Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Bristol, Rhode Island

 The Location: Bristol, Rhode Island
2010 census: 22,954; 94.0% white, 2% Hispanic. 2013 per capita income: $30,527.

Today, the city is home to large Italian, Azorean, and Portuguese-American populations, but prior to the European invasion, the land was home to the Wampanoag and Narragansett Native American tribes. Bristol was where the first battle in the King Phillip's War, a war between the Native population and the European settlers, took place in 1675. The Native Americans eventually lost this war, and this would lead to more wide-spread colonization of the area by Europeans.

Bristol was originally part of Massachusetts before being transferred to the Rhode Island colony in 1747. Despite being a northern town, due to the fact that it was a successful port town, it became a center for the slave trade. During the Revolutionary War, Bristol was attacked twice by the British navy.

Claim to Fame: Bristol is the home of the oldest 4th of July celebration in the United States. It was started in 1785 by Reverend Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church. The parade that still happens today, was started in the early 1800's. Today, the celebrations begin on Flag Day in June, and last through Labor Day weekend. You might be asking me, why didn't you do this place for 4th of July? What a perfect opportunity that you missed! Well, there are two very good reasons. One, I didn't do a 4th of July post. And two, I didn't know about this until afterwards. This would have been a perfect location to do a 4th of July post. The other option was Delaware, which was the first colony of the United States. But I ended up skipping the 4th, so it doesn't matter now!

The Food: Rhode Island Johnny Cake with Raspberry Syrup, and Green Onion and Apple Sausage
Besides seafood, the one item I kept coming across for Rhode Island, was the Johnny cake. For those of you who are not familiar with the term or have never read the Little House on the Prairie books, a Johnny cake is basically a cross between cornbread and a pancake. They are a very simple, very basic, humble food that can be made quickly and with very little preparation. I had my pick of recipes, but chose one from a cookbook I have never had the opportunity to use before. One of the things I like to collect from used book stores is the Time/Life cookbook collection that came out in the 60's and 70's. Each one is a large, hardback book with various regions of the United States and the world. The one I used was specifically for Northeastern foods of the United States. These are fun books. If you can get your hands on them, I highly recommend them. I will write out the recipe the way the book says, but will add some notes based on my experience.

Rhode Island Johnny Cake
1 cup white cornmeal(I used yellow because that's what I had on hand. Some will say this isn't as authentic, but that's ok.)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter, softened, plus 1/4 cup butter, melted, plus 4 butter pats
1 cup boiling water
1/4-1/2 cup milk

Combine the cornmeal, salt, and softened butter in a deep bowl. Stirring constantly, pour in the water in a thin stream. When the butter melts and the liquid is absorbed, add 1/4 cup milk. (I made a half batch of this and noticed that the liquid didn't absorb very well into the cornmeal. I ended up having to add more cornmeal to absorb it all. It probably ended up being a 2:1 ratio of cornmeal to liquid, rather than 1:1.) Beat until the batter holds its shape lightly with a spoon. If necessary, add more milk by the teaspoonful.
Heat a skillet or griddle over moderate heat until hot. Brush the skillet lightly with melted butter. To form each cake, ladle 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan. Cook 1-2 cakes at a time, leaving enough space so that they can spread into 5" rounds. Fry them for 3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden and crisp around the edges. As they brown, transfer the johnny cakes to a heated plate and drape with foil to keep them warm while you cook the rest, brushing the pan with melted butter as necessary. If the batter thickens, thin it with an additional tablespoon of milk.
Top each cake with half a pat of butter and syrup. Serve at once.
Makes 8 cakes

These were so easy to make. There is no leavening agent in them, so I suppose technically, a person could make and eat these during Passover if they wanted to. They are also gluten free, and I would imagine you could use any alternative milk you wanted and use oil instead of butter to make them vegan. You could probably also fry these in bacon grease if you wanted to impart more flavor to them. They're a very plain, very basic food and I definitely think they were better with the syrup I made.

Raspberry Syrup
Ok, I'll admit, this was more of a sauce than a syrup, but it was really delicious! I just made it up as I went, so this is actually one of my own creations! Here is the recipe:
1 pt. raspberries, washed
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Wash the raspberries, but don't drain all the excess water off. Keep some of it and place all of the berries in a small saucepan. Combine with the applesauce and heat on medium until the raspberries are hot enough to break apart when stirred with a spoon. Once they are broken apart, turn off the heat and add the cinnamon. Mix well and set aside until ready to serve the johnny cakes.

This was really good. Just sweet and tart enough but not overpoweringly so. This could probably also act as jam for toast if you have any leftovers, like I do. Or over ice cream, if you like.

To go with the johnny cakes, I made homemade sausage. I found this recipe in my card collection, but I don't know the original source. It turns out it's not that hard to make sausage from scratch! I had ground pork last weekend that needed to be used before this week, so I actually made the sausage, formed the patties, and froze them last weekend, but didn't try them until tonight. Here's a tip I learned the hard way: When freezing them in one large package, put a layer of foil or plastic wrap between each patty or you'll have to thaw all of it and chisel them apart to use...

Green Onion and Apple Sausage
1 1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. white pepper(I don't have white pepper, so I left this out.)
1 1/2 tsp. dried sage, crushed
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cooking apple, cored, peeled, and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. butter

In a large bowl, combine pork, salt, peppers, sage, green onions, and chopped apple. Mix thoroughly and form into six 3/4" thick patties. (At this point, they can be wrapped and frozen, if you want.)

In a large, heavy skillet, melt butter. Cook patties in butter until sausages are brown on both sides, and centers are no longer pink (10-12 minutes total).
Makes 6

This recipe is also easy to cut in half, which is what I did. Since I had to thaw all of them, I will be having the rest over the next couple days, which is fine, because this was really rather tasty! I do think it could have used a smidgen more salt than it called for, and my sage is rather old, so it could have been "sagier" if I'd had fresher.

I served this with scrambled eggs topped with cheese for a really decadent and fancy breakfast for dinner. Making breakfast food is difficult because timing is so important. Everything has to be done all at the same time in hopes of serving it all hot on the same plate. The cakes were finished first, so I kept them under foil. A few minutes later, the eggs were done and then the sausage at the last minute. and it was all pretty darned delicious! I definitely don't have time to cook like this during the week for my breakfast, so this is a special weekend treat. I cooked everything in its own pan, so it does create several dishes to wash, but it was worth it!

I definitely recommend these recipes, but honestly, the real stand out was the raspberry syrup. It was ridiculously easy to make and tasted so good! You really do need to try it out!

City Map

City Pic

Johnny Cake History

4th of July History

City History-This has some really amazing pictures in it

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