Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The BIG Easy

Hold on to your butts, this is gonna be a big one. Me and some fellas took our annual trip to New Orleans this past weekend so I hit up a couple friends for some cuisine recommendations - special thanks to Will Semons and Kristi Willis for the suggestions! In additions Harrah's (to lose money) and Bourbon St (for other stuff), we hit up some great restaurants for some killer grub. And this is that tale.

Both lists included this place:

And both lists recommended this dish:

And this is what that dish looks like:

I wish I had a picture to describe HOW DELICIOUS THESE WERE!! Wow. They actually grill these oysters over an open flame, then brush them with a garlic and herb butter, and dust them with Parmesan and Romano cheeses. They're served with French bread to sop up all that glorious butter. With a nice Abita Turbodog to wash em down, these were a great way to start of the trip.

After donating some cash to the Harrah's Kid's College Fund, it was time for some more grub:

Yes, of the Archie-Eli-Peyton Mannings. None of us were starving, plus we wanted to get a nice sampling of the menu. So we just hit up some apps. SWEET POTATO SKINS with goat cheese, bacon marmalade and green onions - good, but way to sweet. GRIS GRIS DUCK WINGS flash fried with pepper jelly - easily the best thing we had. COCHON DE LAIT "POUTINE" hand-cut fries, pulled pork, pepper jelly gravy and cheese curds - even though the duck wings were best, this was my favorite. CAJUN SLIDERS alligator sausage, caramelized peppers, onions, and Crystal hot sauce aïoli. Overall, the grub was good, but nothing was mind-blowing.

Now let me tell you what WAS mind-blowing, the complimentary continental breakfast at our hotel, The Queen & Crescent.

That's it. No comment.

The one place that we all knew we were going to, was Butcher. We hit this place up last year, and it was so good, we HAD to go back.

Of course, I won the war of the order. I got the Pork Belly with cumber and mint on white bread. Simply delicious.

In another concerned effort to experience as much as of the menu as possible, we tried to make sure everyone ordered something different. So we also got to experience the BBQ Pork "Carolina Style" with slaw - honestly, the pork was a little dry and not very smoky, but the potato salad that it came with was real nice. We also had the Cold Roast Beef with horseradish and arugula - this was real tasty with the added bonus of a sinus-clearing punch.

A quick pause in food and debauchery landed us at the aquarium. Check out this little guy:

Yup, that's an otter swimming on his back. Nothing cuter. Seriously. We also saw sharks, rays, snakes, frogs, turtles, jellyfish, and some fish.

After the aquarium, it was nap time. Then we said, "let's get some doggone Cajun food Ayeeeee!!!!!" Okay, there was no actual "Ayeeeee", but you know what I mean. So we hit Coop's Place. This was one of those hole-in-the-wall, line-out-the-door kinda joints.

Again, trying to get a well rounded experience of the menu, we all got the same thing. Huh? Hand on, you'll get it. We started with the Bayou Appetizer - fried crawfish, shrimp, crabfingers, and oysters. This was a nice alternative to getting a fried entree. We also all tried the Abita Restoration Pale Ale - not bad, the hops worked real nice with the spice of the rest of the meal.

We all ordered the Coop's Taste Plate for dinner. It came with a cup of gumbo - a filé-thickened gumbo had an overwhelming vegetale flavor for me. It also had

A piece of Fried Chicken: good ole fried chicken, no complaints!
Shrimp Creole: clearly Creole sauce poured over boiled shrimp, a little disappointing there, but good flavor.
Red Beans and Rice: a little salt really set this off. The pieces of pork in here were a welcome surprise.
Rabbit and Sausage Jambalaya: real tasty.

All in all, nothing here blew our minds, but it was a great sampler of Cajun cuisine.

Again, another fantastic trip to Nawlins. As far as fun and cuisine were concerned, I graded this trip an A+. As far as gambling, a D- and not an F because I didn't go to the ATM for more cash to lose. We sure did laissez les bon temps rouler.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

4 Course and 7 Beers Ago

Of Course, we did not have 7 beers, but it works - President's Day having just passed and whatnot. I prepared the food, and Mike brought along the accompanying libations. As promised, this is the Mardi Gras Four Course Cajun Feast blog:

This particular feast took a good amount of time to prepare. It started around 9am with the production of stocks. I made a shrimp stock, that would later become etouffee and a "veggie" stock (not in a traditional sense, but I'll explain that with the first course). I also got some pork simmering away with trinity (celery, onion, bell pepper) + jalapeño and garlic which would become boudin.


As the description dictates, this blog is about my triumphs, and failures. In the case of GUMBO CONSOMME, we've stumbled upon the latter. That's not to say that it didn't taste good. On the flavor front, all was well. On the front of this consomme being a successful consomme, or clearly being reminiscent of a gumbo, thumbs down. As the photo clearly conveys, the clarity of the consomme is not so clear. Whilst preparing something else, I let the consomme boil, reintroducing the impurities to the stock, and botching the whole batch. ALSO, I clearly underestimated the obvious importance of roux to gumbo - this is where the soup failed to reach true gumbo-ness. That being said, the soup was good and Mike's 2010 Blufeld Riesling from Mosel, Germany was a perfect match.

