Windy City Cookout











FANFOOD – On The Menu:


Serves 12+


When many people think of Chicago food, they think of deep dish pizza, but Chicago food types will tell you that it doesn’t break the top three. Here is a great menu featuring the top two, Chicago Italian Beef Sandwiches and Chicago Red Hots.

This will be a great menu to serve if the Cubbies ever make it back to the World Series.



On the Menu:


Chicago Popcorn
Chicago Italian Beef Sandwiches
Chicago Red Hots
Polish Artichokes
Palmer House Brownies
Mickey Finns




Chicago Popcorn


Chicago Mix popcorn was originally created by Garrett Popcorn customers. After watching people buy separate bags of caramel and cheese corn and then awkwardly try to combine the two, Garrett’s decided to do the mixing for them.
Caramel corn was invented by a pair of German immigrant brothers named Fritz and Louis Rueckheim who moved to Chicago in 1872 to help clean up and rebuild after the Great Chicago Fire. They started selling popcorn from a cart, likely after 1885, which was when another Chicago entrepreneur named Charlie Cretors began selling the mobile, steam-powered peanut roaster he’d invented, which also turned out to be useful for popping corn. Combining the roasters’ strengths, the Rueckheim brothers developed a molasses-coated popcorn and peanut combination they called “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts.” It was a big hit at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
However, it was also kind of a sticky mess, as molasses-coated things tend to be. In 1896, the Rueckheim brothers discovered that they could prevent the kernels from clumping together if they added a little oil during the candying stage. According to popular legend, a salesman on hand the first time they tried the new technique got a taste and declared, “That’s crackerjack!” (1896-ese for “awesome”). And that’s how the iconic American brand got its name. It was initially sold primarily at public entertainments like circuses and sporting events, and immortalized in the lyrics of “Take Me Out to the Ballpark” in 1908.
By 1913, Cracker Jack was the best-selling confection in the world (again, so sayeth the Oxford Encyclopedia). That’s one year after they started adding the “prize in every box!”—usually a small trinket, riddle, or baseball card. Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo were added to the package in 1918 and became the official trademark in 1919, supposedly inspired by one of the Rueckheim’s grandsons (and also appealing to post-WWI patriotism). The brand was still going strong in 1970, when 41% of American households purchased the product (no word on what percent of consumed the product at ballparks).



1/2 cup coconut oil, divided
2 cups popcorn kernels
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt, divided (fine-grained)
1 1/2 cups butter (3/4 lb)
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cheddar cheese powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon chili powder



For the caramel corn:

Preheat the oven to 250F.

Melt half of the coconut oil in a large pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Add 3-4 popcorn kernels, cover the pot and wait until they pop. Add 1 cup of the kernels and shake well to coat in the oil. Continue heating, shaking every few minutes until the rate of popping slows and most of the kernels have popped.

Empty the kernels into a brown paper bag, add 2 teaspoons of salt, and shake to distribute the salt and drain the excess oil. Then, spread the popcorn in a large roasting pan or several baking sheets.

Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, 1 cup of butter, and the baking soda in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring and insert a candy thermometer. Cook until it reaches 235F, which should take about 8 minutes.

Immediately remove the caramel from the heat and add the vanilla carefully—the caramel will bubble & spit molten candy at you, so you want to drop it in and immediately pull your hand away. After the bubbling subsides, stir in the vanilla, and pour the caramel over the popcorn. Then, stir to coat evenly.

Bake for about an hour in the preheated oven, stirring every 10-15 minutes. It’s done when the caramel is no longer dripping onto the bottom of the pan and instead has hardened into a crisp shell around every piece. Remove and let cool completely, and then break apart any large clumps by hand.

For the cheese corn:

Repeat steps 2 and 3 above with the remaining coconut oil and popcorn kernels, but this time return the popcorn to the pot.

Melt the remaining 1/2 cup of butter in a saucepan or microwave, pour over the popped corn, and shake or stir to coat evenly.

Whisk together the cheese powder, mustard powder, chili powder, and 1 Tablespoon salt and pour that over the buttered popcorn. Again, shake or stir to coat. Taste and add more salt if desired.

Combine, or don’t. Store in airtight containers.

You could always just buy some caramel corn & cheese corn and combine them or get it right from the source:


Top of Page




Chicago Italian Beef Sandwiches


You can make the beef the day before and assemble the sandwiches the day of the event. Allow about 2 hours to cook and another 3 hours to firm the meat for slicing in the refrigerator. You need 90 minutes to cook a 3 pound roast, or about 30 minutes per pound. As I just said, you can cook this well in advance and refrigerate the meat and juice and heat it up as needed. You can even freeze it. This is a great Sunday dish because the smell of the roasting beef and herbs fills the house. After you cook it, you need another 30 minutes to chill it before slicing.



