Culinary Fight Club New Orleans- Skirt Steak and Chimichurri

We returned to Central City BBQ last night to watch five barbeque pit masters and their teams face off in the Culinary Fight Club, the winner decided both by a team of judges and by the tasters challenge. It stormed all afternoon, but the rain lifted so there remained a heavy steam in the air—all the better to carry the aroma of delicious bacon grease and pork fat and roasted garlic.

The competitors included:

The Judges:

The real critic:

Some of my favorite plating was from Chef Mattia:

I thought this cabbage in a skillet could have easily passed for a Georgia O’Keefe.

But my absolute favorite was Chef Sean Rivera’s (Pooch) dish, served on cutting boards, with a side of roasted garlic. He made a BBQ sauce with Steen’s syrup and I kid you not, I ate a plantain (which I hate!) because I thought it was a chicken wing. He is the deserving winner.

Honorable mention goes to Chef Gongora who KP thought had the best dish, and who won the popular vote.

We came home last night and chose not to wash the smoke off our bodies right away in favor of letting linger the sauce.

KP and I just got a proper size grill for our 10th wedding anniversary, THANKS Mom and Dad, and we have several months of good grilling left in us this summer. Meanwhile, I give you this steak, while not as good as Rivera’s pork with Steens BBQ sauce, is a fantastic dinner. Easy and quick to make. Hearty. Beginner level easy.

 

Skirt Steak with Tomato Chimichurri and Potatoes

Adapted from Food and Wine

CHIMICHURRI

4 medium tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds), quartered

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 cup lightly packed and chopped cilantro leaves (parsley in the original recipe, but yuck, I hate parsley)

1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 TB crushed red pepper

POTATOES AND STEAK

1 pound potatoes (small, fingerling or red)

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, very thinly sliced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 5-inch-long pieces

Pepper

 

MAKE THE CHIMICHURRI Preheat the oven to 400°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and season with salt. Roast for about 20 minutes, until softened and browned in spots; let cool slightly. Transfer the tomatoes to a food processor. Add the parsley, vinegar, crushed pepper and the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Pulse until almost smooth. Season with salt and transfer to a bowl.

MAKE THE POTATOES AND STEAK In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool, then halve lengthwise.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until just softened, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes cut side down and cook until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip the potatoes and onion and cook, stirring, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the butter and parsley and season with salt. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Season the steaks with salt and black pepper. Grill over high heat, turning once, until medium-rare, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice the steak across the grain and transfer to the platter with the potatoes. Serve with the tomato chimichurri.

Set fire to this week and put some sauce on it.

Fruit and Bouillabaisse L’American

Summertime in the South means fruit-based desserts. A recent convert to eating fruit, I was a bit shy in receiving Fruit by Nancie McDermott. This cookbook features fruits I’d never heard of—mayhaws, pawpaws, quince and others I’d heard of but have never cooked with—scuppernong grapes and persimmons, and damson plums. There are no pictures in the book, which is a surprise in our Instagram culture, and as I paged through the text-heavy book, I felt occasionally that I might be reading a chapterbook featuring fruit as protagonist.

In particular, the Blackberry Roly Poly had some personality I enjoyed (although I cut the sugar and butter recommended in half– because the south needs to more seriously consider diabetes as consequence of Paula Deenism). Also, use half wheat flour.

During a New Orleans July, I get in a French sort of mood around Bastille Day and crave French cuisine. I made this dish about a year ago and forgot to post it—but it was just delicious. In particular the garlicky rouille.

Bouillabaisse L’American

Adapted from a Southern Cooking Mag I can no longer locate

GARLICKY ROUILLE

1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Pinch of saffron threads

Kosher salt

Pinch of cayenne

6 superfresh garlic cloves

2 large egg yolks

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

HERB-AND-SPICE SACHET

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds

1 bay leaf

4 thyme sprigs

1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, or 6 large cloves, crushed

Three 3-inch-long strips of orange zest

BOUILLABAISSE

Two 2-pound whole black sea bass, cleaned and filleted, heads and bones reserved

One 4-pound red snapper, cleaned and filleted, head and bones reserved

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 yellow onions, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 leek, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or crushed red pepper, plus more for seasoning

