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Everything posted by HungryC

  1. Let's give credit where credit is due: gumbo is an african word, an african ingredient (okra), and gumbo the soup is a wholly creolized entity--old world techniques blended with African & new world techniques & ingredients. You can find gumbo all over the south, especially in ports like NO, Mobile, & Charleston, where many enslaved Africans came into contact with French colonial settlers & local ingredients. It's cajun, big-C Creole, lowcountry, coastal, southern, and a whole lotta other adjectives.
  2. Herbsaint is a lovely spot, low-key and comfortable...but you might not find it "fancy" enough for an anniversary? No amuses, no chocolates with the check. I'd probably go to August or (old sentimental favorite) Commander's (where they know how to treat you on special occasions & it always feels festive, though the food won't be "challenging"). River Road from BR to NOLA isn't especially rife with destination restaurants; you could try the always-reliable, old-fashioned, in-the-middle-of-nowhere Hymel's in Convent, LA. I have heard that Oak Alley plantation is running a restaurant again, haven't been. I've also heard some good comments on Latil's Landing, the new resto at Houmas House plantation.
  3. Isn't that Rouse's in Houma a nice store? I love the fact that they source things locally whenever possible. The national chains only sell crappy seafood, even when they could get better stuff cheaper locally--they just don't have the ability to warehouse & distribute, nor are they interested in seasonality....just standardization. BTW, I saw hen of the woods ~2 weeks ago at the WF in Baton Rouge on Corporate Dr.
  4. Was it a hen of the woods? Do a google image search--they're all fringy & kinda tentacled. If it was a hen of the woods, you can find them at Whole Foods.
  5. And I noticed that the one usually in the parking lot of the gas station at Shrewsbury & Jeff Highway had also moved, but I don't know where it went.
  6. I read this with great sadness...why are snowball stands exempt from providing permanent bathrooms and taco trucks are not? The taco trucks meet the state board of health standards & are required to display the certification like everyone else serving food. I smell some racism/class-ism in this one. If I lived in JP, I'd be ringing my councilperson's phone today! Hmm, maybe we can get the Loyola Law Clinic to take the case of a taco truck vendor & file against JP for some sort of business discrimination; is it legal to create a special exemption for snowball stands when they often serve hot dogs, nachos, ice cream, and other foods?
  7. Yes, that's what I meant...sorry if I was unclear. You can taste the difference between thinner, homestyle gumbos made all in one pot, as opposed to restaurant-style gumbos enriched with a stock. Exhibit A is the Lil Dizzy's gumbo--thin, delicious, full flavored but not intense or sauce-like. Exhbit B is Prejean's pheasant, quail, & andouille gumbo (served at Jazzfest)--thick, intensely flavored, with a reduced, dark quality...both delicious, but different (a similar stock-based duck gumbo is served at Herbsaint). I'm partial to the thinner style 'cause that's what I grew up with...gumbo as Sunday dinner or as a way to use up lots of 39-cent chicken quarters rather than as a restaurant dish or special occasion meal.
  8. I'm from the gumbo school of thought that says you should put the raw ingredients into the pot to cook, all together, rather than making a shrimp stock or chicken stock to enrich the gumbo. It's a subtle difference, I know, some would say I'm splittng hairs. For example, if you're making seafood gumbo, put raw shrimp & crabs into the pot with the roux & wilted/browned veggies & aromatics....don't make a seafood stock on the side and add cooked seafood & seafood stock to the pot.
  9. I agree wholeheartedly about the gumbo at Lil Dizzy's; it's an excellent example of a real, homestyle gumbo (not overly reduced, not made from "gumbo base" or a separate stock). I loved Zachary's on Oak St., never got to go to Eddie's, so I'm happy that the Baquets are expanding to another location.
  10. HungryC

    "Jumbo" Shrimp

    In Louisiana, shrimp called "jumbos" are typically 20 count per pound or less. Like Roux says, count per pound is the only "real" measure of shrimp size.
