Sunday, October 25, 2015
Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Frederick, Maryland
The Location: Frederick, Maryland
Before the European invasion, the area around Frederick was used by tribes of the Iroquois nation as a passageway on their hunting travels. The city of Frederick was founded in 1745, as Frederick Town, by Daniel Dulary. It was inhabited by mostly German immigrants, including a large German Jewish community; so much so, that the town was entirely German-speaking until the first wave of Irish immigrants came and settled there in the mid 1840's. The Irish had left Ireland to escape the Great Famine, and brought with them the English language that would end up becoming the predominant language of the town. In time, Frederick would grow to become a religious, legal, economic, and mining center for the region. The Baltimore and Ohio(B&O) Railroad came to town in 1831. By the 1850's, Frederick was connected to St. Louis and Chicago, via the railroad.
During the Civil War, Maryland was in a unique position. It was a border state, lying on the Mason-Dixon line. It was a slave-owning state, and yet it did not secede the union. It fought for the Union, and would end up being the site of many a battle. Frederick itself housed several hospitals to care for the wounded, and was also a passageway for escaping slaves on their way north to freedom. After the war, Maryland imposed segregation in all public places. It would not be until 1921 that the first African American high school was established.
Firefly Fan Factoid: Those of you familiar with the tv show, Firefly, may find this interesting: In 1864, a Confederate General by the name of Jubal Early came to Frederick and demanded a ransom of $200,000 to be paid to him or he would burn the town down. Town officials raised the ransom by going to all the town's banks and getting them to contribute to it. Once the ransom had been paid, General Early honored the agreement, and left the town unharmed.
The Food: "Crab" Cakes and Old Bay Seasoned Pork Chops
The state of Maryland is known for a couple of specific foods: crab cakes, and Old Bay seasoning. There was really no way to avoid this if I wanted to do the state justice. Here's the problem though: I don't like crab. I never have. So, what was I to do? I had to honor the crab cake, but I wasn't about to eat it. And then I found it...A recipe that would end up being my salvation: a vegetarian crab cake. A zucchini cake, to be specific. The zucchini stands in for the crab, but is prepared in the exact same way. It was the perfect solution! The recipe also had Old Bay seasoning in it, so that was even better! But one cannot live on zucchini cakes alone, so enter, the pork chop recipe. It's marinated in Old Bay seasoning, so it would feature prominently. Perfect!
Old Bay seasoning has its start in the early 1900's, in Chesapeake Bay. It was created by a Jewish German immigrant named Gustav Brunn. Many seafood seasonings were created around that time, but Old Bay is the one that survived. It has become synonymous with the state of Maryland. There was no way I could not feature it in this week's meal. There was just one problem: I couldn't find any. I went to two grocery stores and couldn't find it in bulk format or canned. Seriously, how hard is it to find this stuff? It's usually everywhere, right? Apparently Seattle doesn't do Old Bay seasoning that much...Fortunately I had found a knock-off recipe online and could make it myself. According to what I read, the seasonings are all listed on the container, so it's not too hard to figure out how to make it for yourself. But there was another problem: It's nearly a two to one ratio of salt to celery seed. Now, as you know from this blog, I cannot stand the taste of celery. There was no way I could use it as it was written. I had to change it. But how? What to use instead of celery seed but would still be keeping with the idea of a seafood seasoning? I decided that even though it would change the flavor significantly, I would substitute dill for the celery seed. I adore dill and it's a natural pairing for seafood. I've never actually had Old Bay seasoning before, so I don't know what it should taste like. I realized I was probably bastardizing a time-honored, tried-and-true tradition, but too bad. I had to be able to stomach it, right?! So, I told my sister what I was doing and that I should call it New Bay seasoning and she suggested Elliot Bay seasoning since we're here in Seattle. So, Elliot Bay seasoning it is!!
Making a seasoning blend is super easy and usually is far less expensive than buying a jar of it. Because you control the spices, you control how hot or not it is, and how fresh the spices are. If you don't have one already, I highly recommend getting a small coffee grinder that you use only for grinding spices. It really is the best way to crush spices. But keep it just for spices, because the flavors would mix with the coffee if you used it for both.
Summer's "Elliot Bay" Seasoning:
3 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. dill weed
1 1/4 tsp. dry mustard powder
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes(the original recipe says to grind these, but do so at your own risk. These are very spicy and if you inhale any of that dust, you will regret it. And also sneeze all over the place. I kept mine whole.)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground bay leaves(Yes, ground bay leaves! A revelation to me, but you should smell them after they've been ground. It's wonderful!)
