Sunday, January 27, 2013

State-by-State Redux: V of X - The Midwestern States Revisited - I'm Forever Frying Fritters...

In our final foray into the Midwest, I try to wed some of the Midwest's most quintessential foods together: corn, flour, wild rice and frying (it's not just for the South anymore).  I was, at first, at a loss, but Marcia Adams and her Heartland cookbook came to my rescue once more.

Snacking State-by-State Redux V of X: The Midwestern and Prairie States

What are the Midwestern States?: always includes: Missouri, the Great Lakes States (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota) and the Prairie States (Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas); sometimes includes: Oklahoma, West Virginia and (western) Pennsylvania.
Important Cities: Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Des Moines, Detroit, Fargo, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Omaha, Pierre, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Topeka, Tulsa
Regions and Subregions: The Great Lakes; The Prairie States
RAFT Nationsbison (most of North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, northern Missouri, southern Minnestoa, southern Manitoba), chestnut (parts of southern Ohio, West Virginia), corn bread & BBQ (Missouri, Illinois, southern Indiana, parts of southern Ohio & eastern Iowa), maple syrup (Ohio, western Pennsylvania, northern Indiana & West Virginia), pinyon nut (western South Dakota, Nebraska), wild rice (Michigan, southern Ontario, eastern North Dakota, southern Manitoba, northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Illinois & Indiana, parts of northern Ohio & Pennsylvania)
Foods the Region is Best Known For: hearty "heartland" fare; pioneer and Native American dishes; Eastern European, Scandinavian, Southern European, German and Amish fare; sauerkraut; corn, wheat, soy, beef; BBQ (Missouri) & chili (Ohio)

For the Midwest, I wanted to find a recipe that could encompass as much of this vast region as possible.  Midwestern foods that pop in my mind after the last two years of this project include corn, wheat and wild rice.  I found the perfect recipe early on in Heartland: a dessert corn fritter, eaten with powdered sugar and maple syrup (in the Illinois section of her cookbook, page 14).  Her cakey and light "Bishop Hill Corn Fritters" are named for the small utopian community in northwestern Illinois:
The Bishop Hill Colony, a communal Utopian community close to Galesburg, began disintegrating in 1861, when the colonists started dividing up the common property into individual holdings.  The town declined but is now in the process of being restored by its 166 citizens, mostly descendents [sic] of the original settlers. [Adams 1991: 14]
The project continues today.

Of course, I did not follow Adams' recipe to a tee.  I threw in some wild rice just for variety

The Recipe: Bishop Hill (Illinois) Corn Fritters, with Wild Rice

To make these fritters, exact measurements on page 14 of Heartland, assemble these ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand:

* corn (the original recipe does call for canned corn, though frozen or fresh can be substituted.  This organic can from Wegman's was really not too much more expensive than a regular one, so I bought this one instead)
* flour (had it)
* sugar (same)
* baking powder (yup)
* butter (uh huh)
* salt and pepper (that too)
* eggs (same)
* equal amounts of milk (just a quart for about $1ish) and water
* oil (for frying - I used a combination of peanut oil and rice bran oil)
* wild rice (this I had on hand; leave it out if you don't have it.  I added about 1/2 cup)
* maple syrup and powdered sugar (had both)

Boil some wild rice according to package directions.

While that's going, beat some eggs.  That's one of those old-fashioned egg beaters. Bet you haven't seen one of those things in a while, have you?

Add your water, butter and milk...

And stir in the corn.  Make sure you've drained the corn.

Add the dry ingredients and wild rice, and stir enough to moisten.

Heat your oil to deep frying temperature (about 350°F to 375°F) and drop in your fritters in spoonfuls, and fry about two to three minutes a side.

Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve hot with maple syrup.  Reheat in the oven if you need to.  It's just not the same in the microwave.

Adams meant it when she said "delicate and cakelike" [1991: 14].  These things are just absolutely luscious.  Plus, I felt guilty eating them.  Come on: fried fritters doused in powdered sugar and maple syrup?  Who wouldn't feel guilty eating this?

- - - - -

The next region we will visit is the South.  First, we take a detour into African-American cuisine, an integral part of the Southern food landscape, by looking at one historic, home grown recipe from George Washington Carver himself.


Adams, Marcia. Heartland: The Best of the Old and the New from Midwest Kitchens. Clarkson Potter: New York, 1991.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia and from the Food Timeline State Foods webpage.


Baltimore News said...

OK, now I'm really hungry. Anyone else or is it just me. Great story!