Column by Noah Charney and Josh Rocchio
A quick look at the cookbooks available in Slovenian reveals a conspicuous gap. There are simply none that teach Slovenes about American food. Perhaps that’s because most Slovenes think of American food as little more than burgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken. We love burgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken, don’t get us wrong, but there is so much more. While the history of the United States is far younger, in terms of cultural and culinary elements, than other nations, it still is some three-hundred years old, and older yet if we include some Native American dishes. Each one of the 50 states in the United States has its own state dish, not to mention numerous local specialties linked to towns or even individual restaurants. Dining out in America is different from in Slovenia, or indeed elsewhere in Europe. Many restaurants focus on promoting a single specialty. If you want to try it, you need to go to the “original” restaurant that invented or perfected it. There is little interest in providing menus with “something for everyone.” The attitude is: come here if you want to eat this, if not…go somewhere else!
We, your guides to American cuisine, are a pair of American expats living in Slovenia for more than a decade. We are both married to Slovenian women (we highly recommend this practice) and each have two children born here. Like every expat living in Slovenia we’ve ever met, we are in love with this country—come to think of it, I’ve never met a Slovene who loves Slovenia as much as foreigners who live here do. Noah is from Connecticut in the US and is a professor of art history, TV presenter, columnist, and best-selling author who Slovenes know best from his book, Slovenologija. Josh is from Maryland and is a translator, teacher, editor, poet, and all-around language ninja—he even speaks Latin, for instance (yes, he could chat about fried chicken with the pope). We are both enthusiastic amateur home cooks: Josh spent a decade working in kitchens in America, and here he regularly participates in koline and makes his own pickles. Noah has worked with JB on his cookbook and has written a book on Rebula, while also having written on food for magazines like Fine Dining Lovers. So we sort of know what we’re doing. That’s actually a good thing. We’re not really interested in reading articles about food written by professional chefs. We prefer learning about food from people like us—enthusiasts who are learning as they go.
This new, monthly column will introduce one or more recipes in each article, as well as the backstory of the dish. The food offers a window into American culture, hence the name of the column: Amerika Skozi Želodec. Our hope is to introduce Slovenes to America through American foods that you might have heard of, but possibly haven’t tasted, and almost certainly haven’t tried cooking yourself. This column will eventually become a cookbook and there are plans to turn it into a TV series, so stay tuned.
We’ll kick things off with America’s favorite bar snack, and the ideal accompaniment to watching the Superbowl this weekend: buffalo wings. Originating, the legend goes, in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York—far up north, just beside the Canadian border—these perutničke can be grilled, broiled, or fried. The key to turn them from chicken wings to buffalo wings is in the crazy marinade and sauce. Slovenia has no flavor profile to match, so it’s hard to describe if you’ve never had them. It’s spicy, tangy, makes your lips go “smack-smack”, and encourages moderate drinking of beer. Once you start eating them, it’s difficult to stop. There are many variations, but we present here the core Anchor Bar style recipe. They should be served by the bucket (don’t you love American portions—you order food “by the bucket”) accompanied by cold beer and consumed while on the couch watching football. Weirdly (and this is even weird for Americans) the traditional side is blue cheese salad dressing, for dipping, and raw celery. Somehow it works. Since you can’t buy pre-made blue cheese salad dressing here, we’re also including a recipe for that. Time for kickoff!
Original Buffalo Chicken Wings
Around 30 perutničke
4 spoons of sunflower oil
1 spoon of salt
200 grams of flour
150 grams of butter
4 spoons of apple vinegar
Cayenne or other spicy pepper to taste (we use 1 spoon)
1 spoon garlic powder
Hot sauce (like Tabasco) to taste (we use 4 spoons)
-Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
-Take a large bowl and mix together the oil, salt, garlic powder, and perutničke. Toss it together and then add the flour, continuing to mix until the perutničke are evenly coated.
-Lay the coated perutničke on a baking pan or sheet covered in aluminum foil or baking paper. Roast them in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn them over and roast for another 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown on both sides.
-While they are in the oven, fill a saucepan with the butter, vinegar, cayenne pepper, and hot sauce. Heat until the ingredients simmer and combine into a sauce, then turn the heat off.
-When the perutnicke are cooked, put them all in a large bowl and add the sauce. Toss them thoroughly until they are completely coated with the sauce.
-Return the coated perutničke to the baking pan and roast for another few minutes, just before serving. Serve alongside chopped, raw celery and the blue cheese dressing for dipping.
Blue Cheese Dressing
200 g mayonnaise
100 g buttermilk (or sour cream)
2 spoons lemon juice
1 spoon black pepper
1 spoon chopped parsley (optional)
Any blue cheese (gorgonzola, Rochefort, stilton)
-Mix all ingredients together, ideally with an immersion blender.
-If you prefer a chunky texture, blend all the ingredients but the blue cheese, and then crumble the cheese in after blending.
Since we have no real expression for “dober tek” in English, we’ll sign off with the closest thing: “Dig in!” Or, as Noah likes to say, “Pozrej ga!” And enjoy the superbowl, or at least the funny ads and the halftime show!