Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | April 24, 2016

Feeling the Burn: At the 2016 NYC Hot Sauce Expo


By Ernest Barteldes

  • IMG_20160423_1531349_rewind

    The Carolina Reaper

Last year I discovered this annual event happening at Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Expo. Back then I went alone after not being able to convince anyone to join me. This time Renata and a couple of other friends joined us in trying some of the tastiest – and hottest – sauces on the market.

Many of the featured brands were the same that I reported on last year’s blog, including Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix, Tahiti Joe’s and Deception Sauces ( I immediately  scooped up a jar of their Aloha brand, a mild salsa made with pineapple and habanero peppers – a delicious concoction that goes well with tortilla chips), but there were a handful of newcomers that we were able to check out.

The first was Big Fat, which has some interesting mixes of different heat types. My personal favorite was the 408, which is moderately hot with a Jamaican jerk-style feel. Another one that got my attention was Bonfatto’s Tongue-Thai’d, a very spicy yellow curry sauce with a nice coconut base. I also grabbed a bottle of Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat habanero sauce, which packs a nice kick with good flavor. Also notable was Boca’s, a milder sauce with a Caribbean feel.

  • IMG_20160423_1616330_rewind

    The Heat Index

     

We all tried some of the hottest sauces in the stands, but nothing could have prepared us for the Carolina Reaper.  Developed in 2012 by Ed Currie, of the PuckerButt Pepper Company, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, it is claims to be the hottest pepper in the world, packing a cool 1.6 million Scoville units (just to illustrate, Tabasco only packs about 5,000 units while Habanero has about 300,000 SCHs)

In 2013 there was a piece on the New Yorker that discussed these ultra-hot peppers, and they quoted a Maxim article by Steven Leckart in which he described eating one was “like being face-fucked by Satan.”

  • IMG_20160423_1507212_rewind

    Tongue Thai’d 

When I approached Currie’s stand, I had the chance to briefly talk to him and compliment him on his efforts. I handled a sample of the pepper for a few seconds, and then walked over to one of our friends, who seemed like he was recovering from a seizure. He’d told me he tried “the hottest sauce on that table” and felt like he was about to die. I asked him which stand, and he pointed me to Currie’s.  “Holy shit, bro, you just had some of the Carolina reaper,” I said and walked right back and asked for a taste. Renata had a bit and then I put the spoon in my mouth.

  • IMG_20160423_1517105_rewind

    Tahiti Joe’s 

There was very little flavor, and then the heat came. It was the most intense I’d felt since trying the “Suicide Wings” at a Myrtle Beach, SC restaurant (incidentally, the same city where the Reaper was first marketed from).  I took a few sips from my friend’s soda and ran to the concession stand for a cold drink, and the heat did not quit for about 15 minutes. I later found out milk was being handed out for free, and that came handy when I tried The Cobra, a sauce made with garlic, olive oil, basil and – yes, I am a glutton for punishment – Carolina Reaper.

We walked away with several bottles of my favorite sauces (I spent about $30) and then we all went for a bite at Karczma, a Polish restaurant a few blocks away from the venue. It was a nice meal – which I will report on some other time.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 9, 2016

Cooking and Partying at Home


  • house-party

By Ernest Barteldes

 

I used to celebrate my birthday, like most New Yorkers I know do, at a bar or restaurant. After all, it is incredibly convenient because there is no cleaning involved and if the location is easy most people will come and it’s understood that at the end of the evening everyone is responsible for whatever they consume – leaving your personal cost very small.

We still do Renata’s birthday that way – the last time we held it at River Dock Café, a moderately priced place at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George that mostly specializes on seafood but whose menu also includes various other items. Being located at the terminal, our guests did not have to worry about directions – just step off the ferry and there you are.

I do feel, however, that a party in a restaurant or bar feels a bit cold – you sit around the table and talk to the people on your left and right and that is pretty much it – there are few shared experiences at all, and you don’t really feel like it’s a real party because most of the time you don’t even get to select the music. So I decided, a few years back, to have my own birthday at our St. George apartment (the only time we really have people over the entire year except for a few occasions when a couple or another drop in for a visit.