1/4 cup pastis

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved

1 pound plum tomatoes, quartered

1 pound German Butterball or small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered

Kosher salt and white pepper

1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded

Crusty baguette, for serving

  1. MAKE THE GARLICKY ROUILLE In a medium saucepan, combine the potato, saffron, a pinch of salt and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook until the saffron water is reduced by half and the potato is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer the potato and saffron water to a blender. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the oil and pulse to combine. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the oil until well blended. Season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl; refrigerate.
  2. MAKE THE HERB-AND-SPICE SACHET Assemble all of the ingredients on a piece of cheesecloth, wrap into a bundle and tie with kitchen string.
  3. MAKE THE BOUILLABAISSE Rinse all of the fish heads and bones until the water runs clear. Cut the fillets into 2-inch pieces and transfer them to a bowl; cover and refrigerate.
  4. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, fennel, leek, saffron and cayenne and cook over moderate heat until the vegetables soften, 8 minutes. Add the pastis and cook until evaporated. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the fish heads and bones, shrimp shells, herb-and-spice sachet and enough water to just cover, about 16 cups. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat for 20 minutes, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Stir in the tomatoes and cook gently for 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well.
  7. Pick out and discard the herb-and-spice sachet and any large fish bones. Working in batches, transfer the contents of the casserole to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, pressing on the solids.
  8. FINISH THE BOUILLABAISSE Bring the soup to a simmer. Add the potatoes. Season the fish with salt and pepper and add to the soup. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and mussels, cover and cook until the mussels open and the fish and shrimp are cooked through, 2 minutes longer. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne.
  9. Stir 2 tablespoons of the hot soup into the rouille. Ladle the bouillabaisse into shallow bowls. Serve with the rouille and crusty bread.

 

Fourth of July BBQ and Italian Ice

If you can’t beat the heat, join it!

Been trying to get some grilling on for the holiday, like everyone else. In New Orleans, it is actually an important chore during hurricane season to clear through all the major meat products taking up residence in the freezer, just in case we need to evacuate and lose power for a week, it’s best to have a light upper deck between now and November.

Thanks to Pod and Bean for sending THE COCOA EXCHANGE™ POD & BEAN™ BBQ sauces to sweeten the roasts, also to Eat Smart for their perfect timing—the meat thermometer arrived just before the Fourth! Thank you! Not only could I measure my meats, but the ambient roasting temperature as well.

Porchetta for the Grill

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

3 TB fennel seeds

½ cup rosemary leaves

¼ cup fresh thyme

12 garlic cloves

½ cup EVOO

1 pork loin

Make some slashes in your pork loin. Blend all the above ingredients in a food processor. Then rub the stuff into all the creases and wrap tightly in saran. Let marinate like that in the fridge overnight. Transfer to foil, get the grill going and cook until the internal temp registers 190 degrees F. Check it with the Eat Smart thermometer!

You can also do the same thing with Pod and Bean BBQ sauces—I received a delicious package of cacao based barbeque marinades, and I have to say this pork loin with Kansas City BBQ sauce was delicious!

And to keep it cool, I ventured into Italian Ice experiments. Very easy.

Raspberry and Lemon Italian Ice Flag

Adapted from Martha Steward Living

1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups plus 3/4 cup simple syrup*

4 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

Combine 1 1/2 cups each fresh lemon juice and simple syrup in an 8-inch baking dish. Blend raspberries with remaining 3/4 cup simple syrup and 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice until smooth; strain into a second 8-inch baking dish. Freeze both mixtures, raking with a fork every hour, until flaky and frozen, 4 hours. I forgot about mine last night for like 4 hours while I was distracted by fireworks and making s’mores in my front yard. Turned out fine 😊 Blend each flavor with 1 1/2 cups water until smooth. Transfer to paper cups and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.

*I like to make my own simple syrup. Just heat up 2 cups of water and 2 cups of granulated white sugar, stir until dissolves. Seriously, that’s all it is. Don’t buy premade simple syrup, unless you’re an idiot.

And for sides,

Stuffed Peppers with Grits and Sausage

Adapted from Southern Living

3 large red bell peppers (about 20 oz.)

