Food from the Midwest

A quick look at Midwestern Food, a new cookbook releasing soon.

Read Time: 6 minutes

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, coming to a bookstore near you. Or you can buy it from The University of Chicago Press.

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

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.

This apple butter recipe requires a couple of ingredients that might not be in a typical pantry, but they are easily obtainable online.
Orange zest, citric acid, and malic acid bring zest and tartness to the final apple butter.

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.

First, you cook the apples in apple cider and spices until they are very soft. At this point, I think you could mash them and turn them into a really tasty applesauce. But if you’re making apple butter, the cooking process isn’t quite over.
The apples and cider are turned into a puree and baked for a few hours to caramelize and soften fully. This is a photo from near the end of cooking time. I ended up pureeing it even more, but maybe not enough.

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.

This recipe makes around 4 pints of apple butter.

Here’s Paul Fehribach’s apple butter recipe from his upcoming cookbook, Midwestern Food.

Recipe Card
7 hours and 20 minutes
Apple butter

This recipe for apple butter is from Chef Paul Fehribach's cookbook Midwestern Food. In this book, you can find many more recipes and a lot of history of Midwestern food and culture.

You can preorder this cookbook now.

Get Recipe

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.

This is different than a regular biscuit dough. You still cut them with a biscuit cutter into round shapes.
These biscuits are shallow fried, not deep fried. This means you must flip them halfway through the cooking process.

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.

You must fry these biscuits in batches in order to keep the heat in the oil up to temperature.
The Brown County fried biscuit recipe produces light airy biscuits similar to fried yeast doughnuts.
I tested these with apple butter and regular butter, but any sort of jam or jelly would be fantastic as well.

Here’s Paul’s great recipe for fried biscuits.

25 hours and 54 minutes
Brown County fried biscuits

This recipe for Brown County fried biscuits is from Chef Paul Fehribach's cookbook Midwestern Food. In this book, you can find many more recipes and a lot of history of Midwestern food and culture.

You can preorder this cookbook now.

Get Recipe

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.

Sliced fresh ham and apple butter.
Apple pie and cheddar are a very popular pairing, so I went for it with these sandwiches. It worked well.
I made this one with ham and white sharp cheddar cheese. To get the cheese melted, I laid small pieces on top of the seared ham in the skillet and covered the skillet with its lid to melt the cheese.

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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