Sunday, January 24, 2010

Apology Chipotle Burger

Man B Que is a huge part of my life and I spend a lot of time promoting the whole concept. It's great, I travel A LOT for work and everywhere I go I tell people about it and they always seem to respond with great enthusiasm. Never is this more true than when being around family. Unlike at work where everybody wants to give me a "great" recipe I "have" to try, my family is chill. They want to get to know what this "Man B Que" thing is that I have been obsessing about and more importantly, they want a peek into the grilling maniac mind so they can understand this odd passion.

I'm out in Connecticut for work and I've been spending time with my aunt Armandina and my uncle Al, they wanted to take me out to dinner, so they let me pick the place. I decided to go to a "world famous" pizza place that everybody raves about. Big mistake. (I'll rant about this on the upcoming East Coast Pizza Wars blog) Anyway, I felt like a big ass, so I figured, the best way to counteract a bad food experience is with a great one. I didn't want to rely on some restaurant, so being the "Man B Que Godfather," I dug into my meat eating brain and created a new burger just for them. I named it the "Apology Chipotle Burger" because "I'm Sorry Aunt Armandina and Uncle Al Chipotle Burger" was way too long.

This is a smokey flavored burger with just the right amount of bite. The chipotle seasoning gives it the smoky flavor and combined with the pepper jack cheese give it a bit of a bite. My suggestion is to serve these on a nicely toasted and buttered kaiser roll and topped with either slices of avocado or a large scoop of guacamole.


1.25 Lbs. ground beef: organic, veggie fed 87% lean (yields 3 large burgers)
1 chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped oregano
1/2 Lbs. diced hot pepper jack cheese
8 tbsp. of butter
1 egg: organic, vegetarian fed
1/2 Cup of seasoned bread crumbs
Guacamole or avocado

Seasoning ingredients:
.25 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, leaves
1 tablespoon dried sweet basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 tablespoon crushed chipotle pepper

1. Start off by mixing all of your seasoning ingredients in a small bowl, place the bowl to the side for now. The amount I've recommended makes a bit more than 1/2 cup of seasoning.

2. In a large bowl, mix in the green peppers and cheese with the ground beef. Make sure the ingredients are nice and evened out.

3. Melt the butter. After melting add your butter add the egg and whip both together.

4. Add cilantro and seasoning mix to the whipped egg/butter and mix both evenly.

5. Combine the beef with the butter mix. While mixing the two, add in your bread crumbs. Again, make sure everything is nice and evenly mixed.

4. Shape your patties. I like starting them off as almost a meat ball and then massaging them down to a flatter shape.

5. Place the patties on some foil and stick in the freezer for about 30 min

6. After removing from the freezer, throw your burgers on the grill. For higher heat, place for about 10 minutes per side, medium heat about 14 minutes per side.

7. Add sliced avocado to the top of the burger or a large scoop of avocado.

8. Eat the f@ck out of these burgers because they will be delicious.

-The Godfather

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Conversion Factor: Vegans, Livestock, and Napoleon

I am a carnivore, tried and true. I love meat. My favorite outdated 1980s advertising catch phrase is “Where’s the Beef?” followed closely by Emeril Legasse's “Pork fat rules.” There's a theme here, if didn't notice.

Several of my good friends have become, at least at some level, vegetarian. In concept, I disagree. But I am usually a good sport about their decision if they have some sort of relative logic behind it. Religion is a good enough reason for me, as long as they do not condemn my passion for cooking and eating meat. If they tell me that they heard that animals are mistreated I usually explode in what can only be explained as meat-rage. I do this because I know many families who raise livestock for slaughter and I also know that those people would do everything in their power to keep their livestock healthy. After all, it's their livelihood. In some cases these farmers even send their children out in sub-zero blizzards to care for the animals in the barn. The entire family knows it must be done for not only the animals, but the family, to survive.

A friend of mine grew up eating nothing but steak and chicken nuggets - and possibly small amounts of other things, as I don't recall him going through scurvy or rickets during our respective childhoods. Now he has decided that he is vegan, which is no meat and no animal products (butter, milk, and most things that I consider staples of the kitchen). I have yet to hear anything close to a logical reason for him to make this change.
Now my argument is not to bash the veg-heads - I try to be accepting while learning (and judging) their reason(s) why. Then I offer a defense of meat that is founded in fact and first hand knowledge.

Conversions are rare, but sweet. Another of my friends who chooses to be vegetarian for health reasons - an acceptable reason - was tempted back by this recipe and is back to eating chicken on occasion. It's not a full, brisket and sausage conversion, but the great difficulty in even getting a vegetarian back to trying meat was my great and immortal victory.