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 hot Italian pork sausage links, casings removed

1 cup chopped sweet onion

1/2 cup coarse cornmeal

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup), divided

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups heirloom grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut bell peppers in half through the stem. Remove seeds and white membranes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage to skillet; cook 4 minutes, stirring to break into small pieces. Add onion to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage is cooked and onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Remove sausage mixture from pan. Add cornmeal to skillet; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add broth, milk, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt to skillet; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley, sausage mixture, and half of the cheese. Divide mixture evenly among bell pepper halves. Place side by side on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake in preheated oven until cheese is browned and peppers are tender, about 30 minutes.

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, black pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes and basil; toss to coat. Serve over peppers.

Off to the pool and the Bayou Boat Parade, and Fireworks!!! Gosh I love vacation.

This is a sponsored post.

Smoky Carrot Dogs as Vegan Evangelism

Veganism. A science for creative spirits. I turned to this recipe because I had superfluous carrots on hand that needed to be dealt with. They were bothering me as they became limp antithetically in my crisper. I saw this recipe and was like, No Way. No way carrots taste anywhere near as good as a brat. These hot dogs, I kid you not, are Yes Way.

I absolutely demand you try these immediately and then sneak one onto the barbeque plate of the most staid meat eater in your life over the Fourth of July and watch vegan evangelist fireworks go off. I’m not even a vegan and the idea of this holy stunt makes me tingle with righteous glee. Vegetables—sometimes they beat meat. I’ll take this over a conventional hot dog any day.

Smoky Carrot Dogs with Spicy “Nacho” Sauce

Adapted from Cooking Light

8 large carrots, rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce

2 teaspoons liquid smoke (delicious—wow this is my first time with this stuff)

1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 cup jarred salsa

3/4 cup unsweetened cashew milk (I made mine from the recipe in Squeeze Life)

1 TB corn starch

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon water

8 whole-wheat hot dog buns, lightly toasted

2 small jalapeños, thinly sliced

1/4 cup diced red onion

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with aluminum foil. Trim ends from carrots to fit hot dog buns. Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots, and round edges to create a hot dog shape.

Place oil, tamari, liquid smoke, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Stir with a whisk. Place carrots in a single layer in prepared baking dish. Pour oil mixture over carrots; rub to coat on all sides. Bake at 450°F for 35 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes.

Place cashew milk, jarred salsa, yeast, cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, and salt in a high-powered blender. Pulse briefly. Stir in corn starch until desired consistency is reached. This is not at all nacho sauce, but whatever it is tastes good.

Place 1 (or two!) roasted carrot(s) in each bun. Top each with 2 tablespoons nacho sauce; top evenly with jalapeño slices and diced red onion.

Sweet Potato Queso and No Excuses for the Swampy Solstice

Excuses. We live by them, alas. God forbid we die by them. Why don’t we eat healthy? I love this new cookbook by Megan Gilmore No Excuses Detox which exists to debunk the heavy hitters, like, I don’t have enough time, or it’s too expensive, or I am too hungry and can’t control my cravings. What I love about this book is the simplicity of the recipes, which are speedy and mostly vegetarian. I also love the attention to cost with the estimated cents per serving. My CSA puts a box full of vegetables together for $20 each week, and then I get the fun of finding new ways to love carrots and sweet potatoes and kale and tomatoes and peppers. Here are a few of my recent favorites.

I recall once ordering queso at a vegan restaurant before I knew that it was a vegan restaurant. There should be a rule enforcing vegan advertising. I recall that the “queso” was horrible. And behold, total redemption of vegan queso.

Sweet Potato Queso, What?

Adapted from No Excuses

1 cup sweet potato, mashed

½ cup water

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp chili powder

¼ cup nutritional yeast (what an awesome ingredient)

1 tsp lemon juice

1 cup pico de gallo (below)

Combine everything but the pico in a mixer and blend until smooth. Then put in a saucepan and heat and add pico. Then add chips.

 

Pico de Gallo

Adapted from No Excuses Detox

1 pound tomatoes, diced

½ cup red onion, diced

½ cup diced green bell pepper

1 jalapeno chile, diced

4 cloves garlic

1 TB lime juice

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp fine sea salt

Combine all together. Duh.

