Sunday, September 20, 2015

What's your story on maque choux? And two get Amuny's

Amuny’s bounty and shedding light on Maque Choux

I went to a meeting where there was going to be Amuny’s sandiwiches, one of my favorite things about Port Arthur. I knew they would be there because I was bringing them to the meeting.
My husband could not attend because he was going to a program elsewhere and had voiced regret he would not be eating those sandwiches.
As I sat down to my plate at my event, he sent me a text, reading “Guess what I’m eating?”
He then sent a photo of a big platter of Amuny’s sandwiches that he was enjoying across town.

Maque choux query for readers
I was concentrating on just-right pistolettes at The Neches River Wheelhouse when Charlene Fortenberry introduced herself and we started talking about maque choux.
I ‘m a big fan of this corn blend and I don’t know why it’s not a part of my life much more often. Fortenberry, who has ties to the old Farm Royale restaurant, suggested I put this topic out to readers as a “curiosity that some of your Cajun-bred readers may be able to shed light on.”
Heres’ what she says: “I grew up eating my mom's maque choux, as I'm sure you did, too. I saw it on the Wheelhouse menu; first time I had ever seen it at a restaurant around here. My two friends had never heard of it (they're not French, bless their hearts, haha) but one of them ordered it and so did I. It was delicious of course, but it had cream in it. Well cream makes everything better, but I had never had it like that before. After discussing it with family and friends, the consensus was that no one else had tasted it like that. So, is that a regional thing or was the chef being creative? This isn't an earth shattering topic, but maybe you can make it into something interesting. Still loving your column, Charlene.  

I’m already interested. So here’s my story. When I went to ask my mom about my beloved creamy corn dish, she said she recalled maque choux in Louisiana as being not creamy, but what I was eating was creamed corn in the “northern” style of my grandfather. Somewhere along the way I was eating what Louisiana relatives combined: creamy corn, seasoning, onions and peppers. I love it, whatever it is called.
Now, readers, please let Ms. Fortenberry and I know your experiences with maque choux, by writing
We’ll be waiting to hear from you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Playing with peanuts and kosher holidays

Someone celebrated a birthday at Logan’s Road House in Beaumont and we left with some in-shell peanuts. I chose to make them the protein in an Asian meal I made up.
I don’t know what to call it, but coconut milk, cucumbers, purple onions and garlic chives ended up over Jasmine rice, and the peanuts went on top. It was filling and light at the same time. It’s always good to play with your food.

The Kosher Baker
The only time Paula Shoyer uses store-bought challah is to make bread pudding, because her family won’t give up a homemade challah without a fight. 
She shares a Mocha and Whiskey Chocolate Bread Pudding, made from this bread, that puts one in the mind bread pudding much closer to New Orleans and meant to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Shoyer teaches French and Jewish baking in the Washington, DC area and offers some amazing recipes and background in her book “The Holiday Kosher Baker.”
This is a more serious book for those who know their way around flours and macarons. Finished results are beautiful and, I assume, tasty. I’d like to book a flight to DC to sample some class projects.
Here’s a taste of what’s in the book:

Babka Bites, Honey Cake Biscotti, Whole Grain Carrot Cake, and Fruit Cobbler with Chickpea, Pecan and Cardamom Topping. As says the subtitle, these are traditional and contemporary offerings.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Long beans and chocolate toast

Eat Fresh!
Last Saturday morning I heard two women discussing the Beaumont Farmers’ Market. Why, I hadn’t been since last season. I sure am glad they reminded me. I headed right over to the municipal complex on College Street and snapped up a bag of huge figs and a $2 bunch of  long beans. They’re more than a foot long. What fun.
I also got all camera crazy with cartons of beautiful blue-tinted eggs from Dan the Chicken Man. The market will continue through December, I’m told, but won’t go on Sept. 26 because of a tennis tournament.

