Thursday, March 1, 2018

Growing up with Chicago commercials you grow an affinity for mundane humor

Anyone that grew up on "Eagle Man", the "Empire Carpet" commercials, or the "Tile Outlet" girl know that Chicago commercials lack a certain luster that other parts of the country have. We even have Peter Francis Geraci commercials, the most boring friggin' commercial you'll ever see on television. In Chicago we have had the fantastic experience of building a mundane sense of humor that the Midwest is historically known for.

For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, I have embedded some of these commercials in the bottom of this post. For those of you that do know what I'm talking about, here is the culmination of growing up with Chicago commercials when you have to make your own commercial for your own business.

The most BORING commercial you'll ever have to sit through is Peter Francis Geraci, here:

If you don't know how the Chicago accent works, pay close attention to how the Tile Outlet actress says "Stock"

And the Coup De Gras of Chicago commercials, "Eagle Man"

And finally, how can I not plug myself. Order any Chicago Johnny's Products at or here on Amazon

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Chicago Johnnys Poutine | Italian Beef Poutine | Chicago Style Poutine With Giardiniera

Chicago's Best Poutine

So you're having your friends in from Chicago & you don't know what you can cook to surprise the s&*t out of them. You've heard this buzz of "Giardiniera" (pronounced Jar-Din-Aire, with a silent ending 'a') from all your friends that grew up in the Chicago area. You've seen an "Italian Beef Sandwich" on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives or some other Food Network travelling show but you don't truly understand it. You've seen "Poutine" on menus all over the place now & you've tried them & thought to yourself, "This is good, but it really is missing something." It's missing that Chicago factor. It's missing that texture difference & depth of flavor in between the heavy & rich gravy & cheese curds with that soft, gravy soaked fried potato. It's basically a good tasting pile of mushy texture. I've created Chicago Poutine to fill in that gap in flavor & introduce a layer of textures that has been missing in Poutine that we're eating at every brewery & diner! 

Introducing Chicago Johnnys Poutine!

Chicago Style Poutine
Chicagos Best Poutine
It's not that hard to make this "Poutine" thing really friggin' delicious. It's a dish that is almost where it needs to be, but it's missing that difference in texture & that gap in rich flavors that should break up this heavy, soft, mushy texture. Let's start by stating a traditional Poutine is fries, cheese curds, & a rich beef gravy (typical to what you would get on mashed potatoes at a, let's say, "fast food chicken joint"). It's rich in deep flavors (which I generally associate with dark mushrooms, beef, 'earthy' flavors), creamy salty cheese curds, & fluffy salty fries. So you basically have this salty, earthy, deep, rich dish that basically turns to mushy texture as it sits for 10 minutes while you talk to your friends at the table as the gravy soaks into the fries & melts the cheese curds. So that's basically Poutine.

What is "Italian Beef"? That's a question so many people outside of the Chicago area have, & that's ok, not every city can be surrounded by such delicious food! Italian Beef is a traditional Chicago dish, started with a round roast that is seasoned with Italian herbs & spices, then roasted in the oven, chilled, & sliced very thin. These thin slices of beef roast are then reheated in the beef drippings seasoned in more Italian spices & herbs & then put on a crusty French roll. We're going to take those thin slices of beef & put them in this "Chicago Poutine" instead of a French roll. 

The other question is What is "Giardineira?" Giardiniera is a (typically) hot pepper, carrot, cauliflower, & celery mix (sometimes with olives) pickled, then drained & kept in oil. This vegetable mix is then used on Italian Beef sandwiches, pizzas, cold cut sandwiches, salads, as an antipasto, & to the spicy food lover, just eaten with a spoon. 

We're going to use both "Italian Beef" & "Giardiniera" in this recipe, & we're going to use Chicago Johnnys Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning & Chicago Johnnys Hot Giardiniera because, well, they're the best in the market! 

To make this Chicago Johnnys Poutine you will need:

• Waffle Fries (baked or fried, a handful or so)
• Cheese Curds (or you can dice up cheddar in about 1/4" - 3/8" cubes if you can't get your hands on cheese curds) - about 4-6 ounces will do
• Tempura Batter (Alton Brown makes a good one)
• Sliced Italian Beef (recipe is on the Chicago Johnnys Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning) or grab some from your local Italian grocer or deli - about 4 slices per serving

To prevent your cheese curds (or diced cheese) from pouring out of your tempura when frying, freeze them for 5-7 minutes before frying. 

