Who doesn’t love a great mash-up?
Ever since “Glee” first blended voices and songs to deliver that perfect balance of classic and fresh sounds, we have all been obsessed with the mash-up.
And it’s no wonder, considering we’ve been mashing up food a whole lot longer than we’ve been avid Gleeks. In fact, ever since chocolate fell into peanut butter, food lovers have swooned over the idea of two great tastes that taste great together.
But it’s not as simple as pairing two divergent (but possibly appealing) tastes. The key to a great mash-up is that each part being smooshed together is something spectacular and complex all on its own. The perfect mash-up is something that will make your head spin with its complexity and execution.
These seven items certainly do just that.
1. Cronuts, Wonuts, and Frenagels
Who would have thought the world would be as taken by storm as it was by cronuts. This revolutionary new pastry, pioneered by New York chef Dominique Ansel, went from nothing to being named one of TIME magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2013.
With its croissant-like dough — which is shaped and fried like a donut, filled with cream and then glazed — the cronut has transfixed foodies and casual diners alike, even making its way on to the menus of some of America’s most popular fast food restaurants. For a while, this delicate delight was so popular and hard to get that scalpers were even selling them for $100 a piece — that’s a 2000% mark-up!
But the revolution didn’t stop with the smooshing of croissants and donuts. Soon other breakfast pastries entered the mix, with such mash-ups as the Wonut, a delectable waffle donut mix created at Waffles Café in Chicago.
And now, out of New York City, the frenagel, a mash-up of the donut, croissant, and bagel, has risen from the kitchen of Fiorello Dolce. Filled with a scallion cream cheese and topped with the “everything” combination of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and sea salt, the frenagel is just the latest mutation in a sea of crullers and breakfast sandwiches. What will they think of next?
Perhaps the most quintessential foodie mash-up of all time, turducken is quite literally three kinds of poultry all mashed up together. It’s a full-sized TURkey surrounding a DUck surrounding a chiCKEN, all deboned and held together by a breadcrumb (or sometimes sausage) stuffing mixture spread between them.
I know what you’re thinking: Why? And my response is simply: Why not? Turducken has all the meats a traditional Thanksgiving could possibly include (plus a few extra), and it just sounds so cool — stuffing one bird inside another inside another to make some kind of Super-Mega-Bird.
And once it’s roasted, barbecued, or grilled, the turducken makes for a splendid presentation to even the most skeptical dinner guest. Sliced on a platter for all to see your magic from the inside out, the turducken is easily the best conversation starter to serve at a quiet restaurant table or a buffet spread in your own home.
Ever tried a Luther burger? Sounds innocuous on its face, but you might do a double take when you realize it’s a bacon cheeseburger housed between two halves of a Krispy Kreme glazed donut. Alternately described as a “heart attack waiting to happen,” this calorie giant is just one of a million different variations on the sandwich Americans know best.
With everything from deep-fried ramen buns like those popularized by L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in San Diego to buns baked with squid ink housing its patties, the burger is one of the most easily transformed items on restaurant menus, and that trend isn’t waning any time soon. It hardly seems crazy to add a fried egg or onion rings to your half-pound patty anymore. But have you ever tried a slathering of peanut butter across your bun, such as with the PBJ and Bacon Burger at Rehab Burger Therapy in Scottsdale, Ariz.?
The burger and its near cousin, the hot dog, are also the perfect vehicle for exploring cross-cultural influences in food. The culinary experimentation behind the Banh Mi Pork Belly Confit Corn Dog at Franktuary in Pittsburgh, Pa., is an absolute delight to taste and witness.
And the possibilities don’t end with meat. With chefs nationwide developing their own custom blends of vegetarian burgers to cater to their meat-free customers, you don’t need to be a carnivore to mash up a great dining experience.
4. Long Island Iced Tea
Remember these from your college days? You never exactly knew what was in them, did you? Just that they were delicious — and potent.
There’s a lot of debate about where the Long Island Iced Tea originated, but there’s certainly no question about its contents. A true mash-up cocktail if I’ve ever seen one, this delicious concoction is made with:
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce white rum
- 1 ounce tequila
- 1 ounce triple sec
- 1 ounce lemon juice and 2 teaspoon superfine sugar (or 1 1/2 ounces sweet and sour mix)
- Splash of cola
- Wedge of lemon
Served over ice, this drink gets part of its name from its rich color, matching that of a traditional iced tea. But take heed — this drink packs a wallop, and it never hurts to remember the importance of drinking responsibly (and only when you’re over the age of 21).
5. Chicken and Waffles
Some say this mash-up is a relatively new concoction, not introduced to the culinary landscape until the late 1930s, when jazz musicians in Harlem snacked on this breakfast-dinner combination after their sets. Others say it is nearly as old as America itself, with origins in an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe consisting of pulled chicken and gravy atop waffles.
Regardless of when it was first introduced, most agree that this mash-ups status as a nationwide craze was solidified when Herb Hudson opened Roscoe’s, a Los Angeles restaurant dedicated exclusively to this particular pairing. And now, restaurants everywhere are continuing the legacy. Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles, for example, offers up nearly endless variations of the chicken plus waffles equation, while Apothecary Café and Wine Bar in Austin, Texas, takes a more upscale approach to this simple pleasure with its own quail and waffle dish.
But however this dynamic duo first came about — and no matter how many variations emerge — we do know that few things are as surprisingly satisfying as putting a piece of fried chicken on top of a perfectly crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside waffle and then dousing the whole thing in syrup.
6. Ice Cream Sandwich
It may seem like a simple concoction, but the gentleman who first put a slab of ice cream between two cookies deserves a posthumous Nobel Prize. Giving us a portable version of our favorite frozen treat — conceived of by the New York City peddler who sold them out of his pushcart in the Bowery at the turn of the century (20th, that is) — was a no less a stroke of genius.
Today, the ice cream sandwich may retail for a little more than the 1 cent it did originally, but that’s not its only change. An evolution of this awesome mash-up has occurred on both the high and low end of culinary practice. At Starlite in San Diego, the ice cream sandwich is a feature item, with thick slabs of vanilla ice cream capped by freshly baked cookies and rounded with pistachio nuts. Living up to the “slow food,” craft appeal Starlite’s customers have come to expect is no problem for this dish.
And for those who just can’t wait for a proper night out, there are hundreds of variations on the theme in your grocer’s freezer section or local fast food eatery. From the Choco-Taco to the Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich, there is seemingly no end to the mash-up potential of dessert on the fly.
7. Bacon Plus Everything
Oh, bacon. You transform everything you touch with your crispy, irresistible nature.
And I do mean everything. It’s hard to imagine a food bacon wouldn’t work well with (or in some cases, simply improve). From bacon jam to Elvis’s favorite sandwich (peanut butter, banana, and bacon), this tantalizing meat is classic mash-up material.
Remember rumaki? It was a super popular hors d’oeuvre served at parties in the 1950s and 60s. A water chestnut covered in chicken liver, wrapped in bacon, and marinated in soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar, rumaki literally mashed up some of the most distinct flavors ever concocted — and was always a smash hit among guests.
Today, bacon-fried Oreos are probably a more likely go-to for modern party-goers, but the lesson is clear: Want something to be more than it already is? Just add bacon.
Want to learn more about the science behind the sizzle in bacon’s popularity?