Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Play-By-Play Pico de Gallo

There are several unspoken, fundamental, and "sacred" rules in our home.

First, you must take off your shoes before entering the house.

Second, if you use up the last of the toilet paper, then you must replace the roll and make sure that the toilet paper dispenses from the top (frontwards), and not the bottom (backwards).

Third, during football season, the salsa bowl in the fridge must never be less than 2/3rds empty. Otherwise, any and every household member is responsible for replenishing the salsa, employing whatever means necessary.

I am an Arizona native, the beau is a football fanatic, and thankfully, we both resoundingly agree that pico de gallo is a critical refrigerator staple during the football season.

Although you most likely know how to make pico de gallo, I would like to share my family's recipe, play-by-play, and just in time for the football season.

Play-by-Play Pico de Gallo
4-5 large tomatoes
4-5 large cloves of garlic
1 small or medium lime
1/2 yellow onion
1/4 bunch of cilantro
1 tsp of salt (or more, to taste)
1 jalapeno, de-seeded (optional)

First, using a fine grater, gently zest the peel of the lime. You don't need a lot of zest, a little bit goes a long way. Juice the lime into a large bowl, using a spoon to scrape off the pulp from the peel. Reserve the juice, pulp, and zest in the bowl. Next, remove the papery skins from the onion and garlic, and chop the onion, garlic, and cilantro finely. If you can stand the heat, also de-seed finely chop one green jalapeno, removing the tissue-like membranes inside.

Then, core the tomatoes (removing the inedible naval-ish stem area) and dice the tomatoes into small 1/4 inch pieces. Place the tomatoes in the lime juice.

Combine all the ingredients, and serve with tortilla chips.

The last step, is to enjoy the salsa in front of a thrilling football game. Bon appetit!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Easy BBQ Ideas

Now that football season has started, you are going to be seeing a lot more football-centric food items here on the blog.

One of my favorite dishes to make during the football season is barbecued chicken. You will be amazed at how easy it is to make fantastic tasting chicken with minimal effort. No specialized dry or wet rubs are needed! I simply use a bottle of store-bought barbecue sauce and marinate dark meat pieces overnight in the sauce.

Then, I cook the chicken pieces (preferably of uniform size) on medium hot coals. You have to be careful to cook the chicken all the way through, but you don't want to overcook it and burn it either. You want a sticky caramelized glaze on the chicken. You can brush the leftover sauce on the chicken as it cooks on the grill, up to five minutes before the chicken is done.

Another incredibly easy "BBQ" idea is vegetable skewers. All you need to do is skewer cherry or grape tomatoes, zucchini or other types of squash, red onions, mushrooms, and colorful bell peppers and char them a little on the grill. Since the vegetables do not need to be cooked for very long (and frankly, they can be eaten raw), these skewers will be done in a few simple minutes and you don't even need to pre-soak the skewers because of the limited grill time.

Here, I just used bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions, and the skewers were still colorful and tasty.

Furthermore, for barbecues, try to prep as many dishes as you can before the big day. Coleslaw is one of those essential barbecue side dishes that actually tastes better the next day because the cabbage wilts, softens, and absorbs the flavorful mayonnaise deliciousness.

The last "easy BBQ" tip that I have learned (as a result of living in New Orleans), is that if you can cook two things at a time, do it! In New Orleans, you boil crab, crawfish, potatoes, and corn in the same tub! Here is a picture of corn and crab, which was boiled in the same large stockpot. What a great time saver!

Now get on out there and begin the tailgating and the barbecuing!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Why I Miss Summer in Southern California

These pictures should speak for themselves. No words are necessary.

But if you need words, check out how Taste Memory has aptly summarized why In-N-Out burgers epitomize summer in Southern California.

Otherwise, just imagine the juicy all-meat patty, perfectly grilled and placed upon a toasted white bun, with accompanying leaves of crisp lettuce and slices of ruby red tomato. Oh, and also, the greasy slab of American cheese. That should be enough to make you miss getting drive-in burgers at In-N-Out and going to the Southern California beaches during the summer.

In-N-Out has a cult following because it makes everything on its menu with fresh ingredients and keeps strongly to its company values, which incorporate religious attributes and sound business practices. I definitely became a follower during my time in Southern California, and will bow my head adoringly to the In-N-Out gods from afar.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Beau's Three Favorite Words

It's not, "I love you."

Nor is it, "I adore you."

It isn't even, "You da' man."