The beef:
1 boneless beef roast, about 3 pounds with most of the fat trimmed off

The rub:
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

The juice:
6 cups of hot water
4 cubes of beef bouillon (see discussion below) *

The sandwich:
10 soft, fluffy, high gluten rolls, sliced lengthwise but hinged on one side or Italian bread loaves cut widthwise into 10
3 medium sized green bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil, approximately
1 cup hot giardiniera



About the beef. Top sirloin, top round, or bottom round are preferred in that order. For tenderness, especially if you
cannot cut paper thin slices. You can use chuck, a fattier cut, so the meat will be more tender and flavorful. Problem is
that you’ll have to chill the pan drippings after cooking in order to skim off the fat. If you wish, omit the garlic powder
and stud the roast with fresh garlic.

Some insist you must use bouillon to be authentic, while others use beef stock, veal stock, or a soup base, and simmer real onions and garlic in it.
If you wish, you can cut small slits in the surface of the meat every inch or so and stick slivers of fresh garlic into the
meat. If you do this, leave the garlic out of the rub. Otherwise, mix the rub in a bowl. Sprinkle it generously on the meat
and massage it in. There will be some left over. Do not discard it, it will be used it in the juice. Let the meat sit at
room temp for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the grill or oven to 400°F. If you are cooking indoors, put a rack just below the center of the oven.

Pour the water into a 9 x 13″ baking pan and heat it to a boil on the stove top. Dissolve the bouillon in the water. It may
look thin, but it will cook down and concentrate during the roasting. Pour the remaining rub into the pan. Place a rack on
top of the pan. Place the roast on top of the rack above the juice. Roast at 400°F until interior temperature is about
130°F for medium rare, about 30 minutes per pound (exact time will depend on the cut of meat, its thickness, and how well calibrated your oven is). This may seem long, but you are cooking over water and that slows things down. The temp will rise about 5°F more as it rests. Don’t worry if there are people who won’t eat medium-rare meat. The meat will cook further later, and you can just leave theirs in the juice until it turns to leather if that’s what they want. If you use a
rotisserie on your grill, you can cut the cooking time in half because the spear and the forks holding it in place will conduct heat into the interior.

Beware. This recipe is designed for a 9 x 13″ baking pan. If you use a larger pan, the water may evaporate and the juice
will burn. If you have to use a larger pan, add more water. Regardless of pan size, keep an eye on the pan to make sure it
doesn’t dry out during cooking. Add more water if necessary.

While the meat is roasting, cut the bell peppers in half and remove the stems and seeds. Rinse, and cut into 1/4″ strips.
Cook the peppers in a frying pan over a medium high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom, about 1 tablespoon. When they are getting limp and the skins begin to brown, about 15 minutes, they are done. Set aside at room temp.

Remove the roast and the juice pan. Take the meat off the rack and remove the rack. Pour off the juice, put the meat back
in the pan, and place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Let it cool for a few hours, long enough for the meat to
firm up. This will make slicing easier. Chill the juice, too, in a separate container. Slice the meat against the grain as
thin as humanly possible, preferably with a meat slicer. Use a thin blade and draw it along the meat. If you try to cut
down or saw through the crust you will be cutting it too thick.

Taste the juice. If you want you can thin it with more water, or make it richer by cooking it down on top of the stove. In
Chicago beef stands it is rich, but not too concentrated. Then turn the heat to a gentle simmer. Soak the meat in the juice
for about 1 minute at a low simmer. That’s all. That warms the meat and makes it very wet. You can’t leave the meat in the
juice for more than 10 minutes or else it starts to curl up, squeezes out its natural moisture, and toughens. This also
enriches the juice with meat protein and seasoning from the crust.

To assemble the sandwich, start by spooning some juice directly onto the bun. Get it wet. Then lay on the beef generously. Spoon on more juice. Top it with bell pepper and, if you wish, giardiniera. If you want it “wet”, dip the whole thing in juice. Be sure to have plenty of napkins on hand.


Top of Page 



Chicago Red Hots


The only thing I can say about this recipe is don’t even think about ketchup.



12 vienna beef hot dogs
12 poppy seed buns
yellow mustard
bright green relish
fresh onion, chopped
6 tomatoes, chopped
6 kosher pickles, spear
12 sport bell peppers ( Pickled Seranno Peppers)
dash celery salt for each



Heat vienna beef hot dog in water, steam, grill or microwave to 170 degrees Fahreneheit (better tasting steamed). Place the Hot Dog in a steamed poppyseed bun. Then pile on the toppings in the order listed in the ingredients; mustard, green relish, onion, tomatoes, pickle, bell peppers, celery salt.


Top of Page 



Polish Artichokes


Enjoy this quick artichokes in wine recipe. It is good to find freshly picked artichokes with green stems and leaves, not brown. The key to this artichoke recipe is make sure the artichokes are well done, they should not be hard when you eat them. 



