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Name a surprising/intense/unusual American dish.

I have a friend who moved to New Zealand and she is trying to think of something to cook for her new friends that is a "surprising/intense/unusual American dish." Ideas?

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    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Heh, that's exactly the first thing I thought of as well. Uniquely American for sure.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        I just did a search for Bacon Explosion on Chowhound and ended up here. I made one of these things Sunday night, took it to our cabin in the woods and smoked it and it was....underwhelming.

        I first ran across the Bacon Explosion in a newspaper story a few years ago, went to the website and copied the recipe and waited for a time I thought appropriate to make it. It wasn't terrible, but it really did not live up to limited expectations. Maybe the website made the expectations too high.

        One thing that was too high was the heat and the humidity. Not only don't we have AC at our cabin in the woods, we don't have electricity or running water. If it were not for the severe thunderstorm that came through at 8pm I think we might have driven home instead of sleeping in a cabin with an interior temperature of 94 and a dew point of 73. The storm dropped the outside temperature from 90 something to about 70 but the inside temperature stayed pretty warm. We came home today and will be spending the 4th as an average suburban family usually does. (?)

      2. Something Creole or Cajun would certainly qualify.

        1. Is your friend American? I would think a local specialty from her area of this country and something she's cooked before would be a good place to start, depending of course on the availability of ingredients in NZ.

          A seafood Gumbo, crab boil or a traditional Downeast Maine style lobster and clam bake speaks to me; modified by the available local seafood; lobster, clams or mussels, corn on the cob, boiled new potatoes, coleslaw and something blueberry for dessert, blueberry slump, grunt, cobbler or pie.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bushwickgirl

            I wasn't familiar with grunts and a quick search made me laugh out loud over the origin of the name there... the fruit actually grunts as you cook it :)

          2. Jambalaya
            Chicken biscuits
            Chicken fried steak
            Chili con carne
            Cincinnati chili
            Juicy Lucy
            Pulled pork

            1 Reply
            1. re: JungMann

              Turducken, now that truly is surprising/intense/unusual. Probably easy to source in NZ also.

            2. We spent 3 weeks there in 2003 and Italian was exotic and I never saw any Tex Mex. I'm sure things have changed in the big cities but I think home cooks might be thrilled to have a taco night or enchilladas or even chlii dogs loaded with onions and cheese.

              1. Krispy Kreme cheeseburger.......

                2 Replies
                1. re: srsone

                  Thought about it for a while and that's really what I arrived at. The burger is an American thing. Overboard/gluttony is an American thing. Serve it with a side of deep-fried beer and you're set.

                  1. re: ediblover

                    side of deep fried bacon...like that place in Texas

                    burger is the first quintessential american dish that came to my mind...

                    or macaroni and cheese

                    only hard part will be getting Krispy Kremes in NZ

                2. It's tough to say, since sourcing might be a problem, and some of these recipes can be tricky if you've never attempted them before. That said, here's my list:
                  Shrimp Creole over rice
                  Soft (rolled) chicken tacos (not USA, but close enough)
                  Texas-style (that means no beans) chili
                  Chicken-fried steak with cream gravy
                  A good old fashion shrimp and crab boil, complete with corn and potatoes might be fun, too. Dump the whole thing on a pile of newspaper, and let everyone dig in!

                  1. garlic and bacon pizza!!!!

                    1. Somethings from a good American e.g. Chez Panisse cookbook.

                      1. Salt-codfish cakes are a standard from old New England. Not sure how 'surprising/intense/unusual', but they are delicious with tartar sauce and dill.

                        1. If you have access to a covered grill and smoke chips, you could do any number of mean smoked meats and several different regional barbeque sauces (Memphis, Texas, Carolina, etc.) and then make them a panful of ranch beans, cornbread, and greens with pork and cubed potatoes, slow-cooked for hours. (Green beans for this last, too.)

                          1. If she can get the pickles, how about deep fried pickles? I had a friend who relocated there for a few years a while back and he said you can't get dill pickles there. Her friends have probably never had them.

                            1. Corn dogs (yech to me)
                              Gooey cake
                              Pecan pie (way too sweet for me, but maybe not for Kiwis)
                              Hot buttered lobster rolls (the style in SE Connecticut, as opposed to the the lobster salad type more common elsewhere)

                              I will omit a Rochester (NY) Garbage Plate out of common decency.

