Buying Local–Farmers Markets, Part 1

One of the best places to find local producers selling local foods—whether basic (fruits, vegetables, meats) or “value added: (jams, breads, cakes)—is a nearby farmers markets. A trip to my community farmers market is usually part of my weekend, and I love seeing what’s unusual, seasonal, and available. I get to talk to producers and pick up some locally grown flowers to brighten up the house (at least some location where the cat won’t find them and chew them) along with some food. As in other parts of the country, farmers markets have been increasing in Flyover Country. New ones seem to spring up regularly. That said, not all farmers markets are producer only.

Okay, I’m in Indiana. If I go to the market in May and someone is trying to sell me tomatoes or peaches, I know they haven’t been locally grown! You would do well to ask your seller about their products! Many markets place limits on what can be sold—some markets are producer-only. Others permit them to sell a small percentage of goods that someone else has produced (clearly marked); one could, for example, sell some of the neighbor’s eggs along with one’s own beets and lettuces. At my local market, one seller in particular sells apples that they’ve purchased at an Amish produce auction along with their own bounty. Do I buy those apples? Yes, I do—they are from Indiana and, more importantly to me, they are unusual varieties, the sort that I’ll NEVER see in a supermarket or even a store like Whole Foods. I’m talking about varieties largely meant for cider, like interesting russeted varieties (don’t think I’ve even seen Roxbury or Golden Russets anywhere but the market and they are actually my favorites!) Really, a supermarket sells the same old Red or Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fujis, Braeburns, Honeycrisps, etc.

Which means that it’s Definition Time. There are farmers markets and there are public markets. A farmers market, by definition, is, in part or whole, comprised of sellers who have produced their own goods for sale directly to the public at large. A public market is a (usually) centrally located market bringing together buyers and sellers. Some of the merchants may be farmers selling directly, but this is not a requirement. Often, their purpose is to provide benefits for a community and they have stated goals. For example, some residents may find it difficult to source fresh fruits and vegetables, in which case a public market serves a very critical need (even if the produce is initially purchased from a wholesaler). Historically, public markets were owned by the municipality in which they were located.

Public markets serve a purpose and there exist some well known ones in the Flyover States—the Grand Rapids Downtown Market (Michigan), Cleveland’s West Side Market (Ohio) and the Milwaukee Public Market (Wisconsin) are but three examples. A public market may be an excellent source for local produce—just because it’s not labeled a “farmers market” doesn’t mean you won’t find any nearby farmers there!

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Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sliders–The Recipe!

These thin-pounded pork medallions, soaked in a seasoned buttermilk mixture, then breaded and fried, are served on a bun with an array of the requisite condiments: lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, ketchup, mustard. Practice safe tenderloining—use condiments!


This recipe makes approximately 8 sliders

To make these babies (and boy, would they be welcome appetizers at a party!), you’ll need the following:

  • sturdy pan, Dutch oven or skillet (for frying)
  • bowls and plates (for dipping and dredging)
  • cutting board
  • sharp knife
  • meat mallet or some other pounding tool
  • a good appetite!


Ingredients

  • 1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of the silverskin (1 to 1.5 lbs or so—DO NOT use the preseasoned ones sold at many supermarkets; get the naked ones instead, since you’ll be clothing them with crumbs anyway)–if your tenderloin is on the larger side, you will need more buttermilk and spices
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper (freshly ground is best!)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups plain, dry breadcrumbs (can also use cracker crumbs)
  • extra salt and pepper for the breading step
  • vegetable oil for frying (neutral-flavored, please–this is not the time for your extra-virgin, cold-pressed oil from Tuscany or your estate-pressed walnut oil)
  • 8 slider buns1 (or soft, white hamburger buns cut into slider-sized portions)


Making the Sliders

  1. Before you do anything, read through the recipe!
  2. First, cut off the tapered end and then slice the tenderloin into 6-8 pieces, no more than 1-inch (2.54 cm) thick.
  3. Next, use your mallet to pound the tenderloin pieces to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch (~6.5 mm). You may wish to do this between pieces of plastic wrap.
  4. In a bowl, mix the buttermilk with the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
  5. Coat the bottom of a shallow pan large enough to hold all pieces of pork (like a lasagne or baking pan) with some of the buttermilk mixture. Then place the pork pieces into the pan. Cover with the rest of the buttermilk mixture. The pieces should be covered.
  6. BPTMarinating

