One of America’s Favorites – St. Louis-Style Pizza

October 14, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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St. Louis-Style Pizza

St. Louis-style pizza is a distinct type of pizza popular in the Midwestern American city of St. Louis, Missouri and surrounding areas. The definitive characteristics of St. Louis-style pizza are a very thin cracker-like crust made without yeast, the common (but not universal) use of Provel processed cheese, and pizzas cut into squares or rectangles instead of wedges.

The thin, cracker-like round crust is made without yeast, as opposed to a deep dish Chicago-style pizza or the thin but leavened New York-style pizza. The crust of a St. Louis pizza is somewhat crisp and cannot be folded easily so the pizza is typically cut into three- or four-inch squares or rectangles instead of the pie-like wedges typical of many pizza styles. This may be done as the square shape can support the toppings better than wedge slices. Some local restaurants make their pizzas rectangular rather than round. St. Louis pizza is cut into squares and is referred to as party or tavern cut. According to local legend, Ed Imo—founder of a prominent chain of St. Louis pizzerias—was a tile layer and cut his pizza accordingly.

A St. Louis-style pizza being sliced into squares

St. Louis-style pizza often includes a white processed cheese known as Provel. Provel is a trademark for three cheeses fused to form one (provolone, Swiss, and white Cheddar), used instead of (or, rarely, in addition to) the mozzarella or provolone common to other styles of pizza. Provel cheese was developed by the St. Louis firm Costa Grocery in the 1950s and is made in Wisconsin primarily for the St. Louis market. The cheese is not widely available outside the St. Louis area but can be made by combining Swiss, sharp cheddar and smoked provolone cheeses.

The sauce is often seasoned with more oregano than other pizza types. Despite its thin crust, St. Louis-style pizza can be layered deeply with many different toppings because of the sturdiness of the cracker-like crust. Some of the sauces have a sweetness to them, which is likely due to the influence of Sicilian immigrants upon Italian foods in St. Louis.

 

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One of America’s Favorites – Pumpkin Pie

October 7, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Pumpkin pie, with two slices removed

Pumpkin pie, with two slices removed

Pumpkin pie is a dessert pie with a spiced, pumpkin-based custard filling. The pumpkin is a symbol of harvest time, and pumpkin pie is often eaten during the fall and early winter. In the United States and Canada, it is usually prepared for Thanksgiving, and other occasions when pumpkin is in season.

The pie filling ranges in color from orange to brown, and is baked in a single pie shell, rarely with a top crust. The pie is generally flavored with cinnamon, powdered ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Allspice is also commonly used and can replace the clove and nutmeg, as its flavor is similar to both combined. Cardamom and vanilla are also sometimes used as batter spices. The spice mixture is called pumpkin pie spice.

The pie is often made from canned pumpkin or packaged pumpkin pie filling (spices included), mainly from varieties of Cucurbita moschata.

Pies made from pumpkins use pie pumpkins which measure about six to eight inches in diameter. They are considerably smaller than jack o’lanterns. The first step for getting the edible part out of the pumpkin is to slice it in half and remove the seeds. The two halves are heated until soft, in an oven, over an open fire, on a stove top, or in a microwave oven. Sometimes the pumpkin halves are brined to soften the pulp instead of being cooked. At this point the pulp is scooped out and puréed.

A slice of home-made pumpkin pie

The pulp is mixed with eggs, evaporated and/or sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and a spice mixture called pumpkin pie spice, which includes nutmeg and other spices (e.g., ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, mace), then baked in a pie shell. Similar pies are made with butternut squash or sweet potato fillings.

The pumpkin is native to the continent of North America. The pumpkin was an early export to France; from there it was introduced to Tudor England, and the flesh of the “pompion” was quickly accepted as pie filler. During the seventeenth century, pumpkin pie recipes could be found in English cookbooks, such as Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion (1675). Pumpkin “pies” made by early American colonists were more likely to be a savory soup made and served in a pumpkin than a sweet custard in a crust.

It was not until the early nineteenth century that the recipes appeared in Canadian and American cookbooks or pumpkin pie became a common addition to the Thanksgiving dinner. The Pilgrims brought the pumpkin pie back to New England, while the English method of cooking the pumpkin took a different course. In the 19th century, the English pumpkin pie was prepared by stuffing the pumpkin with apples, spices, and sugar and then baking it whole. In the United States after the Civil War, the pumpkin pie was resisted in southern states as a symbol of Yankee culture imposed on the south, where there was no tradition of eating pumpkin pie. Many southern cooks instead made sweet potato pie, or added bourbon and pecans to give a southern touch.

