Eating paste has a special allure, when you’re a kid. First off, there’s the smell, which is chemical and funky. Then there’s the texture, the main pleasure behind eating paste, a texture like white peanut butter, but thicker, barely spreadable with the little wooden stick you dab into the jar. I’m not sure that I ate a lot of paste as a kid (though I was definitely a kid of whom people probably said, “He eats a lot of paste”) but I do believe I’ve found the adult corollary: canned cream of mushroom soup.
I have a distinct memory of a spring day in New York, back when I lived in Park Slope, at Brooklyn Fish Camp. Craig and I were sitting outside at a picnic table with benches and under that warm blue sky, the first of its kind after a harsh winter, a waitress presented us with the basket of hush puppies that we ordered. I didn’t know much about hush puppies; they just sounded good to me. And seeing them there in that basket–fluffy orbs of corn meal that had been deep-fried in oil–I suddenly felt the winter drop out from beneath me, and felt the heat of summer rising up at full blast.
Have you ever made a roux? Like: really made a roux?
I’ve made a roux in quotes–a “roux”–whenever I’ve taken a roasted chicken out of its cast iron skillet, added some flour to the pan, cooked it for a minute or two and finished it up with a big glass of white wine. That makes for a thick, chickeny, winey sauce that’s very tasty. But after visiting New Orleans last year, and purchasing Donald Link’s indispensible cookbook “Real Cajun,” I’d been meaning to make a real Cajun roux. The kind that you have to develop for a while at the stove, the kind that you have to watch carefully, the kind that goes from a toast stage to a cardboard stage based on the smells its giving off. Which is why, last week, I made Donald Link’s Smothered Pork Roast Over Rice, a recipe he learned from his grandmother, and one that involves the creation of a peanut butter-colored roux.
Who invites friends over for dinner rolls?
On Thursday night, I did that very thing. I texted our friends who live in our building and said, “Hot dinner rolls and honey if you want right now!” It was a strange text, one that I thought might be met with radio silence. But one friend, our friend Rob, said “Yes!” and came over moments later to experience the best dinner rolls I’d ever made. And he was not disappointed.
We ate many meals in New Orleans, but the following four meals were the most memorable for me. In all four cases, these weren’t meals you could enjoy anywhere else in the country. The food, the people, and, most importantly, the environments added up to create four totally unique experiences; experiences that I recommend you have on your next trip there.