Category Archives: Cuisines

Avocado & Bacon Deviled Eggs

deviledegg1 copyWhew, I finally have some time to update here!  I’ve been catering like a crazy lady over the past week, which is awesome.  So with that in mind, the next several posts are going to be from a big event I did last week for Savannah House, an interior design showroom in Houston.  They had a big re-opening last week and I did breakfast, lunch, and hors d’oeuvres for them throughout the day!   It was a lot of fun.   One of the recipes I did were some avocado and bacon deviled eggs.   The combination occurred to me when I was brainstorming, and a quick google search told me I’m not as clever as I had hoped.  But I added a few extra dashes here and there to separate mine from the other deviled egg recipes out there.  The trick with deviled eggs, obviously, is getting the hard boiling process down and then using a pastry bag and tip to get the nice little swirl of filling.  Here is a link to some instructions on how to hard boil eggs, since I don’t want to just retread that ground here:  http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_perfect_hard_boiled_eggs/

Hope you like it!

Avocado and Bacon Deviled Eggs

18 large hardboiled eggs

1 large Haas avocado

3 T light mayo

Several dashes Tabasco

Several dashes Worcestershire Sauce

1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 T lemon or lime juice

2 T dijon mustard

Salt

3-4 Slices Applewood Smoked Bacon, baked, drained of grease, and chopped into bits

Paprika, for garnish

Make sure your eggs are boiled and chilled.   Peel the shell off of the eggs and discard, then slice each egg in half lengthwise as evenly as possible.  Pop out the yolks into a food processor or mixing bowl and set the egg halves back on a tray and refrigerate.  In the bowl or food processor, add the avocado, tabasco, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, lemon or lime juice, and mustard.   Blend until the mixture is completely smooth.  If it is still very thick, add more mayonnaise and a little more lemon or lime juice.  Blend again.  Season with a bit of salt, taste, and continue to season until you are satisfied with the flavor.  Scoop the mixture into a pastry bag with a large pastry tip of your choice fitted in.  Pipe about a tablespoon or so of the egg mixture into each egg white half.  Sprinkle a bit of paprika over each egg, and then garnish with the bacon bits.  Enjoy!

Makes 36 deviled eggs

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Braised Short Rib Hors D’Ouvres

shortrib2Looks pretty tasty, right?  These little guys were something I came up with to put on a menu for an event I’m catering next month.  Yesterday I decided to do some experimenting because no matter how delicious something sounds in your head, it’s always a good idea to make it a few times to get it just right before serving it to anyone.  So what this is is a puff pastry circle topped with whipped potatoes and shredded short rib in sauce.  It sounds wildly complicated but really is quite simple, and you could actually just make a dinner out of it by foregoing the miniature size and puff pastry for just the short ribs and mashed potatoes.

Short ribs are incredibly tough little dudes.  I’ve had good luck cooking them in the pressure cooker in the past, but braising is the classic way of preparing them.  They come in two cuts:  English cut, which is when you have the single bone per rib and not as much meat, or flanken cut, which are the ones with a big hunk of meat and usually a side that is all fat.  This is not a bad thing; you want that fat because it adds flavor and typically a lot of it cooks away during the braising process.   I used some of both yesterday while making this dish, just to see which worked better.   For my purposes, which is getting more meat, the flanken is superior.

A bit on braising:  braising is a process in which meat is browned and then cooked in large sections in some type of liquid.  It’s not unlike stewing, except stewing uses smaller cuts of meat and is typically done on the cooktop rather than finished in the oven.  For this dish, red wine and beef stock were my braising liquids.  You always want to make sure to season your meat before the searing process, and definitely save the cooking liquid after the meat is cooked through because that will be your sauce!

For the puff pastry circles, all I did was buy some frozen puff pastry sheets, let them thaw, and then I used a little circle cutter to make the rounds.  I laid them on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, pricked each one with a fork, and then covered them with more parchment and another sheet pan.  They baked at 400F for about 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.  You want to be sure to prick them and cover them with weight because puff pastry wants to rise and get really delicate.  Pricking them lets any air escape during baking and then the extra weight is a failsafe.

The mashed potatoes were super easy.  Just peel and dice a russet or two, boil until tender, and then throw the potato in a food processor with some salt, 3 T butter, 4 T milk, and blend until super smooth.  I piped them out with a pastry bag onto the puff pastry circles.  I would also recommend topping that with just a tiny bit of shredded or shaved parmeggiano reggiano.

