Review: Creole Kitchen

I tend to surround myself with people who love food as much as I do, and when one of my foodie friends makes a recommendation, I listen. I was told that I absolutely had to make it a priority to visit Creole Kitchen in Old Town East the King-Lincoln District (thanks, Walker, for pointing out my mistake – even after 10 years of living here, my knowledge of Columbus geographical boundaries is still a bit iffy).

Let me start by saying it’s very hard to find. I was sitting in the parking lot of the shopping center it is in and couldn’t find it. The sign isn’t visible from the street. But pull into the Mount Vernon Plaza shopping center at 20th and Mt. Vernon, park, and it’s on the end of the building.

This is a takeout joint only – Chef Butcher did, at one time, have an 8-seat chef’s table in the kitchen, but has recently removed it because he needs the additional prep space. About Chef Henry Butcher – super friendly, engaging, extremely charming, and obviously knows his stuff. Louisiana born and raised, his Creole and Cajun cooking has been fine tuned to near-perfection in his 30 years in the business. He opened up his own restaurant, a lifelong dream, 2 years ago. Joining him in the kitchen is his son, Henry, Jr., who was the one who actually cooked my dishes. The kitchen is right there in front of you, so you can watch your food being made as you wait.

Since it was our first visit there, we ordered a variety of dishes to try. Prices are so very reasonable, that we got all of what you’re about to see below for $40, including tip.

First up is the Muffaletta ($5.00), Louisiana’s answer to a Cuban sandwich. Served on a hoagie bun, the layer of lightly sauteed capicola and salami allows the provolone and mozzarella cheese to melt just a little bit, and then it is all topped with a tasty olive salad and vinaigrette. I’m not a big olive fan, so I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable sandwiches I’ve had recently, olives and all. The sandwich is served with a side of home made herb potato chips, which pair perfectly.

Muffaletta Sandwich

My favorite of the bunch was the Crawfish Etouffee ($8.95), which comes with two sides. I chose the Dirty Rice, which was very moist and redolent with chicken liver/gizzardy goodness, and a really fabulous macaroni and cheese, easily one of the best recipes in the city. The etouffee was rich and spicy, without turning up the heat level to a point that oblitertes the subtlety of the dish. Hands down, this is an item that I’d get every time I go in.

Crawfish Etouffee

My husband really liked the Creole Fettuccine ($5.95), a creamy dish which gets its heat in part from the andouille and tasso ham in it. While I thought it was credible but a bit too spicy, my husband declared it just right. It also comes with a hunk of buttery toasted bread. At that price, though, it’s a dinner value if you’re craving pasta.

Creole Fettuccine

Also delicious was the Blackened Catfish ($7.95), which was pan fried to perfection and also came with two sides – my husband chose the vegetable of the day, really buttery green beans, along with red beans and rice. Both the sides were good, but didn’t really stand out.

Blackened Catfish

An area in which they really excel is desserts. The Pound Cake ($2) was dense and buttery.

Pound Cake

And the Sweet Potato Pie ($2) was fragrant, but not overpowered by spices as most sweet potato pie is prone to.

Sweet Potato Pie

By the way, even though it’s not listed on their website, it came to my attention that they serve breakfast every morning that they’re open until 10:30am. Given the breakfast choices they had listed on their menuboard, it seems a morning visit is in order.

Breakfast Menu at the Creole Kitchen in Columbus, OH

All in all, this little hidden gem in not one of the best areas of town is well worth the trip. I’m looking forward to exploring what other hidden gems this part of town has to offer.

If you’d like to go: Creole Kitchen, 1052 Mt. Vernon Plaza, Columbus, OH 43203, 614.372.3333

Creole Kitchen on Urbanspoon

LOKO April 2008: Southwest Salad

One of the biggest holidays in April is Earth Day, and this month (every month, actually), the Lights Out, Knives Out challenge asks us to make a dish that uses as little electricity as possible. So a salad seemed like a natural choice. Since last night was all about Tex-Mex, southwestern flavors, what better starter than a Southwest Salad?

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This was quite simple to make, required no electric or real work at all, and went quite well with the pasta dish. I used this recipe as a guide, but used ready made tortilla strips and spicy ranch dressing rather than making my own using regular ranch as a base. I’m looking forward to doing this one again in summer when I can get local tomatoes and corn.

Event: Slow Food Columbus UE Wine Dinner at Alana’s

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m a firm believer in eating locally, for numerous reasons. There’s the environmental factor, of course. It keeps Ohio farmers in business. It encourages production of artisanal foods. It allows you to develop relationships with your food producers. It allows you to expand your horizons, because said food producers are as passionate about food as you are, and introduce you to new things or methods or teach you about something that’s important to them. Not to mention that fresh, sustainable, seasonal food just tastes better. It is for these reasons and more that I decided to join the local Columbus convivium of Slow Food USA.

