How to make celebrity chef John Ash's favorite American dishes
Is there an American cuisine? And if so, what does it taste like?
With my Good Food Hour co-host, Steve Garner, I recently interviewed Yale University history professor Paul Freedman about his new book, “American Cuisine and How It Got This Way” (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2019).
It’s a fascinating read and points out that despite what skeptical foreigners and even a lot of Americans have denied — that there actually is an American cuisine. It ain’t just hamburgers and pizza!
Freedman provides lots of proof that there is an exuberant and diverse, if not always coherent, American cuisine that reflects the colorful history of our nation.
“What Americans eat reflects eclecticism and experimentation, not obedience to tradition or rules,” he writes in the book’s introduction.
“Why not have guacamole or blue cheese with that burger, or maybe try some pineapple on that pizza?”
In his book, Freedman looks at three threads woven into America’s food history — the regional traditions that existed before the 20th century, our penchant for standardized food preparation and our contradictory yearning for variety. At the end, he also folds in the artisanal food revolution of the 1970s and the rise of farm-to-table eating.
This provides the author with a framework for the flavors — think peanut butter, barbecue sauce and pumpkin-spiced everything — that have influenced the American palate.
I’m sure most of us have dishes that define who we are and where we’ve been. This, then, is a remembrance of some of those recipes that define my culinary wanderings.
This is a traditional fish stew from San Francisco. Its origins are thought to go back to Genoa. Early immigrants who came to San Francisco from there improvised on a recipe they called Guippin.
There are other suggestions about the origin of the name. Some say that the name came from “chip in” (with the Italian “o” added), which encouraged each fisherman to throw something in the pot to feed the fishermen and their families.
Probably apocryphal but it’s a charming story. Don’t be put off buy the list of seafood below. Use whatever you have, just like those fishermen.
Makes 8 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup chopped carrot
2/3 cup chopped celery or fennel
1 28-ounce can whole peeled or diced tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
2 1/2 cups red wine
5 cups fish or chicken stock
3 large bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (2 teaspoons dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (or to taste)
— Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 whole Dungeness crab (2-3 pounds), cleaned and chopped into sections
1 1/2 pounds fresh mussels (18-24)
1 pound rockfish or Pacific cod, filets cut into 2- inch cubes
16 medium deveined shrimp
8 thick slices of sourdough brushed with garlic olive oil and toasted
1/4 cup chopped parsley or basil