As previously mentioned by my husband, I spent last week in New Orleans. We had different school vacations this year, and I've been missing my best friend and my old stomping grounds, not to mention the food. And my, what a foodie good time I had! I had a list of things to eat and places I wanted to eat them, and with the help of my friends Karen and Joe and the Hubble family, the mission was accomplished. Many thanks to them for an awesome time all around. Here's my own personal TOP FIVE!

#1 - Crawfish

Naturally, I had to have crawfish, since it's the season and my own Yankee-style attempts to have crawfish have been a bit unsatisfying. Karen promised me a traditional crawfish boil, and that's what I got. On Sunday morning, Miss Linda lugged in a 25-pound box filled with steaming crawdads, corn on the cob, bits of sausage and red potatoes. When I lifted the lid, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. They were hot and spicy and delicious. We peeled long after we had our fill, and the result was that I had enough to freeze and take home!!! Hooray!!! I happened to have crawfish several other times over my few days in New Orleans, including fried crawfish tails, crawfish pasta, and even eggs covered in crawfish etouffee, but these were the best, most of all because they were shared with old friends.

#2 - Barbecued Shrimp from Pascal's Manale

I made the mistake once of ordering BBQ Shrimp here in Connecticut. I got a skewer of grilled shrimp basted in barbecue sauce. Hideous! The barbecued shrimp I wanted can be found at several Crescent City spots, but none do them better than Pascal's Manale. I would attempt to describe them, but I think reviewer Don Pierce sums it up better than I ever could:

"The truth is the shrimp aren't really barbequed and I'm not sure where the name came from but who cares? It works and they will make your mouth water and make you come back over and over and wait for hours to sit down and peel. Peel? Yes, peel your own (it's all part of the fun... The shrimp come out and you see shrimp heads, you see shrimp tails, you see shrimp legs and you see them stewing in a bowl of garlic, butter and pepper with an aroma that makes your mouth water like no other. You pop the heads off then remove the shell, then you dip the shrimp into that special sauce and then into your mouth. Ohooooo. Then with the other hand, you break off some french bread and again, you dip it in. Ohhhooooo. Heaven!"

Heaven indeed, Don. Heaven indeed.

#3 - Crab Fingers from Mandina's

Mandina's is a mid-city neighborhood joint that I used to go to all the time when I lived in NOLA, and everytime I went, I ordered this amazing appetizer that 1) I've never been able to recreate, and 2) I've never seen or heard of anywhere else. Dozens of tender little crab fingers are sitting in a luscious garlic, butter, white wine and breadcrumb mix and as you dig down to get them, you are forced to lick every bit of it off your dripping fingers. Then you break off some french bread and again, you dip it in...sound familiar???? Thank GOD they reopened after Katrina.

#4 - Dinner at Cochon

Cochon is the place to be these days in New Orleans and everyone knows it. Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, the New York Times, they've all been buzzing about this place and Chef Donald Link for years now, so I knew we'd have to pay a visit. Karen and I were excited about the food while Joe was excited for the moonshine, and yes, they do have that on the menu, along with other typically Cajun dishes. And I do mean CAJUN. We were hungry and feeling adventurous, and everything we tried was delicious. The buzz is most definitely well-deserved. For appetizers we sampled fried alligator with chili garlic aioli (tasted a bit like chicken!), fried boudin with pickled peppers, and some great grilled andouille sausage served over grits with lima beans. I ordered the house specialty, Louisiana cochon (deliciously seared pulled pork - see photo) with turnips, cabbage and cracklins, and I loved every bite. Karen very much enjoyed the perfectly smoked beef brisket that was served with a horseradish potato salad. Joe dug into the oyster and bacon sandwich (the number one Louisiana "must-eat" according to Food and Wine) with gusto. We shared two casserole-style sides: macaroni and cheese, and crawfish with green tomatoes, both of which paired well with our meals and did not disappoint. We couldn't do dessert for being too full, but Joe and I toasted each other with a shot of "Catdaddy" moonshine that burned on the way down but had the surprising aftertaste of nutmeg. Next door, the newly opened Cochon Butcher offered specialty housemade cured meats and sausages with Cajun flair and of course, some of these goodies like tasso and andouille, found their way into my luggage. Next time you're in New Orleans, go to Cochon. It's a MUST.

#5 Sweets from Sucre

A candy shop on the best shopping street in the Big Easy, Magazine Street, Sucre is new to me and I'm excited to say it lived up to its reputation. Their French macaroons (one of Oprah's favorite things, apparently!) are sweet and delicate and filled with velvety cream. Their handmade chocolates are almost too pretty to eat, but with flavors like thyme, passion fruit, Sicilian pistachio, and chai and Earl Grey teas, you must indulge. A bonus for me is their use of Harney's Teas, which are originally from Connecticut! We stopped by here while shopping one afternoon, then again for a late dessert (see photo) after Cochon. Fabulous!

Food Buzz Top 9!

Chris's first solo blog post "When your wife is away..." made Food Buzz's Top Nine for April 28th!
Way to go, husband!


