Monday, February 15, 2016

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Lewes, Delaware

 The Location: Lewes, Delaware
2013 population: 2,896; 94.0% white, 2.9% African American. Per capita income: $34,088.

Prior to the European Invasion, Delaware was home to the Lenape Native American tribe. The Dutch were the first Europeans to arrive in the area and settled Lewes in 1631. The city is known as "The First Town in the First State". The city was burned down by the English in 1673, and in 1680, the English rebuilt it and named it New Deale. The city of Lewes was incorporated on February 2, 1818.

Lewes Beach was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad. Delaware was a border Union state which made it a close, but dangerous stop for escaping slaves. Safe houses in town could be identified by a single lit candle in the front window.

Feminist Factoid: In 1683, an all-female jury sat on a murder trial, marking what is believed to be the first all-woman jury in United States history.

The Food: Chicken and Slippery Dumplings, Sweet and Sour Green Beans, and Vinegar French Fries

So, French fries with chicken and dumplings might seem a bit too much, but this is actually a recipe I made last summer, and have been sitting on to share with you all until I got to Delaware. My family hosted a fish fry and I took advantage of having a free deep fryer in use to test out a recipe that turned out to be fantastic! I will include the link to the recipe, but write out how I made them because they're super simple. 

If you have ever made homemade French fries, then this won't be too difficult to modify. You need a Tablespoon of white vinegar for every pound of potatoes you use. It's up to you if you peel the potatoes or not, but cut them up into fries and soak them in water and half the vinegar for at least an hour before you will fry them. When you're ready to fry them, take them out of the water, dry them well and drop them in the hot oil. When they're done, remove them from the oil and drain on newspaper or paper towels. Then drizzle the rest of the vinegar and salt and mix them all well. You might think the white vinegar will be too harsh, but it works really well, trust me! My whole family taste-tested them and declared them delicious. I didn't take pictures of it, but if you've ever seen homemade French fries, that's what they looked like.

Delaware is known for its seafood, but I had just done shrimp and don't eat crab. I needed something else. I came across a few recipes for "chicken and slippery dumplings" and I had no idea what "slippery dumplings" were, but was curious about them. These dumplings were more like giant homemade noodles instead of what I know to be dumplings, which are more like biscuits steamed on top of a stew-like dish. I found two recipes and combined them. I will include the links to both recipes and type out how I did mine.

Chicken and Slippery Dumplings
1 (3- to 4-pound) broiler-fryer(I used one large breast and three thighs rather than one whole chicken. I just didn't need that much and it was more cost effective that way. Mine still had skin and bones and that helps flavor the broth.)
1/2 large onion, cut into pieces
1 large carrot, cut into pieces
1 stalk celery, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 qts. water 
Dumplings:
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt 
1/2 cup cooled broth (Or more if needed, I ended up needing a couple extra Tablespoons)

In a large pot, add the water, vegatables, salt and pepper. Carefully add the chicken and cover with a lid. Bring it to a boil and reduce heat down to a simmer. Let cook for at least a half hour or until the chicken is cooked through.
When the chicken has cooked, turn off the heat and remove all the chicken and vegetables from the pot and measure out 1/2 cup of stock to place in the refrigerator to chill for the dumplings. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove skin, bones, and any fat and shred the meat. Set aside to add back to the pot at the end.


When the stock for the dumplings has chilled enough, make the dumplings. In a small bowl, mix the flour and salt. Stir in the broth with a fork and stir until a ball is formed. The dough should be very wet and sticky. Using lots of flour, gently roll out as thinly as possible and cut into large squares.
Bring the pot of stock back up to a simmer and start gently dropping the dumplings in. I took each one and stretched it out as far as I could before setting it in the liquid. Stir them gently and press them down into the stock to make sure they cook on both sides. They need about twenty minutes to simmer before they're done. They will change color from a darker shade of beige to a lighter shade of beige. Once they are cooked, add the chicken back to the pot and heat through. Serve in bowls with the stock, sort of like a soup. If you want, you could take the vegetables from the stock and dice them and put them into the soup as well. I did not do that, but did consider it. You can also thicken the stock if you want, but I opted not to.