*Don't worry so much about the timing of this, you can always throw the dish in the oven to reheat*

So step one is to throw your waffle fries in the oven or fry them in oil. Then batter your cheese curds or diced cheese & put them on the fries. Mix 2-3 tablespoons of Chicago Johnnys Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning, one cup of water, & one tablespoon of corn starch; heat stovetop until thick, you know, like a gravy. Kill the heat on your gravy & throw in your sliced Italian Beef. Pour that over your waffle fries & curds. Top with Chicago Johnnys Hot Giardiniera & eat wit' a fork!

*Make a larger version in a casserole dish (just increase the recipe) to serve at a party*

That's it! It sounds harder than it actually is. You will get that rich, deep, dark flavor regular Poutine has from the Italian Beef & Gravy. You will get that creamy richness from the cheese curds that regular Poutine has. You will get that satisfaction of eating regular Poutine that you get at your local brewery & diner. But you will also get that brightness from the giardiniera. You will also get that extra bit of crispy & chewy texture from the giardiniera & the tempura batter. You will get that full loaded flavor from the shape of a waffle fry that you don't get from regular French fries because the waffle fries hold your curds, beef, & gravy like a tortilla chip holds salsa. You will get that texture & flavor depth that you miss in a regular Poutine!

*Sprinkle your waffle fries with Chicago Johnnys Steak, Burger & Fries Seasoning for added smoke, salt, & depth of flavor!*

To get your hands on Chicago Johnnys products or recipes visit or order off of Amazon (I don't know how they get shipping so low, but they do it). Tag your Chicago Johnnys Poutine on social media with #ChicagoJohnnysPoutine so I can see how yours turn out!

Thank you my friends - Johnny

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Saganaki | A Chicago Greektown Tradition | Chicago Johnny's Recipe How to Make Saganaki the Flaming Cheese

How To make Saganaki, The Flaming Greektown Chicago Cheese | A Chicago Johnny's Recipe

What you will need to make your own saganaki at home:

•Semi Soft to Semi Hard Cheese | Traditionally "Kasseri" cheese,         but I prefer "Fontinella" & you can also use "Feta" in the           brick, not crumbled.
• Water
• Flour
• Grapeseed oil for frying (pure or pomace olive oil will work too)
• Brandy or Cognac
• Lemons or Lemon Juice
• Parsley for plating
• Pita or soft bread for eating

chicago style fried cheese
Fried Fontinella Cheese Saganaki
It is incredibly important to use a heavy bottom pan to prevent burning your saganaki. I love using a well seasoned Cast Iron Skillet (linked below). This is a dangerous recipe & is not for the faint of heart, but easy for any seasoned kitchen dweller. 

In Chicago it's believed that Saganaki began in Greektown at the Parthenon, well, at least where the lighting of liquor on fried cheese began. Fried cheese served in a heavy pan is commonplace in Greece, but they don't light the stuff on fire & yell "Opa" when the brandy is lit. Sadly the Parthenon closed in 2016, but their legend continues to live in every Greek diner & dive in the Chicagoland area. I grew up with this stuff on every casual diner I frequented as a child & continue to see it everywhere today. I love this stuff, like more than any human should love something.

fried kasseri saganaki
So let's begin with a couple of basic tips. First, you are going to be lighting the brandy (or cognac) on fire while the saganaki is fresh off the stove, like burning hot, so you may want a fireplace lighter to pull this dish off if you are scared of flames. Be assured that trying to light the brandy on fire on a cold saganaki will not work, the brandy has to be hot & steamy to get a flame.

Don't do this in a small apartment or anywhere that you can cause a fire. If this is your first time trying to make this dish you should probably go outside when you light the brandy on fire, I'm serious. Really Serious. And make sure to watch your hair, eyebrows, mustaches, beards, et cetera. This is a big flame that you will be creating. Be careful.

So let's get started. Prep your ingredients before you get going. Make a bowl of water, a bowl of flour, cut some lemons into wedges, & have a shot of brandy ready. Now take your cheese (usually coming in an 8 oz wedge) & cut it lengthwise (so you still have your wedge shape, but it's half as thick). 