Here's how I did it - foist it on a vegetarian you love/pity soon. Reminder: Man B Que does not advocate force-feeding of vegetarians. That's a good way to get rabies.

Chicken Napoleon

The Set-up

- 2 9 by 10" sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 12 3 by 5" rectangles
- 4 (4-ounce) boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
- 2 poblano peppers, whole
- 3 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise
- 1 lime, zested, then juiced
- 1 bunch cilantro, diced
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 large avocado, sliced into 8 pieces
- 2 c baby spinach leaves
- 2 tomatoes sliced 1/2" thick
- Kosher or coarse-grained sea salt
- Olive oil, for drizzling


1. Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheets. Using the tines of a fork, prick the top of the pastry all over.

3. Cover the pastry with parchment paper and place another baking sheet on top. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Remove the top baking sheets and parchment paper. Set aside to cool.

4. Preheat a grill to med-hi. Season the chicken with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Grill until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool.

5. Grill poblano until charred all over peel skin and remove seeds. Cut into pieces to fit puff pastry.

6. In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lime juice, lime zest, and cayenne pepper.

7. To assemble the Napoleons: Place 4 pieces pastry on a work surface. Slice each chicken breast diagonally into 6 (1/4-inch thick) slices. Place 3 chicken breast slices on each piece of pastry. Place 1/4 cup of spinach 1 tomato slice and 1 avocado slice on top. Spread 1 teaspoon of the mayonnaise mixture on the underside of another 4 pieces of pastry to create the middle layer of each Napoleon. Place on top. Repeat the layering. Each Napoleon should be completed with a piece of pastry as its top.


- Dirt Man

Thunderdome: MBQ vs. Professional Hamburglar

Sadly, The Hamburglar Touch led to the Hamburglar Restraining Order and the Hamburglar Tamper-Proof Ankle Monitor.

As has been frequently documented, Man B Que has a borderline-unhealthy fixation with burgers. This is something we share with Kevin Pang, who, no kidding, holds the title of Chicago Tribune Cheeseburger Bureau Chief. While I still think Professional Hamburglar is a much cooler title, being the the host of The Cheeseburger Show isn't exactly a bad resume line either.

Aside from being a dream title, I imagine that Pang has a pretty tough job. Imagine it - you love cheeseburgers, then suddenly you have to grind through tens of dozens of them on deadline. And I'm guessing it's not all top of the line gourmet jobs. Anyone's who has had a ketchup-drowned hockey buck on a soggy bun would likely agree. Point being, the man's got some authority, and has used it to create 16 observations on the state of Chicago burgerdom.

I applaud this Herculean cheeseburger effort, but it's apparent that Pang and Man B Que have somewhat diverging taste. And given that Man B Que is no slouch in the burger category, we're going to throw in on the matter. So herein, we are going to use the beauty of Fair Use to offer our comments on Pang's final sermon in Hamburglary. No hard feelings, and no veggie burgers. Our comments in italics.

Pang's Cheeseburger Commandments

1. Ketchup and mustard are overrated as condiments. Too acidic and pungent, respectively. If you must, add a little. Underrated: mayo.

Agreed about the criminal overuse of ketchup in a lot of burgers. Have you been to Portillo's and ordered a burger? It's like eating a ketchup sandwich with beef garnish. But mayo? Underrated? Mayo is a disgusting abomination, and putting it on a burger detracts from its original intended use - as salad dressing for ridiculously fat people.

2. Tallgrass beef, for the most part, lacks the unctuousness, moisture content and brawny flavor I seek. That said, the Tallgrass beef burger at Harry Caray's Tavern, above, is most excellent (3551 N. Sheffield Ave., across from Wrigley Field). Order it rare or medium-rare.

Second one in, and you're starting to lose people. Not a lot of people refer to a burger by the name of the purveyor. Strike one. Strike two - unctuousness. Sure, you get what he means, but that doesn't change the fact that he's saying it sort of like a douche. And if you don't get it, that means it's two things you have to look up. That's a lot of work for a line in a burger article.

3. Texture and mouth feel are important considerations. Easiest way to improve this: Ask for toasted buns (buttered, preferably). You can actually taste the difference between toasted and untoasted buns.

Again, a good lesson wrapped in a thin candy shell of fancy-pantsery. Toasted buns are good, soggy burgers are gross. Why must we bring "mouth feel" into it? A lot of people who love food and cooking would still sooner punch you in the back of the head than listen to you rave about "mouth feel."

