With the Christmas season just passed and the song "My Favorite Things" still running around in my head, I thought I'd share my list of favorite foods to eat.
Here they are in order of how much I like them:
It's a Louisiana thing to eat boiled crawfish. People from other places don't get it. They refer to crawfish as mudbugs. Residents of Louisiana are raised eating crawfish from an early age, so it doesn't seem odd at all. What people in parts of the world other than Louisiana don't realize is that Louisiana crawfish taste different from crawfish everywhere else. I hypothesize that the crawfish's diet makes this so and believe Louisiana crawfish are raised on a diet of rice. In addition to the crawfish themselves, another key ingredient is Zatarain's Crawfish Boil. If you're boiling crawfish in water without this seasoning, you're wasting your time. Another important factor is the chef. I have had thousands of crawfish in my life. Without question, my brother-in-law, Everett Bernard, is the master at boiling crawfish. I have blogged about this in the past.
Though I had tasted it as a child, I started eating boudin regularly when I was in college. Though I got a late start, I have made up for lost time. Pork boudin is pork and rice with seasonings in a sausage casing. There are other forms of boudin like crawfish boudin or alligator boudin, but pork is the best. And the best of the best is Comeaux's Pork Boudin that I get from CajunGrocer.com. Accept no substitutes!
On my sabbatical in New Orleans in 2014, my wife and I took a food tour. That's where we learned the origin of the muffuletta sandwich. In the 1800s, immigrants came to New Orleans to help pick sugar cane. The work was long and hard, but they welcomed the opportunity. The workers would bring their lunch and eat in the cane fields. Sandwiches were the norm. The hot, balmy conditions of New Orleans prevented workers from putting mayonnaise on their sandwiches because it would go bad in the hot sun. As a result, they had dry sandwiches.
Central Grocery has been a staple in New Orleans since the 1800s. The owner would sell olives as part of his offerings at the store, but no one wanted the crushed olives at the bottom of the barrel. Well, the owner, being an industrious man, took a scoop of those crushed olives and slathered it on a ham/salami/provolone cheese sandwich that the sugar cane pickers could take to the fields and not have a dry sandwich. And just like that, the muffuletta sandwich was born. The bread is a key ingredient. It has to have just the right crunch as well as being adorned with sesame seeds.
Although the muffuletta was invented at Central Grocery, that is not my favorite location to get one. The muffulettas are served cold at Central Grocery. I like my muffuletta sandwich hot. The best place, bar none, to get a muffuletta is at the original Pierre Maspero's in New Orleans. It's right across the street from the Napoleon House. If you can't make it to Maspero's, there's a recipe for the muffuletta at Laura Fuentes. Just make sure you follow the whole recipe and toast it at the end.
Red Beans and Rice
Growing up, my mother made the best red beans and rice. She learned how to cook them from my grandmother. That's an odd fact because my mother's red beans and rice were better than my grandmother's. On several occasions, when my mother wanted the convenience of not cooking, she would try to pass off beans that she received from her mother as her own, but I didn't fall for it even once. When it comes to red beans and rice, people in New Orleans have a very sophisticated palate. Having said that, the red beans and rice at Popeyes Chicken are great. I know it's a fast-food chain, but tasting is believing. I could have also put their spicy chicken on my list.
The key to making your own beans is to use Camellia Red Beans and pickled pork (in addition to sausage).
Vanilla Ice Cream
Like many children, I grew up adoring chocolate ice cream. That all changed when I had Bluebell Vanilla Ice Cream. I don't know what they put in it, but it's fantastic. It doesn't need syrup, sprinkles, or anything else — just plain old vanilla. If you let it melt in your spoon just a tiny bit before putting it in your mouth, the flavor is magnified.
Well, there's my list. I am looking forward to consuming these in 2020. What are your favorites?
Favoritism is alive in the lab.