"Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

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"Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Jenise » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:48 pm

A friend wants to do a themed wine dinner as above. The wine is merlot. There will be three courses for three four-bottle-each flites (or should it be 'flights'?). There will be 12 guests, one of whom doesn't eat red meat unless it's bacon or proscuitto. She can do one substitution for him, but it would be inconvenient if it had to be done for more than one course.

My experience in Midwestern dining, other than the home cooking of people originally from that area which is now as bastardized as everyone else's, is best defined by the week I spent in Kansas City two years ago. The food was impressive, and of course BBQ was king so I suggested a smoked turkey hash (with bacon) topped with a fried quail egg. Dorothy Lynch salad dressing also came to mind as did 'homey', simplistic vegetable combinations like peas and carrots. I wonder if wild rice would be considered midwestern?

What things come to mind when you think midwestern? Need ideas!
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Dale Williams » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:25 pm

Well, there could be local specialties like KC or St Louis barbecue, Cincinnati chili (with spaghetti), sausage and kraut for Milwaukee

But first things I thought of- though not limited to Midwest- is classic American comfort food-pot roast, chicken and dumplings/chicken pot pie, fried fish, stuffed cabbage, etc and sides like cole slaw or potato salad.

I have a friend who was Miss Jr. Iowa several decades ago- she defines Iowa cuisine (of that period) as anything with Jello. :)
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Dale Williams » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:27 pm

and obviously corn (on cob, creamed, etc)
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Redwinger » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:31 pm

Jello salad. :evil:

Having spent time in MN and Iowa, wild rice would qualify IMO.

Again, upper Midwest, walleye would definitely fill the bill, but availability might be an issue out your way.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Jenise » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:25 pm

Dale Williams wrote:But first things I thought of- though not limited to Midwest- is classic American comfort food-pot roast, chicken and dumplings/chicken pot pie, fried fish, stuffed cabbage, etc and sides like cole slaw or potato salad.
I have a friend who was Miss Jr. Iowa several decades ago- she defines Iowa cuisine (of that period) as anything with Jello. :)


The one guest's diet preferences aside, I tend to think beef should be there somewhere. But I hadn't even thought of pot roast. I like that! (I'll be helping with the meal.) Stuffed cabbage is another interesting idea for beef or pork. Chicken pot pie was on my friend's mind, but we didn't know if it would be considered midwestern or not.

Anything with jello? That's hilarious! And it won't be on our menu!
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Carl Eppig » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:51 pm

Sour Cream and Raisin Pie.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Redwinger » Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:47 pm

If you're going to do a true traditional Midwest pot roast be sure to cook it until the smoke detectors start beeping.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Mark Lipton » Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:50 pm

'Round these parts of the Midwest, it'd have to be pork (tender)loin, prepared in various ways. Pork tenderloin sandwiches for lunch, breaded pork tenderloin for dinner... Walleye in the Upper Midwest, pot roast in the Plains states.

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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Karen/NoCA » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:12 pm

Here is a chicken pot pie I have made that is really easy and a nice comfort food using puff pastry. I used thighs and really fresh veggies. I love the young, long, slender carrots you can get this time of year for this dish.

http://www.midwestliving.com/recipe/chicken/chicken-pot-pie
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:38 pm

Given that my mid-western relatives were from Ohio farm country, I'd also tend to look towards pot roasts, hams, maybe roast beef. Of course, you'd also need to update the relish trays, the plates of white sandwich bread, and the desserts.

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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby GeoCWeyer » Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:35 am

Redwinger wrote:Jello salad. :evil:

Having spent time in MN and Iowa, wild rice would qualify IMO.

Again, upper Midwest, walleye would definitely fill the bill, but availability might be an issue out your way.



Only real "wild" wild rice please, don't use that paddy grown black stuff! Walleye would be great for the MN WI midwesterners. Bullheads would be more typical of those from Baja Minnesota (Iowa). Of course, the green bean "hot dish" should be included. For dessert, a bundt cake would be perfect. The Scandia Company of Minnesota were the inventors of the bundt pan.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Joy Lindholm » Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:31 pm

Jenise wrote:What things come to mind when you think midwestern? Need ideas!


