Help me devise an "American" menu!

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Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Barb Downunder » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:42 pm

Hi all would be pleased to have some input here.
Next weekend I will have house guests in the country and having "perfected" a slow smoked BBQ brisket would like to serve this as the star.
currently my mind is blank as to starters sides dessert (ie most of the menu LOL)

Your thoughts would be very welcome.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Ken Schechet » Sat Apr 27, 2013 1:48 am

I think for something like a BBQ brisket most Americans tend to go for sides like potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, corn and other fairly simple things like that. For desert I would serve a fruit pie or cobbler, whatever is in season.

No starters come to mind immediately. I don't think I've ever seen one in a BBQ restaurant. People just get down to business. I'll be curious to see what people recommend. If pushed I would serve a crab cake but don't ask me why.

For drinks I think most Americans would serve beer or iced tea with a meal like that. However, if you want wine I think a good fruity Shiraz or a California Zinfandel would be perfect.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:32 am

Two recipes submitted by Jo Ann Henderson years ago are Corn Bread (scroll down in this thread) and Watermelon Salad. For Dry Rub and BBQ Sauce, Chef Carey's, from the archives, is superb: http://www.wineloverspage.com/user_submitted/recipes/rc_531711.html.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Jenise » Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:29 am

Barbara, is this to be a casual dinner, served family style, or will you break it down into courses? I'll have some reccos for you based on your answer....
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Jenise » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:24 pm

Ken Schechet wrote:I think for something like a BBQ brisket most Americans tend to go for sides like potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, corn and other fairly simple things like that. For desert I would serve a fruit pie or cobbler, whatever is in season.

No starters come to mind immediately. I don't think I've ever seen one in a BBQ restaurant. People just get down to business. I'll be curious to see what people recommend. If pushed I would serve a crab cake but don't ask me why.

For drinks I think most Americans would serve beer or iced tea with a meal like that. However, if you want wine I think a good fruity Shiraz or a California Zinfandel would be perfect.


Ken, what you say is true, but I would counter that most Americans eat what most BBQ restaurants serve, and most BBQ restaurants put all their effort into the meats and virtually none into the sides which are, by and large, woeful. Basically, boring stuff that can be made ahead of time, containerized, and held over for another day, useful for serving large numbers of people who order a variety of different BBQ meats much of which will be eaten out of hand, like ribs or a pulled pork sandwich. Whereas, I'm thinking a single meat like a brisket, especially if this is going to be a knife and fork kind of meal, has so much opportunity for creative side dishes while staying true to a southern theme. I'm thinking of the kind of stuff that Hugh Acheson is doing at his restaurants in Georgia, and Sean Brock at Husk in South Carolina. For a starter, for instance, a healthy green salad with a browned butter vinaigrette (a Hugh Acheson recipe, which I have if anyone wants it) with a few fritters of corn-meal crusted whole okra would be absolutely outstanding. And for sides, how about cheese grits (using coarse yellow polenta), baked beans (here again, Hugh Acheson to the rescue with a lighter southern style concentrated on maple syrup and herbs vs. the heavier Boston style) and fresh cabbage, quick sauteed with onions and garlic until lightly browned here and there? Love that.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Barb Downunder » Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:02 am

Jenise wrote:Barbara, is this to be a casual dinner, served family style, or will you break it down into courses? I'll have some reccos for you based on your answer....


Jenise this will be a dinner with good friends who will be staying the weekend with us. So informal but with a vague 3 course structure is what I have in mind.
I look forward to your suggestions which I know will be outstanding!
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Ken Schechet » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:00 am

Jenise, I totally get what you're saying about BBQ restaurants and their sides, but I would note that this isn't a restaurant we're talking about and it is possible to make absolutely outstanding potato salad at home. Also, the more informal this meal is, the more I like corn with it.

That said, I love your ideas for sides. Who could possibly argue with cheese grits? Now that you've got me thinking I'll throw in a suggestion of fried green tomatoes as a starter along with that salad. I think I'm talking myself into making this meal.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Jenise » Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:43 am

Ken Schechet wrote:Jenise, I totally get what you're saying about BBQ restaurants and their sides, but I would note that this isn't a restaurant we're talking about and it is possible to make absolutely outstanding potato salad at home. Also, the more informal this meal is, the more I like corn with it.

That said, I love your ideas for sides. Who could possibly argue with cheese grits? Now that you've got me thinking I'll throw in a suggestion of fried green tomatoes as a starter along with that salad. I think I'm talking myself into making this meal.


Oh sure, potato salad at home is fantastic, no argument about that. I only meant that I wouldn't consider BBQ restaurant side dishes a standard-setter. Speaking of corn, bought some real pretty yellow corn yesterday. Usually afraid to buy this vegetable so early in the season, but the kernels were a clear pale yellow and juicy when I pricked one, so I took a chance.

