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'Jamie's America' Found Through Food And Families

When British chef Jamie Oliver took a road trip in search of quintessential American food, his biggest discovery was that there was no such thing. He visited American families to gather a diverse and delicious group of recipes that make up his new book, Jamie's America.By Talk of the Nation/NPR



Jamie's America: Easy Twists On Great American Classics, And More
By Jamie Oliver
Hardcover, 360 pages
List price: $37.50

Try the Recipes Below

When British chef Jamie Oliver took a road trip in search of quintessential American food, his biggest discovery was that there was no such thing.

Skipping the supersized burgers and junk food, Oliver visited actual American families to gather a diverse and delicious group of recipes. The result is a new cookbook, Jamie's America.

Oliver tells NPR's Neal Conan that he had to work a little to find the "beautiful food" featured in his book. He visited New York but eschewed Manhattan, opting instead to spend time learning Szechuan cooking in Flushing, Queens.

In East Los Angeles, Oliver stopped at Homeboy Industries and visited the kitchen of its heavily tattooed bakers. And in Arizona, he headed to the desert to learn about Native American cooking from the Navajo people, which, he writes, "helped give this book a really solid food foundation."

Once he got off the beaten path, he says, it was all about asking the right people the right questions. That was all it took to find foods that were just as artisanal as the finest dishes of Spain and Italy.

But that's not to say he focused on the gourmet.

"There's some really humble, peeled-back stuff," Oliver says. "I remember being in Georgia and just having some of the most incredible pit-cooked pork."

Oliver says he worked with the pit master at Neal's Bar-B-Que in Thomson, Ga., to learn about the 12 hours of prep that goes into their dishes.

"It's the most humble shack that it was being served from," Oliver says of the food at Neal's, "but yet, out the back was really in-depth love, care and attention."

Oliver is known for teaching people how to make good, healthful food on their own, but his book doesn't shy away from the heartier American dishes ? he'll just suggest a side of salad.

He says the biggest takeaway from his trip were the tastes he found in East L.A.'s Mexican neighborhoods.

"Lime juice, citrus, lemon juice, herbs, crunch, softness ? that kind of contrast of tastes and textures is so important in getting the palate really working and fired up," he says. "And that, with a good bit of meat, is just great."


A Killer Mac 'N' Cheese

by Jamie Oliver

Serves 8-10

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
6 fresh bay leaves
1 quart reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
4 cups elbow macaroni
8 tomatoes
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
A few springs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
Optional: a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce, such as Lea & Perrins
Optional: a grating of nutmeg
3 big handfuls of fresh bread crumbs
Olive oil

Get a large saucepan of salted water on to boil. Melt the butter in a large ovenproof saucepan, or Dutch oven, over a low heat, then add the flour and turn the heat up to medium, stirring all the time, until you get a paste ? this is your roux. Add all the sliced garlic ? don't worry about the amount, because each slice will caramelize like toffee in the roux. Keep cooking and stirring until golden and the garlic is nice and sticky. Add the bay leaves and slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time to ensure you get a nice smooth sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, then leave on a low heat to simmer and tick away, stirring occasionally. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Farenheit.

Add the pasta to the pan of boiling salted water and cook following the package instructions. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes on a board and season them well with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and add it immediately to the sauce. Give it a good stir and take the pan off the heat. Stir in your grated cheese, chopped tomatoes, and some of the thyme leaves. A little Worcestershire sauce added now is nice, so is a little grating or two of nutmeg. Now work on the flavor ? taste it and season it until it's hitting the right spot. You want it to be slightly too wet because it will thicken up again in the oven, so add a splash of water if needed.

If you've made your sauce in a Dutch oven, leave everything in there; if not, transfer it to a deep earthenware dish. Bake it for 30 minutes in the oven, until golden, bubbling, crispy, and delicious.

While it's cooking, put your bread crumbs and remaining thyme into a frying pan with a few drizzles of olive oil over a medium heat. Stir and toss the crumbs around until crunchy and golden all over. Remove from the heat and tip into a nice bowl. Serve your macaroni and cheese in the center of the table, with your bowl of crispy bread crumbs for sprinkling over, and a lovely green salad.

Wine suggestion: dry Italian white ? a good pinot grigio

Excerpted from Jamie's America by Jamie Oliver. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.


