Your Intrepid Dining Correspondent takes in Mardi Gras.

Your Intrepid Dining Correspondent takes in Mardi Gras.

Those of you who are my Facebook friends will have to just bear with me, as you’ve seen these photos already. Believe me, they represent meals that were good enough they’re worth revisiting.

Flew to New Orleans on a Wednesday for a Thursday evening event, solely to give myself time to amble about the city and hit some of my favorite restaurants. Which I promptly did for a late lunch on Wednesday, hooking up with some friends to go to Dragos.

Now, there is nothing that will get folks riled up about New Orleans cuisine faster than espousing a specific restaurant as the home of the best oysters in town. I’ve had Felix’s and I’ve had Acme’s, I’ve had Deanie’s. I’ve not had Casamento’s, which I know gets lots of nods. But I am here to tell you, it would be real hard to find any oysters better than those at Drago’s. The big seafood restaurant on the ground floor of the Hilton in downtown NOLA has a massive array of seafood choices, and it’s real hard to go wrong with any of them, but my preference is the chargrilled oysters.

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No winter? No matter.

February 20, 2017

Pure wintertime comfort. Works well in mild weather, too.

Pure wintertime comfort. Works well in mild weather, too.

I’ve been just a tad put out with this winter. Because no matter how much I dislike cold weather, it DOES go well with kind of cooking I love to do — soups, stews, braises, long, slow cooking of comfort food that warms you from the inside out, body and soul.

I made the most of that during the small cold snap that we had. We had vegetable soup, we had carbonnades a la flamande, we had pot roast. We thoroughly enjoyed all of the above.

So what did we have this past Saturday, when the temp was in the 70s?

Why, we had red beans and rice. Which, due in part to the dearth of cold weather, we have not had all winter. But Child B was here, and RB&R is Child B’s favorite meal, or one of them. So, springlike weather be damned, we would cook red beans and rice.

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Sin in a sheet pan

February 18, 2017

Out of the oven; the hard thing is the waiting for them to cool.

Out of the oven; the hard thing is the waiting for them to cool.

It’s been a good while since I made these cookies. There’s a reason for that.

Low-cal they are not. In fact, a more than a couple of them are likely to put you into a diabetic coma.

But dang, they’re good.

These go by any number of different names — I’ve heard them called seven-layer cookies, millionaire cookies, and I forget what all else, but what I’ve heard them called most often is Hello Dolly bars. Not sure what they have to do wtih the movie, but, nevertheless, that’s what they are.

I’d been looking at that left-over-from-Christmas bag of semi-sweet chips lying in the tray on my counter since Christmas, and periodically when I’d look at it, I’d think of these. I had the other makings; graham crackers for crumbs for the crust; butter; coconut; pecans; condensed milk. And as I was grocery shopping this morning, I ran across salted caramel chips.

Let me repeat that slowly: Salted. Caramel. Chips.

Yes, they’re as good as they sound.

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The start of the garden! Can't wait.

The start of the garden! Can’t wait.

Complain about the US Postal Service all you want. I love ’em. And UPS, and FedEx.

The proportion of my shopping that’s being done online is growing steadily, a trend that reflects the national move away from brick-and-mortar stores. I still do my grocery shopping in person (though I expect I’ll be using the Kroger ClickList function sooner rather than later, just for the convenience of it), but increasingly, everything else comes online.

Except shoes. I want to try shoes on before I buy ’em.

Anyway, one of the great things about online shopping is when you reach into the mailbox, or look out in the carport, and get that little frisson of excitement before you remember what you ordered. “Oooohh! Packages!” It’s like Christmas.

Today, my mailperson (he actually is a mailman, at least most days) brought me two food-related packages: the first of my garden seeds, and a collection of produce bags for storing the yield from said garden in the fridge.

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Not the prettiest in the world, but awfully tasty.

Not the prettiest in the world, but awfully tasty.

There’s this little naked, blonde, curly-haired dude flitting about, armed with a bow and arrow. Oh, and he’s got wings. Watch out for him; I understand the arrows can carry significant consequences.

Or, unless you’ve been under a rock and not entered a big-box store since Christmas, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Now, since I have not had a Valentine love interest in a number of years (since 2010, to be precise, well, except for Lucy), the holiday doesn’t mean a great deal to me.  But I was grocery shopping in Kroger t’other day, and having to wend my way through all the flower and candy displays set up in front of the produce department, and I saw chocolate covered strawberries.