 

Then try these:

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Adapted from No Excuses

½ cup flour

1 cup sugar

¼ cup coconut oil

6 eggs

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

Pinch of sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups carrots, shredded

Set oven at 350. Whisk all the dry ingredients. Add the wet. Then the carrot shreds. Bake for about 20 minutes until the fork thing happens.

To make frosting, just whip like ½ cup of heavy whipping cream in a chilled mixing bowl, and add 1 tsp sugar.

Stay safe in tropical storm Cindy, New Orleans. It”s a a swampy solstice. Thanks Chain of Fools, it was a lovely night to social ride.

Peach Tart and other Farm to Table Desserts

Saturday. The day when all our front lawns get crew cuts, all the food threatening to rot in the fridge gets whipped into salads and quiches and pico de gallo and fruit tarts. Like am’uricans we went to a baseball game last night and enjoyed beer and nachos and watched the planetary orbits of brilliant white uniforms around a diamond in red clay. Desperate as always to catch a fly, I came home with an empty glove and a vow to return.

Mr Okra came through the neighborhood this morning and I bought some peaches off his truck, and made a peach tart, the recipe from Farm To Table Desserts cookbook by Lei Shishak—brought it to the Midcity Dinner Club’s Cocktail and Dessert party this evening. Delicious. In the cookbook, the recipe is with nectarines. Also, I substituted the mascarpone cheese with ricotta, and I think it was better that way. Beautiful cookbook. Inspiration divided into seasonal suggestions. Gorgeous photography, I recommend.

Peach Tart

Adapted from Farm to Table Desserts

Crust (I made a double batch and did one large and several smalls with the same amount of filling)

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup sugar

½ cup melted butter

Filling

8 oz cream cheese, room temp

8 oz mascarpone (or ricotta)

½ cup sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp whole milk

½ peaches (or 3-4 ripe nectarines)

1 tb fruity olive oil

½ tsp lemon juice

Make crust: preheat oven to 350. Mix up the crust ingredients and press into the tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool in the fridge.

Make filling: Mix everything in a paddle mixer on slow speed. Add milk last. Transfer to the cooled tart pan and spread evenly with a leveler. Chill for two hours in the fridge. Right before you serve, halve, pit and thinly slice your peaches. Toss in a large bowl with the olive oil and lemon. Arrange the slices in a concentric pattern on top of the filling. Wah lah. Don’t drop it (I came close).

Like I said, I made a bunch of littles with the extra crust and filling, and topped with blueberries and blackberries.

Tomato Basil Soup with Green Beans and Beet Pesto– Secrets of Skinny Cooking

Membership in a local CSA (community supported agriculture) presents a pleasant challenge—to eat fresh that which is in season. As a relatively new Louisiana gardener, I am on the steep and ascending edge of the learning curve. So far this year I’ve struck gold on Creole tomatoes, okra, limes and jalapeno peppers. They say eggplants are heat tolerant and do great here—we shall see.

Meanwhile, turnips and beets and potatoes and green beans are coming in by the handful.

The new cookbook Secrets of Skinny Cooking by Victoria Dwek and Shani Taub is beautiful.

This is the first publication I’ve reviewed from Artscroll Shaar Press, the photography is mouthwatering. There is an index sorted by vegetable, and now when I get my CSA delivery, I turn straight to those pages and pick a recipe featuring my bounty.

Over the last two weeks, I very much enjoyed the following:

Basil Soup with Carrots and Tomatoes

Essentially for this, you don’t even need a stock pot. Just roast at 425 or 450 degrees four quartered tomatoes, two or three peeled and diced carrots, one diced onion, several garlic cloves, a chopped bell pepper, and then teaspoons of salt, pepper, dried basil, oregano, and thyme. Roast for 40 minutes. Then transfer all these veggies to a blender, add 1 ½ cups of chicken stock, and a tablespoon of fresh basil. Delicious.

I made this soup with a side of two pounds of green beans.

Glazed Green Beans

Steam and char the green beans. Then whisk together a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger, two tablespoons of tamari, two teaspoons of sesame oil and honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Top with sesame seeds and crushed red pepper as you like.

Last week I made the Beet Pesto.

All I can say is its all good. There are snazzy techniques for sparing oil when roasting vegetables. To saute onions without oil? Possible. And there are desserts. So. Take yourself out for a delicious steak dinner to celebrate all the vegetarianism going on during the week.