Friday, February 24, 2012

A Drummer Becomes a Foodie so a Foodie Will Become The Drummer

Fig.1. Rush drummer Neil Peart branding his Food site. Notice how the sweater is covering the drum set.

It’s not enough for some people to be the best at something, they have to step into somebody else’s territory and be ‘over-achievers’.  The over-achiever I’m referring to is Neil Peart, drummer extraordinaire and Rush band member.
I love Rush.  I’ve been a rush fan ever since my neighbor, Micheal Paventi, brought his entire collection of Rush tapes over to my house; I was 13 years old. Apart from being a drum god, Neil Peart is also a poignant poet and lyrists, and an accomplished writer.  But all of these talents weren’t enough for Mr. Peart and woke up one morning and said to himself, ‘I think I’ll become a food writer.’
What ensued was a food section to his web site called ‘Bubba’s Bar and Grill’ (Bubba is one of Peart’s nicknames.)  In it, Peart claims that he’s, “learned a few things about preparing good simple food that might be worth sharing” and proceeds to stimulate our appetites with such simple recipes as salmon teriyaki, pollo pesto pasta, and avocado shrimp, to name but a few.  And ‘a few’ is right, considering the web site has been up and running for about two years, Peart doesn’t have very many recipes posted; nineteen at last count. But let’s not harp on size, Peart’s on-line portion of recipes might be skimpy, but he does also provide culinary insight on how to cook eggs and make orange juice, two sustenance’s which no doubt fuel the body after a couple of hours behind a drum set, and that’s exactly where you’ll find me these days, behind a drum set: If Mr. Peart wants extend his fork and proverbial pen on my turf, let’s see how he likes it when somebody beats on his. 

Fig.2. Get a good look Peart.  How does it feel when somebody steps into your territory? I'm practicing a solid 2 hours a week, I should have parts of Tom Sawyer by May 2013.

I now know how true actors feel when singers try their hand at acting, or how cannibals must have felt when Jonathan Swift published A Modest Proposal: imposed on, hitting my steering wheel with my fingers would no longer be enough. So with a tummy stuffed with bitterness I purchased my first drum set. I will learn every single Rush song down solid and then reach out to the other two Rush band members, Geddy and Alex.  I would point out to them that Neil “Bubba” Peart wasn’t getting any younger, and that an old man behind a drum set might start to affect ticket sales.  Since Peart is the ‘New Guy’ in the group, the other two shouldn’t have a problem replacing him.  So far I’ve got, A Passage to Bangkok, Fly by Night and Madrical down solid.  I would also like to point out that I have ‘pieces’ of other Rush songs down pact and me not being able to play 95 percent of Rush songs in their entirety might be resolved with pre-recorded drum tracks, should the guys want to replace Peart right away. 

Geddy and Alex, if you’re reading this, I would also like to say that I would be willing to cook for you while on tour or in the studio.  While my specialty is Italian food, I am not limited by it, I can also fry a mean egg and squeeze the sweetest orange juice outside of Florida.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Superbowl Snacks: Chicago Beef Sandwich

Fig.1. This fine specimen came from Al's Beef in Chicago.  

My Superbowl parties have become more about what I'm serving than about football.  Even people who's company I don't share Superbowl night with ask me what I'm making for the boys. Well I'm glad you asked, this year's Superbowl is made possible by the great city of Chicago.
For me, a recent visit to Chicago wasn't about Alinea, Charlie Trotter, or Next (who has the time or patience for drawn-out, abstract-art-looking tasting menus anymore, I don't.) It's about the food that defines a city.  Chicago is defined by deep-dish pizza, popcorn, hamburgers, hot dogs, and this year's Superbowl menu item, The Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich.  The Chicago Beef Sandwich was brought to us by Italian immigrant workers who worked circa the opressive Chicago factory era:  No money equals tough cuts of meat no body wants equals Italian ingenuity equals a great sandwich.
The concept is simple: Take a soft  sourdough bun, pack it with thinly sliced beef that has been braised slowly in beef broth, add some pickled giardiniera, and dip the finished sandweech in the beef broth.  Soggy bread anyone? Yes please! To quote Galdolf The Grey, "keep it simple, keep it soggy"or was it 'secret and safe', I can never remember. Lord of The Rings was about food, right?
Pats suck!

 Fig.2. Al's Beef, Chicago

 Fig.3. Al's wall decor, signed by Jay Leno.

 Fig.4. Italian Beef sandwich from Portillo's, where they also make a fine Chicago style hot dog.

Chicago Beef Sandwich
Makes 6 sandweech

Fig.5. My version, simple but good. The more beef the better. Not enough in this picture.


  • 4 lbs of top round beef
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sourdough baguette rolls halved, toasted (If your bread is very fresh, you don't need to toast it.)
  • 1 cup chopped giardiniera vegetables in vinegar


Rub meat with dry ingredients, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to a roasting pan set over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, sear meat all around.
Add onions and garlic to the meat pan and saute for 15 minutes, deglaze with wine, beef stock and bay leaves.
Place roasting pan in the oven and cook for 3 hours, uncovered, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 135 degrees F in center. Remove, let cool, then slice very thin. (I like to put the meat in the freezer for a couple of hours, it makes slicing it a lot easier. It's what they do in Chicago.)
Cool broth in roasting pan (you can put it in the fridge overnight) and remove the fat that rises to the top.  Strain the broth into a medium saucepan. 
Reheat the broth, and add the sliced meat to the broth. Place some meat on each toasted roll, ladle with some broth and top with giardiniera vegetables. 

Fig.6. I like to wrap the sandwich in foil.  The steam help with the overall texture and brings the sandwich together.