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Posts Tagged ‘sandwiches’

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

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Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin TrailThe “pork tenderloin” is a sandwich unique to Iowa……and also Indiana.  Go figure.  You take a boneless pork chop, hammer it thin-like with a mallet, dip it in batter, serve it on a hamburger bun one-tenth the size of the meat.

Restaurants vary the batter recipes and seasonings. The “trick” seems to be to get it thin enough to suit the gimmick, but still have it retain juicy pork goodness.

The Iowa Pork Council publishes a list annually of the 10 or so “best” in the state, and if you want to hit them all, they make a map of the “Tenderloin Trail.

I set out with the best of intentions, to hit at least half of the establishments, at least those in the Eastern half of Iowa, but I got distracted by other things and only hit two.

T.C.’s Point After, in historical DeWitt, IA (on the Lincoln Highway) is one of the legends, for flavor, not for girth. Walked in at noon on a weekend and there were only a couple other customers, even tho this is one of the few full-service bar/eateries in this burg. And the loin? It was delicious.

I was delighted that it was my first stop, but disappointed too, as the rest of the trip would be measured against this sandwich. Sadly, after 40 years of operation, I heard this week (2/1/18) that TC’s just closed. Hopefully someone will buy and reopen it. I would go back.

My second stop was the legendary Hamburg Inn 2, Iowa City, which is NOT on the tenderloin list. I went to please an old Iowa alum, as most students have passed thru this eatery since it opened in 1948. Sadly, the original location, near campus, was closed for remodeling, so I was forced to check out the new location on the east side of town, which is a small cafe attached to a gas station/c-store. Still a student hangout tho.

If you come for a “legendary” burger, be prepared to lay out some cash, as a plain burger will cost you over $10, and a hot dog over $6!  Kinda spendy for students, but then when I was in college a picture of beer was $2.50 and a pizza was $4. So there you go.  Even tho the Hamburg Inn is not on the tenderloin list, I went for one anyway, with eggs, as it was breakfast time.

It was a disappointment, cause I’d bet money it wasn’t made in-house, but came prepared from a supplier somewhere. I was able to ascertain that their regular pork chops come from Ruizicki’s Meats, a small processor up the road in Solon, IA.  Of course, I had to run up there and check out their stuff, and yes, I dropped some dough.

It was at this point I got distracted from the tenderloin trail, and a lightbulb went off (“hey, why not check out small town meat processors in search of excellent sausage)?”

So I did.  I hit Washington, Kalona, Wellman and Riverside. In a store in store in Kalona, which had general merch but also a lot of locally produced food stuffs, including a bit in a freezer, I inquired after the legendary “Kalona Whole Hog Sausage” which I had the pleasure of consuming some years early on an Iowa hog far. The proprietor’s eyes glazed over, he knew what I was talking about, and told me that every year the local fire department put on a sausage feed which featured this legendary tubular nutritional delivery vehicle, but no, he didn’t carry it, nor did he know where to get it

Like in most small towns in America, he did want to be helpful and suggested I talk to the fire chief, as he was in charge of the annual fete. I was told he would be in the hardware story kitty-corner. So I ambled across the street.

The fire chief was out doing what fire chiefs to, but the clerk steered me to the source, Bud’s Custom Meats, in the next town of Riverside, IA. Apparently Bud’s is known far and wide for their beef jerky, but they have freezers full of every kind of pork cut a hog eater like me would desire. If you don’t know, Riverside, IA is famous because in the future, it will be the birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. No, not kidding. They celebrate it, too.

I loaded up on sausages, some ham, and “Iowa Chops,” two inch thick bone-in pork chops. If you’ve never had them…well….bucket list, really.

It was at that point I had to go north, I was due in New Glarus, WI, “The Switzerland of America,” one of my favorite places.

I’d like to complete the Tenderloin Trail, all in one shot. Maybe someday.  Resources, you know.

I goofed around with making tenderloins at home this week, admittedly using a couple of “cheats.”  You can read about that adventure by scrolling down or jump!.

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

TCs Tenderloin

 

Navigating the Iowa Tenderloin Trail

Hamburg Inn Tenderloin Breakfast

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Pork Tenderloin Recipe

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Pork “tenderloins” are an Iowa thing.  And Indiana thing.  We’ll leave it at that.  It’s a boneless pork chop, hammered with a mallet to make it larger Pork Tenderloin Recipeand thinner, dipped in batter and deep-fried, served on a hamburger bun about 1/10th the size of the ‘loin. You might also call it wienerschnitzel, of a sort. Or how about “chicken fried pork?”

