I love everything about living in the Midwest. Yes, even the snow. I find the change of seasons invigorating. There is the beauty of snow in winter, planting a garden in the spring, harvesting and preserving in the heat of summer, and awaiting the first fall colors, which are all energizing to the soul. But many have the misconception about the food of America’s heartland; that it consists mainly of meat-and-potatoes. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I still love my mother’s meat loaf. But Stephen Langlois, author of the 1990 cookbook, Prairie: Cuisine From The Heartland, will convince you that midwesterners do not actually subsist on deep-dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches. He takes the bounty of Midwestern foods to new heights.
The first chapter is breakfast dishes with everything from Baked Apple Pancake, Old-Fashioned Corned Beef Hash, Yeast Waffles with Stewed Blueberries, to my favorite, a Prairie-Style Eggs Benedict with Cheddar Cheese Hollandaise. I am a sucker for any kind of Eggs Benedict. I am also a fan of homemade yeast breads and he doesn’t disappoint. Since I have so many chives in my garden, I also look for ways to use them. The Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese and Chive Drop Biscuits fit the bill. The Buckwheat Honey Bread was a recipe from a woman Chef Langlois met at the Iowa State Fair. How about some Cider-Squash Bread served with apple butter?
Besides being an Eggs Benedict fanatic, I am also a potato salad junkie (which will be a whole future blog in itself!). I am always in search of the next, great potato salad. The Amish Potato Salad was found by Chef Langlois in a rural Indiana cafe, made by an Amish woman who lived down the road. Basically, it’s a chunky, basic potato salad tossed in a light mustard dressing infused with bacon and celery seed.
I could go on forever talking about the recipes in this cookbook, and I only covered a couple chapters. Believe me, there is so much more. And just in case you skeptics out there still think of Midwestern cuisine as just meat, potatoes, and corn, get a load of the following dinner menu for a cold, wintry night:
Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese and Chive Drop Biscuits
Corn Chowder with Fresh Herbs and Country-Smoked Ham
Grilled Duck Breast Salad with Honey-Thyme Vinegar and Pickled Cranberries
Prairie Buffalo Burgoo, Rabbit Sausage, and Root-Vegetable Relish Mix
Broccoli Fritters with Cheddar Hollandaise
Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake with Marshmallow-Mint Whipped Cream
Frank Lloyd Wright would have been proud..