Sunday, April 26, 2015

And now for some cheese

Brie, baby
Brie is already my favorite. Does such a fine cheese need to be gussied up with more goodies like nuts and raspberry jam?
I had the pleasure of sampling some baked brie with house made caramel, toasted almonds, fresh strawberries on grilled foccacia and crostini. I nearly teared up at the experience. It took me months to play with that notion that something sweet and/or salty would be good on most any white cheese and I did a quick test of microwaving white cheddar in a glass dish and spreading a bit of something like hazelnut spread on top. Again with the weeping. Can’t wait to play around some more.

Blue cheese
A little blue cheese goes a long way. I ‘ve been nursing a block for weeks by releasing a few crumbles onto eggs in the morning or salad for l lunch. I took a hint from restaurants and melted a tablespoon onto a grilled steak. Sometimes we forget about blue cheese until we see it on a menu. Go ahead and go blue right at home in your own kitchen.

Got it
People have been asking if I got my Haggen Dazs because I shared a story about enjoying other frozen treats on the way to tasting this one. I finally did, under unusual circumstances.
I enjoyed a great Orange Community Players’ production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical and after the show we passed a Kroger. My husband and I agreed to share a small carton of coffee flavored Haggen Dazs even though that little container housed 3.5 servings and even though he’d have preferred butter pecan. I wanted to eat it on the garden swing they had displayed in the store but compromised and dined in the deli. There were no spoons so we carved out the hard ice cream with think plastic knives. Awkward, but fun and delicious. That was date night in Orange.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lima bean hummus? It's Southern fresh

“Southern Made Fresh”
Oh my goodness but Daddy loved lima beans. I never did, in the traditional way. I love what Tasia Malakasis has done with them in “Southern Made Fresh: Vibrant Dishes Rooted in Homegrown Flavor.” It’s a Southern Living cookbook, so you know it’s high-quality with beautiful photos. The author also loves the tradition of Southern nibbles and also thinks Brussels sprouts were created as a form of wretched punishment for children. Her traditional and progressive attitudes allow her to keep playing, until she tried the sprouts in a slaw, with honey and mustard. She makes little switches like adding avocado to the already-classic BLT sandwich, and goes ahead and turns bacon into candy. I like her.
This book will help you plan a supper for one or a summer party for the block. I’m pretty sure my dad would have liked what she did to limas, but he’d have had to have also had a little bowl full flavored in the way to which he was accustomed. See, the South is big enough for all of us to get along.

Lima Bean Hummus
1 16-ounce package frozen Fordhook lima beans
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
one half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
one half teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
Pita bread rounds, cut into wedges
1.   Cook lima beans in boiling water to cover 12 minutes or until very tender, drain
2.   2. With processor running, drop garlic through food chute, process until minced. Add lima beans, salt and next two ingredients. Process until smooth.
With processor running, slowly add oil and lemon juice through food chute, process until blended. Serve with pita wedges.

Angel food
I don’t even know how the angel food cake mix showed up in my pantry. But someone gave me the lemon pudding mix. So I combined the two to make a birthday treat for a friend. I didn’t care for angel food cake as a child, going instead for something more rich. Now I appreciate the subtlety of the sweetness, but it’s easy to kid yourself that it is more healthy and you can have an extra piece or two. So I topped it with the lemon pudding/pie filling I cooked up and enhanced with vanilla and whiskey.
It went well, but here’s another observation. At our ages, I tend to top birthday cakes with one symbolic candle. It’s kind of difficult to decide where to put one candle in a bundt cake. There’s no middle.
Oh well, it worked. There were no leftovers.

Do you blame the sulfites?
I certainly have. Used as antimicrobial and preservatives for bottling and storing wine, sulfites cause a sensitivity in some people. I think I’m one of them. Jean Ishihara used to feel very sick after wine and came up with a Just the Wine, which comes in eye-drop sized bottles so you can squirt a few drops into your glass or bottle. That’s all there is to it, but the story is interesting. Go to for the background. I tried it over the holidays and offer a good report.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Patillo's links diners to tradition

Patillo’s links diners to tradition

Ever since that Texas Monthly barbecue editor spoke at the McFaddin-Ward House, I’ve been on a mission to get to Patillo’s in Beaumont. Saturday, after a meatless Good Friday, my family got coated in sauce. We shared some ribs and a link, with the juicy link being our favorite. It’s just fun to go in and breathe in the aromas, visit with the waitresses and watch everyone else enjoying their food, too. It’s another reason to love Southeast Texas and all we have to offer.
Nappa cabbage
I’m mom has always been an innovative cook, serving things that no other of my classmates had ever experienced. She attempted true gourmet dishes way before there were cooking channels everywhere.
She just mentioned she’d never cooked nappa cabbage or bok choy at home, so I went out and presented her with a head of nappa. Knock yourself out, I told her. I had already sneaked off a few outer layers of this delicately, ribbed cabbage to use in salads before I gave it to her. So she invited me to dinner and it turns out she’d used the cabbage to make into “unstuffed” cabbage rolls, with a tomato sauce and meat.
Of course it was good, but I sure thought she was going to highlight this nappa’s beauty in some Asian dish. When I quizzed her, she assured me the last leaves would swing that way.

