Category Archives: Fried

The Big Easy in Review: Eating Our Way Through New Orleans

Gentle Readers, there is nothing better than eating the food of the natives on home turf. In the words of TPCs Jr, why go somewhere to eat someplace you can find anywhere? We were in full research mode this past weekend, on my first post-Katrina trip to New Orleans. I found a city greatly changed but not broken.

Cafe au lait and beignets from Cafe Du Monde: iconic for a reason.

Cafe au lait and beignets from Cafe Du Monde: iconic for a reason.

And food culture marches on there. Having spent so much time in NYC and on the West Coast recently, it was refreshing to eat for less than a mortgage. I quickly renewed my relationship with cafe au lait, and may not recover from the discovery that there are Cafe Du Monde locations with drive-thrus.

I discovered that muffulettas make a great breakfast! The whole from Central Grocery.

I discovered that muffulettas make a great breakfast! The whole from Central Grocery.

Without further adieu, here are my top 5 reasons to eat in New Orleans:

1. Not everything will kill you. For me, life in the land of shellfish is a bit of a culinary minefield. Other people may fear the Fried. It’s not all made of butter here. Yes, there is large and deadly (looking at you crayfish) food to be found, but there is also sharing a muffuletta from Central Grocery or a plate of beignets at Cafe Du Monde, or gumbo and even tofu.

It is possible to eat healthy here: breakfast burrito with black beans and spinach from Canal Street Bistro.

It is possible to eat healthy here: breakfast burrito with black beans and spinach from Canal Street Bistro.

2. Beignets and Cafe Au Lait. It’s a classic, and that’s justified. I feel like there must be kickbacks in the confectioner’s sugar market, but if you can move past that excess, the concept of doughnuts and coffee is made of win. They come in orders of 3, just take it easy. They’ll make more.

There is so much natural beauty in Louisiana--try a swamp tour if you've never gone!

There is so much natural beauty in Louisiana–try a swamp tour if you’ve never gone!

3. Po-Boys. I had a couple of amazing catfish po-boys, and a very respectable roast beef one as well from a little dive called Russell’s Short Stop Po-Boys. This is working class food, and it speaks to my own cooking home base. To be fair, there was nary a vegetable in the place, unless you count the two pieces of lettuce on the sandwich, but it was filling and good.

The roast beef po-boy from Russell's Short Stop.

The roast beef po-boy from Russell’s Short Stop.

Catfish po-boy!

Catfish po-boy!

4. Innovation in the field of breakfast. Some of the most outstanding food I had was breakfast. I’ve eaten a lot of grits in my time, but the Geaux Grits I had at the Canal Street Bistro were noteworthy. Great atmosphere, generous portions, healthy options, biscuit on the side, what’s not to love. This was ordered by the Youngest Practical Cook, who is a big carb fan. She plowed through this like it was her job. Topped with cheese, bacon, and eggs, I say yes.

Geaux Grits! Yes, that's bacon.

Geaux Grits! Yes, that’s bacon.

5. Desserts. Perhaps I compensated for the fact that many of the protein options are genetically designed to kill me (shellfish, shellfish everywhere), but getting my calories from dessert. From king cake to a delightful white cake with chocolate frosting, to a peanut butter pie  from Russell’s Short Stop that I’m still dreaming about, dessert options were plentiful. We didn’t make it for a traditional snoball, but that’s for next time. We opted instead for the noveau gelato, perfect ending to a hot day.

Leftover wedding cakes FTW!

Leftover wedding cakes FTW!

Peanut Butter Pie and I shut my mouth.

Peanut Butter Pie and I shut my mouth.

In conclusion, there are endless places to try and infinite choices. There are options from healthy to not so much, but the fusion tradition marches on. Need to heat things up? There’s a hot sauce for every palate. This trip made me want to go back and eat more, always a good sign. New Orleans has changed, and it is still recovering, but there are a lot of bright spots on the horizon.

Home of Tabasco, hot sauce is a New Orleans staple. Try this at your own risk.

Home of Tabasco, hot sauce is a New Orleans staple. Try this at your own risk.

What’s your favorite Southern food? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way!

Amazing omelet from Katie's Place (as seen on Diner's Drive-ins and Dives).

Amazing omelet from Katie’s Place (as seen on Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives).

Send beignets, hot sauce, and good times to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus, NYC Style!

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Filed under Fried, Restaurant Reviews

Is Turkey Bacon Real Bacon?

Gentle Readers, this post is coming to you from the San Jose airport, and thus will be brief. Apparently, California is already experiencing a bacon shortage. This broad statement is derived from a small data set. Twice, yes twice, I went to breakfast establishments that didn’t carry “real” bacon. Shocking!

Smiling does not improve turkey bacon's taste. Just saying.