Heat up your skillet on medium heat, a little higher if you have a really heavy duty pan. Once heated thoroughly, add some grapeseed or olive oil to coat heavily. Your oil will heat up rather quickly, so just after pouring in your oil dip your cheese into your water bowl, then your flour bowl. You want to cover as much of your cheese in flour as possible, & the water will help it to stick. Shake off some of the excess flour & carefully place into your hot skillet & oil, try to let the cheese fall away from you in the pan so the hot oil doesn't splash you. 

Let your cheese fry for 2-3 minutes, the longer it fries the darker the crust you will have. After 2-3 minutes flip carefully with a sturdy spatula & fry the other side for 2-3 minutes.

Now this is where it gets fun! After both sides are fried, leave your cheese in your pan & take your pan somewhere safe to light the fire. While your pan is still scorching hot, pour in your shot of brandy & light the fumes on fire (don't forget to yell "Opa" or the Greek demons of long ago will come haunt your house). Let it burn until almost extinquished & squeeze your lemon wedges (1 or 2) over the cheese to completely put your flame out. Serve while hot with some fresh parsley, Kalamata olives (optional), pita or soft bread. Squeeze more fresh lemon juice over your saganaki if you want more of that acidic bite (which I love). 

That's it. This is a dish which you should make in front of an audience, after all that's how it got it's start!

Thank you for trying out my recipes - Johnny

Pick up some quality skillets below

Friday, November 17, 2017

Latest In The Hot Sauce World | Safdie Brothers Release Peach Habanero Under "Dark Matter Hot Sauce" for Charity

Safdie Brothers "Final Draft" hot sauce for charity released after box office hit of Good Time

Safdie Brothers "Final Draft" Hot Sauce
Safdie Brothers "Final Draft"
Safdie Brothers "Final Draft" is a Peach Habanero hot sauce made in small batches, by hand, under the label of "Dark Matter Hot Sauce." Manufactured by Chicago Johnny's, a Chicagoland company that makes Hot Giardiniera (a Chicago style pepper mix for sandwiches, pizzas, & the like) & seasonings, this sauce is made by hand in batches as small as 2 gallons. Dark Matter Hot Sauce is a leg of Chicago Johnny's founded to raise funds for the Dear Jack Foundation, a non profit organization whose mission is to support "initiatives and provides programming in order to promote positive health outcomes for adolescents and young adults (AYA), ages 15-39, from the moment they are diagnosed with cancer through survivorship." Dark Matter limits the bottles sold of each label to keep it fun & exciting for consumers. Most bottles are limited to 1,111 & are accompanied by certificates signed & numbered consecutively with sales. Once a bottle sells out it is retired & no longer available for purchase.

Dark Matter Hot Sauce With Certificate
Working with Dark Matter Hot Sauce, Josh & Benny Safdie gave an image to be used as the face of the "Final Draft" peach habanero flavored hot sauce. The handwriting of Josh Safdie was even used on the label by digitizing his handwriting. The Safdie Brothers were excited to work with Dark Matter for the aspect of charity, but also were very involved in the process. The brothers tasted samples to make sure the hot sauce was up to their standards, they sent a pictuer to be used on the label, they sent handwritten text to be digitized for the label, and they are signing certificates to be sent along with some of the limited edition bottles!

30% of sales of each Dark Matter Hot Sauce bottle are donated to the Dear Jack Foundation. Dark Matter is a passion project for Jennifer Downey (owner of Brilliant Keepsakes) & Josh Downey (owner of Chicago Johnny's). Once we take out the donation, labels, boxes, manufacturing, website costs, et cetera, we don't make much. The Dear Jack Foundation is a great organization, I've come across a lot of 'Shady' or 'Bloated' organizations & I want nothing to do with those, Dear Jack is one of the great ones. Jen & I have a soft spot of cancer, as we lost our grandmother, Annette Downey, to it at a young age. We just want to do some good in this world.

Safdie Brothers Label Hot Sauce
We decided to limit the bottles sold because we aren't trying to make a quick buck off of any of the celebrities & bands we work with, we just wanted something fun & exciting to raise money for a great organization. We know some bottles will sell out quickly & some consumers will be competing to get those bottles, but it's all in good fun & for a great cause. We put a lot of effort into making our hot sauces & just like to know they are appreciated. 

