Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Gettin' dirty with Uncle Boogie

In this week's episode, JB decides to explore his inner Acadian and takes us off-piste with a culinary spin through the southern territories of Louisiana and E. Texas, scraping up wild vegetables and assorted amphibious life to cook along the way in true Cajun fashion. It would come as no surprise to see frog's legs and crawfish on the menu, as well as etoufee and a classic macque choux. More chicken livers (will we ever be set free?) and oxtail soup also featured, but sadly JB had circumvented the snazziness of andouille and boudin, the backbone of any good Cajun dish. That was OK, thought I, one of the chaps is bound to embellish their dining tables with a foisin of pork soon enough...
  • Sauteed chicken livers Orleans
  • Oxtail soup
  • Crawfish etoufee
  • French fried frog's legs
  • Chicken macque choux
  • Jelly rolls w/ coffee and Bourbon
This is the maybe the third time in as many weeks I've had to eat a plate of chicken livers. I do like them, I really do, but I think I've just overdosed on them recently. Grant forced a plate of them on us all a couple of weeks back, and as admirable as they were, it's difficult to eat half a pound of them. But here I was again, attempting to devour another plate of distorted chicken guts. They were pretty good if I was honest, creamy, crumbly, highly savoury, but for crying out loud, I'm just so bored of them.

Ennui turned into excitement the moment I caught a whiff of the oxtail soup. I must have looked like a Bisto kid. As a chap who dearly loves the arse end of the cow, my first instinct is to give oxtail a comprehensive braising and shred the results over mashed potato. I've never made oxtail soup, so I was well chuffed that JB set about doing something different with what is undoubtedly the magisterial prince of offal. What a noble soup it was too, a great pot of smoky brownness with a patina like bureau leather, and floating in it, gobs of melting tail meat.

I've seen Emeril make etoufees (literal translation - 'smotherings') on his annoying TV show, so I had an idea about the method. Make a blonde roux, bung in a handful of the 'holy trinity' mirepoix, perhaps tomatoes, crawfish, sweat down to create a fully flavoured stew. I was not dissapointed with JB's version, the craw meat was not overcooked, and the sauce had an orangey flavour with a delicate peppery heat - very authentic. I could have done with some crusty bread to mop up the juices because the rice really didn't do a good job. It tasted like it'd been cooked in a car wash. Perhaps, to save time, he simultaneously cleaned his car, washed his hair and cooked the rice on the back seat: top down, lots of soap for the fro, hot dry cycle. Instant mis-en-place, instant soul glow.

There is no better jacket for a frog leg than buttermilk and breadcrumbs, and in the skilled hands of JB, these blanche slivers of grenouille come alive and show off their intrinsic flavour. It pains me to say it, it does taste a bit like chicken, except that frog's legs have an aloof muskiness to them, which is hard to describe because it does not remind me of chicken....sort of 'marshy'. Really delicate flavour then, the frog leg, and it would be a great shame to overpower it with aggressive flavours. JB wisely applied a dollop of tame tartar sauce to our plates.

It has an exotic name, macque choux, I think, conjuring up for me visions of a high street in Martinique packed with natives glamourously hawking highly spiced food with wit and verve on every corner. I really don't remember exactly what was in it, so I looked it up and found out it's a classic Louisiana side dish containing onion, celery, green bell pepper (the Holy Trinity), jalapenos, garlic, cream, and of course, a shit load of corn, America's favourite crop. The result is a spicy/sweet side dish that's normally married to chicken or fish. JB paired his version up with chicken (which tastes a bit like frog) and I believe I thought it was tasty. The Thursday Club crew had been swigging wine for over three hours by now, and apparently I had been leading the charge. The various useless lobes of my brain were bobbing in a sea of red wine and macque choux with no land in site, without the mearest hint of a life raft, with the sun going down and several large dorsal fins on a rapid approach...

There had been some trouble with the jelly rolls (but happily not with the coffee and bourbon), and the understudy for tonight's proposed dessert had to be whipped up by chef a la moment, a joltingly sweet bananas Foster, keeping the Cajun affair alive. It's incredible what the combination of sugar, bourbon and wine does to a gaggle of drunken bastards, and we finished the meal with songs, whooping cheers, arm wrestles and ultimate cage fighting.

And then the inevitable happened. It was mooted whether we attack the local sake joint for a couple of 'signature' sake bombs. The outcome was all too obvious.

Our degenerate host, J. Saaki, doing what he does best:

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