June 23, 2009

Recipes for an Expedition!

When you start out on a cooking challenge like the one I've set for myself, surely you can expect to learn a few things.

For example, I've learned that grease burns hurt like all get out. I've learned that I'm not fan of pimento cheese as prepared by Bobby Deen. I've learned that simple recipes aren't always as simple as they appear. I'm sure there are some other lessons learned so far, but you get the point.

You might also be able to say that this cooking challenge is a bit of an expedition. And, for the purposes of this posting, I plan to do so - if only because it goes so well with the title of the cookbook I used for my most recent adventure. Namely, I used one cookbook titled "The Food Journal of Lewis & Clark: Recipes for an Expedition."

I've had this cookbook for a while and it epitomizes one type of cookbook I adore, which are those that deliver more than just a collection of recipes and that tell a story about the recipes' origins and their place in history or a region.

The Food Journal is derived from the journals of Lewis & Clark as they traveled west to explore the Louisiana Purchase as well as their return east. It begins in 1801 with their meeting in Washington, D.C., with President Jefferson and plots out their course chronologically, including recipes, lists of provisions, excerpts from their journals and much more - nearly all of which is focused on food, food and more food.

Living on the Missouri River in Omaha, this cookbook has even more meaning to me because I'm able to visit a park dedicated to the expedition's crossing of said river. Very cool in my nerdy-ish opinion.

In any case, I decided that I had to use one or more recipes from The Food Journal because I've promised to loan it to a friend of mine who shares my love of cookbooks like this. So, this blog and these recipes are dedicated to her (she knows who she is). I only wish I'd had enough forethought to have invited her over for dinner before diving head first into these recipes.

I will say that I purposely selected recipes that could be dished up as a complete dinner. However, what I didn't realize was that I had selected a collection of recipes that also vaguely resembled a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. All in all, I think this is very appropriate. The Lewis & Clark expedition had much to be thankful for and subsequent generations are much beholden to their hard work and bravery.

Okay... Enough of that! On to the food!

The Lewis & Clark menu consisted of Roasted Cornish Game Hens stuffed with Sweet Potatoes; Hominy and Sunflower Cakes; and Peas with Mint-Butter Sauce.

The cornish game hens were easy-peasy to fix. I seasoned them with salt and pepper; stuffed 'em with some chopped up sweet potatoes; poured a bit olive oil over the tops; and then put 'em in the oven to bake for about an hour and a quarter.

And, apparently, in my case, when it comes time to carve them, the messier the better.

The peas were easy too. Peas brought to a boil for a few minutes with some chopped scallions tossed in for the last minute and tossed with some salt, butter and fresh chopped mint.

The Hominy and Sunflower Cakes were a different story.

First off, they required the use a food processor. I have a mini-food processor. No biggie there since I've learned the art of processing in batches.

The problem came into play when I had to fry them. Ugh. Frying. On my evil, electric-coil stove top. I would have used my electric skillet, but figured it wasn't worth the effort for a such a small batch of hominy cakes.

Yeah... That was stupid. Course, maybe it's just plain ol' stupid for me to be frying considering my recent history (see here and here).

Oh... And let's compound the matter by taking into account the fact that I was frying CORN! Hello! Corn and high temps equals popping! Doh!

Quite frankly, I'm sure my parents are simultaneously horrified and dying of laughter over my seeming inability to fry anything on my own.

Anyhow, by the third batch of hominy cakes (see pic at right), I had turned the heat down low enough and poured off most of the frying grease in order to minimize the damage I could do.

Luckily, hominy cakes like these taste fine even before they're fried and frying them just added some extra zing thanks to the sunflower seeds. And once I added the boysenberry jam as a topping, I had nearly forgotten that I nearly lost a couple of more patches of skin and maybe even an eyeball to this dish.

Ahh... The joy of cooking... It really is an expedition and one that I'm enjoying in all its facets.

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