Braised Short Rib Appetizers

2-3 lbs flanken cut beef short ribs

Vegetable or canola oil

Salt and Pepper

2 carrots, peeled and rough chopped

2 celery stalks, rough chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 T tomato paste

3 T All Purpose Flour

2/3 Bottle Red Wine (I like Cabernet Sauvignon for this dish)

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 full rosemary stalk

2 stems fresh oregano

3 stems fresh thyme

3 C beef stock, low sodium

Room temperature Butter & Flour, mushed together

Season short ribs generously with salt and pepper.  In a dutch oven, heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil.   When hot, sear all sides of each short rib and then remove to a plate.  Add the carrot, celery, and onion to the pot and cook about 2 minutes, stirring. You want the onions to get a little bit translucent.  Add the tomato paste and flour, stirring until the tomato paste turns a sort of burnished orange color.  This is a technique known as “pincer” and will help the sauce to thicken up.  Add the short ribs and any juices back into the pot.  Pour in the wine, bring the pot to a low boil, and let it reduce by about a half.  This should take 20 minutes or so.   Once this is done, pour in the stock, and add the herbs and garlic.  Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and put in the oven.  Let braise for roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven.  Take the short ribs and put them on a plate.   Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve into a large skillet.  You want to have  a lot of surface area on the bottom of the pan to induce quicker reduction.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and let cook about 7 minutes.   A little at a time, whisk in the butter and flour combination.  This is called “beurre mania” and just thickens the sauce and adds flavor and shine.  When you can dip a spoon in the sauce, wipe your finger down the back of the spoon and the line stays, you are ready to season.   Add kosher salt to the sauce and taste until you are satisfied with the flavor.  Shred the beef from the short ribs and then add back to the sauce.  Keep warm.  If making the appetizers, assemble them starting with the puff pastry, then the potato, parmesan, short rib, and some minced parsley for garnish.  If you want to just have dinner, serve the short ribs with sauce over mashed potatoes with some greens on the side.  Enjoy!

Makes about 100 small appetizers/Serves 4 for dinner

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Simple Appetizer: Olive & Feta Bruschetta

bruschetta1 copyLet’s start today with a little lesson in pronunciation.  Bruschetta is said with a hard k sound, as is the rule in Italian when you see “ch.”  I know in English “sch” makes one want to say it like “brushetta” but alas.  However, you don’t need to overpronounce it like Giada.  Calm down, lady.

So anyway, bruschetta is a traditional Italian dish that consists of some sort of vegetable, cheese, meat, bean, etc piled on crusty grilled bread.  As with so many Euro dishes, it started as a means of necessity:  bread’s gonna go bad!  Quick, make something with it!  Presto!  Delicious bruschetta.

A lot of times on American menus you will see it with just tomato, basil, olive oil, perhaps some red onion.  I like that combination, but I think you can dress it up and make it a little more special.  The blend of flavors with olives and feta give it an almost Greek flair, and the colors just look so pretty all mixed together:  green, red, white, purple.

This is an exceedingly simple appetizer or snack to prepare but there is one part of it that needs to be attended to carefully.  Don’t toast your bread and leave it out way ahead of time – it will become super dry and overly crunchy.  Toast it just before serving, and then it will be warm when it goes out, while crunchy enough on the outside to support the topping but still easy to bite into.

Olive & Feta Bruschetta

3 roma tomatoes, quartered, seeded, and diced

3 T fresh basil, finely chiffonaded

1 1/2 T fresh oregano, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

10-12 kalamata or other red/purple variety olives, chopped

1/4 C crumbled feta cheese

1/4 of a red onion, small diced

1 lemon, juiced

3 T olive oil

Salt, pinch

8-10 Slices Italian bread or French baguette

In a medium to large bowl, toss together the tomato, basil, oregano, olives, feta, onion, and garlic.   Pour the olive oil over the top and then squeeze the lemon over it.  Toss again and then taste.   The feta can be quite salty, so very carefully add a little kosher salt or fleur de sel if you deem it necessary.  Let the tomato mixture sit at room temperature for about 30 to 45 minutes so that the flavors can mingle.

Just before serving:

Preheat oven to 375 F.

On a sheet pan, spread out the bread slices and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle a little salt over them, and toss to coat.  Toast the bread untll crisp on the outside but not completely hardened, about 10 minutes.

