Archive for the ‘barbecue’Category

What to buy in a Cajun grocery store

grocery2 Usually Pat and I write about buying specialty foods in overseas grocery stores, but Cajun cooking stands so far apart from most other American regional food that the grocers have developed lines of goods we can rarely find anywhere else.

The pickled tabasco peppers, gumbo file powder, and various hot pepper sauces shown above are cases in point. In fact, I was once told by a northern grocer that file powder was illegal. (Not true, but it is allegedly mildly carcinogenic. If you eat three pounds at a time, you might develop a tumor in 20 years.) Needless to say, file powder can be hard to find up here in the chilly north.

grocery1 The ingredients immediately above are even more local. Dried shrimp might be a worldwide commodity, but Louisiana dried shrimp has a distinctive flavor of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s great in a shrimp cream sauce or a soup. The garlic sauce from Poche’s is an essential ingredient in some quarters for dousing boiled crawfish tails. The instant roux mix, while not so different from Wondra flour, makes a great tan roux.

grocery3 The last item is a latecomer, at least to legitimate grocery stores. At 100 proof, this colored corn likker has the requisite kick to be called moonshine — minus the chemicals to make you go blind.

What to eat at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival

Cindy Harris of Houston TXWhen it comes to the food vendors at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, the food isn’t all crawfish, but to quote a good friend’s catch phrase, it’s all good. Well, most of it. I’d been given a big buildup from a couple of locals about Cajun pistols or pistolettes, which are buns stuffed with seafood and cheese and then deep-fried. As someone said, “they musta changed the recipe.”

Bon Creole Cindy Harris from Houston, Texas (above) opted for Giant Shrimp on a Stick from the same vendor selling Gator on a Stick (“tender and delicious”). In fairness, I tried the alligator on a stick and found it more tender than most alligator I’ve tried. And, no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. It tastes like alligator.

Food on a stick always does well at outdoor gatherings where few people can get a place to sit. In addition to the shrimp and gator, one vendor had the venerable corn dog (hot dog on a stick dipped in cornmeal batter and deep fried). More popular than all the meat on wooden sticks were the original meat on a stick: both frog’s legs (deep fried) and turkey legs (grilled over charcoal).

Boiled crawfish Having sampled many of the offerings, I will venture the opinion that the best tasting and probably healthiest options were some of the classics: crawfish etouffée on rice, jambalya, and seafood gumbo. (As the T-shirt says, “All creatures great and small taste better in gumbo.”) But this being the Crawfish Festival, my vote goes to the plates of boiled crawfish. (Watch for a future post on the technique for peeling boiled crawfish.)

What to eat at the airport in Little Rock

Whole Hog BBQ LIT Chain eateries (Starbucks, Burger King, Quiznos and the like) constitute the bulk of food choices at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, and Bill is probably out of luck if he’s searching for a vegan meal. But right next to Pizza Hut I discovered Whole Hog Cafe, the airport outlet of a small barbecue chain with two spots in Little Rock and one in Bentonville. Whole Hog has taken several awards in barbecue cook-offs and back when he still ate real food, Bill Clinton must have been a fan. Whole Hog claims that their serving utensils are in the presidential time capsule.

Whole Hog stall I decided on a pulled pork sandwich and the server advised me to have the meat topped with cole slaw. “That’s the way we serve it in the South,” she said. She also recommended that I douse the meat with the spicier version of the tomato-vinegar barbecue sauce. The sauce was a little too piquant for my taste, so I stuck with the milder, but still tangy version and passed the squeeze bottle to a local gentleman having a last taste of barbecue before taking off on a business trip. He allowed that the barbecue was pretty good, but that he prefers the mustard-based sauce at Sims, which opened in 1937 and now has three Little Rock locations. It’s his go-to place for ribs with sides of coleslaw and beans. For genuine barbecue, he said, ”the meat needs to be tender, the sauce needs to be tangy, and the joint needs to be off the beaten path.”