Leftover chocolate?
Sometimes there is. I always like to keep a few morsels of dark chocolate around (or semi-hidden) the house. So there’s sometimes a heart-shaped chunk wrapped in pink foil or a festive egg under some more suited to a Halloween look. Still good, I’m sure, but we go to the “eye candy” of a seasonal look.
Unwrap those little guys and melt them on to buttery, crispy toast. They’ll melt into a sweet mass so delicious your mouth won’t mind it was wearing last season’s dress just moments ago.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Vietnamese sandwich heaven


Banh Mon heaven
While I consider Amuny’s Liquor and Deli to have the best sandwiches in Port Arthur, I think I may have had the best sandwich in Beaumont.
For years I’ve been hearing about Chef Monica Cobb’s Renegade street food, featuring a Vietnamese sandwich. I finally dug into one, literally dug, when the Press Club of Southeast Texas board met in the back room of the Log-On Café in Beaumont. Cobb is serving from this funky music and dining venue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays.
The fresh loaf of bread held a creamy, slightly spicy blend of meatball and vegetables that were a colorful blend of green and orange. It was crisp, soft and other things in each bite. I had seen a customer happily struggling with his sandwich so I wasn’t overly concerned about making a mess in front of my peers. I started off with a fork, as did others, and were mercilessly teased by one of our own. He said making a mess is part of the deal. I had dreams of taking part of the sandwich home for dinner, but it was too good and too transitory to not devour the whole thing.
Here was the Cobb menu we chose from:
*Elvis-Black Strap Pork, fried plantains, Thai peanut sauce $13
*Korean BBQ beef meatballs, cucumber-kimchee-pickled ginger $13
*Indian-Spiced Fried Crispy Chicken, red curry honey glaze, mango-mint chutney, crispy black sesame crisps, rice noodles, Asian slaw, snow peas $15
*French inspired- tarragon-parmesan béchamel, sweet peas, shrimp, crab & andouille stuffed bread $15
*Sweet potato, chicken & sausage stew (cup) w/ Gandhi Salad $15

Instant Coffee
If green tea is your thing, I’ll bet you’d like the candy version. Il Morso is Italian for ‘the bite,’ reads this box of four varieties of  thin bites of candies in green tea, mocha, American and coffee and cream. They’re in the neighborhood of 20 calories a pop and very satisfying. SFCA Il Morso Coffee Bars was established in 2015, a very good year for yummies. “Just Add Mouth” the box continues.

Chester can keep his popcorn
I’m a huge fan of Cheetos, especially the “flamin’ hot” variety. I’ve rarely purchased a bag alone, but when sandwiches come with chips, it’s the kind I grab. Sometimes the bag of Cheetos makes it home to serve as salad croutons.
I just ran across Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Popcorn. Popcorn is another weakness of mine, but somehow a combo of two of my crunchy favorites did not equal pleasure. The popcorn was on the soft side and the spices not very present. Chester did not provide that Cheetos crunch I crave. He and I are not happening again.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Taste it all: With family!

A year ago my family visited Polish Food Store on Blalock Road in Houston. I still have some horseradish in the refrigerator. We’ve waited that long to try Polonia Restaurant, which has since moved from down the road to next door to the store.
We walked in early in the evening and made it clear we’d love some small samples, because we had more food to try elsewhere. Our server graciously went over the pierogi options and we ordered the meat version and a plate of fried bacon.
He said this bacon was popular at the rodeo and cautioned it is very different from the American version. Like just about any version of bacon could go wrong? Two thick slabs arrived with a side salad, crisp pickled cut into fans and mustard.
I just want to know why, if pigs are the same everywhere, we haven’t been able to popularize this amazing Polish bacon in America. Bring on the bacon.
Dishes arrived with little paper Polish flags and we also availed ourselves of bread with season butter and a pork jelly to spread on the slices. We plan to head back and eventually sample the rest of the menu.
Next we sampled a Yori Yori eel dish at 99 Ranch, the Asian market also on Blalock. Everything I’ve ever tried at this food court-style eatery has been great. Just don’t, ever, use the vessel that looks like a little soup bowl for soup, or sauce. It is strictly for water, and they are not joking about it. Learn from my ways.
My soon-to-be 25-year-old daughter then did her choosing for her annual birthday request, a gathering of unusual edibles. Lots of canned eel and noodles are going in this basket.
It’s good to get the gang together and try new things. What will you be trying before 2015 comes to a close?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Watermelon preserves like stone soup.