So I had been out driving around Iowa and Indiana in search of great tenderloin, and it’s so important to the state, that the Iowa Pork Council has come up with the “Tenderloin Trail” so you can hit a dozen of the best the state has to offer.

I have written up the Iowa one as of yet, they were all pretty good. Soon.  In Indiana, I stopped at (and have reviewed) the Oasis Diner, and Ray’s Drive In.  They were both superb.

What sets one ‘loin apart from another is getting it thin enough, but still retaining the juiciness of the pork.  The batter. The seasoning. Length of time in the hot oil bath. These are all important.

When I set out to try it at home, I had some cheats, some shortcuts.  First off, I didn’t purchase pork chops, I bought pork “cube steaks” which were half the price of chops this week and would work just as well.

I purchased two different dry fry mixes, both Louisiana products,  Zatarain’s Seasoned Fish Fry (which I use a lot) and Louisiana Fish Fry Products Chicken Fry.

The latter suggests you mix a bit of it with 1/2 cup of water, dip your meat, and then completely cover it with more mix before frying.  I also improvised a bit with the Zat’s, in that I dunked, then dipped in egg wash, and dunked again. This would give the breading a little more depth, thickness.

Then into oil.  How long? Til they’re done!  LOL  (Not long).

On the surface, they appeared about the same when done. I plated them with some sausage gravy and a piece of Texas toast.

I liked the Zatarain’s better, simply because I’m a long time consumer and I like the pre-seasoning in it. Not a fair comparison, but it also had a bulkier breading because of the egg dip.

But I’d buy both again. There must be dozens of these kind of mixes in the grocery. You can also order both brands (and others) online from Cajun Grocer, a Louisiana company I have purchased seafood and other goodies many times.

Zatarain’s was a family owned business for decades, now it’s owned by seasoning giant McCormick and Schmidt (New Orleans area plant (pictured below) . Louisiana Fish Fry is still family owned, based in Baton Rouge. (pictured below)

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Zatarain’s

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Louisiana Fish Fry

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

Louisiana Fish Fry Baton Rouge

https://www.cajungrocer.com/dry-fry-mix.html

New Orleans area Zatarains plant

Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Pork Tenderloin Recipe

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Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

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Primanti Brothers Sandwich ReviewThere is a raft of places in the world where enterprising folks have created what I call a “one-handed meal.” Designed originally for the working class, shift workers, these foodstuffs were especially well adapted to heavy industry factory workers, miners and the like. In Cornwall, England, it was the “pasty,” a baked meat and vegetable pie.

This goody made it’s way to America and show up in miner lunchboxes in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Iron Range of Minnesota. They are still popular today, and you can order them online from UP shops.

Louisiana’s version is the “Muffaletta,” Italian deli meats, topped with cheese and olive “salad” (minced olives and pickled vegetables) and served on a unique 9″ round loaf of bread. They originated at Central Grocery (review) in New Orleans, and absolutely delicious.  One sandwich can easily serve two persons if not more. And yes, you can buy them online too from Cajun Grocer.

Chicago? The genuine Chicago style hot dog. Available everywhere in the Windy City, or you can make your own by watching this short video.

But today’s “one-handed meal” is all about the famous sandwich created by Primanti Brothers, in Pittsburgh, in the 1930s. Consisting of a stack of grilled (your choice) meats, topped with cheese, French fries, cole slaw, a thick tomato slice and nestled between two pieces of hearty Italian bread, this sandwich is not only delicious but a piece of culinary art in my opinion.

I waited a long time to get to one of their locations, fortunately now they are expanding rapidly. Primanti Brothers will put any sandwich chains offerings to shame.

I went with the “Al Capone” – grilled split Italian sausage, topped with capicola and salami, melted cheese, followed by the fries, slaw and ‘mato. Spectacular. Couldn’t finish it, no surprise there. Wanted to. Bought another to take home.

Should be on everybody’s sandwich bucket list. Download their app and get your first sandwich free!

The chain offers other foods, pizza, wings, and the like. I’ll probably never get to try them as I will be working my way thru the sandwich portion of the menu posted below.

