Sunday, July 19, 2009

America's Food

While conducting my class on writing your own family’s heirloom cookbook, so many of the recipes the class participants are bringing in are such “regional” recipes. Necessity, as well as availability, become obvious as you read them. Each hand written recipe literally “sings” with history! My Grandmother Johnston never wrote down a recipe calling for avocados, or crabmeat, or Kahlua. Her recipes called for homegrown tomatoes, beef, canned fruits, and there was always Kentucky bourbon. Grandmother Ogg’s farm recipes called for butter, lard, pork, and homegrown vegetables. Naturally, they both had the normal staples such as sugar, flour, eggs, milk, potatoes, etc. From these few ingredients, both women became well known for their food. They had a couple of secret ingredients that so many people don’t have….that is 1.) love for the people that they were cooking for, and 2.) respect and understanding about the characteristics of the food they were cooking.

We eat the foods we eat because of where we live, what we grow, our health situation (or in many cases, mine included, the lack of knowledge about our health and eating) and our heritage.
Lets take them one at a time….where you live…live on the coast? Seafood influences your cooking and diet greatly.
What we grow….the Midwest has corn by the bushels and beef roaming the hills surrounding our cities. There are Pig farms! We live for fresh corn on the cob season! We can’t live without PORK & BEEF!
Health situations…low sodium, low fat, low carb….need I say more?
And finally, our heritage….probably the strongest influence. Whether you are Italian, German, Greek, Russian, English, Japanese or whatever by heritage, that still influences your diet, and what you crave. Your childhood memories, holiday memories, all center around food.

There are cities throughout our beautiful country that are truly “historical food communities” (do you like that term? Made up, by me, for a lack of anything else to call them). New York was and still is heavily populated by Italian Americans. So is St Louis, and Chicago. Kansas City, Missouri has always had a heavy Italian influence when it comes to food; but right across the river is Kansas City, Kansas which has always, since the mid 1800s, been heavily populated and influenced by the people of Eastern Europe who came to America to work in the meat packing houses.
The great American Southwest is famous for its beautiful southwest cuisine, full of flavors given to us by the American Indian and the Mexicans.
San Francisco has a strong Oriental influence due to the large number of Chinese that settled in California in the 1800s during the Gold Rush.
So, here we are in the Midwest, good old farm country. I always resent the term “fly over country” being used about my part of the world. All those people laughing as they fly way over head, peering down from their airplane, headed for home to sit down to a great steak dinner! They don’t have a clue that the rib eye or filet they are about to devour was raised right here in the beautiful Midwest!
Thank God for modern transportation and refrigeration!

Let’s have a few regional recipes today. I think I will start on the east coast and move west. Hang on, you are about to take a trip!

New England gives us:
New England Boiled Dinner

serves 8
5 pounds corned brisket of beef
6 peppercorns
Cold water to cover
1/2 pound salt pork
3 parsnips, cubed
6 carrots, scraped and cubed
2 cups cubed rutabaga, or 6 small white turnips, peeled
8 small white onions, peeled
6 medium potatoes, quartered
4-6 wedges green cabbage
Chopped parsley
Melted butter

Place the corned beef in a kettle, add the peppercorns and cold water, cover, bring to a boil and simmer 4-5 hours or until the meat is tender, skimming occasionally. Remove meat and keep in warm place. Add the salt pork (in one piece), parsnips, carrots, rutabaga or turnips, onions and potatoes. Cook 30 minutes. Add cabbage wedges during the last 10 or 15 minutes and cook just until tender. Place the meat on platter and surround with the vegetables. Blend parsley with melted butter and spoon over vegetables. Discard salt pork, but save stock for a pot-au-feu or other stew.

The Mid Atlantic is famous for:
Maryland Crab Cakes
2 pounds crab meat
2 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ Cup mayonnaise
¼ cup mustard
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 cup crushed Saltine crackers
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 ounce parsley
Dash of garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well. Form into crab cakes and refrigerate. Broil in oven or fry in olive oil until golden brown. Serve with fresh salsa or favorite condiments.

The South!
Grits and Red Eye Gravy
6 servings of prepared Grits
1/2 cup - brewed coffee
Ham Drippings
Prepare 6 servings of grits as package directs. In iron skillet, cover ham with water and cover. Cook country ham slices until browned. Remove from Iron skillet. Add a little water to ham fat, creating a brown or "red eye" gravy. Some folks add a little coffee.
Cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring in ham drippings from bottom of skillet. Spoon over hot cooked grits and serve.

Shrimp and Grits
1 pound peeled Shrimp
1 stick - butter
1 tube - Kraft Garlic Cheese
3 - eggs, beaten
1/2 cup - milk
1 cup - sour cream
Cook 1 cup of quick (not instant) Grits following the directions on the package. After the grits are cooked add rest of ingredients. Stir together and pour into an oblong dish and sprinkle corn flakes over the top. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.
Take one pound of peeled shrimp and saute with garlic in butter until the shrimp are pink. Do not overcook.
After the grits are ready the shrimp can be added to the mix or served on the side.

From the Bayou!

Cajun Pork Jambalaya
2 pounds pork meat, cubed
2-1/2 cups rice, uncooked
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
2 pods garlic, finely chopped
Seasoning to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon sage
4 cups water
Season meat the day before cooking and refrigerate. In heavy pot using 1/4 cup vegetable oil, cook meat until dark brown. Add sugar, if it doesn't brown well. Add onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. When vegetables are sauteed, add water and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add rice, green onions and parsley Cook on low heat for about 25 to 30 minutes with the cover on as tight as possible. You may stir occasionally.

