What I ate in Louisiana: Christmas 2018

If the mountain doesn’t kill you, something else will. Like eating the way I do when I go home for Christmas. I forgot to take photos of a few meals this time around, but I think the ones below will still give you an adequate sampling.

(Speaking of sampling, feel free to buy one of my books!)

We arrived in Opelousas Friday morning after an overnight drive from Colorado (just over 17 hours) and kicked things off with boudin and cracklins from Billy’s, one of the finest meals known to man.

That evening we had fried fish and shrimp stew, courtesy of my stepdad.

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Rocky Mountain Brisket

The last time I barbecued a brisket in New York, I spent $100 or more for what was once considered an inexpensive hunk of meat. Last week, I spent $30 on a brisket at Walmart. It turned out to be one of the best I’ve barbecued to date.

This was to be my first barbecue in Colorado, the first time I had people over, and it was all for the LSU-Alabama game. The game went about as I expected. Thankfully, the meat — brisket, ribs, and chicken — did too, despite a lot of worrying about barbecuing at altitude with variable weather conditions.

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The 2018 Meat Sweats Tour: Few Things Finer Than Carolina (and Barbecue)

As the first two plates of chopped and sliced pork were placed on the table in front of us, accompanied by sides of Ore-Ida-looking French fries and an entire basket of hush puppies, my first thought was, “I hope I can handle a whole week of Carolina barbecue.”

My son Nick and I were at Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina, the first stop on one of our somewhat annual barbecue tours. Our first trip, the Barrage of Brisket Tour back in 2013, took us to the Austin area, where we made five stops. The next tour was 2015’s Madness in Memphis , where we hit six barbecue places (and one fried chicken joint).  In 2016, it was Kicking It in Kansas, for seven stops.

That last name is pretty damn awful, and I admit I’m retroactively naming some of these because I dubbed this year’s trip The Meat Sweats Tour.

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Eating Louisiana: A few photos

I’m home in Louisiana for the holidays. And that means food. Lots and lots of food. How has it gone so far? Let me show you.

1. Fried shrimp platter from Soileau’s in Opelousas, eaten upon completion of 25 hour drive from New York.


2. Sunday morning breakfast. Boudin and cracklins from Ray’s. (Billy’s boudin recipe, though.) Donuts from Mikey’s. I ate a lot more than what is on this plate.

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Brooklyn Barbecue Files: Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Behold, the brisket. A beefy beauty, but not the easiest cut of meat to tame. That one there is moist, succulent. It is sporting a sexy little smoke ring and a glossy black bark. But appearances can be deceiving. I’m not going to complain (too much). The brisket was perhaps the juiciest one I’ve ever done. But it wasn’t smoky enough. Neither was it seasoned enough for my liking.

The amount of smoke — or lack thereof — wasn’t a surprise. I was experimenting. I use charcoal plus wood chunks. Even if I wanted to use logs, the practicalities of New York living would make it prohibitively expensive (though I did order some sticks from Smoak). I used a lot less wood this time around to see what would happen — and what happened was perfectly fine barbecue that I wish had gotten a little more wood smoke on it. I also expected it might be on the milder side since the turkey and chops I’d pulled off earlier didn’t get very much smoke on them.

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Poll: Tony Chachere’s or Slap Ya Mama

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I had a very surreal moment last month. Trying to find something at Trader Joe’s, I overheard a man with a British accent asking a store employee if TJ’s carried something called Tony Shasheer’s.

“Excuse me?” the store employee said.

“Tony Shusheery’s?” the Brit said.

“Say what now?” the employee responded.

“It’s a Louisiana seasoning blend,” the Brit said.

“No,” the employee said.

I should take a moment to point out that, defying centuries of Wheaton genetic coding, I didn’t insert myself into this conversation. One, the first rule of Trader Joe’s is “Get the hell out of Trader Joes.” Two, I knew that TJ’s didn’t have Tony Chachere’s.

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Gumbo: Roux vs. Sausage

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Before I launch into a thousand words about this subject, spoiler alert: The sausage you put into your gumbo is more important than whether you use store-bought or home-made roux.

The good folks over at 93.7 The Dawg posted The Ten Commandments of Gumbo. They had me at hello — or at least at Commandment One: Thou Shalt Never Use Tomatoes. I’m in complete agreement and have very strong feelings about this.

But it went off the rails with Commandments Two and Three. I was on board with the spirit of Commandment Two — Thou Shalt Not Use Un-Cajun Sausage — if not the letter of their law (more on that in a bit), but Commandment Three brought me up short: Thou Shalt Not Use Store-Bought Roux.

Call me a heretic and a heathen, but I strongly disagree with this one. (And, yes, I realize The Dawg was just having fun. So am I. I’d much rather have debates about this than about politics. In fact, arguing about gumbo is one of the things that made me a writer.)

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