midwest food stories


We were up in Northeast Nebraska a couple of weeks ago filming an episode about Mangalitsa pigs, a rare Hungarian breed that dates back 200 years. Culinary instructor Brian O'Malley traveled with us to learn about this rare breed of wooly pig and to meet the farmers that put so much care and dedication into raising this storied animal. The farmers then traveled back to the kitchen to watch the magic happen as Brian and his team created a gorgeous spread of goodness. So many rarely seen moments as chef learns from farmer, farmer learns from chef, and students learn about the importance of using the best possible ingredients.  We were truly humbled to be a part of such a captivating story. We are still sifting through about a terabyte of footage, but here are some stills to whet your appetite until we drop the full episode this fall.

Spicy Oxtail Sugo with Fresh Pasta by AJ Swanda

Hearty and rich, spicy and sweet. This sugo is truly special- inspired by the sauce that Aj’s grandma used to leave simmering on the stove all day on Sundays. Aj made some fresh spaghetti noodles from scratch with an antique brass pasta extruder, but if you don’t have one of those handy, serve over your favorite noodles. Just keep them a little bit al dente.

serves 4-6 

Spicy Oxtail Sugo with Fresh Pasta

5 lbs of Oxtail, seasoned the night before

1 head of garlic, minced

1 sprig of rosemary

2 cans (medium) diced tomato

2 oz tomato paste

3 each diced chilis

3 each bay leaf

1 ounce of oregeno

TT salt, kosher

TT black pepper, freshly ground

extra virgin olive oil

3 cup red wine, chianti

Season oxtail the night before with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 375 degree F. In a large stock pot, sear all sides of oxtail over med-high heat until deep golden brown. Remove from the pan and reserve fat. In the same stock pot, saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent. Add herbs and chilis and cook for one minute.

Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the pot smells very sweet and a little fond begins to form at the bottom of the pan. Deglaze with red wine and cook for 3 minutes. Return the oxtail to the pot and cover with diced tomatoes. Place in the oven and cook for 3-4 hours uncovered. Let cool for at least 45 minutes or overnight before serving. Serve over spaghetti or bucatini noodles.

Italian Chicken Soup + Muffuletta Sandwich by Andrew Wettengel

Chicken soup with Sicilian roots and the journey of a muffuletta sandwich from New Oreleans to Omaha. Andrew walks through the preparation of two of his favorite things.

For the chicken soup



carrots (sliced to small pieces)

sweet onions

cherry tomatoes


fresh thyme


white Rice

chicken thighs

white wine (Andrew typically uses Reisling
as it’s subtly sweet)

2 48-ounce cartons of chicken stock

Sauté the thinly sliced and chopped sweet onions and garlic in grassfed butter, adding a bit of white wine as needed. Once translucent, add the chicken thighs cut to preference. Cook thighs until nicely browned. Add the celery and carrots and cook thoroughly. Add crushed cherry tomatoes and add wine as needed and reduce. Add the chicken stock and 2 cups white wine, thyme and basil. Bring to boil, set to medium and let boil for about 45 minutes. Spoon out, and top with Romano cheese.

For the Muffuletta sandwich

fresh Italian garlic bread (pre-made with the
garlic butter and cheese already on it)






Swiss and provolone cheese

spicy giardiniera

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all meats and cheeses on the bread (pile as high or low to preference). Add the olive salad (giardiniera) on the top of the meats, and then another final layer of provolone over that. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread is slightly browned.

Irish Scones by Bryce Coulton

Bryce Coutlon is a retired Air Force veteran that wanted a change of scenery and discovered his passion for charcuterie at a cooking school in a remote part of Ireland while perfecting his scone recipe. Can't make that up.

Ballymaloe Irish Scones

makes 18

2 pounds cream flour

6 ounces butter

3 eggs

2 ounces caster sugar

pinch of salt

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

15 ounces milk

egg wash

granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Sieve all dry ingredients to remove any lumps and mix well. Cut unsalted butter into ½-inch cubes, combine with flour in a mixing bowl. By hand, mix butter and flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Some recipes call for mixing until “fine breadcrumbs,” but the larger (coarse breadcrumb) pieces of butter leave larger air pockets as they melt during baking, thus a lighter and less-dense scone.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk eggs for 1 minute to break up the whites. Add most of the milk, holding back about 1 ounce. Depending on humidity and time of year, sometimes more or less liquid is needed, or a pinch more flour, so you’ll have to adjust as you see fit when making the dough. Don’t worry, you have to really work at it to mess-up this recipe. Trust what feels and looks right.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently mix until it comes together into a soft dough. Turn out the dough onto a cutting board dusted with flour. With a light hand, shape into around 1-inch thick round. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, press out scones. You will have extra irregular pieces of dough, but bring those pieces together and cut more scones. These last few scones will be a bit more dense than the first from even this small reworking of the dough. Egg wash the tops of the scones, dip the tops into sugar and place about 2-inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until there’s a nice dark golden color.

How do you make it better? It’s the technique. It’s the little nuances. If you are going to do something, it should matter.
— Bryce

Lil' Pie by Sarah Jane Hunt

This guarded, Great Depression era recipe has been in Sarah’s family for generations and was traditionally made with leftover dough scraps, but she usually uses a store-bought pie crust when she makes this simple, yet delicious cream pie for friends and family.

Pie crust

4 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons flour

heavy cream (amount depends on the size
of the pie crust)

dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pie crust in pie pan and fold edge of crust tightly over edge of pan and continue all the way around. Mix, with fingers, the sugar and flour. Pour in heavy cream to cover flour and sugar mixture.

Sprinkle a dash of nutmeg across the top. Place in center of oven for 10-15 minutes until crust is golden and center is bubbling. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Let it cool slightly on a wire rack.

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Czech Potato Salad by John Jelinek

This authentic Czech potato salad has four generations of history and family get-togethers behind it. Elements of sweet, smoke and the right amount of crunch will make this dish the perfect compliment to your next brisket or burger.

serves 12-15

12 medium potatoes – peeled and hard boiled
to retain firmness

12 large eggs – hard boiled

1 pound of bacon cut into ¼-inch pieces,
fry and set aside to cool

4 stalks celery

1 medium or large onion

6 or 7 sweet pickles

2 large dill pickles

2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons white vinegar

salt to taste

pepper to taste

It is recommended the eggs and potatoes chill overnight before slicing. Chop all ingredients into approximately ¼ inch square pieces. Put all ingredients in large mixing bowl and mix in the following: 2 tablespoons each dill and sweet pickle juice, 2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and let chill in refrigerator for at least two hours.

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