Wine’s at temperature, the aroma of exotic spices fills the kitchen, and the music is a playin’. An ideal Saturday date night at home.
It was our first full day in the house post-holidays sans guests. I could think of no better way to spend a few hours than breaking out the tagine my husband gave me for Christmas and taking her for a spin. Thanks to Hollygrove Market’s weekly produce box we had some fresher than fresh ingredients to toy around with.
If you google tagine, you’ll find it means two things: both the traditional covered clay vessel used for slow cooking in North Africa and the meals that are the result. While in Marrakech last year we were fortunate enough to take a hands-on class in the technique, but the clay pots were to heavy and unwieldy to pack and bring back. And if you don’t have the actual clay pot, you can use a dutch oven to similar effect, so don’t cross tagine off your list for want of equipment. What I like about tagine cooking is the long slow braise, well-suited not only to blending the flavors of the dish, but also producing a relaxing at home event. Think comfort food at it’s finest. Continue reading
Crawfish season! Why on earth did I leave this off my list of top spring things? Maybe because it stands alone as the most instantly emblematic symbol of New Orleans this time of year. If friends haven’t yet invited you to stop by for some crawfish and beer (for non beer-drinkers like myself, always keep a bottle of Rose on hand) God might be telling you it’s time for some new friends.
But crawfish etouffee done right might be the best Louisiana dish ever made, and it can all begin with the remains of those boiled crawfish, believe it or not.
First, embarrass everyone you’re with by scavenging the crawfish pile. That’s right, grab enough discarded heads to fit into about two gallon-size ziplocks. If you have the storage space (ie: an extra freezer) you can take all the heads, because you’re gonna make stock.
He and She Said:
Before Kim Basinger bought a whole town, bankrupted herself, and managed to redefine the concept of a dysfunctional relationship with Alec Baldwin, she was a cinema hottie. Similarly, Mickey Rourke wasn’t always The Wrestler. In their better days, Kim and Mickey advertise the benefits of eating in:
We can’t promise similar results, but we can tell you that most establishments frown upon this sort of behavior, at least outside of the kitchen.
If you’ve decided to eschew the crowded restaurant tables for the joy of cooking together, you might be trying to figure out what to make. That can vary depending upon your comfort in the kitchen. It can also vary depending upon your level of comfort in your relationship. Some couples just shouldn’t be around sharp objects.
A New York bagel is NOT indigenous cuisine.
I was having a ‘friendly chat’ with a New Yorker recently, discussing the differences in food culture between Gotham and the Big Easy. While I was happy to concede his point that NYC is indisputably the restaurant capital of the U.S., I wasn’t budging on the bagel thing.
We don’t have the overwhelming range of options available those in the Big Apple, as he was happy to point out to me in that sweet understated way that so many New Yorkers have, but the passion and depth of the NOLA food scene has been well-documented for good reason. What we do have that New York and most other places in America lack is an indigenous food culture. There are cuisines that are native to and emblematic of New Orleans and South Louisiana, expressive of place and indissolubly wedded to locale.
He and She Said:
We told you where to take your special someone for Cupid’s favorite day, but what if you’re staying in? Some choose to avoid one of the busiest dining nights of the year and just stay home. If you do, we suggest you cook. Try something ambitious. Turn off the TV, put on some music, open some vino (or, even better: Champagne) and cook together. Romance may bloom, sparks may fly, and if the mood strikes you can eat naked with no legal repercussion. So you’ve got that going for you, which is good.
It’s been a soup kind of week in the He said/She said household. Two primary reasons: First, He said had surgery and I was lucky enough to become his temporary outsourcing resource for all needs/things outside of peeing. Actually this wasn’t completely terrible but it was minimally exhausting. The point where he suggested a bell as an appropriate means of summons was my cue to redirect and suggest some alternate behavior. Second, the ‘courtesy call’ we got approximately 10 hours pre-surgery alerting us to a ‘sign-on’ fee of $1,100 plus 20 percent of total cost certainly made an impact on our wallet. Good time to rethink our spending habits. News flash: Soup is cheap. Even cheaper than soup: Beans. And this is how my black bean soup project began. Time stuck in the house + captive audience (even if it was an audience of one) + a bank account crashing like the US housing market = one kick-ass soup. The details:
I love soup: Partly because it is comforting, but more important than that, it’s hard to mess up. Anytime you can throw a whole bunch of crap into one pot and have a fairly good chance of success, it’s a good thing!
