Kitchen Sink Recipes
Traveling cross-country, our food writers Michael and Jane Stern discover some wild and crazy local dishes
From down-east Maine to uptown Oakland and from Savannah to Seattle, there is one talent American cooks have in common: a knack for inventing crazy, mixed-up dishes. This is a nation that loves strange plate-fellows coming together as delicious "kitchen-sink" creations. The brash, rules-be-damned attitude of America's cooks has produced glorious dishes that long ago became edible symbols of their hometown. Creole gumbo, Cincinnati five-way chili and the San Francisco seafood stew known as cioppino are wellknown examples of higgledy-piggledy classics, with nearly as many recipes for each as there are cooks.
Travel around the country, and you'll see that the no-holds-barred spirit continues to thrive, yielding such recent local wonders as the Korean taco of Southern California, barbecue pizza in Memphis and praline bacon in New Orleans. Rochester, New York, has become famous for its garbage plate—an outrageous array of macaroni salad, fried potatoes and hot dogs crowned with chili.
Hoppel poppel has long been a staple of upper Midwest community cookbooks and a Sunday meal on kitchen tables throughout the heartland. Named for a nonsense phrase in an old German nursery rhyme about a nosy child who peeks into the stew pot, hoppel poppel is a scramble of eggs and home fries with pork sausage or beef salami, and optional onions, peppers and mushrooms, the whole shebang topped with melted cheese.
Have you ever eaten a horseshoe? The place to do so is Springfield, Illinois, where this craziest of sandwiches, first served at a local hotel in the 1920s, has become a signature dish. It was so named because its slice of ham on toast resembled a horseshoe on an anvil, and the french fries scattered around it looked like shoeing nails. But it has lost all resemblance to equine footwear and instead become a mountainous plate of ham (or pork tenderloin or fried chicken) eclipsed by countless fries and a spill of cheese sauce, all atop a bed of toast. There are even breakfast shoes made of eggs, hash browns, ham or bacon, and a half-and-half arrangement of cheese sauce and sausage gravy.
No regional cuisine inspires more creativity than Tex-Mex. Nachos and fajitas practically demand wild ingredients and garnishes, and the border-town breakfast called migas is another recipe with countless variations. In Spanish, migas means crumbs; but on Southwestern menus, it means eggs scrambled with pieces of tortilla and any combination of sausage, salsa, cheese and hot peppers. Frito pie is another local hodgepodge of chili and corn chips crowned with grated cheese and raw onions. On a plate with a few tamales, it's what Arkansas folks know as a spread. Served in an individual bag of Fritos, it's a walking taco. Batter everything together, dunk it in hot oil, and you will have made the No. 1 award-winning food at the 2010 Texas State Fair: deep-fried frito pie. Crazy, huh?
Kitchen Sink Recipes
Migas, My Way
Quick, easy and delicious, this egg scramble gets a big thumbs-up from my family. Sometimes I substitute fresh corn tortillas for the chips by cutting them into strips and sauteing them with the pepper and onion.
—Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
Southwest Frito Pie
I got a real culture shock when we moved to New Mexico several years ago, but we grew to love the food. Now, back in South Carolina, we still crave New Mexican dishes, and this is one of my go-to favorites.
—Janet Scoggins, North Augusta, South Carolina
Fresh and Spicy Cioppino
Using prepared pasta sauce makes this hearty and hot one-pot dinner a cinch.
—Doris Mancini, Port Orchard, Washington