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big, easy bites

the summeriest of snacks: fried whole okra with remoulade

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By Jen White · June 13, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

The other day, in the midst of a marathon 4-day wedding weekend, Paul and I took some out-of-town friends to The Company Burger so they could revel in its deliciousness.  As always, the bacon-and-egg burgers and mayonnaise bar at Company didn't disappoint.  But we also got to try one of their vegetable specials, fried whole okra with a vinegar pepper sauce.  it was a revelation, and I haven't been able to get it off my okra-loving mind: lightly battered, crisp little bites of the summertime garden.  The spicy vinegar was great for dipping, but I wanted to try something a little more clingy on them, and I think this remoulade is a good match.  Remoulade (a zippy little mayonnaise-based sauce commonly served with shrimp in New Orleans) will perk up just about any vegetable, whether it's grilled, roasted, steamed, fried, or just plain raw.  

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Tagged with: remoulade, Tempura, okra, fried, snack

my green heaven, continued: fried green tomato parmesan

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By Jen White · May 9, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Because I love them so, I've written a couple of love letters to fried green tomatoes over the years: the fried green tomato caprese "salad" I made without remorse, and fried green tomato BLTs, a longtime favorite.  Green tomatoes are so good when fried, I think a lot of folks never try them other ways, like in a salsa or gazpacho.  I really, really want to use them in recipes like that. I really do!  But when I think of them fried, I just can't resist.

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t.g.i. fryday: chicken-fried eggplant

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By Jen White · April 13, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Do you remember the eggplant at Liuzza's I wrote about a while back, the eggplant I said was like eating eggplant dreams? Well, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  We've been back to Liuzza's no less than four times in the past weeks just for the eggplant (of course, we stay for more).  I really wanted to replicate it with this fried eggplant, though that's not quite what happened. But what did happen was something mighty delicious.

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Tagged with: liuzza's, eggplant, fried, Chicken

bite the boulette: crawfish boulettes forever!

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By Jen White · April 9, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Life gets a little sweeter when you have some crawfish boulettes sitting around waiting to be noshed. Boulettes are hushpuppy-sized fried rounds of a crawfish, breadcrumb, and vegetable mixture, usually served with a remoulade or tartar sauce. I've seen them described as a crawfish hushpuppy before, but in truth, they're much lighter, softer, and more delicate than a hushpuppy.  Folks eat them as a side dish to a catfish or shrimp fry, as appetizers to meals like etouffee or gumbo, on their own with fries and coleslaw, over rice in either a brown or red gravy, tossed in Italian-stye red gravy and spaghetti, or flattened a little between po-boy bread as a sandwich (like a crabcake sandwich). They're like a little bit of spring, and a huge reward that comes from picking the crawfish tails no one can eat at the end of one of these:

An Easter crawfish boil! What all the lucky children get to attend.  Our brother-in-law Jeremy made this one, and he put cauliflower in it (yum!) and artichoke, which is the best treasure at the boil. The artichoke heart becomes extremely tender and filled with boil juices, then you carve it and divvy it up to share. It melts in your mouth.

But on to the tails:  If you have no freshly picked tails, you can still make boulettes with a one-pound bag of frozen crawfish tails; just make sure they are from LOUISIANA, NOT CHINA. I can't all-caps this statement enough. If the price is prohibitive, you can substitute cooked shrimp. Heck, you can even substitute crab, but that would definitely take the priceline in the other direction.

Most recipes for boulettes keep the vegetables raw, but we like to saute them first to sweeten the flavor and refine the texture a bit. I rolled my boulettes in a mixture of flour, cornmeal, and breadcrumbs for textural interest, but you can use any combination of these to equal 1 1/2 cups.  I've included a spunky little tartar sauce recipe that should make you feel like you're not in Kansas anymore.  I hope you try these!  If you like crab cakes, you'll be a fan for sure.

crawfish boulettes with spunky tartar sauce

  • 1 small yellow onion, in small dice
  • 1 stalk celery, in small dice
  • 1/2 a green bell pepper, in small dice
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 slices bread, toasted (I threw some leftover hot dog buns and whole wheat in there) (or 1 1/2 cups soft breadcrumbs)
  • 1 pound cooked crawfish tails (include any yellow fat with them)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • a few shots of Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

