Menu Notes: County Fair

 Yes, I forgot to take any pictures of the dinner. Until we were cleaning up. Oops.

Yes, I forgot to take any pictures of the dinner. Until we were cleaning up. Oops.

Here is what I love about fair food – it’s a venue in which America enjoys getting wild and crazy with our food. Across America, “creative” (much less “wild and crazy”) is not always praise when it comes to what we eat – but at the fair, there it’s no-holds-barred, deep fried butter, unbridled weirdness. 

The Texas State Fair offers two Big Tex Choice awards for food – Best Tasting and Most Creative

Funnel Cake Ale won most creative last year. Funnel Cake Ale is a bit of an anomaly as it was not fried (although it *could* have been fried – deep fried beer won in 2010). Other prime examples of fried creativity: Lattes, Banana Splits, Jambalay, and Bubble Gum. As this Eater article from the beer year explains “At the State Fair of Texas They’re Going to Deep Fry Everything

I admittedly had not read about Texas Caviar (deep fried black eyed peas) when I made the Hel’s County Fair menu, and so I chose Fried Dough Croutons to represent this tradition. Small pieces of fried dough do make an excellent salad topper. I used the King Arthur Flour recipe for fried dough, which is posted here. It may be my favorite for fried-dough-salad applications. My most favorite fried dough overall is the fry bread recipe in the Mitsitam Cafe cookbook – although next I’m exploring the full round up of fry bread recipes from different Native American sources posted here.   

Now, Texas may be a center of innovation in the fried fair foods division, but the upper Midwest is where it’s at for fair food on a stick. The crowning Food On A Stick achievement, Minnesota’s answer to fried beer, is probably spaghetti and meatballs on a stick. And as far as I can tell there are two main approaches to this – everything combined into one giant meatball (as described here) or spaghetti, meatballs, and something to wrap around them (as described here – oddly enough by Mario Batali in the New York Times). 

Iowa has brought a second stick item to the popular consciousness – pork chop on a stick. Eating a pork chop on a stick is an important stop in modern American presidential politics. Just the yesterday, Jeb Bush was on the evening news seeking out voters and pork chops at the Iowa State Fair. 

For the County Fair dinner I went the pork chop on a stick route. Because it was a small bite in a large meal, I did not go with an entire pork chop, but rather shaved off pork chop strips for more of a pork satay approach, with appropriate dipping sauces. Those appropriate dipping sauces naturally involved Dr. Pepper. 

I believe that Vermont can also find something to contribute to creative County Fair foods that take the country by storm. Probably an innovation in Creamees. We’ve already exported the Maple Creemee to the streets of New York City (Brooklyn, of course) and we can think bigger and wilder. 

I went with something a bit conservative for my starting contribution, but it was awfully tasty: Maple Kettle Corn Ice Cream. This ice cream builds from the Momofuku Milk Bar idea of Cereal Milk Ice Cream, where you soak toasted cereal in milk, then strain it, before proceeding with the ice cream making. That’s about it and it’s not very secret, Momofuku posts the recipe right on their website. My only change was to use a larger volume of popcorn (on the theory that it’s lighter than cereal) and a Philadelphia style ice cream base (the kind without egg yolks and with a mixture of whole milk and cream) so the flavor would be cleaner. Voila. Delicious. 

Next time, I’ll do a Tunbridge Fair version of a County Fair menu and find recipes for all the giant zucchini and pumpkins, and maybe an omelet with eggs from fancy poultry, and caramel with milk from a prize winning goat. 

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