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Everything posted by HungryC

  1. HungryC

    About roux

    Unclarified butter will burn like hell if you try to make a mahogany or darker roux--an oil with a high smoking point is best (like peanut oil). Honestly, I make roux most often with bacon grease! I'm no fan of the some-now-some-later method of adding flour, mainly because I'm shooting for dark color, and introducing new flour lowers the temp, extends the cooking time, and seems like it would result in a lighter end product overall. Regarding the relative temps of stock & roux, I've had success adding hot to cold, cold to hot, and hot to hot, regardless of what the "rules" say. It always works out in the end, but then I'm making long-cooked gumbos or etouffees or stews most of the time, and not veloutes/white sauces. When making gumbo in 60-quart pots, where the roux is 2-3 pounds of flour alone, I generally allow the roux to cool a little--to around 120 or so, or hot to the touch but not hot enough to burn your fingers--and add it to already-boiling stock & aromatics. It works just fine, as long as you stir like hell while adding the roux to the pot, and stir like hell for the next 5 minutes or so. When the roux does separate out from the stock, or it refuses to mix in, time is the solution. Be patient, keep cooking, and all will be well. I've never had a roux completely unwilling to mix in. If you're inattentive, it can separate into globs and fall to the bottom of the pot (esp large pots), but thorough stirring and a good rolling boil will take care of those globs.
  2. But your relationship with food is exceptional--attending culinary school, choosing to make it your life's work. Your diners clearly don't invest the same emotional weight in it that you do. I'm deeply respectful of your dedication to this project, your efforts to broaden their food horizons, your concerns about their nutrition...but it is important to realize that not everyone feels such a deep connection to food, nor a deep respect for its preparation. Their lack of appreciation may stem from a "food as fuel" cultural attitude.
  3. At points in your life, did you eat institutional food (elementary/high school lunchroom, college cafeteria, hospital dining room, corporate cafeteria)? Did it ever occur to you to compliment the cook? I know I never once sought out my college dining hall's competent cooks and thanked them....I only wrote bitchy complaints and stuffed them into the suggestion box! In retrospect, the cafeteria's food wasn't THAT bad, just repetitious and kinda bland. It can be difficult for people to accept the loss of control when they cede food prep/cooking over to other people. We often deal with this loss of control through venting.... I wouldn't take all of those complaints personally--it's the nature of the beast. Accept that they'll never fawn over your food, nor be grateful or effusive in their praise. It's part of the circumstances & setting. Listen "between" their complaints--I'd wager you're hearing mostly age-related unhappiness or routine, stylized complaining (like my complaint cards all those years ago).
  4. It's a good 40 miles (at least an hour drive) from Vacherie to Houma, where Christiano's is located. I'd suggest that you trek over to Hymel's in Convent, about 20 miles away. It's a family-run, old-fashioned place specializing in seafood (though I like the boiled beef dinner, too). Boiled crabs, fried shrimp, etc.
  5. HungryC

    About roux

    I can understand burning the roux for a gumbo but even the most cursory of stirring would stop a blonde roux from burning. ←
  6. I agree that the 'OZ sponsorship is a great idea....on my last visit, Kerry had WWOZ cranked up in the kitchen, singing along and dancing as she worked.
  7. HungryC

    About roux

    I live in south Louisiana: making a roux is like boiling an egg in my local culture. You can't really cook if you don't know how to make a roux. Have you tried using the microwave? Easy-peasy, especially if you're trying to get a medium result (color of peanut butter). Use equal parts of flour & oil, whisked together in a 4-quart pyrex measuring cup (important to use heat-safe glass). Nuke on high for 4-6 minutes, depending on the shade you like and the power of your microwave. Stop after 3.5 minutes and stir CAREFULLY--the oil will get napalm-hot. Continue cooking--watch carefully 'cause it will brown quickly once the oil heats up. Another fat-free alternative is to brown the flour dry. Heat the oven to 350, spread the flour onto a rimmed baking sheet/hotel pan, and cook until it reaches the desired shade of brown. Stir every 5 minutes or so, depending on how quickly the flour colors in your oven. A gluten insensitive friend does this with rice flour; she says that you need to use more rice flour than wheat flour to achieve the same thickening results. I counted SIX different brands of pre-made roux on the shelf at my local superWalMart recently, and at least four different types: dehydrated-just-add-water roux in a shaker can, light oil & flour, dark oil & flour, plain browned flour w/no oil.
  8. Straya, with its over-the-top Disneyland meets the MGM back lot decor, closed and Al reopened it as his latest concept, Cheesecake Bistro. CB was closed for a while after Katrina, but it is currently open again. I just hope his corporate affairs were in order & that his estate planning was well thought out, as this might open the door for a sale & revitalization of the defunct Copelands at St. Charles & Napoleon, aka the Avenue's biggest eyesore.
  9. HungryC

