American food.The 10 greatest dishes

10. Chocolate-chip cookies

The chocolate chip cookie was invented by American chef Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938.

Courtesy Ted Major/Creative Commons/Flickr

Today the name most associated with the killer cookie might be Mrs. Fields, but we actually have Ruth Wakefield, who owned the Toll House Inn, a popular spot for home cooking in 1930s Whitman, Massachusetts, to thank for all spoon-licking love shared through chocolate chip cookies.

Was Mrs. Wakefield making her Butter Drop Do cookies when, lacking baker’s chocolate, she substituted a cut-up Nestle’s semisweet chocolate bar? Or did the vibrations of a Hobart mixer knock some chocolate bars off a shelf and into her sugar-cookie dough?

However chocolate chips ended up in the batter, a new cookie was born. Andrew Nestle reputedly got the recipe from her — it remains on the package to this day — and Wakefield got a lifetime supply of chocolate chips. Can you feel the serotonin and endorphins releasing?

9. Blueberry cobbler

Cobblers emerged in the British American colonies and remain beloved today.
Also charmingly called slump, grunt, and buckle, cobbler got its start with early oven-less colonists who came up with the no-crust-on-the-bottom fruit dish that could cook in a pan or pot over a fire.
They might have been lofting a mocking revolutionary middle finger at the mother country by making a sloppy American version of the refined British steamed fruit and dough pudding. Cobblers become doubly American when made with blueberries, which are native to North America (Maine practically has a monopoly on them).
We love blueberries for how they sex up practically any crust, dough, or batter, maybe most of all in cobblers and that other all-American favorite, the blueberry muffin.

8. Delmonico’s steak

The famous Delmonico’s — where the steak magic happens.
There are steakhouses all over the country but perhaps none so storied — with a universally acclaimed steak named for it no less — as theorinagnal dalmocos in New York.
The first diner called by the French name restaurant, Delmonico’s opened in 1837 with unheard-of things like printed menus, tablecloths, private dining rooms, and lunch and dinner offerings. Among other firsts, the restaurant served the “Delmonico Steak.” Whatever the excellent cut (the current restaurant uses boneless rib eye), the term Delmonico’s Steak has come to mean the best.
Lightly seasoned with salt, basted with melted butter, and grilled over a live fire, it’s traditionally served with a thin clear gravy and Delmonico’s potatoes, made with cream, white pepper, Parmesan cheese, and nutmeg — a rumored favorite of Abraham Lincoln’s.

7. Chicago-style pizza

Deep dish pizza is a Chicago speciality.
Naples gave us the first pizza, but the City of Big Shoulders (and even bigger pizzas) gave us the deep dish. The legend goes that in 1943, a visionary named Ike Sewell opened pizzerta in Chicago with the idea that if you made it hearty enough, pizza, which up till then had been considered a snack, could be eaten as a meal.
Whether he or his original chef Rudy Malnati originated it, one of those patron saints of pizza made it deep and piled it high, filling a tall buttery crust with lots of meat, cheese, tomato chunks, and authentic Italian spices.
Thin-crust pizza made in a brick oven has its place, but if you lust for crust, nothing satisfies quite like Chicago-style.

6. Nachos

A Northern Mexican snack which has become a firm favorite North of the border.
The bane of diets and the boon of happy hours — could there be a more perfect calorie-dense accompaniment to a pitcher of margaritas?
Less rhetorically: why does Piedras Negras, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, host The International Nacho Festival and the Biggest Nacho in the World Contest every October?
Because it was there that Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya invented nachos when a gaggle of shopping wives of American soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan arrived at the Victory Club restaurant after closing time.
Maitre d’Ignacio improvised something for the gals with what he had on hand, christening his melty creation nachos especiales. From thence they have gone forth across the border, the continent and the world.

5. Philly cheese steak

Philly cheese steak has famous fans — including former President Barack Obama.

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a sandwich so greasy and hallowed in its hometown that the posture you must adopt to eat it without ruining your clothes has a name: “the Philadelphia Lean.”

