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
www.ChicagoJohnnys.com

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 www.DarkMatterHotSauce.com. To learn more about Josh Downey of Chicago Johnny's visit www.ChicagoJohnnys.com or Jen Downey of Brilliant Keepsakes click here.

You can support the Dear Jack Foundation directly by visiting www.DearJackFoundation.org

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 www.DarkMatterHotSauce.com 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 www.ChicagoJohnnys.com!




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
www.ChicagoJohnnys.com


Scratch Made Rosette Cookies | Christmas Cookies | Scandinavian Cookies | Fried Cookies

Scandinavian Fried Rosette Cookies | A Chicago Johnny's Tradition

I'm not entirely sure on how these Scandinavian cookies became popular in the Chicago Italian culture, but I'm guessing it's something as simple as small Italian grocers carrying the irons to make these cookies, thus inspiring people to make them. In our family we make them every Christmas Eve. These delicious, crispy, fried cookies are easy as easy can be to make! You just need a special iron for making these Rosettes.

I was introduced to Rosettes by my grandmother's side of the family. In fact, I remember my grandmother making these when I was a young boy for our annual Christmas Eve party in Chicago. When my grandma Annette passed I was young, but certain things she had done during my childhood stuck with me to this day. These Rosette cookies are one of my childhood memories & I think about them every year around Christmas time. 

To make Rosette cookies you need very few ingredients & a specialty iron. For ingredients you will need:
rosette cookies
Rosette Cookies
• 1 cup whole wheat flour
• 1 cup whole milk (you can substitute with almond or coconut)
• 2 tea vanilla extract
• 2 eggs
• 2 Tbl powdered sugar plus more for dusting finished cookies
• Lard for frying (my preferred method, but you can use canola or vegetable or coconut)
• Optional jam for filling

In our family we make our own hot Italian sausage, so I render the fat to make lard & then use the lard to fry my Rosettes. You can use store bought lard or even oil if you have it to fry your Rosettes. 

Make sure your oil or lard is at least 3" deep to avoid burning your Rosettes. Heat up your oil to 350 degrees.

While your oil is heating up, whisk together all of your ingredients. Set out a wire rack to cool your cookies & for dusting your cookies with powdered sugar. This recipe will make about 3 dozen cookies. 

To make your Rosette cookies, heat up your iron in the hot oil for about 30 seconds for the first cookie, then it only takes about 10 seconds for the rest. Take your hot iron & dip into your cookie batter, careful not to cover the top of the iron or your cookies may not come off of the iron easily. After you dip your iron in the batter, immediately dip your iron into the frying oil for about 8 seconds or until golden brown color. Take your iron out of the oil & tap your iron with a spoon or knife to release the cookie onto your wire rack. Repeat the process until you run out of batter or there is too much oil in the batter to make more cookies (each time you dip the iron into the batter a small amount of oil will be released into the batter, eventually the batter can become too oily & will no longer work to make cookies). 

Once your cookies cool, fill with jam if you choose this option, or flip over so the solid shape is face up. Then dust with powdered sugar. If your cookies are not cooled the powdered sugar will just melt & turn into kind of an icing. 

That's it. Cookies will hold up about 2 days before they get soggy, but are edible up to two weeks later.

- Johnny
www.ChicagoJohnnys.com

Rosette Cookie Recipe
Rosette Cookie Recipe

Emo & Pop Punk Hot Sauce | Dark Matter Hot Sauce | Andrew McMahon | Jake Miller | Mayday Parade | State Champs | Joie De Vivre

Andrew McMahon | Mayday Parade | State Champs | Jake Miller | Joie De Vivre | Emo & Pop Punk Hot Sauce!

Andrew McMahon Zac Clark Hot Sauce
Andrew McMahon | Zac Clark Signing

Have you ever thought about bottling those Emo tears & giving them to charity? Well, we've kind of done that! Dark Matter Hot Sauce is a brand that hand makes hot sauces with limited edition artists' labels for charity. So far on the market are Andrew McMahon, Mayday Parade, State Champs, Joie De Vivre, & Jake Miller with limited edition bottles of only 1,111 sold to the public. But wait, there's more! There is charity involved!
Pop Punk Hot Sauce
Pop Punk Hot Sauce


The idea started in 2014 when I put Andrew McMahon's face on a label just for kicks. I got him the bottle with his face on it & was inundated with requests from his fans that wanted to buy the Andrew McMahon hot sauce. As an old school guy, I didn't want to make a quick buck on the image of Andrew McMahon, but as time went on I learned more & more about the Dear Jack Foundation (www.DearJackFoundation.org) & I friggin' love it! An organization with incredibly low overhead & that helps those individuals that really need it. So I came up with the idea that 30% of each sale go to the foundation & the rest of the money cover costs. So that's how www.DarkMatterHotSauce.com came about, as a fundraising effort on my part for an organization that actually does good instead of just making money.
Dark Matter Hot Sauce
Dark Matter Hot Sauce

So Andrew McMahon's "Swim" 5 oz bottle & "I Woke Up In A Car" 10 oz bottle were our initial launches. Shortly thereafter was Joie De Vivre's "Maybe People Do Change." We got Mayday Parade on board with "Without The Bitter The Sweet Isn't As Sweet" & followed up with State Champ's "Slow Burn." Jake Miller was our latest release with "I Can't Help My Sauce" & we've raised over $1,500 so far for the Dear Jack Foundation! When I mentioned 30% of the sale goes to the foundation, that's what I meant; 30% of the sale, not the profit, 30% straight off the top!

Andrew McMahon Hot Sauce
Andrew McMahon Hot Sauce

Each limited edition hot sauce bottle comes wonderfully packaged & wrapped with a numbered & signed certificate of authenticity. Each label is numbered sequentially in order of the sale. We even have signed labels from most artists that are randomly sent with orders! Andrew McMahon & Zac Clark signed some rubber ducks for special orders too. 

Keep up to date with new artist labels & an upcoming extremely limited edition "Konstantine" label coming out soon! Follow us on Twitter @DMHotSauce & Instagram @DarkMatterHotSauce & Facebook