The Gateway City offers a diverse menu when it comes to favorite foods.
Cooking On The Go
By Janet Groene, F47166
Midwest travelers treasure St. Louis, Missouri, for many reasons, one of which is an RV park in the middle of downtown. The city has excellent public transportation; sight-seeing opportunities galore; the must-see Gateway Arch and the museum underneath it; and the 1,800-acre Forest Park green space with its picnic spots, trails, and museums. Once you are in the park, take the trolley to get around to all the museums and points of interest.
St. Louis is a true American melting pot when it comes to cuisine, thanks to its immigrants. It began in the 1600s as a French settlement, later joined by waves of Italian, Irish, German, and Creole arrivals. Drawing upon that rich heritage, here are some St. Louis classic dishes to try in your own galley.
St. Louis Toasted Ravioli
When served in restaurants, this dish can vary depending on the ravioli and the chef’s sauce, but here is one way to make your own. In St. Louis you can find a large selection of fresh and frozen authentic local ravioli, but most supermarkets now carry packaged, uncooked ravioli.
Approximately 2 cups breadcrumbs (plain or Italian-seasoned)
1 small can evaporated milk
Oil for deep frying
Grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups sauce (such as bottled spaghetti sauce) for dipping
Spread a generous layer of breadcrumbs in an even layer on a shallow pan or sheet. Dip the dry ravioli in milk, then place each of them close together on top of the breadcrumbs. When a layer of ravioli is complete, top with more breadcrumbs, pressing gently so the breadcrumbs stick to the ravioli.
Heat the oil to 375 degrees and fry the ravioli in batches until golden brown. Place on a warm plate covered with paper towels, sprinkle with Parmesan, and provide warmed sauce for dipping. Or, place several on each plate and spoon the hot sauce over top. This recipe makes eight to 10 servings.
Cooks’s note: You may prefer to dip the ravioli in beaten eggs instead of the canned milk.
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake From Scratch
Gooey butter cake, like toasted ravioli, has as many versions as there are St. Louis grandmothers. Heaven help the person who deviates from the traditional family recipe. Here are two possibilities; the first from scratch and the other made with a cake mix.
1 stick butter at room temperature
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup sugar
1 ½ sticks butter, melted
1 small can evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
While the oven heats to 350 degrees, cut the butter into the flour and sugar until it’s mealy. Pat the dough firmly in the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan. Prepare the filling by whisking together the sugar, melted butter, egg, evaporated milk, corn syrup, and vanilla. Whisk in the flour. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the cake is nearly set. Do not overbake the cake; it’s supposed to be gooey. Cool; sprinkle with the confectioner’s sugar; and serve.
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake Shortcut
This is just one shortcut version of a Gooey Butter Cake, and it has a cheesecake-type filling.
1 stick butter, softened
1 box 2-layer yellow cake mix
1 16-ounce box confectioner’s sugar
1 8-ounce brick cream cheese (not fat-free), softened
½ tablespoon vanilla flavoring
Cut the butter into the cake mix until mealy and press tightly into a sprayed 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. Using the same mixing bowl, beat the confectioner’s sugar and cream cheese together and gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla. Pour the filling over the crust and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the filling is set.
St. Paul Sandwich
This St. Louis specialty served in Chinese restaurants has nothing to do with St. Paul, Minnesota (although one story is that the chef who invented it named it for his hometown). It’s basically an egg foo yong sandwich. Make your own patties or pick up take-out egg foo yong at a Chinese restaurant to assemble this sandwich later in the campground. It’s traditionally made with soft white bread.
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup bean sprouts, washed and picked over
Oil for frying
1 cup chopped, cooked chicken, pork, or beef*
2 eggs, beaten
4 slices white sandwich bread
Saute the vegetables in hot oil, gradually adding the meat. When the vegetables are crisp-tender, pour in the beaten eggs and cook until firm. Spread the bread with mayonnaise and make two sandwiches with the egg foo yong, lettuce, and tomato. In St. Louis you’ll get dill pickle slices on the side.
St. Louis Slinger
This is one whale of a breakfast, often favored by people who stop at all-night diners after a late evening out. Like most St. Louis specialties, it has many variations, including the Top One, served with a tamale; The Toby, made with white sauce instead of chili; and the Yin Yang or The Jared, each made with half chili and half white sauce. Instead of using a hamburger patty, it also can be made with sausage, bacon, or a T-bone steak. This makes a great campground breakfast outdoors when the gang is gathered around the grill.