Ummm, a big 'ol steak! :wink:

The term "midwestern" is a very broad one, and tough to narrow down to just one meal. Traditional midwestern food varies a lot depending on which part you are referring to, and also is heavily influenced by the original immigrant cuisines of the folks who originally settled the area (in NE we have a lot of Irish, German and Scandinavian influence, and MN is a prime example of Swedish/Norwegian territory). Whereas fish may be more of a staple to cuisine of the upper midwest/great lakes region, people in NE and IA (and MO for that matter) eat a lot of pork and beef and corn.

Working at a high end "New American" restaurant can prove a challenge sometimes, as a lot of people here expect a big "meat and potatoes" meal.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Karen/NoCA » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:44 pm

Only real "wild" wild rice please, don't use that paddy grown black stuff! Walleye would be great for the MN WI midwesterners. Bullheads would be more typical of those from Baja Minnesota (Iowa). Of course, the green bean "hot dish" should be included. For dessert, a bundt cake would be perfect. The Scandia Company of Minnesota were the inventors of the bundt pan.

So, what is "real wild rice"? I buy wild rice and it is black, am I buying the wrong stuff?
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Redwinger » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:42 am

Karen/NoCA wrote:So, what is "real wild rice"? I buy wild rice and it is black, am I buying the wrong stuff?

Karen-
"Real" wild rice is just that...wild. It is not cultivated in paddies, but harvested naturally from lakes and rives where it indeed grows wild. The rice you buy in the grocery in Calif. is most likely the cultivated variety.
http://www.mooselakewildrice.com/aboutwildrice.html
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Sam Platt » Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:04 am

Pork, corn, potatoes and pie are really the quintessential midwestern "supper" ingredients.

Roast pork loin with a light mustard sauce, corn casserole, american yukon potato salad, and a pumpkin mascarpone pie would be the dream updated midwestern supper menu.

Rice is for them high class city types.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby GeoCWeyer » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:18 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:
Only real "wild" wild rice please, don't use that paddy grown black stuff! Walleye would be great for the MN WI midwesterners. Bullheads would be more typical of those from Baja Minnesota (Iowa). Of course, the green bean "hot dish" should be included. For dessert, a bundt cake would be perfect. The Scandia Company of Minnesota were the inventors of the bundt pan.

So, what is "real wild rice"? I buy wild rice and it is black, am I buying the wrong stuff?



Real wild rice will be from MN or WI it will be long grained and greyish in color. It cooks in about 15 minutes. Look on line and you will find it. One brand I purchase is from "Hand Harvested Wild Rice Company" at the St Paul Farmers Market. WWW.handharvestedwildrice.com 1-866-723-9424 This is truly wild stuff. It is from the lakes and streams in the Chippewa Natl forest, harvested by hand and parched over a wood fire.

The stuff you are buying is commercially grown paddy rice. It was developed in the late 1960's early 70's in northern MN. I worked with one of the developers. It has to have a much harder "shell" so it won't shatter when harvested by machine. That is why it takes 55 minutes to cook. It also doesn't have the flavor of the wood parched stuff.

I wrote an article for the "Cooking Wild" magazine on the topic last year after reading on this board people's discussion concerning pressure cooking wild rice. You would never want to do that with the real stuff.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Jenise » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:30 pm

Need to tell you all how the meal turned out. I shared all of your ideas with my friend, the hostess, and then left on a four day trip to her house via Oregon and the California coast. During that time, she decided what the final dishes would be. Her decisions are largely influenced by her notion of what's appealing (she's very Asian, and they NEVER eat out) coupled with the extreme logistic issues of her kitchen which is just about the worst I've ever cooked in. For one, it's small with very little counter space and really terrible appliances. Circa 1980, some of the electric stove's burners barely work, and the oven is so small that a standard cookie sheet doesn't fit in it. She'd kill to replace both but her frugal partner won't allow it. And secondly, my friend is a bit of a hoarder so every free inch that does exist is already spoken for with stuff that never gets weeded out. That applies to the contents of the fridge and the freezer too, so once food is prepped or made up there isn't a place for it to go back to until it's time for the final baking/grilling/what have you. One has to storage, food safety, and the physical limits of what two cooks can do in an inadequate kitchen in the hours just before guests arrive, which adds layers of difficulty to what is already a complex meal: appetizers, dessert, and three sit-down courses.