Pile the tomato mixture on top of the bread and serve!

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And Now, For Something Sweet: Fig & Pear Galette


galetteThose that know me well know that I am not much for making desserts.  I’m good enough at it, but I just don’t enjoy baking.  It’s too messy and too finicky.  So when I can cheat it, and make a dessert that essentially cooks like savory food, I’m gonna do it.   Hence the galette.

Galettes are free-form pastries, and can be prepared to be sweet or savory.  I usually make them open faced, but certain varieties have a top, like the traditional French gallete des rois, or King Cake.   They are meant to have a sort of rustic, hearty feel to them, which is great both in flavor and for your tabletop presentation.  It’s nice sometimes for people to be able to see into the pie and know exactly what they are eating, as well.  Like a little window!

I’ve chosen today to do a nice seasonal combination of ingredients for my filling.  Now, I didn’t make my own pastry.  I bought an organic pie crust.  Why?  I love doing this blog, but not enough for the mess that me + flour + butter would no doubt make.  Plus, it was easier.  So, if you are feeling up to the task, here are some pie crust recipes:

Williams Sonoma:  Basic Pie Dough

Martha Stewart: Foolproof Pie Crust Recipe

Simply Gluten Free:  Gluten Free Pie Crust Recipe

Fig & Pear Galette

2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced

12 dried Mission figs, ends trimmed and cut in half

1/3 C water

2 T unsalted butter, divided use

1/3 C granulated sugar + 1 T for topping

1/3 C red wine

1 T Grand Marnier (optional)

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise, whole

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the water, wine, vanilla, lemon juice, Grand Marnier.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Put the cinnamon stick, star anise, pear, and figs into the pot.  Simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat.

Strain the fig and pear mixture, removing all the liquid and the cinnamon and star anise.  Let cool slightly.  Roll out your pie crust into a round, and place the fruit mixture in the center, leaving a 1.5 inch border.  Bring the sides of the crust over the fruit, making a pleated pattern if you wish.  Sprinkle the remaining 1 T sugar over the top, and then dot the remaining 1 T butter on the top of the fruit.

Put the parchment paper onto a baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Serves 4-6

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Beef Bourguignonne: Now Faster Than Ever!

bourguignonneIt finally got cold in Houston.  Hallelujah.  Yesterday was consistently in the 40’s, so I thought to myself, “Self, what is your favorite thing to cook when it’s cold?”  The answer was obvious.

Beef Bourguignonne, the red wine braised stew made famous in the states by Julia Child, and once again by Amy Adam’s mangled pronunciation in Julie and Julia (BOOOOF!), is a traditional, hearty dish that hails from Burgundy, in the east of France.  It’s one of those “peasant” dishes that once again proves that necessity is the mother of invention.  And in this case, the mother of deliciousness.  Beef Bourguignonne is typically cooked in a cast iron crock pot, which allows one to sear the beef and get the stew started on the cooktop, and then braise at a low temperature for a good while in the oven.  This cooking method ensures the most tender, flavorful meat, while the sauce boasts perfectly blended flavors.

Anyway, I went to the store and got the essentials:  beef stew meat, mushrooms, some Beaujolais (which I only used a little to cook with; you can guess what happened to the rest), thyme, onion, etc.  I’ll write the recipe in a second.  I start poking around Andy’s kitchen for a dutch oven that is oven safe.  I know I’ve made this before over there, but I have no idea what I cooked it in previously.  He has a tiny crock pot, but…meh.  Suddenly inspiration struck.  I’ll use the electric pressure cooker!  That way I can shorten the cooking time and get back to finishing up the complete series of House.  Sidebar:  We have watched seven seasons so far.  That show gets really bad, guys.  And it’s really weird to marathon a procedural.  There’s no arc.  It’s just hour after hour of watching a curmudgeon  be curmudgeonly and then hours after watching of being convinced I have lupus or Huntington’s disease.

Blah.  So, I decided to blend the old and the new.  My pressure cooker has a sear and saute setting, so I maintained the classic practice of searing all of the meat, cooking the onions with the tomato paste, etc.  I skip the traditional pearl onions, as to me, those are exclusively for cocktails. It also drives me bonkers how people still stick to the old “serve with boiled potatoes or egg noodles!” nonsense with this.  How boring.   I roasted some sliced fingerlings, and that was awesome.  Still not an overpowering flavor to go alongside such a bold dish, but more exciting than boiled mush.  So, overall my cooking time was about 30 minutes, which is quite an improvement over the 3-4 hours braising time you usually get with this meal.  Tomorrow I will further explain pressure cooking, as it is one of my favorite cooking methods, but this is getting long enough already.