                              1. We have made peanut soup for foreign visitors on quite a few occasions. They are invariably amazed that you can make soup from peanuts, and they always seem to love it. Ingredients: peanut butter, scallions, chicken stock, chopped peanuts and scallions for a garnish.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: roxlet

                                  Yum, I had this in Alabama and it was amazing. Good call.

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    Peanut Soup was one of George Washington's all-time favorite dishes.

                                  2. Oyster's Rockerfeller
                                    Chicken Fried Steak
                                    Chicken Wings!

                                    1. buffalo burger with hatch chile sauce, jack cheese and served on a pretzel roll

                                      1. I grew up in the Minnesota so all of this "southern" food is not American to me. Serve her a tator tot hotdish and a rootbeer float for dessert. Lol. I lived in Enlgand for 6 months many years ago and missed root beer and regular ketchup (hey I was 19 at the time!). Breaded chicken or pork chops with baked mac n cheese or twice backed potatoes (with bacon bits) could be fun too.

                                        1. What region did she live in before she moved? Maybe something from her area would be good. For instance, I live in southwest Virginia and I would cook a pot of brown beans and cornbread or fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. That is if I could find similar ingredients to what I am used to.

                                          1. Thanks for all the feedback, folks!

                                            1. Roast chicken rubbed with kosher salt, brown sugar, and plenty of chipotle powder. Any dish with chipotle, actually- maybe chipotle mashed sweet potatoes?

                                              A pot of good spicy chili. Or jambalaya.

                                              Philly cheesesteaks. Good deli sandwiches- Reubens, maybe.

                                              Some nice slow-cooked pulled pork with five or six different BBQ sauces representing various regions- Alabama white, Carolina yellow, Louisiana spicy, Tennessee smoky-sour, Georgia smoky-sweet, etc.

                                              Or classic chicken-fried steak with white country gravy. The secret of my Texas family's most excellent chicken-fried steak is a few tablespoons of chicken fat in the frying oil. Don't tell 'em I told ya.

                                              1. what a great thread. 1) she should make something she can get the ingredients for, preferably from her own region, that she's cooked before 2) i am remembering GreedyGirl's (an u.k. hound) "american party" she had for her husband's birthday-- the big-hit-wit-the-brits was not a big production main dish, it was good old american deviled eggs!

                                                let us know what she serves :)

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  I'm in NZ and you can get pretty much any ingredients here.
                                                  I'd be thrilled if someone cooked me food from their region (especially if they happened to be Southern or Cajun...)
                                                  It's the middle of winter, so fruity punches and tomatoes are very much out of season!
                                                  I'd avoid any 'typical American' food like pizza or burgers, unless they're amazing, as they're pretty ubiquitous.
                                                  Does Mexican count? If your friend's from an area with good Mexican food, that's something we really don't have over here.

                                                  1. re: pippimac

                                                    in that case, i'd do a bison preparation: bison chili, or a bison loin is always a showstopper. personally i would make a gumbo.

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      OK, maybe we don't have everything! The stuff to go with stuff, bot not much in the way of endemic North American proteins. *smile* Can you export bison meat?
                                                      We've got a lot of red deer: venison might do the job. What does bison taste like? I imagine a cross between beef and venison.

                                                      1. re: pippimac

                                                        Venison would work.

                                                        The bison I've had tastes like very lean beef -- very tasty, but not worth going to huge expense and effort to acquire (disclaimer: I eat *very* little beef, so ymmv)

                                                        Chili or barbecue or buffalo wings, Cajun, are the only things that keep circling my mind as being pretty intensely American. They borrow spices from other cultures, but don't really exist in other cultures in the same form.

                                                        (I keep coming back to this thread..interesting stuff!)

                                                        1. re: pippimac

                                                          Kangaroo would be an excellent sub for the bison.

                                                  2. chili or pulled pork. Or enchiladas or lasagna.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                      Enchiladas are Mexican; Lasagna is Italian.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        The next thing will be that sushi and sashimi aren't American either....

                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                          well, it's CALLED a California roll! O.o

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            Well, the most American dish is to take an online recipe for a classic non-American dish, make all sorts of farcical substitutions to make it lower fat, lower sugar, and more suited for lots of microwave leftovers - and then complain that it's meh.

