Category Archives: Taste This

The Jambalaya Shoppe–Gonzales, LA

One of my favorite things while traveling is hunting for great food. A chef friend told me Gonzales is jambalaya country and if you believe what the water tower says, Gonzales is the jambalaya capital of the world. I’m happy to announce that I have found some delicious jambalaya at The Jambalaya Shoppe.

My research revealed this little gem and I was pretty certain that I was in for a treat as these restaurants are popping up around south Louisiana. We opted for a bucket of chicken and sausage jambalaya and since the weather was nice, we ate at one of the two picnic tables in the parking lot.

I do have to admit that this is the second restaurant in the region I have eaten at over the past couple of days that wasn’t spicy. I love spicy food, and we don’t have many options for fire eating in Shreveport. I’ve always been told I have to go south for sinteringly hot cuisine–maybe this is reserved for New Orleans. Regardless, I happened upon a gem.

The original location is not much more than a shack–typically a good sign when you are searching for deliciousness. That standard holds true in this case. The sausage was delightfully scabbed, and the morsels of chicken were plenty. And the flavor profile? It held a subtle complexity that I will explore again this evening. I was ravenous at lunch and didn’t thoughtfully enjoy this delight, but I’ll savor it tonight.

My only complaint is that it needed heat. Naturally, I added Tabasco, but I would have appreciated more heat. Make that two complaints–we do not have a Jambalaya Shoppe here in Shreveport. I hope my second complaint is properly addressed soon.

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Jane’s Seafood–New Iberia, LA

Being in south Louisiana I was really expecting some fiery crawfish with out of this world flavor.I was hoping that Jane’s Seafood was going to scratch that itch.

I ordered the extra spicy mudbugs to be sure. Sadly, they were only medium in heat intensity (they made my lips cherry red and I drank a whole pitcher of iced tea, but the residual flavor was lacking.

The tail meat was pretty bland by itself. I don’t know if they aren’t soaking them, but that is my impression. Further, the potatoes and corn were not cooked in the boil–another hit at blandness. I also was expecting to see boiled onions, garlic, lemon, and maybe even orange, but I think they just use standard crab boil.

Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, but I expected much more my first time eating crawfish so far south. This place is popular and they have good food, but the crawfish ain’t a patch to Crawfish Hole #2 in Dixie Inn, LA.  Nevertheless, it was a good day as I had a pile of crawfish.


 

BBQ Chronicles:  Williams BBQ–Greenwood, LA

I was passing through town when I saw Williams BBQ. I immediately pulled over to see if I couldn’t find any information online. Nothing. I decided to brave this intrepid establishment as I have a hard time passing up BBQ. I wish I had.

The owner promptly took my order–a half pound of sliced brisket and a half pound of sausage. As I was joyriding, I felt it best to eat on the road. First, the sausage. Though it was not bad, it was nothing special. Nothing but Eckrich or something similar. It was edible, though. After three or four bites, I was done with this mediocre offering. At least I was able to take it home to share.
As for the brisket, no such luck. 

Never serve up Eckrich if you want to impress.
 The nauseatingly gray meat made me think that this was the stuff during wartime–a time where food is so scarce that people resort to eating their boots. At this moment I wish I was eating pilfered boot leather.

Though the meat was sliced paper thin, it still was as tough as the aforementioned footwear. The fat wasn’t rendered which left an uneasy feeling not unlike the the unveiling of Ed Gein’s horrorfest. 

Never before have I encountered the stench of death on a plate.
 As I brought up a piece to my mouth, my nose caught something out of place. I couldn’t quite place the subtle sick fragrance of decomposition. When I took my first (and only) bite, I knew immediately the nightmare that enveloped my taste buds–it was sour. It wasn’t full-on maggoty meat, but was a subdued flavor of rottenness. I spit it out of the truck and this little delight found its way into the trash can.

The owner said they have been open for three weeks. I predict they will be out of business by Thursday.

If you want to read about real mediocre barbecue that won’t put you in the morgue, try this, this, and this.

Restaurant Sage–Monroe, LA

The widespread flooding brought us to Monroe, LA.  I’ve passed through this city a million times, but when I came to serve with Mercy Chefs, I came prepared to stay a couple of days.

We typically spend fifteen hours a day preparing restaurant quality meals in a mobile kitchen.  It’s hot and we continually have to watch out for hazards.  It’s only a small price we pay so that we can serve those whose lives have been disrupted by disaster.