4. Favorite casual sit-down chain restaurant burger? Red Robin's A.1. Peppercorn Burger.

This tip brought to you by Red Robin.

5. Favorite turkey burger? Found at Marc Burger, Marcus Samuelsson's food court burger joint on the seventh floor of Macy's in the Loop.

Favorite turkey burger? That's like saying "least painful root canal." Also, many may not feel like going up to the 7th floor of that godforsaken store to eat a food court burger.

6. When they say "Kobe" ... With very few exceptions, any burger labeled "Kobe" is essentially a burger that costs $5 more. (Also, the "Kobe" label is misleading. It probably doesn't come from the Hyogo prefecture in Japan. It's like wrongly labeling sparkling wine as "Champagne" when it didn't come from the Champagne region in France.)

Excellent tip - also of note: that Kobe business costs $16-30 an ounce. So that $6 plate of "Kobe sliders" at Finn McCool's is just a plate of lies.

7. The best patties I've had are cooked on a griddle top. Something about stewing in their own fat.

Amen! Hallelujah! Steamed Hams!

8. Fries? Glad you asked. Although french fries fried in duck fat are in vogue, serious gourmands know potatoes fried in beef tallow are far superior. The flavors are more robust, buttery, savory. Top Notch Beefburgers (2116 W. 95th St.) and Labriola Bakery Cafe (3021 Butterfield Road, Oak Brook) do excellent beef tallow fries, pictured above.

Honestly, most of us are never going to seek out fries on the basis of the substance in which they were fried, but those Hot Doug's duck fries are tasty. Chicago's a good town for fries. It's a good town for heart disease too, but that's a separate story.

9. Consider balance. Don't just pile your favorite ingredients and accouterments between two buns. Example: The smokiness of bacon demands to be paired with American cheese (or perhaps a less-sharp Cheddar). The earthiness of mushrooms pairs better with a milder cheese, such as a Swiss or provolone, perhaps Gruyere.

And this marks the first time someone's ended a sentence in a cheeseburger article with "perhaps Gruyere."

10. Steer clear of feta, bleu and brie as cheese options. They just end up overpowering the burger.

Agreed. Feta can be alright, but bleu tastes like kitchen chemicals and brie smothers the sandwich like the haughty judgment of a chain-smoking Frenchman.

11. Lettuce and tomatoes end up getting in the way.

Damn straight. A big piece of lettuce ends up acting like an emergency exit for the more delicious toppings.

12. There is no greater flavor combination than bacon plus cheese plus caramelized onions.

I call subjective. It's the food blogger equivalent of calling someone a witch.

13. Look out, bacon. Egg with runny yolk is the new sexy topping.

Here we find that Kevin's been spending a little too much time around other food industry people, and a little too much time eating a sit-down burger places. What your bok choy-loving friends might find cute doesn't translate to the rest of us poor schlubs. Also, "look out bacon"? Don't warn meat. It's unseemly.

14. Best bang for your buck. Schoop's (19 locations, mostly in northwest Indiana and Calumet region of Illinois), and Illinois Bar and Grill, above, (4135 W. 47th Ave. in Chicago's Archer Heights; 1131 S. State St. in Lemont; and at Midway Airport).

This tip brought to you by ... oh, wait I made that joke already. Maybe we can go with 14 commandments next time?

15. Favorite fast-food burger? A tie between Steak 'n Shake, above, and Schoop's. Both have something in common: beef patties with thin, crispy edges that accentuate the "steak" flavor.

Do I hear 13? 13 commandments? Also, Steak 'n Shake is a cop-out answer. That's not your classic fast food. Casual sit-down or diner, perhaps. Although give it to Steak 'n Shake, their northwest burbs branches have enough surly, toothless waitstaff to compete with any fast food place in pure customer service misery.

16. The biggest rule of all: There is no rule. If it tastes good to you, it tastes good.

So to sum up, we have 4 rules that are really just the names of places to eat, and 1 that negates all the previous rules. And an editor couldn't have cut this down to an even ten?

Harvest Ales: 'Tis the Season to Be Hoppy

Alright hop heads, it’s my favorite time of the beer-drinking year - fall. When the leaves turn and the temperatures start to drop, I can’t help but think of the arrival of seasonal harvest brews. Harvest (or wet-hopped) beers are special because they utilize the freshest hops available. The result is very much evident in the fresh flavor profiles of these once-a-year beers.

When hops are harvested, they are typically dried and either kept in whole leaf form, or made into pellets or plugs. The drying process allows the hops to stay fresh for a longer period of time so brewers are able to make beer all year round. But once a year when the hops are ripe, brewers get a unique opportunity to use the freshest hops around.

