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crabby jack's, or how i get jealous of myself

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By Jen White · January 20, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

When I know I'm about to go to Crabby Jack's, I go a little crazy. I dance a little dance, sing a little song, and hop around, driving Paul bonkers until we hop in the car and go.  This is how hushpuppies got invented, I think.  I'm that little puppy begging for seafood!

If you've heard me swoon about Parkway Bakery's po-boys before, especially if I've gone there with you, then you might doubt what I'm about to say, but just trust me on this. Crabby Jack's is better. It's not in our neighborhood, but it's honestly the best po-boy we've ever laid eyes on, from the seafood (or roast duck) to the bread (the perfect texture) to the fixings.  We've been there several times in the past few months before coming to this conclusion (and I went a few times when I worked at Tulane), so it's not some afternoon fling...it's a long-term love affair.  I get jealous of myself every time I go.

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on a roll: blackened shrimp and bacon po-boy

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By Jen White · December 2, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

I guess you could say I'm a bit obsessed with po-boys lately.  In the weeks leading up to the po-boy festival, I visited a couple of my favorite po-boy spots to reminisce, to remember how good the basics can be.  I had fried shrimp at Parkway and shrimp and oyster at Crabby Jack's, and then those wonderful little odd po-boys at the fest.  I thought I'd had my fill for a while, until Paul told me he'd overhead someone talking about a blackened shrimp po-boy.  My interest was piqued.  Then, he said, "It'd be good with a little bacon sprinkled on it."  Yes, it would.  Then, "And maybe some goat cheese?" I almost fainted.  Yes, blackened shrimp with bacon and goat cheese would be good--very, very good. If it sounds bizarre or even blasphemous to load a seafood po-boy down with extras like bacon and cheese, consider the Peacemaker, that ultra-delicious po-boy of fried oysters, bacon, and American cheese. Sounds crazy, but it's fantastic.  If American cheese can't hurt a po-boy, then for sure goat cheese couldn't.

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a slight change of pace

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By Jen White · October 14, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

The past few weeks have been full of changes.  The weather is a given, but also the pacing of the days, workloads and attitudes toward workloads, and self-designed ideas about life in general.  Fall tends to have this effect on me regardless of what's going on in the world.  This fall I'm busier than ever, but I'm choosing to regard the busyness as a gift instead of a headache.  Living in this city is also still quite a challenge--almost too much of one at times--but I'm learning to be patient with it.  Sometimes it feels unknowable.  It throws so many parties for itself, how do you ever get a chance at some quiet one-on-one?

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3 B's and a C: Butcher, Bud's Broiler, B Side, and Charlie's

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By Jen White · August 14, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Note: The title of this post is not a report card.  It's just my attempt at being clever. The report card would be all A's, for real.

It's been a little busy around the Food Orleans household this month, but that doesn't mean we haven't been eating.  Here are some photos and brief reviews of places we've checked out over the summer.

B #1:  Butcher.  Donald Link's Butcher is located next door to his Cajun-oriented Cochon, in the warehouse district.  It's a true butcher shop, where you can buy delectable pork cuts, poultry, lamb, beef, foie gras, and housemade sausages of all kinds, but it also has a bar and little tables and fantastic food.  Butcher has become one of our must-try places we like to take out-of-town guests to, and everyone loves it.  They have a full sandwich board (and the best muffaletta in town--you heard me), but my favorite thing to do is order three or four of their small plates--usually $6 each--and a plate of their boudin with mustard and pickles--only $3.  The menu changes constantly, but always includes a couple of options for those who don't eat pig and is always seasonal.

Butcher: boudin-stuffed quail atop braised greens and creamy mustard.

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in need of comfort: pan-fried catfish with black-eyed pea salsa

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By Jen White · May 29, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I have to be honest:  I'm a little down these days. It's normally a great time to be in this wonderful city--festivals, sno-balls, seafood everywhere you look--and of course, that's the reason for the blues.  The seafood.  No fried oyster po-boys, no raw oysters in some spots.  Fishing folk shuttling executives out to the rigs instead of pulling in hundreds of pounds of shrimp.  It's a crying shame.

I haven't even felt much like cooking lately, though I've been desperate to eat something homey and comforting.  I just couldn't think of what that was.  So yesterday I started scribbling, doodling, trying to get down to the basics of what would make me feel better, and I came up with one of my favorite childhood meals:  fish sticks, peas, and mac and cheese.  Have you ever had this, or something like it?  With a little ketchup on the plate, it looks beautiful, in a Crayola kind of way:  crunchy golden fish sticks, a big splotch of red ketchup, bright green peas (cooked from frozen in nothing more than salted water), and orangy-yellow mac and cheese from the blue box.  Every time my mom pulled the ingredients out for this feast, I got so excited.  It was happiness in one of its purest forms:  looking forward to something.  Plus, I liked the challenge of getting one of those straight macaroni on each of my four fork tines before I took a bite. 

