Monday, January 31, 2011

John Besh's Jalapeno Cheese Grits

Hello my fellow freaks in foodness!!

Well I decided to try and make Chef Besh's chese grits this evening.  Let me start out by saying that quality ingredients make a difference and with that in mind let's do it!

I didn't bother to take photos because it's grits.  If I would have done a plate with them I would have snapped away.

1st I took a jalapeno pepper and roasted it till it was well charred. I poped it into a small paper bag and let the steam from the pepper loosen the skin.

Once I could handle the pepper I peeled the skin, cut it in half and removed the seeds and ribs.  I tend to like a bit more heat but this was the first attempt and I had  my son Petes friend as a victim, albeit a willing one.  Diced that bad boy up and put to the side. 

To continue the prep work I pulled out 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of Marscapone cheese, and 4 ounces of Edam cheese.

After the prep was complete, I brought to a boil 4 1/2 cups of water with 1 tsp of salt. I looked hard for good old fashioned grits but the store only had quick cook.  Oh well!  I whisked 1 cup of grits into the water.  You need to keep stirring this stuff or you'll have lava like bubbles popping all over the stove and yourself.

5 minutes later I stirred in all my other ingredients and VOILA!!

They were a hit!  6 servings made I ate 1 put 1 in the fridge the rest down my guinea pigs throat.  

I felt bad about not going with a slow cook grit but I made up for it with quality ingredients, i.e., cheese and butter.

I purposely placed one of the servings in a round container in hopes it will solidify a bit.  I'm thinking of removing it from the container and grilling it till it's warm and topping with grilled cajun spiced shrimp or a crawfish and cream sauce.

I'm open for suggestions!!

Give this recipe a shot it's suprisingly tasty

"Chow For Now"


Friday, January 28, 2011

A week in New Orleans

Hello my Fellow Fod Freaks!

Just back from a week in New Orleans.  I was attending a training session for my job at the VA.  To say I ate too much would be an understatement. The food options are so numerous I think you could eat at a new place every day and never eat at the same place twice.  With that in mind I'll hit some highlights.

1st up is Brother's Fried Chicken.  I ate there last night.  It's literally in a convenienc store on Common Ave.  At first I was a bit apprehensive but alas when in Rome!  The chicken put anything to shame I have eaten in the past. Juicy can't describe it and the coating was crispy and not greasy at all.  It came with a generous portion of steak fries and on the recommendation from one of the employees at the hotel I was staying I tried one of the meat pies.  HOLY NOM!  That little sucker had more flavor than I expected.  Nice and spicy!  If I would have had a fridge in my room I would have bought a dozen!!  Pie was only a couple of bucks chicken was $4.00 for 2 thighs and 2 legs.  This was also good since food in the city is OUTRAGEOUSLY high priced. 

2nd was The American Sector at the National WW2 Museum.  I had a corned beef on rye with hand cut chips, slaw and cheese grits.  The restaurant is owned by John Besh.  Not only a great chef but a Marine too!  Semper Fi!  There are some great reasons for the food to be so wonderful. First all meats are smoked and prepared in house.  Second they believe in sustainable local products and third it just tastes great.

Now I'm not a born and bred Southerner but I do enjoy my grits.  The grits at the American Sector taste so good it'll make you wanna slap yo mama!  They were spicy, creamy and cheesy.  I wanted to lick the bowl!!  I found the recipe and will be posting pics and the recipe later.

Although I didn't get to Cafe DuMonde I did have opportunity to eat some traditional New Orleans foods. Red Beans and rice at Mother's Cafe and a muffaletta at Cafe Maspero.  Mother's is crazy busy but the food was wonderful and service good an obvious favorite with the locals. 

Masperos got mixed reviews on Yahoo and I couldn't tell you why.  The sandwich was a beast!!  The darn thing wouldn't fit in my mouth!  Luckily I had a prybar.  This was a classic.  Tons of meat and olive salad dripping everywhere!

Unfortunately the prices in the city have risen sharply from what I remember.  It wasn't uncommon for a meal to run $30.00 or more WITHOUT drinks. There is a Harrah's Casino so lunch isn't too bad at $10.00 a head.  Keep in mind it is a casino buffet so the seasoning levels aren't typical of the local restaurants. 

Overall great food experience was had.  I would recommend you try to go where the locals go and roll with the flow as each place has it's own personality and style.

Helpful hint!!!!!  Take cash.  A lot of places don't take plastic or give seperate checks.  If you go with a group, which just increases the fun, let them know, ATMs abound but at an average of $3.00 a transaction it's not worth it.

Next week long trip will be to Jackson MS in April.  I wonder what culinary adventures I will find!

Until next time!!

"Chow for Now"


Monday, January 10, 2011

Aristo's D'Iberville

Hello my friends in food!

I was reminded the other day that I neglected the meal I enjoyed at one of the newer places in the area.  The Promenade in D'Iberville is loaded with places to eat.  You name it they got it!  Pretty much all the standard shopping mall eateries.  But there is a hidden gem tucked away and unfortunately a little out of site. 

Aristo's is a little piece of variety in the cookie cutter restaurants of mall land.  Terri and I where wandering one day and she suggested we give them a shot. 

We of course had to have our unsweet tea. and for an appetiser we tried the pita pizza mozz.  This was pretty tasty.  Warm pita bread with melted mozzarella and served with a feta ranch dipping sauce!!!!

We also tried the Flat potato fries.  It's a really cool concept. They slice a whole potato and deep fry it.  It had more of a home fry texture and I thought  it OK but I could take it or leave it. 

