"Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it." ~Unknown

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Meatball Po' Boys

Fried food detox done. We are going back to some particularly interesting parts of our spring break trip. New Orleans is known for three-and more recently-four things; food; jazz; swamps and the Saints, a championship winning football team. Dad, not deigning to take out the fryer, suggested that Cy make po' boys. Po' boys (poor boys, as the sandwich is generally referred to with a deep south accent,) are a staple of the New Orleans diet and, despite their name, are sandwiches so packed with meatballs or other ingredients (including alligator) that Dagwood would have trouble getting his mouth around them. The po' boy hearkens back to French Colonial days with a sort of soft baguette wrap. For us the best bet to find the right kind of bread was, being on the West Coast, at a Vietnamese bakery, (both Vietnam and Louisiana were French colonies and so share some basic culinary tastes) and this is probably the case for most other areas in the U.S. It often draws on certain French tastes with one of the common po' boy incarnations being a meatball version rich in melted cheeses and tomato sauce.
Tonight's version is the traditional meatball which has been perfected over the years to the point that, it's a bit like the Shirley Temple, everyone (including many French Quarter mini-marts) serve it.
Having the right bread is paramount to a good po' boy. If the bread is too hard or not baguette-y enough the sandwich doesn't work, if its normal sandwich bread or wheat bread it doesn't work, you have to have long, thin, soft, white bread.
Dad just returned with the 1o small loaves of bread from the An Xuyen Vietnamese bakery while Cyrus is preparing the meatballs on a cookie tray and readying kale for a side of greens. The physical preparation has at this point reached a bit of a standstill while bacon, a key ingredient in the Southern greens recipe is prepared.
We are nearing mealtime, the greens (the last harvest of our 2009 garden) are nearly ready, the meatballs are in the oven and Dad is slicing (very carefully) the bread. One of the few things left is to make Majiggy Fruit Salad, this is Cy's signature dish and was featured in the August 2006 issue of Cooking Light. As I was in our basement looking for one of the four old issues (Mom was quite proud of her little seven-year-old) the cooking progressed quite a bit, the meatballs and greens are done cooking and some of the separate pieces of the sandwich are being prepared. The beer, onions and garlic are being combined into the brown roux to finish the gravy which will smother the meatballs. This meal is slowly taking shape and that shape pleases the eye quite a bit.
No kidding about the slowly part! A brown roux takes a long time to cook. An-hour-and-a-half later I am still waiting for the meal to be completed, I can tell we're getting close though-the Majiggy Salad has been tossed with it's yogurt/jam sauce-and the meatballs are nearly done basting.

You know how on Thanksgiving when you're really full ... you ... feel really ... tired? Well... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Wow that's a lot of food. It ... was ... good ... too. When I took that first bite of beer simmered garlic-y meatball-ness it took me back to the Napoleon House in the middle of the French Quarter. A bright courtyard on my left, a street with no cars, only horse drawn carriages and foot traffic, my teeth sinking into a sandwich. Sauce falling over my fingers, a jazz musician a few blocks away. A saxophone I think. A Voodoo shop across the street, the quiet clink of plates. Then I'm snapped back to reality: "Wow Cy," my Dad says around a mouthful of meatball po' boy. Ooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The food was amazing Cyrus. I hope I can top you next week with sushi. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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