~ Notes from a New Orleans Foodie... in exile ~
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by Kevin Lacassin


A New Orleans foodie and a product of hurricane Katrina, I've landed on both feet and have started a new life in the Tampa Bay area. A natural disaster changed my state of residence and you can take me out of New Orleans, but you can't take the New Orleans out of me.
This is my resource for all things New Orleans: food recipes, culture and history.  In addition, you can find my original recipes and a log of my cooking adventures.  My writing here is unedited and uncut... I don't outline or plan what I type on the page.... consider it a diary of dining and cooking.
If you are a Louisiana native who's landed in the Tampa Bay area, you may be feeling a bit homesick.  Check out my NOLA in Tampa page to guide you to the places and foods that will help you feel more at home.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Wine with dinner - a necessity?
Last night I had a gourmet dinner courtesy of Thanksgiving leftovers.  Yes, I still have leftovers, now leave me alone.  The fried turkey was still just as tasty as it was on Thursday and maybe even a little better after sitting for a couple of days.  But the main course of my dinner was the crab soup that my mother fixed from her almost-famous recipe (see it below).
When I arrived home from the gym yesterday, I had no desire for any wine or beer.  It wasn't until I began to warm up the crab soup that I suddenly had a craving for wine.  I wasn't in the mood for white wine so I cracked open a bottle of Cypress Merlot, a decent little cheap merlot produced by the J. Lohr company.  It's an OK wine, but for five bucks a bottle, it's a bargain.  
It seems that I've had the urge to drink wine with most of my meals lately.  For some reason it just enhances the meal, even for something as simple as crab soup and leftover turkey.  If it isn't wine, I'll occasionally have a beer or a margarita, depending on the cuisine I've selected.  But one constant for me is water; I drink a ton of it. 
What about you, what is your dinner drink of choice?  Growing up, it started out as milk.  Then I graduated to the privilege of ice-water and it still hasn't changed.  No matter what I drink with my meal, I always need a glass of ice-water.  In fact, a lot of my friends make fun of me when I ask for a go-cup for my ice-water.  What can I say, you have to re-hydrate every once in a while.  Life can't survive on beer, wine and margaritas alone. 
Recipe: Crab Soup
1 lb crab meat (lump is best but claw meat can work)
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 tsp liquid crab boil
1 stick butter
2 cans cream of celery soup
2 soup cans full of milk
1 pint of half & half
Salt and White Pepper to taste
In a stock pot or large saucepan, sauté green onions in butter.  Add all other ingredients and simmer for approximately 1/2 hour.  Best if you cook one day ahead of time.
3:47 pm | link

Monday, November 29, 2004

We made the Gambit Weekly !
This week's Gambit Weekly arts & entertainment section features an article by Todd A. Price titled "Food Networking," about the online food community in New Orleans.  In the article, he mentions food communities such as Chowhound, eGullet, Talk Food and Mr. Lake's Forums (all of the links can be found on my "Links" page).  Some of the great people I've met from the online community were even quoted. 
The best quote of the article was by Mindy Nunez, a friend of mine and a frequent poster on the Talk Food message board.  She stated "When I have a question about cooking, I can ask my Mom, but Talk Food is like having 100 moms to ask."  Mindy, I'm just glad to say that I wasn't near your mom when she read that senetence, but I do have a feeling she got a kick out of it.
My proudest moment was in the second to last paragraph.  By the grace of God my website got a little plug.  It read "other food-related sites include NOLAFoodie (www.nolafoodie.com), in which a banker and part-time bartender shares his recipes and musings on local cuisine..."
While I only got a quick mention, I was pretty proud that my little website full of culinary dribble made it into print.  I was on top of the world many moons ago when I was quoted in several articles in national financial magazines and this is just as fulfilling.  If you aren't in the New Orleans area and can't pick up the November 30 edition of Gambit Weekly, you can find the article online at http://www.bestofneworleans.com/dispatch/2004-11-30/ae_feat.html .  Happy reading!
9:29 pm | link

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I got 'em....
Oysters, that is.  I got oysters this Thanksgiving.  I'm just glad I wasn't craving boiled crabs this year, how would that sound? "This year for Thanksgiving, I got .... ," oh well, forget it.  But my craving was satisfied by a sack of some of the saltiest and tastiest oysters I've had this year.  Yes, I sat at the neighbors patio for a while, drinking beer and sucking down wet, salty oysters.
Yes, I did have the traditional Thanksgiving spread (traditional by New Orleans standards).  Fried turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, greenbean & artichoke casserole, crab soup, cranberry sauce (straight from the can), aunt Judy's sweet potato casserole, cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, pecan pie, wine, beer and a whole lot of other desserts that I couldn't squeeze in.
All that food, and I didn't even take a nap.  Can you believe it?
12:04 pm | link

