50 in 50

Several years back I vowed to see all 50 states in 50 years as part of my bucket list. Well, lo and behold, I did it! This past autumn, my husband George and I traveled to Idaho, my final unvisited state, as part of our 25th wedding anniversary trip. What an amazing adventure it has been! We’ve seen many stunning sights from the glaciers in Alaska to the Grand Canyon in Arizona and marveled at everything from sea to shining sea, stopping often to enjoy plenty of food in between and along the way. It is truly “America the Beautiful, ” and I would encourage others to embark on such a quest, as well. Until then, here are a few highlights from some surprising states. 

Corn Chowder

South Dakota is home to the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and the fabulous Corn Palace. This recipe is an adaptation from the souvenir cookbook, “A-maize-ing Recipes and other Corny Stuff, ” that I picked up at the latter attraction. This award-winning recipe also features Idaho potatoes. 

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (preferably Idaho russet)
6 ears fresh sweet corn
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender, about 8 – 10 minutes. 
2. Dust vegetables with flour and stir to coat well. Add vegetable stock. Bring to a boil. Add cream gradually, stirring constantly, and add potatoes. Bring to a boil. Continue boiling for about 7 minutes or until the potatoes begin to break down. 
3. Cut corn kernels from the cobs. Run the dull side of the knife down cobs to get the “milk.” Add kernels and milk to pot. 
4. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 10 – 15 minutes or until corn is soft. Stir in parsley and serve. Serves 8.

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Mashed Roasted Garlic Potatoes with Spinach

In the process of planning our anniversary trip to Idaho, I heard innumerable quips about potatoes, and it is true that Idaho is famous for their potatoes, a fact proudly displayed on every Idahoan’s license plate. But what most folks don’t realize is that lovely Idaho also boasts the sumptuous Sun Valley, the spectacular Snake River and more, not to mention being adjacent to both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

8 cups peeled and diced potatoes
3 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick butter, cut into cubes
2 heads Roasted Garlic (see below)
4 cups fresh spinach, washed, stemmed, coarsely chopped or torn
1/2 teaspoon white pepper 

1. Put potatoes and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. 
2. Return potatoes to pot, stir over low heat for a minute or so to reduce extra moisture, then stir in cream, butter and garlic with a large whisk. 
3. Stir in spinach, season with remaining salt and white pepper and stir until well combined. Serves 8 – 10.

Roasted Garlic

olive oil        

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top third of garlic head and place in baking pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. 
2. Cover with foil and bake for about 1 hour. Let cool. Squeeze individual cloves out of the head to use. 

Carolina Pulled Pork with Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

I went to graduate school in North Carolina at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I was introduced to vinegar-based barbecue. It is insanely delicious and so different from what most of us are used to in the Deep South. At Carolina, we often had “pig-pickings” for social events — especially during football season — featuring fall-apart, slow-roasted pork basted with a variation of this tasty sauce. 

5 pound bone-in pork shoulder (Ask the butcher to cut it into four pieces.)
2 cups hickory chips 
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced into big rings
1 cup water
hamburger buns or white bread
Vinegar Barbecue Sauce (see below)

1. Chill pork in refrigerator overnight. 
2. Soak hickory chips in water for 20 minutes prior to grilling. 
3. Place chilled pork in a large bowl. Combine salt, black pepper, cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, sugar and oil, then toss with pork to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for half an hour. 
4. Meanwhile, prepare grill. Make a hot fire with lump charcoal. Then add water-soaked hickory chips. Immediately place marinated pork pieces on the grill along with onion rings. 
5. Cover and grill pork shoulder for 15 minutes, turning the pork and onion rings frequently. Remove pork and onion rings from the grill. Finely chop the grilled onion rings. 

6. Place pork and chopped onions in a large slowcooker (at least 2-quart size). Pour 1 cup of water over all, cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until the pork is falling off the bone. 
7. Remove pork from cooker, reserve 1 cup juice for sauce. Place pork pieces in a baking pan, pour any remaining juices over pork, cover with foil and keep warm in a very low oven or warming drawer until ready to serve. 
8. Just before serving, shred pork and discard the bones. Serve with hamburger buns or slices of white bread. Top generously with Vinegar Barbecue Sauce. Serves 6. 

Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 – 3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup cooking liquid from pork shoulder

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. 
2. Cook the mixture for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently with a whisk. Serve immediately. 

Minnesota Wild Rice and Venison

Minnesota is a glorious state. Touted as the “land of 10, 000 lakes, ” we were enchanted with the many lakes of varying shapes and sizes that we fished in and boated upon. It is also where an astonishing amount of our nation’s wild rice comes from. This is a recipe from a pamphlet I picked up while visiting Bemidji, Minnesota. This delectable dish works equally well in south Alabama where we tend to have a plethora of deer hunters and an abundance of venison.

1 pound venison, cubed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced celery
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup raw wild rice, well washed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Dredge venison cubes in flour. Brown in butter over medium-low heat in a heavy saucepan or pot. 
3. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking for about 5 minutes or so,  stirring frequently. 
4. Add celery, tomatoes, bell pepper, water and seasonings. Bring to a boil. 
5. Add the wild rice. Place in a baking dish, and bake for about 1 hour or until rice is tender, making sure to stir casserole occasionally. Serves 4 – 6.

text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by Elise Poché

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