Eclectic Houston – “Little India”

Houston, TX USA…this city never ceases to amaze me…it’s sooo international…it’s sooo eclectic…it’s sooo tasty!

The Mahatma Ghandi District

Hi!  Welcome to the Susitna Cafe’!  We’re sooo glad you’ve stopped by for a visit.  Today we’re talking about one of Houston’s many ethnic enclaves, the “Mahatma Ghandi District”.  The ” Ghandi District” or “Little India” comprises the area around Hillcroft Avenue, Harwin Drive, Fondren Road and Westpark Drive.

Map of Mahatma Ghandi District, Houston, TX

Little India is identified streetside in Houston by temple-shaped street signs.

Photo Courtesty of Wikipedia.Org

There are more than 76,000 people of Indian descent who live in the Houston area.  Therefore, residents and visitors alike have the opportunity to enjoy the diversity offered amongst the Houston Indian community.  One of these opportunities is the ethnic enclave of Little India.

So, the Susitna Cafe’ hit the road and embraced what Little India has to offer, and we did so on a very hot India-like day in July.  In fact, our car thermometer read 109 degrees Fahrenheit!  Lucky for us, we did so amongst friends!

We ventured forth with approximately 30 adventurous members of the Houston Chowhounds group on “A Big Tour of Little India” led by Shubhra Ramineni, cookbook author of “Entice with Spice”.

Our first stop was Shri Balaji Bhavan, a family run restaurant specializing in southern Indian vegetarian food.  As soon as we entered the restaurant, I knew it had to be good!

The exotic aromas in the restaurant filled the air with all kinds of wonderful tasty possibilities…and a peek into the kitchen window revealed some very busy ladies cooking…

and smiling…

Of course, happy cooks means happy food and happy food means tasty lunch!  Ohhhh, the decision on what to order was very difficult…dosas?  samosas?  curry?  Oh my!

Thank goodness that Grace, our friend and official taste tester at the Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles, was along and ready to order–afterall Grace “was hungry!”  So, order we did!

Soon enough, along came an assortment of dosas, green coconut chutney and pigeon pea soup…

The dosas were sooo beautiful…i just had to take a peek inside…

The food all smelled sooo delicious.  So, we all had to Chow!

All the tasty bits were Chow Hounded in an instant…

Shri Balaji Bhavan on Urbanspoon

After laughing, talking, and eating….together, Shubhra led us to our next stop, Laxmi Sarees…

This was a place where we could all try on some beautiful Indian clothing…

So we did and, as you know, sometimes the clothing fits…

While at other times, it doesn’t…

Well, since the shoes didn’t fit, we didn’t wear them (ha-ha!), so Shubhra led us to our next stop, India Grocers…

Oooh,  i really like grocery stores!  Shubhra gave us a tour of the store and we learned all about Indian food and various tasty ingredients.  We even stocked-up on some yummy spices…

and veggies…

Once loaded with all of our goodies, Shubhra led us to our final stop, Bombay Sweets…

another delicious stop where we enjoyed an assortment of Indian pastries…

and some relaxation…

Bombay Sweets & Pure Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

We all had such a nice time!  We hope you’ll discover and enjoy a little of India too!  Or, at least join us at the Cafe’ for some tasty bits…

Okra with Onions

(adapted from Shubhra’s recipe in the India Herald article “Entice with Spice”)

Ingredients

1 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/4″ pieces and prepared

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil*

lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

1 small onion, sliced thick*

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

cilantro, chopped for garnish

* Our preference at the Susitna Cafe’ is to use olive oil (vs. vegetable oil) and red onion in this recipe.  In addition, we’ve added some chopped cilantro for garnish and flavour.  However, it’s important to use the ingredients that you enjoy eating yourself!  Don’t forget to experiment some too!

Heat the oil in a non-stick saute’ pan til warm.  Add the okra and lemon juice and saute’ and stir for approximately 5 minutes.  Add the onion and spices to your pan and saute’ until the onions are transparent and the okra is tender (approximately 15 minutes).  Enjoy!

