This is the right season for comforting pot pies, like this lamb one that I serve with “bashed neeps” (my Irish pal Majella’s short-ism for turnips.) Combining lamb with potato and curry is an awesome flavor combination–with the turnips to go along on the side. (I sometimes mince a little preserved lemon as a pickle-y condiment to spoon on, too.)
Ask about the origins of this belly-filling, budget-stretching American favorite and you’ll get different answers. Some point to Cincinnati’s habit of eating chili with spaghetti. But there, the chili is spiced with chocolate & cinnamon, and those are spaghetti noodles. In other parts of the Midwest, Chili Mac lovers expect to find elbow macaroni in the dish—plus chili made with plenty of cumin, chili powder and green peppers. This version from Chicago’s Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap (the comfortable Levy restaurant & bar that replaced the Blackhawk Lodge) has all of that, plus some nice tweaks. It’s really two recipes—one for a mildly spiced chili that uses tangy green tomatillos instead of tomatoes, and one for a classic creamy macaroni & cheese. The two recipes taste good on their own, but together? Bliss. Note: Earlier versions of the chili mac at Jake Melnick’s included crushed Chili-Fritos. For that version, just mix in 1 1/2 cups of crushed Chili-Fritos when you combine the macaroni and chili, before baking. Or, include crushed Fritos as one of your toppers, along with sour cream, green onions, sliced radishes, avocado, and fresh cilantro leaves.
For the love of the Scots! So a little history…Go to the website for British gourmet food retailer Fortnum & Mason and you’ll find the claim that the classic Scotch egg was invented by Fortnum’s in 1738. Others say origins go back to farther to a Moghul, egg-stuffed, kofta-ball snack, but the basic gist is the same: Take a boiled egg, wrap it in seasoned sausage and breadcrumbs, fry it ’til crisped, and you’ve got a hearty, portable lunch. There are plenty of variations on the theme, from a black pudding version, to scrumpy (with apples, onion and sage) to Fortnum’s hammy pinkish version.
Of the batches we tried making, our favorite filling was this nearly addictive mix of hot and mild pork sausage, finely chopped onion, chive, sage and lemon thyme and a few squirts of Colman’s Original (spicy!) English Prepared Mustard. It’s a slippery business to get the right amount of sausage wrapped around the egg (no wonder they also call these “egg devils!”) Chilling the sausage first, helps. For good crunch on the outside? Use crispy panko crumbs, mixed with a little salt, freshly ground pepper and more lemon thyme and chive. Be sure to double-dip: roll the sausage wrapped egg in flour, then eggwash, then panko, and then do it a second time (flour/egg-wash/panko) before deep frying. These may be served cold in Scotland, but we think they taste much better fresh out of the fryer. Try them with Thai sweet chili sauce, cilantro and a little wild mesclun mix.
Born and schooled in Texas, I ate traditional Frito-Chili Pie with the best of them (aka bag-o-corn-chips with chili ladled in.) But by comparison? This Frito-Chili Pie kicks butt! It’s a real pie, for one thing–with an easy, press-it-in-the-tin piecrust that includes corn-chips and cheese. And even though the chili has some beans in it (anathema to Texans) it’s also got a pile of fresh peppers, melted cheddar, sour cream and fresh snipped oregano. I’m including this vintage-made-better recipe as an example of 120-more that pastry-chef and Hoosier Mama Pie Company owner Paula Haney has included in her “Hoosier Mama Book of Pie“.
Haney founded Hoosier Mama in 2009 with a teeny storefront shop in my old-home neighborhood, Ukrainian Village. Before that, she was head pastry chef at several Chicago-area high-end restaurants, including Trio, where she made desserts to match Grant Achatz inventive dishes. The savory recipes in the book, like this chili pie developed by Haney’s Hoosier Mama cohort Allison Scott, are as good as the sweet ones. And the techniques Haney gives for making cloud-like cream pies (using chef-quality sheets of gelatin) eclipse home-cook standard methods. But the chapter I hold most dear is dedicated to “Desperation Pies” born of Midwestern ingenuity: Old-fashioned pies that take simplest-staples from bare winter larders (vinegar, milk, sugar, oatmeal) and transform them into Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie, Vinegar Chess Pie, Oatmeal Pie, & Buttermilk Pie. Go buy the book!
The Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a chocolate-lovers dream: Boston-based chocolatier Walter M. Lowney brought the first American chocolate bars. America’s oldest chocolate maker, Walter Baker & Company, handed out samples and showed visitors how chocolate was made. And the Palmer House introduced the first chocolate brownie, because Bertha Palmer wanted a portable dessert that ladies could have in boxed lunches at the fair.
