"Lo, and then Drew madeth right in New Orleans what Katrina had wrought. And lo, he then raisethed Carlton Banks from the dead, for he wanted to see the "Carlton Dance.' Then Drew threweth another touchdown, just becauseth he could."

Now that the Saints have won the Super Bowl, thus curing New Orleans of all post-Katrina problems, my folks and I are meeting up in the iconic city to take part in that most joyous of occasions, my birthday.  We’re also celebrating my pops’ birthday, which will hopefully distract him, however briefly, from constantly telling me that “the wrong son died in that river.”  We chose New Orleans to celebrate our days of birth because when my pops was a younger man, he killed his first drifter there, and it’s always held a special place in his heart.  Plus, he really, really likes that song “House of the Rising Sun,” by The Animals.  I’ve never been there before, and I’m really excited to totally ignore all the historical sites, local color, and cultural activities, in favor of stuffing my Creole-hole with all the N’Awlins fare I can get my mitts on.  As such, I’ve been scouring Yelp to suss out all the places to go and get some good grub.  Here are the dishes I’m most excited to eat in Chocolate City.  Oh, and that “beads for boobs” thing better be year-round, or I’m going to be seriously pissed off.

No. 5 – Seafood Gumbo

Peter Venkman, after dealing with nefarious okra.

I love seafood.  I love stuff made with a dark roux.  Throw in some hookers with noticeable bruises, and you’ve got a meal made in my dreams.  There are some things I can cook at home and know they’ll be good*.  There are other things, like gumbo, that no matter how hard I try, I cannot make well.  I’m almost positive that this is due to the inclusion of okra.  Okra scares me more than female bosses and that movie Paranormal Activity, combined, and I peed my pants during that movie.  What the fuck is that shit?  Is it a vegetable?  Is it a pepper of some sort?  Why the fuck is it slimy?  Why does my arm hurt when I raise it above my shoulder?  And, as with all things which are hard to do, I simply do not try to make gumbo, anymore.  I very much look forward to getting a big plate of this stuff, which, ostensibly, will not taste like burnt roux, slime, and failure.

No. 4 – Po’ Boy

A sandwich made with fried stuff is like froie gras made with bacon, or sausage made with truffles, or my penis made with my abs.

I love sandwiches.  I love fried things.  Throw in a dog dressed like Hello Kitty, and you’ve got a meal made in my dreams.  Aside from the fact that you sound like a complete fucking idiot when you have to say “Po’ Boy” while ordering one, I am so excited to chow down on one of these bad boys.  The special Louisiana French bread, the dressing, the fried stuff. . .  whoo, boy.  I’m dead serious when I say that I will almost certainly order a fried oyster po’ boy with a side of fried oysters.  I may even get a fried beer to wash it all down with.  Although, even given the etymology of this sandwich, I’m confident I won’t be able to find one for less than ten bucks.  BUT I’M ACTUALLY POOR!!!

No. 3 – Oysters

YOU'RE BLOCKING THE OYSTER!

God, do I love oysters.  I’m not joking when I say that, if I lived in a place where they were affordable, I would eat them every day.  I am joking when I say, “What’s brown and sticky?  A stick!”  I like to joke.  Seriously, though, outside of uni, no one, single bite in the food world  seems to capture the taste of the ocean like fresh oysters.  That’s why oysters are so phenomenally fucking awesome: they taste like an entire geographic region – the entire, beautiful ocean.  This just doesn’t occur anywhere else in the culinary universe: “Here, taste this cactus – it tastes just like the sand and unrelenting heat of the desert!  Here, taste this mushroom – it tastes just like the trees and serial killer dumping grounds of the forest!”  Not only do oysters pack this amazing flavor-punch, but they also involve eating with your hands, which is the hallmark of most of my favorite foods**.

No. 2 – Muffuletta

"Uh, that's great, but can I get some fried stuff in that?"