Cooks Notes:  Shubhra has some excellent tips on how to prepare Okra.  Check them out at:  \”Entice with Spice\”.  In addition, note that we added a little extra lemon juice to the okra and onions at the Cafe’–delicious!

Traveler’s Note:  Don’t forget to tour Little India when you’re in Houston.  Be sure to contact us at the Cafe’ if you find something tasty to share.  You may leave a comment on this post or email us at SusitnaCafe@gmail.com.

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Filed under July 2010

Farmer’s Market – Homer, Alaska

Sure do love farmer’s markets, don’t you?  Well, when Susitna Cafe’ is on the road, we seem to find a farmer’s market  just about everywhere we travel.  Today we’re visiting one in Homer, Alaska USA.

Say hello everyone to Twitter Creek Gardens!  Tweet-tweet!

Look at all the beautiful and natural colors here today…sigh

Oh my, look at the produce!  Aren’t the colors and textures wonderful?  Big sigh

There is sooo much of nature’s wonderful bounty at farmer’s markets…it all just inspires me to make a simple and tasty salad with lots of color, texture and fresh farmer’s market taste.  Won’t you join me?

Susitna Cafe’ Golden Beet  and Tomato Salad

Serves 2 as a vegetarian meal or 4 as a side salad/vegetable dish

Salad Ingredients

1 cup organic baby spinach leaves

1 pound organic golden beets, peeled, boiled and sliced

2 or so assorted tomatoes, sliced (I use a variety of farmer’s market tomatoes including striped zebra tomatoes and chocolate cherry tomatoes)

2 ounces chevre cheese, sliced (I use chevre with  tomato and basil, although plain or herbed chevre is fine too)

1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted (I use Whichita Pecans which have a bold pecan flavour due to their extra oils)

Dressing

2 Tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon organic lemon juice, fresh squeezed

lemon peel, grated (peel from approximately 1/4 to 1/2 an organic lemon)

2 1/2 Tablespoons organic olive oil

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon Deli Mustard)

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine all of your dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk together and chill while you assemble the salad ingredients.

Begin assembling the salad first by placing a layer of baby spinach leaves atop a large platter.  Next, add a layer of sliced golden beets on top of the spinach leaves.  Next, add approximately 1/2 of your chevre slices atop the beet slices.  Now add a colorful array of tomatoes.  Add the remaining 1/2 of your chevre slices atop the tomatoes and smile a big smile!  Sprinkle some salt and fresh ground pepper on the tomatoes.  Note that the addition of a little salt on the tomatoes will bring out their wonderful flavour.

Next, spoon about 1/2 of your dressing atop the salad reserving the rest for serving on the side.  Chill.  Just prior to serving, sprinkle the top of of the salad with some tasty toasted pecans.  So fresh, so colorful, so delicious!

Traveler’s Note:  See http://www.homerfarmersmarket.org/ for more information on this delightful farmer’s market held throughout the summer in the “Land of the Midnight Sun”.

Cook’s Notes:  Striped Zebra tomatoes are more acidic than most tomatoes, and they add a lemony flavour to your salad…whereas Chocolate Cherry tomatoes are a rich and flavorful addition.  Red beets may be substituted in this recipe, however note that they will impart a stronger beet flavour.  How about being a little creative?  Just substitute the chevre with blue cheese or fresh shaved aged parmigiano reggiano…yummm!

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Filed under July 2010

Happy Birthday America!

Happy 4th of July Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re celebrating at our neighborhood annual parade and cookout, and we’re sooo glad you’ve joined us!

Oh look!  The sidewalks are all decorated with flags today…

The neighbors have pulled-out their lawn chairs…

And the parade has begun…

Isn’t this exciting?  It looks like there are some friendly firemen leading the parade!

Oh, and here come some bicyclists…

Wow!  Some folks are dressed-up for the occasion…they’re wearing good ‘ol red, white and blue…

Looks like some folks are enjoying their morning walk in the parade today…

While others are enjoying their wagons…

and wheels…

Look!  Family pets are in the parade too!

