Full disclosure: I’ve never been to New Orleans and my only litmus test for a good po’ boy is Bab’s brief stint on Willy St. (where Ha Long Bay currently resides) and New Orleans’ Takeout.
Last night, however, I think I made the best catfish po’ boys this side of Lake Pontchartrain; let’s see how I did it!
I started four hours before dinnertime with a 10 oz. bag of Josie’s Organics Power Mix and added red onion and pickled pepperoncinis.
Next comes about three tablespoons of mayo, some Dijon, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, minced garlic, onion powder, sweet paprika, and a little Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning.
Mix all this together and put it in an airtight, leakproof container because you’re going to be flipping and flopping it around to get everything good and coated. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to put the sandwiches together.
Next up, the remoulade. I didn’t take pictures because it’s simply mayo, paprika, Louisiana hot sauce, and some more Chachere’s. Mix all this together and store in the fridge until assembly time.
When you can’t stand waiting any longer for that delicious slaw, turn the oven on and get your parchment paper out! Three fillets were one-half fillet too much for our huge sandwiches, so plan accordingly. These were frozen, but it seems they take about the same amount to bake… roughly 10-12 minutes. I sprayed ’em with avocado oil and seasoned them with some more Chachere’s and placed them in a 400° oven.
I sliced the French bread loaf and scooped out some of the dough. Who needs that to take up space when you have all this other deliciousness?
When there are around three minutes left on your oven timer, pop the bread in to warm up.
Now it’s all about assembly: bread, cheese, tomato, slaw, fish, remoulade, bread. And a side of mildly dirty rice.
This is an amalgamation of several Niçoise salad recipes and, since it requires many dishes and methods, it gets five eggplants for difficulty.
I was recently talking to the fella about rating the recipes and timing and how to get everything in the right order and how that seems to come naturally to me, so I’ll try to incorporate reasoning into the recipes that I write so it helps make sense of the whole thing.
For this dish, you can either start with the eggs or make them while the veggies are roasting. They can be hard boiled at any point prior and I use Gwennie’s method because it makes sense to me. So, for this recipe, it’s a nine-minute egg. The eggs can sit in the ice bath in a metal mixing bowl until you’re ready to plate, as far as I’m concerned. The colder they are, the easier they are to peel.
As the salad is served room temp, you can roast the veggies next (or first, depending on your egg situation). This will give them time to cool enough to put atop your mixed greens, which are typically fragile enough to wilt under the heat of a roasted veggie. My recently-discovered trick: after the eggs are peeled, wipe out the metal bowl, put all the veggies in and pop in the freezer for about five minutes.
I’ve been keen on the bag of peppers from Costco since I don’t care for green (they make me burp) and the red/yellow/orange are usually over a dollar a piece at Woodman’s.
Baby potatoes cut into halves will be chewy in about 35 minutes at 400°. The peppers, thankfully, go along for this ride nicely. Spritz with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, Herbamare, or any of your favorite seasonings and spices.
While your eggs are cooling in the sink, you can steam the green beans using the leftover egg water. You still want the freshly crunch, which is why steaming (for about eight minutes on medium heat) is the best method here.
While waiting for the veggies, you can make the dressing and mix up the tuna. The dressing is just* olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. The tuna is a handful of parsley, capers, minced shallot, and two cans of tuna packed in oil. If you have an abundance of oil left in the can, add it to the dressing. It’s all going to the same place, so it doesn’t *really* matter, but it helps bring all the flavors closer together.
A couple of the recipes I referenced for this specifically call for Niçoise olives (holy crap, they’re expensive on Amazon!), so if you have a patient helper, get them, otherwise, Kalamata olives will do just fine (and they’re already pitted—a huuuuuge time-saver).
Fill a bowl with greens (these are the organic mixed greens from Costco, but we’ve been having varying degrees of luck with them lasting more than a day past “best by”) and tomatoes. It looks like a lot of food but will scrunch down into the bowl after everything else is piled on.
Top with the warmer veggies and dressing. This should, hopefully, get things closer in temperature. I was a bit anxious and hungry, so I may have pressed a bit on this step.
Top with tuna, olives, and a couple of crusty bread slices (as if it weren’t enough food already) and serve to your best friend(s).
A veritable mashup of crunchy, soft, savory, tasty goodness.
Course: Main Course, Salad
2canstunapacked in oil
12cherry or grape tomatoeshalved
2tbspNiçoise or Kalamata olivessliced
For the eggs:
Place eggs in a pot and cover with cold water until an inch over (it's really hard to see what a liquid inch is when you're looking down into the pot). Turn heat on high and watch for boiling bubbles.
As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat, move pot to a cold burner, and set a timer for nine minutes.
Fill a metal bowl with ice cubes and put in the sink. When the egg timer goes off, run some cold water in the metal bowl and put the eggs in there to cool.
For the roasted veggies:
Preheat oven to 400°.