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gone crawfishing

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By Jen White · April 18, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Crawfish has two usages as a verb in Webster's: one is to catch crawfish, and another is to back out of something you've committed to. But I'm proposing a third definition: to crawfish is to celebrate the deliciousness of the little creatures by churning out as many recipes as you can in one weekend and stuffing yourself full of their glory. And with that definition in place, I can honestly say I have been doing a lot of crawfishing lately.

the stars of spring: strawberry bruschetta and strawberry caprese

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By Jen White · April 3, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

One of the things I love about the Crescent City Farmers Market is their varied locations--and even more, that one of those locations, the Thursday evening market, is a short walk from our house. This past Thursday, we sauntered out with dozens of people from the neighborhood who were taking advantage of the brief period in New Orleans when days are sunny and bright, but not hot. For a month or so, the weather will be the star here, with sweet Louisiana produce running a close second.

fat and happy at mat and naddie's

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By Jen White · July 3, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

Guess what? I had a really good meal for my first birthday as a New Orleans resident (surprise, surprise). We went to a great little place in our neighborhood, Mat and Naddie's, which our neighbor Mark has been telling us we should visit for months. Mark was right--this place is a gem. I'm so glad it's in our neck of the woods.

The only cocktail I ever want to drink during a stifling New Orleans summer: the Pimm's Cup. I've been trying these at different locations to find my favorite. Mat and Naddie's was smooth, so I don't think they use ginger ale or 7-Up...maybe lemonade? The cucumbers always make me happy.

A nice sampling of olives, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, and fresh mozzarella to nibble. Everything was marinated in olive oil and herbs.

This photo doesn't do justice to these fantastic oysters, on the menu as "Grilled Oysters with Brie Cream and Shiitake 'Bacon.'" That's right--they make a "bacon" out of sliced shiitake mushrooms, I can only guess, by cooking it low and slow in a skillet until it intensifies its shiitakiness and dries out a little, like a mushroom jerky. Or maybe this happens in the oven. There's also a little garlic and pecorino-romano action going on here.

My fabulous entree, "Spicy Tempura Fried Gulf Shrimp Tonkatsu." This is one of the most exciting dishes I've had in New Orleans. The shrimp are butterflied and coated in a light tempura batter, and somehow remained outside-crispy and inside-silky the whole time I was loving this dish. I didn't know what Tonkatsu meant, so I asked the waiter if this was a good item to order, and he said it was one of the best things on the menu, which I totally believe. Apparently, Tonkatsu is a Japanese combination of fried pork served with something crunchy, like cabbage, and a sweet-spicy sauce. Mat and Naddie's serves their seafood version with a fresh bok choy slaw, sticky jasmine rice, and a sauce--it's one of the best sauces I've ever tasted--of red chile and a deep, complex sweetness, maybe plum, maybe lemongrass, a small piece of sun for brightness, a drop of dew from the Garden of Eden? I will meet this sauce again.

Paul's "Grilled Filet Mignon with Smoked Marrow Compound Butter." Nice. It looks like Paul was eating in another restaurant because this photo was taken with flash. But he wasn't! He was sitting across the table from me! Thank goodness, because I really wanted to taste this, and he was kind enough to let me. Rosemary steak fries (not too exciting), but (continuing from the menu description) "wilted greens and a Maytag blue cheese and bacon buerre rouge." ?!? Please, sir, I'd like some more. While the potatoes were a little too basic to stand up to the rest of the plate, the rest of the plate was divine: a smart combination of beefy, winey, tart, creamy, burgundy, and leafy.
Sorry to say we couldn't squeeze in a dessert to show you. I would've done it too, because I was so impressed with everything else I ate that night. To all my friends: come visit already, so you can go here too!

hot child in the city

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By Jen White · July 2, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

Believe me when I tell you that a couple of weeks ago, when I was dead-set on filling out a nice, long post with photos of the Creole Tomato/Louisiana Seafood/Cajun-Zydeco festival throwdown, I had no idea that it would be so hot down in the French Quarter.

It was too hot to take photos. Seriously, the camera kept slipping out of my hands.

I managed a few, though:

I love these little guys. I ate them.

Cajun fish taco. I asked for a small portion of slaw so I could really taste the fish. It's a lightly fried tilapia filet, dusted with just a bit of Cajun seasoning (like a mixture of cayenne, garlic powder, thyme, salt, pepper). Really nice and simple-tasting, a good thing to eat in the heat.