Ahhw…he’s sooo “Handsome”!

Now that the parade is over, let’s go to the neighborhood clubhouse.  Looks like the picnic has started!

Isn’t it nice here?  There’s face painting for the kids…

Swimming…

“Just Hanging”…

and, of course, hot dogs!

Well, let’s celebrate and grab a hot dog and some cole slaw…Happy Birthday America!!!

Susitna Cafe’ Cole Slaw with Feta

Ingredients*

4 cups cabbage, shredded

2 carrots, shredded

2 green onions (scallions), chopped

1/2 cup feta cheese (I use feta with mediterranean herbs, but plain feta is delicious too)

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons agave syrup

fresh ground pepper, to taste

*I recommended using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Stir to incorporate the dressing and feta throughout the slaw.

Chill for several hours (overnight is even better).  This is a delicious alternative to cole slaw with mayonnaise!

Cook’s Note:   Note that the outer (greener) leaves on a cabbage head marinates faster and imparts a milder cabbage flavor to your slaw.  The shredded leaves from the hard interior section of the cabbage head takes longer to marinate and imparts a stronger flavor to your slaw.  You may wish to use a combination of both outer and inner leaves to vary the texture and flavor of this savory salad.  As for your hot dogs and/or sausages…remember to soak them in water for a couple of hours (or even overnight) prior to grilling.  Soaking will ensure that you’ll enjoy the plumpest and juiciest hot dogs at your summer grilling parties.  You know, sometimes it’s just the little things that you do that make a big tasty difference 😮

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Filed under July 2010

Do-Sa-Do!

Well a do-sa-do and to and fro to you Cafe’ friends!  We’re do-sa-do-ing at the Susitna Cafe’ today in celebration of our recent viewing of Charles M. Russell’s masterworks at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH).

We’ve been a fan of Charles M. Russell’s artistry and humour for many, many years here at the Cafe’.  In fact, one summer, “R” and I road-tripped all the way to the boonies of Montana to visit the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls.  While there, we spent hours reading and viewing Charles M. Russell’s many beautifully illustrated letters.

Afterwards, I searched far and wide for a copy of his book “Good Medicine, The Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell”.  Since the book was published in 1930, it wasn’t easy finding a copy.  But I did find a copy, and to this day we treasure it.

So, I’m sure you can guess that when we were invited to a preview of  “The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell:  A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture” at the MFAH, we got there as fast as we could!

Oh my, it was great fun!  There was a really nice reception with tasty appetizers like assorted cheese and grapes…

Texas size strawberries and brie cheese…

Oh, and did I tell you there was cheese (my favorite :o)?  The exhibit was really wonderful too!

I just love Charles M. Russell’s sense of light, don’t you?

When the Land Belonged to God, 1914 oil on canvas (Courtesty of Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection, Helena, Montana)

This particular painting, When the Land Belonged to God, rarely travels from the Montana Historical Society, so we consider it a real treat to have viewed it in person.  In fact, this painting  just made all the visitors feel like dancing.  So, we did!

Seems like everyone just started do-sa-do-ing…

And to and fro-ing…

There were some singing cowboys too…

Hey, how about if you join us at the Cafe’ for a little dancin’ and cookin’?  What?  You don’t know how to cowboy dance?  No problem, just watch this video and start kicking your legs around.

Next, just start cookin’.  Let’s make Charles M. Russell proud!

Susitna Cafe’ Do-Sa-Do Pecan Tart

Makes two (2) 11 inch tarts.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Shortbread Crust*

1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup cane sugar

3 extra large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

*Susitna Cafe’ recommends using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then set aside.  Next, cream the butter and sugar together with your electric mixer at medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.  Add the pure vanilla extract.

Now begin adding the dry ingredients into the batter at low speed and do so until all ingredients are combined.  The dough will be fluffy and sticky.  Pour the dough into two (2) 11 inch ungreased tart pans.  Press the dough into the pans leaving a 1/2 inch wide thick crust on the edge.  The crust in the center section of the pan should thinner than the edge crust to allow room for the pecan filling.  You may wish to flour your hands to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands while you are working the crust in the tart pan.

