Renee – A Long Lost Friend Appears

I spent my early years on the South Side of Chicago where I attended Coles School from the first to the eighth grade.  I left the area for high school and lost touch with all my grammar school classmates.

A few months ago, out of the blue, I received a call from Renee Chaden – one of my grammar school classmates. She was visiting her cousin Debbie in Miami and something possessed her to look me up.  I was floored.  I hadn’t heard from her or any of my grammar school classmates for 46 years! I had had such a crush on Renee. I remember thinking that she was to cool for me – which she was. I mean I was a dork and she was so cool. And to make matter worse – she was much taller than me.

Renee returned to Miami this week to visit Debbie and today we got together for the first time in 46 years. I think it’s fair to say we have both aged a bit. I mean the last time we were together we were 13. We had a great time together today.  We had lunch with my father which was really special because he remembered Renee from Sunday school car pool.

Renee’s mother, who passed away before her time, kept many photographs and other memorabilia from Renee’s grammar school days.  Renee brought our original Coles School class pictures with her. She has the class photo for every year that we attended – amazing.

The pictures are everything I remembered – and worse. I really was a dork – big ears and in many I looked like a deer in the headlights.  But Renee looked great.  She looks like a character from the movie Hairspray with her poofed up black hair.

Coles School 1961 4th Grade

Renee also had her graduation album with messages that many of us left.  My message was so pathetic.  I told her that I seriously liked her and that I was obviously too young to date her because she was only interested in older guys.

It was a nice day together.  It is a shame that I have lost touch with so many good friends from Coles..

 

 

Dinner at Yardbird – Miami Beach

Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

Last night eight of us had dinner at Yardbird, located at 16th and Lenox on South Beach. It was Helene’s birthday and some of our closest friends attended. Parking, often a challenge on the beach was easy as they have valet right in front. In fact Joe, who hates to valet park because he hates to wait for his car, surprised me and immediately took advantage of the valet.

I think the best description of the food at Yardbird is gourmet Southern Style cooking by Top Chef Jeff McInnis. Think of the food as gourmet comfort food and it is fair to say that if you are concerned with your cholesterol or triglycerides this eatery will not be your regular venue.

The Good. The fried chicken is as good as I have ever had. It has a slightly spicy crusty breading with a subtle fruity flavor just between the breading and the meat. Accompanying the fried chicken was a great balsamic watermelon. If you could just eat the accompanying watermelon you would spare your arteries.  But only eating the balsamic watermelon would be impossible. Other great items are the grits and cheese, baked pumpkin, and do not miss the mac and cheese which was nearly perfect. I say nearly as it was a smidgen either creamier or less well done than I prefer. But honestly I am splitting hairs.

The Bad. Other than the fact that this is not healthy eating, the noise level made conversation at our large table impossible. The noise was so bad that we stood outside in front of Yardbird and talked for almost half an hour after dinner.

I know that the music and noise level in a restaurant creates a kind of energy that many restaurateurs desire. And admittedly our group probably has an average age of 55 (I am a dead man). However, strategically placed sound absorbing materials near a few of the tables would be great for the crowd that actually likes to talk together while they enjoy great food.

To be fair there is a lively bar area and many more young people than elderly at this happening place on the beach. I suspect that my complaint about the noise level reveals that I am now an official altacocker (for the definition, click here on altacocker!)

Now a word about my reference to the elderly.  Sherma and I just turned 60 in September.  Last month, our son Keith casually referred to us as elderly, in a context that I cannot recall, and I have been obsessed ever since.  Maybe I think that by repeating it over and over the reader will respond – “Steve you look so young  – don’t be silly.”

Here is a recent photo of me, do I look elderly (aside from the puffy eyes)?

 

Steven Pinkert - Do I Look Elderly?

Steven Pinkert’s Homemade French Fries

I make the best french fries. Really. Now I know you are going to have doubts but I swear that Steven Pinkert’s fries are better than Five Guys. And in my opinion Five Guys Fries are great. I have been working on my french fry techniques for over a year and I have decided to share it with all 5 of my readers. (Actually I am exaggerating about the number of readers.)

Equipment
1) French Fry Cutter
2) Deep Fryer

Lets discuss the equipment. The french fry cutters come in several varieties and I will discuss the types that I am familiar with. I have owned a cheap plastic cutter and also a fairly heavy duty metal device. Both use a plunger action that forces the potatoes into and through square cut blades. The blades come in different widths; 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch.  I recommend 3/8  inch. The cheap plastic cutter is ok but the excursion of the plunger is short so you frequently have to cut off the end to shorten a potato to fit. Also in the plastic device the handle is short and without the extra leverage of a long handle it can be difficult to force the potatoes through the blades.  The metal variety is much more durable. Amazon sells an excellent reasonably priced metal unit that takes a little assembly.  Here is the link: Restaurant French Fry Cutter. I recommend the plastic unit if you are only going to make french fries occasionally.  If you plan on feeding a crowd of 5 or more say monthly, then the metal unit is worth the extra investment of about $50.00. (By the way, the Amazon metal cutter comes with the suction cup legs.)

