Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Do You Know What It Means to Eat New Orleans?
"New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin."-- Mark Twain, 1884 Here! Here!
But, explain to me, please, how we did Cajun and Creole cooking today without doing anything with crawfish?!! Crawfish...those little miniature lobstery-looking things that live in creeks...you know, "suck the head," etoufee...those things. Talk about your regional indigenous foodstuffs...the crawfish is synonymous with New Orleans/Cajun/Creole cookery, and it seems a damned shame to ignore the tasty little buggers when cooking from that region. (I realize that New Orleans is not the only place for creole and cajun, but everywhere else in Louisiana has crawfish, too, so it's equal opportunity ignoring, that's what it is!!!)
However, we did make gumbo and fried up some catfish, so all might not be lost. Or then again...I'll let you be the judge.
Behold! The Cajun-Creole Menu of the Day:
Chicken Legs with Duxelles Stuffing
Grilled Vegetables Provencal Style
Deep-fried Catfish with Remoulade Sauce
Corn & Pepper Pudding
No, there were no crawfish in the gumbo. None. But, we did have some andouille sausage, which was quite nice, and some shrimp and crab.
The Chicken Legs with Duxelles Stuffing was off the chain. We took those thighs that we had deboned several weeks ago (froze them of course) and used them. You make a slit in the thigh and open it up and pound it flat. Then, you put in the duxelles stuffing, roll it up, truss it, and roast it. Duxelles stuffing is fairly simple--take minced shallots and sweat them in clarified butter for 5-6 minutes. Add in diced mushrooms and saute until dry and season with salt and pepper. Then, the best part...add in heavy cream and simmer until thickened. Add some breadcrumbs, combine, and chill until ready to stuff.
Simple, but oh so tasty. And, we kicked it up a notch with a creamy supreme sauce...yum. Have I mentioned how much I like mushrooms? Consider it mentioned.
I was in charge of grilling the vegetables, making the Hoppin' John, and frying up the catfish. The veggies were no big thing. I roasted some red and green bell peppers and peeled off their skins. I steeped some olive oil with rosemary and garlic, then I brushed that oil on slices of zucchini and eggplant and grilled them. I diced all of the veggies up and tossed them with more of the rosemary oil and added a little basalmic vinegar and some basil chiffonade (thinly sliced basil leaves).
Hoppin' John is one of the dishes traditionally served in the South for New Year's Day. The peas and rice signify coins, and then you add some greens on the side for the folding money. I rendered some bacon for the fat, sauteed onions and green peppers in the bacon fat, adding in garlic and red pepper flakes, and then sauteing the rice in the mixture. I then added some chicken stock, thyme sprigs, and a bay leave and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Chef Regional did the quicksoak method on the blackeyed peas before class, so they were ready to add to the dish. It was good, but I think I really prefer black beans and rice or pigeon peas in rice, which I had alot while on a business trip to Puerto Rico.
The Puerto Rico trip was kinda funny in that my contact at the library couldn't believe I wanted to go to local places. When it came time for lunch, she said they had "Quiznos, Subway, and Kentucky Fried Chicken" close by. I was polite but firm in suggesting I wanted to go some place local, dammit. I had not endured a 6-hour flight for extra-crispy chicken and faux mashed potatoes. She warily took me to the local equivalent of a meat and 3, and only after I finally stopped licking my plate did she seem to relax. I had some sort of pork chops with onions and the peas and rice, which were faboo. The next day, she took me to an even better place (more pork, with some chicken, and peas & rice) AND showed me a place to go for dinner. Not speaking a lick of Spanish other than "dos cervezas, por favor" didn't slow us down in the least bit. The Man and I were armed with several words we could identify, all of which had to do with pork, and we were fine. I think our crowning achievement was on the way to see the telescope at Arecibo. We pulled into the drive-thru at a McDonald's and ordered "dos Coca Colas grande, por favor," and actually got 2 large Cokes. And, no one laughed at us or said "what?!" (Thank heavens for crappy drive-thru speakers the world over!)
Back to present...
The catfish turned out pretty good, too. The Chiclet and I were tag-teaming it; she breaded, I fried. Chef Regional said our fish was good, and that he liked the breading. Snaps for us!
And, there was the pecan pie. Right off the bat, I have to be honest with you about my aversion to pecan pie. And, no, this does not mean you can revoke my Southerness and my right to sweet tea. I like pecans, I like pie crust, I like the pecans when they are toasted. I don't like the gooey mess that comes between the toasted pecans and the pie crust. This is probably a result of being forcefed awful vending machine pecan pies as a child. Hate those with the fury of a thousand fiery suns. Ick. That stuff has no resemblance to food, period.
I like Derby Pie, which is essentially chocolate pecan pie (operative word, "chocolate") with or without a splash of bourbon. I like pecan logs, even the Stuckey's ones, and divinity in really small doses. But, I have to force myself to eat pecan pie, and I usually pick off all the pecans and then eat the crust. And, I've perfected the stealth mode of doing this, because if anyone notices, they immediately try to rat you out to the rest of the world as some sort of Antichrist or devil beast or something along those lines. I just figure it's more for the rest of y'all. You can repay my generosity by forking over your share of Red Velvet Cake.
Back to the pecan pie in class. While I was gratified to see that Big Stuff managed to scorch it a little bit, I must admit that the unscorched half was tasty...at least the crust and the pecans were. : )
I also have to confess my semi-hatred for beignets. I know, fried dough--how could I hate that? And, it's not the fried dough part I dislike. It's the veritable mountain of powdered sugar that must be heaped on each one that gets to me. It's like food for Scarface--you look like a cocaine cowboy when you eat one. It's just too much sugar for me to handle. I'd prefer to get the fried dough with a side dish of powdered sugar to dip or sprinkle myself. Try explaining that at midnight to the guy taking your order at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. He looked at me like I was an alien when I told him no powdered sugar. Surely, I can't be the only one...can I?
Dimmer Switch, bless her heart, was in charge of the beignets. I have no idea what she did to the dough/batter, but they came out as beignet "worms." Sort of squiggly and long...sort of looking like sper--nevermind. That *is* too much to think about. Maybe that's the signal for me to stop posting and go to bed now.