Smiling does not improve turkey bacon’s taste. Just saying.

Mind you, I was too busy stuffing my face full of coffeecake on both occasions to audibly complain. But it raised an important question. Is turkey bacon real bacon?

For our taste test purposes, we decided it was not worth the caloric spend. I found it to be more like facon than bacon. It was crisp and salty, but why not just eat a bit less bacon? I’ve never understood substituting as a reason to consume more of something less tasty.

Mmmm coffeecake from Hobee's.

Mmmm coffeecake from Hobee’s.

Not that I am biased. Perhaps we will do bacon brackets with alternative bacons this March. Stay tuned.

Real bacon spotted!

Real bacon spotted!

Send questions, quips, and lucrative investments to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Filed under Bacon Brackets, On the Table

First Time Fast Foodies

Gentle Readers, this past week marked a first that caused a bit of a firestorm. As part of a series of holiday meet and greets, The Practical Cooks Junior and I met with some old friends at the most convenient and recognizable of spots off the highway, McDonald’s. What’s remarkable about that? TPC’s Jr have never been to one.

First McDonald's Fries: Response, Whatevs.

First McDonald’s Fries: Response, Whatevs.

I’m waiting for you to wake up from a dead faint. Are you back with us? Great. We had sundaes at an in-museum McD’s this past summer on our trip to Washington, D.C., and we’ve stopped at a Wendy’s here and there. But never at the freestanding Golden Arches. TPC’s Jr have never consumed a Happy Meal, and they just tried the famous fries for the first time.

More Tweeting Than Eating

More Tweeting Than Eating

Survey says: my sweet potato fries are better. Not going to McDonald’s was not some extremist stance I attempted, nor do I have a burning desire for a McRib or a McNugget. I like my Fried full on and pure, no halfway for me, so our junk food has looked more like this.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

When they became vegetarians, there was even less reason to go to fast food places. But it happened, and they were not blown away in any direction. It was just a place. I will openly admit that while I have no judgment about a Big Mac craving or the love of fries, fast food joints are not my first choice for dining. We are spoiled in knowing more than one chef on a first-name basis, and a load of talented home cooks, and we can cook most things to our taste at home. With so much food and food knowledge around us, we barely have time to eat all the things we want to try.

My idea of a McRib (from the kitchen of G2B Gastropub)

My idea of a McRib (from the kitchen of G2B Gastropub)

I’m incredibly proud to be raising kids who are brave enough to try new things (including the homemade pepper jelly and wine jelly we were handed at the McD’s), who are also confident enough to like what they like. The Youngest would live on bread and fruit if permitted, with a side of spinach. The Eldest has a deep love of chocolate-covered cherries, all legumes, and eggs. They both stand their ground when adults they respect challenge them about their vegetarian beliefs.

Afterschool snack requested by the Juniors: goat cheese with pepper jelly and wine jelly.

Afterschool snack requested by the Juniors: goat cheese with pepper jelly and wine jelly.

So the trip to McDonald’s passed like any other new experience, they chewed their fries thoughtfully and went right on with their lives, blissfully unaware of a milestone or any parenting fail on my part. What is your stance on fast food for you or your kids? Are you a fan, foe, or something in between?

Sweet Potato Fries Sprinkled with Garam Masala, Side of Spicy Mayo

Sweet Potato Fries Sprinkled with Garam Masala, Side of Spicy Mayo

Post a comment below, or Tweet at me with #fastfood as the tag. I look forward to hearing from you.

Send your ketchup packets, deep thoughts, and bright ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: Hello 2013 Edition

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Filed under Fried, Kitchen Philosophy

Turkeyless Thanksgiving for the Junior Pilgrims: Sides FTW

Gentle readers, if one wants to start a fight, threaten the national bird of Thanksgiving. There are few holidays that cause more passionate feelings around the table than this yearly feast. New-fangled ideas are generally not welcome. Such was the hue and cry around my declaration that the unconventional Practical Cooks Junior would not be having turkey this year.

Happy Thanksgiving! Turkey Cookie Craft Completed.

Happy Thanksgiving! Turkey Cookie Craft Completed.

They are both now declared vegetarians, and they plan to thank turkeys by keeping them alive. Truthfully, and lean in close here, I have always preferred the side dishes at Thanksgiving over the turkey. In the debate of turkey vs. sides, we pit a typically dry, flavorless bird against an infinite variety of starch and veg. How is that a fair fight?

Voila! Pumpkin Coconut Pudding with a Cinnamon Graham Cracker Crust is born!

Voila! Pumpkin Coconut Pudding with a Cinnamon Graham Cracker Crust is born!