 

for breading and frying:

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 cups vegetable oil, or enough to fill your pot with 2" of oil

 

spunky tartar sauce:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Creole or Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon drained capers
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 shots Tabasco

 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, green onions, and garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Saute for about 7 minutes, until soft.  Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Tear the bread into 1" pieces and place them in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process until breadcrumbs are formed.  To the breadcrumbs, add the cooled vegetable mixture, the crawfish tails, the egg, salt, pepper, Tabasco, and cayenne.  Pulse several times until everything is finely chopped and well combined.  Transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot to 360 degrees (when you throw a small cube of bread in the oil, it should immediately start sizzling and turning into a crouton, but not burning).  Meanwhile, form the boulettes: Place the 2 beaten eggs in a small bowl, and combine the flour, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper in another bowl.  Scoop the crawfish mixture into golfball-sized balls, gently coat in beaten egg, then gently dredge in breadcrumb mixture.  Handle them lightly, for they are fragile as angel wings.
  4. When the oil is hot, gently lower boulettes in batches to avoid overcrowding, and fry for about 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.  Remove to paper towel-lined plates using a slotted spoon.  Let drain and cool for several minutes before eating.
  5. For tartar sauce: mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl until well-combined.  Taste for seasoning; I didn't need to add any salt, but you might want some.

 

Makes about 20 boulettes: enough for 6 side dish servings, or 4 entree-ish servings

 

Tagged with: boil, boulette, crawfish, fried

somewhere there's a picnic: extra-crispy fried chicken

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By Jen White · April 4, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Hopefully, in about 48 hours when the floods have subsided, we'll head out for a picnic.  We'll pack up some fried chicken or buy some crawfish or pick up a coupla po-boys, but whatever the food is, we'll grab some shade to enjoy a few hours of the last precious non-heatstroke-inducing sunny days in New Orleans.  Gosh, I sure hope this rain stops soon!

Fried chicken has got to be the quintessential picnic food, and all over the country, too--not just the south.  Everybody loves it, it travels well, it's easy to eat out of hand, and it's usually really, really good.  When I get a hankering to fry up some chicken, Paul does his happy dance and begs for me to fry about 30 chickens.  He could probably eat it all!  We've tried lots of recipes over the years, but I recently unearthed a couple of tricks (read: secrets) that help it come out pretty heavenly and super duper crispy:

  1. Dredge your chicken dry-wet-dry, and put an egg yolk in the wet batter.  True!
  2. After frying, bake all the chicken at 350 for about 40 minutes, so you won't bite into any undercooked pieces. It's true! This is Ina Garten's method, and it saves me all kinds of grief.

 

When it comes to seasoning the dry flour and the wet batter, there are no rules.  You can make it garlicky, herby, extra extra spicy, or even...mustardy?  Try anything!  I'm always happier with my chicken when I'm afraid I've overseasoned the flour, so I would advise you to just go for it.  GO FOR IT.  You might just have the most heavenly picnic in history.

extra-crispy fried chicken

for the wet batter

  • 1 cup flat beer (or water)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • lots of ground black pepper
  • several shots of Tabasco

 

for the dry flour

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • lots of ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

 

  • 3 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken parts (I used 6 drumsticks and 4 thighs)
  • several cups of vegetable oil for frying

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350, and set a baking rack over a sheet pan to hold the chicken once it's fried.
  2. Make the wet batter: Combine the beer and egg yolk well in a small bowl.  Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and Tabasco in a medium bowl, whisking well.  Slowly pour the beer mixture into the flour mixture, stirring thoroughly to remove any flour lumps.  (If this mixture gets too thick from sitting out, thin with a tablespoon of water.)
  3. Make the dry flour: Combine all the ingredients, whisking well, and divide between two medium bowls (one bowl will be for the wet chicken).
  4. Heat 1" of vegetable oil to 365 in a medium to large pot (I use an 8-quart pot) with high sides.  If you don't have a frying thermometer (I don't), test the oil by dropping in a crouton-sized piece of bread--any old bread will do.  If it starts sizzling immediately and turning into an actual crouton, it's good to go.  If not, it's not hot enough--or it's too hot if the bread starts to burn right away.
  5. While the oil heats, rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. If you like, you can season the naked chicken first, with salt, pepper, cayenne, or what have you.  Dredge the chicken first in dry flour, then in wet batter, then in the other bowl of dry flour.  Set aside until ready to fry.
  6. Add chicken to the hot oil in batches to avoid overcrowding; I fry 4 pieces at a time.  Fry for about 15 minutes per batch, turning over after 8 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.  Remove to the baking rack and let rest while you fry the other batches.
  7. When all the chicken is fried and on the baking rack, place the baking sheet in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife.  Let cool about 5 minutes before eating.
  8. See? I told you it was crispy!