Bake the tarts for 15 minutes.  The crust should be “set” but not brown.  Allow the crusts to cool while you prepare the pecan filling.

Pecan Filling*

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/8 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoon vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla in the pecan filling)

1 pound whole pecans

1 cup Ghirardelli Gourmet 72% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips

*Susitna Cafe’ recommends using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar and orange zest in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat to melt the butter, and stir to combine all ingredients.  Raise the heat to medium high and boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Allow to cool for a minute.  Meanwhile, sprinkle 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips into the each of the two (2) cooled tart crusts.

Next add the heavy cream and whole pecans to the warm filling.  Stir to combine.  Pour 1/2 of the pecan filling into each of the two (2) tart crusts.  Spread the filling evenly in the well of the crust.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Meanwhile, this is a good time for you to practice do-sa-do-ing while the tarts are allowed to cool to room temperature.

Cut the tart into pie wedges.  Serve either at room temperature or after refrigerating until cold.  Store remaining tart (if any) in the refrigerator.

Cook’s Notes:   This recipe is adapted from “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” Pecan Squares recipe.  Although the Pecan Squares are absolutely delicious in the original recipe, I modified the recipe to serve as a tart containing a chocolate layer between the shortbread and pecan filling.  In addition, I’ve placed more emphasis on the orange (vs. lemon) flavoring in the filling simply because we like the combination of orange and chocolate together.  We hope you do too!

Note that if the dough in the well rises too much during the initial baking, you may scoop out any excess with a spoon.  This will ensure that you have enough room in the center for the pecan filling.

Traveler’s Note:  The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH)’s exhibit, The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell:  A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture,  is on view through August 29, 2010.

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Filed under June 2010

Cafe’ Menu Gallery – Spring

Guess what Susitna Cafe’ friends!  Did I tell you?  We have a new Susitna Cafe’ menu.  The menu is a collection of recipe favorites inspired by travel (of course) and gardening!

Just click on the “Cafe’ Menu Gallery” tab and take a peak for yourself!  There’s an aromatic lamb and artichoke tangine…some spring picnic foods including apple pie and a lemony herb potato salad…an al fresco bean salad…and a very delicious Thai curry.  Go ahead and browse the menu for now, and I’ll be back to take your order :o.

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Filed under May 2010

Pacific Halibut (aka Flatius Fishius)

Welcome to the Cafe’ today!  Oh, I know…I’ve been sooo quiet lately.  Well, you see, I’ve just been sooo busy…it all started with a little fishing survey that we received from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in late March…the “Department” asked us, in a very nice way, of course, to document our fishing catch last year…

Well…last year wasn’t really a great catch year for us, as you probably know…

i’m oooh sooo very appreciative that the “Department” thought of us and all, but i’m just not understanding why they decided to send-out a survey requesting us to document our catch the ONE year that we came home from our fishing trip with just a couple of  teeny tiny Pacific Cod…do you?

Of course, being the Alaskan that I am, I decided to set my pride aside and complete the survey.  i know, i know…it was awfully big of me to do so, particularly when the survey would very likely become public record which means that anyone and their neighbor could take note of the fact that we caught 2 teeny tiny Pacific Cod last year…

Anyways…just so you understand what happened…i promptly placed the survey in our “active” pile of mail.  The “active” pile is the pile of mail that needs to be addressed, but perhaps not immediately like this second immediately.  The active pile just stays “active” while we address other priorities.  You know what i mean?  Well, things just got sooo busy…really out-of-hand busy after we received that survey…

Well that busy-ness just worked itself right thru April.  What can i say?  There were all kinds of things that had to be immediately addressed like gardening, for example.  Ohhh…i did ohhh sooo much gardening…take a peek and see for yourself….

See!  Isn’t it important that I got that done as soon as possible?

