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My Great American Road Trip – Michigan, Minnesota

August 14, 2020

I’ve never been to Minnesota, and I’m not actually sure if I’ve been to Michigan or not. There’s a possibility I was there with the Boston Pops at one point (we went to a lot of random places) and I vaguely remember going there for someone’s wedding, but I can’t remember whose or anything about being there. But I have good friends from each state (heeeeeyyy Meaghan and Kristen), and I have warm feeling about them both. I’m combining these two into one post because I used the same meat and potatoes base for both meals.

Michigan, the midwestern mitten. Actually, the mitten is only the lower peninsula of Michigan. There’s a whole upper peninsula which is where the fancy Mackinac Island is, and that’s where you’ll find  the Grand Hotel.  The hotel served as the location for the greatest time travel movie ever made and, in 1979 ushered in World Sauntering Day to counter the disturbing jogging trend.  But most of the Upper Peninsula is filled with hearty folks who hailed from Norway or Canada (or Wisconsin) and like the cold weather and sports and call themselves yoopers (U.P.-ers.) They call the folks who live in the mitten, the Lower Peninsula Trolls, because they live under the bridge that connects the two peninsulas. And they like to eat one thing the most Yooper Pasties, which are basically Cornish pasties, or meat pies.

Side note – also popular in Michigan, and really only Michigan, is Vernor’s Ginger Ale. But for some reason my local grocery carries it but not Fresca. I’m writing a letter!

Unknown-12.jpegTo make a Cornish Yooper pasty, you first have to make the crust, and I know this is the way it’s flakey, but you don’t want to know…It’s 2 cups crisco, which you dissolve in 2 cups boiling water and then 5 – 6 cups flour. That’s what the recipe said – five or six cups. That is not helpful (I did 5 1/2). Also a little salt. When it’s all combined into a loose dough, you refrigerate for at least an hour. The meat filling whatever you want it to be but I used the most frequently found recipe of ground beef, chopped onions, cubed up potatoes, rutabagas, which of course I couldn’t find, so I used turnips. Then I added in some carrots.  Unknown-10After the dough has sufficiently cooled, you divided it into 12 even pieces. (I only used 3 and froze the rest for the next time I need flakey pie crust). You roll one piece out to an eight inch circle (not so easy) and put in a cup or so of the meat mixture, sealing the edges with a fork. I don’t know why I didn’t take a photo of that process (yes I do. I was terrible at it). They you make a few little air holes in the pasty and into the oven they go. (400 degrees for an hour or so).

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Mine did not get the requisite golden brown color despite a generous melted butter bath, but the crust was indeed flakey. It turns out the recipe did not mention seasoning (probably cause people in Cornwall don’t really do flavorful food), so it was blander than it could have been, but I did a nice dijon and worchestershire dipping sauce and it was delicious. These were designed as an easy lunch to pack for your mill worker husband and it is perfect hearty food. And generous. they were huge (my cat’s face for comparison).

Since I didn’t use all the dough, In turn, I didn’t use all the meat mixture, which was fine, because we’re headed to Minnesota next.

Ah Minnesota – a place I long to go, just to listen to as many people as possible with their beautiful accent that is like getting wrapped in a blanket. In Minnesota there is nothing so iconic as the Hot Dish, which in any other world is a casserole. I combined a few recipes for my hot dish and I improvised a bit, but I feel like that’s what Minnesotans would want from me.

A hot dish is the easiest thing in the world – you basically put whatever you want in a pan, top it with mushroom soup, and then – and this part is important – TATER TOTS!

For mine, I used the remaining ground beef / potato mixture, onto which I added a bag of frozen mixed veggies, then the soup, then some shredded cheese, and the fried bites of childhood happiness.

That whole thing goes in the oven until the potatoes are soft (for me about 45 minutes). And it was good. Unknown.jpeg

I have eaten it for two days straight and I have at least a couple more days to go. (and then another week of salad). This is the kind of food that you want to eat in a church basement with convivial conversation and punch in paper cups before heading out in the snow. I probably won’t make this again, but if I ever found myself with a house full of growing boys who needed nourishment, this is exactly what I’d cook.

The best thing to come out of Minnesota is the glorious Kristen Meinzer – and you should definitely listen to her podcasts here and here). But the second best thing is my go to to feel all the feels, to get me dancing, and to make me party like it’s 1999.

Minnesota – I only want to see you bathing in the purple rain!

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