    About roux

    If the roux is blonde, then the darker bits will definitely stick out. Butter is relatively cheap, and cooking school is about practice, so use the not-perfect one it at home (it's not bad enough to be inedible) for a cream soup and DO ANOTHER ONE. That's the only way to learn. Personally, I go for the whisk-then-spatula school of roux-making. Heat the fat to where a tiny bit of flour immediately sizzles when dropped in, then add the rest of the flour, whisking vigorously to incorporate the flour into the hot fat with NO lumps. Once it is smooth, switch to a spatula or other flat-bladed tool that fits into the edges of the pan. Keep stirring. Remove the whole pot from the burner when you've reached the desired shade, as the residual heat of a cast-iron grate will continue cooking the flour, as will the heat retained by a cast-iron or heavy stainless pot. If you want to stop it at the EXACT shade, scrape it out into a heat-proof bowl, or add an ingredient (onions, celery, etc) that will dramatically lower the temp. I think that it's easier to do a blonde roux after you've made several really dark ones--taking it almost to burnt will teach you quite a bit about the changes in viscosity, smell, texture, etc that the roux undergoes as it cooks. Practice makes perfect, esp with a roux.
  10. Medium grain or short grain rice, cooked at a ratio of 1.5 rice to 1 water, will give you results "sticky" enough to eat with chopsticks. Don't add more water to long-grain rice, as it will just dissolve the grains completely (mush, as a previous poster described it). I keep basmati, jasmine, long-grain, calrose short grain, and carnaroli (for risotto) in my kitchen. Rice keeps for a long, long time, if you store it in an airtight container.
  11. Hey Lukestar...my tomatoes already have fruit on the vine! What a big difference in climate from S'port to south of NOLA....looks like the Celebrities are the winner in the "earliest fruit" race this year. As usual, they beat out the Early Girls & everything else, though the Sweet 100s are just a few days behind. I tried a new strategy this year: I left all of the straggling, winter-planted bok choy & broccoli to go to flower, and I have mowed around the clover patches in the lawn. This has brought me a bumper crop of hungry bees, which in turn discovered the early tomato flowers.
  12. If I was more technically apept, I'd post some lovely photos of my green gumbo, which now sits cooling in the fridge. I ended up using rainbow chard, green onions & parsley, (homegrown), cabbage (from the St. Patrick's day parade), spinach & bulb spring onions (farmer's market), as well as some garlic. Beautiful color! RE: gumbo w/ or w/o okra....there are no consistent gumbo rules. Every person seems to have a particular style. I daresay most S LA gumbos don't contain okra, and almost as many don't contain any file. Some don't even start with a roux. Some folks have specific standards, like "never combine crab & okra" or "never combine okra & file" or "never cook the file in the gumbo, only add it at the end". But for every rule, I can point to dozens of practicing home cooks who routinely do exactly the opposite! Thick, thin, okra, file, seafood, meatless, it's all good. Except for maybe the weenie or spam gumbos....even I will draw the line somewhere.
  13. Are you making a completely meatless gumbo verte? I'm probably making one this week, but it will have a tiny bit of seasoning meat in it---so it won't be on Good Friday! Got some nice spinach, mustard, and turnips at the farmer's market, as well as beet tops....and my next door neighbor hasn't mowed his lawn this year, so I might even find some peppergrass (ha!)
  14. If it makes you feel better, count the scallions. N.B., plenty of people don't follow the odd-number rule. My daddy says he never heard of it until recently, and he's been around awhile.
  15. Here's a link to the LSU AgCenter home gardening website: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/lawn_garden/ Prominently displayed is the "Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide" in the right column.
  16. Spring in Louisiana is a great time--if you're a south LA gardening newbie, I encourage you to pick up the terrific gardening guides written by Dan Gill. He understands the gulf coastal south and writes advice that we can use...he also divides our planting year into the warm season (just beginning), the hot season, and the cool season (AKA winter). This is useful, as the "standard" planting advice used for much of the country totally doesn't apply here. Also, I garden in raised beds, due to the heavy, water-retaining qualities of my soil, and relatively flat plain of my backyard. Right now, I've got 16 tomato plants (put out as transplants, purchased from WalMart, Bonnie Bell brand) of diff varieties, peppers (bell, cayenne, jalapeno), zucchini (started from seed), canteloupes (seed), cilantro, various basils, dill, parsley, sage (usually dies due to heat & humidity, but I try every year anyway), as well as perennial mint, lemongrass, rosemary, and flowering garlic chives. And a three-foot-tall bay tree. Mesclun is growing in a shallow planter (to keep the cats out of it). Left over from the fall are a few bolted broccoli plants; I keep them around to attract the bees, as well as some rainbow chard that just won't quit. Oh, and I don't use chemical insecticides or fertilizers. My favorite (most productive, consistent) tomato varieties are Celebrity, Beefmaster, and Better Boy. I haven't had any luck with the more popular heirloom varieties (Cherokee purple, Mr. Stripey, Zebra, etc.), as they don't seem very well adapted to hot/wet--very low production on all of those. Moderate success with Lemon Boy and Yellow Pear, early in the season. I tend to grow lots of herbs, because they're so expensive to buy in such small amounts, and so easy to grow. Tomatoes are a family tradition, and I vary the other crops from year to year, trying different things. Zucchini always make it in, and I don't even like zucchini much. They're just so damn easy to grow that you KNOW you'll get to eat a few, even if weather & bugs conspire against you. If you don't already have a compost pile, start one today. Put all of your plant kitchen scraps in it, as well as grass clippings, leaves, yard waste, etc. By next spring, you'll have a load of good stuff to enrich your planting beds. One last thing: call your county agricultural extension agent---lots of good free info (on the LSUAg Center website, too.)
  17. Lucullus also has a location in Breaux Bridge, down the block and around the corner from Cafe des Amis. http://www.lucullusantiques.com/
  18. I don't know how boudin noir/rouge compares to morcilla (isn't morcilla an air-cured, fairly dried sausage?), but you can get real pork blood boudin at Bourgeois Meat Market in Thibodaux, LA--'bout 40 miles from your house.
  19. HungryC