3-4 artichokes
juice of half a lemon
teaspoon sugar
1 tbs. olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves
2 tsp thyme (or fresh thyme twigs)
1 tsp oregano
1 cup wine (red better)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper



Trim stems, cut off top leaves (about 1 inch) since tops are not edible.

Cook in boiling water, covered.

Add juice of half a lemon, sugar, olive oil, garlic, wine, vinegar, and rest of ingredients.

Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, test a leaf to make sure it is soft. Drain well.

Serve with melted butter and lemon, or a mix of mayonnaise and lemon juice as a savory dip.


Top of Page




Palmer House Brownies


This dessert was created in the kitchen of the Palmer House Hotel during the 1893 Columbian Exposition when Mrs. Bertha Palmer requested the chef make a “ladies dessert” that would be easier to eat than a piece of pie, and a smaller serving than a slice of layer cake, which could be used in box lunches at the Women’s Building at the Fair. The first reference to this dessert as a “Brownie” is in a Sears Roebuck catalog published in Chicago in 1898. This recipe is still served today at the Palmer House Hilton on State Street and is one of their most popular confections.



1 pound semi-sweet chocolate
1 pound butter
1 pound granulated sugar (3 1/2 cups)
8 oz. cake flour (2 cups)
1 tablespoons baking powder
4 whole eggs
1 pound crushed walnuts
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin



Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Melt chocolate with the butter in a double boiler or in a bowl set over barely simmering water. Mix dry ingredients except the walnuts– in a large mixer bowl on low speed for 4-5 minutes.

Add the eggs and mix until blended. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking sheet and sprinkle with the walnuts, pressing nuts down lightly into the mixture with the palm of your hand.

Bake in the preheated 300 degree oven for 40 minutes. You will know when it is done because the edges start to become a little crispy and the brownie has raised about a ¼ inch.

Note that even when the brownie is properly baked, it will test “gooey”  with a toothpick in the middle due to the richness of the mixture.

After removing from the oven, allow to cool at least 30 minutes.

To make glaze: Mix together water, preserves and gelatin in a saucepan, mix thoroughly and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Use while hot. Spread the glaze in a thin layer over the brownies using a pastry brush.

The brownies are easiest to cut if you can place the whole pan into the freezer for 3 – 4 hours after glazing, then remove and cut with a serrated knife.


Top of Page




The Mickey Finn


If you are a sophisticated drinker, you know about the Manhattan. Obviously, that cocktail was invented in New York City. But in Chicago they can lay claim to devising thier own famous mixed drink.In 1903 on this December 16th, the city was learning about the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden. This was one of the dives of Whiskey Row, on State Street near 11th. A little gnome ex-pickpocket named Mickey Finn owned the place. Today one of Finn’s barmaids–Gold Tooth Mary Thornton–was testifying before a special commission. Gold Tooth Mary said there was a sign at the Lone Star inviting customers to “Try a Mickey Finn Special.” The sign did not mention the ingredients, and for good reason.
The Special was a mixture of raw alcohol, snuff-soaked water, and a white liquid supplied by a voodoo doctor.Anybody who drank this cocktail was knocked out cold. The victim was then dragged into a side room, where he was stored until Mickey got around to robbing him. After that he was dumped in the alley. Mary and her colleagues got a percentage of Mickey’s take. That was just as well, since their customers weren’t in any condition to give the ladies a tip. Mickey had all the angles covered. Some patrons would drink only beer, so he had another concoction called the “Number Two” that he poured into the beer. According to Mary, her boss had no fear of the police. Mickey boasted that he was in tight with Alderman Kenna, and that he always saved the best cigars for the local cops.This time, friendship and smokes did him no good. Because of all the bad publicity, city officials revoked Mickey’s liquor license. Mickey thought he’d been given a bum deal. Gold Tooth Mary’s story didn’t make any sense. “I’d lose money feeding dope to the guys that blow in here,” he claimed. “I wouldn’t get enough money out of their clothes in a year to pay for the dope.”With the Lone Star closed, Mickey left Chicago.
He later returned and operated another saloon. By that time his name was so notorious that he didn’t dare try any funny business. But Mickey had the last laugh. He sold his secret formula to a half-dozen other saloonkeepers, and from there it spread throughout America. Today any kind of knockout drink is still called a Mickey Finn, but here is one you can try:


Mickey Finn Cocktail 


1 oz gin (3 cl, 1/4 gills)
1 oz dry vermouth (3 cl, 1/4 gills)
1/4 oz pastis (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)
1/4 oz white creme de menthe (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)
cherry or mint sprig



Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain.

Add cherry or mint sprig.

Serve in a cocktail glass (4.5 oz)


Top of Page




The Blue Plate , , , , , , , ,

Review are closed.

© 2020 FANFOOD, LLC, All right reserved

Designed & Developed by
SilverTree Technology