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American Food Roots

What defines authentic American cuisine? Is it a burger and fries? Grandma’s Sunday pot roast? Or are tacos, spaghetti and meatballs now truly American? Answering this question can be as complicated as defining the diverse cultures that dot the American landscape, but a new web site aims to dig up the roots of American cooking. Kojo sits down with the editors of American Food Roots to find out why we eat what we eat.

Baltimore Coddies Recipe

Baltimore coddies are essentially potatoes and codfish. The ones sold in every store in Baltimore through the first half of the 20th century apparently were mostly potato. I use salt cod which needs to be soaked for 24 hours in advance. I've included parsley if you feel the need for a fresh herb, but it seems a little uptown for a coddie. My husband the coddie aficionado, ate these when they came out of the frying pan and loved them. He tried them again the next day at room temperature and said they tasted just like those of his childhood. Remember, you MUST have a dab of yellow mustard for the full experience.

Makes 16 to 20 coddies

Ingredients
1 pound salt cod
1 1/4 pounds potatoes
2 tablespoons milk
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Peanut oil (or other high-smoke-point oil), for frying
Saltines
Yellow mustard

Instructions
In a bowl of water to cover, soak salt cod 24 hours, changing water every 6 to 8 hours. In a saucepan, place fish and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil. Drain. Cover with water again and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and break up with a fork. Let cool.

Peel, dice and boil potatoes until cooked. Drain and mash with milk to desired consistency. Cool.

Saute onion and parsley (if using) in butter until wilted. Cool.

In a large bowl, mix together fish, eggs, potatoes, onions (and parsley, if using), pepper and salt, to taste.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil to just below smoking point.

Make cod mixture into golf-ball sized balls and flatten slightly. Place in hot oil and cook until browned. Turn and brown other side. This takes almost no time so watch closely. On paper towel-covered platter, let coddies drain until cooled.

Serve between two saltine crackers with a glob of yellow mustard.

Recipe courtesy American Food Roots.

Brunswick Stew Recipe

The original (1828) Brunswick stew was made with squirrel. Most stew masters today substitute chicken, rabbit or pork. The stew often is produced in large batches for church functions, fundraisers, family reunions and political rallies. This is an adaptation of a family-sized recipe from the Brunswick County Tourism Office. Brunswick stew often is served with cornbread.

Makes 3 1/2 quarts

Ingredient

1 whole chicken (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), split
2 stalks celery, cut in halves or thirds
1 onion, peeled and quartered, plus 1 cup chopped
2 10-ounce packages frozen baby lima beans
3 10-ounce packages frozen whole kernel corn
5 cups water
2 28-ounce cans whole or diced tomatoes, undrained
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper
10 Saltine crackers

Instructions

In a large pot, combine chicken, celery, onion and 5 cups water (or to cover). Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 1 hour.

Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Strain broth. Discard solids and return broth to the pot. Let cool.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and discard bones. Add chicken and remaining ingredients (except crackers) to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 4 1/2 hours or until stew is thickened and vegetables are very tender. Add water if it becomes too thick. Stir often.

Crumble crackers and add to pot. Cook 15 minutes more.

*Some cooks prefer to add whole peeled potatoes, then mash them and return them to the stew. They say the stew freezes better than with diced potatoes that get soggy.

Recipe courtesy American Food Roots.

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