Some guests that live in Queens or Brooklyn tend to grumble about having to schlep to Staten Island, but my reply is that they only have to do it once a year – I would do (and have done) the same for them if they decided to host a house party at their own homes.

When I send out the invite, I ask guests to bring something to drink and tell them I am handling all the food. It does sound like a hard task, but over the years I have devised a system of looking for easy recipes that take minimal preparation time but with lots of flavor. I also cheat a little and get some frozen items from Trader Joe’s (their mini-pizzas are pretty awesome and go fast when served), so there is plenty to eat at all times.

This year I decided to make the theme a little tropical, and made some Maui onion dip (served with potato chips), spicy edamame, guacamole (with tortilla chips), marinated seafood (cooked, southern Italian style), Hawaiian sweet and sour ham (actually made with SPAM) with rice and also introduced a Hawaiian appetizer made with bacon, pineapple and a chili-based sauce that almost everyone declared the evening’s favorite – there was none left over at the end of the night.

There were a total of 16 guests who all arrived and left at different times. Some of them were not (for many reasons) drinking, so I had some soda and juice available. There was plenty of wine and beer, and some Polish guests were nice enough to bring some vodka – it was a fun night that even included some live music provided by yours truly and Gary J Moore of Allergic to B’s.

I just wish our apartment were bigger so we could have even more people over.

bacon_wrapped_pineapple_bites

Bacon-wrapped pineapple

(From Hawaiian Recipes)

 

Ingredients:

½ lb. sliced bacon, cut into thirds

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained.

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chili sauce

 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wrap each chunk of pineapple with a piece of bacon and secure with toothpick. Place in a shallow baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, mayonnaise and chili sauce, pour over the bacon wrapped pineapples. Bake, uncovered for 25 minutes until bacon is crispy and sauce is bubbly. Serve warm.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 11, 2016

Sunday Breakfast: Going Brazilian


By Ernest Barteldes

cuscuz_de_milho_com_coco

Due to our very different work schedules, Renata and I almost never have the chance to have a proper meal together during the week, so I try to make weekends special every time, combing through my various cookbooks and other resources (which includes a box full of almost ten years’ worth of Gourmet magazines (no, I don’t have the book with all the recipes yet – hint, hint). I try not to be repetitive since weekday boxed lunches I make every day are pretty easy and quick – there is no time for real elaborate meals.

I often reach back to the Northeastern Brazilian traditions I grew up with – I spent many vacations in the Fortaleza (where I also lived in for about a decade), a city rich with culinary traditions inherited by the natives of the region and also the different European cultures that settled there – a vast majority formed by the Portuguese but also the Dutch, Africans, Western European Jews and a few others that came to call it home.

5261491

I still recall the many dishes that were always present in my Brazilian grandmother’s refrigerator – she always kept it stocked with many varieties of pudding and cake in addition to anything that the ever-present grandkids could make themselves for a snack or a light dinner. Many of these delicacies were firmly rooted in regional flavors – my grandfather had grown up in Sao Benedito, a small town in the hills of the state of Ceara –  place where you can – as I discovered firsthand – still find out where someone lives simply by asking around.

Those traditions did not only involve sweets – many included breakfast dishes unique to the northeast that few in southern states have ever heard about.  My grandmother was a particular fan of couscous, which has nothing to do with its Middle Eastern counterpart (the name probably has something to do with the Lebanese and Syrian immigrants that came to Sao Paulo in the early 20th century, but there is no specific documentation I could find about it).  Instead of bulgur wheat, this version is made with moistened cornmeal and salt and then steamed, but everyone has their own version.

 

cuscuzeira-aluminio-1-peca-s-nigro-tradicional-3-1-l-photo13847133-45-17-1b

In Brazil most stores sell a steamer pot called a “cucuzeira” that is specially made for this dish, but you don’t have to travel there to get one – there are ways to go around it. Renata and I actually bought two of them in Fortaleza over our trips there – we also use it as a general steamer for vegetables.