Last summer someone told me the best watermelons had a hollow sound with thumped. This year people stressed looking for yellow patches to show it had been on the ground a long time. I picked a great yellow-bellied, hollow one and near the end I recalled how much I loved watermelon rind preserves the two or three times I ever tried them.
I’d heard they were difficult to make, but the recipe sounded easy. I think the hard part is peeling the outer green off the rind. Here’s how I made a jar full. I think it’s like stone soup because I kept coming up with more ingredients out of nowhere:
Cut up chunks of the peeled rind and cover themw with sugar, overnight. This will form a liquid. I added a bit of water, then cooked it on slow heat until tender.
I used up several of those sugar packets that accumulate, and used honey water from the bear bottle I got from my mother’s house. She had added water to get the last bit out. While it was cooking, I figured peel from an orange I had would flavor it nicely and add color. Some recipes call for cinnamon. I’ll need to stock up this pumpkin pie season. I found some chai tea spice that I had mixed up and put into a vintage salt shake and it worked fine.
My preserves went on some French bread my friend had brought over and the rest looks lovely in a Mason jar. I served it in a small, oval Homer Laughlin plate that I’d just got for 75 cents at a Young Life estate sale. The plate matched four others I bought at an antique co-op in The Heights in Houston, because they remind me of dining at Aunt Anne’s house.
That’s my tale of how one thing lead to another to remind me of  another and resulted in coffee and breakfast on my patio as the sun came out on a Sunday morning.

Oils of note
I’ve heard that avocado was once referred to as poor man’s butter. Now it’s gourmet. There’s another time to speak of a perfect separation of the flesh from the pit and the skin for a firm, cool bite. This is about the oil.
Chosen Foods has put avocado oil into a spray can that works while you’re grilling. It’s a high-heat and non-propellant spray. Makers say they use safe air pressure technology that eliminates chemical propellants
and other harmful ingredients. Chosen Foods avocado oil spray can safely be
heated up to 500 degrees. But guess what? A spray of it tasted great on some lightly grilled French bread.

Also look into Chosen Foods’ Sesame Oil, billed as expeller pressed flavorful finishing oil. It has a 4,000-year old history and is best kept in the fridge and used within 6 months. Once you breath in the aroma you’ll be busy drizzling onto noodles, vegetables and salads. Oil up now.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Green Apple Assignment

Candy apple red carries all sorts of connotations of sweet adventure.
Next time you crave a crunch, go for a tart green apple. They look good in an arrangement, put you in the mind of summer and offer a nutritional carry-around snack.
Once you have a stash, think of all the creations you can make:
* Slice it and spread on crunch peanut butter
* Make round, green borders for a Canadian bacon sandwich
* Slice and dip into flavored Greek yogurt
* Dice and make apple “croutons” for salad crunch
If you I haven’t hit your favorite, let me know and we can share it with readers.

Beverage adventures

VOGA Italia Red Fusion can make a spiced sangria with figs. What with the fruit, I’ve always considered sangria as a lighter fare that puts you in the mind of socializing and travel.
Thinking about calories? Go even lower with amazing Sparkling Ice, bottles of drinks that are zero calorie wonders to serve over ice or mix into drinks. Pink Grapefruit, Kiwi Strawberry and Strawberry Watermelon make hot Texas summers cool. Now think about mixing in with Champaign for a brunch showcase. If you keep some Sparkling Ice in the fridge, you’ll be ready for anything, but those extra calories. Did I mention there are also vitamins and antioxidants in this product? Now that’s refreshing.

Try the Sparkling Cherry in Mason jars with a straw: Ingredients:
  • 4 ounces  Cherry Limeade SPARKLING ICE
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • one half cup Simple syrup
  • one fourth cup cherry brandy
  • one fourth cup orange liqueur
  • 10 mint leaves (plus a few more for garnish)
  • 6 cherries (stems and pits removed)
  • 2 oranges, halved and sliced
  • Ice

1.  In a large pitcher, combine Cherry Limeade, brandy, orange juice, Simple syrup, and orange liqueur. Stir in cherries and orange slices.
2. Garnish with mint leaves, cover and chill for 24 hours. Serve over ice.