A can of pureed pumpkin, typically used as the main ingredient in the pie filling

Today, throughout much of the United States, it is traditional to serve pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner. Additionally, many modern companies produce seasonal pumpkin pie-flavored products such as candy, cheesecake, coffee, ice cream, french toast, waffles and pancakes, and many breweries produce a seasonal pumpkin ale or beer; these are generally not flavored with pumpkins, but rather pumpkin pie spices. Commercially made pumpkin pie mix is made from Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, and Cucurbita moschata (Libbey Select uses the Select Dickinson Pumpkin variety of C. moschata for its canned pumpkins).

Pumpkin pies were briefly discouraged from Thanksgiving dinners in 1947 as part of a rationing campaign, mainly because of the eggs in the recipe.

The world’s largest pumpkin pie was made in New Bremen, Ohio, at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest. It was created on September 25, 2010. The pie consisted of 1,212 pounds of canned pumpkin, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 2,796 eggs, 7 pounds of salt, 14.5 pounds of cinnamon, and 525 pounds of sugar. The final pie weighed 3,699 pounds and measured 20 feet in diameter.

One of America’s Favorites – Red Beans and Rice

September 30, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Red beans and rice at a restaurant in California

Red beans and rice is an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine (not originally of Cajun cuisine) traditionally made on Mondays with red beans, vegetables (bell pepper, onion, and celery), spices (thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf) and pork bones as left over from Sunday dinner, cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice. Meats such as ham, sausage (most commonly andouille and Chaurice), and tasso ham are also frequently used in the dish. The dish is customary – ham was traditionally a Sunday meal and Monday was washday. A pot of beans could sit on the stove and simmer while the women were busy scrubbing clothes. The dish is now fairly common throughout the Southeast. Similar dishes are common in Latin American cuisine, including moros y cristianos and gallo pinto.

Red beans and rice is one of the few New Orleans style dishes to be commonly served both in people’s homes and in restaurants. Many neighborhood restaurants and even schools continue to serve it as a Monday lunch or dinner special, usually with a side order of cornbread and either smoked sausage or a pork chop. While Monday washdays are largely a thing of the past, red beans remain a staple for large gatherings such as Super Bowl and Mardi Gras parties. Indeed, red beans and rice is very much part of the New Orleans identity. New Orleanian Louis Armstrong’s favorite food was red beans and rice – the musician would sign letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong”. And in 1965, the R&B instrumental group Booker T. & the M.G.’s wrote and recorded a song titled “Red Beans and Rice” that was originally a B-side but later became popular in its own right.

A plate of red beans and rice with sausage from The Chimes restaurant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The vegetarian dish Rajma chawal is very similar (which translates literally to red beans and rice), popular in North India. Red beans and rice is also a dietary staple in Central America, where it is known as “arroz con habichuelas”. The dish is popular in Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Haitian and Jamaican cuisine as well.

Red kidney beans or small red beans are used and they are usually (but not always) soaked beforehand.

The dish is highly nutritious. Rice is rich in starch, an excellent source of energy. Rice also has iron, vitamin B and protein. Beans also contain a good amount of iron and an even greater amount of protein than rice. Together they make up a complete protein, which provides each of the amino acids the body cannot make for itself.

In addition, rice and beans are common and affordable ingredients, often available in difficult economic times.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Bacon

September 23, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A strip of cooked side (streaky) bacon

Bacon is a type of salt-cured pork. Bacon is prepared from several different cuts of meat, typically from the pork belly or from back cuts, which have less fat than the belly. It is eaten on its own, as a side dish (particularly in breakfasts), or used as a minor ingredient to flavour dishes (e.g., the club sandwich). Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game, including venison and pheasant. The word is derived from the Old High German bacho, meaning “buttock”, “ham” or “side of bacon”, and is cognate with the Old French bacon.

Meat from other animals, such as beef, lamb, chicken, goat, or turkey, may also be cut, cured, or otherwise prepared to resemble bacon, and may even be referred to as, for example, “turkey bacon”. Such use is common in areas with significant Jewish and Muslim populations as both religions prohibit the consumption of pork. Vegetarian bacons such as “soy bacon” also exist and attract vegetarians and vegans.

Cured side bacon in a pan

Bacon is cured through either a process of injecting with or soaking in brine, known as wet curing, or using plain crystal salt, known as dry curing. Bacon brine has added curing ingredients, most notably sodium nitrite (or less often, potassium nitrate), which speed the curing and stabilize color. Fresh bacon may then be dried for weeks or months in cold air, or it may be smoked or boiled. Fresh and dried bacon are typically cooked before eating, often by pan frying. Boiled bacon is ready to eat, as is some smoked bacon, but they may be cooked further before eating. Differing flavours can be achieved by using various types of wood, or less common fuels such as corn cobs or peat. This process can take up to eighteen hours, depending on the intensity of the flavor desired. The Virginia Housewife (1824), thought to be one of the earliest American cookbooks, gives no indication that bacon is ever not smoked, though it gives no advice on flavoring, noting only that care should be taken lest the fire get too hot. In early American history, the curing and smoking of bacon (like the making of sausage) seems to have been one of the few food-preparation processes not divided by gender.