Slice potatoes into halves, slice peppers into strips, and arrange on a baking sheet (covered with parchment, if you like to make your life easier). Spray with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, herbamare, and/or your favorite seasonings from Penzey's. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven, remove veggies and parchment to another surface to cool.
For the steamed green beans:
Place a steamer basket into a pot of water to make sure you haven't overfilled it. Turn the heat on.
Break off bean ends and cut beans in half. When the water is near boiling, arrange in the steamer basket and set a timer for seven minutes, cover. Remove basket and set on counter to cool (there is a theme here).
For the dressing:
In the vessel of your choice, add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper (and some dijon mustard, if you're feeling fancy). Shake, whisk, or otherwise mix together and hold for later.
For the tuna salad:
Empty two cans of tuna into a bowl and add capers, shallots, and parsley. Mix well with a fork.
Peel eggs, slice in half.
Place mixed greens in two bowls, throw in the sliced tomatoes, drizzle dressing over the greens.
Assemble veggies, top with tuna salad and olives. Place eggs pleasingly around the bowl edge and serve.
I’ve had my share of mock-tuna dishes made with a slightly mashed chickpea mixture and think this would hold up well if you wanted to make it vegetarian; do this and omit the hard-boiled eggs to make it vegan.
My Take on Dressing
The sooner you learn how to make (and enjoy the simplicity of) your own dressing, the happier you’ll be. No more half-used bottles of Ranch in the back of the fridge, no more zero-calorie (and tasteless) Caesar dressing, no more salads doused with high fructose corn syrup and whey powder. *Just* oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper (also dijon mustard and agave nectar).
And, if you do want Caesar, Ranch, or whatever, you can enjoy the pure calories of buttermilk cuz you haven’t been using the bottled kind.
Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings was a gifted cookbook that I honestly didn’t think much of at the time (it’s a pretty decadent cookbook—the mac ‘n’ cheese has nearly 10 cups of dairy), because I was doing Gwennie’s detoxes, trying to eat more raw veggies, and generally eschewing cheese, pasta, and bread.
Since giving the book a second chance recently, we’ve enjoyed her tuna melts, mac ‘n’ cheese, Cobb salad, and sriracha Caesar salad. For an unknown reason, I got it in my head to give her dad’s fried fish sandwich a try. Gastrologically, this was not a good idea, but they sure tasted real good.
Aside from my digestion, I’m also wary of making fried fish because the smell sticks around the house, but it was nice enough outside to have the windows open, and I remembered to put a curtain at the base of the stairs so it wouldn’t get up into the bedrooms.
Since I don’t own a deep fryer, we filled the cast iron with vegetable oil and turned it up, using the thermometer to check progess. I wish I had timed it so I could tell you, but I think it’ll depend greatly on heat source and vessel.
I “cheated” by using pre-shredded red and green cabbage with carrots mixed in. It is definitely more expensive per ounce, but I’d rather use that than buy two heads of cabbage to end up throwing away three-quarters of them. Really, the whole point of learning all this is about convenience and knowing that you can, and how to, substitute what you have in the fridge for what’s in the cookbook.
I have an overabundance of jars of relish, so I didn’t make the sweet pickles from scratch either. Come on.
The frozen fish (we opted for catfish) will thaw quickly in a bowl of running, cold water. If it floats, just plop a bowl on top!
The batter is a tricky mixture of corn starch, flour, an egg, frozen vodka, and cold seltzer water, which is why I made the coleslaw and tartar sauce first. The required speed with which the fish are battered and put in the oil is a bit intimidating. So, the batter gets mixed up RIGHT BEFORE the oil is ready. Prepare your paper towels and get your tongs set!
I can smell the oil as I type (or maybe it’s cuz I’m writing this from a bar with a deep fryer). We waited for the suggested 3 minutes, but the desired golden-brown didn’t happen. In the interest of keeping things less, rather than more, greasy, I pulled them after about 5 minutes.
The second batch was a little darker, but that’s because the oil was slightly dirtier and probably a little hotter.
While all this is happening, the buns get toasted with butter and cheese.
When the fish is cool enough, it can be sandwiched, topped with tartar and slaw, and enjoyed!
The best part about the recipe that isn’t in that one ^ is the beets get spiralized and they bake in 15 minutes. 15-minute beets. Can you imagine?
Using your favorite mechanism to spiralize (mine is linked in the “verb” back there), get a couple of beets (one gold and one red makes for a prettier dish), and spiralize the crap out of them.
Salt, pepper, and 15 minutes in a 425° oven results in perfectly roasted, toasty, tasty beets.
Meanwhile, make the dressing, which consists of some orange juice (from a real, live orange), white balsamic vinegar (if you have never used this in a dressing, treat yo’ self), and olive oil. Plus Himalayan pink sea salt and ground peppercorns, but since those go in just about everything, it’s mostly without saying.
