A Whole Latke Loving Going On

A few years ago, I was asked to make Latkes. I’m from Louisiana, I said. What do I know from making Latkes, I asked. Bupkis, that’s what, I said.

So I turned to the web and found a recipe on NYCnosh called “Possibly the Best Latkes We Have Ever Eaten (Sorry, Bubbe).” I figured if they were apologizing to Bubbe, these things had to be good. So I went with one of the more labor intensive cooking projects I’ve ever done. It also deviates from traditional Latke recipes to the point that NYCnosh felt the need to have an entire explanation about why you should sit down, shut up and just eat them before judging. The deviation? Mashed potatoes. Yes! Mashed. (The mission was to create a Latke that tasted just like the ones you get in Jewish delis and restaurants.)
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Red Beans and Rice (are kicking)

This weekend, I went over to my former roommate’s home to try to teach him to make Red Beans and Rice. Why? Because it’s tasty, cheap and one of the easier things to cook. Even better, this is one dish that you don’t need all sorts of fancy Cajun ingredients. (That said, replacing or supplementing the ham with smoked pork Cajun sausage will make the dish taste better.) Recipe after the jump.

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Bread Puddin’ and Jack Daniels Sauce

I don’t make a lot of desserts. Baking, for the most part, is too precise for my style of cooking. Perhaps one day when I move into an apartment with a kitchen that has ample counter space and … ah, who am I kidding. All that measuring and math isn’t for me. Until recently, my best attempt at dessert was “pudding pie” (mix up some instant pudding, slap it in a pre-made pie shell and cover with Cool Whip–now that’s good eats!).

Anyway, I’ve learned how to make Bread Pudding, something I don’t think I ever ate until I was well beyond 25. I’m still futzing with this recipe, which I’ve cobbled together from a few sources.

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The Secret to a Good Meatball

I’m not going to pretend to be a master of spaghetti and meatballs, but a quick note to the folks who run the Classic Diner on Smith Street in Cobble Hills: meatballs taste better when they contain a secret ingredient I like to call … MEAT.

Wife and I went there last night after having a few drinks at the office of my literary agency. It was cold, rainy and upon exiting the Bergen Street stop, we thought a diner would be a nice, cheap choice. After having our wallets raped by (The New) St. Clair on the corner of Smith and Atlantic, we decided on Classic. Susan had been craving spaghetti and meatballs. Well, the meatballs consisted of two things: 95% bread crumbs and 5% apathy. The sauce made an expired jar of Prego seem like Grandma Scungilli’s ancient gourmet secret.

To quote Forrest Gump: “That’s all i got ta say about that.”

Ken’s Crawfish Etouffee

In the comments on the gumbo recipe,┬áCaro asked about crawfish. Crawfish is almost always the first thing to come up in a discussion with non-Cajuns about Cajun food — unless it’s Thanksgiving, when the talk turns to Turduckens or Deep-fried turkey.

Let me say first that Crawfish Etouffee has little to do with crawfish boils–in which people stand around in the backyard drinking beer and getting their hands messy cracking those little buggers open and eating all the tail meat. Unless you have an outdoor space, the proper equipment and access to live crawfish, you can just forget about boiled crawfish. It’s only good fresh. And though you can get live crawfish delivered in season (generally February through June), it’s ridiculously expensive. And take it from someone who boiled crawfish in a New York City apartment — just don’t. The horrible ditch-water smell will be with you for weeks and stray cats will come from miles around to investigate. At any rate, if you want the great taste of crawfish, go with etouffee. (Ay — too — fay)

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Gumbo for Dummies

I’m the sort who makes vast pronouncements about Cajun cooking. As I am from Opelousas, Louisiana, and most people outside of Louisiana think a Cajun is either a) a mythical being, b) Emeril or c) Adam Sandler in “The Water Boy,” I’m not exactly shy about telling most people they don’t know what they’re talking about and they likely haven’t had Cajun food. The sad reality is that in most places, Popeye’s red beans and rice is the closest thing to authentic you’ll find (and it’s actually pretty good). After an exchange about gumbo on Twitter, I figured I’d quit mocking people for not knowing any better and provide you with a roadmap to true gumbo bliss.

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