  11. Not to say that they won't reconsider in the future, but their board has said a definite no for the coming fiscal year.
  12. If the whole thing vexes you, it's okay to buy a rice cooker. Small electric ones made by Rival work just fine....$15 at Wal Mart.
  13. Oh, I think that baking/pastry SHOULD be included in the ranking! How can you call yourself a "skilled" amateur if you can't bake a loaf of bread or make a pie crust? Any competent 10-year-old who can read can get to Level 4--hell, the 4-H'ers at my niece's middle school can bust all the way up to Level 6...they cook competitively in contests with names like "Sugar & Seafood" (not in the same dish!) , "Poultry Que-ing" and "Dairy Day", all sponsored by the state Ag department. (But I readily admit that south Louisiana is a particularly food-centric part of the nation). And the rankings are culture-specific, too...if you can't make a dark brown roux without burning in my neck of the woods, you ain't much of a cook, regardless of your other skills. My "local" index would need to include things like cleaning fish, prepping wild game, and cleaning softshelled crabs. Again, in my neighborhood, you wouldn't be considered much of a cook if you had to rely on someone else to do the dirty work.
  14. My cajun heart warms to the thought that your "rice conversion" happened in Louisiana! I routinely cook just a cup of long-grain rice, and it comes out perfect every time. I use a 2-quart all clad, heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, with a rice:water ratio of 1:1.5. Bring the water to a boil, stir in the rice & 1/2 tsp of salt, and clap the lid on promptly. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting; if your stove is electric, you might want to use a heat diffuser. Cook at the lowest setting for 20 minutes, remove from the heat & let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Cooking 1 cup provides several generous servings, with some left over for later in the week. I follow the same procedure for short-grain, jasmine, and basmati, though they require slightly different rice:water ratios. I think that the crucial element is the pot (must have a thick bottom to evenly distribute heat). I used a 2-quart Le Creuset round french oven last week (my rice pot was in the dishwasher), followed the steps above, and found that the rice was mushy. So you'll need to tweak your recipe slightly for the heat characteristics of your pot & stove.
  15. Re: shipped crawfish, I can recommend Bayou Bounty, located in Boutte, LA. Good quality crawfish, both pond & Belle River. It's a small business with a website, good customer service and nice people, too: http://www.bayoubountyseafood.com/ I frequent Bayou Bounty's bricks-n-mortar store, so I can vouch firsthand for their operation.
  16. Crawfish are tremendously prolific, so I wouldn't worry about wiping out the entire population if you harvest your stream infrequently. I don't know much about catching crawfish in moving water...here in LA, they favor stagnant/slow moving waterways. To catch just a few crawfish, you don't need to bother with the bulky box trap described above. A set-net works just fine in relatively shallow water...here's a link to a photo of a set-net, with some instructions on how to use it: http://www.bugspray.com/catalog/products/page1931.html Typically, the top frame of the net pokes out of the water, you bait it, wait awhile, and use a pole with a hook on the end to retrieve the net. You bait it with crawfish "melt", which is beef spleen and/or other offal, sold here very cheaply in the butcher's cold case or freezer. You can use chicken necks, but they're expensive compared to crawfish melt. Anyway, unless you're fishing 3 miles of creek, you probably won't come up with enough crawfish for a 5-lbs-per-person, LA-style crawfish boil. Still, it's worth a go, but the amount you harvest might be better utilized in a different recipe....Scandinavians routinely boil smaller amounts, and my dad would cook just a few pounds at a time in a bottle of Sauternes & plenty of onions for a different, peel-your-own appetizer. Regarding the need to "purge" crawfish: I'm on a personal mission to point out that extensive research by LSU's acquaculture folks has conclusively determined that a salt-water purge does not "clean out" the crawfish. You need to rinse off the exteriors, but the salted water won't make any difference to their internal cleanliness. Purged crawfish are commercially available, but this process involves several days' holding in circulating fresh water without any food. Welcome to the Crawfish Nation, a relatively recent phenomenon. I know really old cajuns who can remember when crawfish weren't a respectible food, but rather a food of necessity, and certainly not one you'd find in a restaurant.
