What is Midwestern food? Is it jello salads and casseroles made with canned soup? Or, in these cheffed-up times, it is possible that it could be more than that? That, in fact, it's always been more than that? Amy Thielen seeks to answer these questions in her book The New Midwestern Table, and along the way maybe teach you how to pickle some fish. The book is part of a new partnership between Random House and Food Network, so the book is being released in tandem with Thielen's new show Heartland Table, which premieres tomorrow (September 14) at 10:30 ET.
Here's the problem with defining a Midwestern cuisine: the Midwest is huge, and no one can agree on where, exactly, it is. Is Oklahoma in the Midwest? Is Western Pennsylvania? How about Wyoming? Thielen is from rural Minnesota, which most people will agree is solidly Midwest. And yet her food is different than, say, the food at Colby and Meghan Garrelts' tribute to Missouri-style Midwestern cuisine at Rye outside of Kansas City. Thielen is pickles and freshwater fish and Scandanavian baked goods while Rye is fried chicken and barbecue. Neither one is wrong, but it just goes to show how much variation there is within this largely untapped regional cuisine.
Thielen brings her Minnesota background and her experience as a chef in New York City to the table for a modern (and more youthful) take on the flavors of what one might call the Upper Midwest. What that means is that there are recipes for Best-Ever Beer Soup (no Velveeta here), chicken paprikash, a dressed-up hot dish that's topped with Ritz crackers, lengthier projects like canning preserves and making your own sauerkraut, and more. Below, a peek inside the book and a preview of the show. The New Midwestern Table is out from Clarkson Potter September 24 (pre-order on Amazon).