Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blackeye Peas

My second try at cooking beans in the pressure cooker. One pound of blackeye peas, 4 cups chicken broth, 2 cups water, 1/4 cup dehydrated trinity with garlic and some jagerwurst (sort of german mortadella). 15 lbs pressure for one and half hours and natural cool down. Below is the result. Beans so good that nothing more was needed. Definitely the way to go for dry beans. Sorry no cabbage.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Seafood Palace

I had a serious urge for great gumbo and fried oysters. Solution. Lunch at Seafood Palace. Sorry for the blurry picture but they do two things I love when I get gumbo at a restaurant. First of all a dark roux which contains great flavor but little thickening power. So you get a dark thin gumbo. As they say the juice makes the gumbo. If a gumbo is made right I don't need the protein just the broth and the rice. Secondly they bring a separate container of rice.

Ok this is a the small fried oyster plate. I got eight count them eight huge oysters. They arrived crispy with no grease and the inside steaming hot but still juicy. The oysters cooked just right. They squirted hot oyster liquor all over the place I was in hog heaven in a matter of speaking. They offer you a choice of french fries or fried okra. I went with the fried okra. Also hot, crispy, and non greasy. They have a master on the fryalator.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

El Tapatio

Lunch after going into work to do the bank deposit and such because my boss is out of town. I also did some reconnaissance on up coming venues. It had been awhile since I have been here so I dropped in. Seems like every time I go in the salsa is different. This one was chunky with tomatoes , medium spiced and served cold. Just up my alley. I tend not to like heated ones.

What never changes is the excellent tortilla chips. Thin, crispy, never greasy and never over fried. I usually over indulge

As an appetizer I usually get one tamale or one Chile Rellenos from an a la carte menu. Today it was the chile rellenos. A huge Poblano stuffed only with a little white cheese, egg white battered and fried with their red sauce on top. Never fails to please. After these I do not know if I could go back to the overstuffed ones.

Perhaps my favorite dish here, Carnitas. Pork shoulder roast, refried beans, rice, salad and tortillas. The reason I love it is that pork shoulder or boston butt is used instead of the pork loin roast that many restaurants use these days. Pork loin is ok but needs special attention when cooking or it quickly becomes inedible. The only sin with pork shoulder is under cooking it. Overcooking a little does little harm and sometimes some good. There is so much fat and collagen in it that it needs a low slow long cooking time to make it just right. They do a good job here. Understand that this is a treat meal and not an everyday thing

This time I ended up with a sweet. This is their version of sopapilla. A flour tortilla fried then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. Simple but perfect.


In the new year I hope to be back up to speed with the blog. This month between my vehicle being in the shop for a week and half (good news it did not cost as much as I thought), a bumper amount of events at the restaurant which put me under a lot of stress (my down time being spent zoning) and a slew of new openings which I do not post here until I review them the pickings here have been slim. I want to thank you for forbearing with me. Now I am going to do something that is sorta against my policy. There are two ethnic restaurants that just opened and are not advertising. I want to give them a boost. I will make no comments on the food but just let you know they are there. First is Regalia Cafe & Market 411 West College 764-9831. This is Syrian food which is very similar to Lebanese. The hours are a bit different. Tuesday - Friday 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM Saturday 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Next is Donde Tonio in the old Byron's Catering/Mama Rosa building at 425 7th St 421-1400. It is Colombian cuisine. Their hours are 7 to 10 for Breakfast, 11 to 2 for Lunch, and 5 to 10 for Dinner Monday thru Sunday.

Red Beans

With my batch of red beans from the pressure cooker I have had red beans and rice with sausage, made some red bean tostadas, and yesterday red bean soup with sausage. All very good. Pressure cooking is definitely the way to go with beans.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Candy