Chocolate Mole Tart

by Jamie Oliver

Serves 10-12

1 x sweet pastry recipe (see below)
Optional: 1 blood orange, peeled and sliced into rounds, to serve
Optional: creme fraiche, to serve

For the filling

Heaping 3/4 cup hazelnuts
1 x 4-oz bars good-quality bittersweet chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids), bashed up
Sea salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped into cubes
1 cup superfine sugar
3 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
4-5 tablespoons dulce de leche or caramel sauce

For the spicy dusting

1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 level teaspoon coriander seeds
1 dried red chile
Zest of 1/2 orange
4 heaping teaspoons unsweetened
Cocoa powder
2 heaping teaspoons confectioners' sugar
A few pinches of sea salt

Bake the following sweet pastry recipe, leaving your oven on at 350 degrees Farenheit when you take your tart crust out to cool.

Sweet Pastry

Makes generous 1lb.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
9 tablespoons good-quality unsalted cold butter, cut into small cubes
Optional: 1 orange
Optional: 1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped out
1 large egg, preferably free-range or organic, beaten
A splash of milk

You can make your pastry like this by hand, or pulse it in a food processor. From a height, sift your flour and confectioners' sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, gently work the cubes of butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. If using orange or vanilla for extra flavor, either finely grate in the zest of your orange or add the seeds from the vanilla pod and mix again.

Add the egg and milk to the mixture and gently work it together using your hands until you have a ball of dough.? Remember not to work the pastry too much at this stage or it will become elastic and chewy, not crumbly and short.

Sprinkle a little flour over the dough and on a clean worktop, and pat the ball into a flat round about 1inch thick.? Sprinkle over a little more flour, then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and pop it into the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes. Get yourself a 9 1/2-inch nonstick loose-bottomed tart or quiche pan (approx. 1 1/4 inch deep) and, using a splash of vegetable oil on a paper towel, lightly oil the inside.

Dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour, then carefully roll out your pastry, turning it every so often, until it's just under 1/4 inch thick. Carefully roll your pastry around the rolling pin, then unroll it carefully over your oiled pan. Ease the pastry into the pan, making sure you push it into all the sides.? Trim off any excess by running a knife along the top of the pie crust, then prick the base of the pie crust all over with a fork and pop it into the freezer for 30 minutes.? Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

Get yourself a large square piece of parchment paper, scrunch it up, then unwrap it and use it to line your pie crust, pushing it right into the sides. Fill your pie crust right up to the top with rice, and bake blind for 10 minutes in your preheated oven.? Take the crust out, carefully remove the rice and parchment paper (you can save the rice to use for blind baking another time), then return the crust to the oven to cook for a further 10 minutes, until it's firm and almost cookie-like.? Let cool.

Spread the hazelnuts out on a sheet pan and place in your hot oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, but leave the oven on.

Heat 1 inch of water in a pan over a low heat and put a large heatproof glass bowl over the top of it, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Put your bashed-up chocolate into the bowl with a pinch of salt. When it starts to melt, add the butter and give it the occasional gentle stir. Keep the heat low or the chocolate will split. Turn the heat off once everything is smooth and melted.

Pour 5 tablespoons of cold water into a clean pan on a low heat with 3/4 cup of the sugar and whisk gently. When all the sugar has dissolved and you have a smooth syrup, set aside.

You want the eggs to get really fluffy, so put them into the bowl of an electric mixer or use an electric hand mixer and add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Mix for about 4 minutes, until pale and frothy. At this point, slowly pour in your warm sugar syrup, mixing as you go. Turn the mixer off, pour in the melted chocolate, then mix again for 10 seconds, no longer.

Use the back of a spoon to spread the dulce de leche around the entire base of the cooled tart crust until evenly coated. Bash up your roasted hazelnuts and sprinkle them all over the dulce de leche. Pour over the chocolate filling mixture, using a spoon to even it out. Put the tart on a sheet pan and bake in the hot oven for 17 minutes, until the chocolate has set around the edges but is quite wobbly in the middle (have faith!). Put to one side and let it cool for 2 hours (if you can bear it!) ? the filling will settle a little as it cools.

When ready to serve, use a pestle and mortar to bash all the spicy dusting ingredients together until fine. Sieve this over the tart for the finishing touch and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche. You won't believe what's happening in your mouth. Store any leftover chocolate dust in the refrigerator and use it to jazz up the ice-cream or hot chocolate.

From Jamie's America by Jamie Oliver. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.



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