Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Everybody's Mama Got a Recipe"

Every Christmas when I'm in Detroit, one of my very best friends in the whole world, insists on buying me the heaviest cookbook she can find. This normally wouldn't be a problem but since the days of "extra heavy" luggage are long gone, it has become one. She (let's call her A.B.) has great taste and style in the food/cooking dept so I'm not really complaining... but, damn!

This year A.B. gifted me with One Big Table, A Portrait of American Cooking by Molly O'Neill. It's one hefty mama consisting of stories and recipes from real people who love their food. Gourmet, it is not and this is what makes it all the more appealing in a world of Top Chef, Iron Chef, Whatever-else Chef. I really love the sense of migration you get from reading the book... how different ethnic groups spread far and wide after entering the U.S. and how they shaped the food culture in the little (and not so little) towns they landed in.

I will be using One Big Table as inspiration for my tasting evening this Friday night. I pulled out a few of my favorites (not an easy task) and will be doing some cooking a la Americana. Here's the menu. North African Lamb from Oxford, Ohio? Yeah, what about it?

SOUP: Garlic Soup for Gringos
(A Basque inspired soup from Dan Ansotegui, Boise, Idaho)

SALAD: Green on Green tossed with my secret dressing

Little Dish #1 Crostini: Molly's Be-Still-My-Heart Chopped Chicken Liver (Sally Hechinger's Grandmother, Molly's Recipe, Montclair, New Jersey)

Little Dish #2 Bernadette's Cheesy Endive Gratin with mashed potatoes (Los Angeles, California)

Little Dish #3 Chicken Fried Steak and Cream Gravy
(Hoover Night Hawk, Austin, Texas)

Little Dish #4 North African Slow Roasted Lamb from Oxford, Ohio

SWEET: Four-Berry Cobbler with homemade biscuit topping
(Dean McCord, Raleigh, North Carolina)

The Chicken Fried Steak recipe from a Mr. Hoover Alexander himself, looks real good too. If you click on the photo, it should get big enough to read. In there you'll find that the southern favorite may just have been influenced by the Wiener Schnitzel. Duh!? Hopefully the print is clear enough for you to read the entire recipe and try yourself. Now if the Germans would only start smothering their schnitzel with gravy, we'd be getting somewhere.