 

Makes 8 to 10 pieces, serves 4

P.S.: Even with this amount of Tabasco and cayenne, the chicken wasn't too spicy.  So if you want red-hot chicken, I would definitely increase those amounts!

Tagged with: Crispy, cayenne, fried, summer, Chicken

snacking good: natchitoches meat pies

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By Jen White · January 22, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

[Baked or fried? You decide.]

Natchitoches meat pies are one of those special little treats with a name as fun to say as they are to scarf down. Nackadish--that's how you say it--is a small town we drive through on our way north to visit Alexandria or Oklahoma, and it's where Steel Magnolias was filmed, and it's famous for these little pies. It's a beautiful little place, with a picturesque riverfront lined with shops and restaurants that have their own sort of French Quarter-ish wrought-iron balconies (remember the Easter scene where Jackson slapped Ouiser? That's the riverfront!).  But you don't have to go into the actual town to get yourself some meat pies; just stop at any gas station right off I-10. They all fry them up and they're all pretty wonderful.

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by-heart mac and cheese

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By Jen White · October 3, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Most of us have a soft spot for good old macaroni and cheese, and personal preference usually depends on what we grew up eating at potlucks, church dinners, or our grandmother's table.  Some folks insist on American cheese being the only cheese that can meld with macaroni, and some profess a strong affinity for a crispy breadcrumb topping that crunches up in the oven.  Me?  I'm a pretty straightforward, white-sauce-meets-pasta kind of gal, though I'll put just about any kind of cheese into the sauce (anything that grates, anyway--no brie or fresh mozzarella).  I like an extra layer of cheese over the top, and I've developed a tendency to add a dollop of grainy Creole mustard to the sauce before I stir in the macaroni; it sparks the sauce a little bit, just the way I like it.

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different than the rest: sunday brunch at Patois

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By Jen White · September 28, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Jot this down in your travel notebook, your vacation planner, your dream journal, or last year's Jazz Fest ticket: reserve a table for Sunday brunch at Patois next time in New Orleans.  If you're into local, good, and hidden, Patois is your dream spot.  The brunch menu (not to mention the dinner version) is so good, you'll spend about 15 minutes deciding what to order while you're nibbling the biscuits and muffins from the bread bowl.  We looked over many brunch menus before deciding to meet up at Patois, and I think it was one of the best brunches we've had in the city.

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making soup sing: chicken minestrone with crispy chickpeas

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By Jen White · September 23, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Soup weather, a.k.a. my favorite season, has arrived! Once the high dips below 90 for several days in a row, I consider it official. There are so many delectable soups to rustle up and dig into, though, and it's really hard for me, as a devoted soupster, to choose which to make first. This year, I settled on minestrone for its calming, vegetableish effects, but I had an ulterior motive...I wanted to try frying some chickpeas, and I decided they'd come in handy as a crunchy crouton for the soup. I'd planned to include chickpeas in my minestrone, so what could be easier than reserving a few chickpeas from the can and frying them up?

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on sustainability, and garden-friendly falafel

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By Jen White · August 14, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

I've been thinking a lot about sustainable kitchen practices, by which I mean not just the foods we're eating and cooking, but how we're shopping, planning (or not), growing, and storing.  For years, I've been a big believer in planning an entire week's meals as a way of saving money.  But sometimes I think that holding too fast to a planned menu can actually cause food waste; if you purchase what you imagine to be a week's worth of food at one time, but you end up not needing that much, what do you do with the excess? And what happens if the meals you planned to make don't store well once prepared?  I don't have easy solutions to these questions, other than trial and error, and an idea that's new to me: maybe a little less planning is a better way to go.

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