Have you ever made a stacked salad with fried green tomatoes? Think BLT--but a salad, so layers of soft lettuces with FGT's, bacon, blue cheese, and topped with a vinaigrette dressing. I would recommend this to Barbara, too!
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Jo Ann Henderson » Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:23 pm

Howie Hart wrote:Two recipes submitted by Jo Ann Henderson years ago are Corn Bread (scroll down in this thread) and Watermelon Salad. For Dry Rub and BBQ Sauce, Chef Carey's, from the archives, is superb: http://www.wineloverspage.com/user_submitted/recipes/rc_531711.html.

You beat me to it, Howie. I almost can't make a Barbeque or mixed grill without one of these two salads. The Italian bread salad, Panzanella, is also a great side for any barbeque. There are lots of good recipes on the web for this. I also serve with Barbeque a Black Bean and Rice Salad found here on Epicurious, which I got out of a Bon Appetit a couple decades ago. I suggest adding more of the various ingredients for the vinaigrette in a mason jar and adding more or less of it on your other ingredients when tossing together the salad. I've found having some extra on hand is a necessary good thing depending on whether you make the salad well ahead of serving, or just prior to serving. One or a combination of these four salads will always make your barbeque look like a catered affair.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Ken Schechet » Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:12 pm

Jenise wrote:

Have you ever made a stacked salad with fried green tomatoes? Think BLT--but a salad, so layers of soft lettuces with FGT's, bacon, blue cheese, and topped with a vinaigrette dressing. I would recommend this to Barbara, too!


I did do something like this once and it was great. There is actually a restaurant here in Palm Beach (McCartys) that makes a starter very similar to this and I go there specifically for it. Barbara, seriously consider this one.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Drew Hall » Wed May 01, 2013 8:04 am

Jenise wrote:
Have you ever made a stacked salad with fried green tomatoes? Think BLT--but a salad, so layers of soft lettuces with FGT's, bacon, blue cheese, and topped with a vinaigrette dressing. I would recommend this to Barbara, too!


Wow, that sounds great Jenise. Do you layer the vinaigrette also and how does the crunch of the FGT's hold up layed like this? I'm assuming that it is an assemble and serve immediately type of salad.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Jenise » Wed May 01, 2013 10:01 am

Ken Schechet wrote:
Jenise wrote:

Have you ever made a stacked salad with fried green tomatoes? Think BLT--but a salad, so layers of soft lettuces with FGT's, bacon, blue cheese, and topped with a vinaigrette dressing. I would recommend this to Barbara, too!


I did do something like this once and it was great. There is actually a restaurant here in Palm Beach (McCartys) that makes a starter very similar to this and I go there specifically for it. Barbara, seriously consider this one.


Would be fab with the browned butter vinaigrette I mentioned. Wonder if one could even get green tomatoes in Oz? Right now is equivalent to our October in the Southern Hemisphere, it might or might not work.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Mark Lipton » Wed May 01, 2013 3:24 pm

Many good suggestions have been made here. So much depends on what's available to you, Barb, since you're close to Winter down in your part of the world. Two other suggestion I'd have are corn fritters (here's a representative recipe) and what our Mississippi-born housekeeper, Mrs. Wiggins, used to call "smothered" greens (mustard, turnip or collard greens braised slowly in white or cider vinegar with sauteed onion and a ham hock)

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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Jenise » Thu May 02, 2013 11:38 am

Here's Hugh Acheson's baked bean recipe, which I reccomend:


•2 cups white navy beans, covered in water and soaked for 24 hours
•1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
•1 tablespoon orange zest, minced
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
•2 tablespoons maple syrup or sorghum
•2 cups chicken stock
•6 slices bacon, cut into 3 inch lengths
•1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher preferred

Preheat oven to 300˚F.

Strain the soaked beans and place them in a large heavy pot. Cover by 2 inches of cold water and bring to a boil, then simmer beans until they are tender. Skim any foam that rises to the top and discard. Drain the tender, cooked beans and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Place the cooked beans and the 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid in a heavy 3 quart baking dish or pot, with a lid. I use a really heavy enameled cast-iron pan.

Add the thyme, orange zest, garlic, dry mustard, maple syrup and chicken stock to the beans. Arrange bacon over the beans; cover with lid and place in oven, bake for 1 hour. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 45 minutes.

Season with salt and serve from the baking dish (careful it's hot).
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Howie Hart » Thu May 02, 2013 12:58 pm

Grandpa Lemay's Baked Beans

Grandpa LeMay was my maternal grandfather - French-Canadian. He actually used to bake these beans in an earthenware pot, overnight, in his coal furnace. This simple recipe makes beans that are absolutely wonderful.

1 lb. dried Pea Beans (or Navy beans)
1 small onion (peeled whole)
1 large piece salt pork (approx. ½ lb.)
1 tbsp. salt
1 cup molasses
½ tsp. baking soda

Soak beans overnight, changing water several times. Add baking soda. Cook on stove top until beans are tender. Drain. Preheat oven to 300deg. Put onion, salt pork, salt, molasses and beans in heavy pot with lid. Add water to cover beans. Bake for 6 - 8 hours with lid on. Remove lid for last hour.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Thu May 02, 2013 7:06 pm

Howie Hart wrote:Add baking soda.

Does this go into the water that you use to simmer the beans? Or during the soaks?