2 eggs, cooked to order
Hash brown potatoes, cooked until crusty
1 fully cooked hamburger patty or other meat
Approximately ½ cup chili with or without beans OR
½ cup gravy or cream sauce OR
1/4 cup each of the above
Assemble the eggs, hash browns, and meat on a plate, and ladle on your choice of topping. This makes one serving.
Crab Rangoon Appetizer
Still a favorite in St. Louis Asian restaurants, this appetizer is said to have been introduced to the city when there was a Trader Vic’s restaurant there. Unfortunately, the beloved eatery closed in 1985. This recipe is a snap to make in the RV galley. You also might assemble the won tons inside and take your deep fryer outdoors. This is a lip-smacking treat for happy hour.
1 8-ounce brick cream cheese (not fat-free) at room temperature
8 ounces crabmeat, drained and shredded
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Pinch of garlic powder
30 to 36 wonton wrappers
1 egg yolk, beaten until frothy
Oil for deep frying
Chinese mustard (optional) for serving
Chinese red sauce, plum sauce, or other sauce for dipping
Use a fork to mash the cream cheese and crabmeat together, blending in the soy sauce and garlic powder. Place a teaspoon of this mixture in each wonton wrapper. Do not overfill. Bring up the corners, moisten with the beaten egg yolk, and pinch and twist each wonton to seal it. Fry batches of wontons in oil heated to 375 degrees until they are golden and crispy. Remove the fried wontons to paper towels and serve with a dipping sauce. Caution: Chinese mustard is hot.
St. Louis BBQ Pork Steak
Any pork steak will do, but in St. Louis meat markets, pork steak is usually cut from the shoulder or butt and streaked with fat, which makes for a moist, tender barbecue. Lean pork chops aren’t a good choice for this recipe.
6 pork steaks, 8 to 10 ounces each
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
Salt and pepper the meat on both sides and heat the grill to low-medium. Combine the water and vinegar. Grill the steaks, turning often and basting with the vinegar mixture, until the interior of the meat reaches at least 165 degrees when measured by a thermometer. Discard the leftover vinegar mixture. This recipe makes six servings.
St. Louis French Onion Soup
Years ago, when a French onion soup recipe was printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it was clipped by hundreds of cooks and it has become a traditional favorite. When you’re in the city, keep in mind that it was settled by French Canadian voyageurs and priests. The French origins remain strong, especially in the city’s multitude of wonderful French restaurants. Most are neighborhood hangouts, affordable and unpretentious, and serve sublime French cuisine.
Try this recipe in your galley, but don’t miss a chance to eat in the city’s French restaurants, too.
3 pound bag yellow onions
½ stick butter, melted
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 bay leaf
2 quarts beef broth
1 teaspoon beef base or Kitchen Bouquet
Salt to taste
1/3 cup instant-blend flour such as Wondra
½ cup white wine
Sliced French bread
Shredded Swiss or gruyere cheese
Peel and slice the onions and cook them in the melted butter until brown and sweet (approximately 1 hour). Stir in the pepper, paprika, and bay leaf and stir-fry for 10 minutes. Stir in the broth; bring to a boil; reduce heat; and simmer for 1 hour. Add the beef base and salt to taste and remove the bay leaf. Combine the flour and wine and stir into the soup, cooking over low heat to thicken. To serve, cover sliced bread with cheese and broil in the toaster oven until the cheese bubbles. Place a slice atop each bowl of hot soup.
Cook’s note: This recipe makes approximately 10 servings of soup, which keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer. Bring out only what you need. It’s also a good slow-cooker recipe.
Other St. Louis specialties:
Provel is the brand name for a soft, mild, processed cheese with a low melting point. St. Louis pizza is usually topped with this cheese and has a crisp, thin crust, a sauce that is slightly sweeter, and more oregano than traditional pizza. Find Provel in area supermarkets.
A Prosperity Sandwich is to St. Louis what the Hot Brown is to Louisville, Kentucky. It includes shaved ham, shaved turkey, crisp bacon, and tomato on toasted white bread, slathered with creamy cheese sauce.
Frozen custard missed with candies, fruit, or nuts from Ted Drewes is called a Concrete, and for good reason. It’s a solid meal, crunchy with goodies.