 

Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

Al Capone Whole

Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

Sandwich portion menu

 

Primanti Bros. Indianapolis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review
Primanti Brothers Sandwich Review

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Oasis Diner Review, Plainfield, IN

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Oasis Diner Review Plainfield

Mountain View Diner Manufacturing company was established in New Jersey in the 30s and operated to the late 50s. They built and shipped diners around the country, including this particular unit, which was shipped by rail to Plainfield in 1954.

It operated pretty much continuously since that time, except for a few years hiatus, a move and renovation. In all its splendor today, it dishes up great home made grub for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as selling baked goods.

I went for their signature dish, a pork tenderloin sandwich. While I cannot tell you the origin of the sandwich, I do know they are unique (mostly) to Iowa and Indiana, and consist of a pounded out boneless piece of pork, usually breaded and fried. It is served on a bun, most often with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  Maybe a pickle chip or speak.

I was a bit apprehensive about going out of my way to hit the Oasis, but after my meal, I realized I would drive hundreds of miles just to have the tenderloin again. It was absolutely perfect.  The breading has a nice crunch, while the pork remains juicy and nicely seasoned. Hand cut fries were my side choice, and the house baked bun was fresh and substantial enough to hold the sandwich, even if one can’t get it in their mouth!

There are quite a few Mountain View diners still in operation around the US, including five in Indiana.

I’ve driven quite a few of the major US original highways, like Route 66, and US 61, back and forth, top to bottom, but haven’t spent much time on US 40, one of the original coast to coast roads, which is nicknamed “The National Road.”

Just by spending 20 miles on it the other day, I can tell I’ve missed a great trip that I will have to do in the future, lots of old time Americana and architecture on 40.  As well as the Oasis Diner.

The Oasis Diner lunch/dinner menu.

Oasis Diner Review Plainfield

“There’s a bun under there!”

Oasis Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oasis Diner Review

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Nationwide – Arbys Reuben Sandwich Review

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I clearly remember my first visit to an Arby’s, it was in the area of Minneapolis surrounding the U of M, and at that time, they had a glass enclosed “oven” in the middle of the dining room where the ‘roasts’ were cooking (at least that’s what I remember).

Arby’s was founded in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964 by Forrest and Leroy Raffel, owners of a restaurant equipment business who saw  a market opportunity for a fast food franchise based on a food other than hamburgers. They chose the name “Arby’s”, based on R. B., the initials of Raffel Brothers. (That’s funny, I  always thought it stood for “Roast Beef”).

The Raffel brothers opened the first new restaurant on July 23, 1964. They initially served only roast beef sandwiches, potato chips, and soft drinks.

Today, Arby’s is one of the  largest fast food franchises (in the US), with over 3,000 outlets, and a smattering of shops overseas as well.  The majority was purchased by a private equity group in 2011, with less than 20% being held by the folks at Wendys, who had owned it in toto, since 2008.

There haven’t been that many innovations at Arby’s over the years;  one exception was the addition of the “Fresh Market” sandwiches which seem to be popular, and I have maintained since they were introduced, that Arby’s onion rings are the best in the fast food, and maybe fast casual arena.   They are a bit spendy, tho.

We went to Arby’s as a cheap and quick solution to needing our St. Patrick’s Day corned beef fix, as they were offering a bogo on their Reubens, no coupon needed.  The Arby’s Reuben is a good value at the bogo price (around $3 each), but I don’t know if I would be inclined to pay more.  I’m not the type of fast-food consumer that goes for premium menu items.

Arby’s Reuben is corned beef, swiss, kraut, and thousand island dressing on toasted marble rye.  Note “toasted” and not grilled, as most Reubens are prepared.   I doubt many consumers would object.  They also offer the Rachel, a “Midwest”  version of the Reuben which substitutes turkey for the corned beef, .(most places a “Rachel” substitutes pastrami for the corned beef, and slaw for the kraut)  If you are really bold, you can get a half and half at Arby’s.  Turkey and corned beef?  Not for me, but you might like it!  Extra hungry? Ask for the double stack, which doubles the meat portion at an additional cost.

How was it?   Good for what it was, especially when you compare it to a $27 sandwich at a Manhattan deli!   I do admit it was a lot better grilled, as I took half home and did that later.

