The ubiquitous sweet tomatoey sauce alternately spelled catsup or ketchup has been the subject of disdain in culinary circles for…well, pretty much forever.
Ketchup, to the chagrin of many U.S. chefs, has mainly been associated with American cuisine.
Chef José Andrés, who captured the 2011 James Beard Award as America’s most outstanding chef, was born in Spain, but has been cooking in the U.S. for more than 20 years. He’s heard the scorn for ketchup and its association with American cooking from his European colleagues for years, and now he wants to do something about it.
Andrés, along with a few other chefs and entrepreneurs, are on a quest to make ketchup, if not respected, at least accepted as a legitimate culinary ingredient.
America Eats Tavern is Andrés’ new pop-up restaurant in Washington, D.C. The eatery has a separate menu of traditional ketchups, made from local and foraged ingredients, and it’s served with a wide a variety of foods from bison steak to fried chicken to hot dogs.
As reported by Julia Moskin of The New York Times, America Eats Tavern had eight different ketchups on the menu this month. Andrés’s culinary research team unearthed dozens of classic ketchup recipes from such sources as “Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book” (1846) and “The Virginia Housewife” (1824), and they’re putting those recipes to use.
Now the pop-up restaurant makes whortleberry and barberry and oyster ketchup (fresh oysters blended into a base of wine, butter, shallots and mace). They’re using the original recipes and making them with fresh ingredients. Andrés and his staff were surprised by how diverse and modern the flavors are. Other ketchup choices included cherry and spiceberry.
Andrés laments the loss of flavor diversity that has occurred in recent times. Today, he says, for most people, there is only one flavor of ketchup—basically Heinz or similar variations.
There can be so much more, Andrés says, and he’s leading the charge for greater ketchup diversity.
We’ll have to wait and see if this ketchup movement catches on.
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