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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!

              1. What fun.

                Smoke a turkey breast.

                I would try black berries or raspberries, both of which are American, maybe with some rhubarb in a pie, compote over pound cake, or cobbler.

                I know people from Europe and South America who love to find great biscuits. An herbed biscuit, perhaps?

                Smoke or poach the salmon.

                Meat loaf

                Chicken fried Steak

                1. Love the chicken pot pie idea.

                  Other dessert choices: Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Meringue Pie (it's a safe bet they haven't had those before)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mcsheridan

                    You beat me to the suggestion of strawberry shortcake -- I think this is one of the very best (and so simple) American foods. Be sure to make fresh, lightly whipped cream (not from a can!).

                    Last year Ruth posted a great crisp recipe called Willie's Crisp -- with nectarines and blackberries -- I'm just waiting for the stone fruits to get good.

                  2. We have, at various times, hosted foreigners for dinner. One time, we had a bunch of Egyptians who wanted to have "hot turkey" since turkey is only sold in Egypt as a cold cut. We did Thanksgiving Dinner with all the fixings, and it was a huge hit. Another time, we did a very southern dinner with peanut soup, fried chicken, corn bread, squash casserole and greens with pot likker. It was also a big success. Desserts were variously pecan and pumpkin pie, and carrot cake.

                    1. Based on my trips to the States, I'd suggest you might want to think of "southern food", as often containing products or dishes that we don't see in Europe. Peanut soup....Hush puppies.....cobblers.....etc.

                      Traitional "northern" dishes will be much more familiar in style to the Europeans.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Harters

                        I agree. I was thinking Shrimp and Grits - especially Bill Neal's Crook's Corner recipe. Some sort of corn muffins or little herbed biscuits on the side......

                      2. My 2 cents:

                        Apps-
                        smoked salmon or even better candied salmon
                        mini crab cakes
                        spinach dip in the pumpernickle
                        mini empanadas
                        veggies and dip- not that many other cultures do this

                        salad- cobb or caesar

                        entrees-
                        pulled pork- sandwiches
                        BBQ chicken

                        sides

                        baked beans
                        coleslaw
                        corn on the cob
                        potato salad

                        dessert-
                        chocolate chip cookies
                        strawberry shortcake
                        watermelon

                        1. Not sure if this will be good for right now, but isn't peanut butter a pretty American food? Could do a peanut butter cake or some cookies for dessert. Or save it for a non-summer month.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: amyvc

                            It is definately an American thing. I vote peanut butter cookies!

                          2. I'm going to be a bit of a contrarian, but I don't think you should do a Thanksgiving meal in the summer. Instead, why not find recipes that feature in season U.S. ingredients that can be incorporated into traditional American meals. If you go the Southern route, do make biscuits!

                            Let us know what you decide to do.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Yes, I was thinking that too, keep it seasonal. I would go more the classic American cookout route as some other have suggested above -- salsailsa's menu looks great. Wasn't there a lot of enthusiasm on this board a year or so back about an Elvis cake that involved peanut butter? What could be more American???

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                MMRuth, I so have to disagree! The most successful and beloved party I ever held (it started to become an annual) was the Thanksgiving in June party! The 1st year I cooked the bird in the oven, but after that I cooked it outdoors in the Weber! The sweet potatoes cook so nicely along with it, you can make plain roasted and the.candied. Use fresh "seasonal" green beans in the casserole, Many of the sides can be seasonal as well. Think " outside the box!" it's a very American thing to do.

                                And my second most popular party, was the 4th of July in January. yep you guessed it, beach attire, flip flops, hot dogs, hammies and coleslaw. :-)

                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                    Thanks! These really are fun parties, the T-day in June is just after school is out (a sorta thanks-giving). my friends liked that they could have a Non-formal family turkey feast, indulge in feast foods and frankly, after the 1st one, people wanted to bring dishes to share. I did as much of the party as I could outside, even more fun.

                                    The July in January I did the 3rd week in Jan, which when I started doing them, I was in new England, where that is a pretty Bleak time. Bottle rockets et al!
                                    I agree with you (your party rules post rocks!) parties are about wanting our guest to enjoy!!! Tho ' I did do a 'Pass the Poupon" party once were we all tried to be as formal as possible! The last "hold out" made it to dessert, and won the prize of a *ahem* gas pillow....yeah everyone had to try it out!

                                    1. re: Quine

                                      Hey ... got to try everything, fancy, formal, stuffy, fun, redneck, ....... you name it tried them all. Just have fun right? I care less if it filet mignon, pizza or BBQ chicken. Just enjoy!

                              2. what about a clam bake or a shrimp boil? Where you dump the whole thing out on the picnic table and go to town :)

                                1. Fried chicken? Hamburgers? An excellent hamburger is a thing of beauty. Potato Salad. Pot Roast. And I vote strawberry shortcake for dessert.

                                  _____________________
                                  http://www.savour-fare.com

                                  1. My mother, a sophisticated California woman, recently agonized for days over a menu for Briitish dinner guests. She eventually decided a to call her meal "Nebraska farm cooking from my childhood": Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh vegetable of some sort, Waldorf salad, biscuits, and apple pie. It was a huge success!!

                                    1. There are so many great ideas here! It's hard to think of anything that hasn't yet been said. Maybe something with wild rice?

                                      For an appetizer, you could serve warm spinach-and-artichoke dip and/or quesadillas. (I like these- Roasted Asparagus and Red Onion Quesadillas http://www.recipezaar.com/Roasted-Asp...).

                                      For dessert, what about a New York Style Cheesecake, NY bakery black & white cookies, and/or some brownies, or a rhubarb crumb cake. I love this recipe:
                                      http://www.recipezaar.com/rhubarb-big...

                                      Also, there are so many great American cheeses now. I think a cheese plate with local. artisinal US cheeses would be nice.

                                      What about beverages? Are you serving alcohol? Sweet iced tea is a nice summer drink as is lemonade.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: toveggiegirl

                                        OKay, so after narrowing down the options. I ended up doing the chicken pot pie, cornbread (southern style,) and a waldorf salad. It was a huge hit. Everyone loved the pot pie, and I had several requests for the cornbread recipe. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.