Thursday, September 30, 2010

From Soup to Nuts

I grew up in Pennsylvania and one of the things I miss is Scrapple . . . a breakfast . . . uh . . . meat . . . yeah, meat that is made with  . . . er . . . dare I say, scraps of pork (snouts, ears and the like) mixed with corn meal formed into a loaf.  It is traditionally browned in butter and served with eggs and sometimes with syrup on the side.  It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch thing . . . it sounds yucky but it is SO good. 

Now, my husband is a Jersey boy.  When we were dating he introduced me to Pork Roll, which I’d never heard of before.  It is a very Jersey thing.  Also, considered a breakfast meat it is served with eggs or on an egg and cheese sandwich or even on a cheeseburger.  Pork roll is a type of sausage-like meat product commonly available in and around New Jersey and Philadelphia and often called Taylor Ham.   However, according to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 pork roll does not meet the legal definition of "ham".

These regional  . . . meats . . . that we like to pig out on . . . on occasion . . . got me thinkin’ . . . what other locally unique pork-dilly-icious culinary oinkers are being served up throughout the US?

Jambalaya is a very Louisiana soup style dish which similar to the saffron colored paella found in Spanish culture. There are two primary methods of making jambalaya – Creole and Cajun.  The primary differentiator is the exclusion of tomato in the Cajun version.  Jambalaya is a combination of meat (pork, chicken or sausage), vegetables and seafood. 
Lastly, the mixture is brought to a boil and rice is added to the pot. It is then covered and left to simmer over very low heat for at least 1/2 hour without stirring. The dish is finished when the rice has cooked.

Boudin is another porkish food common to Louisiana.  There are different variations but you will normally find boudin blanc which is a white sausage made of pork without the blood. Pork liver and heart meat are typically included. In Cajun versions, the sausage is made from a pork rice dressing, (much like dirty rice) which is stuffed into pork casings. The Louisiana version is normally simmered or braised, although coating with oil and slow grilling for tailgating is becoming a popular option in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  Now THAT sounds downright yummy!

Apparently Spam is very popular in Hawaii . . . who woulda thunk it?  Introduced in 1937, the original meaning of the name "Spam" was "Shoulder of Pork and Ham". So, now you know . . . it’s not a mystery meat after all.   Spam musubi is a very popular snack and lunch food in Hawaii made in the tradition of Japanese onigiri. Spam musubi is composed of a block of rice with a slice of grilled Spam on top andnori (seaweed) wrapping to hold it together.  Basically, spam sushi.  I like spam cut into cubes, alternately skewered with pineapple chunks, slathered with barbeque sauce and grilled or baked.  YUM!

The spiedie (pronounced /ˈspiːdi/ "speedy") is a dish enjoyed throughout Central New York State.  Spiedie consists of cubes of pork (or chicken) marinated overnight in a special marinade, then grilled carefully on spits (if steel skewers are used, they are called "spiedie rods") over a charcoal pit.  They are served on soft Italian bread or a roll, and sometimes drizzled with fresh marinade.

Bologna sausage is an American sausage.  US Government regulations require American bologna to be finely ground, and without visible pieces of lard.  In Oklahoma they like their barbequed bologna – you can even find it on the menus of many restaurants.    It is a thick slab that gets dry-rubbed with pepper and spice, charcoal cooked, then sauced and served on a sandwich roll.  It doesn’t sound too bad . . . but there’s no way I’m going to order bologna from a restaurant.

St. Louis has Barbeque Snoots . . . which, as you may have guessed, is grilled pig snouts and cheeks served with barbeque sauce.  There’s a particular way to cook them to de-fat them because apparently porky has a pudgy face.  First you make crisscross indentations thru the meat and fat bit through the skin and they are grilled flat.  This helps drain off the fat while they’re cooking so they get crispy.  The barbecue sauce is applied AFTER cooking . . . never before or during . . . it’s some kind of rule.

The south has pickled pig’s feet.  It is considered African American soul food but has its origins in Irish cuisine.  The feet of hogs are typically salted and smoked in the same manner as other pork cuts, such as hams and bacon. And then pickled in a saturation of hot vinegar brine.  They are mostly served as a snack or side dish.  It’s kind of funny . . . the thought of eating pigs feet grosses me out because they tromp around in the mud and muck and whatnot . . . but I’ll happily eat scrappy and lord knows where they put their noses!  It’s best not to dwell on these things.

Now . . . if you’re really looking to have a ball . . . try some hog fry.  More common in the western United States where they seem to have an affinity for eating barnyard jewels and farm oysters which are boiled, seasoned, breaded and fried.    I have neither the desire nor testicular fortitude to try this delicacy but I’ve read that they have a musty flavor which is understandable considering where they come from.

So . . . there ya have it . . . from soup to nuts . . . quite literally.


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