Monday, February 28, 2011

The search for the perfect gumbo

Being a fan of gumbo I just had to have it when visiting New Orleans! Now, having only had gumbo made by my friend Boyd or myself, I was in for a surprise. The Louisiana gumbo is darker than the one I had before - the roux in it would sure be considered burned by the French. It is also much milder; I am not sure if the restaurants are trying to please the tourists or if this is how the traditional creole gumbo is made. The soup was traditionally served with rice on top but it was more of a broth - the familiar abundance of seafood and vegetables was surprisingly missing from my plate, although I did find a little crab!
Although I did not find my perfect gumbo, I found some pretty tasty ones when exploring the city. After trying the soup in several restaurants in French Quarter, my best choice goes to Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Iberville St. The wonderful flavor of the broth sure made up for lack of spicy sausage!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


American-style sandwiches are not my favorite thing in the world and I will tell you why.
1. I think the bread is either too light or too heavy and I haven't found a perfect balance anywhere yet.
2. They are filled with tons of meat. While it seems that the meat is what Americans usually desire on a sandwich, I feel that it takes away from other flavors - the cheese, veggies, spreads. Believe it or not, your palate wants to taste things other than meat sometimes too!
3. Last but not least is the issue of cheese. Where did all the flavorful cheese disappear to? Don't sandwiches deserve tasteful, interesting cheese?
There IS good news, though. It seems that I have found the best medicine for our sandwich boredom and it is called Muffuletta.

The muffuletta sandwich was developed in Central Grocery in New Orleans, an Italian grocery store founded in early 1900's. The muffulleta sandwich is prepared with muffuletta bread with sesame seeds, marinated olive oil salad, several kinds of meats and 2 kinds of cheeses. Although it is seemingly full of meat, the ham, pepperoni, capicola and salami are sliced thinly, as to not take away from other flavors of the sandwich. The olive oil salad is made of marinated veggies that usually would never see an inside of a sandwich, such as carrots or cauliflower. Talk about original and impressive! Now, dig in!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In the bayou

To get away from the negative temperatures, snow and wind, Jeff and I decided to take a trip to a place I have always wanted to visit - New Orleans. Having never been south my expectations were huge! And I have to say, the weather, food and people delivered! The people are honestly grateful for the tourists coming back to the area after the storm.

One of the best things we did was the tour of the swamp, just north-east of N.O., where we fed alligators some marshmallows.
This is just one of many houses on the bayou. "You're born into this lifestyle, you don't choose it" according to my tour guide. People there live from what they catch; trapping of coypu (rodent producing a flavorful meat called nutria), shrimping, craw-fishing. Saturday nights the river is hoppin' with dancing parties the cajun people throw. "They would give you a shirt off their backs, even if that's the last thing they have".
Remnants of the Hurricane Katrina. The bayou is still full of old boats, garbage and whole houses, even after years of cleanup. We saw a house that floated to the alligator breeding area and the owner had to be air lifted by helicopter to safety.
The beautiful bayou is full of wild animals and plant species.
One of the bayou's residents.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bake it like you're French

Since Barefoot in Paris cookbook by Ina Garten was one of my Christmas presents, I try to utilize it in my kitchen and bring a little class to my Polish/American cooking. Slowly, but surely, as they say...
Chef Jeff cooked an amazing Valentines Day dinner, as you may see in the previous post, but now it was my time to shine my talents in the dessert making portion of the evening. I am actually not a big baker - I have couple cake recipes that work out pretty well for me, but most of the time I feel that my baking skills are not what they could be. Regardless of this, I decided to make Pear Clafouti, which is a cake made of fruit covered by flan-like mixture and baked. Traditionally it comes with cherries, but the recipe called for pears, since they are in season more often. I think that I succeeded! The dessert was not too sweet, as most American desserts are, and it truly reminded me of the taste of my home. To sweeten it up, however, you may add some ice cream to it, as I did - I used banana ice cream. I also added frozen fruit on top to add some color.
This recipe is available online here as well as in the cookbook I mentioned.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The most expensive spice in the world

Certainly not the golden flakes in the Goldschlager! It is of course saffron, which is derived from a crocus flower. Ancient Persians bathed in saffron infused water to cure their battle wounds, but I found a better way to spice up my life!
For an early Valentine Day's dinner chef Jeff once again put my cooking abilities to shame and made a wonderful mussel bisque followed by mussels in white wine. Both were delicious, but if i had to choose my favorite it would hands down be the bisque. Difficult to believe that the only spices in it were salt, pepper and of course the saffron!
The recipe for the wonderful bisque came from Ina Garten's cookbook Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? I highly recommend it, as it was relatively easy to make!
To clean the mussels immerse them in water with flour.
Mussels in white wine sauce, courtesy of Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa. This recipe is available online.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chef Jeff Part 2 - Pork Wantons with Hawaiian Sauce

After working a long day at the hospital, I came home last night to very wonderful smells pulling me into the kitchen. To my pleasant surprise, chef Jeff was once again doing serious work, this time creating wantons from the leftover pulled pork. What a great use of on hand materials! He also made more Hawaiian sauce from scratch using 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger and the leftover juice mixture from cooking the pork.
I wonder what is in the plans for tomorrow night's dinner???

Wrapping pork meat in wanton skins (you can get that in any grocery store refrigerated section), then frying them in olive or canola oil.
Just waiting to be devoured!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chef Jeff Part 1 - Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Desperately seeking attention from a certain food blogger, my husband Jeffrey has been working his tail off in the kitchen this week. During the weekend our friend Boyd, Jeff and I enjoyed delicious pulled pork sandwiches with slowly cooked pork shoulder, topped with homemade Hawaiian sauce and coleslaw. Being the frugal member of our 2 person family, Jeff likes to get ideas that won't break the budget. Sandra's Money Saving Meals FoodNetwork show is right up his alley and anything that has the words "pulled pork" will for sure catch his attention!
You can find the recipe for the meal here.