For my good friend Dr. Tweeter, why not serve a virtual bird, hmm? Augment the reality of that turkey. We will have pictures of turkeys, and there will be a chicken casserole for those who wish to partake. Meanwhile, I have been given license to go wild on the side dishes. Thanks, I think I will.

Here’s the rough Thanksgiving menu, still in progress:

Chicken casserole
Homemade cranberry sauce (I adore this stuff, and turkey has always been merely a vector for it)
Turnip/mustard greens
Pea casserole
Fruit salad
Macaroni and cheese
Corn pudding
Acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, dried cranberries, and mushrooms
Sweet potato casserole
Bread

Desserts will hopefully include a pumpkin pie, cherry pie, and spice cake of some stripe. I would add brownies to the mix, but then I would just find a reason to be overly thankful for them.

Turbaconducken FTW!

Turbaconducken FTW!

In all fairness, and with my extensive knowledge of Fried, I have never had deep-fried turkey. I’m sure I would like it. Or bacon-wrapped turkey (as shown here). Until such moment that one of these arrives at my doorstep, it’s turkey-free Thanksgiving for the extended Team Practical Cook.

Where do you stand in the turkey vs sides debate? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

Send your cranberry, your turkey cantankerousness, and your pumpkin bread to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Filed under Fried, Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table

The Deep-Fried Review of the N.C. State Fair or I Can’t Believe I Ate That

Gentle Readers, though The Practical Cook no longer wears the crown or sash of Deep Fried Ambassador, her commitment to Fried remains strong as always. This past weekend, Team Practical Cook headed to the fair to try, well, almost one of everything.

Deep Fried Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon Sprinkles

Deep Fried Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon Sprinkles

This year’s sensation is the Deep-Fried Mini Cinnamon Roll with Bacon Sprinkles. Hot, sticky, and bacony. Wow, just wow. It was disturbingly delicious. We scraped off the bits for the Eldest so she could remain true to her vegetarian ways.

How was it? Roll the tape:

We also tried the Deep-Fried Girl Scout Cookies (aka, Caramel Delites) and were less wowed by them. Beautiful, but empty.

Deep Fried Girl Scout Cookies: Caramel Delites (aka Samoas)

Deep Fried Girl Scout Cookies: Caramel Delites (aka Samoas)

The single most requested item: fried okra from the State Farmers Market food stand. It was the bomb, as always. That was lunch. Followed by corn and an apple dumpling. I actually lost count of the desserts.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

So if you are heading to the fair this year, do not go halfway. Upon hearing that certain individuals weren’t planning to eat anything fried, the Eldest offered a mildly Elvis-like sneer and said, “why bother going?” And that is how I know I’m raising my children properly.

If you don't eat fried, why bother going to the fair? -- The Eldest

If you don’t eat fried, why bother going to the fair? — The Eldest

If you haven’t been to the fair in a while, consider going on a weekday, or early. It’s not as crowded, and it is a lot of fun. Don’t miss the endless samples in the made in NC tent and the Kerr Scott building. Also, we love the oversized vegetables and creative art made from them.

Say pumpkin pie!

Say pumpkin pie!

This is our fall family tradition. We go, we eat an obnoxious amount of Fried, and we break every rule of common sense. Then we go home and have a nice salad. Have you been to the fair this year? What fried goodness did you try?

Fearless on the Ferris Wheel.

Fearless on the Ferris Wheel.

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Coming up Friday, Broccoli Pasta Recipe.

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The Tower of Bacon

Gentle Readers, sometimes, bacon is more than the flavoring, more than a garnish, more than a bit. Sometimes, bacon is the guest of honor. Recently, in my professional life, I had cause to order 100 pieces of bacon. Just bacon. It was for a Tweetup called #vBacon, and I was not kidding. To the extreme credit and creativity of the staff at Cable Car City Pub, they brought this out.

Behold the Tower of Bacon!

Behold the Tower of Bacon!

That’s right, it’s a tower of bacon. Essentially a deconstructed BLT, lettuce and tomato served as garnish. It was bacon shock and awe. There were pictures taken, poses with, bacon inception even.

Bacon Inception

Bacon Inception: Photo credit @revolize

I’m well-documented as being a bacon fan, and this bacon was tasty. Lesson here, sometimes, when you have an event, less is more. Beer and bacon, yes, that is enough. They tried to push me into fancier appetizers, but I kept saying, just bacon please. The result was 150 happy technologists.

Will don ears and bacon for charity! Annual #v0dgeball tournament for Wounded Warrior Project.

Will don ears and bacon for charity! Annual #v0dgeball tournament for Wounded Warrior Project.

Have you ever thrown a party around a single ingredient? Post a comment below, or Tweet at me with #vBacon in your Tweet!

Send your bacon photos, your kitchen questions, and your food confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Filed under Bacon Brackets, Kitchen Philosophy