By the time I showed up, in honor of Oscars weekend she had decided on two Wolfgang Puck recipes, one for short ribs and one for chicken pot pie, some apple dumplings from the country magazine of America's Test Kitchen, and a salad that I had suggested.

In fact, while I was travelling she'd made the short ribs, with so-so results. That is, she'd bought a combination of standard bone-in short ribs supplemented with "boneless short ribs" and discovered, in cooking both, the awful truth that boneless so-called short ribs are not the same supple meat by a long shot. They would not be good enough to serve, and we didn't have enough of the other nor time to cook more, and the sauce was not at all bad tasting but at the same time just a foundation, nothing refined enough to serve. My job was to save it. So I cut all the short rib meat away from the bone and thick membrane which made enough for 12 small portions that we could roast in the toaster oven for service, strained the solids out of the broth, reduced it, and combined it with some reduced syrah and instant coffee to make a "coffee gravy", as we called it. I made some wild rice cakes to serve this on and blanched and roasted some broccolini "because a midwestern meal is incomplete without a long-cooked vegetable) for a garnish. Good dish, good save. (The boneless short ribs got shredded and combined with roasted pasilla chiles for a fantastic huevos rancheros breakfast a day later.)

The Wolfgang Puck chicken pie, which we made into 12 small pies in ramekins, was outstanding. We followed the recipe pretty exactly but used fresh shitake mushrooms instead of crimini or white (I was wary about extra liquids from the latter) and jazzed the sauce up with a lot of fresh tarragon. The crusts on a few got too dark, but that's because the oven was too small to bake 12 small ramekins in one layer, so some were just too close to the top element for too long. If there had been leftovers, one of these is what I'd have wanted for breakfast the next morning.

The apple dumplings, in which apples peeled and halved horizontally are stuffed with butter, sugar and raisins and wrapped in dough were also outstanding. Each made a great small individual pie and were well-matched with the two vintages of Sauternes my friends served.

The salad course I blew, big time. I had thought we were going to pair that with a smoked turkey hash, (John was going to smoke the turkey breast before we arrived) but that didn't happen, so I suggested we add bacon to the salad to represent the smoked meat and pork elements, and pair the salad with souffle-like johnny cakes baked in a muffin tin. But we got behind with the other stuff and I didn't read the recipe I found that morning (in Saveur magazine) carefully enough, as about 15 minutes before the first guest was going to ring the doorbell I discovered 1) that it called for 15 minutes of aeration-purposed beating with a stand mixer and 2) Annabelle doesn't even own a mechanical mixer. (She'd like one, but has no room for it.) We just had to let that go and serve the salad alone and looking rather stranded on the plate.

Also, she hadn't planned any appetizers, just said "you'll think of something". So I made a duxelle out of the crimini mushrooms that didn't go into the chicken pies and mixed it with grated Jarlsberg cheese, and separately made a remoulade out of frozen langoustines and my friend's homemade pickled horseradish. Those went on toasted squares of white bread--a fond jab at the piles of white sandwich bread that were once a mainstay of a typical midwestern dinner.

Anyway, so there you have the meal. Thanks everybody for your input!
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:00 pm

Nerve-wracking, but it sounds like you saved the day.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Jenise » Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:17 pm

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Nerve-wracking, but it sounds like you saved the day.


Not at all, just the beef dish as Annabelle is a pretty strict recipe follower and doesn't do sauces and has no hip-pocket references outside of Chinese cooking. Her adroit choices of the chicken pie and apple dumpling recipes was what really made the meal.
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby Drew Hall » Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:57 am

Redwinger wrote:
Karen/NoCA wrote:So, what is "real wild rice"? I buy wild rice and it is black, am I buying the wrong stuff?

Karen-
"Real" wild rice is just that...wild. It is not cultivated in paddies, but harvested naturally from lakes and rives where it indeed grows wild. The rice you buy in the grocery in Calif. is most likely the cultivated variety.
http://www.mooselakewildrice.com/aboutwildrice.html


Thanks for the link, Winger, I almost ordered 5 lbs of the rice but am agonizing over the $13 shipping fee :roll:
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Re: "Updated midwestern classics": what does that conjure up?

Postby GeoCWeyer » Sun Mar 03, 2013 1:38 pm

Karen: I will be interested in your opinion of the "really wild" wild rice.
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