What does it do, anyway?
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Howie Hart » Thu May 02, 2013 8:30 pm

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:
Howie Hart wrote:Add baking soda.

Does this go into the water that you use to simmer the beans? Or during the soaks?

What does it do, anyway?
Into the simmer water. According to my mother, it reduces the gas (farts).
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Paul Winalski » Thu May 02, 2013 9:24 pm

Howie,

Interesting (to me, as an amateur biochemist) that an alkaline environment might remedy the gas problems associated with eating cooked dried beans.

The cause is well known. Dried beans contain several di- and tri-saccharides that the human digestive system is incapable of breaking down and absorbing. So instead these compounds are used as nutrients by intestinal bacteria that decompose them to copious amounts of C02 and methane. Thus the problem that Julia Child called the "root-i-ti-toots".

If you soak the beans for about 24 hours before cooking, they partially germinate and will decompose these complex saccharides into something digestible. And since these sugars are water-soluble, if you discard the soaking water you'll lose the gas-forming agents. Of course, you also lose important B vitamins.

Baking soda will make the cooking liquid alkaline, and that, plus the heat of cooking, may cause the offending polysaccharides to be converted into something digestible, which will eliminate the gas problem.

I do know that my Indian cookbooks caution against adding acidity (such as tamarind or lime) before dal (bean) dishes are fully cooked. So perhaps an alkaline environment during cooking does promote breakdown of these complex saccharides that we humans can't digest.

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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Barb Downunder » Thu May 02, 2013 10:04 pm

Hi everyone
I am grateful to you all for your thoughts..The watermelon salad and something"corny" either corn bread or fritters and the fried green tomato salad stack all appeal to me as well as baked beans .(there are a few green tomatoes lurking in the garden which are not going to come to anything now the cold is starting to set in).

Now I find myself with probably the last of the local asparagus and lovely blood oranges which were for a lunch today which had to be cancelled due to illness. So now I feel i need to incorporate these somehow into the brisket dinner, ho hum. The brisket was a special order from my butcher and I don't like to cancel at the last minute.

So I will still go with the BBQ brisket with something corn. Now an asparagus starter is taking shape in my mind.
I will go with the dessert I had planned for the lunch which is a blood orange crema catalan with toffeed orange slices.

Again thanks for your input and keep the conversation going. Still 24 hours to change my mind!
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby John Treder » Thu May 02, 2013 11:41 pm

Grilled asparagus salad. Piece of cake.
You don't actually have to grill the asparagus. Pan-broil or oven broil will work fine.
I don't use a recipe, I just do it. Been eating "sparrowgrass" since I wasn't old enough to read.
Snap off any tough ends, rinse and blanch the asparagus for a couple of minutes, to make it bright green.
Toss it in a bit of olive oil (I usually add some fresh rosemary or oregano, since all I have to do is walk outside and pick it).
Grill it or pan-broil it or oven broil it (you can use a tinfoil pan for the oven), turning often, until it just begins to brown.
If you like garlic, add some finely minced garlic for the last couple of minutes.
Grind some pepper over it, or toss with your favorite vinaigrette.
For a starter, I'd put in on a leaf of butter lettuce (Boston lettuce) or maybe (going against traditional American) some finely shredded Napa cabbage to give it an Asian twist.
Oven broil is easiest if you're going to be entertaining at the same time. It doesn't need your whole attention.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Mark Lipton » Fri May 03, 2013 12:42 am

Paul Winalski wrote:Howie,

Interesting (to me, as an amateur biochemist) that an alkaline environment might remedy the gas problems associated with eating cooked dried beans.
{...]
Baking soda will make the cooking liquid alkaline, and that, plus the heat of cooking, may cause the offending polysaccharides to be converted into something digestible, which will eliminate the gas problem.


Paul,
Chiming in here as the local organic chemist with a background in carbohydrate chemistry, I can tell you that raffinose (one of those trisaccharides) is has typical glycosidic linkages that are hydrolyzed in acid but not in base. Thus, I'd expect that alkaline conditions wouldn't lead to any breakdown of the indigestible trisaccharides, but rather strongly acidic conditions would.

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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Howie Hart » Fri May 03, 2013 1:39 am

Interesting. I haven't made these in about 2 years, so I will make a batch and split it in half prior to the cooking stage. In one half I'll add the baking soda and not the other and I'll monitor the pH. IIRC, after adding the baking soda and as the beans heat up and start to cook, a foaming takes place. I always attributed this to acid in the beans reacting with the baking soda, releasing CO2.
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Re: Help me devise an "American" menu!

Postby Mark Lipton » Fri May 03, 2013 12:24 pm

Howie Hart wrote:Interesting. I haven't made these in about 2 years, so I will make a batch and split it in half prior to the cooking stage. In one half I'll add the baking soda and not the other and I'll monitor the pH. IIRC, after adding the baking soda and as the beans heat up and start to cook, a foaming takes place. I always attributed this to acid in the beans reacting with the baking soda, releasing CO2.


That would make sense, Howie, but I doubt that it changes the gas-inducing properties.

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