After a busy day, four of us chefs decided to enjoy a nice evening at Restaurant Sage. We met Executive Chef Blake the day before as he came down to volunteer at our mobile kitchen.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, we demurred when he said there was no check.  At our insistence he sent out a check, but he discounted our appetizers.) 

Louisiana gulf oysters with garlic butter and parmesan.
 He brought out all sorts of food for us to sample from the grilled oysters and crab cakes, to the sage wraps which were chunks of filet stuffed with cheese and jalapeño and wrapped in bacon. Absolutely unbelievable.   Another high point was the andouille and duck gumbo. Chef Blake told us how intricately it was prepared and all of that effort in preparing it was not in vain. It was incredible. 

Jumbo lump crab cakes with green tomato relish and red remoulade.
 Finally, we fell upon the main course. A couple of us fawned over the short ribs, another had the blackened snapper, and I had the soft shell crab with alligator sauce piquant. Everything was great but I have to say the alligator stew was “on point” as one of my fellow chefs kept saying throughout the meal. Next time I’m in Monroe I may have to enjoy another unforgettable meal.


(Top photo consists of soft shell crab and alligator sauce piquant.)

Grub Burger Bar–Shreveport, LA

I always get excited to eat burgers. Not all burgers, though.  I’ll wrestle with a couple of McDoubles now and then, but when I have an opportunity to enjoy something remarkable, I’ll sometimes feel those butterflies of excitement in the pit of my belly.  Or it might be a McDouble returning with its greasy wrath.

I brought my daughter Zoe’ on a lunch date and we ventured into Grub Burger Bar.  It’s only been here about a month and I’ve heard mixed reviews.  It was time I brought my eleven year old burger expert to investigate.

I knew I was in for a treat when I saw a guy making the rolls from scratch, (These fresh rolls are better than Mooyah‘s), but I still couldn’t shake the mediocre review the the lady who insisted on talking as she cut my hair a couple of weeks ago.  Then again, hairdressers don’t have palates.  They have scissors.

The meat was fantastically juicy and nicely seasoned–a stark contrast to the over salted shoe leather I consumed the last time I ate at Twisted Root.  I’m not saying Twisted Root is trash, I’m saying that the last time I was there it was nightmarishly mediocre that I’m not sure I can return to take a risk on returning because their prices are already sky high.  All I’m saying is that if I’m going to spend my kid’s college money on a burger, it better be good.

All in all, it was great and I know that because my redheaded burger critic loved it.  She just wished that it could have come with Five Guys’ fries.

Don’t Rue the Roux (A Homophonically Hackneyed Glorification of Gravy)

I’m a gravy animal. I like gravy on anything. In my world gravy deserves the coveted foundational spot on the food pyramid. But the pyramid I grew up with has been has been replaced with something bizarre.  I first encountered this new layout at Kroger when I saw some strange crop circle-esque food diagram.

I couldn’t decipher this new age pyramid as there is no base to build on. That’s not a proper food pyramid. I learned about nutrition from Slim Goodbody, the stalwart, creepy body suit wearing crusader. Mr. Goodbody may not be a gravy advocate, but I’m not deterred.

I’m such a gravy proponent that years ago I used to have listeners consume a thirty-two ounce glass of cream gravy when I was a disc jockey.  If you are a radio personality and need a game that is devoid of originality but will make some listeners say, “Eww,” you can steal this bit that I undoubtedly stole from some unimaginative liner jock who used it as a vehicle to giveaway blue plate lunches during his lunchtime request hour.  It’s amazing the lengths some people go to score a CD from some never was band like Zug Izland. Remember that band? Me neither.

I’m definitely no expert on sauces, but I have gained enough experience to make a half decent gel of grease and flour. Making roux for gumbo is a skill I have yet to perfect.  Gravy is easy.  At least for me, death-defying dark roux is not only challenging, but all of that stirring can be exhausting.  

I love a really dark roux, but I have had gumbo where the roux was scorched.  Needless to say, that restaurant isn’t around anymore.  When I make a roux, I always plan on making it the color of dark chocolate.  Once it looks like peanut butter I start getting nervous, and I invariably chicken out when the roux almost looks like milk chocolate.  

