Southern-Inspired Cooking at Horse Thief Hollow 

Home Cooking - Byers
By Kristin Boza∼

Horse Thief Hollow, 10426 S. Western Ave., is a neighborhood favorite. Thanks to the passion of owner and chef Neil Byers, the restaurant is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the gastro pub world.

Byers worked as a chef in Charleston, SC, which helped develop his interest in Southern cooking. A recent trip to Charleston inspired him to create the soft shell blue crab entree, which will be featured on their new summer menu, along with chicken and biscuit sliders which will offer three different takes on that traditional dish.

For the most part, Horse Thief’s ingredients are locally sourced, but with a larger focus on what the patrons want to see and experience. “The desire would be to source everything locally with small producers, but the reality is that that’s not in our ability to do in Chicago,” Byers said. “We’re able to source a lot of local proteins and cheeses, but sometimes we’re not able to always locally source fruits and vegetables.”

Some of the biggest Horse Thief hits include the lamb burger, made from locally raised lambs, and the grass-fed beef burger.

Byers is sharing his blue crab recipe with Villager readers. “It is designed to let the simple, fresh ingredients stand on their own,” he said. “I went to different markets in Charleston and this crab is what I took away from [the experience].”

Fried Soft Shell Blue Crab with Sweet Corn Salad and Honey Jalapeno Drizzle
For crab:
4 jumbo soft shell crabs, cleaned. (Internet videos can provide instructions.)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 T black pepper
1 T salt
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper in bowl.  Dredge crabs in buttermilk, then bread in cornmeal mixture. Place breaded crabs on a plate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

For salad:
2 ears of fresh, bi-color sweet corn. Husk, wash and cut kernels off cob using Chef’s knife. “Milk” the cob by running back of blade against the cob. Great flavor is found in this “milk.”
20 grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup baby arugula
1/4 small red onion, shaved
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients together and set to the side

For drizzle:
1/2 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 jalapeno, minced as fine as possible
Combine all ingredients, season with salt and pepper. Adjust honey/vinegar if necessary to taste
Final steps
Heat 1 quart peanut oil in cast iron pot to 350 degrees over medium high heat. Fry crabs 3-4 minutes or so, making sure to flip over to fry evenly. Remove from oil and drain on newspaper. Place 1/4 of the salad on the plate. Place crab on salad, drizzle with dressing.

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