Food news roundup

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) has a chit-chat here with Molly O’Neill, who will be signing copies of her new cookbook “One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking” at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Saturday. Recipes from several local cooks, including author Lee Smith, are included in the book.

I’ll take an Irish Coffee over green beer on any St. Patrick’s Day. Or, just straight Irish whiskey will do for me. But if you want to indulge, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer has a recipe here.

Head ’em up, move ’em out, cook ’em up: A roundup of food truck events in Durham and Carrboro are in the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) here.

The winner for the Most Bizarre St. Patrick’s Day Food is…. Irish Nachos. These things exist, so says the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, and the varied recipes start with a bed of waffle fries. No, they’re not eaten for the holiday in Ireland, but neither is corned beef. That St. Patty’s staple originated with Irish immigrants to the U.S. Check out the Irish Nachos here.

Some more authentic thoughts on Irish food are in the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.), including the classic breakfast called a Fry. Find out more here. But here’s a hint: Everything is fried but the tomatoes. (What did you think, anyway?)

I usually order decaf vanilla lattes at my favorite locally owned coffee pub. I don’t know what they’d do if I asked for a mushroom latte shooter with truffle froth. Cute little glasses of soup, froths or other liquified things are popular, and has a recipe for this one, from a La Jolla, Calif. restaurant. Set your frothers to fun.

Plastic cups, called “throw cups,” are the only useful things thrown off parade floats during Mardi Gras, says Judy Walker, food editor of the New Orleans Times Picayune. Apparently, one amasses a lot of these cups when one is not dodging the coconuts and beads. So Walker’s video this week offers suggestions for using them, including as a bowl for whisking eggs and to make a catapult for a children’s project. See more here.

The Oregonian profiles chefs and food professionals who left other parts of the country for the charms of Portland. Read their impressions here.

Fast food, slow writing: In the Chicago Tribune, reviews of fast-food offerings are written in haiku. Read more here, grasshopper.


Let the good times roux

I’ve cranked up Beausoleil and the Wild Magnolias while I’m working instead of my usual cool jazz – it’s Mardi Gras! (Working on a Cajun fiddle tune…someday…) You can hit a Mardi Gras party, sure. But if you make your own party, no worries about getting home with purple glitter all over yourself and people asking questions.

Most people think of jambalaya and gumbo for New Orleans food – spicy, like the holiday. And there’s not a thing wrong with that. But here’s something a little different that will please the anti-heat wimps but still have lots of flavor. Yes, it involves a roux, but don’t freak out. Natives of Louisiana are as born to make roux as Tar Heels are to smoke pork, but we each can learn.

If you’re inexperienced at roux-making, keep the heat on medium to medium-high (no higher), and go slow. Do. Not. Stop. Stirring. Not even if Justin Bieber shows up at your door and wants you to give him a haircut. That flour and oil can burn before you can say “Oh, look, the lottery numbers are being announced.” Focus, people.

This recipe is from”New Orleans Home Cooking” by Louisiana native Dale Curry. I modified it to make it easier to prepare. You could use a bottled Creole seasoning instead of the herbs, but most of them are very high in salt. I prefer to do my own seasoning.

Shrimp Creole

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (16-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

A few dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt to taste

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

Cooked rice

In a large pot over medium heat the flour and oil to make the roux. Cook and stir until the roux is peanut butter-colored. Immediately add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Stir and cook until soft.

Add the lemon juice, tomato sauce, tomatoes, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, cayenne, hot pepper sauce, oregano, basil, thyme and sugar. Stir, then taste and add salt as needed. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook about 10 more minutes, until the shrimp is done. The consistency of the sauce should be thick. Serve over cooked rice.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.