                                                    2. For intense flavor, I would go for Cajun like gumbo or crab boil.

                                                      However, I think they would really like and be fascinated by chicken fried or country fried cube steak with mashed potatoes and white gravy. Serve it with southern green beans and apple pie for dessert.

                                                      1. How about oyster stew or Maryland crab soup. Southern Maryland stuffed ham. Jello mold. Fried oreos, twinkies, snickers. Shoofly pie. Crab Pretzel. Buffalo Chicken Dip. Sauer Kraut Cake. Oyster shooter. Boston Baked Beans. Collard Greens with Pot Liquor. Fried Green Tomatoes. Steamed Crabs (in Maryland we use beer to steam our crabs and season each layer of the crabs in the pot with a liberal coating of Old Bay before steaming. boiled crab? shudder) Sauerkraut Balls. Salt Water Taffy. Skillet Corn Bread.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                            There's the surprise! :)

                                                            2/3 Cup (4.5oz) Sauerkraut 5 1/3 (10 2/3 Tbsp) sweet butter 2 teaspoon vanilla 1 1/2 Cup refined white sugar 3 Large Eggs 1 Cup STRONG cold coffee 2 1/4 Cup unbleached flour 1 teaspoon double acting baking flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 Cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa Make sure ALL ingredients are at room temp Place suearkraut in non reactive bowl and let sit in cold water for at least 2 hours (I usually do it overnight in fridge for best result). Put Kraut in strainer, and let drain, but not to dryness. rinse with fresh water and press down again. Chop finely and set aside. Preheat oven to 350F Butter & Flour two 9" pans (I often cut circles of parchment or wax paper and lay in bottom of prepared cake pans) Mix together flour, soda, powder, salt and cocoa. IN A MIXER ON MED HIGH:Beat sweet butter til light; slowly add sugar to butter and beat til fluffy. Add vanilla IN A MIXER AT MED:beat in eggs, one at a time, making sure the previous egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once last egg is incorporated, end Mixer use. BY HAND: add dry mixture in three alternative parts with coffee. This can be done on machine but it must be at lowest speed. Fold in, BY HAND, finely chopped sauerkraut into batter, making sure it is evenly distributed. Pour evenly into prepared pans and bake in preheat oven for 25-30 minutes.The toothpick will have moist specks stuck to it when cake is ready to be pulled. Do Not Overbake, otherwise the texture will be ruined. Cool on rack and frost with whipcream and brandied cherries (for a Black Forest Cake) or with a classic buttercream

                                                            1. re: Vidute

                                                              I think this one goes in the thread of "what went through somebody's mind to make that edible?" -- like olives and oysters.

                                                        1. Hot wings, a side of Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing for dipping, and celery sticks. Spicy chili to go with it.

                                                          1. A food from my hometown, Nashville - hot chicken! It's basically just fried chicken, but the batter is made with copious amounts of cayenne; it is HOT. Hotter than hot wings, and without the vinegary taste of bottled hot sauce. The hot chicken joints in Nashville will generally refuse to serve anything above "medium" to someone who isn't a regular (or they will, but they'll laugh at you as you try to eat it with tears streaming down your face).

                                                            Serve it on white bread with pickles. It's some great stuff.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                              1. Midwesterner here, and in the summer I think it's all about the vegetables and beef. Scalloped tomatoes are delicious - sometimes people call versions of this "tomato pudding" - the midwestern version is usually somewhat sweet, tomatoes baked with cubes of tender bread and butter. Steaks of course - on the grill or maybe pan-fried to be even more americana (you need a good hood if you want to fry them). Sweet corn scraped off the cob and cooked with milk, seasoned with black pepper and butter. zucchini casserole or sauteed disks of it with garden herbs, oregano, chive, basil. Sliced big boy tomatoes off the vine with a drizzle of oil and vinegar, seasoned with Lawry's salt, add a scant sprinkle of sugar if they are not sweet enough. Deviled eggs. Fried eggplant (or scalloped in cream sauce, that's pretty american).

                                                                1. An american style BBQ
                                                                  Pulled pork
                                                                  Biscuits and gravy
                                                                  creamed corn
                                                                  brined turkey

                                                                  1. Atomic Buffalo Turds.