To order any of the limited edition hot sauces featuring the Safdie Brothers, Andrew McMahon (of Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, Jack's Mannequin, & Something Corporate), Joie De Vivre (influential emo band of Rockford, IL), Jake Miller, State Champs (pop punk band out of New York), Mayday Parade (pop punk band), or The Stolen visit To learn more about Josh Downey of Chicago Johnny's visit or Jen Downey of Brilliant Keepsakes click here.

You can support the Dear Jack Foundation directly by visiting

Not to deceive anyone, this was written by Dark Matter Hot Sauce co-founder Josh Downey.
State Champs
The Stolen
Mayday Parade
Jake Miller
 Andrew McMahon "I Woke Up In A Car"
Andrew McMahon
Joie De Vivre

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Ultimate Gift For Pop Punk Lovers | Konstantine 2017 by Andrew McMahon & Something Corporate

I Can Spell Konfusion With A "K" And I Can Like It

Any 30 something that grew up listening to "Drive Thru Records" artists, going to concerts at the local VFW halls, paying $3 covers at the local skate park to watch a live show in some obscure basement or back room; every one of us has scoured the internet for every version of the song, "Konstantine" that we could find. We downloaded multiple versions from Limewire or some other file sharing program. We all had our favorite version of the song, Konstantine, by Something Corporate & we all couldn't wait to enlighten our friends on the rich beauty of this underground song.

konstantine 2017
Konstantine 2017

How Limited Is This Hot Sauce?

As a long time fan of Konstantine I am thrilled that we were able to work with Andrew & release an incredibly limited edition version of our Konstantine -2017 Hot Sauce, a peach habanero hot sauce made in small batches, by hand, in Chicagoland. 

So we decided to run this label a little different than our normal Dark Matter Hot Sauce labels. This one is limited ONLY to the number of sales before November 11th, 2017! We don't know how many will be sold, could be 20, could be 250. But on November 12, 2017 we are retiring this label forever. 

Should I Gift This To My Husband or Wife?

Uhm, yes! So if you are looking for that great gift for that pop punk husband, wife, or kid of yours, this is it! A nice heat, about 8 out of 10 with a great peach flavor, a subtle sweetness from the plantains & apples, & a great heat from the habanero peppers. 

Get your bottle at until November 11th, 2017. 

You can still get the "I Woke Up In A Car" & "Swim" labels by Andrew McMahon, Mayday Parade's "Without The Bitter", State Champs "Slow Burn", Joie De Vivre's "Maybe People Do Change" & The Stolen's "Zest Coast"! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Chicago Style Poutine! Giardiniera Provolone Poutine With Italian Beef Gravy | A Chicago Johnny Recipe

Chicago Poutine Recipe

Chicago Style Poutine
Chicago Johnny Poutine
A few weeks ago I showed you how to make "Smoked Italian Beef" sandwiches, today we make the popular dish, "Poutine," but we make it Chicago Johnny style. We will start with a simple twist on the traditional Poutine by adding Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning & then the more complex, deeper flavored, & Chicago style Poutine. 

beef gravy curds

To make a basic Chicago Poutine start with :

• Cheddar Cheese Curds 
• A Basic Tempura Batter
     (lightly beat one egg, then lightly beat together with the following:        3/4 cup corn or potato starch, 1/4 cup flour, 1 tea baking powder,          1/2 tea sea salt, 1/2 tea black pepper, 1/2 cup ice water) *Make              sure you only lightly beat all ingredients together. 
• french fries
• 3 Tbl Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning
• 2 or 3 ("tree") slices Italian Beef, shredded
• 1 Cup Warm Water
• 1 Tbl Corn Or Potato Starch
• Frying Oil Heated To 370 Degrees

chicagos best poutineFry or oven cook your French fries, then batter & fry your cheddar cheese curds. While your oil is heating or during frying (depending on your skill level), mix your corn or potato starch with your water, add your Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning, then heat up slowly on stovetop until rich & thick. Compile your dish with fries, fried cheese curds, & then liberally drizzle with your gravy. 

