Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Soft and Buttery Dinner Rolls

Soft and Buttery Dinner Rolls on black acrylic

Easy and flavorful, these fluffy buns could be a meal in themselves

When was the last time you had a really good dinner roll? One with a golden crust and a pillowy, yeasty interior? With enough butter-kissed flavor that piling more butter on at table is an indulgence, not a necessity?

If you buy dinner rolls at the supermarket, it’s probably been a long time since you’ve had one that’s really worth eating. Fortunately, however, making your own is quite easy. And although it takes a while for the dough to rise, your hands-on time is only a few minutes.

So for your next dinner party or holiday meal (these are a natural at Easter), why not surprise your guests with a basket of fresh, homemade dinner rolls? They’ll disappear in a hurry, guaranteed. Just remind everyone to save some room for the rest of the meal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp in oval ramekin with French Bread

Spicy, garlicky sauce cries out for dunkable bread

If there were a “truth in advertising” law for recipes, this one would get busted. Because New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp isn’t really barbecue at all. And shrimp don’t even play the leading role. Instead, it’s the sauce you’re after—a butter-heavy dunking mix that’s liberally spiced (and delightfully seasoned with garlic). You’ll want to mop up every last drop with crusty French bread.

Given the amount of butter in the sauce, this dish clearly is no diet food. But did you really expect it to be, with “New Orleans” in the name? That part, at least, is for real.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Irish Potato Candy

Irish Potato Candy on Happy St. Patrick's Day Napkin

This cinnamon-coated coconut cream candy is a Philadelphia St. Pat’s tradition

Certain cities have iconic foods associated with them. Boston? Clam chowder and baked beans. New York? Thin-crust pizza and bagels.

How about Philadelphia? You may think Philly cheese steaks, hoagies, and soft pretzels. But Irish Potato Candy? Maybe you haven’t heard of this treat.

Irish Potato Candy is a traditional Philly confection that (despite its name) did not originate in Ireland. Nor does it contain potato. But the shape of these candies and their reddish-brown coating make them look like little round spuds—hence the name.

These candies may sound a bit odd, but wait until you bite into one of these diminutive darlings. Their flavor is no small potatoes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Vieux Carré Cocktail

The Vieux Carré Cocktail in glass with lemon twist garnish

A New Orleans original

Vieux Carré means “old square” in French. It also happens to be what they called New Orleans’ French Quarter back in the day. So when Walter Bergeron invented this cocktail in the 1930s (while tending bar at a hotel in the French Quarter), it was a no-brainer to name it after the Big Easy’s oldest and most famous neighborhood.

The watering hole where Bergeron worked is now called the Carousel Bar. And yes, it resembles (and revolves like) a carnival carousel.

If you’d like to ride the painted ponies, but can’t make it to Nawlins right now, no worries. Just mix up a Vieux Carré Cocktail—and take your palate for a spin.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo with Tabasco in background

New Orleans flavor in your own kitchen  

The US has loads of interesting regional dishes. One of the best known is gumbo, a hearty stew-like dish with bottomless flavor. Gumbo originated in south Louisiana eons ago. Today it’s made with a wide variety of meat and seafoods, in both Cajun and Creole styles. It’s so popular (and the variations are so endless) that probably every family in Louisiana has their own unique recipe.

All gumbos are based on a long-cooked roux (the flour-and-fat mixture that also forms the basis for many gravies). When we make gravy, we usually cook the roux for only a few minutes. For gumbo, we need to cook it for at least half an hour, and usually more like 45 to 60 minutes. It’s a bit of work, yes. But the flavor payoff is worth it. And that flavor is the essence of gumbo.

Mardi Gras is coming up this Tuesday—and it’s the biggest celebration of the year in New Orleans. What better way to join in the festivities than by making a batch of gumbo for yourself? It’s like a party in a bowl.