The next course was a celebration of the triumphant return of the Gulf - or just an excuse to fit three courses into one. A) Gulf oyster on the half shell with cocktail sauce foam - I shucked to order. The sauce was too viscous to foam properly, thus it didn't have enough body to stand up to the oyster. Mike's Katana Junmai Ginjo Sake from Shizuoka, Japan was however, a perfect pair with the oyster. B) Boudin balls on house-made remoulade. Absolutely killer!! C) Boiled crawfish and potatoes over a corn-andouille puree. The puree was the highlight of the night. The wheat beer Mike brought was perfect with the boudin and crawfish.

Want to smoke out all your dinner guests with a noxious blackened cloud? Blacken some fish with a killer black spice in a screaming hot pan inside an apartment. But then serve it over shrimp etouffee with dirty rice, and you'll have them... still talking about how we all coughed for 10 minutes. Mike took a real reach on this one and served a traditional Indian Lassi. The purpose of this choice was to subdue the spice, which it did. However, it did not serve as a really thirst quenching beverage. It was nice in sips, but not in gulps.

Mardi Gras just ain't Mardi Gras without a KING CAKE. So I made one.

Instead of colored sugar, I made colored icing. No baby, that's dangerous.

Thanks to Cafe Du Monde, I made these tasty morsels:

Not gonna lie here. I went out and bought Cafe Du Monde beignet mix, mixed it up and fried it. I did top it with pow pow sug sug that had been mixed with a little Cafe Du Monde coffee. These went splendidly with the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout from Petaluma, CA that Mike brought.

All in all, another successful tasting and pairing dinner.

I have exciting new coming up very soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentime's Day

I have to work tonight, so the wifey and I did our Valentine's Day dinner last night. We started with a some prosecco and my favorite salad - herbed spring mix, orange supremes, toasted almond slices, and an orange-shallot vinaigrette. Then it was on to dinner:


Obviously, none of this is super high end, but it was delicious. I did make the Mac with a béchamel with aged cheddar and topped it with cave-aged gruyére and panko - yummy. And yes, those are two heart-shaped beets for garnish! <3

The star of the show was the cake I made:

A sponge cake with a hint of almond, iced with a brown sugar buttercream and garnished with toasted almond slices. Notice the intricate piping work! The cake wasn't quite as light and airy as I'd hoped, but it was still delicious.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bangers & Pizza

Just in case you didn't see the rockstar picture of my marinating pork on facebook, here it is again:

That was a tease. I'm such a sausage tease.
Both sausages were made with an 8 pound pork picnic. Yesterday, I skinned (and kept in the freezer), de-boned (bone got trashed since I didn't have any large bags), diced, and split.

To the pork, I added chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, fresh garlic, salt, pink salt, cayenne, and chili powder. Today, I ground it up. When it came time to add the cold liquid (which aids in distributing the seasoning and helps emulsify the sausage, usually water), I added 1 part cold water and 1 part COLD BOURBON! That's right. I did that. Then it all got cased up. The bourbon actually stands up to the pork and chipotle. And the chipotle spice comes through at the end. Not a bad little sausage. I think it would be great cooked up out of the casing and added to queso.

This is an idea I've had for a while. It's basically a re-work of the classic Jalapeño Cheddar sausage. On this one, I added half a roasted poblano, half a roasted jalapeño, fresh garlic, cumin, salt, pink salt, and a little adobo seasoning. Today, I ground it up. During the mixing process, I added the other half of the poblano and jalapeño and some pepperjack cheese that I pulsed in the food processor (I used block cheese so I could ensure the lack of cornstarch - which is added to pre-shredded cheeses to prevent sticking). Then it all got cased up. This one was the winner of the day. It would be killer in a fresh flour tortilla with cilantro and pickled red onions.

Oh and here's what they look like:

Of course, tonight was Pizza Jersday (pizza and "Jersey Shore") DON'T JUDGE ME!! Instead of ordering, I mixed it up a little this week: homemade pizza. I did cheat a bit, I went on down to Homeslice and picked up a dough ball for $5. Half the pizza was pepperoni, and red wine garlic sausage. The other half was roasted Brussels sprouts, criminis and thyme, shallots, and prosciutto piccolo.

Check out the sweet pizza paddle! Thanks Glenn and Diana! Both sides were great. It's hard to compare because they were two totally different directions. There was a little extra dough. Hmmmmm....... what to do with that?


Just tie strips of dough in knots, brush with garlic butter, sprinkle with coarse sea or Kosher salt, and throw in the oven until GBD!!!

I may have another tasting dinner coming up. So that could be cool. Umm....hmmm... I'll try to come up with some more cool stuff to do. Maybe I'll just jack around with my "Beginning Molecular Gastronomy Kit". I haven't busted that out in a while. Who knows? Stay tuned!

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