Archive for the Words Category

One Messy, Time-Consuming Recipe? Why Not TWO? (or: lafille Makes Ribs and Fried Chicken in a Single, Gluttonous Weekend)

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Words on 15 March, 2010 by la fille

Okay, so the past month or so has been kind of insane.  Remember how I told you about all the houseguests over Mardi Gras, and how it wasn’t really my bag? Well, I moved out. I only moved in with Roommate in the first place because it was a mutually beneficial arrangement—he had someone bail on him, and I needed a place pronto. Had the situation been different, neither of us would probably have chosen the other to live with.

Anyways, in the span of about four days I began looking for a place, found THE MOST AMAZING, PERFECT HOME EVER, paid a deposit, and moved out. So I am now no longer a Mid-City-ite, but a denizen of the Lower Garden District, which feels a lot more suited to my sensibilities.

Then, maman came to visit for several days, which ended up being perfectly-timed, since she’s happiest when she has a new space to decorate and get all spruced up. Not only were my belongings magically unpacked and arranged while I was at work, she insisted, as parents do, on making sure I had everything I needed before she left, so I got lots of nice new stuff for the kitchen. CHA-CHING.

This past weekend was really the first time I got to take a breath since before Mardi Gras, so what did I do (besides watch all of BSG Season 2 [OMG IT’S SO GOOD IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED IT STOP READING AND NETFLIX THAT SHIZZ BUT NOW I THINK EVERYONE IS A CYLON ARE YOU A CYLON?!?!?! ALSO I HATE GAIUS BALTAR WITH THE POWER OF A THOUSAND SUNS]) but embark upon not one but TWO [2] major cooking projects, both of which turned out quite successfully if I do say so myself.

I attempted a couple of  warm weather Southern classics that I love to eat but had never cooked before: barbecued ribs and fried chicken. The ribs I made in the oven, not the grill, and definitely were worth all the work I put into them (I made a marinade, a dry rub, a mop spray, AND a sauce, all from scratch). I’ll post all those recipes in the next day or so.

Here’s the chicken, though.


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Welcome to New Orleans, Monsieur

Posted in Eat, Photos, Words with tags , , on 4 February, 2010 by la fille

I know my posts have been sporadic since my return to Planet Blog, but I’ve kinda become a stereotypical bachelor. I’m hesitant to say stereotypical bachelorette, ’cause that just brings up a whole other slew of connotations altogether, and I do not, in fact spend my evenings at Chili’s getting sloshed on cosmos  sipped from penis-shaped straws while wearing a white veil. I do, however, spend a lot of evenings concocting meals from whatever ingredients are in the fridge, to varying degrees of success. I also don’t eat out a whole lot. Thus, not a great amount of blog fodder.

This weekend, however, was an extreme departure, as Monsieur D, my BFF in the world, flew in for a quick visit. Since this was the first time he’s been to NOLA since I moved here, there was a LOT to cram into 72 hours, including a whole lotta great food.

Most food decisions were left to me, but he did specifically request Parkway, somewhere with a great cocktail selection, and something upscale but Louisiana-y. So this weekend we enjoyed Parkway, Cochon, One Restaurant, Avenue Pub, Creole Creamery, and Fuel. And maybe something else…it’s still a bit of a blur.

As soon as I picked the monsieur up from the airport, we headed over to Parkway and gorged ourselves on a large surf ‘n’ turf po-boy, some sweet potato fries, and a couple of Abita Ambers.

Welcome to New Orleans, indeed.

(photo by lafille)

Grocery Stores as Cultural Microcosms

Posted in Eat, Imbibe, Photos, Words with tags , , , , , on 24 December, 2009 by la fille

Nothing gives one a sense of a new geographical area more than a visit to the grocery store. Okay, maybe that’s hyperbole, but you know what I mean. So much of a culture is wrapped up in its food that a trip to pick up some groceries tells you a lot about both the history and the present of a place.

Of course, we all know that New Orleans is a phenomenal example of this, but even in a place not so completely defined by its cuisine—like, oh, I don’t know, New Jersey—there are myriad regional differences.

First and foremost–bagels!

