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The 8 Best Places to Eat on the Road in the Country

On Log On & Eat with Eden Grinshpan, Eden travels the country to meet the most outrageous and original food bloggers and social media stars who invite her to devour their favorite dishes. We connected with them to pick their brains and score some exclusive advice and tips.

You know when you’re watching the Cooking Channel and they are featuring great food from all over the United States and you think to yourself, one day I have to make it out there to try that? For those of us who consider ourselves food fanatics, we always want to try the best of the best no matter where it is. Well, as a truck driver, I have the unique opportunity to travel the United States and experience some of the best cuisine this country has to offer while doing my job of keeping America moving. Here are a few of my top picks of places you just have to experience if you’re a food fanatic like me:

1) Just Oxtails  — Houston
This place feels like going to your grandma’s house for Sunday dinner. Everything I’ve ever tried here is delicious and has that authentic soul food taste that you can’t really get anywhere other than down South. As the name states, one of their specialties is tender meaty oxtails, which are a must-try. However, their menu changes daily, serving up everything from smothered pork chops, fried chicken and meatloaf to turkey wings, fried catfish and even meatballs. An extensive selection of homemade sides like candied yams, mac and cheese, and greens finish off your meal to make it an experience you will not soon forget!

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American Classics: Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!

Huckleberry Pie Recipe Mark Twain

When celebrating the birthday of an American literary icon, not just any grocery story birthday cake will do. For American food-lover Mark Twain, perhaps the greatest and most mythologized American writer ever, only an iconic American dessert starring an ingredient that shares its name with his most famous character will do. Since Twain loved “all sorts of American pastry” and “fresh American fruits”  this Huckleberry Pie (above) seems like the obvious choice to stick a candle in to celebrate his birthday while rafting down a river reading (or SparkNotes-ing) The Adventures of Huck Finn.

Twain’s love of food wasn’t limited to pie. On one long voyage over seas, he (as he would) waxed poetic about a long list of favorite American foods he couldn’t wait to get home to enjoy. We’ve got recipes for lots of ‘em, and we think Mr. Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens) had pretty good literary and culinary taste.

For example:

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Lincoln: Legendary President, Finicky Dinner Party Guest

Lincoln Dinner Party menu from Cooking Channel

The film “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, tells the story of he 16th president’s tumultuous final  months in office. Abraham Lincoln, perhaps more than any other president, continues to occupy the public imagination.

Research on the topic of Lincoln’s food preferences seems divided.  While some sources state that Lincoln was mad about Mary Todd Lincoln’s cakes, others claim that he was rather indifferent on the topic of food altogether. Despite all of his accomplishments and accolades, he sounds to us like a challenging dinner party guest. Which begs the question:

If Honest Abe was the guest of honor at your dinner party, what would you serve him?

We’re throwing a dinner party menu of America’s most iconic state dishes inspired by this iconic insomniac.

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Trends Across the Country: Pie

Key Lime Pie

To celebrate this year of the Olympics and a presidential election, Cooking Channel asked fans what dishes represent their states and then worked with our kitchens to create original recipes for each of the 50 states. (Read all about the project here.) Each state has its own unique food scene, but we couldn’t help but notice some trends across the map from coast to coast.

When I first heard Cooking Channel planned to tackle the best state food recipes, I immediately started campaigning for the dish I thought most represented my home state of Florida: key lime pie (pictured above). I distinctly remember thinking, “Florida’s dish better be key lime pie,” (I even threatened as much on my Facebook page.) and not just because I think it’s pretty darn tasty, but because as a Key West native, to me, there was no other option.

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Trends Across The Country: Southern BBQ

Texas Brisket

Texas Brisket

To celebrate this year of the Olympics and a presidential election, Cooking Channel asked fans what dishes represent their states and then worked with our kitchens to create original recipes for each of the 50 states. (Read all about the project here.) Each state has its own unique food scene, but we couldn’t help but notice some trends across the map from coast to coast

When regional pride comes smoked, piled high and served alongside a variety of slaws and sides, things can get a bit tasty — and a bit testy, too. For example, try serving dry-rub ribs to a friend from Kansas City and you’re bound for a lesson in proper Kansas City-style barbecue sauce. When it comes to Southern BBQ, styles vary not only from state to state, but city to city.

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Trends Across the Country: Meat Pies

Handheld Meat Pies from Nebraska, aka Runzas, were made popular by a local fast food chain.

To celebrate this year of the Olympics and a presidential election, Cooking Channel asked fans what dishes represent their states and then worked with our kitchens to create original recipes for each of the 50 states. (Read all about the project here.) Each state has its own unique food scene, but we couldn’t help but notice some trends across the map from coast to coast.

