Tuesday, August 29, 2006

FAST FOOD HEAVEN? Chipotlé Is The Place

Why Did It Take So Long To Figure It Out?

It’s true. Fast food has become a dirty word.

But when you think of fast food, don’t you think greasy burgers? Fries? Fried Chicken?

Well, there is a trend sweeping the country, and that’s fresher fast food. Yes, it still may be served on a paper plate or in a wax wrapper… but that doesn’t mean that it can’t taste good, and be good for you. Or at least… better for you.

This is where the new fresh-mex concept CHIPOTLE comes in. Like the earlier Baja Fresh, these guys hit the market with fresher that fresh ingredients, no freezers and no microwaves. This means your food was made fresh, likely a few minutes ago, and may actually taste that way.

Before I dive in, let me fill you in on a few things….

McDonald's owns 90% of Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Competitor Baja Fresh is owned by a subsidiary of Wendy's.
Competitor Qdoba was acquired by Jack in the Box in 2003.

This is a big deal in the food world. There is a lot of money to be made here.

The menu concept at Chipotle is genius. You have very little to choose from… a burrito, a fajita burrito, a burrito Bowl (or as they call it, Bol), soft or hard tacos… and a salad.

Once you figure out what it is you’ll have, you pick the meats. Marinated, grilled chicken, hand chopped steak, braised carnitas, spicy barbacoa (shredded beef… and my favorite) or vegetarian (surprisingly good).

The meats are not your run-of-the-mill fast food quality fare. This is marinated, grilled and stewed stuff. You'll be shocked.

From there, you tell your new friends behind the counter what condiments you’d like (fresh sliced romaine lettuce, pinto or delicious black beans, etc) and choose a homemade salsa.

The salsa is downright great. As I love the medium hot Tomatillo-Green Chili, the Roasted Chili Corn, Tomatillo-Red Chili and Fresh Tomato are all wunderbar.

To top things off, Chipotle makes their guacamole fresh by hand several times a day, along with great tortilla chips. A case of ice cold Mexican beers are available to wash it all down.

So why the big deal? Maybe because this place… a fast food place… nails all of the details. Why don’t other new stores (or older classics) get it? This average meal here will run you about $6.95, and in NYC, that is one helluva deal.

And if you can do the math, you can get your mind around this… you can get about 50,000 combinations with these 5 items. Uh, add sour cream please.

So, how popular is the place? There is a website dedicated to their fans… where you can chat, get coupons, find out about new locations and own the nutritional info (http://www.chipotlefan.com) . These guys are serious.

Otherwise, visit the real home at www.chipotle.com

Chipotle has smothered midtown Manhattan with a number of outlets… and more seem to keep coming. Do yourself a favor and hit one next time your hungry for something without the grease.

Oh yea, don’t forget the cold Modelo.

If you need the Guac now, here is the recipe!

Chipotle's Guacamole Recipe

1 large ripe Hass avocado, peeled,pitted
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 serrano chili, seeded,chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Mash up avocado with a fork.
2. Add lime juice.
3. Add all other ingredients and blend well.
4. Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Saigon Grill: Value and Taste = Winner

Expanding Across NYC, Saigon Continues To Get It Right

With football season almost here, I broke down and made a pot of chicken and okra gumbo over the weekend. I know, it’s still 80 degrees outside my door on Central Park, but I can’t help myself. Somehow I think that eating a bowl of gumbo will make fall arrive just a bit quicker. It’s football season. I can’t help myself.

So I broke out the large gumbo pot, stewed the okra and made a roux.

The weather stayed the same Sunday, but man that gumbo sure was good.

Earlier in the weekend, I finally made a visit to a place I’ve been order delivery from for months… and as impressed as I have been by the quality of the delivery, I was even more impressed by the massive operation Saigon Grill manages at their restaurant on a daily basis.

One reason I have avoided the spot, is the constant crowd that gathers. But hey, a neighborhood place that is packed usually tells you a few things… 1. the food is good, and 2. the food is cheap.

Saigon Grill is both good and cheap. There is a great deal of value here, and you don’t sacrifice taste with a low check…. if you haven’t been, you need to make the effort.

As I have loved Chinese food forever, it took me a while to discover and explore Vietnamese cooking. The flavors are more vibrant and fragrant, the recipes more complex and ingredients more varied. While Chinese can become bland and blah, Vietnamese food often embraces basil and curry… as well as lemon grass and noodles.