The Columbus convivium is still in its infancy, and as a fairly new group, only has a few events under its belt. I unfortunately didn’t get in on the inaugural event, as tickets were sold out before I knew I had the date free. But I did make it a priority to get tickets as soon as they were available for the most recent event, the United Estates Wine Imports dinner at Alana’s, this past Sunday.

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If you were there, you know how amazing it was. If you weren’t, I welcome you to join me vicariously, as I take you through the evening dish by dish. Click through (picture intensive) to begin.

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TWD: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

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For this week’s edition of Tuesdays with Dorie, Caitlin of Engineer Baker chose Dorie’s Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake. I made it last night,and I’ve got to say, the jury is still out for me on this one. I could see eating this as a dessert after a Mediterranean meal. The figs are really nice, and the best part of the cake. The sweetness was just right. I wasn’t crazy about the texture, though – I felt like I was eating sweet cornbread. I wish I would have added more figs (the box of dried Mission figs from Trader Joe’s was more than enough). But all in all? More successful than some recipes.

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Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
recipe from “Baking: From My Home to Yours” courtesy Dorie Greenspan

About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
1 c. medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. ricotta
1/3 c. tepid water
¾ c. sugar
¾ c. honey (if you’re a real honey lover, use a full-flavored honey such as chestnut, pine, or buckwheat)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tbsp cut into bits and chilled
2 large eggs

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.

Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.

Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the panm, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.

GYO #9: Jilly’s Taco Pasta Skillet

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It’s sort of hard to participate in Grow Your Own, the blogging event that celebrates food we grow/raise ourselves when we’re at the time of year that stuff isn’t growing, and the growing season is just beginning. It’s about this time that we have to check our pantry stores, to find an ingredient that we put up when produce was plentiful. I decided to use a jar of the salsa that we canned last summer, in part from the harvest of our tomatoes that we grew on the back deck. So the challenge was to find a recipe that incorporated salsa.

tacoskillet

Not too tough. We found one on Recipezaar which, while not attractive to look out, came out pretty darn tasty. We ended up doubling the recipe (to use 16 oz. of salsa/a pound of ground beef), and it made enough to feed a small army.

Jilly’s Taco Pasta Skillet
recipe courtesy Recipezaar

8 ounces lean ground beef
1 1/4 ounces taco seasoning
15 ounces corn
15 ounces black beans, drained
1 cup salsa
3 cups water
8 ounces mini penne
4 ounces fat free cream cheese
4 ounces low-fat monterey jack pepper cheese

Brown meat, Drain. Add taco seasoning, corn, beans, salsa, pasta and water. Simmer 15 minutes until pasta is cooked. Add cheeses and stir till melted.

AYE #3: Sauteed Veal with Morels and Ramps over Ravioli

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If you ask me what spring means to me, on a “local” level, I’d have to say “morels and ramps” - they are so full flavored, but so fleeting. You literally blink and the season for both are over. So when I heard about the Art You Eat #3: Go Local blogging event, I knew my dish for the event would need to feature both.

rampsmorels

The ravioli are veal and truffle ravioli from Pastaria in the North Market. I figured it would be lovely base for the sauce. I found the ramps no problem – they are from Athens, Ohio, and I was able to find them easily at The Greener Grocer in the North Market, the produce stand that took over the space that used to be North Market Produce. The owners are involved with Local Matters and focus on sustainable/local foods, which is really nice. I was hoping I’d find morels there too, but there is currently a waiting list and they’re going for $55/lb. But they did have the local Snowville Creamery’s cream I needed. After a few false starts, I did manage to finally find morels at Weiland’s, for $48/lb. I picked up about a half a pound of them to use in my dish. While at Weiland’s, I also spied some really lovely veal scallops, and bought a pound of those. The other items in the recipe I pretty much already had on hand. I couldn’t for the life of me find the chervil the recipe was calling for, so I modified and used a touch of dried fines herbes, which contain chervil as one of its ingredients.

The recipe below is highly modified from the original – I kind of combined two recipes together to make one, and the original called for a cup of chicken broth concentrate (base) – needless to say, that would have been real overkill, and it was salty enough with just a fraction of that amount that I had to add extra cream to mellow it out. I’d recommend using only a couple of tablespoons of base at the most. And in the future, I’d probably caramelize the ramps separately (or chop them into more manageable pieces), because even after cooking them for a while, they were a little tough. But other than that? It tasted like a dream, and has inspired me to cook more with both these ingredients while the getting is good. What do YOU like to do with ramps and/or morels?