Wet-hopped beers are different from most others in the fact that the hops never go through the drying process. The hops are picked straight from the vine and are immediately used by the brewer. The only way this works is that the hops have to be directly thrown in the brew kettle right after harvest time. Because the hops haven’t been dried, time is of the essence and you need to get them into the boil before they go bad.

The resulting beer is very much akin to using fresh herbs and spices as opposed to dried when cooking. The flavor is less biting and you can taste a “green-ness” that is unmatched. What you are looking for in a great harvest ale is that beautiful grassy hop flavor. It is for this reason that you DO NOT age these beers. Even after the beer has been bottled, the hop profile can die with age just like any other beer. We wouldn’t want that now, would we?

Make sure to pick up your harvest beers from a reputable beer retailer that rotates selection often. This ensures that you’re not getting last years batch. Place the beers towards the front of the fridge so you don’t forget they’re there. There’s no such thing as drinking too much during the hop harvest season.

Cheers from Hop Cast!

Some examples of wet-hopped beers to look for…

Three Floyds Broo-Doo
Two Brother Heavy Handed IPA
Founders Double Trouble
Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest Ale
Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale
Surly Wet

- Hopcast Ken

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Tailgate: Nuclear Bomb Steak Sandwich

Are all sandwiches created equal? The existence of Vegemite suggests that the answer is a resounding, and disgusting, no.

Vegemite: Proving the mental illness of the entire country of Australia

The sandwich is a staple of lunches everywhere, from the PB&J in the Ghostbusters lunchbox of a child (or socially inept comic book store employee) to the corned beef sandwich at your local Irish pub. The varieties of sandwiches around the world are endless. Different meats, bread, cheeses, veggies and condiments (bacon is both a meat and a condiment) allow sandwich explorers to roam to whatever combination soothes the savage glutton. Clearly, some are much better than others. Which raises the question of how to rank them.

Made with love by a bar cook with a knife scar on his face

I am not here to tell you the perfect stack - merely to offer some help in judging. The sandwich which all others should be judged by, the tasty combo that has graced us for years (its probably in your child’s lunch box today) is the bologna and cheese on white bread. It’s simple, tasty and readily available. It's both a classic standby and the unemployed bastard's last defense against starvation (because Ramen noodles suck).

My favorite version however uses hand sliced bologna seasoned with a quality barbecue dry. You grill it, then before taking it off the grill add sliced Hoop cheddar. When it's all melted and delicious, serve it on toast with yellow mustard, barbecue and hot sauces (Texas Pete’s hot sauce works well).

Something like this, except not snagged off of Google Images in real life

Although this is one of my favorite sandwiches, it is not the world's best. Only Sandwich Nazis declare absolutes. There's always something better and more fattening around the corner. Another slightly more sophisticated interpretation of the above-described bologna sandwich follows, but use your imagination. Some say the sky is the limit. I disagree - the other piece of bread is the limit. Unless you're some open-faced eating crackpot.

Nuclear Steak Bomb

The elegant plating and dinner napkin placement suggests this may not be a Man B Que-taken picture. Hell, the existence of a napkin at all in it is pretty conclusive evidence.

1 sirloin steak
1 bell pepper sliced
1/4 onion sliced
1 can croissant dough
1 jar mushroom gravy
Worcestershire sauce
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Season and grill your steak to your desired doneness. Simplicity works best with the seasoning - Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, salt and black pepper.

2. Heat a skillet over medium, then add gravy, bell peppers, and onions

3. When steak is finished resting, slice across the grain of the meat into bite-sized pieces.

4. Put steak chunks into skillet until gravy is thick.

5. Roll out croissant dough, making sure no seams break. Pour gravy steak mix into the center of the dough. Wrap dough around the mixture and bake following the instructions from the can.

Who said a croissant couldn't be manly?

- Dirt Man

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cooking With Booze: Steamed Hams

What's a blog without pop culture referencing?

There are those in our fair city that live without the luxury of a deck or porch. While this is not a lifestyle choice of which I approve (I'm wagging my finger in a fatherly way right now), this should not deprive them of their right to ridiculously delicious burgers. So fear not, intrepid shut-ins, I've found a way for you to turn your stovetop into a steam-billowing short order diner line.

Oh, and if the whole "Steamed Hams" reference is throwing you, I suggest you click here and join the rest of us. Frankly, I'm surprised it took us this long to shoehorn in a Simpsons reference.

Cartoons aside, I'd also read a story from Gourmet editor Sara Moulton about her first job cooking, where they took a burger covered with mushrooms, onions, and cheese and steamed it with beer. I didn't have a griddle and a big-ass metal bowl, but I did have a skillet and more than enough beer to do the job.