Well, of course, there was the garage too…i had to clean and reorganize our entire garage and you know how long it takes to do that especially when you pay attention to all the garage details…

Before i knew it…April had passed and May arrived along with a big envelope from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game…when I opened the envelope, the contents were oh sooo familiar…i’m sure that you can guess what it was…a fishing survey…in fact, the survey was identical to the one we received in March…

This time, however, there was a nice 8×10 color chart of “Saltwater Species Commonly Found in Alaska” enclosed.  The attached cover letter noted that the color chart had been provided to us as a special gift for our efforts in “completing the enclosed survey”…

Oh dear, i felt sooo guilty…i know that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has no idea about how busy I’ve been….sooo busy that i just hadn’t got to the survey yet.  Of course, i had every intent on completing it!

Since we received this really nice chart with some of my MOST favorite fish on it like King and Sockeye Salmon and Pacific Halibut, i felt like i needed to complete the survey oooh sooo pretty much soon…you know what I mean?

Well this really nice chart was so nice i spent time studying it for awhile, particularly the section on Pacific Halibut.  According to the nice chart,  Pacific Halibut is known as Hippoglossus Stenolepis.

The chart described Hippoglossus Stenolepsis as “More elongated than most flatfishes, with width being about one-third the length.  Adults have both eyes on their dark or upper side.  Color on the dark side tends to assume the coloration of the ocean bottom.  The underside is lighter, often white.”

Well in all honesty Susitna Cafe’ friends, i was a bit surprised when i read the chart.  The Alaska Department of Fish and Game just didn’t have their facts straight about the Pacific Halibut.  Can you believe it?  Believe you me, i have certainly caught my fair share of Pacific Halibut over the years except for last year, so i know alot about halibut and their definition was definately not accurate and i’m not understanding what they were thinking!

SO, I decided to provide some assistance to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game…afterall, it’s really my civic duty isn’t it?  i must admit that it wasn’t easy documenting the fact that we had caught 2 teeny tiny Pacific Cod last year as i worked to complete the survey… BUT, I felt oh so good that I was able to provide the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with difficult to obtain knowledge about the Pacific Halibut…the kind of knowledge that only an experienced and well seasoned Alaskan fisherman can provide…in fact, there was a really nice “Comments” section on the survey form in which I was able to include all kinds of useful information like the following:

Pacific Halibut (Image Courtesy of National Park Service)

  • the Pacific Halibut’s real scientific name is  flatius fishius;
  • flatius fishius are related to flounder (but won’t admit it);
  • Pacific Halibut are a very optimistic fish…in fact, they’re ALWAYS looking up; and,
  • most importantly, flatius fishius are sensitive about the “weird eyes” thing, so a fisherman should never, never stare at them…

I’m sure that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will use this information and correct their chart, don’t you agree?  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a corrected version of the chart in the mail sometime soon…

So, that’s why I’ve been sooo busy my Susitna Cafe’ friends.  But, I’m back now!  And, I’m here to share all the important facts about flatius fishius with you…like the fact that Pacific Halibut are real team players…they’re happy baked, broiled or grilled…and, oooh sooo dee-li-ciousss in  Susitna Cafe’ Flatius Fishius Salad!

Susitna Cafe’ Flatius Fishius Salad


Ingredients

1 pound halibut fillet

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 Tablespoon spice mix (gourmet salt, fresh ground mixed peppercorns, dried minced garlic)

1/4 cup red onion, minced

2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1/2 Tablespoon capers

2 Tablespoons Miracle Whip Salad Dressing (or mayonnaise)

Let’s Make the Salad

Place the halibut fillet (skin side down) on a foil lined baking pan.  Rub olive oil on the surface of the fillet.  Sprinkle the salt, ground pepper and dried garlic spice mixture on top of the prepared fillet.

Broil for about 10 minutes or til the fillet is still moist but the fish is easily flaked apart with a fork.  Set the broiled fillet aside to cool.

Meanwhile, this is a good time to mince the red onion and chop your fresh Italian parsley.  Toss the onion, parsley and capers into a mixing bowl.