Bacon is distinguished from other salt-cured pork by differences in the cuts of meat used and in the brine or dry packing. Historically, the terms “ham” and “bacon” referred to different cuts of meat that were brined or packed identically, often together in the same barrel. Today, ham is defined as coming from the hind portion of the pig and brine specifically for curing ham includes a greater amount of sugar, while bacon is less sweet, though ingredients such as brown sugar or maple syrup are used for flavor. Bacon is similar to salt pork, which in modern times is often prepared from similar cuts, but salt pork is never smoked, and has a much higher salt content.

For safety, bacon may be treated to prevent trichinosis, caused by Trichinella, a parasitic roundworm which can be destroyed by heating, freezing, drying, or smoking. Sodium polyphosphates, such as sodium triphosphate, may also be added to make the product easier to slice and to reduce spattering when the bacon is pan-fried.

Varieties differ depending on the primal cut from which they are prepared. Different cuts of pork are used for making bacon depending on local preferences.

Uncured pork belly

* Side bacon, or streaky bacon, comes from the pork belly. It has long alternating layers of fat and muscle running parallel to the rind. This is the most common form of bacon in the United States.
* Pancetta is an Italian form of side bacon, sold smoked or unsmoked (aqua). It is generally rolled up into cylinders after curing, and is known for having a strong flavor.
* Back bacon contains meat from the loin in the middle of the back of the pig. It is a leaner cut, with less fat compared to side bacon. Most bacon consumed in the United Kingdom and Ireland is back bacon.
* Collar bacon is taken from the back of a pig near the head.
* Cottage bacon is made from the lean meat from a boneless pork shoulder that is typically tied into an oval shape.
* Jowl bacon is cured and smoked cheeks of pork. Guanciale is an Italian jowl bacon that is seasoned and dry cured but not smoked.
The inclusion of skin with a cut of bacon, known as the ‘bacon rind’, varies, though is less common in the English-speaking world.

The term bacon on its own generally refers to side bacon, which is the most popular type of bacon sold in the US. Back bacon is known as “Canadian bacon” or “Canadian-style bacon”, and is usually sold pre-cooked and thick-sliced. American bacons include varieties smoked with hickory, mesquite or applewood and flavourings such as chili pepper, maple, brown sugar, honey, or molasses. A side of unsliced bacon is known as “slab bacon”.

Grilled pork belly

The United States and Canada have seen an increase in the popularity of bacon and bacon-related recipes, dubbed “bacon mania”. The sale of bacon in the US has increased significantly since 2011. Sales climbed 9.5% in 2013, making it an all-time high of nearly $4 billion in US. In a survey conducted by Smithfield, 65% of Americans would support bacon as their “national food”. Dishes such as bacon explosion, chicken fried bacon, and chocolate-covered bacon have been popularised over the internet, as has using candied bacon. Recipes spread quickly through both countries’ national media, culinary blogs, and YouTube. Restaurants have organised and are organising bacon and beer tasting nights, The New York Times reported on bacon infused with Irish whiskey used for Saint Patrick’s Day cocktails, and celebrity chef Bobby Flay has endorsed a “Bacon of the Month” club online, in print, and on national television.

Commentators explain this surging interest in bacon by reference to what they deem American cultural characteristics. Sarah Hepola, in a 2008 article in Salon.com, suggests a number of reasons, one of them being that eating bacon in the modern, health-conscious world is an act of rebellion: “Loving bacon is like shoving a middle finger in the face of all that is healthy and holy while an unfiltered cigarette smoulders between your lips.” She also suggests bacon is sexy (with a reference to Sarah Katherine Lewis’ book Sex and Bacon), kitsch, and funny. Hepola concludes by saying that “Bacon is American”.

Alison Cook, writing in the Houston Chronicle, argues the case of bacon’s American citizenship by referring to historical and geographical uses of bacon. Early American literature echoes the sentiment—in Ebenezer Cooke’s 1708 poem The Sot-Weed Factor, a satire of life in early colonial America, the narrator already complains that practically all the food in America was bacon-infused.

On 1 February 2017, The Ohio Pork Council released a report that demand for pork belly (bacon) product is outpacing supply. As of December 2016 national frozen pork belly inventory totaled 17.8 million lb (8.1 million kg), the lowest level in 50 years.

