Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category
I continue my quest for the world’s tastiest Little Smokies. So far, by a wide margin, Hillshire Farms Beef are my favorite….in the number two slot is the in-house brand at discount grocer Aldi. It’s not a close second as far as the primary criteria, flavor and texture, no, Aldi places for value… regularly nearly half the price of the big brands. (Hillshire Farm are usually $4.99, sometimes $4.49, and Aldi clock in at $2.99 always.
Today I tried out John Morrell; a product that the package promises “Plump Meaty Bites.” Morrell is a meat company that traces its roots back to 1827 England. They sell products under a number of brand names that they have acquired over the years: Ekrich, Armour, Kretschmar, Krakus. Morrell itself is now owned by Smithfield, which of course, became a Chinese owned company recently. (Not sure if it’s a good idea for US food companies to sell out to Chinese, just sayin’).
There can be some confusion between “little smokies” and “cocktail franks.” Cocktail franks taste like mini wieners and are most often found floating in a chafing dish full of barbecue sauce at a party or event you wished you hadn’t attended. Little smokies are more “sausage-like” in both texture and flavor.
I grabbed the Morrell package because it was substantially discounted compared to Hillshire, maybe $3.49. Although the package says ‘little smokies,” these are clearly cocktail franks, an extruded type sausage with the same fine grind and ingredients, and seasonings of one of Morrell’s hot dog products, I am sure. Not only do they taste and feel like a frank, they are a much lighter color than the Hillshire Farm beef products.
What is an extruded sausage? A slurry of ingredients is produced, and squirted into a collagen casing, which can be edible or non-edible. If the latter, it is stripped off in the last state of manufacturing (fascinating to watch). Newer technologies offer ‘spray on’ collagen casings, the operator can designate different thicknesses, in order to emulate the feel of a natural casing (intestines).
Morrell’s product is pork and mechanically separated chicken. Hillshire Farms, ain’t.
Does the Morrell product place on my ‘consider regularly’ list? Nope. If I wanted little wieners, I’d buy wieners and chop them. My taste in Little Smokies requires a resemblance in flavor and taste akin to “real sausage”, so I’ll suck up on the purchase price and stay with Hillshire Farms.
The Morrell package does not indicate a USDA plant number. I don’t understand why some packages must have it, others don’t. I asked the USDA and got pawned off from one department to another – ultimately not receiving an answer.
I generally don’t care for any ‘sausage’ product that contains chicken or turkey. Yeah, I know they are supposed to be better for you, but the taste and texture just doesn’t appeal to me.
Speaking of confusing? The regulators could help me out by coming up with definitions for “franks,” “wieners,” and “hot dogs.”
John Morrell Little Smokies Review
Growing up within spitting distance of Canada, I never gave much thought to “Canadian Bacon” as a kid; we had it quite frequently, I just figured my parents smuggled it in from Ontario like they used to have to buy bootleg margarine in Michigan. I rarely buy it for home use, I generally find it is pretty flavorless, and not a great value. Maybe, McDonald’s product, which is about as unbacony as a product can be has also put me off a bit.
As I progressed through the years, I came to understand what we call “Canadian Bacon” in the US is not Canadian at all, but rather a product similar in taste and texture to ham. And here’s where it gets really confusing: ham comes from the butt of a hog, bacon from the belly, and Canadian Bacon from a pork loin. Whew. Canadian bacon is usually leaner than ham, and lacks the sweeteners ham is sometimes cured with.
“Real” “Canadian Bacon” is called ‘back bacon’ up thataways, and “streaky bacon” in Canada’s motherland of jolly old England and other points in the crumbling empire.
And that product is generally more flavorful, with better texture, than most anything sold in the US, save for premium brands, no matter what ‘country’ label it has on it. In fact, hasn’t most processed pork in the US become a real disappointment? Whether you buy chops a tenderloin or roast, most mass market pork in the US tastes like nothing. At least to me. If I want real pork flavor, I’ll buy fresh from a farmer; some Carolina and Virginia hams are spectacular as well.
Anyway, back to the subject. Jones Dairy Farms is a meat producer located in Ft. Akinson, Wisconsin. They’v been selling processed pork products to the masses for over a hundred years. I’m not sure how wide-spread their distribution is, but they have a product locator on their website. I punched in zip codes at both ends of the country and found outlets.
(By the way, if you’re ever in Ft. Akinson on a Friday nite, (118 miles from the Sears Tower, 25 miles from Madison), there’s an exceptional fish fry at the Fireside).
Anyway, a package of Jones Dairy Canadian Bacon headed up in my fridge as a result of it being in the ‘scratch and dent’ bin at my local grocery. It was a buck and a half as opposed to a regular price in the range of $4.50 – $5.00, the equivalent of around $12 a pound.
How was it? As expected. Reminiscent of mild ham. Slightly sweet. The ingredient list, if you’re interested: Cured with Water, Potassium Lactate,Salt, Sugar, Natural Flavor, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite.