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Can't seem to satisfy my craving... for oysters
I know my mother thinks I am crazy.  With all of the great food that we will be eating on Thanksgiving day at my parent's house, the only item I keep thinking about is raw oysters.  For some reason I can just picture myself on a warm Thanksgiving morning sitting outside shucking fresh oysters and drinking beer.  Never mind the fried turkeys and oyster dressing;  forget the cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole.  Just give me some raw oysters.  Is that too much to ask?
By requesting that we get a sack of raw oysters, I'm not sure if I'm acting low maintenance or being a pain in the ass.  I have a feeling it is the latter.  I spoke to my mother last night and I don't believe we'll come through with the oysters, so I guess I'll have to settle (if you can call it that) for all of the other goodies.  I am especially looking forward to my mother's crab soup; a cream based warm soup loaded with lump crabmeat.  I'll post the recipe here shortly.  No oysters for me this Thanksgiving, so I think I know what I'm having for lunch on Friday...
On a lighter note, I was at Tipitina's last Friday and I ran into a friend of mine that I hadn't seen in a while.  Ok, so the friend was my room-mate, and it was good to see he was still kicking.  I'm pretty sure he's in denial about living with his girlfriend and won't admit it.  Yes, he still pays rent, but I really have the place to myself.  Is this food related?  Of course it is.  I was shocked to come home Sunday evening to find one of our dining room tables missing (we have two).  Apparently my room-mate is moving out, one piece at a time.  I can't wait to see what is missing next!
9:58 am | link

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cooking for One
Cooking for myself has become a real challenge.  Not that it's hard, but I think I've found myself in a rut and need to get out.  There's only so many ways you can cook a chicken breast and a box of macaroni and cheese is out of the question.  So what is one to do when cooking for one?
My cooking experience started in college and it hasn't stopped.  After several years, the ideas become old and the inspiration disappears.  When I'm cooking at home I tend to use a lot of chicken, for a multitude of reasons: it's versatile, accessible, healthy, freezable (is that a word?), and inexpensive.  The simplest thing to keep in your freezer is a bag of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Thaw one out in a matter of minutes and think of the possibilities!
Monday night was chicken night.  I took two chicken tenders (breast meat) and marinated them in Siracha sauce, a spicy oriental chili sauce.  Along with the marinade I wrapped up the chicken in a foil pouch and tossed it in the oven.  I didn't want to grill the chicken for fear that the sauce would burn on the grill.  I had some asparagus in the fridge, so I cooked it like usual: drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper and wrapped in foil for the oven.  Last, I made some Jasmine rice to complete the trio.  This was something a bit different than I usually make, but it turned out fantastic.
Tuesday was steak night.  I recently decided that I deserve a great steak at least once a week.  Sav-A-Center had NY strips on sale and I found a great thick and marbled steak while shopping this past Sunday.  I cooked it as I usually do in my cast iron pan to medium rare and paired it with some Cajun garlic mashed potatoes.  Ok, so it wasn't the best meal for helping to shed some fat, but it was quite tasty.
Last night I succumbed to the urge to take the night off from cooking.  Juan's Flying Burrito was calling my name.  So after a great afternoon at the gym and a protein-laden smoothie, I opted to pick up some steak tacos from Juan's; easy enough.
Although I'm not the only single person in my six degrees of social contacts, I probably cook more than most.  A lot of my friends survive on fast food, restaurants or the path of least resistance (a.k.a. a box of easy mac).  I think that's why I enjoy having people over to eat.  Food should be enjoyed; best with a group of friends.  When food becomes nothing more than something to keep you going, there's something to be worried about.  Enjoy that great sense that you've been blessed with, taste.
9:14 am | link

Monday, November 8, 2004

To the food bloggers who want to talk politics:

Angered by the recent elections?  Sorry.  You have two options: move to Canada or shut up and drink.  I’m the bartender (as well as the author of this site) and there is one hard and fast rule at my bar, no talk of religion and don’t even start on the politics. 


I am sick and tired of all of the whining about the elections, all of the depression and how this country is going to be “screwed” for the next four years.  And you think I’ve been reading too many liberal political sites?  Nope, these are friggin’ food blogs!*


Note to the food bloggers: I come to your site to read about food.  If I wanted to hear how much you hate Bush then I’d ask your opinion (or beat it out of you).  Since when did I have to learn about your political views just to get a great recipe for chicken pot pie?  Get a friggin’ life! 


Ok, so what now?  I figure you are reading this web page because you enjoy eating, drinking, cooking and talking about it.  Yep, me too.  So here’s my promise: you’ll never have to wade through any of my opinionated garbage just to read about food.  That’s all we do here.  Eat, drink and be merry.


By the way, I’m sitting on my sofa listening to a CD by the Barenaked Ladies, one of the better bands to come out of Canada.  If you are planning to leave the US for a “better” life in Canada, I recommend you pick up one of their records (oh, and send me some bacon).