When your wife is away....

I don't want this to sound like I don't love my wife because I do. Really. It's just that one of my guilty pleasures is that when Amy goes on a trip I get to eat what she refers to as 'Chris Food'. I have my own shelf. It's full of things like Soy milk, artichoke hearts, sardines, tartufo paste, curry spices and various pickeled sundries. I also have a small section in the fridge which is filled an assortment of fruits, meats, cheeses and juices that, quite often, "Take up too much space". Needless to say, I like food. All types. If there is a person sitting next to me eating something that I can't identify, and the person doesn't seem to be in pain or near death - I want some. Maybe it's from growing up in a big family ('Eat it or Starve') or from the times I ran low on rations while hiking the Appalachian Trail ('Eat it or Starve'). I don't know. What I do know is that these adventures have gotten me my own shelf, my wife is away, and I am hungry. This is my story:

Yesterday a package showed up at my doorstep. Now the UPS man is not a stranger to our house, but the 'Perishable' label caught my eye. Since Amy is visiting friends in New Orleans I thought, "Are these crawfish? Does my wife love me that much? Maybe they're pralines! A 1'x1'x1' box of pralines!....with Cafe Du Monde coffee!....and maybe some fresh beignets!! I have the best wife in the world!!" I call her to thank her for the package. One ring, two rings, three rings, "Hello" a gently slurring voice answers. I explain about the package, to which she says, "What package? Open it and see what it is." Her voice perks up as I tell her it contains a package of pasta, "What kind?" she asks. "Buitoni All Natural Agnolotti stuffed with wild portobello and crimini mushrooms!" I exclaim. "Oh...mushrooms huh? That's Chris food. You don't have to wait for me." As I said before, I am hungry; so I don't."

Bring water with a dash of salt and oil to a boil. Melt about 1Tbs of salted butter in a saute pan for a couple of minutes. Place pasta into boiling water and set the timer to 4 minutes. Add one large handfull of baby spinich into the saute. Toss until wilted. (Basically until the timer goes off.) Drain pasta, mix with spinich and serve. Dinner in less than 10 minutes.

This could be my favorite Chris Dish ever. The near-ghee brown butter sauce coated the bitter spinich with just enough ''umph' that when I bit into the al dente angoletti and allowed earthy wild mushroomness to combine with the sharp Grana and Parmesean I almost forgot to chew. My mouth was screaming for more. As I type this I can't stop breathing through my mouth in a vain attempt to get the post-coital flavors off of my tongue. I wish I wasn't on a diet. I want/need more. Is it strange to buy a case of pasta? I may need another shelf. I can't wait for her to go away again...


Portuguese-Style Stew

I hope you haven't given up on A Couple in the Kitchen. Life got weird for a few weeks and Chris and I have been existing (subsisting?) on restaurant food, take-out, delivery, and heat-n-eats. Not a good foodie scene whatsoever, but we're resolved to head back to the kitchen as the days grow longer and warmer, and farmer's markets begin to sell their wares.

We hit up new Hartford hotspot,
Barca, for a much needed after-school happy hour last week, because their tapas are cheap and to die for. At 2 for $5, I can have my spicy chicken (sauteed in a garlic white wine sauce) and Chris can have his crispy fish (specifically, codfish potato cakes with cilantro aioli). These were accompanied nicely by well-made caipirinhas (like a margarita but better). As for their bread - one bite and I was hooked, begging the bartender to sell me a loaf or two on which I planned to base some sort of dinner for the following day. Warm and crusty on the outside, so light it melts in your mouth on the inside, Chris, who had been to Barca before, simply said, "Told you so," as I drooled over the two small slices that came with our tapas. It reminded me of the super-fresh Portuguese rolls my mom used to buy in Ludlow, MA.

As I always seem to be planning my next meal, the idea for a Portuguese-style dinner started brewing in my head and luckily, the bartender assisted, handing over two small, neatly wrapped loaves with warming instructions as we paid our check. We created our dish the next day, after buying clams at the local fish market. The stew, inspired by Barca's bread, was very easy to make and came out well. We knew that clams and sausage should be our base ingredients, then we threw in onions, tomatoes and seasonings at whim. We thought we needed a starch and put it over some pasta, which, in hindsight, was unnecessary, as the delicious bread was all we really needed. The sweetness of the clams and onions balanced well with the spiciness of the sausage and red pepper, while the grill and paprika added that smokiness we love.


1 pound linguica (Portuguese sausage)

1 Vidalia onion

1 pound mahogany or other small live clams

28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Slice the linguica into rounds and grill for a few minutes each side until browned, then throw them in a large stock pot. Slice the onions into thin strips and grill the onions, in the pan used to grill the linguica, for several minutes until they begin to caramelize, then throw them in the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and give a good stir until everything is well mixed. Put the lid on and cook over medium-high heat for fifteen minutes, or until everything is heated through and the clams are open. Enjoy with good, crusy Portuguese bread.