Review: The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook

Before I moved to New Orleans, I had never even heard of a po’ boy. There were sandwiches, hoagies, subs, clubs and heroes…but no po’ boy. My first po’ boy was devoured at a restaurant on Bourbon Street whose name I unfortunately cannot recall. It was my first day in New Orleans and we had been strolling around the French Quarter for a while when we passed an open restaurant on Bourbon and the heady aroma of fried seafood made us realize how hungry we were.

I don’t remember what anyone else ordered, but I got a 12 inch Fried Oyster Po’ Boy fully dressed and a huge plate of French fries. I devoured almost all of it before I couldn’t breathe anymore and went back to our hotel room to change for the night, but I passed out from a severe case of “food coma” because I had never eaten so much fried food in my entire life. For those of you who have never enjoyed the plethora of fried pleasures that can be had in our town, believe me when I tell you to take it slow your first time out. Not even a bucket of fried chicken from KFC will prepare you for the hurt you can experience from a ton of fried oysters on French bread with mayo…not that I’m complaining. I’ve had many a po’ boy since.

Anyhow, all that reminiscing brings me to Todd Micheal St. Pierre’s latest, The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook: Mouthwatering Sandwich Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. This cookbook is filled with a multitude of po’ boy recipes, along with gorgeous photos, colorful artwork by local painter Dianne Parks, and of course, Todd’s well-written stories and poems. I adore the creative chapter titles like “International Affairs,” “The Unusual Boys” and “Boy Oh Boy: If It Swims, Cook It!”. Even the fun names for individual po’ boys are a hoot like “The Gert Town” which is a pork tenderloin po’ boy with Remoulade sauce and “The Who Dat” (Geaux Saints!) which has New Orleans-style BBQ Shrimp. My favorite part, though, was that Todd starts the whole book off with the key ingredient of any po’ boy worth its salt, a recipe for “Baby, I Knead You! Homemade Po’ Boy Bread.”

Considering I am a food writer, I’ve eaten a majority of the po’ boys featured in this book, from “The Kenner,” a ham and Swiss to “The Snug Harbor” with fried green tomatoes and shrimp remoulade. But there were a few I’d never seen before that set my mouth to watering as I read on. For example, I’d love to sink my teeth into “The Pacific Northwest” with baked salmon and wasabi mayo or “The French Canadian,” a poutine po’ boy with French fries and cheese curds.

I think The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook is easily the sexiest, most visually stunning of all Todd Micheal St. Pierre’s cookbooks. But, there was just one thing about it that didn’t make sense to me. For people who don’t live in the Greater New Orleans Area, this cookbook is a valuable jewel, one that can transport you to my beloved city with some fresh, juicy shrimp and a ton of butter. But me? I am lucky enough to live here in this wonderfully unique town and if I want a po’ boy, I can walk around the corner and get one anytime I want. Sorry Todd! You know I love ya, but you also know anyone who lives in this town is already spoiled rotten when it comes to po’ boy access.

Speaking of around the corner, this Sunday, November 24th, Oak Street will be hosting its annual Po-Boy Festival where restaurants all over the city will offer some of the most unique, tongue-tingling, stomach-satisfying po’ boys ever and I couldn’t be more excited. Plus, Todd Micheal St. Pierre will be signing copies of The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook from 2-3pm in front of Blue Cypress Books at the fest! See ya there!

Cookbook: Taste of Tremé

A couple of months ago, author Todd-Michael St. Pierre sent me a copy of his brand new cookbook, Taste of Tremé. What with the holidays and work, I have been so busy, but I finally got a chance to check out the cookbook and try several of the recipes. This is the first cookbook by St. Pierre that is offered with a ton of gorgeous food images and lots of local art. I really enjoyed the little descriptions before each recipe, but you know what I enjoyed more? The food!

The first recipe I tried is called “Ernestine’s Easy-Peasy Black-Eyed Peas & Rice.” I’m always looking out for simple recipes to whip up on a busy evening and this one sounded perfect. It consists basically of ground beef, the Holy Trinity (chopped onion, bell pepper and celery), long-grained rice, Cajun seasoning (can you say Tony Chachere’s?) and canned, black-eyed peas – Trappey’s brand if you can find them. The dish turned out pretty tasty, but since I am not a huge fan of plain ol’ ground beef, the next time I make this I might add 1/2 pound of ground pork or sausage just to jazz it up a bit.