I’m going to have a glass of wine, what’ll it be for you?
* the website that prompted this outrage is Foodgoat 
7:56 pm | link

Back in the Kitchen
After a long haitus, I'm back to my usual Sunday cooking.  Unfortunately I don't have a friend to help in the kitchen since Tom moved back to Chicago.  The good news is that I've promoted myself to executive chef of my own kitchen.  So now that I'm in control, I need to find someone to do the prep work (it used to be me).  I'm not sure that will be so easy; who really wants to come over and chop onions and garlic and peel shrimp?  If by some stretch of the imagination you were interested, apply within.  But I digress...
Earlier in the week I picked up a pack of boneless, skinless chicken tenders (breast meat) that was on sale at Sav-A-Center (I'm a sucker for a good deal) and worked furiously to integrate them into my Sunday menu.  Since I enjoy doing Tex-Mex so much, I looked through some cookbooks until it hit me like a ton of bricks; chicken flautas!  Sure, why not take something tasty and fry it in hot oil, then dip it in sour cream?  I'm not on the Atkins diet, are you?
To those who haven't tried them, flautas are really just deep fried tacos (to put it simply); meat or seafood rolled up in a corn tortilla and tossed into hot oil;  Yummy.  My favorite flautas in the area are the shrimp flautas at Taqueria Corona, but to this date, I had never attempted to make my own.  Seeing as I had chicken in the fridge, I knew my filling.  I marinated the chicken with some spicy habanero sauce that I bought at the Union Supermarket.  Along with some chopped onion and garlic, I sautéed the chicken in a non-stick fry pan.  When all of the mixture was cooked, I chopped and shredded the chicken and put the whole mixture in a bowl.  That was the easy step; the next part took a little time.
The goal was to wrap up some of the chicken mixture in each of the tortillas and secure them with a toothpick.  Anyone who has tried folding a corn tortilla knows that they break apart entirely too easily.  After sacrificing a bunch of tortillas, I realized the best way to make them pliable was to dredge each tortilla in hot oil.  Boy, did that do the trick.  So after wetting the tortillas, I spooned a bit of the mixture and some feta cheese crumbles into each tortilla, rolled it up and put a toothpick through the middle.  For the frying part, I used a cast iron skillet and filled it up with about one inch of oil and heated it to approximately 350 degrees.  Using tongs, I placed about three at a time and let them fry to a golden color before removing them to drain on a platter of paper towels.
For dipping, I made a lime-cumin sour cream with lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper all mixed in with sour cream.  The flautas turned out to be a crowd pleaser.   I also made some guacamole, salsa and a cold shrimp salad to go with the dinner.  Of course, we consumed a few ice cold Coronas and a couple of margaritas (but that's a given).  The only thing I will change next time on the flautas is the cheese.  The recipe I used as a guide called for feta cheese.  It turned out tasty, but I think it might have been a little better with a spicy pepper jack cheese.  At least I've got a reason to do them again soon.
9:49 am | link

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Buzzworthy article in CityLife magazine
Congratulations to Kevin R. Roberts, who was featured in the November '04 edition of New Orleans City Life magazine.  The article features Kevin and the story of his quest to help the local restaurants of New Orleans through his book "New Orleans Neighborhood Restaurant Guide."  Kevin is a friend of mine, but I didn't even know about the article until I received my copy of the magazine in the mail today.  Pick up a copy and check out page 75.  If you want a glance at his book, pick one up at a local store, or buy it online here.
5:51 pm | link

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

What is your favorite dessert?
When it comes to my favorite dessert, there is no hesitation.  The answer is ironclad: cheesecake.  I'm not sure how or when my obsession with cheesecake started but it probably grows a bit every year.  If I go to a restaurant and cheesecake is on the dessert menu, I order it.  If someone wants to make a special treat for me, I tell them I want cheesecake.  I feel even a mediocre cheesecake is better than a fantastic carrot cake.  And for all of the cooking I do, the funny part is that I've never even made a cheesecake!
Is it odd that I've never even made the dish that I'm so excited about?  I'm not sure of the reason, but it's just one of those things that I've left up to the experts.  One of the best slices of cheesecake I've had in a while was last week at Mat & Naddie's after my birthday dinner.  My mom makes a great cheesecake and has done so for years.  My grandpa makes them frequently, often experimenting with different flavors and crusts.  And me?  Well, the best I've done is make a pretty good sauce to top a store bought cheesecake.  So if you are like I am and don't like to bake, here's my sure-fire sauce: raspberry or blackberry coulis.
Raspberry Coulis
Fresh (or frozen) raspberries (or blackberries)
Fresh lemon juice
White sugar
In a small saucepan on medium heat, let berries simmer and reduce into a thick sauce.  Squeeze in a bit of fresh lemon juice to thin out the sauce and add flavor; be careful not to add too much juice!  Last, add a tablespoon of sugar (or more) to taste.  Obviously this sauce is not an exact science, just use each of the three ingredients to drive the ultimate flavor.  When the sauce is cooked down, decide whether you would like to leave in the seeds or strain them out.  Funnel the sauce into a squeeze bottle and decorate your cheesecake like the professionals.  Your guests will love it!
1:54 pm | link

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