Monday, August 30, 2010

French Fried Potatoes

I am a big lover of Rally's Hamburgers, you may know them as Checkers.  My entire family loves a Rally Burger every now and again and who can pass up their amazing fries?
In New Orleans,  even the Super Bowl Champs, the Saints, fell in love with Rally's and took up their hysterical commercial's slogan, "Cha Ching" as their own.
 We all love Rally's in New Orleans, we love them more when they get our order correct. 
Once we ordered a cheese burger and we were asked if we wanted cheese on it-
Good luck if you ask for anything other than the standard thing- i.e. no mayo, only ketchup- usually you have to scrape off all the things you didn't want and replace them with things you did want- but all that hassle is worth it, cause the fries are so good.
But, I would say you have great luck if you're the one who gets to hand over everyone's order,  it is a rule that  those lagniappe fries at the bottom of the bag belong to you.  This Mardi Gras, I saw Rally's selling buckets of fries for $5! Man,  that would be good right about now. 

 Being in Hong Kong, and in particular, being on an island away from the hustle and bustle of the city,  there is not much choice in scrumptious burgers and fries.  So, I set off to make my own version of  Rally's fries.

When I was growing up, we used to make homemade fries all the time, so I had a slight idea of what I was doing.  My brother and I would help peel and cut the raw potatoes, although this time, I left the skin on.  We would carve our initials or doodles into the potato wedges.  My mom would give us each our own brown bag with flour and seasoning and we would shake our fries until they were covered and ready to be fried.  It was always fun to rummage through the servings and see who's fries we got, then trade them. I did not scribble on these fries today, but hope to do that with my son when he is a little older.

I found regular potatoes and Japanese sweet potatoes at my local super market  and turned them into magnificent french fried potatoes.  See below for pictures and how to do it your self. 

 Here are the raw potatoes, cut into strips.  You can play around with the thickness to see what you prefer. I like them thin and crispy usually, but I am not that great at uniform chopping, so you get what you get.   This is the stage where you would carve words or whatever into the strips.  Leave the others soaked in water while you do one batch at a time. 
Next throw the damp wedges into a bowl with your seasonings.  Flour, salt, fresh ground pepper, Tony's ( if you have it, I dont. boo hoo.) and other seasonings like garlic powder or even rosemary. Use your right hand to cover the potatoes with the seasoning, keeping your left hand clean and free for other duties.
Throw them into hot oil.  (Or bake them if you must) I used a wok, of course, but if you have a fryer or just a pot with a thick bottom, that would work just fine. To test the oil, and make sure it is hot and ready, drop a bit of flour in, if it sizzles up real loudly and bubbly, you are good to go. Let them fry for 3 minuets or until they are brown. Use a slotted spoon to spin them around a few times. I like mine dark brown, like Rally's. The darker they are, the better you can see what you've carved.   
When they are ready, use a slotted spoon and place onto a plate with paper towels or even a brown paper bag to soak up the excess grease. Now  is when you season with salt.   
That looks like a Rally Fry to me! 

Next up...Japanese Sweet Potatoes.... Do the same steps as above. But when these come out of the oil, dust with brown sugar instead of salt. The Japanese sweet potato is a lot more chewy and sweet (duh) than a normal potato, and they are less starchy, so the four doesnt stick as well, and the seasoning was a bit clumpy, but they were delicious. 

Look for Japanese sweet potatoes your super market and try this at home. Or,  just run over to your local Rally's.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Red Beans and Rice

In New Orleans, there is no guessing what's for supper on Monday,  red beans and rice.  Laundry day fell on Mondays in the olden days and a dish like red beans was a perfect match for a busy day.   You can throw all the ingredients together in one pot and let it simmer while you get the washing done.

Usually  I would make red beans and rice after we had eaten a ham. Ham would be eaten as it is first, then leftovers would help make jambolaya, then split pea soup and lastly,  the bone and all the good leftover bits for red beans and rice.

But, it was Monday and I was in the mood for some creamy red beans and rice. Typically, all the ingredients are in my pantry and fridge all the time, but since I had to start fresh in Hong Kong, I am lacking a majority of  my staples.

So, off I went to gather the ingredients. Beans were easy to find and obviously rice is quite plentiful here. It comes in large bags, really large bags.( Think Sams Club Dog Food size...)
Getting the rice home is the hard part. Luckily my grocery store delivers. Everything else on my list was easy until I came to the ham.