Bacon and egg on toast, garnished with a strawberry

Bacon dishes include bacon and eggs, bacon, lettuce, and tomato (BLT) sandwiches, Cobb salad, and various bacon-wrapped foods, such as scallops, shrimp, and asparagus. Recently invented bacon dishes include chicken fried bacon, chocolate covered bacon, and the bacon explosion. Tatws Pum Munud is a traditional Welsh stew, made with sliced potatoes, vegetables and smoked bacon. Bacon jam and bacon marmalade are also commercially available.

In the US and Europe, bacon is commonly used as a condiment or topping on other foods, often in the form of bacon bits. Streaky bacon is more commonly used as a topping in the US on such items as pizza, salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, baked potatoes, hot dogs, and soups. In the US, sliced smoked back bacon is used less frequently than the streaky variety, but can sometimes be found on pizza, salads, and omelettes.

Bacon is also used in adaptations of dishes; for example, bacon wrapped meatloaf, and can be mixed in with green beans or served sautéed over spinach.

Bacon fat liquefies and becomes drippings when it is heated. Once cool, it firms into a form of lard. Bacon fat is flavourful and is used for various cooking purposes. Traditionally, bacon grease is saved in British and southern US cuisine, and used as a base for cooking and as an all-purpose flavouring, for everything from gravy to cornbread to salad dressing.

In Germany, Griebenschmalz is a popular spread made from bacon lard.

Bacon is often used for a cooking technique called barding consisting of laying or wrapping strips of bacon or other fats over a roast to provide additional fat to a lean piece of meat. It is often used for roast game birds, and is a traditional method of preparing beef filet mignon, which is wrapped in strips of bacon before cooking. The bacon itself may afterwards be discarded or served to eat, like cracklings. It may also be cut into lardons.

One teaspoon (4 g or 0.14 oz) of bacon grease has 38 calories (40 kJ/g). It is composed almost completely of fat, with very little additional nutritional value. Bacon fat is roughly 40% saturated. Despite the disputed health risks of excessive bacon grease consumption, it remains popular in the cuisine of the American South.

Alternatives
Several alternatives to and substitutes for bacon have been developed for those who cannot or prefer not to eat standard pork bacon.

Turkey bacon

Turkey bacon cooking in skillet.

Turkey bacon is an alternative to bacon. People may choose turkey bacon over real bacon due to health benefits, religious laws, or other reasons. It is lower in fat and food energy than bacon, but may be used in a similar manner (such as in a BLT sandwich).

The meat for turkey bacon comes from the whole turkey and can be cured or uncured, smoked, chopped, and reformed into strips that resemble bacon. Turkey bacon is cooked by pan-frying. Cured turkey bacon made from dark meat can be 90% fat free. The low fat content of turkey bacon means it does not shrink while being cooked and has a tendency to stick to the pan.

Macon
Macon is another alternative to bacon, produced by curing cuts of mutton in a manner similar to the production of pork bacon. Historically produced in Scotland, it was introduced across Britain during World War II as a consequence of rationing. It is today available as an alternative to bacon, produced for the Muslim market and sold at halal butchers; it is largely similar in appearance to pork bacon except for the darker color.

Vegetarian bacon
Vegetarian bacon, also referred to as facon, veggie bacon, or vacon, is a product marketed as a bacon alternative. It has no cholesterol, is low in fat, and contains large amounts of protein and fibre. Two slices contain about 310 kilojoules (74 kcal). Vegetarian bacon is usually made from marinated strips of textured soy protein or tempeh.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Étouffée

September 16, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Crawfish étouffée, served at a restaurant in New Orleans

Étouffée or etouffee (French: [e.tu.fe], English: /ˌeɪtuːˈfeɪ/ AY-too-FAY) is a dish found in both Cajun and Creole cuisine typically served with shellfish over rice. The dish employs a technique known as smothering, a popular method of cooking in the Cajun areas of southwest Louisiana. Étouffée is most popular in New Orleans and in the Acadiana area of the southernmost half of Louisiana as well as the coastal counties of Mississippi, Alabama, northern Florida, and eastern Texas.

In French, the word “étouffée” (borrowed into English as “stuffed” or “stifled”) literally means “smothered” or “suffocated”, from the verb “étouffer”.

Étouffée is a dish of seafood or chicken simmered in a sauce made from a light or blond roux.

It is most commonly made with shellfish, such as crab or shrimp. The most popular version of the dish is made with crayfish (or “crawfish”).

Étouffée is typically served over rice.

