offers three varieties – Mild, Spicy, and Suicide. I went with the mild just to see and I was not disappointed. While there was heat, it did not overwhelm my senses and wasn’t unpleasant or painful like other hot wing sauces tend to be. The sauce is a bit thick allowing it to cling beautifully to the wings. I’m not ashamed to admit that I licked my fingers clean and not a bit of sauce left on my fingers was wiped away on napkin. That would just be a waste.

What impressed me most about the wings at Buff Joe’s is that the skin is incredibly crispy and does not become soggy after being tossed in the sauce – not even after 20 minutes. Our last wing was every bit as crispy and delicious as the first. For those of you that don’t eat wings often, this may not sound like much of a feat, but believe me, it is. I’ve eaten chicken wings in most corners of the United States, and too many fail to achieve a good level of crispiness without overcooking the meat, or slather on too much sauce leaving a sticky, soggy mess. Buff Joe’s has found the magic formula of proper heat and a high quality sauce.

My wife required me to order the waffle chips as an accompaniment to our meal. Apparently she wasn’t the only fan as several young men were ordering big bags of waffle fries with their party platters (it was Sunday and the Bears were playing). I’m confident that they do not make these fries in house, but Buff Joe’s has found a high quality product and cooks their waffle fries to be every bit as delicious and fluffy as the homemade version, complete with skin left on. I ordered mine doused with cheddar cheese, a decision I would take back as I believe the waffle fries are amazing on their own.

This is a must have for anyone looking for a hearty comfort food meal. I highly recommend that if you happen to be in the area taking in a movie at the Century Theatre, doing some shopping, or on the Northwestern campus, take some time to visit Buff Joe’s and see for yourself how good a chicken wing can be.

For my 30th birthday, I made only one simple request of my wife: Gastropub. The idea of the gastropub started in England in the second half of the 20th century and revitalized the concept of pub food. I love pub food, but find that many of my favorite watering holes pay careful attention to what’s coming out of the bar, but pay relatively little attention to what’s coming out the kitchen. The Gage is a prime example of what gastropubs can do in terms of quality libations alongside high quality pub food.

I started my dinner with a scotch egg. A scotch egg is a hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded, and then deep fried. The Gage serves its scotch egg with whole grain mustard, a dab of an unknown sauce that I couldn’t identify, and a small handful of mixed greens. This was a nice dish, but I felt the flavor fell a little flat.

To start her meal, my wife ordered the House Poutine which is french fries smothered with an elk ragout and cheese curds. Of our two starters, she certainly picked our favorite. This in itself would be worth a trip back to The Gage.

Fearing for our stomachs, we decided to split an order of the soup and we are certainly glad we did. Below is a picture of the Roasted Corn Soup with aleppo peppers, shrimp, and a cilantro oil. The wait staff pours the hot soup into the bowl at table side making for a nice presentation. This is one of the best soups I have ever had in my life and while I could have eaten two or three servings, our one serving was enough for the two of us to share without feeling too stuffed.

I think the mark of a good gastropub is the ability to not only cook a good burger, but make it unique and memorable. Truth be told, I can still taste this burger if I concentrate hard enough. I ordered The Gage burger which is made from USDA Prime beef, and topped with a locally made camembert cheese and an onion marmalade. And best of all, you can’t see it, but this comes with a giant basket of thick cut french fries.

My wife loves risotto and took the opportunity to test The Gage’s cooks and see how good a gastropub chef can make a summertime risotto. The Gage rotates its risotto offerings based on the seasonal ingredients and on this particular day, they were serving an heirloom tomato and basil risotto. The consistency was creamy and rich without a single grain being overcooked. The chefs made this perfectly seasoned and at just the right temperature.

The Gage is one of the best restaurants I ever been too in terms of it’s high quality food, pleasant atmosphere, cleanliness, and promptness of service. Their drink menu is vast and carry a large selection of microbrews and serve all their wines in 8 oz carafes that are perfect for sharing. For all this food plus a couple of drinks, the bill still came in under $100 including standard gratuity. If you live in the Chicago area or plan to visit here in the future, I highly recommend you hit up this Michigan Ave establishment.