I gotta tell ya, I like it. A lot.

Saigon Grill in NYC is a slightly Americanized version of the hard core Vietnamese spots you’ll find below Houston Street, but delivers none the less.

Let’s start with apps.

As tasty as these are at Saigon Grill, I tend to order only one, as the dinners are large. Similar with many Thai spots, you’ll find different versions of soft summer rolls filled with shrimp, bean sprouts, herbs and vermicelli…and fried versions as well. But their best apps may just be the sugarcane shrimp, fried and wrapped around a slice of actual sugar cane or the Deep Fried Crabmeat on Claw. OK, so I like fried seafood.

The soup at Saigon is not to be missed…. as you guessed it, Pho Bo is the bomb. This dish was my first taste of Vietnamese cuisine, and in my opinion encompasses the very essence of the delicacies involved. Po Bo is an Ox Tail broth, filled with rice noodles and bean sprouts. Floating on top are paper thin slices of beef, to be added to the hot broth and swished shabu style until cooked (this takes about 30 seconds). To the table comes a plate of fresh basil, onion and hosing sauce…. Most of which make their way into the bowl. By this time, 4 or your 5 senses are on overload. Oh yea, a bowl of the stuff will set you back $2.95.

From here it gets complicated at Saigon Grill, because they serve so many damn dishes, you can’t choose.

You can go the safe route, and order a chicken dish like Basil Chicken, or Ga Xao Dau Que…. Sautéed chicken and string beans in garito sauce. There are chicken, pork and beef curry dishes with eggplant, onion, string beans and peppers served with pancakes…. Crispy whole fish served with sweet and sour sauce and a Seafood Bouillabaisse that would knock your socks off.

There are noodle dishes like the traditional Bun Xao, sticky rice noodles with shredded veggies, eggs and peanuts… Bun noodles, a rice vermicelli with cucumbers, herbs and the like… and Banh Hoi, a steamed angel hair dish with rice crepes and baby shrimp.

Getting hungry?

The friend rice dishes are fantastic as well. And is you feel the need to get really fresh, there is a full sushi menu with every roll under the sun, as well as decent grade sashimi.

Smart touches to the impressive menu include Ginger Ice Tea and Sticky rice and bean pudding for desert…. But by the time desert rolls around, I am usually in too much pain to consider giving it a whirl.

The success if Saigon Grill is no secret to most New Yorkers, as the fledgling chain now sports four locations in the city.

You’ve got my word, you’ll find solid stuff here… and more flavor than you’ll know what to do with. Choose wisely.

Saigon Grill

620 Amsterdam Ave- At 90th St
New York, NY 10024

212 875-9072
212 875-9073

(and several locations around the city)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In Case You Missed It...

Here's the skinny of what's happening in my favorite kitchens!

You may want to venture out into the concrete jungle one of these days… and when you do, you should check out this stuff happening right under your nose, slacker.

Bubble, Bubble…
You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it. Now you need to drink it. That’s right, Bubble Tea, the asian inspired “drink du jour” is now flowing literally all over the city… although I still believe the best versions can be found in Chinatown.
Quickly (pictured) can get you started… but in my opinion, the best in the city is that of the frozen variety around the corner on Mott at Ten Ren. Caution: HIGHLY ADDICTIVE STUFF

Jiffy Pop It Ain’t
Yes, I am a popcorn freak. Do I own my own commercial popcorn machine? Yes. Do I use theatre grade coconut popping oil? Yes. Will I die of coronary disease at age 54? Likely. But I truly love the stuff, and consider it a major food group. But where can I eat good popcorn when I’m not at home? Well, in NYC options are limited, but Dale and Thomas is the right place to start. With gourmet options like Chocolate Chunk n’ Carmel, Ragin’ Cajun, Sweet Georgia Pecan, Sweet and Spicy BBQ, Buffalo and Blue Cheese and six or seven others, you should be able to find that satisfying crunchy snack brought to us by our friends, the American Indians. Oh yea, their plain old popped and Kettle Corn ain’t bad, either. Locations across Manhattan and at DaleandThomas.com

Power Brunching on the UWS
It can be said that the Upper West Side may have more brunch spots than any neighborhood in the city. Sure, the Village has it’s hangouts and the Lower East it’s funky dives… but for some reason, the sidewalk café scene on the UWS has evolved into a genre all it’s own. For my money, GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT may be one of the neighborhood’s best. Why? Well, homemade corned beef hash for one… with huge chunks of deli grade corned beef, fresh cut potatoes and onions. I had my plate with scrambled eggs and a side of grits and scratch biscuits. I could have opted for the Peach French Toast… but why have the girly meal when I could consume an additional 1000 calories?

