"Typical American dinner"

Will soon be visiting the delightful French family that has been hosting my daughter just outside Paris. I have been asked to cook a "typical American dinner" while there. What would you cook? Thoughts so far include: ribs; fried chicken; mac & cheese; hamburgers; ribs; chocolate chip cookies; strawberry shortcake. What would you do?



Pegeen May 12, 2013
SeaJ - Oh dear. I didn't realize you'd already gone and returned. Sounds like you had a good trip! I'd like hearing more about your dinner and food thoughts. Cheers.
Pegeen May 12, 2013
SeaJambon, I'm sure it's well past your due date. But I'd make them boeuf bourguignon from a southern Chamber of Commerce cookbook that's at least 30 years old, and tell them, "this is how it should be done." Nothing could be more American than that.
I apologize if it was mentioned earlier, but have hot dogs been mentioned? But you have to have "bad" mustard by French standards... don't know if you can get it where you are. I will ship you some cheap pickle relish and French's mustard in a squeeze bottle. (Seriously)
It is fun to connect with families in other countries... hope you will enjoy it.
healthierkitchen May 11, 2013
SeaJambon - having cooked in a number of different rental homes in different countries I will say that the best laid plans often go awry...but rarely actually fail.
It sounds like you took your luggage snafu in stride and did what you could. I'm sure your daughter's host family appreciated your efforts and enthusiasm and, since they don't know what type of cook you are at home, don't even know what they might have had under different circumstances. As long as you all had fun and an enjoyable dinner, that's what matters.
mensaque May 10, 2013
Whenever I think about typical american food,I think of Thanksgiving dinners,with all those vegetables,a big turkey and pumpkin pie...the works!Why don't you pretend it is november already and thank this family for their hospitality?
susan G. May 10, 2013
For the French family, a double gift!
bugbitten May 10, 2013
Even a small success trumps a great flop. Congrats!
SeaJambon May 10, 2013
Reporting back: Well, it was an adventure. My carefully packed bag full of the things I would need (including recipes) arrived a day late, so I was forced to "improvise". Also, the kitchen featured a tiny oven (size of a microwave -- it was a combo conventional oven, microwave, steam oven), so that created some additional challenges. But, undaunted, I went to work and managed to prepare: onion rings (not nearly as crisp and golden as I would have liked, but not soggy either -- just couldn't get the oil quite as hot as I wanted); macaroni and cheese (the elbow pasta I had carefully packed wasn't available, but found a reasonable substitute); and ribs. I can't possibly call them BBQ ribs as there was neither a broiling option nor a grill, but more of "pork ribs braised in a pseudo-BBQ sauce", very "pseudo" as my carefully packed spices weren't there, nor was the recipe so very much going by memory. Ultimately, everything was edible and passable (the mac and cheese was actually very, very good) but hardly authentic. My bag arrived the next day, so I left this lovely French family with an assortment of spices, foil, pasta and more that they will probably never know what to do with! Ultimately, however, it was a lovely meal -- the food may have been something other than what I would have prepared at home, but they were enthusiastic in their reception, appreciative and delightful company. So, a culinary flop but a cultural success. :)
While 'ribs' are American, will your kitchen there be American? I know many Japanese kitchens couldn't cook our kind of ribs. So might consider cooking facilities.
bugbitten April 30, 2013
Popovers, meatloaf, stuffed potatoes and chopped salad.
Cristina S. April 29, 2013
I asked this question of my French boyfriend, to get you a true French response!

He recommended crab cakes, which he's developed a love for, and they don't really do in France. (You should be able to find whole crabs at most fishmongers.) He also said ribs ("with a spice rub, but no barbecue sauce") would be tasty. He wasn't as excited about options like mac & cheese or fried chicken, because those foods are much heavier than what French people eat on a regular basis.