My sister, who happens to be an amazing momma, has a few go-to meals. One of which is tortilla soup. I
stole borowed my initial recipe from her, and each time I make it, it evolves into something new and different. I cheat and use a rotisserie chicken in my soup, whereas she uses chicken breasts that she cuts into chunks. I prefer the whole pre-cooked chicken because it is simple and I can use the carcass to make a stock. Added fun fact, I can pick a mean chicken. He said isn’t allowed near it because he isn’t nearly as efficient.
Equally exciting is the price. The husband and I can spend some dollars on groceries. Seriously, we managed to blow $50 on taco night this past Monday. In fairness, that included a bottle of wine, but like $38 on taco fixings. Jesus, we should have gone to Felipe’s for a $4 burrito and a pitcher of sangria. The rest of our week has subsequently centered around finding more fiscally conscious meals.
Forgive me for not being overly specific in my recipe below as I think individual creativity is half the fun of soup. Really, it is hard to mess up, I promise.
He and She Said:
A long, long time ago, some French people were talking over dinner. ‘Henri, this duck is very good,’ one of them said. ‘But, do you know what would make it better? Next time, let’s try cooking it in it’s own fat!’
Merde, those French know what they’re doing in the kitchen! If you’ve had duck prepared in other ways, you know they all pale in comparison to confit. If you haven’t had confit, make sure you do the very next time you see it on the menu. Even better, why not try making it at home? We’ll be taking a run at this recipe from our esteemed guest columnist, Mr. Mirepoix, over the holiday break and will report on the results. Here’s the skinny.
Mr. Mirepoix Said:
So it’s winter & you know what that means (at least I hope you do- it’s duck confit time of year……..Get duck legs from 6 or more ducks (at least 12 legs for the work you need to do. I’m doing 24)
You could buy whole ducks, and remove the breasts (skin ON of course) to freeze & use to sear & slice thinly for salads come Spring time or just buy legs. Those carcasses make AMAZING demi glace or sauce Espagnole for anyone with a copy of LaRousse Gastronomique. The only difference is you need simmer only 4-5 hours for duck bones in sauces rather than overnight for veal…..
Gone Fishin’! Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. It has been quite some time since I have actually been the one catching the fish. My attention span is rather short as is my interest in all things bait. I am very lucky however that my father-in-law enjoys the occasional trip and perhaps more lucky in that my mother-in-law doesn’t allow what he brings back in the house.
Pops went out this weekend and brought us some beautiful catfish. I am always seeking alternatives to the deep-fried fish and grease pits, I mean hush puppies. And frankly we cook tons of other fish, but not so much catfish. So off to the internet I go and happen upon this recipe for Grilled Catfish Fajitas with Chipotle Salsa. I am slightly embarrassed to say that it came from a website supporting US Farm-Raised Catfish, but our heart was in the right place, and our fish is about as wild-caught as it gets. The recipe can be found here. Our modified version is below.
In short, this was a really good and fairly simple dinner. Sure you marinate the catfish, but once that’s done, it cooks up in no time. Our only problem was that it was impossible to compliment the fish with a perfect wine pairing.
My wife loves it when I’m wrong. She’ll adore this post.
My real profession involves consulting with businesses and leveraging technology for process-improvement (you’re getting sleepy already, right?). In this post I was able to apply that everyday knowledge to create what appears upon a second reading to be an amazingly myopic and self-indulgent critique of the restaurant business based upon a single experience. So I thought I’d leave the redacted paragraphs up because, while no one wants it every day, a little humble pie every now and then is probably a good part of a balanced diet.
Here’s the original beginning of this post:
If you’re doing exactly what was successful for you yesterday, you are dead in the water. No matter what your industry, and restaurants are no exception, it is almost not possible to overestimate the extent to which and the speed at which technology is changing your business. Serving customers great food with great service remains necessary, but is no longer sufficient. I wanted to share a story about a restaurant that gets it.
Hmmm, let’s try that again:
Great food and great service take intense work, discipline, and commitment. We’re spoiled here in New Orleans, surrounded by countless examples of this. I wanted to share the story of a place far away that demonstrated the same thing to us, and then went above and beyond: (better, huh?)