These were really tasty! I think using the stock to make the dumplings was an ingenious idea because it flavors it even more than if you'd just used water. I thought the dumplings would break up, but they didn't. They mercifully held their shape. The texture is very delicate but they're also very filling at the same time. This is definitely a fun one to try if you want something a little different from traditional chicken and dumplings.

To go with this, I made Sweet and Sour Green Beans. I was a little wary of using canned green beans, but they turned out to be really good! I cut the recipe in half but depending on how many people you are serving, it's really easy to do more or less. I will write it out how I did it but the link will have the original measurements.

Sweet and Sour Green Beans
1(15 ounce) cans green beans, drained, 6 Tbsp. juices reserved
1 1/2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 Tbsp. flour
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well-browned. Add onion and cook until translucent. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes more.
Pour the vinegar and reserved green bean liquid into the pan. Add sugar, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and stir in the green beans. Continue cooking at a low simmer until beans are hot.
The sweet and sour were perfectly balanced for my tastes. The bacon added a salty element to it. They were really tasty! I have a lot of leftovers of everything so I'll be eating this all week, I think!

This marks my 50th and final blog post for this project. I decided to save Delaware, the first state in the Union, for my final state of this project. I have enjoyed working on this project far more than I ever thought I would when I started out on it. It has been a journey of sorts, across this country, exploring different recipes, new ingredients, and cooking techniques. I have tried out things I never thought I would, and spent vast amounts of money on items I never thought I would ever cook with. I feel like I always had a healthy respect for the culinary traditions of this country, but now I have an even deeper knowledge of them.

What we eat is so deeply personal, and we all have different reasons for what we will and won't eat. So many groups of people have come to this nation and left their mark on what and how we eat. The people who were here first absolutely still have an influence as well, thankfully. The United States has always been called a melting pot. I think this is true, to an extent. Cultures from around the world have found their way here and blended together to create the greater American culture. But the closer you look, and the more you study, the more you see how much those cultures still exist as their own separate entities. I like to think of America more as a patchwork quilt. Each culture has added its own square to the greater tapestry, but remains distinct from all the others.

When I decided to try out this project, I was coming out of a year of mourning the loss of a dear loved one. I needed something to get me back out into the world again. Something fun to focus on. My love of food, history, and writing blended together into the perfect project for me. It has taught me to enjoy the cooking process more, and to not mind taking large amounts of time to work on a dish. It has taught me to love and respect every region of this nation, and the people who live there. It has shown me that we are all far more alike than different. We all love food and need to eat. Food is one of the basics of life, on the bottom tier of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Food, cooking, and eating binds us all as a nation, a world, and as a species. Cooking is more than just sustenance. It is art. It is expression. It is ritual. It is how we show people we love them. It is also history. It connects us to the past, gives us something to revel in in the present, and gives us something to look forward to in the future.

I am thankful to all the people who read this blog each week. I had family members, friends, and coworkers all reading along with me and sharing ideas with me. It was a coworker who led me to the amazing concoction that is Kuchen(South Dakota). Part way through this project, my grandmother started giving me some money each month to help pay for supplies. I told her she didn't have to, but she insisted, saying that reading these posts were fun because they reminded her that she could still learn new things, even at her age. One of my aunts shared the posts with all the people in her apartment building, and another one plans on printing them all out now that I've finished, and making them into a book for herself. I am humbled at the reaction people have had to what to me, seemed like a simple project when I started out. Thank you, everybody, for reading this blog and supporting me. It is your support that helped me keep going during times when I didn't feel like doing it. If I had stopped to wait till I felt like doing it, I most likely would have quit. I am very glad that I kept going!

I am going to take a well-deserved break, and do a deep clean of my kitchen, but I have decided to try out another project after this. I will be doing the same format, but with countries around the world. I will move it to every other week instead of every week, to better fit into my schedule. I already have the list of countries, and am very much looking forward to working on it! Stay tuned and make sure to look out for my posts on Sundays!

Sources:
Chicken Slippery Dumplings Recipe

Authentic Delaware Chicken and Dumplings Recipe

Sweet and Sour Green Beans Recipe

City Map

City Pic

City Stats

Vinegar French Fries Recipe

City History

3 comments:

  1. I'm kind of sad to see the series come to an end! This was very well done and highly enjoyable. How about a culinary book tour at some point on the future? :)

    ReplyDelete