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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Corn Dodgers inspired by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Corn Dodgers with Maple Apples and Jowl Bacon inspired by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
It's time for another vampire book and a movie challenge, and this month Kimberly has chosen Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for both the book and the movie to discuss. I'd already watched and forgotten the movie when it was first released on dvd. Apparently it wasn't that memorable. So, I figured I'd start from scratch—read the book and then watch the movie again.

What I didn't realize until I had the book in my hands is that it was written by Seth Grahame-Smith, who is also the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies...which I read last month and absolutely loved. That was a pleasant surprise. Here's the thing about Grahame-Smith—he's kind of a master at what he does. And whether this says something about the school systems (yes, more than one) that I grew up in or something about me, I'm going to go ahead and put it out there. I learned more about the history of Abraham Lincoln reading this book than I knew before I started it.

I found myself intrigued, doing spot fact checking. I'm floored by his ability to weave the fantastical into the historical. Sometimes I started to believe that vampires actually were a part of history. Like, real life history...Abraham Lincoln history. There were just a couple of parts that seemed slow and started to drag, but they were quickly forgotten as I turned page after page, not wanting to put the book down. It's historical fiction...maybe history science fiction...historical fantasy its most interesting.
Corn Dodgers w/ Maple Apples & Jowl Bacon
So, after devouring the entirety of the book over the course of a few days, I couldn't wait to give the movie another shot. Sadly, I still thought it sucked. Actually, as usually happens when I watch a movie made from a book after I read the book, I liked the movie even less than I did the first time I watched it. It was just lacking so much backbone, so much history...everything that I loved about the book was left out of the movie.

I do try to look at the book and the movie as separate entities in a case like this, but even so, the result is the same. And you know what the crazy part about that is? Grahame-Smith actually wrote the screenplay. Me thinks he should stick to the page*. The loss of Abe's and Henry's "origin stories" is pretty detrimental to the movie, which just seems to lack substance.

So, I enjoyed the book a whole heck of a lot and would throw the movie in the trash can if I didn't have to return it to the library.

Let's move on to the food. I'll get the movie out of the way first since it's simple—basically there wasn't any food to speak of. One picnic spread that isn't really visible anyway and food on the tables in the background at Abe and Mary's wedding. But the book, since it did such a good job describing Abe's younger years, of course, included some food in the pages. There was mention of apple pie, molasses, garlic and mustard seed, and broth. There was corn and corn cakes, brown sugar, and plenty of mentions of pork (fried pork, bacon, pork-pork), sugar candies, peach brandy, molasses, and red vinegar to name the most prominent mentions.
frying up jowl bacon
Before deciding what to make, I decided to do a little more research into Abraham Lincoln's "food life". I wanted to know what he ate and enjoyed the most. Abe sold both pork and ham as he made his way down the Mississippi River as a boy. He carried a pan for frying pork on his solo journeys. And according to a really fun book that I found, Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life an Times by Rae Katherine Eighmey, Abe and his sister probably made all sorts of common cornmeal dishes since the family raised corn on their farm. It was said that he could devour tasty corn cakes “as quickly as two women could make them.”

In the book by Eighmey, I found a recipe that was recreated from "period sources" for Corn Dodgers, which are made with stone ground cornmeal, bacon drippings, salt and boiling water. So basically, these may have been the type of corn cakes that Lincoln enjoyed so greatly. And although many don't realize, bacon can be any sort of salted and cured pork, not just the typical belly bacon that we're used to buying at the store. So, since I had a nice smoked pork jowl in the fridge, I sliced 1/4-inch pieces of bacon from that and fried it up to go along with the corn cakes. Bacon was also one of Abe's favorite foods.

And to round it all out and turn it into a meal, I sauteed some apples (another of Abe's favorites) with butter and maple syrup until soft and golden. Together the three made a beautifully rustic meal that actually reminded me of something my paternal grandma would have made when she was still alive.

Corn Dodgers
Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, the deep corn flavor of these corn dodgers are delicious alone, or as an accompaniment to a bowl of soup.
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Corn Dodgers w/ Maple Apples & Jowl Bacon inspired by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 30 minutes, mostly unattended
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Keywords: breakfast cornmeal American

Ingredients (18 pieces)
  • 2 cups stone-ground cornmeal (I recommend Bob's Red Mill Organic Medium Grind)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon warm bacon grease (drippings)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
make the dough:
Combine the cornmeal and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine. Make a well in the center and add the bacon grease. Pour the boiling water over the grease, then use a wooden spoon to stir everything together until well combined. Set aside and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
stone ground cornmeal and pork grease
form and cook the dodgers:
To form each corn dodger, place 2 tablespoons of dough in the palm of one hand. Gently press and form dough into an oval that is 1 inch wide and 2 inches long (to resemble an ear of corn). The dough is fairly sticky, so it helps if you grease the palm that you're using after every couple of dodgers. It also helps to grease the measuring spoon or scoop you're using to measure out the dough.
shaping corn dodgers
Set a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, add about 1 tablespoon of bacon grease to the skillet. Set in as many of the dodgers as you can, taking care not to crowd them (cook them in a couple of batches). Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cook until the bottoms are deeply golden, 8-10 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5-7 minutes on the opposite side. They will be firm and crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Repeat as necessary until all the dodgers are cooked.

Serve warm, either alone or with some bacon and sauteed apples.

I cooked up a few slices of smoked jowl bacon before making the dodgers. Jowl releases a lot of fat, so I used this fat both in the corn dodger dough and to cook them in the skillet.

I also made some Maple Apples to serve alongside or on top of the dodgers. To make them, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 roughly chopped apples and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in 2 tablespoons of real maple syrup and add a pinch of salt. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the apples are golden in spots and very tender, another 4-5 minutes.
Corn Dodgers w/ Maple Apples & Jowl Bacon inspired by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
*I have to amend this a little since I remembered that Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay for Tim Burton's Dark Shadows...and I loved that. He's also doing the new Beetlejuice and a bunch of other work that sounds good. So, it was really just this movie in particular that I couldn't make myself like.

The All Vampire Book and Movie Challenge is hosted by Kimberly at Coffee and Casseroles, and meets monthly to discuss a predetermined book and movie relating to vampires. Sometimes the book and movie may be the same (or an adaptation), others they may relate in a more obscure manner.

Once we've read the book and watched the movie, we write a blog post discussing them and how they relate or differ, and perhaps share something that it inspired us to make.

This month's assignment was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - both the book and the movie. If you'd like to join the discussion next month, we'll be reading I Am Legend and watching Omega Man, and our posting date will be Sunday, March 27.

Until then, let me know if you'd read this book and/or seen the movie - and what you thought about either.

-Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times by Rae Katherine Eighmey
-Five of Abraham Lincoln's Favorite Foods via Mental Floss