Archives for the month of: February, 2016

Boiled_Peanut_headerToday I decided to finally (after about 7 months of waiting) boil a bag of raw peanuts I bought while visiting family in Southern Georgia last summer.  I currently live in Muncie, Indiana and nothing really comes close to quenching my thirst for these little tasty morsels. These ever so slightly salty hot pockets, when popped with your thumbs and forefingers at the seam, reveal two or three (four if you’re lucky) perfectly aligned and tightly nestled burgundy beans. Non-Southerners halt!  You do not dive in to pluck them with your fingers from their soggy shells. Rather, lift up the bean-filled half-shell to your mouth and bite them out. If you have a straggler, use your empty shell half to scoop it out into your mouth. Most often you’ll find these on the side of the road or at a baseball game, so toss your empty shells into the gaps of the metal bleachers below or out your window.  My tactic is to toss my empty shells back into the group so that finding an uneaten one increasingly becomes more like a scavenger hunt. Lick your fingers and reach back again into the warm damp brown bag for another.

Midwesterners and New Englanders who currently surround me do not know what they are missing. I once found these on a menu at a hipster pizza joint in Louisville and ordered for the table – me, a Cape Codder, and two Californians.

“What does it taste like?”

Me: “A boiled peanut. Kind of like Southern edamame.”

“Ah, I love edamame.”

They all tried them and politely never finished excavating their sample, forcing me to intake about 100 salty peanuts by myself. I mean, when it comes to boiled peanuts, there is a “me” in team. I actually think that boiled peanuts are even tastier (and way unhealthier) than edamame. They’re the Pringles of earthen snacks.

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Looking for a place to buy boiled peanuts while in the South? This photo from the AdventuresseTravels Blog about sums it up (short of heading to the snack stand at your local Little League baseball game).

And, since it’s Black History Month, boiled peanuts are a way to learn more about the transnational backstories of America’s food culture. As summed up here at the National Peanut Board, boiled peanuts first came to America via enslaved Africans who also brought the practice to South America and the Caribbean. Wikipedia offers some quick insight into their continued popularity throughout Asia – especially Taiwan – as street snacks.

So last night I finally decided to boil up a batch of peanuts.  Having never done this myself, I consulted Alton Brown’s recipe. About an hour and a half into their 4-hour boil, I smelled home: It was the scent of convincing my parents to give me $4 so I could pass the time while watching my sister strike out the batters in another slow-pitch softball game. Delish.

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How should a boiled peanut look?  Like this fantastic photo by Katie Taylor at Blogher. Whole boiled peanuts on the left, separated peanut pockets showing their wine/burgundy color on the right. Check out her recipe (and walk down Southern Georgia memory lane) here.

Alton Brown’s recipe is really easy and adaptable:

  1. Rinse and soak the peanut shells in water for 30 minutes (they float so try and weigh them down so you can get the most amount of dirt off them)
  2. Rinse again after soaking and toss into a pot
  3. Generously cover with water (think 1 part peanuts, 1.5 parts water? Or enough water that you’ll be able to boil them for 4 hours and they won’t burn to the bottom)
  4. Add salt (I’d begin with at least 1/3 cup of salt and about 2-3 hours in, pop one open and taste to see if you need more salt. Feel free to keep tasting every 45 minutes to determine your preferred texture.)
  5. Boil for 1-5 hours depending on their freshness. Don’t run out of water and burn your nuts.

This food is very forgiving. I can’t honestly recall having had peanuts boiled too long, or peanuts that were too salty. [The worst boiled peanuts I can recall tasted as if they had been cooked the day prior and reboiled. And I probably still ate those. I wouldn’t suggest buying them at the store in cans or from the frozen aisle.]

You can add other flavors to the pot too, like bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, Maggie’s, spice it up Sichuan style, or keep it simple with sea salt. On a low-salt diet?  Try it without – the salt doesn’t impact the texture.

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In the words of one 90’s hit band, spice up your life – and your boiled peanuts. Try this blend of Chinese-Style boiled peanuts at the Umami Holiday blog (their photo).

Three cultural fusion boiled peanut recipes I’m looking forward to trying are Boiled Peanut Hummus by Slim Pickin’s Kitchen,  Chinese-Style Boiled Peanuts by Umami Holiday, or Pat’s Spicy Garlic Hawaiian Boiled Peanuts. Share your boiled peanut memories and recipes with me!

