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"Butter is kind of like the currency of the Midwest," Clickkeyword[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. She's 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 garden.
"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. "When I was growing up, the discussion of texture was constant, constant. You know 'the bread was good like this, this time, but it was better like that last time.' The detail people went into to talk about venison sausage and pie crust and balance of sugar and salt in the pickles. I guess it gave me an appreciation for really good product."
"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'm proud to be part of that. But I have been imagining this book and working on these ideas for probably 15 years. When I was working with European chefs at these New York restaurants, it really started to click for me that the basis of fancy food comes from a very rustic place."
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 Clickkeyword[Food+Network]" >Food Network show, Heartland Table, which is filmed in Thielen's actual kitchen at her home in Two Inlets, Minnesota.
Pierz, Minnesota, or the second location in Little Falls. A cousin who runs the store, an aunt who knows the best method for frying ring bologna, and pictures of her grandmother, an expert baker, all pop up on her show from time to time, and that intimacy is a huge part of Heartland Table's charm.
"They get a kick out of it," Thielen says of her family's perception of her Ferragamo Belt Cheap 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 soup 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.".
rustic fare to Food Network
Thielen's techniques are not overly complicated, and she often works with just a few ingredients, but she has mastered the art of applying love in layers, as with the pork roast she periodically pulls out to brush with a thick coating of sugar, apple cider vinegar, and crushed peppercorns. She succinctly describes the intersection as "plain food gets particular," and attributes that philosophy largely to being raised in a house where everyone, especially the women of her family, were particularly particular.
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So did growing up with an extended family that ran, and still runs, a full service meat market. You might recognize Amy's last name if you've ever had the pleasure of visiting the original Thielen Meats in Hermes Belt Black On Black
daughter has returned to her roots and subsequently become an ambassador of modern Midwestern cuisine. Her 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.
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