I also think brining a small bottle of good maple syrup for the family might be nice, as they don't have that in France.
beyondcelery April 29, 2013
Yes, definitely make apple pie if you can. When I was staying with a family outside Paris a decade ago, I made them apple pie and they were completely hooked.
lloreen April 29, 2013
FYI produce is awful and expensive in supermarkets in Paris - try to hit the weekly market in your area or else one of the many covered markets with farmers stands. It is both better in quality and less expensive....ditto for meat - the market with have butcher stands or else go to the local butcher shop.
lloreen April 29, 2013
Strawberry shortcake is a great idea too...be aware that French flour is different than American! You might want to import the ingredients to save the hassle or figuring out the measurements. Bring what you can and then go to the market with an open mind...I can't recall ever seeing ribs in Paris, but you can certainly get excellent meats. Would love to hear how your American dinner turns out!
HalfPint April 29, 2013
I would do a pot roast or meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, and green beans. If you can find it in France and afford it, prime rib is very American and rather easy to do. Sides for the prime rib:
mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and roasted carrots.
Dessert: the French really love le cheesecake and le brownie. Just check out David Lebovitz's website. Only thing about the cheesecake though. Philly cream cheese can be hard to find and cost an arm & a leg.
ChefJune April 29, 2013
That's an interesting one, as so much of what we think of as "American food" actually had a French beginning. IIWM, I might do a pot roast, or perhaps an etouffee. Whatever, I'd do an American Apple Pie for dessert! You may have problems finding some of the items you need/want in the French markets. Not all of our produce translates over there, or cuts of meat.
pierino April 29, 2013
Etouffee is very good because the creole cooking of New Orleans is a mixture of French, Spanish and African slave cooking.