If I were to go outside of individual dishes, and judge foods like I judge ethnic groups, sandwiches are Persians – my favorite***.  They’re inherently layered with symbiotic, yet diverse layers of flavors and textures, and – of course – you eat them with your hands.  I’ve made muffulettas before but, I don’t know, they always seem to be lacking.  I don’t know if it was the store-bought giardeniera, the store-bought meat, or the store-bought, processed cheese, but something about them just didn’t seem homemade.  If you don’t know, a muffuletta is not just a word I’m getting tired of typing out, but also a giant sandwich made with a large round of Sicilian bread; giardeniera of olives, vegetables and peppers; Italian meats; and provolone.  Because the muffuletta is so closely associated with New Orleans, I’m truly hoping that two or more locals will get into a fist fight arguing over which muffuletta shop is the best.  I’m also hoping I get to wrastle a gator, but I digress.

No. 1 – Crawfish Boil

Little did they know that when they agreed to seal the detente with a handshake, the armistice would be irrevocably, if ironically, broken before it started.

True story: I have been actively seeking out crawfish for almost two years, so that I can have a crawfish boil at my house.  They’re never, ever available, so I just have to boil dozens of the smallest lobsters I can find, instead.  The reason I’m so hellbent on finding crawfish – and the reason a crawfish boil is number one on my list – is because of the nature of the act of eating them.  You see, I’m not one to sit down to one big plate of food; no matter how good it is, it tends to get a little boring, and I’m always done too quickly.  I immensely enjoy the act of eating, and I like to draw out that act as long as possible.  Take perhaps my favorite meal, crab legs: you have to crack the shell, get a little meat, dip it in butter, then consume.  You repeat this at least 124 times before you’re finished, thus meaning you just spent two hours eating.  Mission: Fucking Accomplished.  The same gastro-math goes with crab boils.  There’s hardly any meat in those little bastards, and you have to work to get at what little delicious morsels there are.  I’m aiming for at least a solid four hours of active eating when I finally get ready to settle into one of these bad boys.  Plus, the crawfish’s motto is “Pinch the tail, suck the head.”  I didn’t even realize that when I chose it as the quote to go along with my senior yearbook photo***.

Hello Kitty Dog sez: "I guess, at some level, I always knew I was different from the other dogs."

_____________________
*Meth
**You should see me eat spaghetti!
***Wait . . . what?
****Now go get out there and watch the draft, if for no other reason than to see the Bengals trade up to get Tim Tebow (Gruden’s take: THIS GUY; now this guy is a leader!).

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In an effort to keep your voracious appetite for my culinary musings satisfied, I’ve decided to start a new feature on this blog, cleverly titled “Amuse Boosh!“.  It features mini-diatribes which will be published in-between my usual long-ass diatribes.  You’re very welcome.  That’ll be ten bucks.

Fucking UGH.

At the risk of beating a dead horse with a nail-studded axe handle until its carcass is rendered a bloody, pulverized mess, I’m afraid I have to address the continued ascendancy and asininity of Mr. Guy Fieri.  I have to do this because his increasing ubiquity has forced me to increasingly contemplate why I hate his fucking guts so much.  So, so much.

I mean, it’s pretty irrational that I would devote even a moment of my day to hating on some dude that worked hard and made a fortune for himself.  After all, he found a douche-niche in pop culture, and shoe-horned himself in there.  He has a family which he, presumably, has not Tiger Woods’d, I’m fairly confident he’s never killed a hitchhiker just to because he was bored, and I think it’s safe to assume that he’s neither Heidi nor Spencer.  Indeed, it appears from a recent newspaper article that he’s good to his friends and gives a lot to charity.  So, given all these apparent positive – or, at least, not hate-inducing – characteristics, should I just listen to his fans who invariably say “He’s just a guy who’s doing his job and being himself, who cares?”  Are they right, should I  just let a lucky, motivated guy be, as his followers would advocate?  Or is it still rational to hate him?  I’m going to the judges, and . . . they say “Green light to hate.”  You bet your sweet ass it’s okay to hate.  In fact, after reading that fawning article in the Press Democrat, I started thinking about it, and I realized that it’s not only okay for me to hate Fieri, in particular, but it’s also my duty to expand my hate to include everyone who has participated in the “Fieri Zeitgeist”.