Can It Be?
Can is be that the city’s best Chinese restaurant is a Bayard Street dive? Word on the street is that NEW GREEN BO may be not only the best kept secret, but simply the best Chinese restaurant in NYC…. and after a visit, I may believe the hype. You can get it all here… tiny steamed pork buns, shu-mei, cold and hot noodles, boneless pig leg, crispy eel, winter melon soup, and nearly 100 variations of your favorite lobster, shrimp, pork, chicken, beef and vegetable dishes. It’s all dirt cheap and piled high. An important observation: they’ve got your sesame chicken, but if I were you, I wouldn’t make the trip and miss the beef stew over rice. 66 Bayard Street btw Mott and Elizabeth in Chinatown

Smoke Em While You Can
It wasn’t long ago I told a friend of mine that it would be a cold day in hell before NYC outlawed smoking in bars in this city. I bet him $20 bucks. Well, needless to say that money is long gone, and I am without a place to sip a martini and enjoy a fine crafted cigar….. almost.
In the rebellious style of the prohibition days of the past, FLORIO’S, a wonderful old school Italian joint in Little Italy has been able to “skirt” the issue, and allows patrons to light ém up at the bar, in the front of the restaurant. Larry, the kind and hospitable owner can show you his vast selection of top shelf stogies, but do yourself a favor and request one of his own hand-rolled, spicy cigars he has made especially for his customers. Equally as tasty is Larry’s food, which features thin crust Roman style pizzas and wonderfully rich pastas, including my favorite there, the rigatoni con vodka, in a perfect pink sauce. Long live Florio’s.

When you need to be cool…
You roll out of bed, unshaven and slightly hungover. As you glance down you notice the alarm clock… 11:40am. Unable to actually speak a coherent phrase, you slide into your jeans and sandals, and make your way to the subway platform… headed to Brookyln’s DUMBO.
By noon, you’ve arrived at RICE, the uber cool rice house featuring ten types of the holy grain, from jasmine to Bhutanese red. You choose your rice, select a topping (the Thai Coconut Curry will do the trick) with a side of Aleppo yogurt. Washed down with a glass of fresh watermelon juice, you may be the hippest person in the five boroughs.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Batali's Babbo.... Bravissimo!

Once again, some of the city's best food is coming from Mario.

I’ll be the first to admit that I spend a good deal of time blowing smoke up Mario Batali’s rear end.

But, the truth is his restaurants are just down right terrific.

It’s one thing to promise and not deliver… but when you can have top notch meals at any of his restaurants on any given night without disappointment… well, you have something you need to share.

Mario’s Babbo is one strange bird. It is a cozy, charming 2-story space located steps from Washington Square, in a old brownstone conversion. But what you won’t find here is complete refinement. Yes, the appointments are stylized and classic, the wine list is smallish and wonderful and the staff expressive without being pushy. That said, don’t be surprised if you hear a musical selection by Pink Floyd or Def Leopard playing over the house sound system.

It’s that type of bizarre edge that has made Babbo such an interesting place over the years… a hint of unexpectedness that this space loves to embrace. And from the moment you hit the door, there is a scripted experience that awaits every customer. It has been carefully planned, and is honestly the reason this store has developed the following it has. This is a space with a story.

My experience last week started on a Friday evening at 5pm, without a reservation…. that is, I had no reservations.

We cued in line about 4:45, which I now know is almost too late. The doors to the wine bar open at 5pm, and it’s then the first six parties of 2-4 people can stake their claim on a table in the bar with the maitre’d… sans reservation. By a stoke of luck, we were party #6.

After putting our names on the list and being assured of a table in the bar area (hey it’s Babbo, you take what you can get) we sat at the handsome bar, and nibbled on tiny Spanish olives and crunchy, addictive asaigo breadsticks. The wine list is full of rich, decadent wines and I ordered a glass to ease the 20 minute wait to be sat.

Once we were seated, we watched as no less that 30 couples were turned away to dine elsewhere. Only a five minute walk, my guess is that many of them wound up at Otto, in the much larger bar. Note to self: call ahead for a good table. Like a month ahead.