Another version of crawfish étouffée

Depending on who is making it and where it is being made it is flavored with either Creole or Cajun seasonings. Although Creole and Cajun cuisines are distinct, there are many similarities. In the case of the Creole version of crawfish étouffée, it is made with a blonde or brown roux and sometimes tomatoes are added. A blond roux is one that is cooked, stirring constantly, for approximately 5 minutes to remove the “raw” flavor of the flour and to add a slightly “nutty” flavor, while a brown roux is cooked longer (30 to 35 minutes) in order to deepen the color and flavor.

Around the 1950s, crawfish étouffée was introduced to restaurant goers in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana; however, the dish may have been invented as early as the late 1920s, according to some sources. Originally, crawfish étouffée was a popular dish amongst Cajuns in the bayous and backwaters of Louisiana. Around 1983, a waiter at the popular Bourbon Street restaurant Galatoire’s brought the dish to his boss to try. At the time, most New Orleans restaurants served French Creole cuisine, but this Cajun dish was a hit.

One of America’s Favorites – Nachos

September 9, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | 2 Comments
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Nachos with tortilla chips, melted cheese, olives, jalapeño peppers, sour cream, and salsa

Nachos is a Tex-Mex dish from northern Mexico that consists of heated tortilla chips or totopos covered with melted cheese (or a cheese-based sauce), often served as a snack or appetizer. More elaborate versions of the dish add other ingredients, and may be substantial enough to serve as a main dish. Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya is credited with creating the dish in 1943; the original nachos consisted of fried corn tortilla chips covered with melted cheese and sliced jalapeño peppers.

Nachos originated in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. In 1943, the wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip for the day and arrived at the Victory Club restaurant after it had closed for the day. The maître d’hôtel, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, created a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, fried them, added shredded cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, added sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, and served them.

When asked what the dish was called, he answered, “Nacho’s especiales”, after his own nickname. . As word of the dish traveled, the apostrophe was lost, and Nacho’s “specials” became “special nachos”.

Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses the original recipe. He also opened his own restaurant, “Nacho’s Restaurant”, in Piedras Negras. Anaya’s original recipe was printed in the 1954 St. Anne’s Cookbook.

The popularity of the dish swiftly spread throughout Texas and the Southwest. The first known appearance of the word “nachos” in English dates to 1950, from the book A Taste of Texas. According to El Cholo Spanish Cafe history, waitress Carmen Rocha is credited with making nachos in San Antonio, Texas, before introducing the dish to Los Angeles at the cafe in 1959.

Nachos with cheese

A modified version of the dish, with cheese sauce and prepared tortilla chips, was marketed in 1976 by Frank Liberto, owner of Ricos Products, during Texas Rangers baseball games at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This version became known as “ballpark nachos”. During the September 4, 1978 Monday Night Football game between the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys, sportscaster Howard Cosell enjoyed the name “nachos”, and made a point of mentioning the dish in his broadcasts over the following weeks, further popularizing it and introducing it to a whole new audience. Liberto died in 2017.

Ignacio Anaya died in 1975. In his honor, a bronze plaque was erected in Piedras Negras, and October 21 was declared the International Day of the Nacho. Anaya’s son, Ignacio Anaya, Jr., served as a judge at the annual nacho competition.

The nutritional breakdown and total calorie count for a serving of nachos typically depends on the type of nacho, type of cheese, and additional toppings (such as beef, jalapeños, etc.) that are included in the serving. Most typical corn tortilla chips contain about 15 calories per chip. Baked corn tortilla chips have about 6 calories per chip, making them a healthier alternative option to the usual fried chip. Mexican-style cheddar cheese contains about 110 calories per ounce. Adding an additional source of protein, such as chicken or beef, increases the calorie count by about 100 calories or so. All in all, a single serving of nachos can contain from 300–600 total calories.

A single serving of nachos also contains significant amounts of fat, sodium, and calcium. There are around 16 grams of fat, 816 mg of sodium, and 272 mg of calcium per serving of nachos. In other words, one serving contains 39% of the daily value for fat, 34% of the daily value for sodium, and 27% of the daily value for calcium.

Nachos with beef, beans and cheese

A variation consists of a quartered and fried tostada topped with a layer of refried beans and/or various meats and a layer of shredded cheese or nacho cheese, topped with habanero hot sauce.

Other variations include barbecue nachos (in which cheese is replaced with barbecue sauce) and poutine nachos (in which cheddar cheese is replaced with cheese curds and gravy). Although those variations use nontraditional ingredients, these versions are still classified as nachos.

Traditional nachos consist of the tortilla chips topped with cheese and jalapenos, as done by Anaya who created “nachos”. The modern form of nachos has several possible ingredients with the most common toppings being cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, jalapenos, and sometimes lettuce. Lettuce is a less common topping, if added at all. The topping of the greatest quantity is often the cheese.