Onion tips
Pinterest is great for gardeners. I’ve had a little success snipping off the root end of onions and planting them to grow green onions. Word out is that onions from the store are treated to generally prevent this sort of recycling. If I plan 10 roots, maybe one or two of them will begin to grow. Readers, I’m wondering of you all have any tips on this. Let me know at the contact below:
This column runs in Port Arthur News 

Barbecue lovers "eat up" editor's talk

Barbecue lovers “eat up” editor’s talk
Sometimes Daniel Vaughn would just lose himself, looking at the slides of pepper-crusted brisket or cheeky meat he flashed on the big screen. Sometimes his audience would work up some “mmmm,” “oh  yeah” or “Amen” comments when he mentioned a particular favorite barbecue joint. (City Market in Luling for me).
Vaughn is the Texas Monthly barbecue editor, which sounds like one of the best jobs in the state. He shared the history, methods and regional practices of our beloved Texas Trinity of brisket, sausage and ribs at a McFaddin-Ward House free lecture on March 19. Then, Brad Klein’s brisket-cooking wagon released some flavorful brisket for everyone to sample with a side of pickles, onion and potato salad. I won’t even mention the banana pudding.
Oh yeah, everybody had a good time. He began with brisket on butcher paper, covered meat by the pound, trenches dug for whole animals when a barbecue involved the whole town, and the notion some meat markets had to fire up pits so customers could buy some cooked meat and enjoy it right there, without a day’s investment in cook time.
Vaughn is author of “The Prophets of Smoked Meat,” which I had the pleasure of reviewing in this column, and he held our attention as he also discussed backyard pits for cooking goat, the crisp casing of smoked boudain and even the eye of the cow, which turns out to be more beefy fat instead of fatty beef.
Most of the crowd was willing to hop in their cars and drive across the state for some of the mesquite/beef rib/avocado/tortilla/sausage/ dirty rice combos. Vaughn ate at Patillo’s and Gerard’s when he was in the Beaumont area and says followers will be able to read about it at
Thank goodness, and the McFaddin-Ward folk, guests got to eat some brisket and sides from Brad and Katherine Klein, who barbecue as a hobby. What a great night.
We have a rich history and there may be a friendly or not-so-friendly debate about barbecue in Southern States, but Vaughn seems to support the notion of go with your tradition. If people think they don’t have “good” barbecue in the area, the could just mean they don’t have the kind the critic grew up with. He even showed a map with different regions of Texas and who uses mesquite, oak and other woods. While it may sound trendy that a California restaurant barbecues with grape vine, he thinks, why not? We all developed our flavor with what we have to work with.
So, it’s all different, and if it’s juicy and flavorful, it’s pretty much all good.
Smoke it, baby.

Vintage diet book equals "blah"

Reduce, with the Low Calorie Diet
I found an old paperback that someone in my family had. It cost 25 cents in 1953 and apparently offered a novel concept.
Take Off Weight… and keep it off! Reduce with the Low Calorie Diet. A New kind of Cook Book and Instant Calorie Counter, by Marvin Small, reads the yellow cover. There’s a kabob with lots of vegetables and a platter of what appears to be gray, cold meat surrounded by strawberries. It could be some sort of tomato gelatin, because there are lots of this kind of thing in the book, along with ideas for cottage cheese. It was a fun read and I think this is the kind of food most people still think of when they think diet.
Now we try to look at one’s diet as the whole of the healthy foods one intakes, like whole grains, dairy and fiber. Cookbooks today make these foods look incredibly appealing. Thank goodness.
Here’s an offering from the book. I usually share recipes because they sound so tasty. I’m sharing this one because it doesn’t sound appealing at all!

Panned Celery
Makes 4 servings, 88 calories, calories in 1 serving are 22
1 large bunch celery (about one and a half pounds)
Scant 1one fourth cup tomato juice
One fourth teaspoon salt
Few grains white pepper
1.   Wash celery and cut into 1-inch piece. 2. Heat tomato juice, add celery pieces. Coer pan and simmer 10 to 20 minutes until tender Serve with salt and pepper.

My daughter lives in the Seabrook area and Boondoggles in El Lago was my first taste of  all the restaurants she says we’re going to try. It’s a pub that’s dark, features a bulldog coat of arms, tall tables and a pizza oven. With that English feeling, set next to the darts, we enjoyed the jambalaya pizza and wings. This place is a fun way to begin the evening, or end it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Finally, a reason to go to Brussels

Finally, a reason to go to Brussels

Making Heads & Telling Tales was  Amanda Danning’s fascinating forensic lecture on reconstructing skulls to solve mysteries. There was a full house of guests who left satisfied with both knowledge and refreshments.

