Monday, December 29, 2014

Oysters ring in new year

Oysters ring in new year
Oysters can mean living dangerously. You’ve read the health warnings on menus. But to me they represent clean, fresh sweeps, accompanied by some New Year’s Eve bubbly. Oysters on the half shell sparkle, with the ice and the lemon. Ever had any oyster shot? They put me in the mind of  New Orleans, or an image I saw in a book. I’ll probably never half them at a dockside brunch, but I can imagine.
I’ve often shared this quickie appetizer that fits the season:

Oyster Pate
Grab a can or two of smoked oysters, which are easy to stock in your pantry
Mash the oysters and mix in with a block of cream cheese.
Spread on French bread toasts or crackers.

Oyster Pasta
The contents of the smoked oysters and their rich oil are an instant topping for linguine or other pastas. You could add spinach and must add crushed red pepper.

Dining out in Houston
One of the best parts of having a hostess prepare food with love for you at her home is that you often get to treat the hostess to a restaurant for a thank you.
Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar: There’s a giant sign that says EAT in The Heights, but the tiny neon sign spells out Liberty Kitchen in blue at only a few inches tall. If you drive by it the first time, keep looking. I enjoyed oysters on the half shell for brunch while others around me got hash, fried oyster omelets, salmon omelets and other hipster offerings. No one at the table was brave enough to order something called “Now, Bitter than you’re a** breakfast,” which includes chicken fried steak, or red velvet pancake tacos with mapely bacon inside. It’s a fun stop for sure, and great antique and boutique shopping is all around.
Alicia’s Mexican Grille in Katy is a huge spread off the highway and I appreciate the bathroom is done in Frida Kahlo artworks. The salsa is something special and I love the cheesy, meaty bites people shared with me. I had a salad that featured uncut fajita meat that was thin and pungent with lime. It’s probably rare to offer a sweet mustard dressing and bleu cheese with that combo, but it worked very well.
Star Pizza No. 2 at 77 Harvard in Houston: You’ve got to pick your flour, crust size, toppings and more, but all that work is worth it. Please be a cheese lover when you go in. Even the powdered cheese in the shaker is above par. I love that most of the tables are those wooden ones designed for home use, with leaves you slide out to expand.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A guide to the pig

A guide to the pig
I’m already a Chris Chamberlain fan and I just wish my daddy was still here to taste the lima bean casserole he’s sharing in “The Southern Foodie’s Guide to the Pig” This cover bills it as a culintary tour of the South’s best restaurants and the recipes that made them famous, and says this book will offer how to select, prepare, cook and enjoy everything but the oink. Chamberlain writes about food in Nashville and the book takes readers around the south in photos and imagined parties where dishes such as fried green tomato blts, sweet potato hush puppies, Tennessee whisky sauce and maple bacon muffins are served. The pig is celebrated even in the dessert section. Who’s up for bacon peanut butter cookies. Bacon is a thing, and I can’t imagine candied bacon from Chef’s Market CafĂ© would be turned down at most holiday parties in Southeast Texas. Every page brings a new temptation.  Here’s a couple of ideas to enhance your pig fests:

Jalapeno soda from Stella’s Kentucky Deli
2 ounces of Jalapeno Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
12 ounces club soda
Jalapeno Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 to 3 medium jalapeno peppers, sliced and stem discarded (do not seed)
Mix the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the jalapenos and turn off the heat Let steep for 10 minutes and strain.

Pickled Mustard Seeds
1 cup white vinegar
2 tableslpoons kosher salt
one half cup waster
one half cup sugar
4 tablespoons dried yellow mustard seeds
Combine the vinegar, salt, water and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer on medium heat to dissolve the salt and sugar Add the mustard seeds. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the seeds soften and nearly double in size, about 30 minutes. Pour into a container and refrigerate. This will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Newk’s Eatery:  It may look like just another chain, but I’m now a big supporter of  Newk’s in Katy. Everyone makes the joke that it sounds like Nuke’s, like what they used to call microwave cooking, like nuclear power. But just make your joke and start enjoying. After some shopping my aunt took me to this new place in Katy for a salad. I wanted to eat light, but these salads are way more than a meal. I thought I ordered the Greek, but actually agreed to the Newk’s Favorite and had cranberries and nuts in that big mix of greens. I thought I saw packaged chopsticks on the condiment area but they were skinny little bread sticks. Did you ever dream of all-you-could-eat capers? Help yourself. But my dream was the unattended roasted garlic cloves. I had many, then went back for many more. They were sweet and soft and satisfying.
Darragh Doiron doesn’t mind eating another feast to share with Port Arthur News readers.