Amateur chef from Rochester sets out to cook food from every country on Earth
Alexandria Drzazgowski was stuck. She needed yak meat for a recipe for her blog, the Foreign Fork, and couldn't find it anywhere in Metro Detroit.
She eventually found a purveyor in the northern part of the state who shipped it to her, but the Bhutanese dish she was trying to create with it never panned out. This is just one example of the kind of commitment the Rochester native has to her global cooking blog, which she started one year ago.
Her goal is to make around three dishes for each of the nearly 200 countries on the planet. The ambitious chef, who has been cooking for about 12 years, has researched, developed and tested recipes for 25 countries and posted them to foreignfork.com.
For example, instead of the yak meat dish that just didn't click, she posted recipes for a peppers and cheese dish ema datschi, a blog on butter tea and instructions on how to make gondo datschi, a scrambled egg dish with goat cheese, butter and herbs.
She's made Australian sausage rolls, which she describes as "the bomb," and Drzazgowski, who will be 23 next month, also writes about her trials and errors developing a recipe for cocada amarela, a coconut custard from the central African country of Angola.
This whole idea sparked from a trip backpacking across Europe last year. After taking her last semester at Michigan State University abroad, she decided to stay and travel.
"I was abroad for about six months, I visited 16 countries and I've always loved to cook and so while I was there I tried taking cooking classes in as many countries as I could," she said.
"I just thought that was a really fun way to learn about the history and the culture and the traditions of the place. There's so much affected by food. It affects day-to-day life, family life, traditions and it's affected by history and so there was a lot more that tied into it rather than just eating good food."
She's posting the recipes by country, in alphabetical order. The young traveler is just about to start on the "C" countries after a year of blogging, YouTubing and testing ingredients, so she estimates this self-described hobby will absorb the next eight years of her life.
While it's a hobby now, she is putting her professional writing degree (she minored in Spanish) to use with this blog more than with her current sales job.
When she's able to travel, Drzazgowski takes cooking classes or hops on food tours as much as possible.
On a recent trip to the Bahamas she was stoked to take a cooking class where she made a conch salad. In Michigan she couldn't find conch shell meat. One seafood dealer said they'd hold a 5-pound box for her next time it came in, but it would be more than $70.
She can't afford that, and she can't afford to actually travel to every country on the planet, so she spends a lot of time researching from home.
As a recent student, she's used to using libraries, databases and the internet for research. She says a lot of her major focused around writing things like blogs and articles and using social media, all things she's put to use with the Foreign Fork, which she hopes will one day be her full-time job.
She says for each country she tries to do the national dish, a dessert ("because dessert is my favorite") and something that tells the story of the people of that country.
"I'll pick a couple other things that are really important to the culture, dishes that they eat a lot or has really awesome history to it," she said. Once she decides what she's going to cook, she starts researching recipes. "If I can find recipes online, I'll try to look up a couple different recipes on that dish and figure out general ingredients, and then I'll kind of take a look at all of those and get a gist of what the recipe is like."
She gives herself credit for most of the recipes on the blog, but some are adapted from other sources, to which she gives credit. Here are a couple dishes that Drzazgowski developed on her own that she is sharing with us.
Brigadieros (Chocolate Fudge Balls) from Brazil
Recipe from the Foreign Fork
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons baking cocoa
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pinch sea salt
Brown or colored sprinkles
In a medium pan, combine sweetened condensed milk and baking cocoa before you turn on the heat. Use a spatula to mix the ingredients together until the cocoa dissolves and the sweetened condensed milk looks brown. Add the unsalted butter and the salt into the mixture.
Turn the stove onto medium high heat and place the pot over the flame, stirring continuously for about 15-20 minutes. You know that your brigadieros are done cooking when you can use your spatula to draw a line through the middle of the mixture and the mixture is too thick to mold itself back together.
Transfer the mixture to a cool bowl and allow to cool for about an hour and a half in the fridge.
Once cooled, break off portions of the mixture and roll into one inch balls in your hand. Roll the balls in your colored sprinkles and enjoy. Makes 18 brigadieros.
Burek from Bosnia and Herzegovina
Recipe from the Foreign Fork
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 onion chopped
1 pound ground lamb
¾ teaspoon salt
⅓ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
⅓ teaspoon allspice
9 sheets of phyllo dough. One package will have more than enough. Thaw according to the package instructions
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg whisked
Plain non-flavored yogurt, for serving
Cooking the meat
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is heated, add the garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the chopped onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions turn translucent. Add the lamb into the pan. Use your spatula to break apart the meat, so that it begins to brown in smaller chunks. As the meat begins to brown, add the salt, pepper, paprika, and allspice. Continue cooking until the meat browns all the way through.
Drain the excess liquid from the browned meat. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and place in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes to bring the meat to room temperature.
Assembling the Burek
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Once the meat is cooled, it is time to begin assembling your Burek. Very carefully lay three sheets of phyllo dough short edge to short edge on the counter. Place the sheets so that they line up in one long sheet. Make sure to overlap the ends slightly.
Once the first layer of dough is on the counter, repeat the process with two more layers of dough. Place the next 3 sheets directly over each of the first three sheets. Repeat one more time. By the end, your phyllo dough should be three sheets long and three layers high.
Melt the butter and use a pastry brush to brush a layer of butter over the top layer of dough.
Take handfuls of meat, and lay it along the long edge of the buttered pastry sheets. Very carefully roll the long edge of the sheets over the meat, and keep rolling until one long tube is formed. Work carefully, but it is okay if your dough rips. Keep rolling!
Fold one edge of the long coil in on itself and continue coiling until the long tube of dough ends up in a spiral shape.
Using your pastry brush again, brush a layer of the whisked egg on the top of your Burek. Then sprinkle the top with a generous layer of sesame seeds.
Transfer your Burek to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. You will know your Burek is done when the egg wash on the top begins to brown.
To serve your Burek, cut it the same way you’d cut a pizza or a cake: into triangular slices. You can serve your Burek with plain, non-flavored yogurt as a dipping sauce.