Unlike other brownie recipes which started appearing in 1904 and specified that butter and sugar were first creamed before being combined with a small amount of melted chocolate, the Palmer House brownie is made with more than a pound of melted chocolate and a pound of melted butter. The finished brownie is also glazed with apricot jelly. A combination of chocolate fudge and brownie, crispy-chewy on the edges, ultra dense and chocolatey, we think it’s best served frozen, or very cold…otherwise, gooey things happen. (Not sure how this worked in a boxed lunch…) Chef Stephen Henry says for cleanest slices, freeze the brownies for three hours after glazing. Then cut, and serve while very firm and cold. For more story on Bertha Palmer and the Palmer House Hilton history, see our Palmer House Hilton Prosciutto-Wrapped Filet story.
I’ve been asked repeatedly to find burnt sugar cake recipes. One very old one from Texas comes to mind, as do several others from community cookbooks. The history of the cake is a bit vague, although the 2004-published Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook suggests that the cake, like much other culinary deliciousness, was the product of an accident: “Burnt sugar, an accident in the maple sugaring process–usually caused by an inattentive maker–was put to use in flavoring cakes.” But this bundt from Baked of Brooklyn is an interesting re-think on the theme, contemporized with coconut milk and rum in the mix, plus pretty sugar shards on top.
There’s also the bundt-ability of it. Bundt cakes, it seems, vaulted to stardom in the ’60s, years after the bundt pan was invented. According to Jean Anderson, writing in her “American Century Cookbook,” a group of Minneapolis ladies asked Nordic Ware owner H. David Dalquist to make an aluminum version of European cast-iron kugelhupf pan in 1950. He obliged, but it wasn’t until Good Housekeeping Cookbook ran a picture of a pound-cake bundt 10 years later that the pan–and the cake–took off. And so, without further ado, here’s Baked’s Burnt Sugar Bundt recipe
Kirby Metoxen, tourism coordinator for the Oneida Nation in Oneida, WI, spends a lot of time talking about Oneida white corn. One of the three sisters, corn figures prominently in the Oneida creation story, as well as the nation’s history.
Jeff Metoxen, director of the Tsyunkehkwa (joon-hey-qwa) agricultural site where the corn is grown, harvested and dried on the Oneida reservation near Green Bay, WI, says the heirloom variety–sometimes called “110-Day Corn”– is planted each year, producing 8 to 10,000 pounds of corn for the community every season.
Everything about this corn is a labor of love: Each corn plant produces only one cob. Because the corn has such a high moisture content, it has traditionally been harvested by hand and then braided into bundles for drying.
Processing the corn is equally labor intensive. First, the dried corn is boiled with hardwood ash, or, baking soda to remove the hulls, and then rinsed and dehydrated to make it shelf stable, or, is boiled again until tender and sold refrigerated in fresh-packs. Betters says most of the community still uses the corn in traditional non-spicy recipes. But she herself uses the corn inposole and to make tamales and says, “more people are broadening their perspective on what you can put Oneida corn in.”
Chili, for example! With a more pronounced roasty-corn flavor than hominy , Oneida white corn is really nice mix-in to my favorite Midwestern-style chili made with a rich meaty-bone stock, ground beef, onion, chili peppers, cumin and chili powder. You can buy the corn fresh from the Oneida Market next time you’re in Green Bay, or, they will ship it to you dehydrated. In a pinch, you can also make this chili substituting hominy for the Oneida white corn.
People have been creating rich, brothy soups with the remains of their holiday turkeys as long as thrift has thrived in America. Turkey soups are more flavorful than more-familiar chicken versions. Since a lot of us don’t have moms and grandmoms nearby to remind of the best proportions of ingredients, here’s the basic recipe. Bonus? More Thanksgiving-leftover ideas for turkey and cranberries: Cranberry Bars, Turkey Tetrazzini, and Turkey Pie with Cheesy Potato Crust
What to do with leftover fresh cranberries? These moist cranberry bars! From the Oleson-family-owned O&H Danish Bakery, just north of Chicago in Racine, WI, these bars are easy-good. Third-generation baker Eric Oleson was happy to share the recipe which he says has been passed down in his family for close to 100 years. The slices put two good things together: the Danish penchant for butter, with Wisconsin’s bounty of fresh cranberries. The bars only appear at O&H during the Holiday season. “It’s kind of a traditional thing,” says Oleson, who likes to serve these very-moist bars chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.
We’re not sure if she had a thing for poultry & mushrooms in white sauce, but Italian coloratura soprano Luisa Tetrazzini was the namesake for this comforting dish. The darling of San Francisco Opera audiences from 1905 through the 1920s, Luisa did love to eat. She was also charmingly unapologetic about her resulting stout figure later in life, saying, “I am old. I am fat. But I am still Tetrazzini.” Long before her namesake dish was relegated to cafeteria steam-table-dom, elegant versions of the dish made it famous. (At least two hotels–the Knickerbocker in NYC and the Palace Hotel in San Francisco lay claim to having originated it.) Our home-cook-friendly version is rich, but cheese-less, letting the fresh mushrooms, tender turkey and sweet peppers speak for themselves.