My take includes shredded coconut and coconut milk, which gives the couscous a special taste, and it matches greatly with your favorite cup of coffee.

Recipe: Northeastern Couscous

(Cuzcuz de Milho)

Adapted from www.saborbrasil.it

Ingredients

 

Two cups pre-cooked flaked corn flour

1 teaspoon salt

1cup water, approximately

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup coconut milk

 

Preparation method

 

Mix the corn flour, shredded coconut and salt, together, in a bowl. Gradually add the water and mix well until all ingredients are moist and mixture has a crumbly texture. Let it stand for 10 minute. Fill the steamer pot half full of water.  Place the couscous mixture into the steamer basket and gently level the top without pressing. The mixture should remain soft to allow the steam to penetrate just right. Cover and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until it begins to release its aroma. At this point the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the steamer. Cut into slices, pour coconut milk over it and serve hot.

 

Add butter, molasses, coconut milk or milk (hot or cold, sweetened or unsweetened), if you like. It is a very versatile side dish to vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, cheese, coconut and sweet courses.

How to steam couscous with a deep plate (or pot lid) 
Transfer the couscous mixture to a deep plate that has a larger diameter than the pot diameter. Wrap the deep plate with a clean cloth, making a knot on the bottom of the plate. Fill the pot one third full of water, bring to a boil and “cover” the pot with the wrapped deep plate (the couscous mixture must be facing downwards). Simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve the couscous hot straight from the “cooking plate”.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 27, 2016

Winter Storm Jason: Snowed In + Soup


  • IMG_2593

By Ernest Barteldes

As many New Yorkers (and many other East Coast residents along the path of the storm) we were pretty much stuck inside the home the weekend Jonas hit (who knew a boy band namesake could wreak so much havoc?). Though the Staten Island Ferry reportedly soldiered on throughout the whole thing, there was pretty much nothing going on around town – some concert venues attempted to stay open in spite of the odds (Midtown Manhattan’s Birdland Jazz Club announced they’d have solo piano concerts, but I have no idea if they actually took place) but the city that never sleeps mostly fell into a slumber.

Aware that this might be a nasty storm I tried to do as much food shopping as I could before Friday – on Thursday afternoon I went to a midtown store to get a few necessities and on Friday I braved the long lines and crowds at Trader Joe’s in order to get everything else we would need as far as food and drink went.  After reaching Staten Island, I took whatever material we had borrowed from the local library and returned home to make a light dinner.

IMG_2591

The forecast was confirmed when we woke up on Saturday morning – heavy the gusty winds accompanied heavy snowfall, and we realized this would be no ordinary storm. We tuned into the news on TV (something we rarely do on weekends) heard that the government was placing a travel ban and restricting subways and suburban trains, meaning that even if we did want to head out we’d be restricted to local joints – something we rarely do.

Luckily I had planned a nice storm menu and made sure we’d be fully stocked for everything we needed – I planned a light lunch, a comforting Saturday night meal, a nice Sunday breakfast and of course our traditional Sunday dinner, something we have done since the beginning of our relationship and have tried to keep going ever since with few interruptions.

For most of the day, we binged on TV shows like Law & Order SVU, listened to lots of music and of course the guitars came out for some improvisational playing. In the afternoon we braved the weather and actually went out for a walk around the neighborhood – snow was up to at least two feet by then, and plows weren’t even thinking of coming around –  we ran into a few cabin-fevered folks who’d had the same idea, but after about 40 minutes we were right back inside.

Sunday proved to be another quiet day – my gym was closed, so we took care of a few things at home as we prepared for another work week to come along as we wondered why the hell these kinds of storms almost always hit New York City over the weekend – what, is God a New Yorker who expects us to work all the time?