Beef Bourguignonne

Olive oil, as needed

3 oz diced pancetta

1.5 – 2 lbs of beef stew meat (get the bigger chunks, not the little bits)

2 T All Purpose Flour

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 T tomato paste

3/4 – 1 C red wine (don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink.  Most French reds will do here.  Maybe not Pinot Noir, though.)

3/4 C beef stock

8 oz sliced mushrooms, sauteed

4 stems of fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt and Pepper, as needed

Pressure Cooker Method

Heat pressure cooker on medium high heat or turn on the sauté function.  Add some olive oil, and then the pancetta.  Cook until crisp and then remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.  Set aside.  Dry off the beef very well with paper towels, then season well with salt and pepper.  Sear the beef on all sides, in batches, in the pressure cooker.  When it is all seared, put the beef all in the cooker,  add the flour, and stir until the beef is completely coated.  This will help thicken the sauce as it cooks.  Set the beef aside.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute until translucent.  Add the tomato paste and stir together with the onion.  Cook for 2 minutes or so, or until the paste turns more rust colored.  Add the beef & pancetta back in, along with the bay leaf, thyme, wine, stock, a little salt and pepper, and the sauteed mushrooms.   Set pressure cooker to high and cook for 10 – 12 minutes, depending on how much meat you used.  After that, release the pressure carefully.  Once it has all released, remove the lid, and take out the bay leaf and thyme stems.  Check your sauce.  Is it thick enough?  If not, while keeping your sauce simmering, roll together some softened butter and flour in a bowl and drop in little chunks one at a time, whisking them in.  This is called beurre manie, and it’s like a reverse roux.  It’ll get your sauce thickened up and shiny.  Taste for seasonings.  Add more salt and pepper if you need to.  Otherwise, enjoy!  Serve with roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, a side salad, whatever you decided to make.  It’s also great on its own.

Siete de Mayo

Hola, readers!  First and foremost, a brief explanation for my hiatus.  My beloved grandmother passed away last week after going downhill in health for the past month.  The time preceding her passing was difficult and stress-ridden, and I just couldn’t really bring myself to be witty and interested in food in that time.   But now I’m feeling better, and I know she enjoyed reading my blog.   So this one’s for you, Grandmommy/Nana/Roly (she had many names.)  I’m gonna do a post about her cooking in the near future.

So Saturday was Cinco de Mayo, which in Texas is a pretty huge deal.  We are all huge historians who obviously take time each year to remember the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, in which the hugely outnumbered Mexican forces defeated Napoleon III’s invading French army, thus signifying the eventual defeat of France entirely and the last time that the Americas have been invaded by European forces since then.  Whew.  That was from memory, btw, not Wikipedia.  I’m smrt like that.  And totally lying.  We celebrate Cinco de Mayo because of tequila.  And to exhibit a shocking amount of cultural appropriation (people in fake mustaches and serapes, I’m side-eyeing you.)  Anyway, I missed posting that day but I have been meaning to get my guacamole recipe up here for a while.  Better tarde than never, no?  I make this for parties all the time, because it is a crowd pleaser and also because I live for avocado based food.   The habaneros are totally optional – if that is too much heat for you, you can either use serrano, jalapeno, or leave out the peppers entirely.  The choice is yours.  Ditto for the cilantro if you don’t like it.   Which, sidebar:  there is, or was, a whole blog about it!  http://ihatecilantro.wordpress.com/  I should have named my blog Ihatebellpeppers.com.    And if you do hate it, don’t feel bad.  Julia Child did too:

“Culinary sophistication is no guarantee of immunity from cilantrophobia. In a television interview in 2002, Larry King asked Julia Child which foods she hated. She responded: “Cilantro and arugula I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs, they have kind of a dead taste to me.”

“So you would never order it?” Mr. King asked.

