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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From the Gumbo Files: The Cajun Traveler Recipe

img_8740Here’s another gumbo recipe that Louisiana folks can argue about. More importantly, most non-Louisiana folks should be able to pull off.

I’ve written extensively about gumbo on this blog and elsewhere, so much so that I get tired just thinking about linking to the other pieces — and the arguments that usually ensue. There’s always some joker from Texas, or New Orleans, or North Louisiana — or even better, who has never set foot in Louisiana, but his grandma was from there — who’s gonna stroll in and tell you all about how wrong you are. “IF IT AIN’T GOT OKRA IT’S NOT GUMBO.” Nope. You’re wrong. Get out of my face. Or some fellow Cajun food snob will pop in with, “Mais, you gotta make you own roux, cher, or it don’t count no.” Mais, I’m here to tell you, you couldn’t tell the difference in a blind taste test. (The point is, people like to argue about food. Also, Cajun gumbo is different fro Creole gumbo is different from New Orleans gumbo.)

Anyway, my longtime friend Toby Dore, aka The Cajun Traveler and proprietor of the Cajun Hostel, has just posted his Chicken & Sausage Gumbo recipe. I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I moved from my basic gumbo recipe toward my advance recipe, it was after watching Toby cook a massive gumbo for one of his annual Christmas parties. I swiped a few steps from him. Clearly, he knows what he’s doing. And he makes a particularly bold old-school choice with one ingredient.

The good thing about this recipe is that it should be easy enough for most non-Louisianans to master and create an authentic Cajun gumbo in their own home. Just don’t skimp on the sausage!

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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The truth about Brooklyn barbecue

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If you’re gonna take a picture of a tray of meat, THEN ORDER A TRAY OF MEAT. (Photo courtesy of Izzy’s Smokehouse, Brooklyn.)

The article was headlined “Why Is Brooklyn Barbecue Taking Over the World?” I’m not even going to link to it. But it was a perfect example of a certain sort of food writing: provocative clickbait written by someone seemingly ignorant about barbecue and journalism.

It also gave Brooklyn way too much credit while trying to champion something that didn’t need his damn help—which seems to be a particularly Brooklyn thing to do (and by that, I mean a particularly Williamsburg thing to do).

As a certified barbecue judge who’s eaten his way through Austin, Lockhart, Memphis, and Kansas City, with a couple of stops in the Carolinas, I can tell you this: Brooklyn barbecue isn’t taking over the world, but it is good and doesn’t need this trend-setting bullshit.

The piece featured a handful of places, including one Brooklyn barbecue restaurant that’s been closed for over a year. The only thing remotely supporting a claim that Brooklyn barbecue was taking over the world was that people in other locations are using the same sort of decor (which, to be honest, is generic Brooklyn hipster and not remotely unique to Brooklyn barbecue joints).

And there was the photo. On an oversized metal tray lined with butcher paper, five slices of gray brisket, two pickles, what appear to be two Kings Hawaiian rolls, and beer served in a Mason jar (of course). There had to be two inches of real estate between each item.

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