230979

Recipe: Kale, chick pea and avocado soup

 

Ingredients:

1 14 oz. can have cooked chickpeas, drained

3 cups chopped kale

5-6 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable broth

2-3 garlic clove, chopped

1 medium avocado, chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons olive oil

Parmesan cheese to taste

 

Preparation:

 

Sautee garlic in olive oil until tender. Add broth, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add kale until wilted and add chick peas. Boil for 5-6 additional minutes. Serve soup topped with avocado and parmesan.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 11, 2016

Laying Low For New Year’s Eve

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 30, 2015

Our Christmas Dinner

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 16, 2015

Quiet Christmas at Home


 

2-insurance-presen_1789739b

 

By Ernest Barteldes

 

Regular readers of this blog are quite aware that we don’t do the traditional “American” Thanksgiving of visiting families and stuffing ourselves with turkey and eggnog – we head out to the tropics for a good time under the sun.  Unfortunately, such a luxury cannot be had at Christmas, and since we have no family members within a 1,000-mile radius (the closest is in Chicago, and then Kansas –  after that it’s Brazil and Poland), Renata and I usually spend it just with each other, enjoying a plethora of international Christmas dishes from all our cultures and beyond.

It didn’t always use to be like this, though. Over the years, we either hosted a dinner for friends without close relatives around or visited with other friends who’d have us over, but we stopped doing that after a number of fiascos that I’d rather completely forget about (including a case of a guy who came over and went through an entire bottle of scotch and picked fights with other guests  before being ultimately kicked out of the apartment) we decided it would be better if we spent the Holiday on our own  with less stress and more tranquility.

mushroom-dumplings

The dishes we make are a mix of staples and new ideas:  Renata always makes her annual traditional Polish herring layered with potatoes, carrots, onions, mayonnaise, eggs and dill (there are many recipes out there, which vary from family to family –  they are so personal that I have found absolutely no equivalent online to date  – the only similar one being “Herring  Under  a Fur Coat” that also includes beets but probably tastes quite different due to that extra ingredient.  Other usual staples include  other traditional Polish  wigilia  foods such as “uszka” (pronounced ‘ushka’)  and beetroot soup, while I provide more international fare which might include  Portuguese oven-baked salted codfish layered with potatoes, onions and black olives and a generous amount of olive oil.

For reasons I really cannot fathom, we cook enough food for a small battalion and  take days to consume the whole thing.   I think this is the third or fourth year that we have done our little Christmas on our own, and we presently have no intention of changing that –  sure, it could be more fun being in a big party filled with people, but there is always the chance of something going terribly wrong – and  another weird Christmas is  something we really don’t want to be a part of.

Among the traditional Brazilian recipes I like to make is “rabanada,”  Portuguese  variation on the French toast that is commonly served at Christmas there – it’s made with sliced baghettes and a mix of  other ingredients – it is sweeter than its American counterpart, but it is also very enjoyable.

RABANADA

exps117794_thraa2874593c01_31_5b

Source: A  Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 loaf (8 ounces) French bread, cut into 1-inch slices

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon until blended. In a large shallow dish, whisk eggs and milk. Dip both sides of bread in egg mixture, soaking lightly.
  2. In an electric skillet, heat 1 in. of oil to 350°. Working with a few slices at a time, remove bread from egg mixture, allowing excess to drain, and fry 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Dip warm rabanadas in cinnamon-sugar to coat all sides. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 6 servings.
Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 6, 2015

The Puerto Plata Report: Five Days in Paradise


IMG_2403 (1)

by Ernest Barteldes

 

On our seventh Thanksgiving weekend visit to The Dominican Republic, Renata and I opted to visit Puerto Plata, a city located on the northern coast of the island country – we had been pretty much everywhere on the other side except Punta Cana (hotel prices there are comparably higher, so we have pretty much stayed away from there in spite of all the recommendations that that the area is the place to go).

We booked our trip on Delta Airlines early in July to get the best prices possible, and we also saved a lot by booking the flight to Santiago Airport instead of Puerto Plata because of the incredible price difference – airport tariffs at Puerto Plata make flying to that airport quite prohibitive, making it much cheaper to fly to Santiago and then get car service for the additional 90-minute ride to our resort, which was located just outside of town.

