Southern Comfort

Mining Southern culinary history at Big Jones

Late last month, Andersonville's Southern-slanted restaurant Big Jones closed for a few days. It reopened with more dates on the menu: 1730, 1920 and 1940.

Long enthralled with historic Cajun and Creole cuisine, chef Paul Fehribach recently gave his five-year-old restaurant a gentle face-lift and honed the menu's focus, drawing greater inspiration from the Southeast's historic foodways.

He's gone so far as to date some of his dishes, like farmhouse chicken and dumplings (circa 1920), in which dense egg dumplings and chicken are simmered in peppery broth ($14). Reezy Peezy ($15) cites 1730 as its origin, but the presentation–a cake of laurel-aged Charleston Gold rice laden with king oyster mushrooms, asparagus and onions grill-marked by a pecan-wood fire–is decidedly au courant.

Deviled Crab à la McGee's Branch (circa 1940) is a rich, creamy spread with timeless appeal, and a worthy addition to the home repertoire (click here to see the recipe). Fehribach found the recipe in Savannah's Cookin', a self-published cookbook from the 1940s. 

His version is part old, part new: He blends Louisiana crabmeat with béchamel made from local cream, seasons it with house-made Worcestershire, Creole mustard and cayenne, and tops it with Dante cheese from Wisconsin. At home, we'd evolve the tradition with one more step–a quick squeeze of lemon.

Big Jones, 5347 N. Clark St.; 773-275-5725 or bigjoneschicago.com