Rather, it is "Monterey Park Food," which can be found at a three-word restaurant, "Mandarin Noodle House."

For those of you unfamiliar with Monterey Park, it is home to one of the largest ethnic Taiwanese enclaves in the United States. My beau (a Taiwanese man) calls Monterey Park the "promised land" because of its authentic and affordable Chinese/Taiwanese food. Therefore, for a friend's recent wedding (after the back-to-back scheduled events of the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and wedding) we snuck away to Mandarin Noodle House, a typical Monterey Park establishment, right before zooming off to LAX for the long trek back home.

There are several classic "must have" items at Mandarin Noodle House.

First, their Chinese beef noodle soup, or niu row mein, is one such "must have." The soup is made with thick and gummy handmade fettuccine-like noodles, and enlivened with bright and zesty cilantro sprigs and coarsely chopped scallions. The warm soup is powered by a rich broth and the cutting flavors of star anise and cinnamon. And the slow-cooked beef is fall-off-the-bone tender--even though there is no bone for it to fall off from.

Look at these handmade noodles!

And their potstickers are almost as good as how my mom makes them.

The key word in that sentence: "almost."

The doughy skins of Mandarin Noodle House's potstickers gingerly hold together the pork filling, and the bottoms of the potstickers are seared in a hot skillet, until the bottom portion of the dough forms a thin, crisp crust.

I recommend for you to try those two dishes, but if you are trying out a Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant, you should also explore other options, such as these beef-filled rolls with sweet hoisin sauce, cilantro, and scallions. Let me warn you, you won't find any items like "chop suey," "General Tso's Chicken," or "sweet and sour pork" on the menus of restaurants like these.

Hey, I'm on a roll (pun not intended), so I might as well add a few words about another restaurant to which my beau and Short Exact introduced me a while back, "
Shanghai Dumpling King." Shanghai Dumpling King, which is conveniently also three words, serves classic Chinese/Taiwanese-style dishes. You can also get potstickers, pan-fried scallion flatbreads (awkwardly translated in Chinese restaurants as green onion pancakes), and great beef noodle soup there too. However, the only thing is that Shanghai Dumpling King is in the Bay Area, not in Monterey Park! I just wanted to mention it, to point out another critical item to order at a good Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant: shao loeng baos, which are steamed dumplings with ground pork and hot pork broth precariously sealed inside of them.

If looks could kill, I would be D.O.A. at these restaurants.

Unfortunately, after my own cursory hunting, I was unable to find any authentic Chinese/Taiwanese restaurants in the Greater New Orleans area, but if you know of any off the beaten path, please share the love!

I hope that this post opened your eyes about Chinese/Taiwanese food, and has encouraged you to try some in your area, in the near future!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tartine Revisited

The day after my wedding in San Francisco (this past July), I wanted to end my wedding diet the right way. So my first stop for breakfast (before the flight back to New Orleans) was Tartine Bakery, where I have had many a delicious eclair and buttery pain au chocolat in the past. However, I wasn't in an eclair or croissant-y mood at that moment. When I entered Tartine Bakery, it was clear that the towering slice of devils food cake had my name written all over it. Therefore, I gladly obliged my urges and ordered the chocolate.

Tartine Bakery's devils food cake is made with ultra-rich, and ultra-decadent Valrhona dark chocolate and ample amounts of real butter. The thick, brownie-like cake layers are alternated with oozing caramel and solid chocolate ganache. The ganache is a meal in an of itself. It is thick like refrigerated peanut butter, and so chocolately, that it tastes more intensely bittersweet than a dark chocolate bar, swallowed up whole in one huge mouthful. Best of all, the exposed top and side surfaces of the cake are generously dusted with cocoa powder--yes, even more chocolate. One bite of the cake, and you will immediately realize this cake is truly a chocolate lover's fantasy come true.

Diet ruined? Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting Dressed (Po' Boys) at Domilise's

My favorite po' boys in the City may be found at Domilise's.

Although Domilise's po' boys are delicious enough alone to attract the masses, you will find that the most potent reason to go to Domilise's is for Dot Domilise, the beloved proprietor of Domilise's. If you greet her with a genuine smile and pleasant conversation, she may invite you into her nearby home to meet her family dog, and share with you stories about her grandchildren and the Manning brothers (whose many pictures--from childhood to adulthood to the NFL--are carefully hung upon the restaurant walls). Dot's generosity abounds, and she epitomizes Southern charm, grace, and kindness. However, Dot has encountered her share of struggles since Hurricane Katrina. Although her sandwich shop is still standing, Dot had to rebuild her restaurant, replacing costly refrigeration equipment and refurbishing other damaged areas of her business. It is evident that New Orleans has not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina, however, it is heartening to see how Domilise's bounced back as far as it could, and Dot has retained her loyal clientele and managed to keep her business bustling, even despite the rising costs of food and fuel.