“Never,” she responded. “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/dining/14curious.html

Habanero Guacamole

*Up the amounts in the recipe if you are making for a big party

2-3 avocados

1 small or medium onion, or 1/2 large onion (like the one pictured.), diced

2-3 tomatoes, seeded and diced

1/2 – 1 habanero pepper, seeded and very finely minced

3 T minced cilantro

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 limes, halved

2 T ground cumin

1 1/2 T chili powder

salt, to taste

1.   Cut around the avocado lengthwise.   Wedge the blade of your knife in the pit, and then pull out to remove pit.  Discard.   Cut slices crosswise and lengthwise to dice the avocado while still keeping the peel intact, and then run a spoon around the inside and scoop out into a bowl.   The softer the avocado, the easier it is to mash it up later.

2.  Throw, or gently place, the onion, tomato, garlic, cilantro, and habanero into the bowl with the avocado.   With a spoon and fork, stir together and then mash until the avocado is creamy and everything is combined.

3.   Add the cumin and chili powder, along with salt and the juice from the lime halves (the citrus keeps the avocado from turning brown.)   Taste.   Add more salt if desired.   Hint – the saltier your chips, the less salt you should put in the guac.

4.   Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Pro tip!  To store your guacamole for later and avoid the ugly browning from avocado oxidation, get some plastic wrap and cover the bowl with it, pressing it down directly on top of the guacamole.   This keeps the air out and can help prevent browning.  If it does turn a little dark, just give it a quick stir.   This should last a couple of days in the fridge if stored correctly 🙂

Mise en Place

 

 This may have been my dinner.  (Not all of it!)

I’m Back! Taco Time!

(Picture from Google Image, not my kitchen)

Sorry for the brief hiatus, folks.   I had to travel to Austin for some work shenanigans.  It was a very good trip!   But I’m back now, ready to grace you with a brand new recipe that I tested out yesterday.  I don’t think I’m gonna have a chance to make it today, but I will cook it up later this week and add a slideshow with photos.

My recipes recently have been leaning towards a sort of California type cuisine, which I think has to do with the weather recently.   It’s spring, suddenly, so I’ve been gravitating towards lighter, spicier flavors that sort of “match” the climate.  Today’s recipe is for shredded Ancho tacos, which are easy and a great thing to make ahead for a pool day or a summer lunch or dinner.   Plus, it makes a ton of chicken, so save the leftovers and make a taco salad or enchiladas!   I used hickory smoked sea salt in the recipe, but any smoky salt will do.  If you can’t find any, use kosher salt.   It’ll alter the flavor slightly but still be good.

Ancho chile powder is becoming more available – check out Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma, or other high end specialty stores to find it.  It is made from ground up dried Ancho chiles, obviously, which in their fresh form are just simple red poblano peppers.   When they dry out, the flavor gets smokier and has a deeper, more complex flavor.   The powder is also great to rub on fish for fish tacos.   You can make your own powder, if you like, buy buying the dried peppers at the store, de-seeding them, and grinding the peppers in your blender or food processor.

So, the recipe:

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, whole

1 tsp peppercorns

1 bay leaf

salt

2 tsp smoked salt

1 T ground cumin

1 1/2 T bittersweet paprika

1 T oregano

2 T ancho chile powder

2 T olive oil or vegetable oil plus more for sauteing

tortillas (corn or flour, I don’t care.)

sliced red onion

shredded manchego cheese

limes, quartered

Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water.   Bring to a boil.   Add chicken, garlic, onion slivers, peppercorns, bay leaf, and some salt.   Boil for 20 – 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.   Drain, and let chicken cool.   With your fingers, shred the chicken, tossing any fat into the trash.   Set the shredded chicken aside.

In a small bowl, mix together smoked salt, paprika, cumin, chile powder, and oregano.  Stir in the olive oil or vegetable oil to make a paste.  Heat up some more oil in a large saute pan, and add the shredded chicken.   Add the spice paste and stir to coat the chicken evenly.  Once the chicken is warmed and fully coated, turn off the heat.

Warm your tortillas in the oven by wrapping them in foil and setting the oven on 250 F for about 15 minutes.   To assemble tacos, lay down some of the chicken in the middle, followed by the shredded manchego, sliced red onion, and then squeeze a little lime juice inside each taco.  Wrap the tacos in foil to keep warm or serve immediately!

You can dress this up any way you want; I liked the smoothness of the manchego cheese.   The lime juice adds a crucial zestiness that, like the Dude’s rug, brought the whole thing together.

 

New Orleans 2012: The Posh Nosh

In which I detail the two fancier restaurants we ate at.

