The edits on streaming hit “The Bear” are sharper than the kitchen knives that cost Chef Carmy lead, flesh and an uneasy truce with his ambivalent cooks.
Traveling cutaways reveal that Carmy, played by Jeremy Allen White of USA’s “Shameless,” recently returned to Chicago from the famous French Laundry and Noma kitchens to clean up his family’s Italian beef sandwich shop after a tragedy. Nobody really asked him to stay.
The epicurean shots of a raw, salted and massaged cut of beef, and the gurgling of simmering broths are almost too good, really, for the grime of the lunch counter, but the spectacle would be less without them. The food imagery gives viewers a palate cleanser from a story punctuated by the anxiety of serving meals. The tongue is spicy, as is the homemade giardiniera, the pickled vegetables that are a must-have to top any Italian beef on a perfectly moist roll, however you can stomach it.
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Disney’s DIS Half-Hour Streamer,
FX on Hulu deserves its generous share of praise. Credit is heaped on examining the aggressive dynamics of the professional kitchen, including for women and people of color, but also how family dysfunction can be its own love language.
Chicagoans, on the other hand, can just watch the food. And they can hope that “The Bear” alone, once and for all, is a tourist obsession with deep-dish pizza as the city’s culinary staple.
Alright, at least once in your life take your knife and fork out a slice of Chicago deep dish with its hereditary blasphemy of tomato sauce over cheese, especially if you skip the chains. Or ask the locals about the square-cut tavern-style pizzas and one of the few Midwestern crust preferences on offer. And it must be said that “The Bear” gives a mini arc to the Chicago hot dog and its divisive condiments. Have one before you die too.
But if you’re a meat eater, need a quick bite, aren’t afraid of a little chin drool, and want a taste of Chicago? Opt for beef. (Italian is implied.)
You could try one of the originals: Johnnie’s Beef (technically in Elmwood Park), Mr. Beef, or any of Al’s #1 locations. There are also Jay’s and other establishments to ponder on this short list of Eaters. Even the fast-growing, now publicly traded, made-to-order fast food chain, Portillo’s PTLO,
has a beef on its menu.
There are a few command specifics to be aware of:
- tempered: The sliced beef is removed from the juice, put in the roll then the whole sandwich is soaked in the juice/juice. This is the soggy version! Dress accordingly.
- Wet (not a synonym of soaked at all): means that the beef is extracted from the juice and placed in the roll. Some places will also add an extra spoonful of juice over the beef before closing the sandwich.
- Dry: Most of the juice drains from the beef before putting it in the roll and no juice is added to the sandwich.
- Sweet: Garnish with roasted green peppers.
- Hot: Garnish with warm giardiniera (more peppers).
- Cheese Where no cheese: A somewhat controversial addition, mozzarella or provolone, and territory that can come awfully close to Philly cheesesteaks. Johnnie’s alumni completely ignore the addition of dairy.
Now, if you’re in Chicago or just about anywhere on the planet, consider adding giardiniera to beef, deli sandwiches, omelettes, even, yes, to top a slice of pizza when it comes out of the oven. The trace of vinegar and barely crunchy peppers, carrots, cauliflower and the like, bathed in oil, stand up perfectly to the gooey, salty cheese.
Indeed, deepen your condiment bench with a handy jar in your fridge; you can get mild to very spicy. Show off your knife skills and craft your own, or leave the chopping to the pros. More grocery stores are now selling giardiniera or you can order a Chicago-based pot on Amazon.
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