Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Backbones and Gravy

As a lot of you know, I love backbones, or country ribs. I usually get them boneless, so it becomes an oxymoron, boneless backbones. I have been cutting back on my carbs so I haven't made my favorite pork dish, Backbones and Rice. I made these and thought you'd like to see them. I braised these ribs actually. What is braising?

braise (brz)
tr.v. braised, brais·ing, brais·es
To cook (meat or vegetables) by browning in fat, then simmering in a small quantity of liquid in a covered container.

You start with about 3 - 4 lbs of backbones, (or country ribs, or country-style ribs, sometimes western ribs, never Country & Western Ribs) and give them a sprinkle of Cajun Spices, dredge them in flour (there go my carbs), and fry them in 3-4 tbs. of oil, on MED/HI, in a cast iron dutch oven, or big pot with a lid. After they are browned, about 20 mins., add a diced onion, 1 tbs garlic (minced), a bay leaf or two, 2 tbs worcestershire, and barely cover them with water or chicken stock. Let boil for about 20 mins., and place them in a 225º oven for about 4-5 hours. The will fall apart when you serve them, that is if you let anyone else have any.

These are great, give them a try. I served them with the gravy spooned over mashed potatoes, and the meat piled onto buttermilk biscuit halves. What was that? Carbohydrates? Dang.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Pecan Pie Fantasy!

On the cruise ship MS Fantasy, where I work, I have lots of friends from many different countries. One of my favorite people is a lovely, young Indian lady named Soorya Krishna, she works on board with her husband Prajod. Prajod is the Pastry Chef on board but his culinary knowledge is incredible, far beyond pastries and cruise ship fare. He is classically trained and has worked in different parts of the world. Soorya is a waitress who is now at home enjoying her well deserved vacation, Prajod will soon be joining her. They are a lovely couple and my good friends.

My friend Soorya is just as sweet as she can be and has found she LOVES an American dish that is as Southern as a 5-string banjo. Her favorite American dessert is Pecan Pie. Now she found this out be trying a pie made by our mutual friend and Den Mother in Mobile, none other than "crew gate security lady" Tammy Johnson. Tammy loves to bake pies and cakes for the crew. Her Pound Cake has no equal. She also makes one of the best pecan pies in the world.

Earlier in the year, Soorya was bugging me to make her a pecan pie. She was curious to learn how, and even bought some pecans in Mobile. She knows my love of cooking all things Southern, having been the caretaker of my Jezebel Sauce I made on board. I told her I would love to but would need permission from the Executive Chef on board. She stayed after Prajod to make sure it was cool, I picked up some extra pecans in Mexico, and donned my chef's coat and pants and off to the galley I went to make some pecan pies.

Prajod and I worked on the pies, Soorya was still working and couldn't be there. She did manage to stop by and take a few pictures, you can see only the pecans are in the pie shells for prebaking. We got the pies into the ovens and within an hour she was feasting on her favorite sugary confection. I was happy to make these for her, it was fun, and it was her last week on-board before she would be heading home to India. I miss my little friend and hope to see her and Prajod on some other ship on their next contract. I gave her the recipe and she swore she'd try making it at home, or talking her Mother into it, she's good at that.

I thought I'd give you my recipe for pecan pie as well. It was told to me verbally by my friend Corinne from New Orleans. I think it's the best one I've ever used. Corinne used to work at Creole Delicacies in Riverwalk, I miss her and the rest of the girls there. Thanks Corinne for the recipe.

Corinne's Nawlins Pecan Pie

3 whole eggs (beaten)
1 tsp vanilla (or Brandy)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbs butter (melted)
⅔ cup light Karo corn syrup
¼ tsp kosher salt
⅓ cup Steen'’s Pure Cane syrup (or light molasses)
1 ½ cups pecans
1 9 inch ready-made pie shell

Pour pecans into pie crust, place in pre-heated 350º oven for 5 mins. Thoroughly mix the eggs, brown sugar, Karo syrup, Cane syrup, vanilla, butter, and salt in a bowl, and pour over pecans after they’'ve cooled. Place into oven for 45 to 50 mins. Let cool and set-up before slicing.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

La Floresta Authentic Tacos

In my business travels, I spend ALOT of time in Mexico, specifically the Yucatan region, in the state of Quintana Roo. I am in Cozumel weekly, but sometimes I am required to fly out of Cancun since few of the airlines offer weekday flights year round. This might cause you to say, "boy he's lucky, getting to go to all those places every week." Well, before you do, let me say this, I am very lucky to have a full time job that pays well and allows me to share my talents with others.