Meanwhile out in the bayous of Lafayette there is "cajun". The word is derived from "Acadian", the people who were driven out of Canada by the Brits during the French and Indian War. A majority of people still have French names.
pierino April 29, 2013
Now, a suggestion from the Great White North portion of North America; poutine. French fries with gravy. Possibly Canada's best contribution to NA culture since the Hanson Brothers. It does come from the French part of Canada.
SeaJambon April 28, 2013
Oh, and if anyone knows how to ask for "ribs" (pork or beef) in a French butcher shop, please let me know. I do know it is not a cut they are used to, so it will be a bit of a special order. I'm a bit concerned that I'll end up with the entire rib cage...
boulangere April 29, 2013
Twitter @davidlebovitz for meat suggestions.
SeaJambon April 28, 2013
You have all been so wonderful and provided such great insight! I'm packing right now, and am including elbow macaroni for mac & cheese (figure everything else will be there); brownie mix; shortcake mix (I'm from the NW, so that means "Fisher Scone Mix"); and some essential seasonings for making BBQ ribs. Potato salad is a good idea too but I think I can find everything there for that. Oh, and of course: a cheap set of measuring cups and spoons because I know they won't have those there! It will be a cross-cultural adventure. :) Thank you all again for your input -- it has been great to see your ideas!
SKK April 28, 2013
This is a great question, Sea Jambon. I have researched everything listed we consider 'typical American' and except for the processed nonsense, most foods come from South America, Europe, Africa and on and on. I love Susan G's idea of asking your daughter the two questions. And you are an amazing cook and doing incredible work with your foods in your business. How about cooking what you and your family love and serving that?
susan G. April 28, 2013
Have you asked your daughter? a) What has she missed, b) what kind of foods has she told the family about that elicits interest or curiosity. If there are American fast food chains where the family has eaten, I would steer clear of their menu items (even though yours would be better).
petitbleu April 28, 2013
Biscuits! I lived with a host family in France for a semester, and I'll be darned if I couldn't get them to understand what a southern buttermilk biscuit was! They just looked at me with this puzzled expression that I could never penetrate. At the time, I was not terribly confidant in my biscuit-making skills (and they had no oven--only a strange convection microwave thing), otherwise I would have made them some biscuits just to explain myself.
boulangere April 28, 2013
A European "biscuit" (bees-quee) is closer to what we call a cookie. What we call a biscuit is more of a "petit gateau."
lloreen April 28, 2013
Oh, and please don't make hamburgers or you will confirm their suspicion that that is literally the only thing we ever eat!
SeaJambon April 28, 2013
Agreed for exactly those reasons -- hamburgers are off the list. Fried chicken is too, simply because I can't make it very well (always have trouble getting it right -- but then again, how would they know?!) ;)
lloreen April 28, 2013
Cheesecake...the French love it! It is probably the only American dessert that you can't go wrong with. I recommend cheese cake brownies. David Leibovitz has a recipe with French measurements on his website.
Ribs might be tricky as a lot of French people cannot abide eating with their hands. I know Parisians who will eat a hamburger with a knife and fork. Do your hosts have a barbecue?
SeaJambon April 28, 2013
My daughter made cheesecake for her family a couple of weeks ago -- they thought they'd died and gone to heaven!! So, a truly excellent suggestion, but already covered.
WileyP April 28, 2013
There are so many wonderful "American" foods, Sea Jambon - It has got to be a real problem choosing what to put together for just one meal. I don't know from just what region of the US you hail, but I would suggest you stick to that region for your menu. Oh...and I'd probably steer clear of Americanized French-related foods under the circumstances!
Maedl April 28, 2013
Another consideration--French desserts are not as sweet as American desserts--so keep that in mind when making a choice. FI you are doing this in early summer, rhubarb and strawberries might be a good combination to inspire dessert.
amysarah April 28, 2013
As mentioned, American food is very regional and a (literal) mixing pot - so maybe base your menu on your own locale/heritage. Even iconic American foods (fried chicken, bbq'd ribs, cornbread, mac & cheese, meatloaf, etc.) often have a personal twist (in the Pacific NW, you might bbq salmon; in the south, ribs...) I'd also first ask your daughter what foods the host family likes - meat eaters or prefer seafood? Like lots of veg's/salads? Have a sweet tooth? - and take that into account. Also, have her pre-scope local markets for ingredients you'd need, and report back - lots of typical American products can be harder to find (and considerably more costly) abroad - American style peanut butter, baking soda, cornmeal, various cuts of meat, etc. might require trips to specialty, ethnic or health food shops, which may be inconvenient or cost prohibitive, depending on your location. (My expat friends in Paris bring bags of pecans, cornmeal, etc. back when they come home to visit.) I'd also think seasonal - for me, a quintessential spring/summer American meal might be New England Clam Chowder, some kind of BBQ, various salads, a fruit pie/crumble...all doable with local French ingredients (too early for corn on cob, and rarely available in France anyway.) Basically: personalize, take their preferences into account, seasonal-ize, and don't create a sourcing headache for yourself!
Maedl April 28, 2013
SKK makes a good point mentioning the availability of proper ingredients in France. When you decide on your menu, be sure to find out of you can get all your ingredients in France. One thing not to make is corn on the cob. European corn isn't even close in taste and texture to our summer corn and you will be disappointed with it.
SKK April 28, 2013
I am blessed to have the opportunity to travel around the world, and in my experience there is no "typical" local food. We seem to be one global family. You will be cooking outside of Paris, and you won't necessarily have access to whatever are typical American ingredients. This is a good thing. Our foods benefit from so many cultures. You are a brilliant cook - ask the family what they want. Possibly typical American is making whatever ingredients available brilliant.
QueenSashy April 27, 2013
Agree with others, BBQ ribs are uniquely American. Other things that come to mind are clam chowder, pulled pork, apple pie, strawberry shake
Sam1148 April 27, 2013
It depends on which "America" you go by...New Orleans, Southern, New England, California, Tex Mex..etc. A chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans. Or sub a meatloaf.
But all the above are good suggestions--I'd go with the ribs tho because that is rather uniquely American. and slaw. The question would be if you can find the ribs at a French butcher--and the seasoning and cooking method. Smoking it--it or using liquid smoke. And a rub placed on the day before.
Fried chicken might be easier.
bigpan April 27, 2013
I'm not American, but I would assume turkey dinner with all trimmings . Although drive thru hamburgers might qualify too.
pierino April 27, 2013
I'm definitely down with the fried chicken as well as the mac and cheese. Both are pretty to pull off. If you really want to offend French sensibilities make some pimento cheese and spread it on Ritz crackers. It's a southern thing. Which reminds me, what do they call a "quarter pounder with cheese" in France?
hardlikearmour April 28, 2013
a quarter pounder is a "Royale" -- Pix Patisserie in Portland has a chocolate/hazelnut dessert named after it, that they serve with or without cheese.
HalfPint April 29, 2013
I believe they call the quarter pounder, Une Royale. With cheese, I guess it would be une Royale avec fromage.
inpatskitchen April 27, 2013
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and of course Apple Pie!!
Droplet April 27, 2013
Pot pies and a green salad
Chili and cornbread
ZombieCupcake April 27, 2013
Reuben or Philly cheesesteaks
Maedl April 27, 2013
Where do you live? Cookimg is regional, so certainly you must have some specialties from your part of the country. In my experience, I have found pies to be very popular and you could use whatever fruit is in season at the time. If you could get crab, crabcakes would be a fine option. Oyster stew would be tasty, too. Pulled pork, mustard greens, shrimp and grits, . . . .
Sam1148 April 27, 2013
Pizza, Chinese takeout, Hamburger Helper, KFC, and Tacos.
boulangere April 28, 2013
I guess "typical" is in the eye of the beholder. How sad.
punkinpie April 27, 2013
Jambalaya, clam chowder, pulled pork, hush puppies, cornbread, pot roast or brisket, hmmmm, will keep thinking.
ZombieCupcake April 27, 2013
Maybe potato salad for a side that can be made ahead but otherwise wouldn't change what you have to much
ZombieCupcake April 27, 2013
Maybe potato salad for a side that can be made ahead but otherwise wouldn't change what you have to much
Rita April 27, 2013
Those all sound good!! Sounds pretty "American" to me.
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