1 tsp. paprika
1 pinch each: ground cloves, ground allspice, ground ginger, ground cardamom, and ground cinnamon(Note, some recipes call for nutmeg too, so feel free to add a pinch of that as well, if you want. I did not.)
Mix everything together and keep in an air-tight container.
First up were the zucchini "crab" cakes. I found two recipes but chose the one that called for pan-frying instead of baking in the oven. I mean, if you're going to make crab cakes, even if it's just with zucchini, I wanted to do it right. You can bake these in the oven if you want, but I think pan-frying them is best. I made a half batch, so I will write it out here, but provide the link for the original in the sources section at the end.
1 1/4 cups grated zucchini
1/2 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/8 cup(2 Tbsp.) minced onion
1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/8 cup flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, egg, and butter. Mix in the breadcrumbs, onion, and seasoning. Mix until well blended.
Using a 1/3 measuring cup, measure out cakes and pat together into a hockey puck-like shape. (Mine made 6.) Don't pack them together too much or the texture will be gross. Just enough to keep their shape.
Place flour on a plate or a bowl and dip cakes into it, coating both sides in flour. Gently tap the excess flour off the cakes.
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add cakes to the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. You may have to turn a few times to make sure they're properly heated through. Mine didn't really get too greasy so I didn't need to drain them on paper towels. Keep an eye on the pan and add more oil as needed. The cakes absorbed a lot of oil as they fried.
Two of three of these would be a serving, depending on what else you're eating. If it's your main side, you might want to go with three. If you're having another starch with your entree, two would be good. I thought these were really good! They were nice and oniony and had a lovely texture. I think I would add more seasoning next time, because zucchini is rather bland and I didn't detect much of the seasoning, though I didn't need to add any salt or anything. I will see what they taste like reheated tonight for my dinner when I eat the leftovers.
Next up, was the entree. I chose a pork chop recipe because it was marinated in Old Bay seasoning and grilled. I have a grill pan, so I grilled mine on the stove, but if you have an outdoor grill, definitely use it. Mine ended up taking a while to cook all the way through and were still a bit on the medium-well side, so you might want to cut your pork chops in half so they're thinner before you marinate and grill them. I'd do that next time. Here's the recipe:
Chesapeake Bay Pork Chops:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
2 cloves minced garlic(I actually missed this when I did the marinade, and left it out. This is what happens when you don't print the recipe from your computer and just scribble notes instead. Definitely add this.)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil(I couldn't find those little packages of basil when I was shopping because I looked in the wrong spot. Who knew that fresh basil would be over with the garlic and tomatoes and not hanging over in the refrigerated section with all the other fresh herbs? So I opted for one of those tubes of pre-chopped basil instead. I don't use fresh basil often, so I think the tube might be a good way to go. You can just squeeze out however much you need.)
1 lime, juiced
Pepper, to taste
8 boneless pork chops, 1/2" thick(I used the whole marinade recipe but only did 2 pork chops. I didn't want to deal with cutting down the proportions because I was in a hurry, but feel free to cut down the marinade depending on how many chops you'll be grilling)
Combine the oil, vinegar, Old Bay seasoning, garlic, basil, lime juice, and pepper, in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Mix well and then add the pork chops. Seal the bag and place in the fridge to marinate for 4-6 hours. Turn over every couple hours to make sure it marinates evenly.
Heat the grill pan over medium heat. Oil the pan lightly. When heated, remove the pork chops from the marinade(discard marinade), pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel, and place in the grill pan. Grill 5-7 minutes per side until cooked through. The meat should be 145-150 degrees when finished.
The marinade on this was fantastic! Nice and tart from the lime and vinegar, and well seasoned. It was very moist as well, which can be something lacking in pork. I was really happy with this as well and have another pork chop for my dinner tonight. I am quite excited about this! I found that the two cakes and one chop wasn't quite enough for a full meal. Tonight I'll be adding a baked potato and I think that should be just about perfect.
If you are a fan of crab cakes or are a vegetarian who misses them, I highly recommend this recipe. It's a nice change from crab, and a good serving of vegetables. I don't know what you would use instead of the egg for the binder, but you could easily switch out the butter for olive oil and make them vegan. Not sure how to make them gluten-free, however. Unless you have a good brand of gluten-free breadcrumbs and flour that you like, then by all means, test it out!
Maryland was a state that started out as a very difficult state to find food to try, but ended up being a very delicious experience after all! I'm glad I keep researching!
Pork Chop Recipe
Original Seasoning Recipe
Zucchini "Crab" Cake Recipe