Cochon

Cochon translates into pig, and this restaurant really delves into different ways to prepare Porky.   Located in the Warehouse district of New Orleans, Cochon is a hip, fun restaurant decorated with heavy wood and exposed brick and has a bustling vibe.   It is clearly not the kind of restaurant that takes itself too seriously.  Chef Donald Link has peppered the menu with traditional Cajun fare like fried boudin balls and shrimp etouffee, as well as some really creative dishes like braised pork cheeks with sourkraut potato cakes, apple sauce & feta and rabbit and dumplings.  I found it really hard to choose what to order; we decided on ordering several small plates to start, and three main courses.  Opting to ignore the waiter’s opinions on what to try, we went with our guts, literally.   A plate by plate dissection, followed by a slideshow of pictures:

Fried Alligator with Garlic Chili Aioli:  My favorite.   I grew up eating fried alligator (my grandfather always ordered it), and this is the best I had ever had.  I think alligator is the meat that spurred the invention of the term “tastes like chicken!”  Because, really, if prepared correctly, it does.   This was crispy, well seasoned, and really easy to bite into.   Alligator can be a bit chewy if the pieces are too big or if it’s overdone, but these were like little popcorn-chicken sized bites.   The best part, however, was the aioli.  I’m a sucker for aioli, and this one did not disappoint.   The mild heat and strong garlic flavor perfectly complemented the fried alligator bites, as did the huge pieces of mint leaf that were mixed in.   Such a nice touch!!  I could have eaten a big plate of this as a main course.  Yum!

Fried Boudin with Pickled Peppers:  Say that three times fast.  I liked it, and the boudin was nice and earthy.   The texture was good too; not gritty or mealy.  I didn’t taste the peppers.   In all honesty, I don’t even remember them being on the plate.  I was distracted by the alligator.  But this was a good golf ball sized fried ball o’ boudin, served with a little dollop of creole mustard.

Smoked Pork Ribs with Watermelon Pickle:  Some of the most tender ribs I have ever had.   The sauce on them was divine, and the meat just melted in your mouth.   I love smoked ribs; that process adds SO much to the flavor and consistency of the meat.  Again, didn’t even notice the watermelon pickle.  I just went straight for the meat.

Smoked Beef Brisket with Horseradish Potato Salad:  Amazingly tender, and a pretty nice sized serving.  I split this with my friend and we were both satisfied.   It was served in a pool of braising liquid, which only added to the moistness of this dish.  To say I am a brisket enthusiast would be a huge understatement.   I LOVE brisket.  This was almost as good as my mom’s.   But I still prefer hers – more sauce!  The horseradish potato salad was good.  I’m not big on cold potatoes but I liked the gentle heat of the horseradish, which was tamed by plenty of mayo and celery.

Rabbit and Dumplings:   Another friend ordered this.  He started out not being thrilled by it, but the more he ate it, the more he liked it.  I tasted it and thought it was a really interesting take on the traditional meat and dumplings.   Rabbit is by nature gamey, but this was nice and meaty in flavor with lots of gravy in the dish.   The dumplings were still pretty intact too, and not overly soggy.

Smothered Duck Leg with Dirty Rice Dressing:   Andy went for the duck, and really loved it.   I’m still not sure what it was smothered in, but the duck itself was crisp on the outside and very nicely cooked and trimmed.   I didn’t think the bite I had was fatty at all, and a lot of times duck tends to be a bit…greasy and fat-covered.

Our sides were the mac and cheese (mmmmmm….but not the best I’ve ever had), and the eggplant and shrimp stuffing.   This was pretty inspired, and the consistency was really nice.   Love the cheese topping.

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I highly recommend Cochon if you are looking for a nice dinner out in New Orleans.   They have some nice beers on tap, fun cocktails (I had the Trotter Jennings, which was prosecco, St. Germain, vodka and lemon juice), and the food is really thoughtful and well presented.   Just don’t knock over a glass of water like I did, because the waitress will yell at you.   Seriously.

