Steve Skrine fires up his grill again
Oak Park grillmaster Steve Skrine turns some tri-tip steaks smoking over oak. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Blue Cheese Potato Salad
(From Steve Skrine)
3 pounds small red potatoes 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 cup crumbled blue cheese 1 cup celery, chopped 1 cup red onion, chopped ½ cup mayonnaise 1 teaspoon Tabasco 2 pinches salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red onion, chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Tabasco
2 pinches salt and pepper
Cut potatoes in half and add Tabasco, onion, celery, salt, pepper and Worchestershire sauce.
Add mayonnaise and blue cheese and mix in large bowl.
Updated: June 21, 2012 11:10AM
This Father’s Day will have a special glow for Steve Skrine. This weekend he turns on the lights again at his Skrine Chops restaurant in Forest Park.
Destroyed by a fire in the building after a lightning strike in the wee hours of last Sept. 2, Skrine’s place re-opens for two private parties and some catering orders on June 16. Skrine expects the restaurant to be open to the public soon afterward.
And fittingly, Skrine notes, it was his father-in-law, Forest Park resident Thomas McNamara, who originally encouraged him to open his first shop in the Loop in 2004. The Forest Park place followed in 2005.
Skrine and his wife, Mary Rita, have led a grueling — but gratifying — recovery operation. “We never took a day off,” he said. “The biggest challenge was being without my job, being without my passion. Not cooking for customers every day was difficult. It was also very hard to listen to the same questions and suggestions over and over again each day. I was beginning to feel like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day.’ ”
Unlike Murray’s character, Skrine could envision his goal. He reclaimed a grill that survived the fire and has re-created the north woods Wisconsin interior of his pre-fire restaurant using salvaged wood from a late 19th century barn that had collapsed in Reedsburg, Wis.
“I never questioned rebuilding,” Skrine said. ‘‘This is what I love and this is where I am going to stay. The community is great.”
On Father’s Day, Skrine will be at home in Oak Park with Mary Rita and their three children. “My kids write beautiful cards to me on Father’s Day. I enjoy reading about how they feel about the time we spend together and which memories over the year really made impressions on them,” he said. “My kids have made me framed collages of pictures of our family throughout the year and they write funny captions for each picture.
Skrine will cook out for his family. He’ll likely make a favorite, blue cheese potato salad.
“Blue cheese gives the salad a tangy flavor and calms the Tabasco heat,” he said.
And Skrine might also throw some smoked tri-tip steaks on his grill. The cut is also known as triangle steak or bottom sirloin because of its shape and location at the hip.
“It has to be sliced against the grain,” Skrine explained.
“If you slice it with the grain, it’s almost impossible to eat, but if you slice it against the grain it’s some of the best meat ever. Everyone I serve it to says it’s the best meat they’ve ever had.”
Skrine has been making his SkrineChops for paying customers since the late 1980s. He started selling them from a stand in front of a fire house near the Chicago Board of Trade, where he was a runner, and later a broker. He would sell about 100 chops each night for three dollars each. “On a Thurday night, we’d sell a couple hundred chops. I’d serve them in a box, raw and skrine-imized,” he says, referring to his blend of “10 seasonings from around the world.”
Skrine progressed to “chop nights,” evenings when he’d sell chops in bars, and finally put a permanent roof over his grill in 2004 when he opened an eatery with just enough space for five people at a window counter at 400 S. Financial Place in the Loop.
Skrine will celebrate his renewed business — and his upcoming 50th birthday — cooking for thousands during the week of July 22-28 during the Ragbrai, a bike ride he does across Iowa, followed by support vehicles packed with “a smoker and a cooler full of ribs.” At every stop, Skrine will get out the Skrine-imized goods and do what he knows best. “It makes sense to do ribs in Iowa, the capital of pork,” he said.