Tuesday, 19 February 2013

American food inspirations

To be honest; when I think of the USA the first thing on my mind is not the great food. Well at least no culinary highlights. I think about cheesecakes, muffins, brownies, donuts, chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes (but I do that all the time!) and a lot of fried food. Until I met the American version of me named; SarahKate :). We met her and her husband Andy in Mendoza, Argentina last year. Both of us were travelling around the world for a few months and we accidentally came to sit facing each other during our first real Argentinean BBQ in the hostel we stayed. A few bottles of really cheap wine and a lot of chatting later we decided to rent bicycles together and visit some vineyards a few days later.

In the meanwhile we got to know each other a bit better every day while cooking together in hostel Empedrado (one of the best in Argentina!). That's how we found out we are both really crazy about food.
It was so funny to finally meet someone that has the same big passion about food and cooking. Just a pity that she lives on the other side of the world; after travelling they moved to Sydney :(.

Cooking together with SarahKate in the kitchen of hostel Empedrado

Fortunately we are still in touch and that's one of the things that inspired me to deepen in the North American kitchen. SarahKate opened a supper club in her new apartment in Sydney and has hosted some great dinners. The supper club is called Mi-Casa-Su-Casa and every time I read the stories on her blog about the preparations I get hungry right away! She uses a lot of American inspired recipes, and some traditional family recipes and they sound delicious. The funny thing is that SarahKate writes exactly the same way she talks; that way it seems likes she's not as far as away as she is. And at the end of this year we are going to visit Sydney and hopefully share lots of great meals and wines together again.

Except from SarahKate's stories I also got really enthusiastic by the best Buffalo wings ever that I tasted  at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. Together with a creamy blue cheese dip and crisp celery sticks it was just perfect and made me reconsider my opinion about American food right away.

Delicious Buffalo wings with celery and blue cheese dip @ Anchor Bar

And at last there is the great book and the TV series about Jamie's American road trip. All of those things together made me look differently at the food of the USA and I decided to make a good start immediately by making meatloaf. According to Wikipedia it's a cousin of the Dutch meatball and the more I read about it the more excited I got! And if you think about it, it actually makes sense that this country does has some amazing dishes; they are using the best of all the cultures that are melting together there.

Meatloaf is really easy to make for a big group of people (also well in advance) and once all the ingredients are mixed together you just have to put it in the oven and wait until it's ready. And then the amazing choice in variation; different kinds of ground meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal), different kinds of spices and seasoning, different kind of fillings like vegetables or dried fruit. And depending on the meat and ingredients you use, it doesn't have to be expensive.

I know for sure it's a dish that I'm going to make more often in different flavors. I made my first meatloaf with a combination of two recipes I found in Dutch magazines. I just looked at the quantities
of the different ingredients and put the flavors in it I liked best; finely chopped bell peppers, spring onion and garlic, mustard, ketchup and my 'secret' ingredient smoked paprika. Then wrapped the loaf with Dutch 'katenspek' (first cooked and then smoked bacon) to prevent it for being to dry. Served with some baked potatoes and fresh cooked or steamed vegetables it is the perfect main dish for any day.

I was planning to share the recipe I used here. But although the taste was good it was not as firm as I hoped it would be. That means there is some more testing to do in search of the best meatloaf recipe.
I will post an update, with recipe,  here as soon as I found it.
Here are some photos of the first attempt:

Meatloaf before baking...

... and after baking in the oven.

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