Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fat Tuesday's - Ridgeland

They say you can never go home; I guess that applies to sandwiches as well. In high school, Fat Tuesday’s was a favorite lunch spot for me and my friends. Tucked away behind an exercise equipment dealer, Fat Tuesday was a seedy hole in the wall that made a damn fine roast beef po-boy. However, those days are gone. Rising rent forced Fat Tuesday’s down Old Canton road to Ridgeland, and their former location is now part of a larger parking lot.

Well, when you’re looking for a sloppy roast beef po-boy, there aren’t too many options in town. It might be a long drive from my downtown office, but when you have a po-boy itch, it’s best to scratch it.

I can think of few simpler, unhealthier ways to start a meal than a nice serving of comeback and crackers.

Somewhere between remoulade and Thousand Island dressing, Fat Tuesday’s does have a tasty comeback

Peppery with a slight tartness, this is a tasty, fatty appetizer.

Unfortunately, it sort of goes downhill from here. Let’s start with an obvious fault, the French fries.

Yep, the fries are poorly cooked and are just as limp as the watery gravy.

Even with a healthy dose of salt and pepper, the best thing you can do with these gravy fries is avoid them.

What about the reason I came here, the roast beef po-boy? That’s not looking too great either.

It’s really just a sad sight.

For a po-boy there isn’t a lot of beef, but what’s there is cold and pretty lifeless. One huge downfall is the lack of gravy. A great thing about a dressed po-boy is how the gravy mixes with the mayo, lettuce, and other toppings to form a beautiful, messy sandwich. This is actually worse than Domilise’s roast beef po-boy.

I do like the crusty French bread, but this a mockery of a proper New Orleans po-boy. Things get a little better when I dip the sandwich in the French fry gravy, but overall this is just a situation of poor gravy, poor temperatures, and mediocre beef.

This is really a shame. A roast beef po-boy at Fat Tuesday’s used to be a great Saturday lunch, but apparently things have changed. Maybe the shrimp po-boy is what Fat Tuesday does best now. I’m sure I’ll pay Fat Tuesday another visit, but in the meantime I’ll have a moment of silence for a fallen hero, the Fat Tuesday’s roast beef po-boy.

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Tye's Restaurant - Jackson

Apparently Tye’s has been open since spring of 2008, so it’s flown under my radar for quite some time. I suppose that’s indicative of how little time I spend looking for restaurants downtown, but I digress. Always looking for a new lunch option, I stopped by Tye’s a few weeks ago to see what I had been missing.

I’ll admit, I went in with a bit of a predisposition towards Tye’s. Sometime in mid January, I had gotten a takeout sandwich from Tye’s. I was looking forward to a Philly cheese steak overflowing with meat, onions, and cheese, much like the cheese steaks I had enjoyed during numerous collegiate road trips. Unfortunately, this sandwich turned out to be a double edged sword. Yes, the meat was juicy and very tasty, but there was barely enough to cover half the sandwich.Well, it’s the painful truth that there’s no such thing as a good, whiz cheese steak in this town anyway, so maybe the Monday lunch will prove more successful.

There weren’t too many people inside Tye’s; what do you expect for a quarter past one? I had no idea what to order, so I asked the waiter for his suggestions. A short conversation later, my order was in the kitchen. First up was the bbq shrimp appetizer.

It’s not often you see peeled, tail-less bbq shrimp, but I suppose it makes eating them easier, especially for the lunch crowd.

The shrimp were well cooked and the Worcestershire based sauce had a nice flavor with a lingering spice, but it didn’t have any real depth of flavor. Yes, there were plenty of shrimp (more than 20), but there was no real shrimp taste to the dish. I had originally worried about the lack of bread with the shrimp, but there was no reason to sop up the sauce.

A few minutes later my entrée was on the table.

Not a bad looking Monday special, a grilled pork chop, green beans, and onion rings make for a nice combination.

Starting with the onions rings, there was a good crunch and well fried texture, but they were completely underseasoned.

A side of dipping sauce did go quite well with the onion rings, but I was disappointed the rings couldn’t stand on their own, especially since salt and pepper would have remedied this problem.

What about the green beans?

Honestly, these tasted like a canned afterthought.

Well there’s still hope for the pork chop, right?