I’d be interested in trying their Old Fashioned Hickory Smoked Whole Ham.
Jones Canadian Bacon Review
Was heading from Chicago to Madison, so I thought I’d stop en route and get a tasty breakfast on the back roads, and my back road of choice to Madison is US 14, so I hit Andy’s Family Restaurant in Crystal Lake, IL.
Over ordered, not a surprise, went with the Chicken Fried Steak and eggs, the place was jammed, but service was prompt and friendly, they have had lots of practice, this place has been around for years.
Played “butter Jenga” while I was waiting, scarfed the meal and hit the road. Great place.
Andys Family Restaurant Review
You may have made a strata before, it’s sorta like quiche, but because of its construction, opens up other flavor possibilities. One of my favorites is to make a “Reuben” strata, which is a perfect alternative brunch recipe. Here’s the dope.
- 8 slices hearty rye bread, crusts removed
- 2 cups milk or half and half
- 3 eggs beaten
- 6 slices swiss cheese
- ½ pound corned beef
- ½ cup sauerkraut, thoroughly squeeze to remove moisture
- 1 t powdered mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Spray 8X12 baking dish with quick release
Place bread in bottom of baking dish, cut to fit dish
Beat eggs with milk and dry mustard
Place layer of corned beef, topped with swiss cheese on top of bread
Pour milk / egg mixture in baking dish
Let sit in refrigerator over night
Pre heat oven to 375
Cover dish with foil, bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes. Serve hot, with side of mixed fruit.
Possible variations: substitute Italian sausage, salami, or pepperoni and mozzarella. Bacon or ham and cheddar. Country sausage crumbles, american cheese and drizzled with county gravy.
Started in Normal, IL, in 1934 by ex marine Gus Belt, Steak N Shake is so named for its focus on ‘steakburgers’ and milk shakes. The marketing slogan “in sight it must be right” referred to the fact that originally, the beef was ground in plain sight of the customers, and originally was a grind of T-bone, sirloin, and round. Gus passed in 1954, and the chain went through a number of ownership changes. It’s currently held by the diversified holding company of Biglari Holdings, based in San Antonio.
Today, more than 400 restaurants dot the Midwest, Southern, and Southwestern United States, and the company seems in growth mode. Open 24/7, the Steak N Shake menu not only includes steakburgers, fries and shakes, but has been enlarged to include breakfast items, other sandwiches, salads, and different variations of chili on spaghetti noodles, the way one might find in Ohio chili chains.
I’ve long been a fan, and stop at one when I pass through a city that has some of the outposts. I’ve written about other menu items in the past.
The occasion for my recent stop was to check out some of their new menu items. As Steak N Shake’s competitors are on a tear with menu additions, newly remodeled stores, and spin-off concepts, the company seems to be putting its new focus on increased menu items as well as value-pricing with a substantial number of “$4 dollar meals.”
I tried out their “shooters”, the Steak N Shake version of sliders, mini hamburgers with different flavors available singly or in multiples.
The “Three shooters plus fries” plate came in at the $4 price point, and I opted for the flavor choices of garlic, “Frisco,” and buffalo.
Each came with a ‘slather’ of the designated sauce, buffalo ala Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce, Frisco, which was described to me by the waitperson as “exactly like thousand island dressing”, and a garlic butter. The buns receive a light brush of butter, and otherwise, the burgers are devoid of condiments and cheese, unless you request same (slight charge for cheese).
I liked them all, even though I usually passionately avoid anything with thousand island.
Steak N Shake’s fries are always properly fried shoestrings, with the right amount of salt. On each table is a bottle of their “Fry Seasoning” if you want to amp up the fries or burger. It’s kinda like Season Salt, but in my opinion, much tastier. And no MSG if you care about that kind of thing.
One “secret menu” item at S n S is the 7X7, seven burger patties, seven slices of cheese. I’ll get to that someday.
Anyway – the shooter platter is a great way to try out their new flavors, or feed the kids on a very economical basis. Find a Steak N Shake near you.
Steak N Shake Shooters Review
“Dedicated to the American Farmer” – was the slogan of a restaurant we used to pop into in Davenport Iowa. The “Iowa Machine Shed”, just outside of town, served wholesome American food in large quantities. We had moved to Davenport to build the first radio station I owned. Back in Marconi days. Today there are a half dozen Machine Shed restaurants in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The restaurant cooks from scratch and uses top notch suppliers. Some people might compare it to Cracker Barrel, and I guess there is a similarity, but Machine Shed is better, in my opinion.
These places seat a big mess o people, so remember that when setting out to visit. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with slightly different menus at each meal.
After your drink orders are taken, the server will bring the table complimentary “fixins”, which is comprised of an ample bread basket with super soft large dinner rolls, a family sized bowl of slaw and one of cottage cheese. I love cottage cheese, and this has to be some of the best I have had, ever, anywhere. High milk fat content, small curd.