Nachos vary from the modern style served in restaurants to the quick and easy nachos sold at concession stands in stadiums. The nachos sold at concession stands consists of tortilla chips topped with pump-able cheese sauce. The cheese sauce comes in condensed form to which water or milk and pepper juice are added. What is contained in the condensed form itself is a trade secret. Another variation of nachos is “dessert nachos”. These vary widely, from cinnamon and sugar on pita chips to “s’more nachos” with marshmallow and chocolate on graham crackers, and typically refer to a dessert consisting of scattered toppings on some form of crispy base.

Nachos with an abundance of toppings are sometimes called “loaded nachos”, “super nachos”, or “epic nachos”. This type of dish is usually served as an appetizer at bars or restaurants in the United States and elsewhere. Typically, the tortilla chips are arranged on a platter, meat and refried bean toppings are then added, and the entire platter is smothered with shredded cheese. The platter is then put into a broiler or microwave to cause the cheese to melt. The platter is then covered with the cold toppings (shredded lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, jalapeños, etc.) and served immediately.

In Memphis, Tennessee, barbecue nachos are served in most barbecue restaurants, and also at sporting events. Generous portions of barbecued pork shoulder are placed atop tortilla chips, then covered with melted cheese or nacho cheese, barbecue sauce, and sliced jalapeño peppers.

Nachos using a processed cheese sauce

In Hawaii, kalua pork and pineapple nachos are served in many restaurants and bars. Generous portions of kalua pork and pineapple bits are placed atop tortilla chips, then covered with melted cheese or nacho cheese, and varied toppings.

A similar dish that involves tortilla chips and cheese is found in Tex-Mex restaurants. Small bowls of chili con queso and/or, more commonly, salsa, are served with baskets of warm tortilla chips as appetizers.

A form of processed cheese sauce mixed with peppers and other spices is often used in place of freshly shredded cheese in institutional or large-scale production settings, such as schools, movie theaters, sports venues, and convenience stores, or wherever using freshly grated cheese may be logistically prohibitive. Though originally formulated as a cheaper and more convenient source of cheese to top nachos, this dip has become popular enough in the U.S. that it is available in some Mexican-themed restaurants, and at major grocery stores, in both name-brand (Frito-Lay, Tostitos, and Taco Bell) and unbranded versions.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Tex-Mex Cuisine

September 2, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Examples of modern Tex-Mex dishes and ingredients: corn, tortilla chips, cheese, tacos, salsa, chilies, and beef dishes

Tex-Mex cuisine (from Texan and Mexican), also known as Mexican American cuisine, is a fusion of Mexican and American cuisines, deriving from the culinary creations of the Tejano people living in Texas. It has spread from border states such as Texas and others in the Southwestern United States to the rest of the country as well as Canada. Tex-Mex is most popular in Texas and neighboring areas, especially nearby states in both the US and Mexico. The Mexican food market is a 41 billion dollar industry within the United States.

Tex-Mex is a subtype of Southwestern cuisine found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Some ingredients are common in Mexican cuisine, but other ingredients not typically used in Mexico are often added. Tex-Mex cuisine is characterized by its heavy use of shredded cheese, meat (particularly beef, pork and chicken), beans, peppers and spices, in addition to flour tortillas.

Generally cheese plays a much bigger role in Tex-Mex food than in mainstream Mexican cuisine, particularly in the popularity of Chile con queso (often referred to as simply “queso”) which is often eaten with chips (alongside or in place of guacamole and salsa), or may be served over enchiladas, tamales or burritos.

Moreover, Tex-Mex has imported flavors from other spicy cuisines, such as the use of cumin, introduced by Spanish immigrants to Texas from the Canary Islands and used in Berber cuisine, but used in only a few central Mexican recipes. And in recent years Tex-Mex has incorporated elements of traditional Mexican food into the cuisine, including the more creative use of chile peppers and the serving of so-called “street tacos” (which would be simply called “tacos” in Mexico).

The word “Tex-Mex” first entered the English language as a nickname for the Texas Mexican Railway, chartered in southern Texas in 1875. In train schedules published in the newspapers of the 19th century the names of railroads were abbreviated. The Missouri Pacific was called the Mo. Pac. and the Texas-Mexican was abbreviated Tex. Mex. In the 1920s, the hyphenated form was used in American newspapers in reference to the railroad and to describe Texans of Mexican ancestry.

Chili with garnishes and tortilla chips

In the mission era, Spanish and Mexican cuisines were combined in Texas as in other parts of the northern frontier of New Spain. However, the cuisine that would come to be called Tex-Mex originated with Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) as a mix of native Mexican and Spanish foods when Texas was part of New Spain and later Mexico.