Being fans of Mario’s pasta, it didn’t take long to settle on the Pasta Tasting Menu, an option that all parties must agree on. Although the menu had countless mouthwatering options, tasting menus are usually very well thought out. This was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.

So, after a delicious complimentary appetizer from the kitchen (I won’t ruin the surprise) the pasta began hitting the table.

This is what we experienced.

Black Tagliatelle with Roasted Corn

So much for getting off to a quiet start. This dish was spectacular in every aspect of the word. The flavors were perfectly balanced and appropriate for a light summer dish. They start here for a reason… this dish raises the bar. High.

Baccala “Mezzalune” with Black Olive Butter
Not as earth-shattering as the first, but a solid, well made dish. The baccala is a salt cod combined with potatoes, inside a ravioli. The butter and olives were the right combination to balance the sea-taste of the pasta. This was a decent portion, and left us wondering how much food we had signed up for.

Garganelli with “Funghi Trifolati”
Believe it or not, this was my first taste of garganelli pasta, and wow, I’m a fan. If you don’t know this pasta, it’s a thin, hand-rolled tube that is marked with thin slits to carry the sauce. The mushroom sauce was heavenly and this proved to be one of the best bites of the evening. At this point, we are getting full.

Fernando’s Pyramids with “Passato di Pomodoro”

Heavenly. Imagine pockets of fresh pasta, wrapped around fresh tomatoes,covered with shaved parm reggiano. I am stuffed.

Pappardelle Bolognese

By this point, Mario brings out pure simplicity. The ribbons of homemade pasta are lightly coasted with a slow cooked Bolognese of beef and veal. It is a delightful reminder of the culinary trip you just encountered… and serves as a welcome home. Never mind the fact that you are so full you can’t see straight.

As you would expect, there is not one, or two… but three courses of dessert. To get into this stage, we slowed waaaaaay down, had a cup of coffee and unbuttoned. 20 minutes later, we indulged in several delightful courses, including warm chocolate truffles as well as Olive Oil Gelato.

Cost wise, the Pasta Tasting Menu priced at $64. is a steal. Other spots can charge you up to or over $100 smackers for this kind of variety, but Babbo delivers for nearly half the price. If you feel like spending more, Babbo offers a wine compliment to this meal, with a new wine with each course. At an additional $50 it is a bargin, but be warned, you’re gonna be walking funny.

With Del Posto left to review, I salute the Batali empire and look forward to the next incarnation. If you haven’t visited in a while, I suggest you do so… you’ll remember your first time… and wonder why you have been away so long.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mario's Magic in Greenwich Village

Simple and Extrodinary, Lupa Continues To Dazzle

Today my wife and I will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary, and will undoubtedly wind up in a Mario Batali space… although I must admit, I haven’t decided which one. Being that we’ll be eating very, very early, reservations aren’t a grave concern… selecting a spot may be a tougher task. That said, it’s time we discussed what is likely my favorite Batali haunt.

For years, I sat on my couch and watched Mario Batali cook up his Italian wonders on the Food network, while wearing his “Lupa” chef coat.

Hmmm. Lupa. “Must be good,” I thought.

I had no idea.

Years later, there I was, sitting in the smallish, crowded, noisy dining room having one of those “oh my god” meals. You know the one…. each course better than the last… without getting too full to continue.

Lupa is a space and menu with direction and attitude. She knows who she is and what she is… and how she got there. She is confident but not cocky, while remaining playful and pristine. She is built upon a world of flavor… presenting dishes that know how to deliver that ever important massage.

That message of… “we get it.”

My first experience at Lupa was on a brisk October evening in Greenwich Village. I had no reservation, but would not be denied. As the doors opened at 5pm, I dashed in and promptly sat at the bar, happy as a clam. I wouldn’t think of wasting table space being this happy to have a seat at the bar.

Those who read this blog understand I almost never hesitate eating at the bar. And of course at Lupa’s bar, you get 5-star service and can eat from the same menu as those who called a month ago for a reservation. Joy.

So with a suggestion and a taste or two of the day’s wine selections, I began to sip and nibble my way through a grouping of dishes that were just irresistible. Warm olives, beets with pistachio, white beans. I had an assortment of thin sliced homemade Salumi and Coppa, and a parsley and pancetta salad that may be the most spectacular thing I have ever put in my mouth. Really.