What's the downside? I have to travel constantly, and go to the same place every week. I have flown into Cancun over 100 times, yet I've never SEEN Cancun. I have never been downtown nor do I even know what it looks like. I do know the road from Playa Del Carmen intimately, since that is how I get to Cancun from Cozumel, using a ferry into Playa. I have a regular taxi driver, whom I befriended over time, that meets me and off we go.

Many times I have to catch something to eat on the run, and my friend and driver Carlos Cupul Aguilar, knows all the great places (by the way his hair is not green, it's my crappy phone camera). Many are roadside taco stands, and some actually have a sit-down service. My favorite is by far... La Floresta. La Floresta is located on the main highway in Playa Del Carmen and is well worth your time if you're vacationing in the area.

As you can see by the limited menu, it is mostly seafood or "mariscos" on the tacos they serve. Alright before you flip out over the prices, they are listed in pesos, it runs about 10 - 1 dollarwise. So if you see something that costs 16.00, this is around $1.50. The place is truly a bargain and the food is wonderful. La Floresta has been in operation for 17 years, and is owned and operated by my new friend Enrique Gonzalez.

Let's start with my favorite the shrimp tacos. These shrimp are untra-fresh, batter-dipped, butterflied, large shrimp. They are fished locally from this region and have such a wonderful flavor. The batter is light and fluffy and enhances, rather than covering up, the delicate taste of the shrimp. They come to you bare, accompanied only by a warm, masa (corn) tortilla.

The condiments provided are a wonderful Pico de Gallo, which is a diced tomato, onion, jalapeña, cilantro, and lime juice salsa. They make the freshest and best Pico I have ever eaten IN MY LIFE!!! This is also aided by a red and green salsa, the green being a green habañero pepper sauce that must be used with extreme caution. To finish out the taco you're provided with mayonnaise. Really? Mayonnaise? You betcha, anytime I find a new use for mayonnaise is cause for celebration, and this one knocks it out of the park.

You put your taco together as illustrated, add a little green fire, and some mayo and man, oh man, is it ever tasty. The best tacos I've ever had. The crabmeat tacos I pictured in the previous post were good, but the shrimp tacos are wonderful. What Mexico calls taco and what is served at McTacos in the US are quite different in spirit and ingredient. These are massively superior.

Down the road you can find tacos made from braised pork, chile rellenos, and chicharrones to name a few. These are nearly as marvelous in their flavors and simplicity. Maybe we will explore these in a future post.

As for La Floresta, the staff is friendly and quick. Lupe and Carlos (pictured) were wondering why I come by so often, my driver Carlos explained that I worked on the cruise ship. They smiled, posed for a picture, and went about their business. The people of this region of Mexico are the friendliest and most accommodating people in the world, I love this part of the country.

I hope you get a chance to experience this area, its food and its people. My friend Carlos takes great care of me, I have met his family, including his baby daughter, and they are lovely. Make it a point to check out this restaurant if you do make it down Yucatan way.


El RouxBDiablo

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Heading to Mexico

Alright, it has been a couple of weeks since I posted and I feel bad, but I have been working on the pictures for this next post. It is not Cajun, it is not Creole, it's not even Louisiana nor Alabama. It's Mexico, yes I am there every week and thought I'd share some of my favorite local foods with you. The next post, next week is about TACOS. Yes, tacos of all sorts, so check back in next week.

I appreciate every one of my readers and followers, and I promise more great posts in the future. I am going back to New Orleans in May and hopefully will get to someplace new. Until then enjoy this photo of a crab taco, mmmmmmmm. Muy delicioso.