Why is it that every time I meet someone new, and they find out that I am a chef I am immediately asked, what kind of food do you make? I have never been comfortable with this inquiry; I am aware the inference is what type of cuisine do I make. I am a product of the society I grew up in, so I can only say, I create American food. Not the foods that may have been laid out during the Eisenhower administration – Jell-O molds have terrified since childhood. Rather, I grew up experiencing a world’s worth of flavors and sensations within the reach of my hometown. The “international aisle” of grocery store always made me wonder, if all the other foods arranged on those shelves were American. After culinary school where I kept my arm raised, and ears open to a myopic, intensive Francophile’s discipline I set out the flesh out my education and satisfy a long held nagging question…just what is American food and how did it evolve, and what was this obsession with all things French?
The latter came a tad more easily for me too understand for the structured, codified system of the French kitchen was capable of being replicated. There was a centralized, static conversation coming out of the aristocratic class that trained workers who subsequently found themselves unemployed with the French revolution moving a rarified presentation to the cafes, bistros and restaurants around the world. The same cannot be said of the more fragmented, working-class based foods of the majority of the world. It has taken over 230 years and multiple waves of immigration and, the establishment of small eateries throughout this land and the onslaught of television food shows to give me an understanding of just what “American” food is. It is not just the hotdog and water reconstituted mac-n-cheese but it is very spice, grain and vegetable eaten across the globe and brought over to add comfort to an otherwise unfamiliar life.
One’s comfort food for me has become a moment of marvel, exploration and embrace – the true definition of authentic. The foundation I received in the art of cooking has not changed; heat a pan first to prevent the item from sticking and water boils at 212-degree Fahrenheit across the earth at sea level goes with me everywhere. Though, I now think of everything as coming from the international aisle, and only I, after 5 generations am American, and that is highly debatable.
Layered Meat Pie – yields 9x3 inch spring form pan
1-tablespoon coriander seed
2-teaspoons annatto seed
1-teaspoon celery seed
1-teaspoon cumin seed
¼-cup golden raisins
1/3-cup chopped sun-dried tomato
1-tablspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
2-teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
½-cup roughly chopped green olives
1-large onion – minced
5-cloves of garlic - diced
½-pound ground chicken
½-pound ground pork
1-yellow plantain - peeled and sliced on the angle into ½-inch pieces
1-pound batata - peeled
½-pound yautia -peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a spice grinder blend the paparika, coriander, cinnamon, annatto, clove, celery and cumin seeds to a fine powder. Place in a large work bowl.
To the spice mixture add the raisins, sun dried tomato, oregano, thyme, olives, capers, onion, garlic, ground chicken and pork. Mix all together to thoroughly combine all the ingredients.
Grate the yucca, battata and yautia together, and season with salt and pepper.
Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.
Line the bottom sides of the spring form pan with the sliced plantains to cover the outer circumference. Press in a third of the grated yucca mixture with the ring of the plantains. Then press in half of the meat mixture, then another third of the yucca mixture. Repeat with the remaining meat mixture and yucca mixture.
Place the spring form pan on a baking tray, cook in the oven for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and allow the meat pie rest for a half hour to an hour before releasing the spring form pan.