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the gift of grits: creamy peppered mascarpone grits

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By Jen White · July 30, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

So, a couple of years ago, on this very blog, I made a statement I'd like to retract: "I don't cook grits with milk or cream--I just don't see the need." You see, I was stuck then on the notion that grits cooked in chicken broth were the most flavorful and avoided scalding milk in my favorite pot, even though my friends were all telling me that cooking grits in milk was the way to go.  Eventually, I tasted several versions of grits that were so creamy and luxurious, I had to know how they were prepared, and the answer usually came back as "cooked in milk." So now, I'm a milk convert.  Whenever I happen to eat breakfast at a restaurant that serves watery, thin grits, I get cranky and insist that they should be doing the milk thing too.  And now I have an even richer, more wonderful addition to my favorite grits: mascarpone cheese.  We were introduced to mascarpone cheese grits at La Provence in late May, and they were a dreamy revelation of what grits could be. Mascarpone is a thick Italian cream cheese that's not as salty as our usual cream cheese--it's more like a consolidated version of ricotta.  In fact, it tastes a lot like unsalted butter to me, and it melts as easily into the hot grits as butter would.

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it's mardi gras, baby!

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By Jen White · February 15, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

It's that time again, folks! Time to head to New Orleans for a serious partyfest, or if you can't make the trip, host some kind of Mardi Gras shindig of your own. Mardi Gras is next Tuesday, February 21, so this weekend is the perfect time to celebrate.  On Mardi Gras day, lots of folks have open house brunches because the parades finish early in the day, so having some brunchy foods to eat late at night are a good idea. But all kinds of Louisiana foods are perfect for Mardi Gras. It's the last day to party before Lent! GET IT ON.

Here are some of my favorite recipes that would make a party extra bead-worthy:

Natchitoches meat pies

king cake with bacon pecan praline filling

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grillades and grits: get your brunch on!

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By Jen White · December 30, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

If you've never had or heard of grillades and grits, then I apologize for not mentioning them earlier.  They're one of the two most wonderful things to eat for brunch in New Orleans (shrimp and grits being the other).  I've never been to anyplace in town for brunch that didn't offer one or both of these goodies.  Grillades (gree'-awds) are made of beef, veal, or pork; I haven't encountered a rabbit version yet, but I won't be surprised when I do.  The beef is a thin, flat cut of top round or chuck--something that can withstand a long, slow cooking.  It simmers in a pot with the trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper), garlic, and a little jalapeno--not traditional, but I really like it--until the rich broth thickens and intensifies, so what you get is a powerfully flavored beef "stew" that is perfect over creamy cheese grits.  This is a great Louisiana recipe to try if you're hankering for some thick, rich goodness but you don't feel up to stirring a roux, because you don't have to.  The small amount of flour used in the browning of the beef will produce all the roux you need.

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old habits, new dishes: sweet potato grits a la Virginia Willis

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By Jen White · October 18, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

[sweet potato grits and deviled chicken thighs]

My name is Jennifer, and I am a cookbook junkie.  Recently our library underwent a complete cleaning, reorganization, and shelf-ification, and a few discoveries were made: Paul and I have duplicate copies of many things.  We don't have much in the science genre.  And I have approximately 250 cookbooks.  Cookbook collecting is definitely a habit for me, and reflects my evolution as a cook.  Consider the first cookbook I ever bought, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, in 1991.  I had my first apartment at O.U., and though I wasn't a vegetarian, I was deathly afraid of poisoning myself by preparing meat improperly; thus began a long period of collecting vegetarian books.  Or my long-lived low-fat obsession, punctuated every Christmas with the latest Cooking Light yearbook. Thankfully, Cooking Light has lessened its low-fat strictures somewhat and is more about well-balanced eating, so I still follow it.  And in recent years, my focus has been Louisiana and Southern cooking, resulting in enough volumes to fill an entire shelf.  The latest purchase, Basic to Brilliant, Y'all, by Virginia Willis, is a great collection of Southern-based recipes with solid cooking techniques built in to each recipe (Willis is classically trained).  It joins the ranks of my favorite cookbooks that actually teach you how to change the recipes into something else, which is equivalent, in my mind, to a private cooking lesson (How To Cook Without a Book, The Art of Simple Food, and In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite are similar books).

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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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ready to roast: Susan Spicer's jalapeno roast pork

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By Jen White · September 4, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Ah, September...I don't know what the weather's like where you are, but here in New Orleans, it's pretty darn wet.  But once the rains of Lee move northeast, we should get some fall-like weather, topping out around 75 degrees!  Practically winter.  I'm always ready to do some roasting as soon as the major summer heat subsides, and I'm jumping the gun a little here, but with good reason.  We're making this scrumptious jalapeno-roasted pork from Susan Spicer's wonderful cookbook, Crescent City Cooking, so we can use the leftovers in a Labor Day/Paul's Birthday jambalaya tomorrow.  Hooray!

[two pork shoulders (double recipe) about to go in the oven]

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summer's last stand: shrimp and okra stew with a secret

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By Jen White · August 1, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Before the intense heat of this summer drives us all inside to eat nothing but cold sandwiches and ice cream, and before every last tomato has been incinerated by the sun, I want to share a special creation with you that we concocted at the beach: shrimp and okra stew with a secret.  The secret is chipotle pepper. (Italics is the typist's whisper).  Not that chipotle peppers in adobo sauce haven't been popularized in recent years--they're showing up in everything from hot wing sauce to salad dressing--but they're not indigenous to New Orleans cuisine.  But they really put this shrimp and okra stew over the top, I tell you!  Wowza!

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for love of shrimp

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By Jen White · May 10, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

The oil spill outlook has got us all worried these days.  How will our fishing families adapt?  How will the restaurant industry fare?  It's still too soon to tell.  But plenty of fresh, local seafood is still available right now, at the west bank wharf, in supermarkets, and at farmer's markets.  Paul went last Saturday to the Crescent City Farmer's Market downtown and bought several pounds of gorgeous, perfect shrimp from Clara Gerica of Gerica Seafood.  Her husband, Pete, shrimps in Lake Pontchartrain and sends his evening catch to market with Clara, who says their lake shrimping is unaffected at this point.  So to celebrate that fact, and to celebrate shrimp in general, I concocted a tapas-style menu of two iconic recipes (barbecued shrimp; shrimp and grits (pictured at left)) and one newcomer (the shrimp taco).

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no "organary" breakfast

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By Jen White · December 23, 2008 · 0 Comments ·


Mmm...liver. And onions. And grits--don't forget the grits that should be a component of every true Southern breakfast. And the perfect biscuit, both cloud-light and butter-rich.

Riccobono's Panola Street Cafe, in the Riverbend, is a homey, silverware-clanking spot on a residential street (7801 Panola), which helps contribute to the feeling that you've tapped into a true locals' secret. You walk in and seat yourself (if there's a seat to be had), read the menu waiting for you on the table, and linger over the paper and a cup of coffee. Prices aren't high, service is friendly enough, and there are several interesting options to try.


For instance, the crawfish omelet, full of crawfish, sausage, bell peppers, and onions. With grits, of course. And biscuit.

If liver and crawfish don't call to you in the morning, don't fear. The ordinary but soul-satisfying breakfast fare is all here as well: pancakes, sunny-side upps, bacon, and benedict.

By the way, if you're wondering what eating liver for breakfast is like, it's like this: each chew alternates between the flavors of steak and vitamins. Vitamin-steak-vitamin-steak-vitamin-steak. Swallow. Not bad, lots of iron, fortifying. Not exactly juicy.

They also serve lunch--sandwiches, burgers, salads, gumbo--quickly and affordably.


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