This week is a little different than other weeks on this sandwich blog. I did make a simple sandwich, but I spent most of my time testing a couple of fun recipes from a brand-new cookbook I just got my hands on.
I was recently mailed an early copy of Midwestern Food, a cookbook by Chef Paul Fehribach. Paul is a Co-Founder, Executive Chef, and eight-time James Beard Award semifinalist at Big Jones restaurant in Chicago. Paul and I have become internet friends over the past few years, and I reached out to him to see if I could check out his upcoming book.
The cookbook that I was sent is Paul’s second book. His first is The Big Jones Cookbook which focuses on southern cooking—which Big Jones is known for—and his second book, as you can easily learn (from the name and cover), is based on the regional cuisines of the Midwestern United States.
Midwestern Food cookbook
This isn’t a sponsored post, but it is about a cookbook from a person who I do know and I did get the book for free (although I just bought two additional pre-orders and sent them to two of my patrons over on the Bounded by Buns Patreon community). So, basically, I’m not going to write a review here. Instead, I’d like to give a synopsis of what the book is all about before I share a couple of recipes.
This is not the type of cookbook that has a bunch of glossy photos. This is a book that goes deep into the history and background of the Midwestern food it covers. It’s clear that Paul enjoys researching the food of a region and recreating and writing about the cultural relevance and history of these dishes and recipes.
If you like reading the parts of my sandwich blog that dig into some history and background for sandwiches, you will love this cookbook because it goes way deeper than I ever do. And if you’re interested in the Midwest or cuisine from this neck of the woods, you’ll definitely enjoy this cookbook.
From recipes as Wisconsin-like as fried cheese curds or butterburgers to Iowa-style classics like the loose meat sandwich and Chicago via Puerto Rican sandwiches like the jibarito on fried plantains; this book hits all of the big Midwestern standards. But Midwestern Food also digs into less well-known recipes like the steak tartar-like Cannibal sandwich and another Chicago classic called the mother-in-law which is a tamale in a hot dog bun topped with chili. I have very much enjoyed reading as much of the book as I have so far and plan to spend a few more hours experiencing the food history that Paul has written.
This is not just a listing of recipes; this is a cookbook that you will want to sit down and read. Above and beyond the thorough history of these Midwestern foods and culinary scenes there are also several “Meet the Locals” features in Midwestern Food that tell the story of people who have influenced the Midwestern food scenes in different ways.
Order Midwestern Food here:
The University of Chicago Press
For this week’s blog post, I am featuring two of the recipes from Midwestern Food and then I’m going to make those into a simple but delicious sandwich. After I received the cookbook, I was glancing through the table of contents and saw the word “biscuits” and if you’ve followed this blog for any time at all, you’ll believe that I was stopped in my tracks to check that recipe out.
Let’s get started. We’re making apple butter and fried biscuits.
Apple butter is a spread like a cross between apple sauce and jam. The apples are cooked for a long time to get them soft and then baked even longer to add caramelization to the final spread. The apples are combined with warming spices and citrusy flavors which end up giving the apple butter a nice depth of flavor. Most apple butter that I have seen is served in much the way a jam would be served, alongside biscuits or toast for adding a smooth, sweet spread to bread.
After I made this apple butter, my wife and I both thought the recipe produced a good, smooth, sweet, and warming apple spread that works great on bread or biscuits. It just so happens that my mom and dad were visiting while I was writing this blog post but after I had already made and fried all of the fried biscuits, they got the benefit of tasting the final product without the effort that was involved in getting there. I made a batch of my soft dinner rolls for a dinner that I cooked for them and brought out the apple butter when the rolls came out of the oven. They very much enjoyed the apple butter spread on rolls and would have taken some with them if they were checking a bag for their upcoming flight.
My wife and my dad independently confirmed to me that I probably did not puree my apple butter to a consistency that is as smooth as most commercially available apple butter is. I have looked at several photos on the internet and they are right. But this would be a really easy thing to fix when I make the recipe again. I would just puree it again. The version I made was still very spreadable, it just wasn’t visibly as smooth as normal butter.
Here’s Paul Fehribach’s apple butter recipe from his upcoming cookbook, Midwestern Food.
Nashville House fried biscuits
Paul writes in his cookbook that these biscuits are a cross between biscuits and a fried doughnut and that’s what got me interested in this recipe in the first place. This recipe for fried biscuits is based on a restaurant in Brown County called the Nashville House in Nashville, Indiana.
Frying these biscuits gives them a whole new texture than regular biscuits. The center is still soft and fluffy, but the exterior is crispy and slightly crunchy from the bath in hot oil. This is certainly the reason that people love these biscuits.
Here’s Paul’s great recipe for fried biscuits.
Ham and apple butter on fried biscuits
I don’t really have a full recipe for this sandwich because I simply made the recipes shared above from Midwestern Food and added a bit of seared ham and cheese.
I sliced some fresh ham into slices that seemed to be around the same size as one of the fried biscuits and then I seared them in a dry pan over medium heat until the ham slices were warmed and slightly browned. Once that happened, I stacked the ham pieces, put some sliced cheese on top, and covered the pan. The steam from a covered pan melted the cheddar. Then I built the sandwich.
All these flavors worked really well in these tiny sandwiches.
If you’re at all interested in cooking and more specifically Midwestern cooking, make sure to look for Midwestern Food when it releases. Currently, the release date is September 20, 2023. The previous link is to the book publisher, but Midwestern Food is available on Amazon as well.
Check back next week for more sandwiching
Next week we’ll be making a sandwich that was suggested by someone from the Bounded by Buns Patreon community. Come back and find out what it might be.
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