For my primi, I selected the Bavette Cacio & Pepe… or pasta with cheese and pepper. It was stupendous in its simplicity, and I finished every bite. For those who love al dente pasta, Lupa is your mecca… if anything some complain about the pasta being under-cooked. It did take me by surprise, but I found the pasta to be firm to the bite and just perfect.

Not having any room for a second course, I ordered anyway.

The menu features a wonderful array of choices… lamb, duck, fish, pork…. you name it. I settled on a Pork Saltimbocca that I just couldn’t resist. Pork, prosciutto, sage. Good lord.

Glancing at my watch, I realize I have been going at this for a good 2 hours. Maybe that’s why I haven’t burst yet… I was taking my time. And you know what that means.


Delicate may be the word here… gelatos, panna cotta, mascarpone. Fragrant hard cheeses served with condiments including honey. Help me.

Well, by now you are likely getting the picture that Lupa pushes all of my buttons. Since that chilly fall night, I have returned several times, never to be disappointed. Although they have replaced my favorite salad with other dishes (but the do promise it to return) I find each selection special unto itself.

Lupa is simply one of those “chef owned” joints that just plain lives up to the hype. Without question, it is one of the top 5 Italian restaurants in this city, meaning… one of the finest in the country. Yes, Babbo is tremendous, Del Posto uber-pricy and Otto loud but delicious. But Lupa, in her own way, remains on top of the Batali empire as just plain spectacular.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Fire Up The Stove, We’re Cooking Creole In NYC

Fill Your Printer With Paper, These Are Recipes You're Gonna Print!

With thousands of restaurants in NYC, you could certainly make a case for eating out just about every night.

Of course, this line of thinking can also make a substantial dent in your wallet, so shopping and eating at home can be a good thing, too. And as you well know, we would do more of this if in fact we could get over the biggest hurdle... what are we having?

Well, creole and cajun cooking is custom fit for this delimma, as whatever you cook, you'll likely be eating it for a few days.

That's because Louisiana folks cook with two things in mind. First, they don't know who the hell is showing up for dinner, so you think of how many you may be serving, and then double it. Second, they know that today's good gumbo, will be tomorrow AMAZING gumbo, so they make enough to enjoy on day 2.. and 3... etc.

So, this week, we head into the kitchen, with a list of recipes I have gathered from previous posts on this blog... and a few new ones. They are really easy, and very authentic.... so make your grocery list, do a little shopping, and go for it!

Here are a few of my favorites.

Yes, It's a bit hot for this one, but what the hell... what's life without a bowl of gumbo?

Andre’s Gumbo Like I Like It

(Shrimp and Okra Version)

4- 5 Quarts Chicken Stock
4 pounds frozen okra
1 lrg can of diced tomatoes
1 regular can of diced tomatoes
2 large white onions, diced fine
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 teaspoon chopped garlic, fine
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
3⁄4 cup all purpose flour
3⁄4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoon of lea and perrin’s
2 tablespoons crystal hot sauce (or frank’s)
1 1⁄2 tablespoons of creole seasoning (Emerils or Tony’s)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon thyme
2-3 tablespoons Kitchen Bouquet
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped parsley, fine
4 pounds peeled medium shrimp
Chopped green onions

In a separate pot, heat 3 tbl vegetable oil, and sauté white onions. Add garlic, frozen okra and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium low heat until tender (at least an hour, if not longer). Okra should be very tender and want to break up. In a large stockpot, heat oil (3/4 cup) and add flour to make roux. Stir constantly over medium heat, making sure not to burn. Bring to desired color… peanut butter color is recommended for best flavor. Once desired color is reached, whisk in chicken stock, 4 qts first and save the rest if needed (chicken base dissolved in water can also be used , but NOT bullion). Add seasonings (wet and dry) and kitchen bouquet for desired color. Add okra mixture and bring to boil. Reduce to low simmer, and cook for 1 1⁄2 hours. Last half hour, add shrimp and parsley and simmer and very low temp, not to overcook shrimp. Serve in bowls, topped with a scoop of cooked long grain rice and top with sprinkle of green onion.

Gumbo is best if cooked day before. Make sure to cool completely before storing in fridge.

The perfect everyday, all day, what do I want to eat dish, Jambalaya.