It certainly look juicy, but after taking a few bites, I came away with some disheartening conclusions. For being grilled, there was no real smoke flavor. Of course, being a restaurant grill, there’s no wood or charcoal involved, but when I hear grilled, I can’t help but think of something cooked on a weber.

Smokiness aside, the chop tasted like it had a little Worcestershire and maybe some seasoning salt. Aside from that, the chop was dry, too lean, and really just a poor cut of pork.

When I have the ability to visit a place multiple times, I generally wait before writing about it. That being said, Tye’s hasn’t done too well in the first two visits. However, I’ve been told that the pasta dishes are great and I should really try Tye’s for dinner. I don’t really see how dinner will be better than lunch, but I’m always willing to give something another try, and I want to like Tye’s. There aren’t many lunch and dinner spots in downtown Jackson, and I want Tye’s to succeed, but if the waiter recommended pork chop was bad, I’m not holding out too much hope.

Tye's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cooking the Book – Asian Dumplings – Shrimp Wonton Soup (Yúntūn Tāng)

After the deliciousness that was Kylie Kwong’s Prawn Wonton Soup, I eager to try another example of the dish. Conveniently, I had recently picked up a copy of Andrea Nguyen’s “Asian Dumplings”, and what a contrast to Kylie Kwong’s “Simple Chinese Cooking”. In her new book, Kwong writes about dozens of varieties of Asian dumplings, covering not just stuffing, folding and cooking the dumplings, but how to make your own wonton skins. Yes, apparently picking up a package of wonton skins from your local Asian grocery is no longer sufficient. I’m eager to delve more into Nguyen’s new book, but for now I’ll stick to the rudimentary Shrimp Wonton Soup (Yúntūn Tāng)

One thing that separates Nguyen’s recipe from Kwong’s is the number of ingredients for the filling. Including salt and pepper, there are only 6 ingredients to Kwong’s 9. However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Like any soup, you have to start with the basics and that means making stock, chicken stock in this instance.

Quality chicken stock starts with quality chicken parts, 5 lbs in this case.

Yes, I got these from my local butcher. The only thing that worries me is with the recent rash of soup making, I think I’m almost out of chicken carcasses.

The chicken was rinsed to get rid of any bloody bits and then cleaved into 2 inch pieces. This would be a fun stage if the kitchen didn’t get covered in specks of half defrosted chicken bones.

Now that the bones are cut, they are placed into a stockpot, covered with 4 quarts of water and brought to almost a boil.

As always, there’s lots of scum to skim off.

You can’t forget the aromatics.

1 large yellow onion, or 2 medium ones in this case, 3 inch piece of ginger, and 2 ½ tsp of salt round out the ingredients.

The onions are quartered and the ginger smashed with the broad side of a knife.

Everything is then added to the pot and left to simmer for 2 ½ hours.

After 30 minutes of resting, the broth is strained through cheesecloth.

Nearly 4 quarts of glorious stock and would you look at that layer of schmaltz!

With my stock made, I could now focus on my wontons.

It starts with a scant 4 ½ ounces of shrimp.

Which then get tossed with 2 generous pinches of salt. I’m not really sure what the point of this step is because the way it’s written you rinse the shrimp almost immediately after salting them.

Rinsed, strained and blotted dry, I suppose the salt got rid of some impurities?

In the meantime, the rest of the ingredients are corralled together.

1 scallion, all the white part and some green, roughly 1 tbs, ½ tsp cornstarch, white pepper, salt and ½ tsp sesame oil.

The finely chopped shrimp are added to this bowl of ingredients.

Everything is then mixed together to form a nice homogenous mixture. The bowl is covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. Nguyen actually writes to “set aside for 30 minutes before using, or refrigerate for up to a day in advance.”

Anyway, a few hours later, I remembered I needed to actually make the wontons. No, I didn’t actually make my own wonton skins. Conveniently, with this recipe, Nguyen gives a lazy day tip about how to buy good, commercially made skins. Hooray for lazy day tips.

Double hooray for lazy wonton folding! Yes the simple triangle may not be much in the way of aesthetics, but it’s fast, simple, and gets the job done.

Yes, they looked so good, I decided to freeze them for another cold day.

A few days, a few weeks, some amount of time later, I was pining for a bowl of wonton soup, wasn’t it lucky that I had Nguyen chicken stock and wontons in the freezer.

Per Nguyen’s instructions, I let the wontons partially defrost before I cooked them.

Now defrosted it was time for a bath.