We left on Wednesday night after work – something we began doing on our 2014 visit so that we could optimize our time there – previously we would leave early in the morning on Thanksgiving, but that gave us a mere two and a half days there, while in this case we get three full days to enjoy that beautiful country.

The flight was a bit bumpy during the last hour – the plane hit an air pocket and you could feel it briefly but quickly losing altitude. The movement caused some people to gasp, but that was the only event during those three hours. When we arrived at Santiago, we stood in line at immigration for a few minutes, picked up our checked baggage and headed outside to meet our transportation. We were extremely tired after a day’s work so we mostly dozed off as our van made its way to Puerto Plata – or tried, as the driver told us about the history and topography of the region. Once we reached the resort it was time to crash for a few hours before we could start the new day.

The Puerto Plata region is quite mountainous compared to the flatter southern area –  there are several mountain ranges in the area (the country’s tallest mountain, Pico Duarte, is to the south of Santiago). The topography is quite scenic – our resort, the Lifestyle Cofresi, was located on a slope that went from the beach to the top of a small hill with a road that connected to the other parts of the resort complex.

IMG_2350

We woke up at around 8:30 AM and surveyed the room. It was quite comfortable and spacious, with a nice balcony with lounge chairs, a flat screen TV and a reasonably soft bed. The resort was part of a large complex with several buffet and a la carte restaurants, so even though we were a bit far from town, I didn’t feel trapped at the resort as I did when we were in La Romana a few years ago. They had shuttle buses that came around the different resorts so everyone could enjoy the whole property with few limitations reserved for members who had bought into the timeshare-like element.

Speaking of that part, right after we finished breakfast we were called into a “tour” of sorts to introduce us to the entire property. Once we reached the main building we were handed a gift bag that consisted of a small bottle of rum and some mamajuana, a local drink that is basically an herbal mix that should be infused with parts of rum, honey and wine to create an elixir of sorts that is believed to have some kind of aphrodisiac.

When we realized that this was another sales pitch (we have been through more than one of these over the years), I politely told the salesman that we really wanted to get to the beach and that we would meet with him at a later time – we were aware of storms coming in, and we wanted to take advantage of the availability of the sun we had for then. We promised to meet him again at a later time – a blatant lie, since we had no interest in it – and bade our farewells.

  • IMG_2357

On the planning stages of our trip we booked a day trip to the city of Puerto Plata, so around 8:30 on Friday morning we were at the door waiting for our transportation. The tour began with a stop at the 800 meter high  St. Isabel Mountain, where a smaller replica of Rio’s Christ stands. An Italian-made cable car system built in the late 70s takes visitors to the top of the mountain in about ten minutes, but there is also the option of driving or taking a 3 hour hike.

IMG_2410

The ride was quite scenic, but it was a bit marred by a power failure that brought the car to a sudden halt, and with the sudden stop we were left swinging for a minute – a scary part of the journey that will probably be burned into everyone’s memory for as long as we live. Once we were up there, we walked around and snapped photos of the surrounding scenery. A few minutes later, we were back down and driving towards a factory that processed Larimar,  a semiprecious stone that (at least according to my research) is only found in the country.  We observed how they worked the stone and I bought Renata a small dolphin-shaped pendant made with the stone and high-quality silver also mined from the island.

We made a quick stop at Puerto Plata’s Independence Park (known as Parque Central to locals), a recently restored plaza surrounded by the local cathedral, City Hall and a handful of businesses. At the center of the plaza are statues of the country’s founding fathers and a beautiful gazebo that offers nice views of the surrounding areas – unfortunately it was closed as they were conducting repairs . A cigar factory came next, where we learned about the process of handcrafting quality smokes. I asked the manager if they had a reader at their main facility –  something I learned from a book I reviewed years ago – and he confirmed they did.