The bogo was an LTO for St. Patrick’s Day, but the Reuben is on the Arby’s menu for the foreseeable future.

Find your nearest Arby’s here.

Arby's Reuben Sandwich

Arby's on Urbanspoon

 

Arbys Reuben Sandwich Review

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Lobster Sliders Review

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Lobster Slider ReviewI was so “kitchen bored” today, thought I would try out the “Lobster Sliders” I grabbed at dollar store a couple weeks ago.

Made by the “Pride and Joy” brand, part of Indian Ridge Shrimp Company out of Cauvin, LA, the (total weight) 3.5 ounce patties are made from lobster meat, bread crumbs, egg, spices, and a zillion other ingredients you can’t pronounce.

You can pan fry them (I did) or bake them, and the instructions cautions that they ‘burn’ easily, and I found that out.

They taste ‘vaguely’ like lobster, but more like a fast food fishwich without a crunchy coating. Worth a dollar? Sure. Worth buying again? Not for me.

Buns are not included. I dressed it with Cajun seasoning, mayo and diced dills.

Lobster Slider Review

Frozen, out of box

Lobster Slider Review

5 Min/Side, Fry Pan

 

 

Lobster Sliders Review

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Buddig Corned Beef Review

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Carl Buddig Corned Beef ReviewI call these kind of lunch meats “pressed, chopped, and formed,” but on the package, I notice it says “cooked, chopped, and pressed.”  My bad.  My mom was on a kick with these kind of ‘meats’ for supplying our brown bag lunches during our coming up years.  Although my siblings and I were relatively healthy and active, our mother had given up the fight years before, and so our school lunches became extensions of whatever diet she was on.

One year, it was sandwiches on toast that was sliced horizontally, so the sammie used one slice of bread, not two.  Another year, it was yogurt, and to this day, I can’t look at the stuff.  Lots of pb and j, of course, bologna and lunch meats like those from  Carl Buddig.  The product always amused me, as if they weren’t different ‘colors,’  you might think they are all the same product.  Taste the same, to me, anyway.

The scariest thing of all?  The price has hardly changed in fifty years.   These were 2 / $1 at the WalMart.

Buddig has been around since the late 1800s in  distant suburb of Chicago; picture of the modern factory is below.  It’s still being run by descendants of the founder.

There’s a couple ways you could use these products, diced as an ingredient, though don’t look for it to impart all that much flavor, or as a base for your kid’s sandwiches, piling on the vegetables to give it substance, crunch, and balanced nutrition.

As for me, it’s always my preference to make my own lunch meats at home, using full cuts of muscle, prep, cook and run through the slicer.  Short of that, I enjoy a quality expensive corned beef, like the ones made by the Carnegie Deli in NY, or Chicago’s Vienna Beef brand.

But props to Carl Buddig for their “Old Wisconsin” line; their natural casing hot dogs and polish sausages are some of my very favorites.

Carl Buddig Corned Beef Review

 

Buddig Corned Beef Review

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Fricks Ham Review

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Frick Ham ReviewRan into a product I hadn’t seen before, a boneless half  ham from Frick’s Meat, a purveyor from Washington, MO (about 40 miles west of St. Louis, halfway between I-70 on the north, and I-44 on the south.  Frick’s has been around for nearly a century and a quarter, and manufacturers processed pork products, including hams, bacon, and sausages.

Family owned and operated for four generations, the products are widely distributed.   The ham is fully cooked in the wrapper, but has a 10-15% shrinkage when pan-fried.

This is a product I really enjoyed, other than the price, but I have that objection to all meat  these days.

My favorite hams are the naturally cured ones for a long period of time from Virginia, especially the biscuit-sized pieces, which aren’t available in the stores near me, but I order by mail a couple times a year.

The hams are processed at Frick’s factory in Washington, MO at 360 M. E. Frick Drive.  The factory is pictured below.

Frick Ham Review

Frick Ham Review

Frick Meat Factory, Washington, MO

Frick Ham Review

Frick Meat Factory, Washington, MO

Fricks Ham Review

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Vienna Beef Corned Beef and Pastrami

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Vienna Beef Pastrami ReviewIf you’re even an occasional reader of this site, you know two things for sure –  I have a diminishing interest in purchasing most ‘deli meats’ because of real or perceived notion they aren’t ‘real.’  By that I am generally referring to two things –  ‘roasts’ that are formed from meat and other ingredients into a shape that is easy for uniform slicing and appearance, and also the growing trend to enhance weight and flavor with injections of brine solutions, which I personally feel just ruins the texture of real meat muscle.