  17. It's a no go. According to Ken Levy, special projects VP of J&W, they decided that the time isn't right to move into the NOLA market, although they are doing a small-scale program this summer with a few NOCCA kids.
  18. In the metro area proper, I think that Hong Kong Market on the Westbank on Behrman Highway has the best/freshest/most diverse offerings, especially in finfish. It regularly carries stuff I never see anywhere else, with lots of gulf species (as opposed to Whole Foods' global fish sourcing). I've also patronized Capt Sid's and Shaffer & Rusich in Bucktown, although the offerings vary widely. Sam Perino's on W'bank Expressway in Westwego (okay, it might be Marerro, I'm not sure where the line is drawn) has turtle, fish, crabs, crawfish, etc. A bit farther afield, Luling/Boutte has several seafood markets with good offerings...Bayou Bounty (my fav for crawfish, a good source for wild Belle River swamp crawfish), Zeringue's (good source for wild Des Allemands catfish), Hebert's/Irene's (lots of different things, from turtle to oysters by the sack to crawfish, shrimp, etc).
  19. Aw, that makes me sad. The old place had its charms, including those little side rooms always full of lunching priests from across the street, and the patchwork of various kinds of flooring from days gone by.
  20. I almost licked the monitor! Is it open on Mondays?
  21. My worst: undergrad-era BBQ bone-in chicken, prepared by a gregarious, fun-loving roommate of my boyfriend's who didn't have a clue. He never defrosted it, slathered it with Kraft sauce, put it over the coals while the lighter fluid was still burning off, and promptly burned it to a cinder while still icy inside. And he did this repeatedly, never connecting his "loads of leftover chicken" with their sublime, inedible, awfulness. Imagine a burned-on-the-outside, butane-infused chicken-sicle. All the PBR in the world couldn't make it better.
  22. So if you bury the shells, how do you turn/aerate the compost? Or do you just let it sit for a long, long time? I'm a hardcore composter, but I don't think my neighbors would stand for crawfish composting! I'd be run out of my 'hood for sure. Shredded newspaper might be a good substitute for sawdust or leaves, too.
  23. I wouldn't recommend it, for reasons aside from the obvious smell. Crawfish shells (really, any arthropod exoskeletons) are mostly chitin, a polysaccharide that doesn't break down as easily as the cellulose compounds in plants (which are also polysaccharides, but not nearly as strongly bonded or as long-chain as chitin). Chitin is decomposed by the action of certain bacteria, which aren't the usual suspects found in your ordinary compost heap. Think about those creepy cicada husks lurking in your garden: those things persist for months and months after they're discarded. They're made of chitin, too. I remember reading about a few research attempts in the late 80s-early 90s to use crawfish & shrimp trash as a source of chitin used in industrial applications, but the cleaning of residual bio-debris from the shells proved to be tricky. If you do try it, make sure you pH test the resulting compost before you spread it. It may end up too high in nitrogen (basic) to use "straight" without burning/killing your plants.
  24. You can also get the Bushwacker at Liuzza's in a souvenir plastic cup. Not a cheesy, made-for-tourists, oddly shaped plastic thing, but a nice, serviceable, Giacona Containers-made go-cup. Complete the Yat fine china set with a cup from Hansen's, a cup from every parade you attended this year, and cups from Tiger Stadium & the Superdome. Bonus points for imprinted cups from festivals, baby showers, weddings, your alma mater, etc.
  25. The Bushwacker is a sweet frozen mess. I don't know Liuzza's exact recipe, but it has rum, creme de cacao, kahlua, and coconut cream..damn tasty, sugary, and somehow a good complement to fried onion rings.
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