Chicago-Style Half Smokes

chicago style half smokes

In honor of Obama’s re-inauguration, we set out to create a Barack-inspired dish that highlighted his ties to both Chicago and our lovely DC.  This Chicago-Style Half Smoke combines the prez’s roots in Chi-City with his new home in DC.

The half smoke is an interesting sausage, popularized by DC’s Ben’s Chili Bowl and named aptly because it is usually half pork, half beef.  We found a half smoke that was produced in the DMV, and the nutrition facts are kindly out of focus, just like my mind treats all sausage.


So what happens when you load a DC-native half smoke onto a poppy seed bun and heap on Chicagoan toppings?  A culinary mixture fit for the President himself!

You’ll need:

8 Poppy Seed buns (make your own with our recipe here!)
8 half smoke sausages
Atomic relish
Dill pickle spears
Chopped onion
Yellow mustard

Once your poppy seed buns are out of the oven, this recipe is really all about assembly.  Heat the half smokes on a grill or on the stovetop, just until they have a bit of color and are heated through.  Then pile your Chi-Town toppings- tomatoes, relish, yellow mustard, a dill pickle spear, and chopped onion.

Since we couldn’t decide between a 312 and a DC Brau, we treated ourselves to both!


new year’s day supper: grilled pork chops with apple & peach chutney

pork title

Pictured clockwise, from pork: Grilled Pork Chops with Apple-Peach Chutney (progress), Braised Cabbage (wealth), Pan Seared Red Kale & Rainbow Chard with Bacon (prosperity), Black Eyed Peas (luck), Potato Mash (yummy), Ginger-Cabbage Potstickers (multicultural wealth).

Whew!  We sure felt lucky this morning.  Was it from finishing up a year full of adventure and friendship, starting countless new projects, or finishing up the year with old friends?  Maybe.  Or maybe it was the symbol-ripe supper we whipped up last night.    We covered all of the basics- pork for progress, cabbage for wealth & black eyed peas for luck.  And we even found new meaning for mashed potatoes (potato –> irish –> famine –> perseverance?)  Special thanks to Man Chef Alan for bringing his perfect pecan pie and Tex-Pat & Boston Boy for peeling themselves away from the couch long enough to churn out a few cabbage dumplings.

This recipe is for the grilled pork chops, but more New Year’s Day recipes will follow.  I urge you to try this pork for your next lucky supper or just a quick weeknight dinner!

You’ll need:

4 thick, boneless pork chops (you can use bone-in if you’d like)

For the Brine:

4 cups water

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp red pepper flakes


Combine ingredients for the brine in a large bowl.  Place pork chops in a large ziplock bag, then add the brine and be sure the pork chops are covered in the liquid.  Let them sit in a bowl overnight.

For the Chutney:

2 apples, diced

2 peaches, diced

1 jalapeno

2 tbs brown sugar

2 tbs vinegar

2 tbs minced ginger

1/2 cup red onion

1 tsp curry powder

Heat olive oil in small pan and add red onion and jalapeno.  Cook until soft, then add other ingredients and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes, until soft.  Mash with a potato masher or with an immersion blender, leaving the mixture slightly coarse.


Remove the pork chops from the brine ~30 minutes before cooking.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat your grill (or a cast iron grill pan) to medium low heat and cook the pork chops for 4 minutes on each side.  After ~10 minutes, glaze the chops with the apple chutney on both sides.  Pork gives me a bit of anxiety because I’m always afraid to overcook it, so I use a meat thermometer and take it off the heat when the internal temperature is 160°.  Let them rest off the grill for 10 minutes before serving.

sesame ginger udon noodles with vietnamese caramel pork belly

Hello!  or should I say, Konnichiwa… or wait- Chào bạn!  Okay, so I admittedly mixed cultures with this dinner.  But it’s delicious and I’m busy surviving a hurricane, people, so forgive me.  Now that the apologies are over, let me count the ways that I love these Japanese noodles and Vietnamese caramel sauce:

1. Pork belly is cheap.  I found three bellies for $3, enough for dinner for two.

2. You don’t have to cook it for days in order to get tender, flavorful results.  Sure, you could brine it, braise it, slow cook it, and eat it 36 hours later.  But this recipe proves that you don’t need to.  It takes less than an hour from start to finish.

3. In Vietnam, this caramel pork belly is called Thit Kho and it’s usually served with a soft boiled egg.  You could take the traditional route, or you could stack these delectable treats on a crusty French baguette a la Bahn Mi.  But for this easy dinner, the flavored udon noodles were just perfect.

you’ll need: (2 servings)

1 lb pork belly

2 tbs fish sauce

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves finely chopped garlic


for the caramel:

5 tbs water

5 tbs sugar

for the noodles:

1 package udon noodles

3 tbs sesame oil

1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

1/2 tbs freshly grated ginger

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbs of vegetable oil and saute the chopped onion and garlic.  While that’s getting soft, slice the pork belly into one inch bites (I half-froze the pork belly, which made this much easier).

When the onions and garlic are happy, throw in the pork belly.  Let it brown on each side over medium-high heat (should be about 10 minutes).

While the pork belly is browning, add the water and sugar to a small sauce pan.  Keep an eye on your caramel and stir it with a wooden spoon regularly over medium low heat.  When the sugar melts and the mixture turns from sugar-water to caramel, you want to be there for it.

Once your pork belly is browned, add the fish sauce and then the caramel sauce.  You’ll notice that the pork belly is already starting to look more like scrumptious pork and less like fatty belly.  Let the whole thing simmer for another 30 minutes.

Onto the noodles!  These are super easy and you can use whatever type of noodles you prefer.  I’m not a huge fan of vermacilli, so i try to choose a thick wheat or egg noodle when I’m shopping.  Cook the noodles per instructions on the box, then toss them with the sesame oil, sesame seeds and grated ginger.

Serve the pork belly over the noodles, top with scallions, and enjoy!