The second thing you would be aware of as a regular visitor here is that I am fond of the products made by Chicago’s premier hot dog manufacturer, Vienna Beef.  They make  great hot dogs, sausages, and a compliment of condiments.  So I thought I would try out their deli corned beef and pastrami.

In the deli counter, the roasts appeared to be whole muscle briskets.  The price currently exceeds $14 per pound.  Examining the ingredients, there does not appear to be any fillers or brine, and it looks like  a whole roast, when sliced, as the slices are not uniform in appearance, as far as both shape and fat content.  I inquired of Vienna about the composition and ingredients of these two deli products, but they did not reply.

I’m gonna guess, and hope, that they are whole muscle cuts.  My only reservation is the price, but all meats are stupid priced these days.  If you’re making an overstuffed sandwich, with 8 ounces of meat, it breaks down like this:  a pound each of pastrami and corned beef, roughly $31.  One half pound of cheese, $6.00.  Rye bread.  $3.  Sauerkraut $0.00, as I make it myself.   So $40 /  4 sandwiches?  $10 a pop.  Wow.

Course go to any large city deli, and the same serving will cost between $17 – $27.  Wow even more.  BTW?  You see the ‘iridescent’ quality in the top slice of meat below?  Over the past 20 years, I must have asked dozens of people what causes that, and never received a satisfactory answer.  Do you know?

Look for Vienna Beef products in your favorite grocery deli counter;  we have some great corned beef  whole brisket or slices from Omaha, and pastrami from the Bay Area’s favorite meat company, Saag, in our little store; for something a little different, try Montreal Smoked Meat.   Appreciate your reading and business.

 

Vienna Corned Beef Review

Pastrami (top) and Corned Beef Slices

 

Vienna Beef Review

Corned Beef & Pastrami Combo Reuben

 

 

 

 

 

Vienna Beef Corned Beef and Pastrami

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Vienna Beef Italian Beef Kit

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Vienna Beef Italian BeefI’ve written a ton about Chicago’s iconic specialty, the Italian Beef sandwich.  I’ve looked at different brands to prepare at home, as well as a number of restaurant offerings.  Check all those posts out here.  Today we tried Vienna Beef’s home version of the preparation, beef and gravy frozen in a tub.  Spoiler.  Any of these brands will disappoint you if you don’t COMPLETELY thaw prior to heating, and when heating GENTLE rules.  Boil any frozen Italian Beef and you’ll hate it, I promise.  Packaging says you can thaw in the microwave, but I personally would not.  I thaw in frig and the in pan.  24 hours +.  The beef in the au jus appears to be whole muscle meat, not pressed, chopped and formed.  I did inquire of Vienna as to the composition of the beef, but they did not reply.

The product is available in different weights, with just meat and gravy in a tub in your grocer’s freezer section, or as “sandwich kits” which include authentic Chicago rolls and the pickled vegetable relish known as giardiniera.  Several manufacturers of Italian beef in this style, also sell a “French dip” style.  Same stuff, I imagine, without Italian seasonings.

Nestle a hot Italian sausage within your beef, and you have a “Combo.”  I prefer Klement’s from Milwaukee.  I have no ‘beef’ with Vienna’s Italian Beef product.  I love all their products. They tie at #1 on my preference list with one other brand.  Vienna’s beef is mild but very flavorful.  Some other brands are spicier, like Mike Ditka’s (which I believe is also made at the Vienna factory, but with a different recipe).

Have some Italian Beef shipped to your house, just heat, eat, and enjoy.   You’ll be happier if your store leftovers – separate (beef and gravy). We can also hook you up with some great Klement’s Italian sausage.

http://www.viennabeef.com/vienna-beef-giardiniera

Klement’s Sausage

 

http://www.viennabeef.com/vienna-beef-giardiniera

Frozen Italian Beef

 

http://www.viennabeef.com/vienna-beef-giardiniera

Thawed, Ready to Heat

 

Vienna Beef Italian Beef

Assembled Sandwich, Prior to Dipping!

 

 

Vienna Beef Italian Beef Kit

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