My first time to the United States was when I went to college. Until then the US was just a stereotype in my head, with classic images but nothing more. Also, on a side note, it was kind of insane that I chose the country I wanted to study in without ever actually traveling to it. But then again, I am not alone in these kinds of travels and nor was the country one with a foreign language I did not know or one that would be particularly hard to assimilate into — or so I thought.
It takes time to feel like you’re part of a group. Making friends is only a part of that assimilation process because no matter how many friends you have, if you can't feel like you belong in the space you’re occupying, it's hard to call it home. For me, that involved not only the obligatory social aspects of making friends but also finding an identity with the food I ate. Granville, Ohio was a small village 30 minutes away from the state capital, Columbus. It was a picturesque little village with a population of rich, old, white people; and the 2,500 strong population of college kids that lived on a hill. Food was a big part of Granville. Apart from a Subway, there were no large multinational fast food chains in the entire village. There are four bars in the whole village (college town): one that served the most amazing sweet potato fries with a cinnamon cream cheese dip; the other with traditional southern barbecue; a third that was a Mexican hole in the wall with cheap(ish) alcohol and lax rules on who can drink; the fourth bar was my favorite - a lounge bar called Snapshots. This was a family-run restaurant with a passion for good food and seasonal veggies. Their overuse of truffle oil in popcorn and whole sprigs of rosemary in drinks is what made me love them so much. I loved these places and even though most people got bored of them or claimed they couldn’t afford them, I continued to eat in these places along with the Vietnamese, super religious coffee place, and the hippy salad place. I don’t know why I’m keeping these places anonymous but I kinda like the fact that some of you might be able to guess the places and the others can just create visualizations based on the descriptions.
Now all these places were great but most of the days I ate in the college cafeterias. Junior and Senior year, as classes got harder I stopped eating dinner with all my friends and spent that time with homework. Takeout meals became big then and that's when I started eating a lot more burgers, wraps, and salads than warm food. I didn’t feel bad about it since most people around me were doing the same and also, it genuinely reduced the time I wasted on eating. The burgers on campus weren’t the best. But they were cheap, filling, and that’s all I needed. The burger station was in an open kitchen, which meant that you could see them making your food. This is where I observed some interesting techniques such as smashing your patty down to get that beautiful crust, using water to steam and melt cheese, and also the main ingredients that went into making a fry sauce.
I always thought that America doesn’t really have food of its own and that just like their cuisine, even their techniques were borrowed. But Americans love their food. And some of them even take time to make the food (albeit most of it is covered with cheese) with their own unique techniques. So, here are three recipes that I made for this ensemble: a lamb patty seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and thyme garnished with caramelized onions and mushrooms; onion rings inspired by a recipe from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s book, Food Lab; and a fry sauce with a spicier twist conducive to my Indian palate.
The patties were cooked on high heat and seared until crispy on both sides. The onion rings were doused in a batter of smoked paprika, wheat flour, corn flour, and half a can of beer which made an amazingly light batter, that not only enveloped the onions but actually cooked them slowly. Lastly, the fry sauce: a basic mix of mayo, ketchup, salt, pepper, and pickle brine was converted to a spicier mix of mayo, sriracha, salt, pepper, and jalapeño brine. All in all, the best 1,000 calories one could ask for. Though the brownies were better…
500g minced lamb
1 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon tabasco
1 large egg
2 slices of white breads, crumbed
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
A good pinch of salt and pepper
2 large onions cut into 1/2 inch rings
2 cups veggie oil
1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 cup of beer (I used Bira beer which was amazing)
1/4 cup of vodka
A good pinch of salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sriracha
2 teaspoons jalapeno brine
Salt + pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients while placing a pan on high heat until 2 tablespoons of veggie oil begins to steam.
Make quarter of the patty mix and add the patty one at a time. Press down hard the moment the patty hits the pan.
Leave it on one side for 3 minutes and then other for another 3 minutes. Add cheese once you flip it the first time.
Cut onions and place in a ziplock bag. Then freeze for an hour.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, followed by the vodka and slowly add the beer while mixing it well.
Take the onions out. Dip well into the batter and place in hot oil (190 degrees Celsius), cooking until golden brown.
Protip: Place on paper towels to prevent the fries from getting soggy.
Mix well, taste, and enjoy!