They just aren’t the same outside of the Northeast. One could argue that they aren’t the same outside of Manhattan, but my bagel standards aren’t quite THAT rigid. Shop-Rite had a whole WALL of bagels: plain, everything, sesame, garlic, blueberry, poppyseed, onion, raisin. Yum. Someone told me that climate has a huge effect on how one’s bagels turn out, and comparing NJ bagels with NOLA bagels I might believe it. Rusty’s bagels from The Bagel Factory are tasty, but they’re dense and too tough to enjoy unless you toast them. The Shop-Rite bagels in Jersey have attained the Golden Mean of pastries—nice and chewy, but fluffy on the inside, and delish toasted or no.

The seafood section’s another part of the store where you can get a real sense of place. Of course, nowadays everyone gets flash-frozen salmon, tilapia, and shrimp from halfway around the world, but there are still always fresh regional offerings. Naturally, there was not a crawfish to be found in Jersey, and the oyster selection was dwarfed by the choices of clams and mussels. (They don’t call it New England clam chowdah for nothin’.) I saw lots of little silver fish, too, like anchovy and smelt, and then there was this:

Fresh eel. Now I know you can find eel in NOLA, especially at the Asian markets, but I get the impression it’s probably a different kind—this seemed distinctly regional to me. Maybe I’m wrong, though.

As I turned away from the fish case, I noticed a bunch of prepackaged fish fillets that were just sitting on a table, not being refrigerated. “That’s weird and unsanitary,” I thought. Turns out it was salt cod, which I suspect is not only a regional thing, but a seasonal one as well. I figure it hearkens back to the days when you had to cure your meat to ensure you had enough to make it through the winter. Or, you know, to take on your whaling ship.

Regional differences tend to show up in the fresh parts of the store—bread, seafood, meat, veggies—but here’s one I found in the soda section:

Dr. Brown’s in a 2-liter? For $1.19?! Dan Stein, are you listening?

Beyond the food selection, and I never thought I’d say this, a trip to Shop-Rite in New Jersey is even more harrowing to a trip to Rouses on Carrollton. Although the patrons of Rouses are just as inconsiderate and oblivious to my existence as those at Shop-Rite, at least in New Orleans they’re slow about it. I have time to see that someone has no intention of moving to accommodate me and adjust my route accordingly. Everyone moves so quickly Up North that I don’t have time to get out of the way before being run over.

If you want to get a sense of a place, visit a grocery store.

New Jersey = bagels, clams, rock salt, fast-moving, no eye contact.

And no one asks about my mom and ‘dem.

Snow Cream

Posted in Eat, Sweets, Words on 23 December, 2009 by la fille

Since my weekend trip up to the Northeast has turned into a weeklong winter break due to a massive snowstorm, I figured I might as well take advantage of the situation and do something I hadn’t done in probably fifteen years—make a batch of snow cream.

I vividly remember one winter when I was still in elementary school that a blizzard hit my part of Tennessee and we were out of classes for over a week. I spent much of that vacation hanging out at my parents’ restaurant, entertaining myself as well as I could. Now, said restaurant was a fine-dining establishment that was only open for dinner, so during the day I had my run of the place as long as I stayed out from under the feet of the prep cooks. In addition to sledding down the hill out back on a giant baking sheet and reenacting epic battles between dinosaurs and My Little Ponies in the dining room, I made a lot of snow cream. Since I had a whole kitchen to work with, I experimented with ingredients from mint to orange juice who knows what, but the simplest recipe is ultimately the best as far as I’m concerned. The combination of snow, heavy cream or half and half, sugar, and vanilla yields a treat that will forever produce a sense memory for me of winters in Tennessee.

When I started writing this, it was with the mind of telling NOLA readers about something they don’t really have the opportunity to enjoy, being that the main ingredient is a bit difficult to procure, but I’m realizing that the closest thing I’ve ever had to snow cream that wasn’t made from actual snow from outside my door is the New Orleans sno-ball. The texture is very similar, with real snow cream being of an only slightly grainier consistency due to the inability for the sugar to dissolve completely in the cold mixture. That super-thinly shaved ice, though, is VERY close to real snow, and with some vanilla syrup and condensed milk you have a pretty darn close approximation of the real thing.

Granted, the experience of eating a dripping sno-ball in the middle of a sweltering summer afternoon is vastly different from the insanity of giving yourself brain freeze from a food when you could just as easily step outside the door and do the same thing. Sno-balls are for cooling off; snow cream is for eating while bundled up in a blanket standing over a heater, watching the sun glint off the icicles on the window frame.

Which, if you’ll excuse me, is exactly what I’m going to do right now.

