Friday, February 7, 2014

Faux Boyz

"Do you know what it means, to miss New Orleans?"

I know I'm a carpetbagger. Visit yearly, maybe twice yearly. That's all. But I have come to found that contemplation of, and some indulgence in the culture of this longstanding repository of individuality, eccentricity and pleasure seeking to be a lifesaver at the worst points in my life. There's something about the acknowledgement and embrace of life and death, newness and decay, richness and poorness -- all of it celebrated in due course that brings me joy, engages my imagination, and delights my tastebuds...coz cuisine is an important part of the culture at most strata of its socio-economic complexes. And thus I take great joy in making and eating classic New Orleans fare - in renditions that fit with my dietary pecularities, time available for cooking and financial resources.

SO... in recent memory, one of the signature meals of that great town is the "Po' Boy" sandwich which is a favorite of locals and visitors, pretty universally indulged in and on offer throughout the town in a wide ranges of styles and levels of quality. And like such fare in other places, locals get quite passionate about their favored purveyors of this delicacy and competition between same has led to the establishment of an annual "Po' Boy Festival" held on Oak Street, WAY Uptown

But for all its mystique and undeniable delectability, a Po' Boy is basically hot flesh on a long crusty roll, trimmed to taste. So it's actually a great way to deal with a wide range of leftovers with minimal expense.

Basic ingredients:
leftover meat/fish/fowl
a long roll

Now, if you're looking to go the traditionalist route and "dress" your sammich you add some lettuce, pickle slices, tomato slices and yr condiment of choice.

Sounds too easy, right? Well, yeah - coz without attention to a few crucial details, and without a bit of strategizing, the results can be pretty meh. So here's a few simple tips:

BUT FIRST - musical accompaniment - hmmm, how about the Meters' Look-Ka Py Py?

Prime restaurant leftovers to use in Po' Boys would be chicken tenders, battered boneless fish (from an order of fish n chips for inst), battered deveined shrimp, oysters, rattlesnake etc.

Prime home leftovers would be ANYTHING without bones in it that's been sliced thin or chopped up to be readily bit off. If this comes with gravy ALL THE BETTER.

KEY TIP ONE - DON'T USE A MICROWAVE! All too often, microwaving does weird thing to the texture and sometimes the flavor of meats reheated thereby.

You do much better reheating battered goodies as well as chunked up leftover salmon, etc. (wrapped in aluminum foil to prevent it drying out) in a toaster oven (one of my favorite kitchen tools!), or a regular oven (tho to fire up an oven to heat up meat for one sandwich seems incredibly wasteful - might make sense if you were doing this for a party), or, in a pinch you could use a frying pan in which case if you can cover it to capture/reflect the heat onto the grub -- all the better. I'd give it 30 minutes at 350* or 20 minutes on medium heat on a frying pan

Sliced or chopped meat + gravy are best to heat in a covered pot at medium heat for 20 minutes.

KEY TIP TWO - the bestest roll for this would be CRUSTY on the outside and soft on the inside. In New Orleans baguettes of this exact configuration are ubiquitious (and thus naturally wind up being the accepted vessel for the Po' Boy). At least round my region most rolls seems either crusty all the way thru or soft all the way through. If this is what you're working with you're best advised to find a nice soft roll and then TOAST it lightly, BEFORE CUTTING IT, for like 4 minutes. In toaster oven, oven, etc.

These would be the basic strategies but you can let your imagination run wild as to how you wanna fancy this up. You could top it with things like slaw, sauteed onions, appropriately sized onion rings, potato sticks, tartar sauce, tamarind sauce, chopped avocado, leftover guacamole -- IN FACT IF YOU LEFTOVER fajita fixings you bring home this is a perfect way to recyle them in a cool way -- all you're adding is a roll for a very different kind of meal (I will note that CHEESE does not appear to be a regular additive/topping to the Po' Boy...but mebbe I just ain't et enough to have encountered any done that way), remoulade sauce. JUST USE A LITTLE COMMON SENSE in mixing up stuff that clearly harmonizes.

But while harmonizing ingredients is most likely going to yield nummy results, strange experiments are always allowable (as long as you're ready to accept occasional failures) and in fact standard operating procedure for cutting edge chefs (and I think they have their failures too - though I'd observe that their foodie acolytes accept even these as interesting and worthwhile experiences - I recall a meal at Trussardi alla Scala in Milan featuring "liquid salad" - all the vegetables having been prepared to be totally emulsified whilst holding their basic shape - salad dressing was misted over them by the waiter - OY!)

When you're trying a dish, working from a recipe, or trying to replicate something you ate at a restaurant, there's really nothing that's "wrong" as long as it tastes good to you. In fact, fortuitous mistakes are the engine of innovation. So if you stumble onto some strange wrinkle (coz you mis-measured, or had to substitute for some ingredient you didn't have on hand) and you LIKE IT - take notes and incorporate it as a part of your recipe in the future.

I'll point out that you are free to prepare the meat/fish/fowl fresh and then put it to use in your sandwich. That'd be cool and very much encouraged. But the basic premise of this blog is how to take leftovers and make them into something special...

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