The idea is to put the wontons in a large pot half full of boiling water. The wontons are supposed to float for the top and be cooked over medium for 2 minutes until translucent.

I don’t know about translucent, but 2 minutes seemed like plenty of time for these wontons.

I hope you didn’t forget the stock.

Only 1 quart of the chicken stock is needed for the recipe, but Nguyen instructs you to boil the stock, lower to a simmer, and then cover to keep warm.

Dumplings cooked and the stock simmering, it’s time to combine the two.

Yes, it’s a climactic moment.

Don’t forget to let the wontons simmer in the stock for a minute or so, just to soak up some of that chicken goodness.

With the wind howling at the kitchen windows, I was eager to see if this soup would help me weather the cold.

By itself it was a little bit flat, but Nguyen finishes the job by advising to add a dash of sesame oil and a sprinkling of pepper. Those extra touches make the dish really come alive. This may not have the pungent, cilantro flavor of the Kwong recipe, but it’s a precocious start to my cooking from Andrea Nguyen’s “Asian Dumplings”.

Cooking the Book – Real Cajun – Smothered Pork Roast over Rice

It’s time for another installment from Donald Link’s “Real Cajun”. This time I was looking to feed a crowd, and there are few things more crowd pleasing than a large piece of roast meat. I don’t exactly recall the reasons, but I decided to leave the pricy prime rib roast for the holidays and instead use a much more economical pork shoulder roast.

With his recipe for Smothered Pork Roast over Rice, Link shows that not all Cajun cooking is loaded with spiciness and cayenne pepper. This recipe is simple, comfort food, especially since Link attributes it to memories of visiting his Granny’s house.

How else do you start a meaty comforting recipe than with a large slab of meat?

This 6 lb boneless pork shoulder may seem a little costly at 30 odd dollars, but considering I fed 7 people for multiple meals, it’s a steal.

Like almost every roast recipe, this one calls for a healthy amount of seasoning.

A generous amount of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper cover the roast. Almost like a bbq rub, Link instructs to rub the seasonings into the meat and leave to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, but no more than an hour.

In the meantime, I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

2 large, thinly sliced onions, 8 cloves of thinly sliced garlic, 3 tbs of fresh thyme leaves, and 1 tbs of dried, crumbled rosemary leaves make up the bulk of the remaining ingredients.

30 minutes and small amount of slicing later, you can see what effect the salt has had on the pork roast.

Looking at this makes me wonder if I should brine the pork shoulder next time.

All brining aside, the next step is to get a large enough Dutch oven over medium high heat, add 2 tbs of vegetable oil and sear the roast on all sides.

Link says this will only take 10-12 minutes, but it’s important not to rush a good sear.

See how much patience pays off?

With the meat seared, it’s time to build the sauce.

8 tbs or 1 stick of butter is added to the Dutch oven and left to melt.

Next ½ a cup of ap flour is added to the pot. Everything is stirred and cooked until it achieves a peanut butter roux, 10 minutes give or take.

Now that the roux is the right color, it’s time for the onions.

The onions, garlic and herbs are all added to the pot and stirred to coat.

Yes, something like that.

The next ingredient is 4 cups of chicken broth. Seeing as I only had stock in the freezer, I cheated and used a box of broth.

A whole quart of chicken broth is whisked into the pot.

Lastly, the pork roast is reintroduced to the pot.

It’s looking quite lovely.

Whoops, can’t forget to cover it with onions.

Now a lad is placed on the pot and the whole thing goes into an oven that’s been preheated to 275 degrees. Three hours and several turns and bastings later, I took the pot out of the oven.

Yes, the roast has become fork tender. Actually this creates a bit of a problem. As you can see, the roast is so tender is falls apart, making the task of removing it from the pot quite difficult.

But I persevered and got most of it out.

With the roast removed, I could then reduce the remaining sauce.

It took 15 or so minutes until it would readily coat the back of a spoon. Waiting on it to reduce gave me plenty of time to figure out what to do with the pork. Seeing as it’s a tender shoulder, I just shredded it with a few forks.

Pork shredded and sauce reduced, it was just a matter of serving it over rice.

I had to make sure and get plenty of onions. What were the results? Well, I knew from the beginning this wouldn’t be an overly complicated meal, but it was quite tasty. I can see how Link has fond memories of this dish. This is simple, delicious food and another winner from “Real Cajun”