Now that your halibut fillet is cool, let’s remove/peel the skin from the fillet.  Flake the halibut into your mixing bowl containing the red onion, parsley and capers.  Add the Miracle Whip (or mayonnaise) to the bowl and stir all the ingredients together.

Chill.  Serve on your favorite crackers.  Mmm…Sooo…Goooood!

Cook’s Note:  This is a great recipe for leftover halibut (baked, grilled or broiled) too.  You can even serve a scoop of  halibut salad atop a fresh green tossed salad and wa-la! you have a wonderful dinner ready to serve with crusty french bread…yummmm!

Traveler’s Note:  Our most successful halibut fishing trips often take place in Resurrection Bay off the coast of Seward, Alaska with Profish-N-Sea Charters.

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Filed under May 2010

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roules!

It’s so good to see you again here at the Susitna Cafe’!  We’ve been on the road along the Gulf Coast, USA…oh my, and good times have been rolling at Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil in New Orleans, LA…

Crawfish boils are entrenched in Louisiana family and cultural tradition.  The gastronomic techniques are typically passed from generation to generation.  According to Cajun (a person of French Canadian descent) legend, crawfish are descendents of the Maine lobster.  However, unlike lobster, crawfish are a freshwater shellfish.  A crawfish boil includes crawfish, sausage and an assortment of vegetables boiled and soaked in a delightfully spicy brew.

Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil has been in their family for about 19 years.  Their family and friends look forward to the event every year.  Only once was “The Boil” canceled, and it required the rath of Hurricane Katrina to prevent this lively event from happening in 2006.  But even then, the spirit of Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil was alive…despite Katrina, the annual t-shirts were still designed and distributed by Mickey’s family.

This year attendees traveled to “The Boil” from around Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina to join the fun.  Lucky for us, the Susitna Cafe’ attended too!

Hey, how about if I introduce you to Mickey and Cookie?  Then we can learn about the gastronomic and other fun details of “The Boil”!

Here’s Mickey busy as a bee.  She’s organizing the troops and getting ready for the big day.

Mickey is retired from the Navy and is a New Orleans street artist.  Mickey served as the Crawfish Boil cook extraordinaire for the first 5 years.  Mickey says “Hi to Y’all!” at the Cafe’.

Oh look!  There’s Cookie getting ready for the Crawfish Boil.  Looks like she’s cleaning up and getting ready for the tents and chairs to be delivered…

She sure is a nice lady…Cookie is a retired bank VP who loves to spend time with her family…Cookie says “Hi to Y’all!” too.

Well, over the years, attendance at Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil has grown to about 100.  So, now Huey does the cooking with a little help from some of his friends.

Huey is a fun lovin’ New Orleans undertaker with a great sense of humor.  He’s also an amazing Crawfish Boil cook!  Huey tends to say things like “Coooh, luk at da size o dat crawfish!”  (i.e. an expression of astonishment).  Or, he says things like “Please go get de sack o crawfish, sha.” (i.e. dear (French “cher”)).

So my Susitna Cafe’ friends, how does this big party come together?  Well, the food preparations start on the eve of “The Boil”…

First, all the veggies (yellow onions, carrots, celery, red potatoes and garlic) are prepared.

The ends of the garlic and onion are removed.  The carrots and celery are cut into 3-4″ chunks.  Afterwards, the prepared veggies are evenly distributed into 10 plastic grocery bags.  The veggie bags are stored overnight in the refrigerator awaiting the big day…

Next, the yummy artichokes (my personal favorite in the boil) and mushrooms are prepared…

Since the artichokes and mushrooms tend to separate in the boil, they are placed into nylon ladies knee highs like so…

The artichokes and mushrooms are stored overnight, with the other prepared veggies, in the refrigerator.

Next, folks take a break and enjoy refreshments…

Uh-oh…looks like there are no refreshments until tomorrow…

So, back to work…next, the butter is placed in styrofoam containers.   They’re stored in the refrigerator overnight and will be placed on the tables during “The Boil”.

