Food: Chefs roll out new recipes for First Look for Charity

Owner and Pit Master Jeff Shapiro hauls a side of pork fresh out of his smoker at Real Urban Barbecue in Highland Park. After going through 750 pounds of pork at last year’s event, Shapiro will again bring pulled pork sandwiches to the Chicago Auto Show’s First Look for Charity Feb. 7.
The team at Devon Seafood Grill will serve up shrimp ceviche at the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity.

Top chefs are revved up for the 2014 Chicago Auto Show’s First Look for Charity event on Feb. 7 at McCormick Place.

On an icy afternoon in January, in the snug kitchens of Real Urban Barbecue in Highland Park, owner and pit master Jeff Shapiro and his team took their new recipe for Hash Brown Potato Muffins for one more test drive.

“We just put them on our Super Bowl menu,” Shapiro said.

As Noe Martinez pulled a pan of the toasty, comforting bites out of the oven, smells of freshly baked peppers, garlic and potato filled the room.

“All set,” he announced, holding them out with a smile.

Last year, Martinez worked the Real Urban Barbecue station at the First Look for Charity event — serving thousands of bowls of chicken gumbo and more than 750 pounds of pulled pork to auto — and food — enthusiasts.

This year, the team will roll out their new Hash Brown Potato Muffins — along with pulled pork stuffed in mini brioche buns made by Highland Baking Co. in Northbrook.

“We’re going to do 5, 6,000 of them in a couple of hours,” Shapiro said.

They’ll pull the pork on site, at the event. “I like it when the pork still has that fresh glisten,” Shapiro said. “It starts to lose its luster as soon as it is pulled from the bone.”

Shapiro’s sandwiches will be topped with sauces representing different barbecue regions. A vinegar-based sauce representing the Piedmont region of South Carolina is one of his favorites. “That vinegar sauce just knows how to find its way into the crevices,” he said.

Gluten-free barbecue will be presented by Christian Eckmann and Chicago’s Bub City team. Their spread will include Bub City’s signature Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, but served in cups, without the Oreo cookie crust. Pulled pork will be served in cups, as well, with sour cream, cheese, chives and other accompaniments.

Small bites will be the strategy for keeping thousands satisfied while maintaining flavor, color and freshness. The team with Devon Seafood Grill will keep shrimp ceviche rolling. Devon’s ceviche is just like a salsa, but with chunks of fresh, icy cold shrimp marinated for hours in passion fruit and lime. The shrimp chunks get mixed with fresh corn and black bean relish and a little surprise of small-diced sweet potatoes. Devon’s boils the potatoes for three minutes, or until they are fork tender. Then immerse them in cold water. “To stop the cooking process; this keeps them bright and from becoming mushy,” said John Cosnotti, executive chef at Devon Seafood Grill in Oakbrook Terrace.

The team with Catered by Design in Morton Grove has found a recipe to celebrate artichoke hearts — by the thousands.

They will present bite-size pieces of artichoke hearts that are broiled and baked with a topping of mascarpone and cream cheese and a blend of basil and parsley.

“Use the small part of the artichoke heart — right at the center,” said Executive Chef Josh Soth. He rolls 1-ounce balls of the mascarpone and cream cheese mix and freezes them for about one hour. Then he adds the cheese to the top of each section of artichoke heart, dusts them with Parmesan cheese and Italian herb seasoning and puts them in the broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown. He finishes them in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

First Look for Charity generated more than $2.2 million last year for 18 designated nonprofit organizations, including Catholic Charities, The Cradle Foundation, the Illinois Spina Bifida Association and more. Since 1992, contributions from top chefs like these have helped raise more than $36 million.

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Hash Brown Potato Muffins

1 pound parboiled potatoes, shredded

4 large eggs, beaten

1 4-ounce green pepper, finely diced

1 4-ounce red pepper, finely diced

1 6-ounce sweet Vidalia onion, finely diced

1 Tablespoon garlic, chopped

8 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded

4 ounces flour

4 ounces sour cream

1 Tablespoon chives, chopped


In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

Use a two-ounce scoop and scoop into a greased mini muffin pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked throughout.

Garnish with sour cream and chive.


Chicken Gumbo

2 links Andouille sausage, diced and browned

1/2 sweet onion, medium diced

1 medium carrot, medium diced

2 stalks of celery, medium diced

1/2 teaspoon garlic, chopped

2 ounces of oil

1 cup buffalo sauce (or any favorite barbecue sauce)

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

.75 ounces beef base

1 1/2 ounces chicken base

1/2 teaspoon dry thyme

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 ounces tomato paste

1 1/4 cups blonde roux (50/50 flour and butter)

6 ounces pre-cooked chicken, shredded

3 ounces okra


Sauté garlic in two ounces of oil until fragrant and lightly browned. Add vegetables and sausage and cook for five minutes on high heat.

Add 1/2 gallon of water and one cup of buffalo sauce. Bring to a simmer.

Add beef base, chicken base, spices, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Bring back to a simmer. Cook until carrots are tender.

Add roux with a whisk stirring vigorously until thickened.

Finish with chicken and okra

Serve over rice or by itself.

— Jeff Shapiro, Real Urban Barbecue

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