One of America’s Favorites – Johnnycake

June 13, 2016 at 5:16 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A Johnnycake in a cast iron fry pan

A Johnnycake in a cast iron fry pan

Johnnycake—also called jonnycake, johnny cake, journey cake, shawnee cake, or johnny bread—is a cornmeal flatbread. An early American staple food, it is prepared on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Jamaica. The food originates from the native inhabitants of North America. It is often eaten in the West Indies, Dominican Republic, Saint Croix, Bahamas, Colombia, and Bermuda as well as in the United States.

The modern johnnycake is found in the cuisine of New England, and often claimed as originating in Rhode Island. A modern johnnycake is fried cornmeal gruel, which is made from yellow or white cornmeal mixed with salt and hot water or milk, and sometimes sweetened. In the Southern United States, the word used is hoecake.

 
The earliest attestation of the term “johnny cake” is from 1739 (in South Carolina); the spelling “journey cake” is only attested from 1775 (on the Gulf coast), but may be the earlier form.

The word is likely based on the word “Jonakin,” recorded in New England in 1765, itself derived from the word “jannock,” recorded in Northern England in the sixteenth century. According to Edward Ellis Morris, the term was the name given “…by the [American] negroes to a cake made of Indian corn (maize).”

 

 

Another suggested derivation is that it comes from Shawnee cake although some writers disagree.

 

 

Johnnycakes on a plate

Johnnycakes on a plate

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term hoecake first occurs in 1745, and the term is used by American writers such as Joel Barlow and Washington Irving. The origin of the name is the method of preparation: they were cooked on a type of iron pan called a hoe. There is conflicting evidence regarding the common belief that they were cooked on the blades of gardening hoes.
Native Americans were using ground corn for cooking long before European explorers arrived in the New World. The johnnycake originates with the native inhabitants of Northern America; the Algonquians of the Atlantic seaboard are credited with teaching Europeans how to make the food.

Southern Native American culture (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek) is the cornerstone of Southern cuisine. From this culture came one of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize). Corn was used to make all kinds of dishes from the familiar cornbread and grits to liquors such as whiskey and moonshine, which were important trade items. Cornbread was popular during the American Civil War because it was very cheap and could be made in many different sizes and forms. It could be fashioned into high-rising, fluffy loaves or simply fried for a fast meal.

To a far greater degree than anyone realizes, several of the most important food dishes that the Southeastern Indians live on today is the “soul food” eaten by both black and white Southerners. Hominy, for example, is still eaten … Sofkee live on as grits … cornbread is used by Southern cooks … Indian fritters … variously known as “hoe cake”, … or “Johnny cake.” … Indian boiled cornbread is present in Southern cuisine as “corn meal dumplings”, … and as “hush puppies”, … Southerners cook their beans and field peas by boiling them, as did the Indians … like the Indians they cure their meat and smoke it over hickory coals.

 
Johnnycakes are an unleavened cornbread made of cornmeal (but see the Australian version below), salt, and water. Early cooks set thick corn dough on a wooden board or barrel stave, which they leaned on a piece of wood or a rock in front of an open fire to bake. Hoecake was traditionally cooked on a hoe: “Hoe-Cake: A cake of Indian meal, baked before the fire. In the interior parts of the country, where kitchen utensils do not abound, they are baked on a hoe; hence the name.”

In the American south during the 18th century versions were made with rice or hominy flour and perhaps cassava. A 1905 cookbook includes a recipe for “Alabama Johnny Cake” made with rice and ‘meal’.

The difference between johnnycake and hoecake originally lay in the method of preparation, though today both are often cooked on a griddle or in a skillet. Some recipes call for baking johnnycakes in an oven, similar to corn pones, which are still baked in the oven as they were traditionally.

Johnnycakes may also be made using leavening, with or without other ingredients more commonly associated with American pancakes, such as eggs or solid fats like butter. Like pancakes, they are often served with maple syrup, honey, or other sweet toppings.

According to the manuscript of America Eats, a WPA guide to American food culture in the beginning decades of the twentieth century, Rhode Island “jonny cakes” were made in the 1930s as follows:

In preparation, [white corn] meal may or may not be scalded with hot water or hot milk in accordance to preference. After mixing meal with water or milk it is dropped on a smoking hot spider pan set atop a stove into cakes about 3″x3″x1/2″ in size. The secret of cooking johnny cakes is to watch them closely and keep them supplied with enough sausage or bacon fat so they will become crisp, and not burn. Cook slowly for half an hour, turn occasionally, and when done serve with plenty of butter.

 

 

Johnnycakes

Johnnycakes

The modern johnnycake is a staple in the cuisine of New England and New Englanders claim it originated in Rhode Island. A modern johnnycake is fried gruel made from yellow or white cornmeal that is mixed with salt and hot water or milk, and sometimes sweetened. In the Southern United States, the same food is referred to as hoecake.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Hot Chicken

December 1, 2014 at 7:28 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | 2 Comments
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Prince's hot chicken

Prince’s hot chicken

Hot chicken or Nashville hot chicken is a type of fried chicken that is a local specialty of Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States. In its typical preparation, it is a portion of breast, thigh, or wing that has been marinated in a water-based blend of seasoning, floured, fried, and finally sauced using a paste that has been spiced with cayenne pepper. It is served atop slices of white bread with pickle chips. It is both the application of a spicy paste and the presentation that differentiates it from similar dishes, such as Buffalo wings. It can be viewed in similar context to other foods that have been tweaked to be unique in a regional way, such as the slugburger or the Mississippi Delta tamale.

There are many restaurants in Nashville that serve a variant of the dish, and there is a city-wide festival and competition commemorating it. The popularity of hot chicken has spread beyond the Southern United States due to the influence of Nashville’s music industry. At least one restaurant in Michigan, Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, now serves the dish.