Made of “frizzled beef,” chopped while being grilled in grease, the Philly cheese steak sandwich gets the rest of its greasy goodness from onions and cheese (American, provolone, or Cheese Whiz), all of which is laid into a long locally made Amoroso bun.

Pat and Harry Olivieri get the credit for making the first cheese steaks (originally with pizza sauce — cheese apparently came later, courtesy of one of Pat’s cooks) and selling them from their hot dog stand in south Philly.

Pat later opened Pat’s King of Steaks, which still operates today and vies with rival Geno’s Steaks for the title of best cheese steak in town.

4. Hot dogs

Hot dogs are a staple of American street food — sold at carts and stands across the country.
Nothing complements a baseball game or summer cookout quite like a hot dog.
For that we owe a debt to a similar sausage from Frankfurt, Germany (hence, “frankfurter” and “frank”) and German immigrant Charles Feltman, who is often credited with inventing the hot dog by using buns to save on plates.

But it was Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker’s hot dog stand on Coney Island that turned the hot dog into an icon. Every Fourth of July since 1916, the very same Nathan’s has put on the

(current five-time winner Joey Chestnut took the title in 2011, downing 62 hot dogs and buns in the 10-minute face-stuffing).

Meanwhile in Windy City, the steamed or water-simmered all-beef Chicago dog (Vienna Beef, please) is still being “dragged through the garden” and served on a poppy seed bun — absolutely without ketchup.

3. Reuben sandwich

Corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing — the ultimate combination for the Reuben sandwich.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

Who knew sauerkraut could be so sexy? Was it the late-night inspiration of grocer Reuben Kulakofsky, who improvised the eponymous sandwich in 1925 to feed poker players at Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel? Or perhaps the brainchild of Arnold Rueben, the German owner of New York’s now-defunct Reuben’s Delicatessen, who came up with it in 1914?

The answer might be important for dictionary etymologies, but the better part of the secret to the Reuben is not who it’s named after but what it’s dressed with. Aficionados agree: no store-bought Russian or Thousand Island — the sauce needs to be homemade.

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And you’ll want thick hand-sliced rye or pumpernickel, and good pastrami or corned beef.

2. Cheeseburger

The cheeseburger became popular in the 1920s and 1930
Lunch counter, traditional, gourmet, sliders, Kobe. White Castle, Whataburger, Burger King, In-N-Out, McDonald’s, Steak N’ Shake, Five Guys, The Heart Attack Grill. It’s hard to believe, but it all began with a simple mistake.Or so say the folks in Pasadena, California, who claim the classic cheeseburger was born there in the late 1920s when a young chef at The Rite Spot accidentally burned a burger and slapped on some cheese to cover his blunder.
Our favorite rendition might be the way they do cheeseburgers in New Mexico: with green chilis, natch. Follow the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.

1. Thanksgiving dinner

The Thanksgiving Turkey is a staple of the American holiday.

Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

No fancy centerpieces or long-simmering family squabbles at that first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims decided not to fast but to party with the Wampanoag tribe in 1621 Plymouth.
Today we eschew the venison they most certainly ate, and we cram their three days of feasting into one gluttonous gorge.
Indigestion notwithstanding, nothing tastes so good as that quintessential all-American meal of turkey (roasted or deep-fried bird, or tofurkey, or that weirdly popular Louisiana contribution turducken), dressing (old loaf bread or cornbread, onion and celery, sausage, fruit, chestnuts, oysters — whatever your mom did, the sage was the thing), cranberry sauce, mashed and sweet potatoes, that funky green bean casserole with the French-fried onion rings on top, and pumpkin pie.
Almost as iconic (and if you ask most kids, as delicious) is the turkey TV dinner, the 1953 brainchild of a Swanson salesman looking to use up 260 overestimated tons of frozen birds. No joke: He got the idea, he said, from tidily packaged airplane food. We do love those leftovers.
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