As to Fieri, in particular, I know a lot of guys who are good to their families, who do charity and pro bono work, and who even have friends who like them, much like Fieri.  And, much like Fieri, a lot of those guys are enormous fucking douchebags.  You know them, too – the guy (or gal) who may be an okay person, on paper, but whose company you would spurn if a better option, such as stabbing yourself in the genitals, made itself apparent.  And, indeed, to paraphrase Chris Rock: being a good person to friends, family, and community is what you’re supposed to do!  You shouldn’t get points for doing that shit, especially if everything else about you is so nauseatingly insufferable.  We all know the litany of Fieri’s faults: the backwards sunglasses; the dressing like he’s an early-2000’s frat guy; the blond spikes; the fact that he wears rings while cooking; the fact that he wears rings, in general; and, you know, literally everything else about him.  Seriously, would you ever hang out with a guy at your office if he had the phrase “Aktuary Gangsta” on them?  My point is that even if he wasn’t a celebrity, even if millions of people didn’t think he was a cool guy, even if he was a normal dude in the IT department, I would still turn down any invitation to a guys’ night I knew he would be attending, for fear of having to give courtesy laughs to his idiotic jokes and the possibility of actually having to talk to him for five minutes.

As to the whole “Fieri Zeitgeist,” in general, this is what really bugs me about him.  Or, should I say, about America.  Much like the fact that Paul Haggis’ Crash has a shit-load of fans and a Best Picture Oscar, that those Epic Movie things still get produced, and that that Ke$ha broad is probably a multi-millionaire, their fame makes me simultaneously sad and outraged, not at Crash or Epic Movie or Ke$ha or Fieri, but rather at the people who allowed them get where they are.  It’s the same feeling I get when I contemplate the fact that Sandra Lee is actually on a network dedicated to cooking.  It’s just so fucking depressing.  You can’t even be mad at her – if people refused to watch a woman who made Kwanzaa cake, she wouldn’t be there, after all.  It’s the same thing with Fieri – people in this country are actually so dumb and apathetic as to think Fieri is entertaining.  We have elevated a guy who calls himself a “Kulinary Gangsta” into pop-culture status and a Lamborghini – because of spiked fucking hair andFlavor Town.”  And that’s where the Fieri Fans are correct; we can’t really hate Fieri for all the good fortune that’s been bestowed on him.  We should, instead, hate ourselves.  It’s our fucking fault.  But that, in its own right, doesn’t mean that the man, himself, is not hate-worthy.  He wears earrings, remember.

So, in conclusion: (1) I feel absolutely justified in disliking Fieri as a celebrity, because I’m almost positive that I would hate him if he wasn’t one, and (2) The fact that he is a celebrity makes me hate the American populace, rather than Fieri, himself.  So, as always, The Chef’s Prerogative’s hate: totally justified.  Sorry about the friendly fire, America, but you were askin’ for it.

Well, that’s it.  That should hopefully be the last time we talk about Guy Fieri.  I have exorcised my Kulinary Demonz.

Poltergeist Lady sez: "This house . . . is clean."

"FREEBIRD!!!!"

Asia has given us many wonderful things: tentacle porn, ninjas, ninja stars, the song “Heat of the Moment,” and gravure models, among the best.  But to my mind, Asia’s greatest export is what I will affectionately and blanketly, in my cultural insensitivity, call “the noodle bowl.”  A huge bowl of broth, meat, toppings, and deliciously alkaline noodles is perhaps my favorite food of the moment.  This will change as soon as I see a picture of a cheeseburger, but right now, I am on a noodle kick.  I’m lucky enough to live in a place with a ton of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants, most of which offer some form of a noodle bowl, as well as a side-order of hilariously-translated menu descriptions*.  Unfortunately, money spent on noodle bowls is money not available for sponsoring my African orphan, Douglas Asenbach TheChefsPrerogative.  As such, I have taken to making heaping bowls of noodles in my home, instead.  I’m still in the “Ah, fuck it – let’s just throw everything in there” stage of this recipe’s development, so feel free to experiment on your own and commit seppuku when it all goes wrong.

I'd watch yourself, kitty. That's all cute and funny, but in this economic climate, you're just an enticement to a cheap meal. See how I avoided the obvious and stereotypical "some Asians eat dogs and cats" joke? That's some good and responsible blog jokin', right there.

Wondrous Ingredients of Luck Terrific!

Noodles
Rice wine vinegar
Mirin
Ginger
Peanut oil
Shallot
Meat
Veggies
Whatever else you got

Making Most Happy Foods Wonderful!