I love coffee.  I drink it everyday – all day.  I like to dip my doughnuts in it.  I like to sip it in small glasses from hipster coffee shops.  I like it from Italian highway rest areas.  I like coffee.

It is sometimes difficult to communicate to other people what type of coffee you would like.  For example, I like to order a doppio with a splash of hot milk.  This is not a latte.  This is not a macchiato (in America).  This is a cortado in a to-go cup.  But if espresso isn’t an option, how much milk do I ask for?  Well how strong is your coffee?

Wired has suggested that I “taste coffee like a pro” by using this detailed flavor wheel produced by Specialty Coffee Association of America.

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However, I can honestly say I’ve never tasted the sour tobacco cereal undertones of my morning cup of joe.  I’m not sure if my taste buds are ready for that jump.

While I’ll definitely look to the flavor wheel when deciding my dinner options, my idea of a good cup of coffee is much simpler and almost never strays from country to country.  My perfect cup is Muhammad Ali holding a mug of hot lava.  It is the perfect complement to a doughnut, jammed biscuit, morning writing assignment, or a good book on the front porch.  (Clearly my Keurig is dysfunctional.)

coffee scale art

 

Where’s your perfect cup on my “Coffee Simplified” map?

Hannah Gregg at Buzzfeed has created a beautiful map and list of state-themed cocktails for when you’re doing some cross-country driving or listening to the vote count on election night.

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Keep in mind, these drinks are not the go-to for locals.  For example, no one in Indiana is drinking “The Refined Janet Guthrie (Sweet Tea Vodka, Refined Mixers margarita mix)” which, in honor of the Indy 500, was created to commemorate the first woman that qualified and drove in the race.  Get the recipe here.  In fact, although the Indy 500 is celebrated as a national holiday along with July 4th, no one here is celebrating the women’s history behind the Indy 500.  It would be magical, but it ain’t happen’.  Also, that cocktail’s delightful combination of Margarita mix and sweet tea vodka sounds disgusting.

Grub Street also mapped out historic prohibition-era-style cocktails for all 50 states and came up with the “North Shore Flower” for Indiana:

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North Shore Flower

Tavern on South, Indianapolis

The key here is tracking down the specific gin, which is made in Illinois, about an hour north of Chicago: In a shaker, combine 2 ounces North Shore Gin Number 6, 1 1/4 ounce Chase elderflower liqueur, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce gum syrup (the bar uses Wilks & Wilson). Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

 

 

 

The cocktail sounds delicious but the gin is from Illinois.  Although Indiana’s northern border does make up the south shore of Lake Michigan, this geography does not represent the whole state.  And, let’s be honest, I live in Indiana and it is like pulling teeth to find a good cocktail outside of Indianapolis.  The poison of choice?  Beer.  More specifically, $3 pitchers of PBR or a proper Indiana-made beer.

Inspired by Bon Appetit’s recent Donald Trump-looking drink – The Combover – I tasked myself with creating an Indiana micro-cultural cocktail that would try to best represent the Muncie, Indiana quilt: histories of Native American land dispossession and white cultural appropriation of Indian heritage, rampant post-industrialism in the Rust Belt, corn and big ag, churches, gun culture and hunting, racism and the KKK, the nation’s hometown of meth production, Middletown and Muncie’s history as the typical American suburban city, and white people with largely German ethnic roots.  What a fun challenge.

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This is actually a photo of a Breaking Bad-themed cocktail, but you get the idea!

I call it, the Funcie Munsee

  • 2 oz of Indiana (corn) Vodka from Heartland Distillers
  • 2 oz of any cheap beer on tap
  • 1 fizzed egg white (delicious and makes your drink white – think of it as a country farm-to-table style additive)
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (make your own or try one from local Wilks & Wilson)
  • stir with 1 blue rock candy swizzle stick
  • drink over ice from a Ball jar (old money from the Ball brothers that started Ball State with money from glass and glass jar manufacturing – jobs are all gone)

I haven’t tried this so if it tastes bad, shoot and chase with more cheap beer.

Stir, sip, and repeat unless it’s on a Sunday and then you should be in church.