Yee Haw Industries

Posted in Ephemera, Words with tags , , , on 16 December, 2009 by la fille

Back before I dropped anchor here in New Orleans, I resided in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Having grown up in Appalachia, I reserve a special place in my heart for whiskey, banjos, and the kind of comfort food that warms your soul and clogs your arteries.

Sometimes I get nostalgic, and although I wouldn’t trade living in New Orleans for anything, my friends at Yee-Haw Industrial Letterpress in Knoxville always remind me why part of my heart will always be in East Tennessee. Their work captures many of the things I love about the place, including– and relevant to this blog– the importance of food in the lives of Southerners.

And it had better be cast-iron.

Sausage is a vital ingredient in…

I have several friends who could say this to a woman and she’d be putty in their hands. It’s all in the accent, I think.

See above.

Prints used in advertising the  local farmers’ market, but suitable as wall art.

I believe I have had this line used on me before. For real.

Part of their Jack Daniels series from last year. I might post more of these at a later date.

And, to bring everything back around to New Orleans…

Visit Yee Haw Industries and their online store to see other great art that’s not necessarily food-related.

List: Songs About Food That Are Really About Sex

Posted in Words with tags , on 14 December, 2009 by la fille

Ice Cream Man- Tom Waits, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Peaches and Cream- Beck

Cherry Pie- Warrant

Back Door Man- Howlin’ Wolf

Brown Sugar- The Rolling Stones

I Can Cook, Too- from On the Town

Milkshake- Kelis

Pour Some Sugar On Me- Def Leppard

Down Home Girl- The Coasters, Old Crow Medicine Show, others

Sugar In My Bowl- Nina Simone

I Want Candy- Bow Wow Wow

Breakfast in Bed- Loudon Wainwright III

Candy Man- Mississippi John Hurt

I’m Sellin’ My Pork Chops- Memphis Minnie McCoy

Don’t Touch My Tomatoes- Josephine Baker

Les Sucettes- France Gall, Serge Gainsbourg

Keep On Churnin’- Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Candyman- Christina Aguilera

Artichoke- Cibo Matto

Mary’s Kitchen- Old Crow Medicine Show

The Lemon Song- Led Zeppelin

Any blues song about jelly, jelly rolls, or peaches. Any blues song about food, period.

Got any to add that get your oven heatin’ up?

Mini-giving

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Imbibe, Wine, Words with tags , on 27 November, 2009 by la fille

I’m currently back in beautiful Tennessee, enjoying the holiday weekend with mon père, Cap’n Will. The air is crisp, the sky is clear, and the accents are twangy.

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but when it comes to food, the pomme didn’t fall far from the tree. Cap’n Will has been in the restaurant business his whole life, and owned a fine dining establishment for the majority of my childhood. Needless to say, when we found out it was just going to be the two of us for Thanksgiving (Mamàn is currently in another state spending time with my new niece and nephew), our thoughts immediately went to what fun things we could do with the meal while downsizing at the same time.

I flew in late on Wednesday, so I really didn’t a whole lot foodwise, but Pops put together the most marvelous Thanksgiving meal for two that I could have imagined. We forwent a turkey and stuffed a couple of Cornish game hens with an apple-dried plum (apparently we’ve stopped calling them prunes) cornbread stuffing, baked some teensy sweet potatoes, put together a green bean casserole, and made fresh cranberry sauce.

I’ve always found the side dishes to be the most exciting aspect of Thanksgiving dinner, and I will admit a particular and unabashed love for green bean casserole. I know it’s a pretty rudimentary dish, but you’ve gotta admit it’s pretty much the ultimate in comfort food, and for me–since I only have it once a year–the creamy concoction is so rooted in time and place that it makes me feel safe and loved no matter the circumstances.

So yeah, green bean casserole.

The other stuff was good too, I guess.

The hens turned out beautifully– golden and crispy on the outside, moist and tender within, and most importantly, no living on turkey sammiches for the next three days! It was the PERFECT amount of food for the two of us.

While cooking, we drank a 2005 Eos Paso Robles, which I enjoyed immensely, and with the meal had Fat Bastard’s Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, which was good with food, but sweeter than both of us had anticipated, especially for a brut. It’s from the Loire Valley, not Champagne, though, and most likely chenin blanc instead of chardonnay, which might explain the sweetness.

Anyway, after indulging in the requisite food-and-wine coma (and having some coffee), we packed up our dessert and went a-visiting. I tell you what, friends are glad to see you when you bring mango cobbler and homemade vanilla bean ice cream. To hell with pumpkin pie, I say!