André’s Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

2 cups oil or BACON GREASE
5 lbs uncooked rice (mahatma is fine)
6 pounds chicken (thighs work great, also legs)
6 pounds sausage, sliced
4 lbs white onions, chopped fine
2 bunches green onions, chopped fine
2 pounds celery (2 bunches), chopped fine
2 pounds (6-8) green bell peppers, chopped fine
3 tbs. Minced Garlic
15 cups chicken broth or stock
½ cup crystal hot sauce
½ cup lea and perrins
1 bunch parsley


Season your raw chicken with Cajun seasoning (Tonys, etc) Cayenne pepper will also work. If using bacon grease, fry one pound of bacon very well in you heated jambalaya pot. Remove bacon, save and eat with your beer while you cook. Add you chicken pieces to hot grease. Fry until golden brown, remove and set aside. Add sausage and cook until pieces are nice and browned. Remove sausage. Remove almost all grease from pot. Add onions, celery, garlic and bell pepper and cook until golden brown. If onions start to stick, add small amount of water. Be careful not to burn onions. When onion mixture is cooked, add chicken and sausage, chicken stock, salt, pepper, lea and perrins, hot sauce, parsely, salt and pepper to taste (maybe 2 tbs of salt and 2 pepper) and green onions. If you need a darker color, you can use kitchen bouquet. Bring to a boil and stir. Add rice and stir again. Cook approximately 20 minutes on low heat. Remove lid and turn rice over. Do not stir a lot! Replace lid and cook approximately 10 more minutes. Then, do not open pot….turn off the fire, leave the lid on, and let Jambalaya rest 20 MINUTES with the LID ON. Remove lid and fluff Jambalaya. Should be perfect!!!

Serve with white or French bread and Miller Lite, and you too will be a coonass.

** you can adjust the rice and chicken stock…. Just remember to use 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice.

You have heard me talk about it... here's your chance to do it yourself!

Louisiana Boudin

2 1/2 pounds pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound pork liver, rinsed in cool water
2 quarts water
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup chopped green onions tops, (green part only)
6 cups cooked medium-grain rice
1 1/2-inch diameter, casings, about 4 feet in length

In a large sauce pan, combine the pork butt, pork liver, water, onions, garlic, bell peppers, celery, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1 1/12 hours, or until the pork and liver are tender. Remove from the heat and drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the broth. Using a meat grinder with a 1/4-inch die, grind the pork mixture. 1/2 cup of the parsley, and 1/2 cup of the green onions, together. Turn the mixture into a mixing bowl. Stir in the rice, remaining salt, cayenne, black pepper, parsley, and green onions. Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix thoroughly. Either using a feeding tube or a funnel, stuff the sausage into the casings and make 3-inch links. Bring 1 gallon of salted water up to a boil. Poach the sausage for about 5 minutes, or until the sausage is firm to the touch and plump. Remove from the water and allow to cool.

The following recipes can be gathered to make one amazing meal.

Andre’s Pan Fried Chicken

3 pounds chicken breasts and legs
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup lard or crisco
1 cup solid white vegetable shortening

Let chicken warm to room temperature. Wipe with a damp cloth. In a wide bowl, beat egg with buttermilk.

Place flour, salt and peppers in a brown paper bag. In a large skillet (preferably cast iron) heat lard and shortening. Dip each piece of chicken into the buttermilk-egg mixture and place in a brown paper bag. Close top of bag and shake until piece is well coated. Remove, and repeat for each piece.

When shortening is hot (375 degrees F on a deep-fat thermometer), ease chicken into pan and cook over high heat, turning so both sides cook evenly. Do not crowd more than a few pieces of chicken into pan at one time. When chicken is light gold on both sides, turn down heat to low and partially cover skillet. Cook 15 minutes, turning chicken once.

Remove chicken and drain on brown paper bags. Serve warm or cold. Serves 6 to 8, or André and his brother Allen.

...and on the side....

White Bean and Corn Relish

2 pound white beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
4 bay leaf
4 cups freshly shucked corn (or canned shoepeg works great)
4 tablespoons chopped shallots
Olive oil for cooking
2 cups small diced cucumber
8 tablespoons small diced red bell pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
4 tablespoon champagne vinegar
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Creole spice(your house blend!)