Toss your favorite greens with the dressing and plate, and grind some more pepper on there for good measure.
Let’s turn our attention to the scallops now. You’ll be happy to know that they take next to no time to cook but need some prep beforehand. So much prep that I didn’t even know about it until researching for this post.
If you buy the frozen scallops (as I do), The Splendid Table recommends soaking them for 30 minutes before drying for 10.
This next part is funny because Gina’s whole premise is “skinny but still tasty”, which it totally is, but her portion sizes are a lot smaller than mine and I don’t measure vinegar, fat, citrus juice, or salt. So, the recipe calls for 1 tsp. butter. ONE TEASPOON of BUTTER. I said, out loud to no one, “Who uses one teaspoon? I mean, I’m not Paula Deen or anything, but come on!” and put roughly half a tablespoon in the pan with some olive oil because Gina knows what she’s doing.
The pan should be super hot because the scallops need to sear, not cook, and they only need 30 to 90 seconds per side.
After the scallops look like that ^, then they are ready to plate.
You don’t have to get each ingredient in every bite, but every bite will be worth it if you do. Enjoy! And go buy all of Gina’s books.
We put this on the weekly dinner list (more on that later) and I was a little apprehensive because, well, fish. Thankfully, this dish hits on all points and the real star here is the curried broth.
I modified the recipe from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street and feel like I made enough changes to warrant publishing this version as my own. But, buy the book, because it has a lot of yummy dishes.
The first thing to do is bust out the ol’ rice cooker and measure up some jasmine rice.
It’s really important to use the cup that came with the cooker and not use any other device. This cup is “calibrated”, if you will, to the size and type of rice cooker. If you were to dump a cup of rice from this guy into a regular 1-cup, you’d see what I’m talking about.
After the rice is in the bowl, it needs to be rinsed. Admittedly, I haven’t found much of a difference in the end result. Except when I make rice for the dogs and it hasn’t been rinsed, it’s more difficult to get out of the container.
I don’t use a colander. Instead, I rinse it in the bowl and pour the water out. This needs to happen at least three times, if not more. I don’t look for very clear water at this step, just clear-enough water.
When the rice is sufficiently cleansed, the cooker does all the rest. Believe me when I tell you that I cannot make rice without this rice cooker. If I try to make it on the stove, I lift the lid out of impatience or it’s got too much water to rice, or it all sticks to the bottom.
Fill the bowl, with water or broth, to the line that corresponds to the number of cups of rice you’ve measured. I am pretty sure this is where the magic happens and some rice-cooking faeries are watching from inside of the cooker, waiting for the opportunity to heat up each individual grain.
Best of all, it plays “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” when it starts cooking.
Most white rice will take 30-40 minutes and the display will let you know when the 10-minute countdown begins. Jasmine is particularly fragrant (it kinda smells like popcorn when it’s nearly done), so your nose may notice before the countdown starts.
The next part involves a bunch of chopped vegetables and I didn’t get pictures of them because I’m not used to stopping and capturing the process yet.
This is another easy dish that we tend to reserve for (Taco) Tuesdays.
Frozen, unpeeled shrimp is the way to go. Grab a 1 lb. bag the next time you’re at the market; this will be enough for two with some shrimp leftover. Or for seconds.
Thaw the shrimp in a colander and bowl under cold, running water for about 10 to 15 minutes; I have the fella peel the shrimp because this process makes my fingers itchy.
You or a loved one can use the time during the shrimp defrost to shred cheese, chop onions, dice tomatoes, and chop lettuce.
I can’t remember where I learned this onion-dicing trick, but I wish I could thank whoever taught me. I happened to have half an onion (the butt end) hanging around in the crisper drawer for this tutorial. Slice the onion all the way through and set one quarter on its side. Slice that piece in a series of cuts that sort of radiate around the outside, not slicing all the way through the butt (this part is keeping the bulb held in one piece).
Once the onion is sliced longways, you can start chopping shortways (I don’t know how I decided which was which), and this will result in some nicely-sized diced onion! Remember to keep your knuckles sticking out further than your digits; you’re less likely to chop something off this way.
Warm up a pan over medium and add some oil, then sprinkle in your favorite taco seasoning. When the pan is hot, lay all your shrimps on one side, sprinkle with some more seasoning, and cook until you see them get pink and curl a little; about 4 minutes.
Flip each and cook on the second side for about 4 minutes.
Once they’re sufficiently pinkened, I usually cover the pan and turn the heat all the way down while I toast the tortillas using the remaining three burners. Stay close by because they have a tendency to catch (at least for me because I sometimes leave the room or even the house after getting impatient with one side or the other).
This isn’t really a trick, but I don’t know what you don’t know, so I’ll share. Slice the tomato into quarters and use your fingers to scoop out the seeds and goo out so you can just dice the parts worth eating.
Plate your tortillas, top with favorites, and chow down.