The Setup

(Makes 2 burgers - double it for 4. Yay, math!)

- 1/2 lb ground chuck
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Coarse-grained salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 c diced white onion
- 4 sliced mushrooms (Whatever kind you'd like. I bought a pack of Essex Kent mushrooms. They were on sale.)
- 1 jalapeno, quartered and diced
- 8 olives, diced
- 1/4 c grated white cheddar
- 1/4 c crumbled feta cheese
- 1/3 c dark ale (I used Half Acre's Over Ale)
- 2 buns, toasted or steamed


1. Combine the ground chuck, mustard, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and black pepper.

2. Divide beef and form into thin 1/4 lb patties.

3. Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet to medium.

4. Add onions to pan, cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes.

5. Raise heat to medium hi and add mushrooms. Cook another 4-5 minutes, until the mushrooms are browned and glossy.

6. Season the onion/mushroom mix with salt and pepper, and remove to a bowl. Wipe out the skillet.

7. Add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to the skillet, heat to medium-high.

I did just one burger at a time - you know, for illustrative purposes. And because I don't own a very big skillet.

8. When oil is heated, add burgers to the skillet and cook 3 minutes.

9. Flip and cook another 2 minutes.

10. Add the toppings to burgers - onion/mushroom mix, jalepenos, and cheddar on one, and onion/mushroom, olives, and feta on the other.

11. Add beer to the skillet. Cover and steam for 3 minutes, until cheese is melted.

The beer gave its' life for deliciousness.

12. Put onto buns and enjoy your mouth-watering steamed hams.

Serve with beer

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crimes Against Food: Enough With the Damn Sliders

Feeds 1 ... unless you're hungry. Or a man.

You like hamburgers, right? You'd damn well better - about half of everything we post here is a hamburger recipe. Well, what if I offered you a burger, but instead of a big, juicy patty hanging over the edges of the bun, I told you that I'd instead pound the everliving shit out of the meat and slide it onto a dinner roll for that ever-so-delicious 80/20 bread/meat ratio? You might not think it's a great idea, but you know who does? Every damn restaurant. Everywhere. You can't throw a handful of cholesterol pills in this town without hitting a place trumpeting its' "NEW! Prime Beef Sliders!" And it's not just here in our fair city of Chicago - it's everywhere.

"Waiter? I hate to be a bother, but a bird has apparently begun building a nest on my entree."

Case in point: Washington, D.C.'s Matchbox. I go to D.C. for work a few times a year, and every time I do, people are telling me about the sliders (pictured above) - how awesome they are, how they could eat a million of them. So the last time I find myself in D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood, I hit Matchbox and order them. They come with a pile of greasy fried onions on top, just dripping fryer oil all through the white bread bun. You also get a thin slice of cheese on the burger. And that's it. So they taste like slightly beefy grease. I love greasy food, but not when grease is the only flavor. That's why when we make bacon, we eat the bacon instead of drinking what collects in the pan. But I didn't share this with the waiter, because I hate seeing hipsters cry. Their mascara runs. Yes even the men. Especially the men.

It's not that sliders aren't a delicious food concept. But the execution almost always sucks. It's a pinch of ground beef smashed on a griddle and thrown onto a roll, maybe with a slice of unmelted, somewhat plasticized cheese. Fucking hooray - nothing better than paying $9 for the taste of unseasoned ground beef, bread, and Sysco cheese. Or alternately, "sliders" made of crock-pot BBQ pork, dry shredded chicken, or whatever else they've lot laying around. So maybe the super-expensive high end shit would be better?

"Only $60? Why, that's a bargain! ... Why the sudden urge to cut my own wrists?"

Fuck no, it's not better. Some of your fancier-pants restaurants have decided to put Kobe sliders (or comparable American-raised Wagyu) on the menu. This is actually a much, much worse idea. Kobe beef, depending on the quality and market, costs between $16-30 PER MOTHERFUCKING OUNCE! They're taking the most expensive beef in the world, pushing it through a meat grinder, overcooking it, and slapping it on a brioche bun. Meat like that is meant to be eaten as a rare, in steak form. You don't want a rare slider - ergo, you don't want Kobe sliders. Ever. It is a terrible, terrible idea.

There are easy ways to make excellent, inexpensive sliders that have actual flavor. We will share this knowledge with you later this week, as ranting has left little room for recipes. But until then, let's all rack our collective brains to try and find out what evil douchebag is responsible for this regrettable fad.

Well, that didn't take long

- J.B. Mays