Well you’re just going to have to wait to hear about the Thai cooking class I took as there’s something I really want to share with you first. See, my new friend Simone issued a challenge on her blog and (if you know me then you understand this) I’ve waited until pretty much the last minute to write to her prompt. Sigh… I’m not lazy, I just get busy – especially this time of year!
So, I did have almost a month to think about it, and there are so many books to choose from it was a bit daunting. I am not sure if I especially lean toward books where the characters eat their way through the story, or if food in fiction just jumps off the page at me. Either way, I settled on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. That gave me several thousand pages, many of which contain some sort of food references, to pull from, in a story ranging over several centuries. Whew!
Some of the options were never going to happen here. I mean, the whole “first you catch the pig” sort of thing is a bit over the top even for me. I opted for making a food that is mentioned repeatedly in the 18th century New World portions of her stories: corn dodgers.
Near as I can tell from my online research and her books, this was a variety of “johnny” or “journey” cake – a rough equivalent to today’s trail mix or granola bar. You made them ahead and they’d keep, even if they needed dunking to make them palatable after a few weeks in a rucksack or a saddlebag.
Corn dodgers can be as simple or as fancy as you like. You could add finely chopped onion, sauteed garlic, even an egg perhaps, or use milk rather than water, maybe sweeten the batter with sugar I think, but the basic recipe is pretty much corn meal and water with salt if you have it. Somewhat bland and built for sustenance not for deliciousness, corn dodgers are a solid utilitarian foodstuff.
I read recipes that called for olive oil, rising agents, and other things I’m pretty sure her characters would not have had on hand. I also don’t think they’d have baked these in an oven; skillet or griddle cooking makes much more sense to me. Given that, I went with just this:
One For the Road Corn Dodgers
1 C corn meal
1 Tbsp goose grease (or butter)
2 tsp salt
1 C boiling water
bacon grease (or vegetable oil) for frying
Put the corn meal, salt, and goose grease or butter in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the boiling water, stir to completely incorporate, and let sit until cool. The mixture should be slightly stiff but maleable.
Heat the grease or oil (about 1/4-inch deep) in a heavy cast iron skillet. Make small patties of the corn meal mixture, and fry on both sides until done (several minutes per side). Drain well and store or eat warm with jam if you have the luxury.
Makes about 12 roughly 2-inch diameter “dodgers”.
You can certainly use butter and vegetable oil to make a vegetarian version, or go whole hog (so to speak) if you happen to have a can of bacon grease in your fridge! (The bacon grease was the suggestion of my friend with whom I shared this experiment – thanks and mmmm!) You know I have goose grease on hand! Mmmm…
What “novel food” grabs you? Ever tried to recreate it? Could be fun… this certainly was!