IMG_2433

The next stop was a supermarket – yes, a regular supermarket – where we all loaded up on coffee, rum and locally produced vanilla that was could be had at a fraction of the prices charged at tourist joints. Being one of the few in the group that spoke Spanish, I made myself useful by helping everyone out with their selections of whatever they wanted to buy.  The last stop was at the historic San Felipe Fort, a Spanish-built fortification that was a crucial part of the early years of Puerto Plata’s history. On entrance we were handed devices in various languages (I chose Spanish) that described the different rooms we visited and what the exhibits were about, and also the history of the area, going from the mining of gold and precious stones in the early years up to the fort’s dedication as a major tourist attraction.

IMG_2448

IMG_2440

IMG_2356

I must say we were impressed by the resort facility.  All the hotels are interconnected and guests have full access to the entire facility. In addition to the usual buffets, there were a number of a la carte restaurants (part of the all-inclusive deal) dedicated to various forms of cuisine. On our second night we visited their Mexican outpost, where we had a sumptuous meal bookended an unhealthy amount of tequila (at least on my part – but aren’t there studies that say tequila makes you lose weight?). On the third, we checked out a place dedicated to seafood where all the wait staff were dressed in sailor outfits. The food there was also great – I thought of a meat-loving friend of ours who would have gone on a beef coma if he had stopped by the Brazilian-style rodizio steakhouse, which obviously we didn’t even bother checking out.

IMG_2498

The evening entertainment was superior than most places we’d stayed before. Among the most memorable were the last night, when we attended a major dance show called “Pais Tropical” (Tropical Country) that paid homage to the music of Latin America, including Cuba, Brazil and Colombia and also a DJ from Ibiza that featured a live singer and lots of props, including seven foot tall “robots”  and a group of dancers.

We look forward to returning to Puerto Plata again – Renata says she wants to try the hike up the Santa Isabel Mountain the next time we head out there. It would be quite the adventure, and I am certainly up for it. It was a nice trip, and once again we couldn’t get enough of it.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | November 16, 2015

No Recipes this Weekend – Let’s talk about Paris


By Ernest Barteldes

Today I was going to write about this great exhibit I saw at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn, but after the recent ISIS attacks in Egypt (the Russian jet that was apparently blown out of the air by a bomb), Beirut and more recently Paris last I find myself too angry to focus on entertainment.  Sure, we all need an escape from all the bad news around us, and although this blog was created to serve this purpose I just cannot put my blinders on and power through.

But unlike most people I am not just angry at the terrorists.  Sure, I hope we could rid ourselves of those crazies like anyone else, but I am also angry at everyone else who is using the deaths of innocent people to further whatever social or political agenda they might want to further, such as gun nuts who think that they could have stopped the terrorists carrying automatic weapons with whatever handgun they might have had on them. Those fools have spent way too much time watching Die Hard and James Bond movies – sure, they might have gotten lucky with one terrorist, but the true outcome would be that more innocent people would have been killed if they tried to play action hero.

However, I am mad at every single person who owns gas-guzzling cars and who demand cheap gas at the pump. No, I am not pointing my finger at farmers who need to fuel their trucks in order to get food to our tables, but those fools who think they are entitled to whatever power they can get just because they can – guess what, this forces the government to either make deals with countries that hate the hell of out us because we don’t get their oppressive ways. On the same note, I am angry at successive administrations who have done nothing to rid ourselves of our dependency of foreign oil – and those who mock those of us who think alternative forms of energy are some kind of psychedelic fantasy.

I am also pissed at the major news networks that ignore everything else going on in the world to give us minute-by-minute updates of what is going on at the site of the tragedy hoping for some kind of a last-minute scoop. Do you really think that audiences are going to waste time with your interviews with someone who was peeing in a restroom a block from the shots and heard something? Give me a fucking break. I understand you want your ratings and all, but there are thousands of events going on that deserve your attention. Anderson Cooper, do you really need to spend hour after hour reporting from Paris interviewing the same folks over and over without any logical answer?

I had recently moved to New York when 9-11 happened, and cringed at opportunists like Rudy Giuliani, George Bush and their ilk use the attacks to further whatever sick shit they had in their heads, and later I almost puked when I heard Donald Trump go out and make absurd claims about the 2nd Amendment.