  7. Place pan in refrigerator and marinate for 2-6 hours.
  8. Remove your pork from the refrigerator.
  9. Mise en place! Prep an area for dredging and breading. Set up a plate with the flour (feel free to season the flour with extra salt and pepper). Then crack the eggs into a shallow bowl and beat them so that the whites and yolks are well mingled. Set up a plate with the bread crumbs, which you can also season with salt and pepper.
  10. BPTBreading

  11. Set up another plate with paper towels. You’ll need this to drain the sliders.
  12. Add about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) of oil in your pan or Dutch oven. Heat over medium-high (not high) until hot (350°F/177°C). FYI, I don’t measure temperature–I just judge it.
  13. Take a piece of the pork and dredge it in the flour. Shake off the excess, then coat it with the egg, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Then, dredge in the bread crumb mixture.
  14. Add the pork to the hot oil. Repeat for another piece of pork, adding them to the pan without crowding. You will probably have to cook these in batches.
  15. BPTFrying

  16. Cook the pork tenderloin medallions until browned (but not burned!) for approximately 2 minutes, then flip and cook until the other side is browned, another minute or two.
  17. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel-lined plate.
  18. BPTDraining

  19. Assemble the BPT Sliders–place a piece of pork on a bun, add your condiments (lettuce, pickle, onion, tomato, mustard),
    BPTCondiments
    and, if necessary, secure with a toothpick. Enjoy!

BPTSliders_Plan

BPTSliders_Profile
1I could not find slider buns at my local supermarkets, but I did have this contraption that I got at Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table that allows me to cut a regular bun into a slider-sized one. I imagine a biscuit cutter works just as well. Alternatively, you can use dinner rolls or, if you’re really ambitious, bake your own.

BPTSlider_Contraption2

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The Breaded Pork Tenderloin–Definitive and Delicious!

The Breaded Pork Tenderloin (BPT), one of the most famous Midwestern sandwiches, is so popular that TWO flyover states lay claim to it—Indiana and Iowa.  Both states are among the top pork producers (Iowa is number one and Indiana is in the top ten), so it’s no wonder that this fried and breaded testament to porcine deliciousness calls these two states home.  I’m not going to get into an argument over which is the “real “ birthplace, though, living in Indiana, I’d vote for the Hoosier state.  Allegedly, Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington, Indiana, (between Fort Wayne and Muncie) is where it all began.  Anyway, this sandwich is so beloved that it’s inspired driving tours and a blog dedicated to it, written by Rick Garrett.

The humble pig (and its ancestor, the wild boar) is not native to North America; rather, they stem (geographically) from Africa and Eurasia.  Pig production in what is now the United States (or rather, the colonies prior to the end of the Revolutionary War), began with both Spanish (initially, Hernando de Soto) and English (e.g. Sir Walter Raleigh) explorers bringing pigs.  But why Indiana or Iowa?  Why the Midwest?  As the population grew, so did the pig industry, spreading west as the colonies (and later, the United States) expanded its territory.  Indeed, Cincinnati, Ohio was once called Porkopolis, owing to its hog slaughter industry.  Today, the Midwest is geographically and climatologically well suited for pig production.

You can consider the breaded pork tenderloin to be the Midwest’s interpretation of the Wiener Schnitzel and you’d be correct.  The Wiener (Vienna) Schnitzel is a veal cutlet, pounded thin, breaded, and fried, typically served with a wedge of lemon and some sort of potato product (fried, parsley potatoes, potato salad).  That it’s made with pork here isn’t exactly heretical—order a schnitzel in Germany (or some other countries), for example, and you’d get pork, not veal.  But these Euro-schnitzels aren’t sandwiches.  Or, should I say, SANDWICHES (all caps intentional).  You see, the BPT isn’t just some meat in a bun—it’s more involved than that.  The tenderloin part must have an area at least twice that of the bun (see picture below).

BPT_Sandwich

It can’t just stick out a little—not if it’s a real BPT—it has to truly dwarf the bun.  That massive overhang is part of the sandwich’s appeal.  If you’ve never seen one, your jaw should drop.