    Z-Trim in Cooking

    I know nothing about it, but if you're using it in a restaurant application, you probably need to note on menus that you've added corn to any items that a customer might incorrectly assume are corn-free. Corn & corn gluten are fairly common allergens.
  20. Some traditional cooks in south Louisiana use a little file in a brown gravy or thin pan sauce--it serves the same purpose as in gumbo: slight thickening and added pleasant, green, herbaceous notes.
  21. HungryC

    Inexpensive Roast

    I agree that eye of the round is pretty blah. The only thing that can rescue it is a good gravy: it makes decent NO style roast beef (well-done), suitable for poboys. I like sirloin tip, or chuck blade.
  22. HungryC

    All things Pork/Ham

    Don't be afraid to grind up some of those chops and/or other cuts. Ground pork is a wonderful thing--it opens up a world of quick-cooking Chinese and other Asian options, and it is also invaluable for a good meatloaf or meatballs.
  23. Crushed potato chips, smashed up saltines, crumbled corn bread...but the pork rind crumbs (try it on fried chicken) really take the cake.
  24. I was very happy to read in the morning paper that Donald Link is planning to open a charcuterie/butcher shop in the same building that houses cochon! Rock on. We've long needed more specialty meat options in this town.
  25. I always start with complimentary flavors, then try to add a contrasting one on the same plate. Think about texture and color as well....after several bites of savory meatloaf, do you want a plainly flavored starch like mashed potatoes, or would you rather have a slighly tangy ragout of root veggies? Dense meat loaf requires lots of chewing; a soft-textured side like long-cooked flat italian green beans might be nice, or perhaps sauteed mushrooms. For me, texture and color are as important as taste; compose the plate like you would arrange a photgraph.
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