I followed up with the gyro with added feta.  I love me some feta!  I've had gyros all over the country and this was the first time it was suggested to me to try it with melted feta.  I didn't know what I was missing!! 

The sandwich was packed with gyro meat veggies and oozing melted cheese.  It was a very satisfying meal. 
Terri indulged herself in a grilled shrimp wrap that looked great.  Judging from the mmmmmmms and yummms we both agreed that there will be a future visit.

The wait staff was wonderful and attentive without hovering.  Glass was always full and food was hot and fresh.

Prices pretty good and you can tell the staff enjoys what they do.  Give em a try!  If we don't support these smaller businesses we will be doomed to chain restaurants and woe to the adventurous palate!!!

"Chow for Now"


Pizza at Tony's 14th Street Gulfport MS

Hello my fellow food freaks!

Well last Friday evening after a very trying week I decided to hit Tony's for dinner with my faithful food guinea pig Terri.  Tony's has become my sort of go to hang out when I have to have a good hand tossed pie or I just don't know what I want to eat.

I had much to my own suprise become a creature of habit until that night. We decided on the usual unsweet tea, fried mozarella and a side salad.  Here's wher it gets good! 

Maria, our waitress, informed us of a special pie on the menu. It seems Tony was getting creative and had a shrimp pie on the menu!!!

I learned to eat all kinds of things on pizza while in Italy and shrimp was one of them!!

Terri LOVES shrimp but I was suprised at how readily she accepted the suggestion.  So we munched our appetizer and salad and when the pizza arrived.  VIOLA! or should I say ECCO QUA!

The crust was delightfully crunchy with a nice bit of char.  This is a "sauce less" pizza in that olive oil and garlic are substituted. Topped with fresh basil, tomatoes, red onion and shrimp snuggled in a layer of cheese. 

I must admit I was pleasently suprised. Great mouth feel and the taste was reminiscent of linguini with clam sauce.  The only thing I added was a touch of salt only because I felt it needed a little.  One thing I found strange was the pizza flavors seemed to get better as the pie cooled.  I would almost eat this cold that's how good it was.

Price was comparable to the other pizza options on the menu so this little adventure not only got me off my meat lovers with mushroom kick it was within budget.

We have eaten at Tony's a few times but this evening was exceptional. The salad was good size and really fresh.  The parmesan dressing was tangy and highlighted the greens without overpowering them.  Oh!  I almost forgot the warm focaccia that comes with it!!  This stuff is AWESOME! Served warm sprinkled with herbs and cheese it can be ordered as a side with a great marinara to dip it in.

I was dismayed to hear this wonderful addition to the menu was only a special.  In an unusual move on my part I spoke with Tony and begged him to make it a permanent fixture. Even if they don't I recommend giving the place a try.

"Chow for Now"


Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Years Eve

Hello my fellow food freaks!

New Years Eve I decided to add fresh pasta for dinner to our simple salad and flatbread menu.  It had been a very long time since I broke out the good old Mercato pasta machine.  I picked it up about 15 years ago while stationed in Italy.  My sons and I would spend rainy Sundays making multi colored pastas.  It was great family time. 

What inspired me to bring it out of hibernation was the receipt of a pair of Mario Batali cookbooks for X-Mas and feeling the need to whip up some old school ravioli!

Mario's recipe is very simple all you need is 3 1/2 cups flour and 4 large eggs.  Yes, that is it along with some elbow grease that is.  The pasta machine makes things easier but it's not a must have.

I would add if using a pasta machine start off on setting 1 run your dough through a couple of times after folding it over on itself.  This helps knead the dough as well as get it to the desired thickness.  I rolled the evenings pasta down to 8.  The finished pasta was very light and I decided next time to roll down to around a 5 or a six to give it a more hearty mouth feel.

Here it is rolled to around 5.  Hard to tell between the higher settings but when it's cooked you can really tell.

Here is a sheet rolled to 8.  The dough had been kneaded enough at this point to be very elastic and easy to manage.  REMEMBER:  Lightly flour your work surface before laying sheets down. No I forgot and it made it hard to remove the ravioli from the counter.  Lesson learned!

For the filling I must admit I was conservative with the spice.  I made a classic ricotta and garlic filling by taking a small container of ricotta, fresh ground pepper, salt, garlic and 1 whole egg.  I struggled with the flavor as I like really spicy food and I was cooking for others.  I erred on the side of mellow and it was a mistake.  And here is the reason why.

I truly knew better and I should have left well enough alone.  I made a mushroom and sage sauce by heating salted butter and olive oil in a pan with fresh sage.  I removed the sage leaves and tossed in a generous helping of sliced portabello mushrooms and cooked them down till they released their juices.  It tasted wonderful! All I should have done is toss my cooked raviloi into the pan to coat and finish with parmesan.  BUT NOOOOO!!!

After I boiled them in salted water till al'dente I added Marinara sauce to the original sauce.  Now don't get me wrong the follow up sauce was pretty good but a bit too strong for the ravioi I had made.

My guests assured me that they tasted great but I should have gone with my gut feeling and kept the marinara out of the equation.

As an added treat fresh flatbread was topped with roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella popped into the oven till the cheese melted into a hot gooey glob of love!

Overall I know I was harder on myself than the guests but it probably would have helped my confidence if I would have done a practice run before hand.

Anyway fun was had by all and I look forward to the next gathering.  What to cook? 

I have an idea!!

Why don't you send me some suggestions!!!

"Chow for Now"