Don’t get me wrong – I want these extremists gone as much as everyone does. On the same hand, I just cannot stand the fact that so many are using recent events to try and make this something else.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | October 31, 2015

New Orleans Food plus Chicken Sauce Piquant


by Ernest Barteldes

I have only been to New Orleans once – I was motivated to do it in 2008 after interviewing a string of musicians from the area who kept encouraging me to visit their cities because I would never find better music or food in America. One of my interviewees (I think it was saxophonist Donald Harrison) mentioned that the city had so much in common with Salvador in Brazil after he’d been there, so that piqued my curiosity enough for Renata and I to take a long weekend to finally check it out.

Of course I was immensely impressed by the music I heard just by walking into a bar – I mean, I am a good enough bassist, but those guys “playing for tips” were infinitely better than I was at the time. Music was part of their blood – whatever natural talent I might have means nothing compared to that. When sat down to eat, I realized I was somewhere between Heaven and Hell — in a good way.

Before I ever went there, the food of the area always fascinated me – I remember reading a recipe for Jambalaya on the long-deleted English Teaching Forum an trying it out and attempting to perfect it, and when I tasted it in Louisiana I realized I had been doing a very shitty job trying.

What I realized about Southern food was it wasn’t about the technique. Instead, it was about the feeling you put into the cooking. I remember being “challenged” by a show promoter who said she’d learned to cook in a restaurant in New Orleans and she was “definitely better” than I was. I never even bothered to take on her idiotic wager – just making it personal would have been a mistake.

I have been thinking of heading to New Orleans again, but the opportunity has not come since that first time – life tends to get in the way, and so do airport taxes. A flight to Miami tends to be more expensive than another one to say, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic because American airports tend to charge airlines fees that completely nuts compared to terminals around the world. The way I found that out was when I saw the breakdown of the cost of a flight I took to Poland last year – a good chunck of the cost of my ticket was basically the fees charged by JFK on my return flight.  No wonder a flight between Krakow and Warsaw costs about a fraction of what one to La Guardia to Cleveland (which is about the same distance) goes for.

Back to topic, I honestly feel that New Orleans food is the ultimate comfort food.  Whatever dish you have, it just takes you to this wonderful place. Sure, most of the dishes are not exactly healthy – a recent survey revealed that Louisiana was among the unhealthiest states in the Union (Vermont was the healthiest) but sometime you do need that moment when food sings to you.

Recipe: Chicken Sauce Piquant

source: The Best of Everything, Cook’s Magazine.

Ingredients

  • 2 -3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 lbs cut up chicken pieces
  • 3 tablespoons creole seasoning
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup bacon grease
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • kosher salt and black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • hot cooked rice

Directions

  1. Dredge chicken pieces in Creole seasonings and 1/2 cup flour and brown in the oil, preferably in a cast iron pan.
  2. Remove chicken and set aside.
  3. Keep the heat going under your frying pan and add the bacon grease.
  4. When grease is hot, slowly whisk in the flour.
  5. Stir constantly until the roux turns the color of caramel, the darker the better. About 30 minutes.
  6. Carefully add the onion, bell pepper, celery and stir, about 5 minutes until all is incorporated and vegetables are soft.
  7. Reduce heat to medium.
  8. Page 2 of 2Bayou Style Chicken Sauce Piquante (cont.)
  9. Directions
  10. Add Chicken broth, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper; cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  11. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is done.
  12. Taste and reseason.
  13. Add green onion and parsley.
  14. Cover, reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice.
  15. nstantly until the roux turns the color of caramel, the darker the better. About 30 minutes.
  16. Carefully add the onion, bell pepper, celery and stir, about 5 minutes until all is incorporated and vegetables are soft.
  17. Reduce heat to medium. Add Chicken broth, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper; cover and cook for 10 minutes.add the chicken and cook until the chicken is done.Taste and reseason.  Add green onion and parsley.Cover, reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,304 other followers