As wonderful as the gargantuan-sized BPT is, sometimes it’s a bit much.*  Granted, it is inimitably shareable, in a way (I’m imagining a set of three or four friends, all in different chairs, eating this single sandwich WITHOUT HAVING TO CUT IT UP BECAUSE THE PORK IS LARGE ENOUGH TO COVER THE ENTIRE TABLE).  But let’s face it, folks, it makes for poor appetizers or snacks for a crowd.  And while it tastes great, it’s MORE filling, not less.  But fortunately, a slider version of this Hall-of-Fame sandwich is better suited for small bites fare. Therefore, I bring to you BPT sliders in my next post—all the taste, but a fraction of the mass.

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WHERE the bleep are the Flyover States, anyway?

The term Flyover States doesn’t refer to a neatly defined, clearly demarcated geographic zone.  It’s not like Pacific Northwest or Gulf Coast states—two examples of regions that are based on relationships to bodies of water.  It doesn’t have a directional basis, like MidAtlantic or Northeast, or even Midwest.  Sure, there’s a general sense of the where (ummm, it’s somewhere between the East and West Coasts), but there exists no formal definition of Flyover States.  Well, the beauty of that means I get to generate my own personal definition.

So, where are MY Flyover States located?  See the map below—it encompasses states considered to be part of the Midwest, the Plains, the Great Lakes.  It’s where people don’t, generally,  speak with well known accents like the Southern accent1 (though, to be sure, the Minnesotans I’ve met do pronounce creek as crick, even though the word should be spoken with a long “e”.)

FlyoverLand1

Flyover Tapas’s Flyover States–click to enlarge the image

1In my part of the Flyover States (Indiana), one does hear southern-esque accents, an artifact of the Upland Southerners who migrated and took jobs in the auto industry.

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What the bleep is Flyover Tapas anyway?

I suppose the blog’s title—Flyover Tapas:  Exploring the Culinary Geography of the Flyover States—warrants an explanation.  “Flyover” and “Tapas” typically aren’t used together, though I guess that a silly autocorrect suggestion on a mobile device could conceivably have placed the two words adjacent.  So, fasten your seat belts and make sure your bags are secured in the overhead bin as we take off to Definition Land.

 

I’ll do this backwards and start with “tapas”.  The Spanish got it right.  By creating the concept of tapas, I mean, that delightful “meal” of small bites that accompanies drinks, friends, and conversation.  How refreshing and rejuvenating!  How absolutely delightful!  Defined by Merriam-Webster.com as “an hors d’oeuvre served with drinks especially in Spanish bars —usually used in plural”

 

The Spanish certainly aren’t the sole practitioners of this practice.  North Americans regularly partake of similar get-togethers.  Anyone who has ever shared a meal of myriad appetizers with friends can understand the appeal of the power of nibbling on little bites of various tasty things on flowing banter between compatriots.  Witness the popularity of meeting friends for drinks after work, often accompanied by bowls of snacks, or the cocktail party, with its finger foods to balance the beverages.  The spirit of tapas infuses them.  Food sharing = people caring.

 

Now, let’s look at the first word, flyover.  The term “flyover states” has been used perjoratively to belittle the vast interior of the United States.  Heartlanders are assumed to eat only greasy, flavorless casseroles, probably calling them “hot dish”.  Anything with seasonings other than salt, pepper, and (maybe!) curly parsley is “spicy”.  Naturally, all recipes involve a can of cream of fill-in-the-blank soup.  And, of course, these Flyovererians are all wearing sequined holiday sweaters and Big Ten (Eleven? Twelve?) caps.  These—and many more—are the myths associated with the Midwest and Plains food culture.  And I admit to insulting this region myself—BEFORE I moved here twelve years ago.  However, since I’ve lived here, I’ve discovered some wonderful food producers, markets, restaurants.  I’ve become more aware of food (and food system) issues.  I’ve encountered people as passionate as me about eating well with a connection to place.  So, why not share my discoveries of the culinary geography of this region with the world?

 

There you have it—Flyover Tapas.  I’ll be introducing foods and producers, discussing restaurants with a regional flavor, visiting places where regional delights are sold, examining issues that impact the Heartland’s food culture, and yes, sharing some recipes.  So please, stick around and learn about the wealth that is Flyover Food!

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