Seems innocuous and for the most part it is. I receive this particular tin full of brown sugar brownies with pecans and candy orange slices every year from my sister. We don't ever call it brownies. To us it is Christmas Candy. That what our mother called it. It was one component of a Christmas box or tin of cookies that our mother baked and distributed to the people that gave us service throughout the year (paperboy, mailman, etc). Most years this simple tin and its contents hit me like a sledgehammer. It contains much more than Christmas Candy it bring up memories of our mother. Her baking all the Christmas goodies, making us a Saturday dinner because she took the noon Mass at the Altar Society table on Sunday so the other mothers could be with their families, her scrimping and saving so I could go to Catholic school, the stoic countenance she assumed when diagnosed with cancer and her fight to overcome it, her arranging for her sister to cook my homecoming meal when I came home from college when she was dying and countless other things. I was always on the receiving end of her motherly love. I think my sister got her share also. That is why I think she does this simple thing each year so neither one of us will forget. This tin brings as many sad moments as joyous ones. If offered a million dollars for it, I would not hesitate say NO. These memories are too precious to me. I was and still am a momma's boy. I say that with pride because of what my mother was to me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Red Beans and Sausage

Took the pressure cooker out for another spin. A friend told me that it make the best red beans. Simple recipe. One lbs beans, 7 1/2 cups water, at pressure for 1 and 1/2 hours. I added some dehydrated trinity with garlic and a little salt. It turned out good. The beans were soft. I stick blended them and reduced a bit. Not true red beans but I like them extremely creamy and this was almost like refried without the grease. It held a rich red bean flavor that I truly like. In the future I will try less liquid and half of it stock with some sausage pieces. I cooked a couple of pieces of smoked pork sausage with jalapeno I got from Market Basket.and put on top. Delightful repast

Thursday, December 18, 2008

True Mexican House

This is the spicy rib plate lunch. The ribs were not that spicy but they were fall off the bone tender with a subtly sweet sauce and great flavor. We talked about her fajitas and I think that will be the next plate lunch. If not this month maybe next month.

She also had Taco al Pastor on the menu Thursday so I got a couple. The pork possesses a Indian Tandoori color with the pork being very dry and virtually tasteless. The sauce was super spicy and it had the requisite pineapple and cilantro on some excellent and corny tortillas. This gives me pause on whether I want to go on Saturdays when they offer other things not on their regular menu.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Big Daddy's Sports Grill

Not to be confused with Big Daddy's of Iowa which is now defunct. This establishment is in a strip mall on Sale Road just east of Nelson Road. It is basically a hole in the wall that is going to be expanding into the next space in the strip. It is sports themed and does from scratch cooking. I was in the area because I was on a Sam's run for the restaurant I work for. They serve breakfast on Saturday until noon. This is the Home Run breakfast plate. I opted for a pork chop but you can also get a ribeye or ham steak. I went with bacon instead of sausage. Grits instead of hash browns. Biscuit instead of toast. Eggs sunnyside up. They have jelly on the table they get from a local lady. I know the owner and while we were talking his breakfast came out. Mile high fluffy pancakes. I know what I am going to get next time I go for breakfast. Good plate lunches are served Monday thru Saturday. With the expansion will come live music on the weekend (Cajun) and more places to sit down and enjoy this fine home style cooking.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pressure Cooker

Join in my first adventure in Pressure Cooker cookery. I must apologize for a number of slightly out of focus pictures as the camera or my hand did not want to cooperate. The dish is Pork Chops with sweet potatoes, apples and onions. First of all pork chops being seasoned with Emeril's Rib Rub

Being browned off in olive oil in the bottom half of the pressure cooker

The load of chopped onions, sliced sweet potatoes, and sliced Fuji apple going in over the chops
A mixture of apple cider, spicy whole grain mustard, brown sugar and cinnamon to be put over everything

Everyone in the pot for a nice steam bath

The pressure cooker locked tight. I have a Spanish made model with a stem that pops up when pressure is achieved. I also have a choice of low or high pressure. It also has a knob that I can release pressure after cooking if I am in a hurry.

The results of 8 minutes at 15 lbs.

My platter of goodness.

