Paul Fehribach insists he's really interested in modern cooking.
But when the subject turns to New Orleans culinary traditions, the chef's eyes brighten as he references historic dishes and recipes with encyclopedic precision.
His love for the region shows best in his annual Mardi Gras menu, launching this Friday at his Southern-slanted Andersonville restaurant, Big Jones.
Running through Fat Tuesday, the special menu features 10 celebratory dishes drawn from the classical Cajun and Creole canons. We stopped in for a taste of the works in progress; each was lively with flavor and rich with history.
Crystal hot sauce colors the lemony broth of crawfish étouffée (pictured; $23) neon red. Fehribach's version uses a butter base, instead of a roux, in the style of recipes from the early 1800s.
His Peacemaker Sandwich ($15) is gargantuan, loaded with a dozen fried Apalachicola oysters, rémoulade-dressed slaw and thick, sweet pickles flavored with allspice and turmeric. Fehribach couldn't find a local roll made with lard, so the fluffy French loaf is house-made--as is the sesame-topped roll for the special muffuletta ($15).
For dessert, don't miss calas ($7), rustic beignets made from fermented rice, fried in duck fat and dusted with powdered sugar.
Big Jones, 5347 N. Clark St..; 773-275-5725 or bigjoneschicago.com
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