brings rustic fare to Food Network
Amy Thielen brings rustic fare to Food Network
Midwestern fried chicken.
"Butter is kind of like the currency of the Midwest," Click|keyword[Amy+Thielen]" >Amy Thielen muses as she
unwraps and slices up a roll of that sunshine yellow money, fresh from a creamery in Westby, Wisconsin.
browning about a third of it in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, infusing the liquid with woody bits of rosemary and grilled cipollini onions before pouring it over a bowl of boiled thin-skinned new potatoes from her
The remnants of that block will be cut into cubes, chilled, and blended by hand into flour for a cream-brushed "sparkle crust" blueberry pie.
She'll have to break into her
reserve stash to make the final dish of the day: a pile of roughly chopped collard greens fried in Ethiopian-spiced butter and crowned with dollops of fresh ricotta cheese.
Sound like a full day's work?
It would be for any dedicated home cook, but lately that phrase has a more resonant meaning for Thielen
All this butter slicing, dicing, and spicing is taking place on the premiere episode of her
Click|keyword[Food+Network]" >Food Network show, Heartland Table, which is filmed in Thielen's actual kitchen at her
home in Two Inlets, Minnesota.
Since leaving the cutthroat world of Manhattan restaurants, including venerated spots like Danube, Bouley, and Gallante, the prodigal daughter has returned to her
roots and subsequently become an ambassador of modern Midwestern cuisine.
show was developed somewhat in conjunction with her
stunning, comprehensive cookbook, The New Midwestern Table, which not only catalogs Thielen's method of using beet juice to dye pickled eggs a brilliant pink and reveals that cracker meal is the dredging secret behind perfect fried chicken, but also does an outstanding job of communicating our middle American ethos without resorting to schmaltz or corniness.
It's great news for Thielen
that these values, along with things like pickling, canning, and baking, seem to be having a moment in the cultural limelight, but Thielen
says that even without the current hipster affection for all things homey and handmade, this is the book she
would have always written.
"I'm thrilled that that is what's happening," says Thielen
, referring to the desire to know your makers, grow your own, and do things slowly.
"I think when you try to live close to the land, your daily life requires a different level of attention, and it's the eating that breaks up that routine, so the food is very important," says Thielen
"They get a kick out of it," Thielen
says of her
family's perception of her
new life as a TV host.
"I think the whole town gets a kick out of it, but then again maybe I just haven't heard any of the comments from the detractors.
A soupçon of classic Midwestern humility peeks out as she says this, but truly the nearby community of Park Rapids, where Thielen spent her formative years, seems unflapped by her new stardom.
"Everyone here is famous for something," says Thielen
"If anything people might give me a little ribbing, like, 'Hey, there goes the movie star,' but surprisingly little in my day-to-day life has changed since the show."
That genuine unaffectedness is a quality that famed Italian chef Click|keyword[Lidia+Bastianich]" >Lidia Bastianich, host of her own long-running cooking show Click|keyword[Public+Broadcasting+Service]" >on PBS and one of Thielen's show's producers, saw in Thielen immediately.
Click|keyword[Random+House+Inc.]" >Random House, which published The New Midwestern Table, actually provided the impetus for developing a series in the first place, but Thielen
says that once Lidia, her
daughter Tanya, and their company got involved, things gained momentum quickly.
"The funny thing is we never even discussed doing the show anywhere else but at my house," says Thielen
I'm a huge fan of Ms. Thielen!
book is anything but simple; extremely well-written, and definitely layered in terms of the recipes (her formal training shows through, but she
filters that through a Midwestern lens of practicality).
SO excited about this second season! (And don't forget she's
a Macalester grad!)