The great Midwest Bread Basket!
Sausage Gravy
1 pound mild pork sausage
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
4 -5 tablespoon flour
3 cups whole milk
1 ) Cook the sausage meat in a skillet.
2 ) Add in the butter and all the spices. Cook for a few minutes.
3 ) Add in the flour, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.
4 ) Add in the milk and stir using a whisk till the gravy comes to a slow boil. Turn down the heat and continue to stir till the gravy comes to the desired thickness. I cooked mine for about and extra 8 minutes to reduce the gravy and create more flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over freshly baked biscuits and enjoy.

Perfect Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour or 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening or butter, cut into small chunks about the size of sugar cubes
1 cup cold buttermilk
The vegetable shortening or butter must be very cold
If you find yourself short of buttermilk for your recipe, you can make your own by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 2 cups of whole milk.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Toss the butter chunks into the flour mixture. Refrigerate for a least 1 hour or overnight.
Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and, using clean hands, mash the butter chunks between your thumb and index finger into quarter-sized pieces. Don't handle the mixture too much as you want to keep the butter cold. Again refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes or longer. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
After refrigerating, mix the cold buttermilk into the flour/butter mixture, tossing briskly with your hands or a fork to evenly distribute the buttermilk so no dry bits of flour are visible. The dough will be sticky but should clear the sides of the bowl.
Scrape the biscuit mixture out onto a lightly-floured work surface and gather, with floured hands, into a ball (do not knead). Roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Fold into thirds and rotate dough 90 degrees, dusting work surface with flour. Roll out to about 1/2-inch thick.
Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter or drinking glass, cut the dough, dipping the cutter or glass into the flour after each cut. Be sure to cut the biscuits close together, even touching, so you won't have many scraps. Re-rolling the scraps will make tougher biscuits. Place onto an ungreased baking sheet, close together for soft-sided biscuits or 1-inch apart for crisp-sided ones.
NOTE: If you need to hold the uncooked biscuits, the cut dough rounds can be refrigerated for up to 1 hour.
Bake approximately 15 minutes, without opening the oven door, until the biscuits have risen and the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm.
Makes 6 to 8 (3-inch) biscuits.

The Northern States
Cherry Pork Tenderloin
Dried cherries (about 1/2 c.)
2 pork tenderloins (about 11/2 lbs.)
Seasoned flour
Shallots to taste
1/4 c. dry white wine
2/3 c. whipping cream

2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 t. salt
Slice tenderloins into "coins." Lightly flour and chill for about 1/2 hour. Brown medallions of pork in about 2 T. butter. Remove to warm place. Saute diced shallots in pan drippings. Add cream, wine, mustard, salt and cherries. Cook gently, scraping bottom of pan. Add tenderloins and heat gently. Serve with white rice on the side. Nice with homemade applesauce.

Onion Soup With Two Wisconsin Cheeses
2 tablespoons butter
5 cups onions, sliced
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 cans (14 ounces each) beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine (or water)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 slices 3/4-inch French bread, toasted
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Wisconsin Asiago cheese, finely shredded
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin part-skim Mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir to coat with butter. Cook over medium-low heat about 35 minutes until onions are golden brown, stirring often.
Add broth, red wine and bay leaf. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Ladle equally into four 1 1/2-cup ovenproof bowls. Add a slice of toast to each; push down to saturate with broth.
Mix cheeses and thyme. Completely cover bread and soup with cheese mixture, dividing equally. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 425°F about 10 minutes, until cheeses melt and turn lightly brown. Serve immediately.

The Pacific Northwest
Northwest Creamy Smoked Salmon Fettuccine Alfredo
1/2 lb dry fettuccine
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoondried basil
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tomatoes seeded and diced
4 mushrooms sliced
8 ounces smoked salmon, broken into little pieces

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 mis or until al dente; drain.
In a medium saucepan, combine cheeses, butter, milk, garlic powder, basil and stir over low heat until smooth and creamy about 10 to 15 minutes.
Toss the sauce with the vegetables, gently stir in smoked salmon. Add cooked pasta to sauce, place in large bowl for serving
Sprinkle with nutmeg.

America’s Southwest
Chipotle and Green Chile with Pork
4 tablespoons butter
2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 cups yellow onions, diced
1/4 cup jalapeno chile, minced
1 cup dried New Mexico green chiles, seeded, remove stem, and minced
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup roasted Chipotle chiles, peeled and minced
1 cup grated Pepper jack cheese
8 flour tortillas (6-inch)

In a stockpot, melt two tablespoons butter and heat. When the butter is hot, add pork, onions, jalapeno, New Mexico dried chiles, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook 1 1/2 hours or until pork is tender. Add the Chipotle chiles and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Grill the tortillas and brush with butter. Serve with grated Pepper jack cheese on top. You want to spoon the chili onto your tortilla and roll up and eat.
Makes 4-6 servings.

To finish our trip....All American Apple Pie!

For Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2- inch pieces
1/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening (such as crisco), diced
6 tablespoons (or more if needed) ice water
For Filling: 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (firmly packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 pounds Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples, peeled,cored, thinly sliced

Additional Ingredients For Top Crust: Milk Additional sugar

For Crust: Blend flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 tablespoons ice water and process until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather into ball; divide into 2 pieces. Flatten each into disk. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.) For Filling: Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C). Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Add apples and toss to blend. Rolling Out Dough and Assembling Pie: Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter (23cm) glass pie dish. Fold edge under, forming high-standing rim; crimp. Add filling. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into twelve 1-inch-wide strips. Arrange 6 strips across pie. Form lattice by arranging 6 strips diagonally across first strips. Gently press ends into crust edges. Brush lattice with milk. Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar. Bake pie 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). Continue baking until juices bubble thickly and crust is deep golden, covering edges with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour. Cool on rack 1 hour. Serve with vanilla ice cream or a little sweetened whipped cream. Note: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand on rack.

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