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Try Some of Alton Brown’s ‘Road Inspired’ Goodies

May 14, 2008

By Jean Prescott, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

May 14–Today’s Your Life food story is about Alton Brown’s recollections and recipes collected during last year’s “Feasting on Asphalt” series titled River Run. The trip runs from the mouth of the mighty Mississippi in Plaquemines Parish to its headwaters in Minnesota, and the cyclists (everyone rides BMW motorcycles) keep off interstates.

Brown, host of “Good Eats” and commentator of “Iron Chef America” on the Food Network, sweet talks restaurant owners out of more than one recipe, but some of our favorites are what he has labeled “road inspired” foods. These items — Koolickles from the Mississippi Delta, creamed spinach from Illinois, “loose meat” sandwiches from across the Midwest — are ones he’s conjured recipes for because the sources either wouldn’t give over or couldn’t because they don’t use recipes.

Try one of the following, and also try what Brown and his crew did, even if only in your own neck of the woods. Take a drive, find a “joint” you’ve never visited and stop for a bite, using common sense, of course. It’s a gamble but you could find some of the best food you’ve ever tasted.

And check the schedule below for reruns of The River Run series on the Food Network.

KOOLICKLES

Brown writes, “Make up a jar and keep them on your counter or, better yet, in your fridge. I promise that unless you live in the Delta, you’ll be the first in your neighborhood to serve them. Strange though they are, these bright pink beauties are extraordinarily refreshing on a hot summer day.”

1 gallon jar kosher dill pickles

1 package unsweetened cherry Kool-Aid

1 pound sugar

Drain the liquid from the pickles into a large container. Add the Kool-Aid mix and the sugar to the liquid and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pickles from the jar. Slice them in half lengthwise, and return them to the jar. Return the liquid to the jar of pickles. Not all the liquid will fit, but make sure the pickles are completely covered. Place in the refrigerator.

CREAMED SPINACH

“You should, of course, serve this over yams,” Brown writes, “because ‘I yam what I yam’.” This comment — and recipe — come from the middle Mississippi region, specifically Chester, Ill., home of Popeye.

2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and stemmed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Pour into a fine-mesh strainer and run under cold water to help stop the cooking. Squeeze the spinach until absolutely all of the liquid is gone. Coarsely chop and set aside.

Place the butter in a 12-inch straight-sided saute pan set over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and salt and cook until the onion is translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add the spinach, pepper and nutmeg to the pan and stir just to heat through. Add the cream, stir to combine, and cook until the liquid has reduced and thickened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon zest, and stir to combine. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

LOOSE MEAT SANDWICH

Brown: “This sandwich appears in myriad forms throughout the Midwest, especially in Iowa and Illinois. Part hamburger, part sloppy joe, it defies description but is darned good.” His recipe was inspired by a sandwich he ate at Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop in Quincy, Ill.

1-1/2 pounds ground beef

1 medium onion, very finely minced (this is important. A fine chop won’t do. But don’t be tempted to use a food processor or you’ll end up with a watery mess)

1 tablespoon prepared mustard (the yellow stuff)

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the beef and onion in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the beef is completely cooked through but not browning, 8 to 9 minutes, constantly mashing the beef with a potato masher in order to break it into the smallest possible pieces. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a hand mixer, mix for another 2 to 3 minutes on high. Serve on hamburger buns with ketchup, mustard, cheese and pickles.

Watch a few episodes What: “Feasting on Asphalt — The River Run”

When: 6-10 p.m. Saturday, June 7, episodes as follows:

“A Strong Brown God,” 6 p.m.

“Fry Me a River,” 7 p.m.

“Soul Food Survivor,” 8 p.m.

“Take Me to the River,” 9 p.m.

Where: The Food Network

Etc.: Most of these encore episodes visit the Magnolia State, with more recycled “romance of the road” coming a week later. Go to foodnetwork.com for specifics.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

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