A simple & absolutely delicious basic Chicago Poutine recipe!

best Chicago poutineTo make a deluxe, Chicago Johnny Poutine Recipe you will use provolone cheese, cut into about 1/2-3/4" cubes, batted, then fried. Place on top of waffle fries (fried preferably for the nice crisp contrast to the melted oozy cheese, but baked works as well), your Italian Beef shreds, & then pour your Italian Beef Gravy over top. Finally a nice helping of Chicago Johnny's Hot Giardiniera over top. Eat with a fork & a friend! This recipe is a bit of a workout, but it is #ChicagoFrigginDelicious! 

Don't forget that you can order all of Chicago Johnny's products at!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Scratch Made Marshmallows & S'mores | DIY Marshmallow & Graham Crackers | Smores From Scratch

Marshmallows & Graham Crackers From Scratch | DIY Smore's

scratch made graham crackers
scratch made graham crackers

Years ago I made my own marshmallows, chocolate, & graham crackers so I could truly understand what would normally be a simplistic s'more sandwich. The graham crackers were simple, the marshmallows took a little work & some special ingredients  I normally wouldn't have on me, & the chocolate, the chocolate was just too much frustration & I ended up burning out the motor on my coffee grinder making chocolate from cacao beans. So if you are going to ever make s'mores, truly from scratch, I would recommend skipping the chocolate process!

So start with a quality mixer! I love my KitchenAid mixer & I use the sh*t out of it! You can get a good deal around Black Friday, but if you can't wait you can get this one on Amazon at a good deal.You can also use a quality hand mixer for the marshmallows & a food processor for the graham cracker dough. You can tell I'm a KitchenAid fan.

scratch made s'more
scratch made s'more

Here's my recipe for the graham crackers:

• 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
• 3 Tbl cane sugar
• 1 1/2 Tbl molasses
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 4 1/2 Tbl whole milk
• 4 1/2 Tbl butter
• 1/2 tea aluminum free baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a mixing bowl add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, sea salt, sugar, cold cubed butter. Beat on low until mix comes together like coarse corn meal. Add molasses, milk, & vanilla & beat on low until you form a dough.

Roll dough out in between two pieces of wax paper until about the size of your cookie sheet. Peel off the top layer of wax paper & flip your bottom layer onto the a greased cookie sheet. Flatten & spread your dough evenly across your cookie sheet. Cut your dough into about 2” x 4” rectangles. Poke each cracker with a fork about 8 times.

Bake your graham crackers at 350 degrees about 12 minutes or until the edges turn brown &
crisp & pull away from the sides.

If you haven't yet invested in quality baking sheets, I suggest these.

For the marshmallows you will need:

• Pinch of sea salt
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 3 1/2 packets unflavored gelatin
• 1 tea vanilla extract (not vanillin)
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/2 cup hot water
• 1/2 cup water

Mix together the hot water & gelatin & set aside for 5 minutes. In a medium saucepan add your remaining ingredients & bring up to 240 degrees, be careful not to get the mix on your skin! Hot sugar is not easy to get off of your skin & WILL burn you badly.

Add your sugar mix to your hot water & gelatin & beat together with a whisk attachment on a mixer. After 5-6 minutes (when your marshmallows start to turn white) turn your whisk up to medium speed. Continue to whip your marshmallows until they about double in size. Your marshmallow mix should be whipped to stiff peaks, but not translucent! If your marshmallows are shiny/translucent
looking, you have whipped them too much!

Grease a 9” x 9” cake tin & coat in powdered sugar. Press or pour your marshmallow mix into tin to cool & stiffen. When your marshmallows have stiffened, cut them up.

Make your sandwich with graham cracker, toasted marshmallow, chocolate, then another graham cracker!

I have used many variations on s'mores, but my favorites are:

A: Graham Cracker, Caramel Sauce, Sliced & Cinnamon Sauteed Apple, Toasted Marshmallow, Crushed Toasted Pecans, & Another Graham Cracker.

B: Graham Cracker, Chocolate Sauce, Toasted Coconut, Toasted Marshmallow, Toasted Coconut, Walnuts, Chocolate Sauce, Graham Cracker.

C: Graham Cracker, Melted Chocolate Chips, Toasted Pecans, Toasted Marshmallows, Almond Butter, Graham Cracker.

Enjoy this old school video of me making some of my first scratch made s'mores!

- Johnny