Saturday, May 27, 2017

Weekend Round-Up

Amy Thielen is a chef, TV cook, and two-time James Beard Award–winning writer. She is the author of "The New Midwestern Table" (2013) and host of Heartland Table on Food Network (2013–2014) and worked for celebrated New York City chefs David Bouley, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Daniel Boulud before moving back home to the Midwest. 
Thielen speaks widely about home cooking and contributes to radio programs and magazines, including Saveur, where she’s a contributing editor. She lives with her husband, visual artist Aaron Spangler, their son, his dog, and a bunch of chickens, in Park Rapids, Minnesota.
In 2013 I wrote a review of her first book "The New Midwestern Table"which featured over 200 recipes that showed Midwestern cooking like our grandmothers used to do but with a modern freshness. Thielen's cuisine is thrifty, intuitive and seasonal. "The New Midwestern Table" was a cross between a memoir, a travelogue and a cookbook. Thielen is a strong writer who engages  the reader with her keen sense of observation.

Amy has rock star status in our area with a devout following. Recently Beagle Bookstore in Park Rapids. MN held a book launch for her latest book "Give A Girl A Knife". 
Note the creative way knives are displayed with the 3 letter I's.

Thielen's newest book "Give A Girl A Knife" is a food memoir that chronicles her cooking journey from her rural Midwestern hometown to the world of New York City fine dining and back again in search of her culinary roots. The book is written in two narratives. One it is an autobiography about how food can define your life, the special moments and the every day ones. The second narrative is a about a young rural Minnesota-born couple who choose Minnesota over all other places, making some extreme but exciting sacrifices to defend and hold their dream of a "living off the land" existence in the north woods. It’s where Thielen really, truly learned to cook and to honor the way her ancestors cooked in the first place.
I did enjoy one reviewer's comment who said Thielen's writing is quietly lovely, Minnesotan through and through. I am looking forward to the read. 

Recently my daughter and I attended her book launch in Park Rapids. It was held in gallery of an old courthouse called Nemeth Art Center. 

I missed my chance to get a photo of the whole cake (featuring copy of book cover) but you get the idea how creative it was. 
My small connection to Amy is that she and my niece are really good friends so we took this photo to document the event.   
Here's what I would consider an Amy approved recipe that speaks to Midwestern cooking, a hotdish with chicken and wild rice. I happen to know Amy has harvested wild rice and she raises chickens. 
Chicken with Wild Rice Hot Dish (known as casseroles everywhere else) 
Cook's notes: Whether you're from the Midwest and grew up eating "hot dish" or never heard the word before this comfort food hits the spot on a cold evening. This is my updated version that uses no canned soups.  The rice and chicken can be prepared the day before for easier prep.

  • 1 cup wild rice and 1 cup long grain or brown rice 
  • fine sea salt 
  • 3 TB, salted butter, divided 
  • 1 cup diced onion or 2 leeks, white and light green parts, diced 
  • 1 cup celery, diced 
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms 
  • optional 1/2 cup diced water chestnuts 
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 4 TB. all-purpose flour 
  • 1- 1/2 cups 2% milk 
  • 2/3 cup fat free half and half 
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock, low sodium 
  • 1/4 cup white wine 
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme (or 1- 1/2 teaspoons fresh) 
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes 
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence, divided 
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cooked chicken 
  • 4 ounces Swiss or cheddar cheese, grated (about 1- 1/2 cups) 
  • 2 cups coarsely ground buttery crackers (such as Ritz or Club; about 2 sleeves) 
  • 2 TB. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • optional 3/4 cup silvered almonds 
  • Rinse both rices together, add to a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until both rices are al dente about 40 minutes. Set aside. 
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks or onions, celery and mushrooms. Cook until tender, about 6 minutes. 
  • Add the flour to the vegetables and stir until well combined. Pour in the milk and bring to a simmer, whisking to prevent any lumps. Add in the half and half, chicken stock, wine, 3/4 tsp. thyme, 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence, 1 tsp. parsley, chopped chicken pieces and both rices. 
  • Grease a 2-1/2-3 quart baking dish. Pour the chicken mixture into the dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes. 
  • Add crackers to a zip loc bag with 1/2 tsp. herbes de Provence. Use a rolling pin to crumble. Add in 1 tablespoon melted butter and shake to combine. Set aside. 
  • Remove foil and sprinkle with slivered almonds and the cracker mixture over the top. Bake until the crackers turn golden brown and the mixture bubbles in the center, 1o minutes. Serve immediately. 

1 comment:

  1. You are certainly making some wonderful connections to Minnesota authors.