As for Domilise's sandwiches, it is not hard to see why Dot's customers are so loyal. The large "half & half" (for any 1-2 combo of fried oysters, shrimp, or catfish) is the most delicious option. The freshness at Domilise's is palpable. The servers do not start your sandwich until you order. Therefore, you can watch first hand as the gurgling cascade of bubbles bristle and rise to the surface when your battered seafood is dropped in stainless steel frying baskets into hot oil. Po' boys at Domilise's are always assembled as you wait.

Every po' boy at Domilise's starts with torpedo-sized loaf of fresh French bread. If you order the oyster and catfish half and half, with each bite of your po' boy, you will inevitably been greeted with a piercing crunch, and then the chewy tug of the yeasty French bread against your tightened jaws. Each green-tinged oyster is gummy, perfectly briny with the saltiness of the sea, and mouthwateringly savory. The tender, pristine flakes of white catfish are so delicate and fresh, they exude a soft fishy sweetness with each bite.

Peer into the depths of yo' po' boy sandwich, and notice the shimmering, glistening specks of "dressed" goodness, or hot sauce and mayonnaise, peeking underneath the heavy bread roof and through the rugged terrain of shredded lettuce, pickles, and golden-fried oyster nuggets and catfish filets. Now, that, my folks, is a sandwich to write home about.

Ah, heaven. I hope you enjoyed my description of my po' boy, as much as I enjoyed eating it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dragging My Tongue for Drago's Oysters

Recently, my friend brought me out to Drago's Seafood Restaurant in the Riverwalk Marketplace to relax, converse, and enjoy a leisurely evening of Drago's often-imitated, but never duplicated chargrilled oysters at their oyster bar. Unfortunately, our evening was interrupted by the looming fact that we had to return back to work that evening, to finish up various projects before their rapidly approaching deadlines. However, but we had an enjoyable dinner nonetheless, in large part because of Drago's oysters.

Why are these oysters so special and so sought after? It is all in their signature preparation.

Drago's world-famous chargrilled oysters are first slathered with a heavenly marinade of butter, chopped garlic, and vibrant herbs. Then, Drago's chefs proceed to cook the oysters on the grill, and generously shake handfuls of fine cheese powder over the oysters during the grilling process.

Flames lick and dance mercilessly upon the oysters until the entire exposed oyster surface is encrusted with a gooey, yet rough and seemingly calcified parmesan and pecorino romano cheese barrier.

The supple and incredibly juicy oysters are served with significant wedges of yeasty french bread, which may be used to sop up the liquified butter and oyster liqueur that collects within the oyster shells.

In addition to Drago's "killer delicious" oysters, that evening, I ordered another winner: the "shuckee duckee," which my friend noted was charmingly named after the oyster (thus the "shuckee") and the duck (thus the "duckee") components. The dish came with two tender and smoky duck breasts, which were scored with a knife and blackened on the surface, but crimson and trembling within. The al dente linguini pasta accompanying the duck breasts was carefully tossed in a decadent cream sauce interspersed with chewy nubs of chopped oysters.

My friend ordered the mesquite-grilled gulf shrimp which had been seasoned with fiery New Orleans spices, and tossed with fresh garden ingredients, including cucumbers, tomatoes, and mixed greens.

Though we had to take our uneaten entrees back to the office in doggie bag containers, we enjoyed our evening, and our oysters. I hope this post did the convincing, in that Drago's oysters are definitely something worth writing home about!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Embarrass Myself. What Else Is New?

I may be the only one to ever order takeout from Herbsaint.


A few days ago, I was presented with a problem. I was very busy at work, I was hungry for lunch, and I was in the mood for an upscale lunch--at my desk. So I called the celebrated New Orleans restaurant,
Herbsaint, and our conversation went as follows:

"Hi, you don't serve takeout do you? Well, I am in the mood for your grilled flatbread. You know, the one topped with shrimp, spinach, provolone cheese, and garlic butter?"