As an Omaha, Nebraska native, I was really excited (and a little nervous) when I was called upon during recipe development of Across the Country in 50 State Dishes for my expertise in Nebraskan foods, specifically the beloved Runza. What the heck is a runza? It’s a handheld meat pie, similar to other meat pies that were voted as favorites by our Facebook fans across the country (check out the Michigan Pasty and West Virginia’s Pepperoni Rolls). Only the runza, of Russian and German origin, is filled with ground beef (yeah, Nebraska!), onions and cabbage. And, most critically, it is the specialty of the Midwestern fast food chain, RUNZA.

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Food Photography and Styling for 50 State Dishes

Pulled Pork

That photo above — it’s beautiful, isn’t it? From the in-your-face mound of pulled pork with seeded bun to the out-of-focus iced drink and warm tones of the color scheme — everything about it works together to create an irresistible image. In fact, our stomachs have been growling ever since we laid eyes on it and the rest of our state-favorite food beauties. By now, you’ve likely seen our list of 50 dishes that represent American cuisine. And if not, trust us: you’ll want to click through to see many more delectable classics.

We sat down with photographer Tara Donne to walk us through all the gorgeous photography that now graces our Across the Country in 50 State Dishes experience. From the set up and organization behind the  pulled pork shot featured above, to the challenges, delights and highlights of photographing 50+ different recipes, each with a feel and theme inspired by a different state, Tara took us behind the scenes of her epic photo shoot.

Cooking Channel: Capturing a flattering food photograph takes a lot longer than one might think. Can you walk us through the nuts and bolts of a photograph like the pulled pork shot you captured above?

Behind The Scenes

Food stylist Stantos, arranges the pulled pork atop a soft, seeded bun.

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Trends Across the Country: Much Mexican Food

Deep-fried and served with fresh fixin’s, fish tacos are a fave amongst surfers and southern Californians.

To celebrate this year of the Olympics and a presidential election, Cooking Channel asked fans what dishes represent their states and then worked with our kitchens to create original recipes for each of the 50 states. (Read all about the project here.) Each state has its own unique food scene, but we couldn’t help but notice some trends across the map from coast to coast.

Though we discovered interesting recipes from all Across the Country, a few states’ dishes in particular caught my attention. It looks like I need to book a flight to visit the states that specialize in my favorite cuisine: Mexican.

From the great state of California comes one of my all-time favorites, Fish Tacos (pictured above). Whether you like them deep-fried and crispy or refreshingly topped with nothing but lime juice, these Southern California staples will turn your kitchen table into a taqueria.

A burrito was once accidentally dropped in the fryer (or so the tale goes), and the crispy, meat-filled chimichanga was born.

From the border state of Arizona comes a fried favorite: Pork Chimichangas. It’s basically a burrito that was dropped in the fryer — what could possibly be bad about that? Top it with some sour cream, pico de gallo and guacamole and you’re set for a deliciously crunchy dinner.

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Trends Across the Country: East Coast Seafood

Old Bay Steamed Maryland Crabs

To celebrate this year of the Olympics and a presidential election, Cooking Channel asked fans what dishes represent their states and then worked with our kitchens to create original recipes for each of the 50 states. (Read all about the project here.) Each state has its own unique food scene, but we couldn’t help but notice some trends across the map from coast to coast.

Every state has its iconic dish that stirs up all kinds of pride. It sparks countless arguments over where to get the ultimate version, whose grandma’s recipe is better or what ingredients are completely sacrilegious to the original. Even the way you serve and eat the dish can separate true locals from pretenders.

To represent my home state of Maryland, Cooking Channel fans were 100 percent accurate in nominating Old Bay steamed blue crabs. Every summer growing up, my family would drive an hour and a half just for dinner on the Chesapeake Bay’s eastern shore, where we’d feast on crabs at a dockside place with rustic picnic tables covered in butcher paper (the only way hard-shell crabs should be served).

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A Chef’s Perspective on Preparing America’s State Dishes

Young Sun Huh discusses a dish with the culinary team.

By now you’ve seen our list of 50 dishes (plus one for D.C. and an election year-themed cake) that represent American cuisine, and have read our behind-the-scenes blog post all about the creation of this huge project. (Oh, you haven’t? Trust us — it’s worth a couple clicks.) Our chefs up in the Kitchens were super busy (and sometimes super stumped) preparing regional dishes from all 50 states, from classics like peach pie and lobster rolls to some crazy-sounding dishes like Lefse, Pastys and Chislic.

We sat down with Chef Young Sun Huh to walk us through her recipe development process, and share some of her favorite memories from this fun collaborative project.

Cooking Channel: You prepared and tasted a lot of dishes. Which one were you most surprised to find yourself going back for second (or third) helpings?

The dish that stole everyone's hearts (and stomachs).

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