I searched the aisle of pork and found just about every part of the pig on offer but  not the ham or ham bone. I asked around, no one was speaking my language, so I pointed to my leg, hip area, while pointing to the pork section to illustrate my desire for a ham bone.

The sales clerk's eyes lit up as she understood what I meant. She ran off to the butcher to get what I assumed was my ham bone.

She returned proudly displaying a pigs foot.        A leg, a pigs leg, with the foot attached.

I shut my eyes, covered my mouth and did a pirouette.

"No" I said, "No, no no." I raised my hand to stop her from bringing it closer to me.  She laughed, it was quite amusing to the  staff behind the meat counter.

Later, it was explained to me that they only carry ham at Christmas time. So I had to make do with a different cut of pork, no, not the foot, I am not that adventurous... I picked up a small peppered piece of pork- still not sure what cut it was, something knuckle, still sounds gross, but I assure you it was not the foot... and headed home.

I made the red beans and they tasted just fine, even without the ham bone.  Below is the recipe I used,  It is dogeared in my grandmother's  Plantation Cookbook.

1 hambone
11 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound red beans, washed
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 pound ham, cubed
1/4 pound hot sausage, sliced ( left this out too, unfortunately...this is something special to LA)
1/2 pound smoked sausage, sliced (and this too...)
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste, course ground
1/4 chopped parsley  ( i leave this out, think it is old fashioned to garnish with parsley)
2 cups cooked rice

***Here is a shortcut- use Red Runner Red Beans in a can and use Ham flavoring packets- it is still delicious this way, this was my single girl way of making red beans and rice!

In a large pot or Dutch oven ( or a wok!!) place ham bone,water, garlic salt, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and beans.  Cook, uncovered, over a low flame.  Saute celery, onions, and garlic in oil until transparent.  In another pan saute ham and sausage; drain.  Add cooked meats ans seasoning to beans.  Add bay leaves, salt and pepper and continue to cook over low flame until beans are soft and creamy.  Approximately 2 1/2 hours.  Remove bay leaves and add parsley before serving (or not). Serve over hot, fluffy rice. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

French Market Doughnuts

1 package yeast 
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 egg beaten, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned evaporated milk, room temperature
3 cups flour, sifted 
Vegetable oil
Powdered sugar

Now, my grandmother would have stopped at the 3 cups flour.  She says, "Anytime it says sift the flour, I turn the page, too much work is going to be involved."

 I was able to find all the ingredients at my local grocery store, the yeast is not in a package, it is in a jar, so I just guessed how much a packet would be. Plus, I have no measurement tools in cups or table I guessed there and I also misread the ingredients and added an entire can of evaporated milk- oops. I told you I was no professional.

I made this the night before we wanted the doughnuts, and I kept checking on the dough to make sure it was rising. It was. I was so proud. But in the morning, I guess I put too much yeast, cause the dough had risen all the way to the wet cloth I had on top. What a mess. 

I poured the oil in the pot and began to let it heat.  I could not really roll out the dough as it explains in the directions, guess this is on account that I added too much evaporated milk, so I just spooned it in the hot oil. The fist batch was too heavy and the dough sunk and stuck to the bottom. The next batch was too light and it looked like a country fair funnel cake. The last batch was just right, the balls of dough floated and bobbed on the oil and after I drenched them with powdered sugar, we ate them all up!

In a mixing bowl dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add egg, sugar, salt, and evaporated milk.  Gradually blend in flour, mixing well.  Cover bowl with moistened towel and place in refrigerator overnight. Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll out 1/4" thickness. cut into 21/2" squares and allow dough to dry on floured board, 10-12 minuets before frying.  Fry in 1" very hot vegetable oil, turning one, cooking until golden brown, approx. 3 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove doughnuts and place on paper towel to drain. Sprinkle liberally with powered sugar.  Dough will keep in fridge for several days. Makes about 2 dozen.

*All these recipes come from The Plantation Cookbook-The Junior League of  New Orleans Copyright 1972

New Orleans Native Goes Asian

I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some believe just living in the city automatically makes you a purveyor of good food, I have to agree.  I have no formal cooking training, I have never taken a single class.  I don't always follow recipes and I do not count calories.  It takes me forever to chop and I take short cuts when possible.
I am living in Hong Kong with my husband and son and cooking makes me feel close to family and friends back home.  Although it is not without  trials and the first time I made a a wok.
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