Sunday, May 24, 2015
Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Indianapolis, Indiana
The Place: Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis was founded in 1821, but prior to that it had been home to the Lenape/Delaware and Miami tribes. With the advent of the railroad in the city in 1847, the city became a major destination, accessible from all directions and connected to several other major cities, including St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit.
Indianapolis was also a stop along the Underground Railroad, though the city has had its ups and downs with racial issues. In the 1970's and 80's, it suffered greatly from "white flight", but has since bounced back. The nation's first illustrated African American newspaper, the Indianapolis Freeman was founded there in 1888. As with tolerance for change and acceptance comes those who fear it and fight against it. The KKK took root here in the 1920's and had a strong influence for a time, but had died out by 1944 when it disbanded entirely.
Today, in the state of Indiana, there is a similar backlash against the acceptance and tolerance for the LGBT+ community in the form of the Religious Freedom Bill that allows businesses to decline customers based on sexual orientation if it goes against their religious beliefs to do so. While the damage this bill can inflict is possibly not quite as extreme as the KKK, perhaps we can look to the decline and disbanding of that group as a sign of what will eventually be done to this bill. The good news is that the amount of people who don't support it far outweigh those who do. If you do visit the city or the state, make sure to keep an eye out for this sticker in business windows:
Indianapolis is also known for its sports and sporting events. They have a professional football team, and also have professional men and women's basketball teams. So, you might be asking me, "Why Indianapolis? And why right now?" Well, there is a very important reason I chose this city for this particular three day weekend: The Indy 500. The sporting event takes place on Memorial Day weekend every year, in fact it's happening right now as I type this at 9:35am Sunday morning. It's airing on ABC currently until noon west coast time.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909 and the first Indy 500 was held in 1911. Why is it called "500"? Well, because the 200 laps that the cars take during the race equate to 500 miles. Women have been allowed to drive in the race since 1977, though their numbers are still quite small compared to the amount of male drivers in the race. This event is huge. Even if you've never been to the state and never watched a car race in your life, or even like cars, you've heard of this event. It's part of American culture, whether you like it or not. So, I celebrated it last night with the meal I prepared, and by watching the Pixar movie, Cars. That doesn't take place during the Indy 500, but it's close enough thematically that it felt appropriate.
The Food: Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich and Indiana Potato Salad
This is quite possibly the most "Midwestern" meal I've done on this blog to date. Breaded and fried meat in bread, and potato salad. It's a carb-lovers dream come true. It was really good too! I found two recipes to base the sandwich on but I pretty much turned it into my own thing. I will write out what I did but also provide the links to the original recipes.
Indiana is a big state for pork production and when researching foods to try, this sandwich came up over and over again. There was no doubt in my mind that this particular dish sums up the state in its entirety.
Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich: I only made one, and didn't really measure anything, so use this as a guide and increase amounts accordingly with how many you plan to make.
4 oz. pork tenderloin
Dried Marjoram(sort of like oregano, you can use that instead if you want)
Crushed Saltine crackers(I used leftover oyster crackers and they worked fine)
Peanut oil(if you have a nut allergy, vegetable oil would be fine. Olive oil might be a bit too strong of a flavor for this.)
Hamburger bun or Kaiser roll of your choice(I used whole wheat)
Hamburger toppings of your choice(I used mayonnaise, mustard, tomato slices, and pickle slices)
Place the pork between two pieces of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to pound it to a thin, uniform size, about 1/2" thick.
In a plate, combine the buttermilk and spices together. Place the meat in the buttermilk mixture and turn over to cover both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour to marinate.
Crush the crackers and place on a separate plate. When the meat has finished marinating, remove from the buttermilk(discard this) and dip in the cracker crumbs until it's entirely covered on both sides. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the crackers adhere.
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and pan-fry the tenderloin on both sides until golden brown.
Toast the hamburger bun to your liking and prepare exactly as you would a hamburger, but using the breaded cutlet instead of the hamburger.
This was really simple to make. It was very tasty too, though I have to admit that the texture of the breading was lost in all the bun. The flavor of the meat is very delicate as pork tenderloin is not the strongest flavored cut of pork. It is also one of the most expensive cuts, and the healthiest cut as well. This does not undo the breading and frying to make this some sort of health food, however! I will be using the rest of the tenderloin I purchased to test out other recipes throughout the week. This cut of meat is usually far more expensive than I like to buy, but once in a while it's a good treat, especially when you put it to use in so many other recipes. If I was to make this again, I would probably just do it as a cutlet and skip the sandwich part. That way I could really taste the flavor and texture of the breading and meat.
There had to be a side dish for my sandwich, and so I turned to a Midwestern classic side: potato salad. But I didn't want just any potato salad. I wanted something I'd never even thought to try before. And I found it...It's just about the most Midwestern thing to ever be from the Midwest. I will write out how I made it, because I cut it down to be two servings, but will include the link to the original as well. This is a hot potato salad, which you may not have ever had before. Those tend to be German in origin, but this one had simple ingredients that were just soooo American I couldn't resist. Some of you might scoff or feel grossed out by it, but I chose to celebrate it in all its glory...
Indiana Potato Salad:
1 good-sized Russet potato
1-2 Tbsp. minced onion
2 slices Kraft singles American cheese(Yes, Kraft singles. And even worse, I saved money and bought the store-name brand too!!!! The recipe actually calls for Velveeta, which I didn't have on hand and my store sells it but it's way too expensive to buy for the small amount it calls for, so I opted for American cheese slices instead.)
Boil the potato in water until it's cooked through. Remove from the water and let cool to the touch. Peel and dice the potato.
In a 9"x 9" or 8"x 8" ovenproof dish, place the potato and minced onion and stir together. Dice or rip up the cheese slices and mix into the potatoes. Place enough mayonnaise in the dish to blend properly into the potato mixture.
Place this in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes until it's hot and the cheese has melted. When it's done, top with bacon bits and serve.
This meal is a quintessential Midwestern or American meal. You can sort of see the ethnic roots, but it has become something else entirely its own. I can imagine a salad like this being eaten at a church gathering or a neighborhood picnic, and the sandwich being featured at every restaurant in Indiana, each trying to put their own twist on it. It is truly a celebration of ingredients from that state, prepared with love and pride and joy. And that is how it should be eaten. Don't pay attention to the calorie or fat count, just enjoy it.
If you're watching the race today and wondering what to have for lunch, this would make a great meal and a great tribute to the place that made the race famous. Enjoy!
Pork Tenderloin Sandwich Recipe
Indiana Breaded Tenderloin Sandwich
Indiana Potato Salad
Open For Service Sticker