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Best American - Menu suggestions for serving non-american guests.

Basically, I, an American, will be preparing a meal for roughly a dozen foreigners - several people from Spain, Germany, France, South Korea, and a few other countries, and I want to give a sense of what American food really is... not just the burgers, fries, and twinkies that everyone thinks of.

So what I'm hoping to get is kind of a rundown of the best dishes America has to offer, and feel free to mix and match - it doesn't all need to be Cajun, or soul food, or southwestern tex-mex. Ideally, there will be a main dish, a few side dishes/appetizers/salads, and a dessert. Many of the Europeans have a very low tolerance for even the mildest of spiciness (put a few handfuls of black pepper in a dish and many of them are bright red, sweaty, and guzzling water) so nothing too hot.

What i was thinking for a main dish is either chicken pot pie or a form of New England Boiled Dinner that I make with apples, cider, pork, and various root vegetables. For sides, maybe succotash. As for dessert, everyone already knows apple pie, but a few days ago the Koreans were really enthusiastic about a blueberry cobbler they had, and one of my goals is to introduce new dishes that these people haven't encountered too much of before.

But I turn to you, chowhounds. What else would work? What do you love? Non-Americans, what's your favorite American food?

Hopefully, let's not turn this into a debate about what is and isn't american food, so for the purposes of this thread, focus on things that aren't typically served in continental Europe or Asia. Thanks everyone!

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  1. I love the idea of chicken pot pie - do you have a recipe you like? If not, lots of posters - myself included - love the Ina Garten one, or a variation thereof. If that sounds interesting, I'll find the thread for you. I also like the idea of succotash. One idea that came to mind, is to peruse the threads that feature recipes from Suzanne Goin's book Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Not all of the food is American per se, but is an acclaimed American chef's take on both American and European dishes, featuring seasonal produce etc. Her pork burgers, with ground pork, bacon and chorizo, served with aioli, romesco sauce, arugula and manchego, on a brioche bun, is out of this world, and her coleslaw recipe is excellent.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/397079

    The same is true, I think, of Frank Stitt's book The Southern Table, though, of course, the emphasis there is Southern food - but a rather sophisticated take on it.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/485291

    A number of recipes are available on line, but I'm sure if something caught your fancy, a nice Home Cooking hound might paraphrase a recipe or two for you.

    If you make pot pie, I might not make cobbler.

    Sounds like a fun project.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      This time of year, don't forget watermelon.

      When my sis hosted guests from overseas, she served homemade bread, butter and jam as an appetizer. I think she also served opposum . . .sorry, I have no recipe for that and, yes, I know that corn on the cob was on the menu.

      1. re: JerryMe

        How about a fresh water melon salad with a little vinaigrette and fresh mint You could even put them on skewers as an appetizer. or main course or even as a desert.

        I used to make this one cocktail with vodka, club soda and then I used to put fresh mint in the class and frozen watermelon cubes. Just fresh pureed watermelon frozen. It had a splash of brandy and it was so simple and pretty served.

    2. I am sorta thinking what could be more american than a traditional Thanksgiving Feast? The Turkey, is very american in origin, the sweet potatoes (southern style) The concept is all american. Could be a very fun party!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Quine

        THis is actually a great idea. We've been involved with exchange kids for years now and invariably one of the experiences the enjoy the most and talk about in the years after their time here is Thanksgiving dinner. It's pretty much a uniquely American(or North American at least) experience. You can choose dishes you typically serve at your own Thanksgiving or feature dishes from around the country for each course.

        1. re: Quine

          That is a nice idea!

          I had interns I use to house for who worked at Mote and they would come from all over the world. Mario one of the interns was from Costa Rica and had also lived all over. Well, he had never had a TRADITIONAL Turkey Day Dinner. He unfortunately had to leave a few weeks before Thanksgiving but I made him the whole thing. From my bourbon sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, butter, fresh bread, turkey and ham, my couple of salads, vegetables and of course pumpkin pie, whipped cream, cranberry sauce. He was a very happy camper and couldn't say enough about it. We invited a couple of friends over and it was a lot of fun.

          I think that is a fun idea!!

        2. Appetizers:
          mini versions of philli cheese sandwiches on small baguettes
          cajun shrimp
          I make mini chili bowls but simply baking small dinner rolls after scooping the center out
          and filling with a nice thick chili. Fun way to have chili without a whole bowl
          CA avacados in a fresh fruit salad this time of year is perfect or mixed and served in
          individual lettuce cups as a easy finger food for an appetizer
          Grilled steak marinated in a bloddy mary mix and served with blue cheese dressing and
          served on individual small kabobs
          You could even do mini pizza squares with fresh shrimp or spinach, sort of a white pizza with olives chicken or fresh spinach
          Chicken wings
          A fresh salad with local fresh produce
          You could even do a corn, black bean type of salad
          Grilled BBQ Ribs or chicken would be great
          Grilled oysters or fresh for a starter or with the main course
          Fresh baked salmon
          Red beans and rice
          Jambalaya

          I love the apple pie, cobblers etc and the pot pie idea.

          Well just some ideas. So many.
          So many of the main dishes you could try to do as appetizers which can be fun.

          Keep us updated.

          1. Off the top of my head, some "American" food that woud not be typically encountered in Europe or Asia and that is not unduly spicy might include:

            1. New England Clam Chowder
            2. Maryland Crab Cakes
            3. Corn Bread
            4. Waldorf Salad
            5. Cranberries - dried, sweetened ones could be used as a garnish in a green salad.
            6. Corn on the cob

            1 Reply
            1. re: masha

              Oh how did I forget clam chowder or crab cakes. I did remember corn bread forgot to add it. Thank you masha. Got to have clams or crabs, :)

            2. I love the idea of picnic/bbq food: chicken pieces on the grill, macaroni or potato salad, corn on the cob. Serve w/iced teas, lemonade & beers. Any cobbler or pie w/peaches or cherries right now is peak time!

              Or making a meal out of minis - burgers, cocktail franks, chicken wings, quiches, with dips & chips like french onion to spicy mexican w/ guac. Cupcakes for dessert & lots of strong coffee!

              Or depending on where you are, make a run to your best local fish market & get fresh local fish & shellfish & make packets for the grill filled with new potatoes & corn cobs, quartered,fresh herbs like dill. Serve in large bowls with lots of lemon, think clambake! Serve w/ beers (light lagers) & CA pinots or viogniers. Strawberry shortcake in a 13x9 pan for dessert,.

              Or, I love all things cajun: I do a chicken & sausage or shrimp jambalaya that feeds a great crowd Serve w/ bbq or smoked pork ribs, coleslaw, mac & cheese, & corn breads. Lemonade, root beer & lagers would work here.

              Have fun with it!