 

 
Although the components of the dish largely remain the same, the preparation of the dish can differ greatly. A pressure fryer or deep fryer can be used, although most restaurants serve a pan-fried product. Nearly all hot chicken is marinated in buttermilk to impart flavor and to retain the meat’s juices upon frying. Some preparations of hot chicken are breaded and fried after application of the spice paste; the more traditional method has the paste applied immediately after the chicken is removed from the fryer.

A typical Nashville-style hot chicken spice paste has two key ingredients: lard and cayenne pepper. The two are mixed together, three parts pepper to one part lard, and heated until they form a thick sauce. Some restaurants vary the composition of the paste, adding sugar, garlic, or additional hot sauce. The paste is applied to the fried chicken by the server using a spoon and latex gloves; it is lightly squeezed into the finished chicken by hand. The heat level of the chicken can be varied by the preparer by reducing or increasing the amount of paste applied.
The main variation to traditional hot chicken is in the application of the spice paste: before breading or after breading, and whether or not additional spices are applied. Recipes, cooking methods, and preparation steps for hot chicken are often closely guarded secrets, proprietary to the specific restaurant, so the look of the chicken may vary widely.

 

 

 

Nashville-style hot fish

Nashville-style hot fish

A variation of the hot chicken theme is hot fish, typically a breaded and fried whiting or catfish filet prepared using a similar cayenne paste as hot chicken, or using a cayenne powder blend sprinkled liberally over the filet. Some hot chicken restaurants also serve hot fish, but recently some have begun to specialize in hot fish only.

 

 
Anecdotal evidence suggests that spicy fried chicken has been served in Nashville for generations. The current dish may have been introduced as early as the 1930s, however, the current style of spice paste may only date back to the mid-1970s. It is generally accepted that the originator of hot chicken is the family of Andre Prince Jeffries, owner of “Prince’s Hot Chicken”. She has operated the restaurant since 1980; before that time, it was owned by her great-uncle, Thornton Prince. Although impossible to verify, Jeffries says the development of hot chicken was an accident. Her great-uncle Thornton was purportedly a womanizer, and after a particularly late night out his girlfriend at the time cooked him a fried chicken breakfast with extra pepper as revenge. Instead, Thornton decided he liked it so much that, by the mid-1930s, he and his brothers had created their own recipe and opened the BBQ Chicken Shack café.

 

 

Hot chicken strip on a stick

Hot chicken strip on a stick

Ironically, what began as breakfast revenge is now considered to be a staple food for late-night diners. On weekends, most restaurants dedicated to hot chicken are open very late (some past 4 am). As of 2013, fourteen Nashville restaurants serve hot chicken, either as the focus or as part of a larger menu. For a time, country music stars Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw owned and operated a now-defunct hot chicken restaurant called “hotchickens.com”. The former mayor of Nashville Bill Purcell is a devoted fan, sponsoring the Music City Hot Chicken Festival and giving numerous interviews touting the dish. While in office, he frequently referred to his table at Prince’s Hot Chicken as his “second office”.

 

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

September 18, 2014 at 5:29 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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When sauteing or frying, always heat your pan for a couple of minutes before adding butter or oil to ensure that nothing sticks and that the food will cook evenly. It’s also a good idea to sprinkle a little salt in your pan before frying-it will keep the oil from splattering.

It’s all about the Chicken – Cooking with Chicken

September 16, 2014 at 5:46 AM | Posted in chicken, It's All About the Chicken | Leave a comment
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Chicken with mushrooms and tomatoes and spices

Chicken with mushrooms and tomatoes and spices

Raw chicken may contain salmonella. The safe minimum cooking temperature recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is 165 °F (74 °C) to prevent foodborne illness because of bacteria and parasites. However in Japan raw chicken is sometimes consumed in a dish called torisashi , which is sliced raw chicken served in sashimi style. Another preparation is toriwasa which is lightly seared on the outsides while the inside remains raw.

 

 

 

Chicken can be cooked in many ways. It can be made into sausages, skewered, put in salads, grilled, breaded and deep-fried, or used in various curries. There is significant variation in cooking methods amongst cultures. Historically common methods include roasting, baking, broasting, and frying. Western cuisine frequently has chicken prepared by deep-frying for fast foods such as fried chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken lollipops or buffalo wings. They are also often grilled for salads or tacos.

 

 

Chickens often come with labels such as “roaster”, which suggest a method of cooking based on the type of chicken. While these labels are only suggestions, ones labeled for stew often do not do well when cooked with other methods.

 

 

Some chicken breast cuts and processed chicken breast products include the moniker “with Rib Meat.” This is a misnomer, as it is the small piece of white meat that overlays the scapula, and is removed with the breast meat. The breast is cut from the chicken and sold as a solid cut, while the leftover breast and true rib meat is stripped from the bone through mechanical separation for use in chicken franks, for example. Breast meat is often sliced thinly and marketed as chicken slices, an easy filling for sandwiches. Often, the tenderloin (pectoralis minor) is marketed separately from the breast (pectoralis major). In the US, “tenders” can be either tenderloins or strips cut from the breast. In the UK the strips of pectoralis minor are called “Chicken mini-fillets”.

 

 

 

Chicken bones are hazardous to health as they tend to break into sharp splinters when eaten, but they can be simmered with vegetables and herbs for hours or even days to make chicken stock.

In Asian countries it is possible to buy bones alone as they are very popular for making chicken soups, which are said to be healthy. In Australia the rib cages and backs of chickens after the other cuts have been removed are frequently sold cheaply in supermarket delicatessen sections as either “chicken frames” or “chicken carcasses” and are purchased for soup or stock purposes.

 

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