From the South Texas region between San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso, this cuisine has had little variation, and from earliest times has always been influenced by the cooking in the neighboring northern states of Mexico. The ranching culture of South Texas and Northern Mexico straddles both sides of the border, where beef, grilled food, and tortillas have been common and popular foods for more than a century.[8] A taste for cabrito (kid goat), barbacoa de cabeza (barbecued beef heads), carne seca (dried beef), and other products of cattle culture is also common on both sides of the Rio Grande.

In the 20th century, Tex-Mex took on such Americanized elements as cheddar cheese, as goods from the United States became cheap and readily available.

In much of Texas, the cooking styles on both sides of the U.S.–Mexico border were the same until a period after the U.S. Civil War. With the railroads, American ingredients and cooking appliances became common on the U.S. side.

Fajitas, Wheat Tortillas as taco wraps

A 1968 Los Angeles Times feature wrote “[i]f the dish is a combination of Old World cooking, hush-my-mouth Southern cuisine and Tex-Mex, it’s from the Texas Hill Country.”

In France, Paris’s first Tex-Mex restaurant opened in March 1983. After the 1986 release of the film Betty Blue, Tex-Mex cuisine’s popularity in Paris increased.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Chicken Fried Steak

August 26, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Chicken fried steak smothered in cream gravy with sides of mashed potatoes, fried okra and a dinner roll.

Chicken fried steak, also known as country-fried steak, is an American breaded cutlet dish consisting of a piece of beefsteak (tenderized cube steak) coated with seasoned flour and pan-fried. It is sometimes associated with the Southern cuisine of the United States. It can also be made from the breast of a chicken, hence “Chicken” and it can be different from country fried steak.

Chicken fried steak resembles the Austrian dish wiener schnitzel and the Italian–South American dish milanesa, which is a tenderized veal or pork cutlet, coated with flour, eggs, chicken stock cube, and bread crumbs, and then fried. It is also similar to the recipe for Scottish collops.

The precise origins of the dish are unclear, but many sources attribute its development to German and Austrian immigrants to Texas in the 19th century, who brought recipes for wiener schnitzel from Europe to the USA. Lamesa, the seat of Dawson County on the Texas South Plains, claims to be the birthplace of chicken fried steak, and hosts an annual celebration accordingly.

The Virginia Housewife, published in 1838 by Mary Randolph, has a recipe for veal cutlets that is one of the earliest recipes for a food like chicken fried steak. The recipe for what we now know as chicken fried steak was included in many regional cookbooks by the late 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest attestation of the term “chicken-fried steak” is from a restaurant advertisement in the 19 June 1914 edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper.

A 1943 American cookbook recipe for wiener schnitzel includes a white salt and pepper cream gravy.

Chicken fried steak is among numerous popular dishes which make up the official state meal of Oklahoma, added to the list in 1988.

Chicken fried steak is prepared by taking a thin cut of beefsteak and tenderizing it by pounding, cubing, or forking. It is then immersed in egg batter and dredged in flour to which salt, pepper, and often other seasonings have been added (called breading). Chicken fried steak is typically deep-fried and served with a cream gravy, while country fried steak is typically fried in a skillet and served with a brown gravy. The frying medium has traditionally been shortening, but butter and lard have sometimes been used instead. Health concerns have led many cooks to replace the shortening with vegetable oil.

Chicken fried steak with chipotle cream gravy

When there are problems with the breading separating from the meat while cooking, it can be very useful to first dredge the meat in the flour mixture, then the egg, and then the flour mixture again, and then let it sit for a half hour or more before cooking.

The cuts of steak used for chicken fried steak are usually the less expensive, less desirable ones, such as cube steak, chuck, round steak, and occasionally flank steak. The method may be used for chopped or ground beef, but it is not called chicken fried steak. Chicken fried steak is usually served for lunch or dinner topped with cream gravy and with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and biscuits or Texas toast served on the side. In the Midwest, it is also common to serve chicken fried steak for breakfast, along with toast and hash browns.

The steak can be served on a hamburger bun with cream gravy as a “chicken fried steak sandwich”. It can also be cubed and stuffed in a baked potato with the gravy and cheese.

Alternatively, the tenderized steak may be cut into strips, breaded, deep fried, and served for breakfast with eggs and toast or for other meals in a basket with fries and cream gravy. Either is then known as “finger steaks”.

Typically, in Texas and surrounding states, chicken fried steak is fried in a thick layer of oil in a pan and served with traditional peppered milk gravy.