Ok it was delicious but I learned a few things. When they say on commercials and ads about how much time you save there is a certain falsehood. They cite the time spent at pressure but neglect to mention the time required to get up to pressure and time waiting for the pressure to go away. That almost doubles the advertised time but is still a lot less than a normal braise operation. Secondly I must be aware of the thickness of the protein. At 8 minutes these came out tender enough but not falling off the bone. I then noticed the recipe called for 1/2 inch chops and I had 1 inch or more chops. Looking through the cookbook I found a recipe for 1 inch or greater that said 15 minutes at pressure. I suspect I will learn lots more as I go through other recipes. I hope to record them here. Below is reduced pot juices.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fausto's in Iowa (Plate Lunch)

105 East Miller
Iowa, LA
Monday - Saturday 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM $1-20
This fried chicken place is part of a small family owned chain based in Southwest LA. It has always put out good fried chicken, burgers, and etcetera. My interest in the one in Iowa is the Bryan Vandicor of Big Daddy's fame operates it. Fortunately the owner of this chain allows individual stores with the proper permission to seek their own identity. With Bryan that means plate lunches on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Monday is cook’s choice with Wednesday being Fried Pork Chop and Friday usually Catfish Courtbouillon.
First time in I happened on Chicken, Sausage and Okra Gumbo. It held a light roux and was perhaps a bit thicker than most but the flavor was there. It very much reminded me of the gumbo my mother would fix me when I come home from college for the holidays or summer. I have always loved it that profile and will to the day I die. I was not expecting such a large bowl so I also ordered a Cajun Burger. It is one of their “Gourmet Burgers” This one started with Sheila Patron's sweet Sourdough bun topped with lettuce, tomato, 8 oz meaty patty, sauteed onions, onion rings then finished off with pickled Jalapenos and mustard. It stood tall but I squeezed it down so I could get a bite of everything. It proved delicious in both taste and texture. There were a lot of things working (sweet, spicy, tart, meaty, etc) but they all worked together to get you there. A good concept especially the onion parts of it. I still do not get why adding Jalapenos to a burger make it “Cajun”
Let me be upfront with you. Bryan knows who I am and would not let me pay for anything. He would bring out my food himself and I could see that by looking around me I was getting some lagniappe. In those cases you take it for what it is worth. In general my food was not any better or worse looking than the plates around me. I know him well enough that he takes pride in his food and would not shortchange anyone. This time in I was forewarned about the plate lunch. He was making a dish not seen too often at restaurants in the area these days. It was a Crab and Shrimp Stew with Boiled Eggs. It consisted of a thick dark gravy loaded with crab bodies and medium peeled shrimp. The crabs were full and I sucked on them with enthusiasm. Overall flavorful especially the eggs which had soaked up the flavor and spices. As lagniappe I got some grilled shrimp (succulent and not overcooked), slaw (fresh crisp and a little sweet) and macque choux (sweet, savory and corny).
Last time in was Fried Pork Chop Day. I do like pork. I received a thin pork chop fried to perfection and steaming hot, a roll, and dirty rice. The chop was everything I hoped for (plastic fork tender, flavorful and crispy). Except for being made with “cardboard rice” the dressing profile was spot on. As lagniappe the plate contained fried okra (crispy), fried red tomatoes (a different taste but good), and smothered potatoes. The flavor profile was wonderful but the potatoes were undercooked for my taste.
So, if you find yourself with extra time at lunch, drive to Iowa to get some good home cooking. You order at the counter but they bring it to you or just do the drive thru.

Friday, December 5, 2008

True Mexican House

Sorry I have not posted in awhile but a combination of a heavy work load at the restaurant and vehicle problems left me little incentive for posting. While neither will be going away soon I have sorta got a handle on it now. I receive a fax of the plate lunch specials for the month of December. Now for a little plug for this place.

Monday Chicken in Peanut Sauce
Tuesday Pork in Salsa Verde (tomatillo and cilantro)
Wednesday Beef Fajitas (her special recipe)
Thursday Spicy BBQ Ribs
Friday Pork with squash, corn and Poblano peppers

Below is the Friday menu. The pork is loin very tender and flavorful ( I personally would have prefers shoulder) cooked with zucchini (I was hoping for winter squash) , corn and peppers. While not super spicy it was tasty with a backnote of spice. I am really like her version of refried beans and mexican rice. Probably the best rice in town at this point

She went to Mexico the last two weeks of November and she came back with some candies. She gave me a dulche de leche which was ok. I bought the two below. The caramelized goat milk one on the left was between two wafers and wonderful. The one on the right was tamrind pulp with seed that had sugar and pepper flakes added to it. Sweet, spicy and tart all at the same time. If you get watch out for the seed.

I will probably be trying some more of the plate lunches so be on the lookout.