Meat Master

Fumare's freshly smoked meat at the Chicago French Market

The French Market's ranks may be down in number (no more Zullo's, Wisconsin Cheese or Necessity Baking). But there's something exciting in the air–something smoky and meaty.

It emanates from a small machine behind the Fumare Meats counter, where owner Dick McCracken has recently begun making pastrami.

McCracken starts with corned beef, soaks it, reseasons it with bay leaf, mustard seeds, garlic and allspice, then loads it into a low-temperature oven. It spends the night at 250˚ on a maple-wood bed, and emerges in the morning glistening with fat, with a rosy glow and a sweet smoke flavor. A fresh hunk (or two) are smoked each night, and sometimes more on the weekends.

He says it's less salty and more fatty than much of what's found in Chicago delis. And its name, "Montreal-style pastrami," references his seasoning and his use of maple instead of hickory wood.

Buy it by the pound ($14) or as a 6-ounce sandwich ($9) with Dijon or yellow mustard on Red Hen Bakery rye (or ciabatta, a baguette or a bagel).

Like your pastrami thin? Ask for it to be sliced by the gleaming silver machine. But those who like some real chew to their meat should ask McCracken to carve.

Fumare Meats at the Chicago French Market, 131 N. Clinton St.; 312-930-4220 or frenchmarketchicago.com