Alas!  The big day arrives so there’s a bustle of activity starting early in the morning…supplies get pulled out of the attic…

The tables get set-up and dressed in ‘Who Dat’ colors (i.e. New Orleans Saints team colors), and condiments, paper towels, bibs, plates and silverware are distributed on the ‘Who Dat’ tables…

Cooking tents and gear get set-up…

Mickey prepares her special seafood dipping sauce with ketchup, horseradish, and fresh squeezed lemon juice…

The crawfish are delivered (very important that this get’s done :O)

The outdoor high-pressure propane cookers for the 60-80 gallon stainless steel boiling pots are fired-up…

The crawfish are purged and washed in water…

All the Bebs (i.e. sweetheart or darlings) provide assistance (very important)…

The stainless steel pots are filled with water and brought to a rolling boil.  Meanwhile, lemons are prepared by rolling and slicing in half.  The lemon juice is squeezed into the water along with the halved lemon sections.  The prepared veggies from the plastic grocery bags are added along with the veggies wrapped in ladies knee highs.  Salt, 2 dry bags of crawfish boil spices and 1.5 cups of liquid crawfish boil are added to0.  All the ingredients are cooked for about 10 minutes or til the potatoes are tender…

Next, the crawfish are added to the pot and the top is dusted with cayenne powder…

After the water comes to a rolling boil again, the boil cooks for about 5 minutes.   Periodically the boil is stirred with a big crawfish paddle.  The sausage, cut in 1-2 inch chunks, are added to the boil and all the tasty bits steep in the spicy brew for about 20-30 minutes…

Around noonish, the guests begin to arrive…

They hug and greet each other…

Beverages are served…

Some folks at “The Boil” label their cups so they don’t get confused with someone else’s beverage.  You know, sort of like using wine charms for wine glasses.  However, in this case, the cups are labeled like “Mr. Wonderful” or whatever else comes to mind…

People smile…

People chat…

More beverages are served…

While some folks buy raffle tickets to participate in a drawing for fun prizes…

Raffle tickets are purchased from the “Hula Girls”, of course…

Or, some folks “people watch”…

Afterall, there’s almost always something interesting to see…

After awhile, some folks say things like “I got an ahnvee  for some crawfish!” (i.e. a longing or hunger (French “envie”))…

So, the crawfish and veggies are poured into the pirogue (i.e. boat) for serving…

Folks serve themselves…

Then…they dive-in!

And everyone enjoys!

People get full…

And the pirogue gets empty…

Oh…did I tell you that people bring desserts?

Like homemade red velvet cake?

Homemade strawberry shortcake…

And Cannolis (a personal favorite :o)!!!

And Susitna Cafe’ pies…

After dessert, people wait in anticipation for the raffle drawing…

Some feel particularly lucky…

So, Mickey calls the lucky ticket numbers while Cookie helps with the prizes…

And people win!

The luckiest win Hawaiian shirts…

After the raffle, games begin…

People smile…

And they’re happy!

So my Susitna Cafe’ friends…Mickey and Cookie say “Who Dat Say Dey Got A Better Boil!”

Mickey and Cookies’ Laissez Les Bon Temps Roules! Crawfish Boil

Protein

320 pounds fresh, live crawfish

10 pounds Conecuh smoked sausage

Veggies

20 pounds #2 red potatoes

12 pounds yellow onions

4 large bags carrots

4 large bags garlic

4 packages celery

4 large cartons button mushrooms

12 artichokes

Flavoring

16 boxes dry crawfish boil seasonings (Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil is good)

2 gallons concentrated liquid crawfish boil (Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil is good)

Cayenne Pepper

Salt

Other

3 packages ladies knee highs (2 pairs in each pack)

Traveler’s Notes:  Be sure to say hello to Mickey and visit her outdoor studio on Jackson Square in New Orleans, LA

Cooks Notes:  Many of the ingredients in the Crawfish Boil are at your discretion.  Add more garlic to intensify the garlicky flavor…add more artichokes if you like them…be sure to use #2 size red potatoes to be sure they conveniently cook for the same amount of time as your other veggies.  Oh, about the garlic…be sure to squeeze the cloves and spread on saltines…

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Filed under April 2010