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The American Cookbook

the american cookbook

At the end of May I got the strangest email. Reminiscent of the first email I got from Marian at Southern Living, it said something along the lines of “will you take a phone call about a book project.” It was from DK, a UK based publishing company (that is part of Penguin Random House), and I almost didn’t answer it. I get a lot of PR emails and I ignore most of them, but for one reason or the other this one struck a chord. So I set up a call and before I knew it I was agreeing to help with a cookbook project. A cookbook project where at the end of the day my name would be on the cover. And a cookbook project with an incredibly short deadline.

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The sequence of events was as such– my co-author, Caroline, who has published many books with DK and is generally amazing, pitched the idea of doing an American cookbook. DK sells to an international audience and as a Brit living in North Carolina (just down the street from my Aunt Lori and Uncle Kevin, actually) the idea of a cookbook full of classic and modern American recipes made sense to Caroline and to the folks at DK. The only hangup was that they wanted an American author to be involved, which put Caroline in a hard place. That’s where I come in. I was asked to come in and co-author the book, to work with Caroline to create a cookbook that was authentic and fun and that explored the regional intricacies of the American food culture. It’s a tall order.

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The original timeline that I was given was 90 recipes (the book has 160 total) in 9 weeks. I thought it would be tight, but doable. Later that got condensed to 90 recipes in just over 4 weeks. Which was a little bit insane. I spent most of the summer waking up at the crack of dawn, writing recipes all morning, going to work, writing recipes during downtime at school, coming home, cooking and photographing and writing more recipes. And then responding to comments from Caroline and the publisher and recipe testers. And some nights I stayed up so late that I probably should have pulled an all nighter but I’m a preschool teacher and 4 year olds really loose their appeal when you’re working on no sleep. So I wrote and I cooked and I wrote and I cooked and sometimes I cried (like everytime I was converting recipes into the metric system for the first 30 recipes), but the whole time I was remembering that eventually I would look back and I would only remember how amazing it was. Which is very true and happened the day after I sent in the last recipe.

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With the timeline being the way it was we had so much more food than we could ever eat. I gave food to friends, I gave food to people who needed it, I threw parties (including a Thanksgiving in June party that was a great success). We ate and cooked and ate and cooked until I was pretty sure I never wanted to eat or cook ever again. Some things were foods I love and make often (like shrimp & grits), but others were foods I’d never even tried before (like cioppino). I made cakes for a solid week straight. I fought tooth and nails to convince the recipe testers that brunswick stew really does need to cook for a few days. It was exhilarating and frustrating and incredible.

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The book is called, as you may have guessed by the title of this post, The American Cookbook. It features about 160 recipes, 30 of which are classic recipes from across the United States. The remaining 130 recipes (approximately) are twists, fun adaptations of old favorites. In addition to the 90 recipes I contributed I took some photos, which are woven in with photos shot in the publisher’s studio. It’s due out on February 17, but it’s available now through pre-order on Amazon. The UK edition (hence all the converting) is also available on Amazon. When it comes out I’ll be throwing B&S into a frenzy of cookbook giveaways, recipe challenges, and recipes from the book, but for now I just wanted to share a peek at what I was working on this summer and what’s in the larder.

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Lovely Internet 10.25.13

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1. This cocktail from The Crunkleton sounds incredible.

2. Speaking of Garden & Gun, I’m pretty seriously considering attending this event (a pig roast with John T Edge! Does it get better than that?)

3. Speaking of John T. Edge, I’ll definitely be ordering myself a copy of this book. And probably this one too.

4. I love croissants, proscuitto, and gruyere. Therefore I think I would want to eat only these for the rest of forever.

5. I’ve been meaning to follow in The Capt’n’s brilliant footsteps and make jalapeño infused vodka.

6. With only a few weeks left until the Savannah marathon, I’m trying hard to fight the blergh.

7. I’m pretty particular about what kind of barbeque I eat (understatement of the century) but this smoked pork shoulder with molasses sauce looked fantastic.

