Monday, January 5, 2009

Carolina Style

Well readers, I'd like to apologize for my long absence, but I've been away for the holidays, as I mentioned in my last mini-post. I am now safely back in Hells Kitchen and buzzing with culinary inspiration. During my time in North Carolina I encountered a variety of interesting dishes, some of which I'd been searching for and a few that were altogether new to me. By far the most interesting was the Carolina burger (seen above), which I began seeing on menus the minute I arrived. I generally like to keep burgers as simple as possible (although I do love me a bacon cheeseburger), but this style of burger sounded too intriguing to pass up.

In a Carolina burger, your average burger is instantly elevated by a generous helping of slightly spicy beef chili (double the beef of an average burger? I'm in!), and believe it or not, the delicious and strategic toppings don't stop there. To keep the bun from becoming a soggy disaster under the moisture and weight of the chili, it's topped with a spoonful of cooling, crunchy, creamy coleslaw. It's the perfect foil, acting as a buffer between the juicy chili and the bun, just as mayonnaise would, in addition to perfectly contrasting the chili with some cooling flavor. I, of course, can't say no to cheese, so I added some on, but it was just as tasty without. If you have the chance to visit North Carolina, or plan on making burgers sometime soon, I highly suggest you give them a try. I certainly know what I'll be doing with my leftover chili this winter.

One of the unfortunate things about no longer living where you grew up is not having access to those regional dishes you once loved that turned out to be regional. So has been the case for me with two dishes: creamed chipped beef and biscuits and gravy. The creamed chipped beef seems to be more of a Maryland thing since most people don't even seem to recognize it by name, but I still hoped I'd find some somewhere down south. No luck with that, but the biscuits and gravy were a success. A small breakfast joint (open early, closed by 2 pm) just by the entrance to the highway had everything I was looking for. For just $3.95 I got a heaping plateful of fresh country biscuits topped with snowy white sausage gravy. It was delicious and soul satisfying, not to mention incredibly affordable. If you've never had them, definitely give them a try. I'll be making some from scratch real soon (not the biscuits though--I'm no baker!), so stay tuned for that recipe sometime this week, and check back soon now that I'm back in my kitchen!


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