930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 – (504) 588-2123 – Reservations recommmended

   Arnaud’s

Arnaud’s was blissfully close to our hotel on the corner of Bienville and Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, and after the drive to Domilise’s earlier Saturday, we were not in the mood to trek out in the car again.   I was really looking forward to Arnaud’s; their menu looked really classic Creole and we were sitting in the Jazz Room!   The music was great.   The food was…alright.   I honestly think I mis-ordered.  I ordered the Crabmeat Karen, which sounded super promising: “Delectable Louisiana crabmeat and mushrooms baked in puff pastry. Served with White Wine Sauce.”  It was heavy, and sort of bland, and the puff pastry was just overcooked and too much.  However, several other dinner companions ordered the Oysters Bienville, which were amazeballs.  I don’t even know what was in it, besides oysters and cheese and goodness.   So that was a winner.   As was the fact that this place is old school and serves Bananas Foster tableside, with fire and everything!   Andy eats one dessert, and that is Bananas Foster.   So I’m always excited when we find a place that serves it.  I am gonna sound super snotty, but I think I make better Foster than this place did, but it was fun to watch the guy make it.   They were also making these crazy digestif drinks tableside, lighting oranges on fire and stuff.   I am not entirely sure what that was all about.  It was a fun dinner, despite my dislike of my dish, made more fun by our ridiculous singing along with the band.   I think the rest of the restaurant hated our table, but whatever.   Good times were had by all!

813 Rue Bienville New Orleans, La 70112 • 504-523-5433 – Reservations Recommended

Crabmeat Karen. Literally in the shape of a crab.

Bananas Foster being prepared by bemused suit.

Great band! The trumpeter sounded EXACTLY like Satchmo.

Bananas Foster

Potato Souffles; These tasted like fries.

Oysters Bienville

New Orleans 2012: The (Very Famous) Dives

Well, I’m back!  I spent a fabulous, yet exhausting, 3 days in New Orleans eating, drinking and carousing.  We had some amazing food and some okay food, and a couple of drinks that are still hanging around in my belly.  I’m gonna start my rather exhaustive recap/travelogue with the dives.

Willie Mae's

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Our first stop upon reaching N’awlins was Willie Mae’s.   My boyfriend had eaten there on his last trip, and was raving about the fried chicken.  You may recognize the name from coverage on the Travel Channel and the Food Network, etc.   Originally helmed by the now 97-year-old Willie Mae Seaton, and now run by her great-grandaughter, Willie Mae’s has become a New Orleans legend, and luckily was salvaged from near-ruin after Hurricane Katrina.  We got in around 3:45, and there was a pretty long line to be seated.  The place is only open 9-5, Monday-Friday, so if we wanted to eat there, it was now or never.  After a 30 minute wait, and all of us almost slipping on the floor in there (I do believe the grease from the chicken has permeated every surface in the building), we were seated and ordered.  There aren’t a lot of options:  three pieces of fried chicken and one side is $10, or you could get a fried pork chop or smothered veal.  That’s it.  We all chose the chicken.  Andy and I got butter beans and my friend got green beans with gravy.

The food:

  

The chicken itself was nicely seasoned, though if you are really sensitive to salt you might find it overly salty.  The skin has more of a hush-puppy style batter on it than the drier, KFC style, which made for a nice change.  It was crumbly and crisp, while the chicken inside was nicely cooked and very tender.  My only complaint would be that the chicken was kind of dark on the outside, which more than likely has to do with the frying oil being old.   That’s more our fault than anything, since we were the last table sat on the last day of the week.   If you go to Willie Mae’s, which I highly suggest, I think going earlier on in the day is better.  You can get to-go orders, so pick up some chicken, get out of the neighborhood, and go have a picnic.   The sides were really nice as well.   By the time we got there, they were out of red beans and rice, fries, potato salad, and Coke.   Our options were limited.   The butter beans were creamy and light.   The green beans were actually kind of spicy!  Overall, Willie Mae’s was a great experience.  Ignore the scuzzy neighborhood it is in.  You’ll be fine.  Just watch your step inside, and go hungry!   They had some delicious looking cheesecake too, but I just couldn’t fit anything else in the old tummy.