8. Salted. Maple. Honeycomb.

9. I need a new pair of winter boots, and I’m mooning over these.

10. I hate to admit it when Buzzfeed articles are spot on, but this one so is.

For more tidbits from Elena the person, follow me on twitterinstagrampinterest or facebook. Follow along with MissElenaeous for thoughts on everything other than Southern food.

This week I also did some pinning for Emeril’s Cooking with Power, which was a fun board full of recipes that are tailor made for kitchen appliances.

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Natchitoches Meat Pies

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When Dan and I moved in together, many moons ago, we went through the painful process of consolidating our belongings and saying goodbye to the things we no longer needed or didn’t have room for (which was a lot, since we lived in a tiny apartment). As two recent college graduates this meant parting with more single use appliances than I’d like to admit. And while it was difficult at first (I still think about you, quesadilla maker), it was well worth it in the long run, and it has made us much more discerning about what we allow into our kitchen.

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Even though our kitchen now is considerably bigger than any of the ones that came prior to it, we still try and keep things simple- lots of cast iron, investment pieces, glass, wood, and metal. Things that could last our lifetime, or longer. Things we can pass down from generation to generation. That being said, I do allow room for a few modern conveniences- my slow cooker, my blender, my food processor, my stand mixer, and now, thanks to Emeril and T-Fal, my deep fryer.

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For the past few years I’ve been frying things mostly in my cast iron, which works well, but can be messy cleanup. One messy batch of falafel can mean having to dump oil, which is wasteful and expensive. When I agreed to review Emeril’s new book, Cooking with Powerand test some of the recipes, I was thrilled to find that I’d also be welcoming a deep fryer with a built in filtration system into our kitchen. This means not only is it safe (which is good because I have definitely burned myself… recently), but that I can reuse the oil again and again, from everything from hot wings to hand pies.

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Since I just returned from Louisiana, I thought it would be fitting to feature a Cajun recipe that was new to me. As I was simmering the filling on the stove my house smelled like some of the boucheries we stopped into, and that brought me back in the loveliest of ways. Natchitoches (pronounced nack-a-tish) is a town in Cajun country and the oldest permanent settlement of the Louisiana purchase. These pies, according to Cooking with Power, feature the area’s Native American and Spanish heritage and are an important part of the festival food culture year in and year out.

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The pies were fantastic. The dough has a light flakiness thanks to the baking powder, and the filling was rich and flavorful, with just the right amount of heat and a good amount of crunch. They reminded me of the cuisine I fell in love with on my trip to Avery Island, and got me excited for the prospect of diving into the rest of the recipes in this book (can anyone say fried eggplant with powdered sugar? Oh hells yes).

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Natchitoches Meat Pies

Recipe by Emeril Lagasse, from Emeril’s Cooking with PowerWilliam Morrow, New York, 2013, courtesy Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, In

Makes 24 pies


1 tsp vegetable oil

1 lb ground beef

8 oz ground pork

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp chopped garlic

1 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup beef stock

1 tbsp hot sauce


3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking powder

6 tbsp vegetable shortening

1 egg

3/4 cup whole milk

Vegetable oil for frying

Begin with the meat filling. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add vegetable oil. Cook beef and pork until browned, stirring as needed. Stir in onion, green onions, pepper, celery, and seasoning. Continue to cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables are soft. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in flour and stock, bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook until it has thickened slightly. Remove from heat, stir in hot sauce, and allow filling to cool completely.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder to make the dough. Use a fork or pastry knife to cut in the shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl beat milk and egg. Stir into flour mixture until you have a thick but workable dough. Form into a ball and flatten into a disk. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat vegetable oil in a deep fryer to 375F.

Cut the dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece out on a lightly floured work surface until 5-6″ round. Place a tablespoon or two of filling in each pie, slightly off-center. Fold dough over to make the edges meet, and crimp with a fork to seal.

Fry meat pies 3 minutes each or until golden brown. Serve hot.

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