Beyond the brisket
American cuisine has progressed way beyond BBQ brisket with new flavours, regional influences and cross-pollination with dishes from other cultures, being the latest trend in this evolution.
American cuisine borders continue to be stretched by creative Chefs who keep on adding interesting new flavour twists to their American-influenced menus. This merge has been dubbed New American, and now is the perfect opportunity to catch the next wave of American-inspired dishes.
Small spaces, big ideas
The food truck, small bar kitchen and pop-up have a lot to answer for. Given the restriction of time, space and cooking equipment, creative Chefs have been able to morph dishes into a new era of fast, casual and quirky, as well as delicious, through necessity. Be it polenta and hominy stews, interesting combinations baked into meat pies, burgers carried between bagel halves, baked ramen noodles sandwiching salmon instead of burger buns, these creations create a buzz about your venue.
“It is a great time to be a Chef because we now have more creativity than ever,” Atlanta Chef Kevin Gillespie told American business magazine Fast Company. “We’re no longer constrained by the rules of fine dining; we can literally create any kind of restaurant that we want—upmarket, downmarket, a food truck, or maybe even something in between that hasn’t been invented yet.”
Digging through the layers
Groups such as Rockpool Dining have offered a renewed focus on cross-cultural cuisines, at venues such as their El Camino Cantina, which brings a bespoke Tex-Mex experience with a twist to patrons who have been lapping it up for a few years now. But as the mash-ups become more common across menus, Chefs are digging deeper to combine the essential elements of American cuisine, multiple layers of flavour with big appeal, to more interesting combinations.
Venues ramping dishes up include AppleJack Hospitality’s The Butler in Sydney’s Potts Point which brings to the table dishes such as a spicy buttermilk chicken slider with sweetcorn slaw, blue cheese ranch and jalapeño or slow-cooked pork scotch fillet braised with citrus and spices, frijoles puercos, chicharrone and habanero salsa.
Packing a punch
At Sounds on West in the Central Coast of NSW, bocconcini balls are served with housemade smoked semi-dried pesto and a creamy Alabama sauce – a white BBQ sauce made with mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, horseradish, lemon juice and lots of freshly ground black pepper. It’s a multi-layered dish which cherry picks punchy ingredients from a host of influences. Or LP’s Quality Meats octopus served with black-eye beans, chilli and garlic.
Meanwhile Neil Perry presents a BBQ bulgolgi burger at his Australia-wide Burger Project venues. “I usually order it with bacon, making it my all-time favourite burger,” he says.
Another style of sandwich is often the vehicle for transformation. Take for example the French dip sandwich, also known as a beef dip in the US. This hot sandwich usually consists of thinly sliced roast beef on a baguette and dipped in a sauce or jus. It has found its way into Sydney under the name muffaletta, a popular sandwich originating among Italian immigrants in New Orleans, Louisiana, but now an Insta-sandwich on steroids at Clayton Wells's A1 Canteen in Chippendale. Their muffuletta is a pressed baguette of olive, mortadella, salami, ham, provolone, peppers and artichokes on a hollowed out white sourdough. “It’s not your average – between two slices of bread – thing that you eat. The quality of the ingredients is important, we find as good ingredients as we can and the layering is really important as well.”
In the burger steaks, Fire & Food in Australia Square has a buttermilk fried chicken breast schnitzel version served with lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado and spicy chipotle mayo.
In Adelaide, at Gouger Streets’ Mexican Society they’ve presented mini burgers, served with Chinese lap cheong sausage, pickled veg and chipotle mayo.
Stretching all the way to New Zealand
In contrast, across the other side of the ditch, in Albany, Auckland, the chipotle mayo is drizzled over school prawns and served with a Mexican slaw, plus an orange and pineapple relish.
Over in Wellington, at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, the dishes draw their influences from New Orleans with Cajun and Creole dishes plus Mexican snack food. Over weekend, brunch patrons linger over the Waffle Hog, a cheddar and jalapeño cornmeal waffles served with pulled pork, a poached egg, hollandaise and pickled onion.
That’s a trip around the world in one bite.
Remember, New American cuisine offers a familiar starting point for everyone, but with an added element of creativity for Chefs plus a sense of excitement for interested diners.