Domilise’s Po-Boy

Across town from Willie Mae’s is Domilise’s Po-Boy.   New Orleans must have some non-existent zoning laws, because both of these places were located in old, rather nondescript converted homes in otherwise residential neighborhoods.  They are definitely off the beaten path.  If you are staying in the French Quarter, I recommend taking Tchoupitoulas St. to get to Domilise’s, especially on a holiday weekend.   We took St. Charles and it took nearly 45 minutes to go 3 miles because we got stuck behind rubberneckers watching the St. Patrick’s day parade on the opposite side of the street.   Also, no one in NO can drive.  No one.  Unbelievable.   Road rage aside, the po-boys at this joint are out of control.   So it’s three little ladies who stand behind the counter and painstakingly put together each sandwich.  They’re breaking about every health code in the book, but just go with it.  It’s still cleaner than anywhere on Bourbon Street.  We got there about 2 pm on Saturday, and the wait wouldn’t have been that long but there were about 15 frat boys waiting on a to go order.   You place your order at the bar, and then wait for them to make the sandwiches.  If you want a drink or beer, there is a separate counter across the room.   The bartenders will drink with you.  Sweet!  Again proving that the bacteria in the Pontchartrain must have magical powers of youth, one of the three ladies still there making sandwiches is 97 year old Miss Dot.  Watching her carefully place each oyster and each piece of shrimp just so on each po-boy was precious.  They really load ’em up, too.   We all ordered the same:  half shrimp, half oyster with the works plus american cheese, mine with no pickles, natch.  This is a big boy sandwich.   If you get the half and half seafood, they only come in a larger, which is $16 but there is enough seafood on it to more than compensate for the hefty price tag.   Plus, you could really split it between two people.

So that is THREE halves.  I was able to make it through two.   Fully loaded means:  lettuce, pickles, hot sauce, a ketchupy remoulade, and mayo.  The condiments were amazing, and generously smeared.   They fry each batch of seafood to order, and my god, the oysters were HUGE.  And delicious!  They even brought us some extras because their credit card machine was on the fritz.  My favorite part was the bread.   Often times when you get a po-boy, they’ll toast it so that it’s almost hard to eat.   These rolls were soft, yet still crisp enough on top to have some texture.  They also were big enough to accommodate all that shrimp.   Domilise’s has a pretty wide variety of sandwiches, and I don’t think you can go wrong.  The roast beef looked really popular as well.   If you go, don’t wuss out and order a shrimp po-boy with nothing on it, like I saw one girl do.   As one of the sandwich ladies commented, “There’s nothing for the shrimp to hold onto!”   Go for the works!

An Irish Dish For St. Patty’s Day! (feat. Kale)

“Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?”

That’s a real song (see video below) about a real dish, Colcannon.  I made a version of it at work today and it was such a hit, I decided to get all bloggery about it.

Colcannon is historically Irish peasant left-overs, which is really apparent from the traditional ingredients: potatoes, milk, butter, cabbage, kale, bacon/ham.  It’s the sort of hearty food that will pack your body up well against those cold Eirann nights.   It used to be a year-round sort of food, but now is trotted out mainly for holidays and when the kale is in season.  Apparently, it’s a thing over there to hide a little prize or charm (lucky charm?) in it.   I guess that’s a good way to get the kiddies to eat their kale, but it seems to me like a precursor to this:

So maybe leave the toys out of the food, for now.

I’ve come up with a version of the recipe that leaves a good bit of the fat out.   It really is a yummy, hearty, comfort food-y dish, but the kale-lover in me wants to enjoy Colcannon sans the butter/whole milk/bacon fat guilt trip.   I also am adding a teeny, teeny bit of spice to liven it up.   Please don’t come after me, Irish people.  I am probably related to one of you.  Here’s the recipe!  Think of it as an Irish stir fry.

Colcannon  (Serves 4-6)

4-5 small russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 head green or Chinese cabbage,  roughly chopped

1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

1 large leek (only the end!  chop the roots off.  chop it in half.   rinse the grit out.  then chop it into strips or half-moons.)

3/4 skim milk

1/4 c light sour cream

6 slices turkey bacon or canadian bacon, diced

1/4 tsp bittersweet paprika

2-3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Boil the potatoes and rice or mash them.  Refer to this post if you need help in this area.   Warm the milk and sour cream slightly in a saucepan, and then stir into the potatoes.   Season well with salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan,  warm 1 tbsp of the oil.   Add the turkey or canadian bacon.   Saute until it is cooked through, and then remove to a plate.   Add a bit more oil to the pan, and then toss in the leeks.  Saute for about 4 minutes.   Throw in the kale, and saute until it wilts,  then add the cabbage, and saute for 5 minutes.   Add the bacon back in, along with the paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.

You can either serve this on top of the potatoes or stir the potatoes into the kale mixture, as is traditional.

Enjoy!

(Those outfits are am. az. ing.)

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