Regionally, chicken fried steak may be known as country fried steak. While some recipes and restaurants will use a traditional peppered milk gravy on country fried steak, a variant using a brown, beef stock based gravy with onions is common, and is the primary difference between the two dishes in regions where both are served.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Rotisserie Chicken

August 19, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | 2 Comments
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Rotisserie chicken

Rotisserie chicken is a chicken dish that is cooked on a rotisserie, using direct heat in which the chicken is placed next to the heat source. Electric- or gas-powered heating elements may be used, which use adjustable infrared heat. These types of rotisseries have proven quite functional for cooking rotisserie-style chicken. Leftover rotisserie chicken may be used in a variety of dishes, such as soup, chicken salad, and sandwiches.

In the United States, ready-to-eat rotisserie chickens were available in supermarkets and some butcher shops during much of the twentieth century. However, they did not become a widely available option for consumers until the early 1990s, when Boston Market helped popularize the selling of packaged rotisserie chickens.

Rotisserie chickens are now highly popular. In 2010, 600 million rotisserie-cooked chickens were purchased by consumers “in U.S. supermarkets, club stores and similar retail outlets.” In 2018, over 900 million rotisserie chickens were sold by foodservice outlets and retail stores.

Rotisserie chickens are often lower in price than raw whole chickens. Two explanations are often given to justify this phenomenon. First, some grocery stores may use rotisserie chickens as loss leaders to bring shoppers into the store. The logic behind this theory is that if customers come to a store for its rotisseries chickens, they will buy other products while they are there, too. Second, rotisserie chickens are often made with poultry that is about to reach its “best by” date. By cooking and selling the chickens, the grocery stores are able to recoup some of their expenditures.

In the U.S., chickens used for rotisserie cooking may be injected with brine to retain moisture. Additional ingredients may be used to add flavor and to brown the chicken, such as oleoresin, yeast extract, sodium tripolyphosphate, and natural flavorings.

A packaged rotisserie chicken

A packaged rotisserie chicken

Costco is one of the largest producers and vendors of rotisserie chickens in the United States, with one commentator describing it as “the undisputed king of rotisserie chickens.” In 2017, Costco sold approximately 87 million rotisserie chickens in the United States. Costco’s CFO, Richard Galanti, has repeatedly rebuffed suggestions that Costco might eventually increase the cost of its chickens above $4.99, which has been the price of a Costco rotisserie chicken since 2009.

In 2017, Costco broke ground on a new 414-acre facility in Fremont, Nebraska that would include a hatchery, feed mill, and processing plant. The facility – which is expected to produce around 100 million chickens per year, or roughly 40 percent of Costco’s needs – has been reported as costing between $275 million and $400 million. The plant is scheduled to open in September 2019.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Smothered Food

August 12, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A plate lunch of smothered steak and gravy served over boiled white rice from Garys Grocery in Lafayette, Louisiana

Smothering meat, seafood or vegetables is a cooking technique used in both Cajun and Creole cuisines of Louisiana. The technique involves cooking in a covered pan over low heat with a moderate amount of liquid, and can be regarded as a form of stove-top braising. The meat dishes cooked in this fashion are typically served over boiled or steamed white rice as a rice and gravy, while the vegetables are typically served as side dishes.

A large variety of meats are “smothered” in South Louisiana cuisine, including both domestic animals and wild game. Domestic animals cooked in this fashion include chicken, domestic duck, pork, beef (including such organs as the liver), and domestic rabbit. Wild game commonly cooked in this fashion include squirrel, rabbit, nutria rat, feral pig, woodcock, wild duck, and venison. Originally a dish made from cheap cuts of meat favored by farmers and laborers, popular versions of the dish such as “smothered steak” and “smothered pork roast” are served throughout Acadiana at local “plate lunch houses”. Raised on Rice and Gravy, a 2009 documentary film by Conni Castille and Allison Bohl, chronicles the prevalence of the dish at local plate lunch houses and its enduring popularity in local cuisine.

 

“Smothering” the meat and vegetables

In French, the word “étouffée” means “smothered”. Étouffée can be made using different shellfish, the most popular version of the dish being Crawfish Étouffée, although shrimp is also used. Originally étouffée was a popular dish in the Acadiana area surrounding Lafayette. In the late twentieth century a waiter at the popular Bourbon Street restaurant, Galatoire’s brought the dish in to his employer to try, the dish was added to their menu. Other restaurants in the city of New Orleans soon followed, with the dish gaining in popularity with locals and tourists alike. Many Cajun restaurant owners claim that étouffée is the most popular dish on their menus.

Varieties of vegetables cooked by smothering include cabbage, okra, potatoes and corn. The vegetables are kept from burning by the addition of animal fats or oils, or the addition of meat products such as salt pork or andouille.

 

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