Look, I’m no Asian chef, and, as stated, I’ve only recently begun making these things, so cut me some fucking slack if I’m not using nori or naruto or Hello Kitty, or whatever else makes noodle bowls authentic – feel free to put some of your manga on in the background while making this, if it will make you feel better.  In fact, I bought David Chang’s wonderful book, Momofuku, for the sole purpose of getting better at this whole “Asian cooking thing,” but, after careful study, I have come to the conclusion that that shit is fucking hard!  Seriously, it scares me and makes me want to cry.

Because of the inherent difficulty of making authentic J-cuisine, and the time constraints imposed on me by my almost impossible cosplay schedule, I opt for a simple, yet tasty, noodle bowl, which appeals to both my appetite and inherent affinity for randomly chucking shit in a pot, guided by nothing but a peculiar mix of impulse, intuition, and martinis.  That such a mix was also the impetus for landing me in a Oaxacan jail for the past four months bodes well for the final, inevitably perfect, presentation of this dish.

My cell-mate, Juan, taught me a lot about life, philosophy, and how to stab a guy to death using a shiv fashioned out of an old newspaper and spit.

I generally start out by sauteing finely diced shallots, onions, and assorted veggies in peanut oil.  I then add mirin and rice wine vinegar, because those are Asian.  This is followed by adding shitake mushrooms and a mixture of whatever stock or broth I have in my pantry, as well as soy sauce.  Seriously, whatever you got, throw it in – after all, this is generally where I get all “Dr. Frankenstein” on my ramen.  For whatever reason, I always feel it necessary to let the mixture reduce a lot, then add more stock, then reduce again.  Whenever my impeccable and almost Helios-like culinary intuition kicks in and informs me that the broth is now ready – that any more cooking would ruin it, but any less and it wouldn’t have been complete – I throw in tofu, bok choy, and whatever else I can think of, to finish it off like I was a Korean masseuse at a Japanese massage parlor.  Pour the broth over boiled noodles of your choosing, and top with pork shoulder you’ve conveniently roasted to perfection before-hand.  On the side, I like to have a bowl of julienned  radish and cucumber, some hot sesame oil, and a jar of seasoning I stole from my local Japanese restaurant.

As I’ve been writing this, and simultaneously perusing some ramen-oriented sites on the internet, I have come to the realization that I’m kind of massacring a centuries-old cuisine, and doing to it what Sandra Lee does to all manner of food and table-scapes.  But, listen: if you want a proper bowl of ramen (as well as all manner of other delicious Asian treats), go get you some Momofuku from Barnes & Noble, and follow its great recipe.  It’s a great book – if not exactly user friendly (seriously, I’m a big fan of ramen, but I don’t know if I want to cook a gallon-and-a-half of broth, dude) – and the author uses the word “fuck” a lot.  And, in defense of my horrific and ethnically insensitive “recipe,” this is how Chang describes what he deduced as the ramen recipe of a very popular Tokyo ramen house: (1) Soy sauce placed in bowl, then stock, (2) gigantic helping of noodles, (3) toppings are placed, (4) finished with a touch of stock.  So it seems ramen is not about some specific recipe, but rather about the simplicity and quality of its constituent parts; a quality which, like all seemingly simple things, takes millenia to perfect.  I’m not saying you and I should give up trying for the perfect, authentic noodle bowl, but I am saying that you’re a white guy who drives a Saab, so maybe just be happy with a reasonable facsimile you can make in your house, without a centuries-old recipe and the patience of Confucius.  If, however, you can find a place that serves good pork buns, just give up and go there, instead.

Did you seriously think you were getting out of here without a picture of a Gravure model? I may not know how to cook things of a Japanese nature, but I sure as hell know how to masturbate to them.

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*An actual description from a small noodle joint I recently visited: Kink pork noodle soup to the last drop drink, became one of the ingredients, and balanced a “taste of Santoka” also say one cup.  The image of a sophisticated finish to taste both beautiful slender women.  Koume icon is decorated with chocolate in the middle of the bowl is topped with only noodles shiora.  I like the noodles and beautiful, slender women, but I’m a little disquieted by the thought of that chocolate in my ramen.