I remember eating suprema a la Maryland back in the 80s and maybe the early 90s. Like many traditional dishes, this one fell out of favour in the 1990s and was relegated to greasy spoons and neighbourhood eateries. I visited Buenos Aires recently with my husband and we had lunch at a traditional bodegón. A bodegón is a caff, greasy spoon, whatever you want to call it).
I was relishing the prospect of eating my own weight in good food. And I did! My husband ordered a revuelto gramajo, a chip and egg dish. I went for the suprema a la Maryland. First of all, a suprema is a piece of boneless chicken breast pounded, breaded and pan-fried. It is served with a healthy portion of shoestring potatoes (papas pay), creamed corn, a couple of strips of roasted red pepper, a slice of fried ham, a few green peas, and a breaded and fried banana.
I’ve always wondered why such a typical dish bears the name of that mid-Atlantic state. As far I know, there are no obvious culinary connections between Argentina and Maryland. So I started to do some digging. This is what I found;
Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), a French chef and restaurateur famous for modernising traditional French cooking methods, created a dish called poulet saute Maryland (Chicken a la Maryland, see recipe here). This dish was even on the first and second class menu of the Titanic’s last voyage.
Escoffier’s chicken was dredged in flour, breaded and pan-fried. It was served with béchamel sauce (white gravy), corn fritters and fried banana.
As far as I’ aware, people in Maryland serve this pan-fried chicken with white gravy, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. I’m fine with that version too.
It is a mystery how this dish made its way to Argentina and how it developed. The béchamel and corn on the cob merged into creamed corn. The fried banana is breaded first, whereas Escoffier’s was fried in butter. We like fried potatoes, hence the shoestring potato addition. No idea where the ham, red pepper and peas came from, but they’re an amazing addition as well and regular ingredients in other Argentinean dishes like costillitas a la riojana.
This is me after such a hearty lunch. I was so ready for an afternoon nap!
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