This trip, I ordered the country fried chicken, which was nice and crisp on the outside and juicy inside. Dinners come with a vegetable and your choice of a large variety of spud preparations. I got fries and some nice gravy to go with it.
If you’re in for breakfast, or need a little sweet thing (besides Mrs. Burgerdogboy), they have these massive breakfast rolls in a couple of different varieties, and I swear, they must weigh two pounds.
Next time I zip through the Upper Midwest, I’ll angle to hit a Machine Shed at breakfast, as they have a platter which covers all the breakfast pork options. Nice. And BTW? There is no better place to be during summers in America than the farm belt. County fairs, small town festivals, block parties. The best.
Typical dinner menu.
Iowa Machine Shed Review
For as crazy as New Orleans can get, as long as I lived there, it was never a late night dining town. Having exhausted all your energy in the Quarter, and not in the mood for an overpriced slice of pizza, one was left with few choices for satisfying cuisine. I love diners, and my favorite at the time was called the Hummingbird, had been there forever, closed to make room for a project that never happened.
One around the clock outpost is the St. Charles Tavern, just up St. Charles Avenue from the Central Business District, not a terribly long cab ride from the Quarter.
The St. Charles serves cajun and creole specialties along with American diner food anytime of day or night you’re in the mood. I used to frequent it quite often on my late night prowls of the Big Easy.
Stopped in during the daylight this trip, and grabbed half a muffaletta, which was excellent. Guess they were closed for awhile, a little remodeling, maybe new owners. Looking at their website, I see they feature Charmaine Neville Wednesday nights (she’s a Neville sister) and if you’ve never seen here on your trips to the Crescent City, you should try and take in a show.
St. Charles Tavern Menu (pdf)
st charles tavern reviews
Like all pork (and meat in general) products, they have gotten really spendy lately, pushing over $6 a pound. While I have some very specific favorite brands, determined by taste and texture, I am a sucker for sale priced ones, and that’s why I picked up a pack of Eckrich “Li’l Smokies” yesterday. They were half the price of the other brands.
Eckrich is part of John Morrell now, and according to the USDA plant number on the package, these babies were made at the Morrell plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).
How were they? OK, especially at the price. A pork and chicken product (I prefer all beef), they aren’t as flavorful as some brands I prefer, tasting more like cocktail franks, which should be an entirely different recipe than smokies. I’d buy them again tho, at the sale price.
Why the ‘char?’ I prefer sausages with natural casings, and you’ll never see little smokies in a casing. Too expensive, troublesome for mass production I imagine. For me, putting a little char on the baby weenies gives them a texture more again to a casing product. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Lil Smokies Review
The “official state donut” of the State of Louisiana, the beignet (ben-yaa) has become synonymous with the stereotypical tourist stop in New Orleans at a joint in the French Quarter called “Cafe du Monde.” The pastries, developed by French bakers, use a type of dough that rises due to its own steam, rather than from yeast. This type of baking is called “choux” pastries.
French settlers brought the tradition during their immigration to Eastern Canada, and their later forced migration to Louisiana.
The fried delicacies are generally sold in an order of three, accompanied by a shaker of powdered sugar and a steaming cup of cafe au lait or other local beverage.
While most visitors experience the pastry at the aforementioned stop, the sweet delights are widely available. An alternate choice is an old-timey stand in Metarie, ‘Morning Call”, which is open 24/7 and is the local gathering place for die-hard denizens, particularly judges and lawyers.
Morning Call now has a location in City Park, easily accessible to tourists via the Carrolton street car which you can catch on Canal. City Park is one of the nation’s most impressive green spaces, and is home to a number of diversions including the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Morning call restaurant review
Three things Springfield, Illinois is known for, not in order of any particular importance: possibly the birthplace of the corn dog; home of the locally famous horseshoe sandwich; and some dead president with a big hat.
My reason for stopping was to grab a breakfast horseshoe, Texas toast on a plate, with your choice of breakfast meat, eggs, gravy or cheese sauce or both, and topped with taters. Lunch versions add different protein choices, like a burger, fish, or fried chicken, with an option of swapping out tots for hash browns or American fries.
Housed in a vintage WW2 quonset hut, Charlie Parker’s is one of several choices you have for popping your horseshoe cherry, and a choice I’m glad I made. Once again, better than my expectations for a “local legend”, my only disappointment was not with the food service of ambiance, but rather my own lack of capacity, wishing I could try more than one version at a setting.
The regular ‘shoe” comes with two pieces of toast and double meat servings; a lesser size, for us mere mortals, is called a “pony shoe” and is more of a single serving.
May well be the best breakfast potatoes I have had anywhere, bar none. Service was cheery and helpful, despite a jammed room and long wait.
Charlie Parker’s may well be a must stop for every visitor to the dead president city or traversing America’s most famous highway, Route 66. Menu.
Charlie Parkers Diner Review