Justin Wilson terrifies me with this über-dark roux.  I can’t find the rest of the clip to see if the gumbo turned out.  I’m certain it was perfect, but next time I set out to make a dark roux, I’ll have to battle another bout of flop sweat or I’ll get tired and ditch the whole gumbo idea and bust open a can of biscuits and make a pan of cream gravy.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack–Nashville, TN

Last week I was in Nashville, TN to attend the Send North America Conference.  Listening intently to the likes of Al Mohler and Johnny Hunt works up an appetite and I had already sampled Hattie B’s Hot Chicken the previous evening.  Before I left town, I determined to try Nashville’s standard for firey fowl–Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.

Nestled in a seedy part of town, I was reminded of a now-defunct catfish restaurant here in Shreveport, LA.  I never went at night because I was scared of getting stabbed, but this place was filthy and the ceiling was falling apart due to a leaky roof.  I was concerned about food poisoning, but the catfish was worth any risk.

Handle with care.

I wasn’t feeling like liquidating my innards, so I just ordered the hot chicken.  I didn’t order the hottest on the menu and there was mild wuss chicken so that wusses could eat too.  I ordered the middle-of-the-road “hot” and the heat level was perfect in that it satisfied my sinuses and my mouth and esophagus enjoyed a low burn for a couple of hours. 
Much like the Sun, if you look directly at this fire, it will burn your retinas.
 
What I found lacking was flavor.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the flavor profile was rather one-dimensional.  It was hot and not much else.  Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but easily outshined by Prince’s budding competitor.

You’ll wait in line for an hour when you go to Hattie B’s.  It’s time well spent.

BBQ Chronicles:  Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue–Jefferson, TX

Yesterday was one of those rare days when both my wife and I were off work. We had planned on some type of outdoor family adventure, but the rainy weather made us modify our plans.  Plan B was to make a short trek to Texas for some delectable barbecue.  I brought, Alli, my oldest daughter to Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue last year when I started my journey to visit the TM Top 50 joints, so I already knew that we were going to get a respectable meal.

 

Spare rib, fatty brisket, and sausage.
 
Alli and I asked for untrimmed fatty brisket–sliced.  I’ll have to admit that there wasn’t much of a crust, but the perfectly rendered fat made up for it.  The meat was a bit blandish, but it did have a nice smokiness and was deliciously tender. Any joker can chop shoe leather and slather it in sauce, but it takes a certain level of expertise to smoke up a slab of fork tender meat.  My wife, Heather, and I had a second dose of brisket in our swamp fries–a devilish concoction of hand cut fries smothered in brisket, jalapeños, onions, and cheese.  Hand cut fries are the best and when they are paired with BBQ, they are phenomenal.

 

The fabled swamp fries that might be the Fouke Monster’s main staple.
 
The spare ribs had a nice smoke ring.  There wasn’t much rub induced flavor, but they were nice.  They gave the perfect resistance when bitten.  No mushy meat and it came clean from the bone.

The smoked sausage was forgettable.  It gave a nice hint of fire as if they were hot links, but I should have passed on it to make room for some smoked turkey.

The barbecue beans were punched up baked beans from a can, but man, they were punched up.  I really enjoyed them.

I also asked the pit master what he puts in the sauce that gives it its sweetness. He immediately responded with brown sugar.  When I pressed him, he gave a bit of a sly smile but wouldn’t give it up.  I detected a fruity note, perhaps cherry.  Whatever he sneaks into his sauce works.

Aside from the lack of bark on these delectable morsels and the tired sausage, everything was great.  I’m a bit surprised because my favorite from our smorgasbord was the swamp fries.  Incredible.
Explore the following links for more BBQ exploits:

Bartley’s BBQ

Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q

Hitch-N-Post

Bob’s Bar-B-Que

Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q

Dreamland

Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue

Coffee Infused Steelhead Trout

I’ll have to admit that I have not been eating healthy due to the holidays.  Face it, that is the time of year we are supposed to behave as if we were garbage disposals, consuming everything from roast turkey to whole pies.  I’m surprised because I have actually lost some weight, but my cholesterol numbers are so horrific that my doctor has resorted to threats.

I have always liked fish, but I rarely eat it.  I have a number of reasons.  First, beef beats fish.  It’s like rock crushes scissors.  No contest.  Second, my kids are picky eaters.  I’m the chef and they have vastly broadened their culinary horizons over the years, but fish happens to be their last bastion.  Well, except for our five year old, Maddie.  She is the most adventurous of the bunch. Strangely, green bean casserole happens to be her favorite dish and she is addicted to sardines.  I also had my sardine fetish when I was her age.  The reason I don’t eat sardines with as much voracity as I had in my youth is because my wife insists that I eat sardines outside.  That doesn’t always happen.  I have been known to eat sardine sandwiches in bed while she slept next to me.