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Stuff accomplished

February 12, 2017

So what it was 70 degrees. Soup and pimiento cheese was GOOD.

So what it was 70 degrees. Soup and pimiento cheese was GOOD.

I NEEDED a kitchen day. It had been way too long. And without time in the kitchen I get twitches. And other assorted involuntary motions. And that builds, and it eventually winds up like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

You don’t WANT me to stay away from my kitchen too long.

So today (now yesterday, as this was written last night), I started out with cleaning the damn thing, as I’d left the remnants of last night’s dinner (the first I’d cooked in what feels like ages) out on the stove. OK, that’s gone and those dishes are clean. Then it’s a shopping trip — liquor store, Aldi, Kroger. Fred’s for cleaning supplies (because I am still successfully avoiding WalMart).

And I got into the kitchen. Not as much as I’d wanted to get into the kitchen today, but then, my reach always exceeds my grasp. Sometimes by a whole lot.

I’d planned to make some bread dough for some rolls for Sunday dinner. Didn’t get that done. No matter; it can happen tomorrow morning (Note: it did!)  if I get up early enough. I’ve already set a pork roast to marinate in Cajun spices (the Who Dat’s proprietary blend), and I’ll put that in to braise in some Abita amber tomorrow. Will mix up some rolls, let them rise, cook some potatoes, maybe cook some beans or peas, and some frozen corn.  It’ll make dinner, anyway.

And I made an Instant Pot of vegetable beef soup and a quart of pimiento cheese. A pint of the cheese goes to Child A’s boss, who loves the stuff; the other pint stays with me, with the prospect of pimiento cheese and bacon sandwiches this coming week.

Speaking of bacon, Wright’s was on sale for $4.99 for a 24-ounce package at Kroger today. I bought four of ’em. Can’t beat that price, and I had a coupon for a dollar off one package.

The vegetable beef soup was a pound of stew meat, a quart and a pint of tomatoes, a half-pint of tomato sauce (all home-canned), two bags of frozen mixed veggies from Kroger, and two envelopes of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. It’s damn fine soup. It made, as it has a way of doing, a boatload of soup, so that’ll go in containers to either freeze or have later this week. Because, after all, I have pimiento cheese!

I had in mind to make bread, to replace that honey buttermilk bread that I have frozen in slices that I just do not like.But I didn’t get there. Perhaps next week.

The pimiento cheese is my old standard, sharp cheddar, Velveeta (or the Aldi knockoff thereof), mayo, a splash of cider vinegar, some sugar, some seasoned salt, some cayenne a jar of mostly drained ripe pimientos. A quart of finished product is at the outer limits of how much cheese one large (4-oz?) jar of diced pimientos will go. That would involve close to 8 oz each of Velveeta and sharp cheddar, if you’re keeping track. Or measuring, as you know I do not.

In the interest of being lazy, I went with some Louisiana hot sauce instead of cayenne. Didn’t get enough of it in there. This lacks a bit of heat. Still good, though.

Not a whole lot of cooking, but I did grocery shopping, too, so I figure that counts. Other than having forgotten the  Worcestershire sauce and the Dijon mustard, I managed to stock up on what I was out of.

So, upcoming days will feature some homemade bread, a braised pork roast, maybe some Vietnamese caramel fish (because I’m in the mood) and some Hello Dolly bar cookies, because I have been fixated on those, too.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em be thinking, too about what a sista can cook when it’s 75 degrees in February. This weather does not lend itself well to the braises and stews I love so much.

Hey! The stove still works!

February 11, 2017

A pefectly acceptable dinner, for the first attempt in a couple of weeks.

A pefectly acceptable dinner, for the first attempt in a couple of weeks.

The above is the first meal I’ve cooked in what I believe to be about a week and a half. Maybe two weeks.

I don’t know that it was necessarily worth the wait, but it was a decent dinner to clean things out of the refrigerator that needed to be cleaned, in the wake of the other night’s shelf disaster. (As an aside, and an update to the shelf disaster, I am somewhat distraught that a replacement shelf will cost me about $75 to order from Kenmore and get it shipped here. I will likely wind up doing that, unless I luck up and find a cheaper one somewhere. Freakin’ highway robbery. But it’s been a good refrigerator for 10-ish years, so I shouldn’t complain.)

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