Although I’ve played around with my own version of stuffed mirlitons since I discovered this amazingly delicious vegetable upon moving down here, but I have always been on the lookout for different recipes. In Taste of Tremé, St. Pierre has his version called “Pretty Boy Zane’s Stuffed Mirlitons.” The dish turned out perfectly. I invited my friend Dani over to try it and between the three of us, we almost demolished the whole pan. The mirliton were sweet and juicy, but I think the key to this dish is fresh Louisiana shrimp. My mouth is watering while I write this…time to make it again!

Now you just know I had to try one of the dessert recipes and I picked the “Devil’s Halo Pie,” which St. Pierre describes as “the epitome of the devil and angel on each shoulder.” Basically, a graham cracker pie shell is filled with a mixture of brown sugar, cane syrup (I used Steen’s, of course!), corn syrup, butter, eggs, pecans, semi-sweet chocolate chips and a healthy shot of Southern Comfort. Although the filling was a bit too much for the pie shell, the pie turned out perfectly! It serves up very gooey and sloppy, but what it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in flavor…absolutely fantastic!

I can’t wait to try more recipes from the cookbook, I already have quite a few marked for future indulgence. Kudos to you Todd-Michael! You’ve done it again…

Taking a ride on “A Streetcar Named Delicious”

While reading the recipes in A Streetcar Named Delicious by Todd-Michael St. Pierre, I couldn’t help but sense the author’s whimsical, childlike nature from the titles of his recipes to the interspersed poetry about New Orleans. I suppose it makes sense considering that St. Pierre also writes children’s books, but it made delving into this particular cookbook much more fun than I originally imagined.

I was scanning through, seeking to try out a couple of dishes for myself, and I couldn’t help but smile at recipes for “Found My Thrill Char-Grilled Oysters”, “Mon Mere’s 7th Ward Gumbo”, “Port of New Orleans Shrimp Apollo” and “Abundantly Blessed Spaghetti.” Though the author himself calls his style “campy”, I just think it’s a warm, sincere and innocent way to reflect his love for New Orleans, something I can relate to wholeheartedly.

Whether the origins of these recipes came from Todd-Michael St. Pierre’s family, friends or acquaintances, they all have the feel of tried-and-true, home-tested and approved classics from your Maw-Maw’s kitchen. Some of the recipes actually seemed to be contributed by random, neighborhood folk like the “No-Hassle Pimm’s Cup” offered by “a little old lady on Annunciation Street” or (my favorite) “Comus Caramelized Tomatoes” from “a bag lady who resembles Vivian Leigh!”

After much deliberation, I settled on two different recipes. One, “Tante Zizi’s Jambalaya Pasta”, was recommended to me by the author and the other, “Purgatory Pie”, just sounded too scrumptious to pass up.

“Tante Zizi’s Jambalaya Pasta” is wonderfully simple recipe that takes the basic necessities from any good jambalaya recipe — chicken, tasso or smoked sausage and green bell pepper — and brings them together in tasty harmony over multi-colored pasta. Two eye-opening ingredients that I never expected to see were the garnishes, grated provolone and gouda cheese. Though unexpected, the heavy-flavored cheeses added a different dimension to the pasta and worked perfectly. It made a large pot of pasta that John gobbled up greedily for lunch and dinner the following day!

There were several desserts I wanted to try, not least of all the “Dreamy Chocolate Doberge Cake” (I pity the soul that’s not tasted a decadent Doberge), but since I didn’t have the tools to cut the many layers, I settled for the “Purgatory Pie”.  Now, this is basically a pecan pie that I had made many, many times in the past, but it included a few unique ingredients like Louisiana cane syrup (I used Steen’s) and fig preserves. Let me just tell you, this is a pecan pie to end all pecan pies. Delicious!

Although I really love the book, my only complaint would have to be the lack of photographs. Not only would I love to see pictures of all this scrumptious food, laid out like it’s meant to be at your mom’an’dem’s table, but I would love to see pictures of the family and friends who shared these wonderful recipes with the author like Tante Zizi, Aunt Celia or even the “real nice guy on Poetry Street.”

Until then, I will just have to make the recipes and find out for myself!

“I love a fresh Muffuletta,
I love Lafitte and Laveau!
Sometimes a song just says it best…
What a Wonderful World, Satchmo!”

~ by Todd-Micheal St. Pierre, from “I Love New Orleans”, A Streetcar Named Delicious