Okay, my reasons aren’t as numerous as I expected.  Nevertheless, I have to actively work to incorporate tastiness in my kids’ lives.  If it weren’t for me, I’m sure they would eat nothing but mechanically separated chicken nuggets.  Blech.

I was feeling lazy when I made this dish, so I looked back on how I prepared the fish previously.  I developed a nice rub for blackening, but I couldn’t decide if I wanted to trim my rosemary bush and simply sear the fish.  I had blackberries that I wanted to incorporate and didn’t think they would go well with the rosemary, so I decided to blacken this finned delight.  I stuck with my blackening rub with a couple of changes, and I think it went well.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 – 2 pounds steelhead trout fillets (scaled and be sure to remove any remaining bones)

extra virgin olive oil to coat the fish

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon lemon peel

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon chile powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 single serve packet Starbucks instant coffee (next time I think I will use two coffee packets)

Method:

Coffee infused steelhead trout with roasted carrots, black rice pilaf prepared with clam juice, and a delicious blackberry sauce.
Coffee infused steelhead trout with roasted carrots, black rice pilaf prepared with clam juice, and a delicious blackberry sauce.

Combine dry ingredients.

Coat fish fillets liberally with EVOO.  Apply rub liberally and allow to rest on butcher paper at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat cast iron skillet.  Once heated, add fillets flesh-side down and sear for three minutes (you may need to cook the fillets in a couple of batches).  After three minutes, carefully turn and sear skin side for three minutes.  When it is searing, don’t get impatient and fiddle with the fillets.  You’ll end up with tore up fish.  You’d be just as well eating a can of tuna if you do that.

That’s it.  The fish is done.  The actually cooking part of the fish is the last thing you want to do as it cooks so quickly.

This fish goes great with roasted carrots and black rice.  If you really want to dazzle your spouse with culinary delights, make a nice blackberry sauce.  Delicious.

Blackened Trout and Sauteed Kale with Ginger

In an effort to eat healthier, we have incorporated more fish into our diet.  Well, I have incorporated the fish and the rest of the family enjoys the benefits as well.  So far, I haven’t had a lot of resistance and Maddie, my five year old, actually comes home from school every day wanting to share a nice can of King Oscar Brisling Sardines.  As far as sardines go, they’re the best.  I’m actually really excited to have a kid to share this tradition with.  My dad used to kick back with a can and I’d hover around like a baby bird wanting to get my fill.

Eating better is nice, but it actually stems from trying to eliminate nightshade vegetables from my diet in an effort to reduce inflammation.  Autoimmune diseases are no pleasure cruises and it’s about time I try to monitor what I eat.

blackened2
I’m not really a fan of cruciferous foods, but that kale actually tasted…great.

Today was a bit challenging as I wanted blackened fish, but most blackening seasonings contain paprika and cayenne, two delicious nightshades.  I quickly looked up a nightshade free blackening seasoning recipe and decided I could make something taste halfway decent.  Granted, I only scanned the ingredients on Seaweed Girl’s Blog.  It was the first thing I saw on Google.  Though I’m not a ginger dynamo, the flavor is growing on me and today was a nice day to experiment.

If you want a zesty bed of kale, this worked out well.  I didn’t really follow the directions that closely.  Be sure to add about a half teaspoon of minced fresh ginger when you add the garlic.  Niiice.

I went with steelhead trout again.  I think it just has an amazing flavor.  I scraped the scales and coated the fillets with extra virgin olive oil.

Ingredients for Blackening Seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon lemon peel (I found it on the spice aisle.  It’s granulated and worked nicely.)

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

Method

blackened3
This seasoning made a really nice crust.

Combine ingredients.  Simple.

Liberally rub seasoning into fish and allow to marinate 30 minutes.  I just left mine on the counter on butcher paper and continued prepping the rest of the meal.

Heat cast iron skillet.  It has to be hot to get the coating to crust.  Science happens right before your eyes as your food undergoes the magic that is the maillard reaction.

Place fillets flesh side down and make sure they make good contact with the skillet.  (If you have a lot of fish, you’ll need to work in batches.)  Allow to sear for three minutes.  You don’t want to fiddle with it and end up with a broken mess.

Turn fish over and allow to sear an additional two or three minutes.  It really depends on how thick your fillets are.

Remove from heat.  Enjoy.