The deep fryer is also critical to successfully making great fries.  There are several issues to consider.  The size of the fryer, the ability of the fryer to reach and maintain temperature (watts), and the accuracy of the thermostat.  I have owned many fryers and most recently an inexpensive commercial unit. How often you plan on using the fryer determines how much you should spend. The better the fryer the faster and more consistent your french fries will turn out. At a minimum I would suggest the 12 cup Presto Profry.  It is reasonable at Amazon and is okay if not a little slow to work with because of the limited wattage.  I currently use a larger 1800 watt unit that is quasi-commercial.  If I had my drothers I would purchase a 220 volt unit and install a dedicated 220 volt outlet for the unit.  But this can be expensive and I elected not to take this step.

Ingredients:
Potatoes (Russet preferred but I buy whatever are available at Publix)
Salt
Vegetable Oil, or Canola

I am not too particular about the type of oil or the type of potatoes, but make sure the oil is fresh. Wash the potatoes and cut with the cutter. Place the cut potatoes into ice water for at least an hour. Drain a portion of the cut potatoes in a colander so that the water has run off.

You must cook the fries twice. Yes twice! Place a few handfuls in the fryer basket and make sure the fryer is heated to no more than 325 degrees.  Cook the fries for about 3 minutes but do not let them get brown – even a bit. Remove the fries from the oil and let cool for at least 30 minutes but no more than 90 minutes.  Now set the heat to 375-400 degrees and wait until the unit comes up to temperature. Now re-cook the fries until they are golden brown or the desired amount. Drain on parper towel, salt, serve, enjoy.

This recipe for making awesome homemade french fries is from Steven Pinkert, Miami Florida.

Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

The Wonders of the Jet Age

It is almost 8:00 a.m Thursday morning and right now I should be in a meeting at Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota – but no I am here at home in Miami. I left for Rochester yesterday morning – but here I am.

Yesterday I boarded an American Airlines flight from Miami to Rochester via Chicago. The flight from Miami to Chicago was delayed over an hour due to weather in Chicago – but I had plenty of time to make my connection.

When I arrived in Chicago I had a 90 minute wait for my flight to Rochester. At the gate American announced that the flight to Rochester was delayed due to weather. I sat and waited patiently – which was difficult as it was the second flight delay of the day. About 45 minutes later American announced that the flight was cancelled due to weather in Rochester. All flights to Rochester and even Minneapolis were completely booked. So, I got on a flight back to Miami and was home by 10:00 p.m. last night. What a funny day.

S0 – I left my home for the Miami airport at 9:00 a.m., flew to Chicago and came back the same day with absolutely nothing accomplished. Oh the wonders of the jet age.

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

I have always loved Chicago Hot Dogs. When I was young we lived on the South Side of Chicago and we frequently visited a little hot dog stand that was named Carl’s Hot Dogs. I just called them and unbelievably they are still in business after 54 years! (I am 60 and went to Carls when I was 6).  The new name is: Carl’s Red Hots, located at the original Carls’s location at 1957 E. 83rd St. Chicago, IL 60617. Their phone number is 773-721-8300.

When we were very young my cousin Phil Graff and I used to play Carls  Hot Dogs.  We would have bowls with pretend condiments and slop on each condiment. We even had a jingle: Carls makes hot dogs with loving care, Carls makes hotdogs with loving care, Carls makes hot dogs with loving care, especially for you…

For anyone that knows Chicago well, Phil is now the president of the Old Town Triangle Association.  He is one of the smartest and kindest people in the Universe. He has worked tirelessly as a board member for years.  He is going to run for re-election as president and if you happen to be among the 350 eligible voting members – trust me – you can’t go wrong.

 

Phil Graff

Well anyway, my father,who is now 84 and I still love Chicago Style Hot dogs and living in Miami I have perfected making the Chicago Style Hot Dog. Today, again, I made Hot Dogs and in case you love them as much as I do you might be interested in how I prepare them.

So you need the following ingredients:

-Poppy seed hot dog buns
-Half dill pickles cut in thin spears – you can use full dill but I think half dill is better
-Sport peppers – hard to find check the internet or buy from Vienna
-Sweet relish
-Yellow mustard
-chopped yellow onion
-celery salt
-Tomato – thin sliced wedges
-Beef hot dogs – skinless

Now their are a few potential problems. Obtaining the hot dogs can be an issue.  We would prefer to use Vienna, but unfortunately they are not available from retail sources in many areas.  Hebrew National, our second choice, is also good quality.

Now, there is a trick to cook the hot dogs. You definitely want to boil the hot dogs. But if you boil in plain water the flavor of the hot dogs is diluted. So here is the secret.  Finely chop up 6 hot dogs in a blender.  Add these hot dogs to a quart of water and simmer for at least 2 hours.  Add water as necessary  Then, when you are ready, boil your hot dogs in the flavored water for 10 minutes or so before serving.

Buns are also a big problem. You MUST have poppy seed hot dog buns. If you live in the Chicago area you can get buns from Vienna or Rosens – no problem. But in other areas finding the right buns can be a problem.  In Miami, I call Publix, our largest supermarket chain, the day before and they bake the buns for me. They are excellent quality, fresh, and reasonable. You must briefly steam the buns just before serving.  If you look on the internet there is a small company that sells a little steamer rack that hangs from the top of a pot of water.  This seems to work fine – if you aren’t serving more than 4-6 people.

So add all the condiments on the dogs with a generous shake of celery salt and you have it.

Chicago Style Hot Dog by Steven Pinkert

By Steven Pinkert, a Miami lawyer, that loves Chicago Style Hot Dogs, home made french fries and home made Cole Slaw using Joes Stone Crab recipe.  I will post on these soon.