These events are typically follows by a reception where docents elegantly serve tasty tidbits on fine silver. There are usually lemon squares, so I’m there. But this time, a savory bite caught my attention. It looked like a bunch of tiny smoked oysters, but they were actually Brussels sprouts cut in half and roasted. The sauce was good, but these babies were tasty on their own.
The funny thing is, I have always listed Brussels sprouts and one of the very few things I don’t care for. (Turnips, you are still on the list).
I know I don’t like them because when I was little, my mom suggested I ingest vegetables I didn’t like by taking with sip of water. Kind of like swallowing a pill. Well, those sprouts were big, and stuck in my throat. And, I did not like that cabbage vibe.
These sprouts have a completely different personality. I tracked down Laura Assunto, who made them, and she shared what had been shared with her:

Hi, Darragh!  I'm so glad you enjoyed the "Brussels Sprouts w/Aioli."  The recipe comes through my friend Teetsie Champagne, and our families love it too.  Here it is:

For approximately 40 sprouts (most instances, I choose them individually from the bin so I can have uniform size). 

Brussels sprouts, appx. 40
Canola oil, a few tablespoons
salt & pepper, to taste

6 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I used the olive oil kind)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
3-5 drops of Tabasco 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut sprouts in half and place on baking sheet.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with fresh cracked salt and pepper.  Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown on one side.  Serve alongside dip made with a mixture of the five remaining ingredients. 

I hope you enjoy preparing these.  So easy!  Bon appetit!!
Laura Assunto 

Can’t decide?
I had a little food adventure Sunday. I was willing to share a quick bite out with my husband. This is a big deal, since I’m usually trying to get him to eat at home, where I can better control the healthy content.
Notice I said, “share.” It was Super Bowl Sunday and I knew my mother was doing something with boudain. I believe she ultimately sliced it, stuffed it with cheese and covered it in crispy panko. It went down all-too quickly. Devine. She said it would be easier to make into a casserole the next time. Let’s do it. Or rather, Mom, you go ahead and do it, and call me over.
So we were looking for this bite to share, and I was headed to where I’d seen a Mexican food truck. Then he remembered an ad about something at Popeye’s with ghost pepper. We headed to a last-known Popeye’s and it had become a doughnut shop. So then we headed to where we thought would have some sort of barbecue food truck. We couldn’t find it and ended up at an Asian place to share pineapple chicken on skewers over fried rice. We actually looked forward to each new cuisine until we started thinking about another option. It’s a good thing we are flexible to flavor.

What’s cooking for Mardi Gras?
New parades and a gumbo cook off are headed to Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas. Bring your sweetie for a Valentine weekend of lighted parades, concerts and spicy Cajun Flavors. Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas will feature a Safari Pardi theme in downtown Port Arthur from Feb. 12-15 of 2015.
I love this time of year. Ours is a family affair is full of lighted parades, live music and carnival fun. Contact Laura Childress at on how to be part of the biggest “pardi” of the year.
You don’t need to be in a krewe to enjoy Mardi Gras. Everyone is invited to view parades and attend the festival. Keep watching the schedule at visit or call the Mardi Gras office at 409-721-8717.

Want to talk about food? Darragh Doiron can be reached at

Monday, January 19, 2015

The pepper sandwich and flavor trends

I was at the famous Whataburger on the Bay in Corpus Chrisi, home of the franchaise. It was a busy morning with bus loads of kids, and I was enjoying a  jalapeno biscuit and the view. A distinguished senior man in a pressed western shirt and bolo tie took his seat and the staff was making over this obvious regular.
He had a foam container at his booth, even before his order came up. When his sandwich arrived he discarded the top bun, cut up the remaining layers into precise squares and opened the lid of his container. He began spreading on a thick white substance like he was icing a cake. I had to step in.
I’d already pledged to wish this gentleman an good day as I left, but I had to ask, what was he spreading? It was mayonnaise, he said. A super thick layer.
Mr. Jim Webb
said he owned Crawdaddy’s restaurant in downtown Corpus, which started a conversation on good Cajun food. But, as we spoke, his breakfast ritual got more interesting. He had opened I don’t know how many tiny paper pepper packages and covered the layer of mayo with black pepper dots. It was a pepper sandwich for sure. I wondered if he was saving calories by not eating the top bun so he could compensate for all they mayo.
I could not eat at Crawdaddy’s on that trip, but I’d love to head back that way. When I mentioned Port Arthur, he said he’d put his gumbo up against any gumbo from Beaumont, Port Arthur, “and even Orange.”

Flavor trends of 2015
McCormick’s Flavor Forecast saus we’re headed for a “liquid revolution” of fresh purees and juices to blend with bold spices and herbs to intensify sauces, pasta, dressings and more; shawarma spice blends of cumin and cinnamon will be a favorite and a sour and salt will highlight pickled ginger and sour cherry. Look for smoked spices as well.
Heard of umami? It’s the “fifth taste” we will see in mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and nori.

Gumbo query
I confess, or boast, that I have a jar of roux base in my pantry. I know, my grandma made it from scratch, but this stuff is good when you need a Cajun fix. Here’s my question to readers: How do you use this roux in ways other than mixing up a gumbo? Do you ever and a few tablespoons to other bases for a gravy or something? There’s got to be more ways of getting that gumbo flavor going for dinner. If you’re willing to share your ideas, please contact me at address below. Also, let me know if you are willing to share your ideas with readers.

Darragh Doiron is out there trying new things for you Culinary Thrill Seekers. Reach her at Published in Port Arthur News