Shrimp-and-crab-stuffed Creole tomato. This was the perfect dish to "marry" the two food festivals together. Creole tomatoes are the jewels of the summer season here in Louisiana--people talk about them all year, either how much they miss them or how much they love them. They don't really look different from regular tomatoes, to me, but the taste is something special. Denser, sunnier, redder. I devoured every last seed of this tomato.

We had some other yummies--crawfish sausage, hurricane sno balls--but they didn't make it to the photo stage. If you can stand the heat, this festival trio, known as the "Vieux To Do," is really something. Tons of food, great vendors, fun music. This year it was held the weekend of June 13-14, so I'd assume next year it will be sometime close to that.

parts of a whole

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By Jen White · March 8, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

I wouldn't call myself a fan of green beans. There's something about them I just don't really care for--too much "green," too much "bean," too much of each of those combined. And green beans and potatoes? There seem to be many calls for these two items together, in curries, stews, or pasta dishes, and I just don't get excited. For whatever reason, though, I can abide them both in a good, solid niçoise. Perhaps it's the way, in a niçoise, they are two components among several others which are all considered important and equal. Perhaps it's the relentless individuality they retain when grouped this way, much like the way people on a team know, deep inside, that even though there's no "i" in "team," there's a "me."

A niçoise is a pretty forgiving square meal. It's meat (traditionally, tuna), veg (green beans), and potatoes, along with various accompaniments that kind of add up to a plate of hors d'oevres, and it's meant to be served at room temperature, which is always a comfort when you're not really up to finishing several different cooking times at once. There are some steps, but they're basic as basic can be: boiling, steaming, baking, and vinaigrette making. It can be served over greens or not, tossed or not, and made expensive or not (one of the perks of living in New Orleans is freshly caught catfish). It can even be seafoodless and still be very satisfying. There's hardly even a recipe to follow, once you've got the basic idea down.

A More Local Niçoise
  • 4 portions of seafood (something inexpensive and local, if possible): shrimp, scallops, catfish, crawfish, tuna, salmon, bass, etc.)
  • 12 small red boiling potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 2 big handfuls green beans, trimmed
  • 1 large ripe tomato, or 1 pt. cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup pitted olives (preferably niçoise, but kalamata are fine too)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a few teaspoons of wine vinegar (white, red, or champagne)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Dijon or grainy mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • salad greens (optional)
  1. Make the vinaigrette first, which is the unifier of this dish: Mince the garlic and place in a bowl or measuring cup large enough for a whisk to move around in. Juice the lemons and add the juice to the garlic. Shake in a little wine vinegar and plop in the mustard. Start whisking this mixture with one hand, and with the other hand, slowly pour in the olive oil. This doesn't need to be perfectly emulsified; you'll keep whisking it every time you use it. Taste it, and add salt and pepper and additional vinegar until it tastes like a strong salad dressing. I like it slightly overseasoned, because the potatoes and beans are going to break it down a little.
  2. Potatoes: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil them whole until a knife will almost go into the center of one easily. Take them off the heat, drain, and return to the pot and add the lid. Let them steam in the pot (no fire underneath) for another 10 minutes to finish cooking. Let them cool for a bit, then quarter or halve them, depending on size. Toss them in a bowl with some of the vinaigrette and set aside.
  3. Green beans: Put about 1 cup water in a medium saucepan, salt it, and bring to a boil. Add the beans and cook them the way you like them: really crunchy, slightly crunchy, soft, or cafeteria-soft. Drain them, cool them for a long minute, then toss them in a separate bowl with some vinaigrette.
  4. Seafood: Decide how you want to cook it: bake, broil, grill, saute, poach, etc. Season it with salt, pepper, and anything else you like (I used catfish & some seafood grill seasoning I had on hand). Drizzle it with a bit of olive oil (or another kind of oil) and cook it the way you like it (I baked it at 400 for about 12 minutes) and let it rest for about five minutes for most of the heat to leave.
  5. Eggs: Hard-boil, cool, peel, and halve.
  6. Tomatoes: Cut into 8 wedges (if you have cherry tomatoes, you can halve them or leave them whole) (as you might notice in the photo, I forgot to buy tomatoes).
  7. Olives: Snack on a few and then just keep them at the ready.
  8. Greens (if using): Make these ready to use as a bed for the other ingredients: wash & tear the greens and toss them with some of the vinaigrette, as you would for any salad.
  9. Compose: On each plate, place greens, potatoes, green beans, two egg halves, two tomato wedges, several olives, and a portion of seafood. Drizzle a little more vinaigrette over the whole dish and serve.

Serves 4.


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