"Err. Well, we are not that kind of a restaurant. First, we don't have takeout containers. Second, we pride ourselves on 'presentation,' and with takeout, that is not really possible. However, we'll see what we can do. Conceivably, we 'could' wrap the flatbread up in foil for you."

"Oh, hells yeah! I'm over there in 15 minutes! Outs!"

And just like that, I became the first person to ever order takeout from

With their immaculately delicious flatbread, its not hard to understand why one would vehemently crave
Herbsaint's food at anytime of the day.

Allow me to describe why I love
Herbsaint's flatbread (so much so that I would subject myself to the scorn of society, by ordering takeout from an upscale, non-takeout kind-of-place). Herbsaint's flatbread is made of a blistered, crackery, paper-thin bread base. Browned grill marks evenly underscore the bottom of the crispy unleavened bread, and the surface of the bread is generously slathered with melted garlic butter. The crunchy flatbread is also topped with flavorful proportions of (1) chopped shrimp nuggets, bursting with juices and perfectly-cooked shrimp texture, (2) a generous blanket of grated provolone cheese, and (3) soft tufts of spinach, which are carefully nestled into crevices of the flatbread. All of these elements combine to make one of the most amazing parties for your tastebuds, ever.

And the unrivaled fragrance of the bread will make your mouth water uncontrollably. The overpowering garlicky + cheesy aroma wafting from the surface of the bread will make your heart stop dead in its tracks and cause tears to instantaneously fall freely from your flowing tear ducts. The pungent cheese odor is so powerful, it will make you feel that you just opened the sealed doors to a den storing five tons of aging parmesan cheese. It is that good.

After reading this post, you might ask me now, "Was it worth the mortification, of being known as the one and only person to ever order takeout from
Herbsaint?" Reflecting upon my meal, I have just one thing to say:


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Dream of Deanie's

Now that Hurricane Gustav has blown through Louisiana, and Hurricane Ike is rearing its ugly head towards the Texas and Louisiana coastlines, I want to take this quick opportunity to continue my impromptu takeout series, and emphasize that even in the face of a hurricane, New Orleans' natives still know how to eat well and celebrate life.

You've heard me "love on" Louisiana crawfish, time and time again. I am going to continue the love, by sharing about my takeout experiences at Deanie's Seafood Restaurant and Market.

The other day, while sitting at my desk, I had an insatiable urge for crawfish: the paradigmatic seafood critter of Louisiana. So I made a quick telephone call and ordered
Deanie's famed crawfish quartet, which comes with crawfish, served four different ways. When I opened the styrofoam container, I was greeted with a giant plume of steam, a golden-fried bounty of crawfish, and two piping hot containers filled with crawfish (and more). Because I have now been armed with the experience of eating Deanie's crawfish, allow me to give you a brief tutorial on the correct way to eat their crawfish quartet.

You should first start your meal with the crispy-fried crawfish tails. The chefs at
Deanie's carefully shell, batter, and deep-fry the chewy crawfish tails for your finger-licking consumption. Deanie's also provides you with two alternative dipping sauces: (1) a thick tartar sauce studded with chopped relish bits and (2) a zesty and sinus-clearing cocktail sauce.

Second, I'd advise you to proceed with the soft crawfish dressing balls, which are substantial orbs of moist and bready deliciousness, complete with bits of onions, celery, carrots, and crawfish interspersed throughout. They literally taste like fist-sized balls of Thanksgiving, but with one delicious twist: chewy nubs of crawfish, which provides for a delightful surprise in each bite.

Third, you should consider eating the crawfish etouffee next.
Deanie's hearty crawfish etouffee is everything a great etouffee should be. The warming and creamy chowder-like soup is made with crawfish tails, a buttery blonde roux, and the holy trinity (onions, celery, and bell pepper), and is served "smothered" or gently ladled over mound of long-grain white rice.

Finally, I would enjoy the crawfish au gratin last.
Deanie's crawfish au gratin is thicker-than-grits and supremely cheesy, such that each spoonful leaves trails of stringy cheese as you attempt to lift a spoon loaded with the au gratin towards your mouth. The au gratin tastes as if it were made with dry aged cheddar cheese, heavy cream, whole eggs, and flour--but that is just an educated guess. Even if it is not made with those ingredients, it tastes mind-blowingly delicious.

I hope this post has proven to you that takeout can be an excellent option, especially at Deanie's! Also, you could probably eat the dishes in the crawfish quartet in any sequence (and not based on my weak recommendation above), and it would still taste wonderful.
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