In a small sauce pan cook the beans until tender: drain and rinse. Cooking time depends on how old the beans are. In a small saute pan cook the corn and the shallots in hot oil until tender, about 3 minutes. Season with creole spice. Set aside to cool. In a small bowl combine the cooled beans, cooled corn and shallots, cucumbers, peppers, thyme, vinegar and oil. Season highly with house or Creole spice.
Yield: 12 cups

Andre’s Favorite ColeSlaw Dressing

1 tablespoon fresh, finely minced garlic
1 ¼ cups mayo
1/3 cup yellow mustard
3 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper

Yield 2 cups


15 cups shredded green cabbage
2 cups shredded purple cabbage
1 ½ cups finely chopped yellow onions
¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
2 tablespoons green onions
2 cups of coleslaw dressing

In a large mixing bowl, combine green cabbage, purple cabbage, onions, bell peppers, and green onions. Using hands, toss well. Add dressing, toss and serve.


21/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tbl. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsps. baking powder
8 ozs. cream-style corn
1/2 cup chopped pimento
3/4 cup chopped jalapeño peppers
3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together except buttermilk and oil. Add buttermilk, stirring in, until you achieve a medium-thick batter.

2. Pour batter into a well-oiled cast-iron skillet and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.

Enjoy as a side dish with red beans, white beans, friend catfish, or you name it.

OK, It ain't cajun, but I love it just the same.....

André’s Favorite Meat Ragu

2 lbs. lean ground beef

2 tbls. olive oil

1 lb. ground pork or 1 medium pkg. of pork spareribs

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 cups chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped bell pepper

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. Italian link sausage (I like the spicy here, but sweet works well, too)

2 (6-oz.) cans tomato paste

2 (6-oz.) cans tomato sauce

2 (10-oz.) cans tomato purée (San Marzano if you can swing it)

1 (10-oz.) can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies

4 tbls. dark brown sugar

3 bay leaves

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed

1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. Tony Chachere's Original Seasoning
(or your favorite cajun seasoning)
1 tsp. kosher salt

4 cups water (use some to rinse out tomato paste cans before adding water to pot)

6 cups chicken stock or broth

1/2 bunch fresh chopped curly parsley

1. In a large Dutch oven, stew pot or Le Creset pot, brown ground beef in olive oil. Remove browned meat from pot and set aside. If using ground pork, brown in same pot. Remove from pot and set aside.

2. Add onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic and sauté until transparent.

3. While the meats are browning and vegetables are sautéing, cut sausage into 1/2-inch pieces and cook in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Drain oil and set aside.

4. Add tomato paste to the Dutch oven (my large le cruset pot is perfect!) with the sautéed vegetables. If using spareribs, also add at this time. Stir and blend for 10 to 15 minutes, being careful not to let the tomato paste burn or stick.

5. Add the tomato sauce, tomato purée, all seasonings and Rotel tomatoes and cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring gently to keep mixture from sticking. Add fresh chopped parsley, simmer on low for an additional hour. Add chicken broth to get the gravy the right thickness... the way you like it!

This one is one of my old stand-bys......

Andre’s Smothered Pork Chops

Sides: Put on a pot of white rice, and stew some okra or green beans with bacon and onion. Biscuit would be nicey-nice.

Serves 4 normal people, or Andre and his brother Allen.

4 bone-in rib loin pork chops, cut about 3/4-inch thick
Ground black pepper
1 tbl. olive oil
2 tbls. all-purpose flour
2 tbls. vegetable oil
2 medium onions, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 tbl. brown sugar
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 baked sweet potato, cut into chunks
3 tbls. fresh minced parsley
Cooked rice

1. Season pork chops with pepper and salt.

2. Sear (brown) chops in heated olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove chops, set aside.

3. Make a roux in the same skillet with the flour and oil added to the browned bits left in the skillet from the chops. Cook to a medium-brown color.

4. Stir onions, garlic, bell pepper and carrot slices into the hot roux and stir and turn vegetables until they are coated with the roux. Lower heat and put top on skillet to sweat the vegetables for about 10 minutes as they brown.

5. Return chops and any juices from the chops to the skillet. Mix brown sugar into the vegetables and chops, cover skillet and cook for 5 minutes more.

6. Uncover skillet and add chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, chunks of sweet potato and additional seasoning if desired. Stir to make sure the vegetables are covered evenly with the broth. Cover again and simmer for 30 minutes or until chops are tender and the gravy has thickened nicely.

7. If the gravy gets too thick as it simmers, add a couple of tablespoons of water to thin it.

8. Sprinkle chopped parsley over chops and gravy and serve with cooked rice.

Note: Sometimes I add a can of good quality tomatoes when I stir in the chicken broth. This dish reheats well, but why not just finish it off?