Veal Saute with Morels and Ramps over Ravioli
modified from this and this recipe

1 lb. ravioli (of whatever complimentary flavor you wish – I used veal truffle ravioli)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 tsp. shallots, finely chopped
1/2 lb. fresh morels, washed and halved lengthwise
1 c. dry white wine
2 bunches (around 18 total) ramps
2 tbsp. chicken base
2 tbsp. butter
1 lb. veal scalloppini (cut into about 12 pieces)
salt and pepper (may not need additional seasoning)
1/2 c. heavy cream (or more, if necessary)
1 tsp. fines herbes

In a large frying pan, heat half the oil, then add shallots and saute until they begin to brown. Add morels and cook until their juices release, then add wine. Bring to a boil and reduce liquid by half. Add ramps, then base (with enough water to equal one cup), and simmer 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

In a new frying pan, heat remaining oil. Add butter. Season veal, and then saute for 2-3 minutes each side, or until browned. Remove and keep warm.

Add mushroom-ramp mixture to pan and bring to a boil, scraping bottom of pan to deglaze. Add cream, stir to combine, and then add veal with any juices and stir to coat with sauce. Check seasoning level and add fines herbes.

Prepare the ravioli and then place on plate and top with vegetables, veal, and sauce. Serve and enjoy.

HHDD #19: Summer Berry Clafoutis

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This edition of Hey Hey It’s Donna Day is hosted by Bron Marshall, whose food photography literally makes me drool. Talk about food porn, folks… but I digress. This is one event I was really looking forward to. The theme this month? Clafoutis.

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When I think of clafoutis, I think of the one I made last summer – dense, eggy and solid, and a great carrier for the nicest summer fruit Ohio has to offer. But here we are making clafoutis in April, still a month away from when we’ll be lucky to find Ohio strawberries in the farmer’s markets, let alone blackberries and blueberries and raspberries. So when hunting for recipes to use up some fruit I had bought a couple of days earlier, I found this recipe. I modified it slightly to use what I had, so I ended halving the recipe (and putting it into a 2-ish quart Le Creuset casserole) and making ond dish instead of two. I did use a whole vanilla bean, as well, which ramped up the vanilla flavor wonderfully. I’m still out on the texture, though – it reminded me more of creme brulee than of clafoutis, and I was half tempted to whip out the culinary torch and some sugar to caramelize the top. :) I’ve updated the recipe below to include my adaptations. You can find the original here.

Summer Berry Clafoutis
recipe adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

Palladin’s flourless dessert is more like a delicate custard with fruit than like the usual sturdy country clafoutis.

4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
One vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
3/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoons kirsch
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint raspberries
1/2 pint blackberries
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds. Whisk in the milk, heavy cream and kirsch. Put half the berries in each baking dish and pour the custard over the top. Bake for 20 minutes, or until just set. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.

Creamed Tuna on Toast

Ben’s third Food for Plastic Challenge asks us to cook a dish that either we loved as a kid, or something that our kids love – considering we’re childless, it was time to put our thinking caps on for a trip down memory lane. My husband, moreso than me, has very distinct childhood food memories. Here’s just one of them, in his own words…

Food… it evokes memories. Memories of a more innocent time. Memories of childhood. And what food, you may ask, evokes my childhood best?

Creamed tuna on toast.

creamedtuna

Yes, THAT humble dish.

My parents were not wealthy; in fact, I’d dare say they were members of the working poor. Dad was an optician until his retirement at age 62. Mom was a seamstress, or “garment worker” as her union (ILGWU) referred to people in her trade.

Since we weren’t well-off, we tended to make a lot of simple, inexpensive comfort foods. Spaghetti was a regular on our menu, as was meatloaf, and chicken a la king. But the dish I remember best was my father’s Creamed Tuna. His creamed tuna was GREAT. Why was it great, you may ask? I’ll let you in on a secret –

Add drained salad olives with pimentoes to the creamed tuna.

Adding olives gives the tuna a much-needed salty/sour kick that’s otherwise missing from the dish. It also adds texture. And most kids *will* love it. If they hate olives, just don’t tell them they’re in it — or alternately, mince the olives so finely that they’ll never guess they’re in there.

Don’t think that olives in creamed tuna are good? B doesn’t like olives, but she agreed that the creamed tuna *with olives* was great.

Creamed Tuna

6-1/2 ounce can tuna fish (drained)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup green salad olives with pimentoes (drained)

To make white sauce, melt butter, blend in flour, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth. Gradualy stir in milk and heat while stirring constantly. (I use a whisk.) Heat until mixture boils and thickens.

To thickened sauce add drained tuna fish and olives. You may increase or decrease quantity of olives to taste. Stir until well mixed and thoroughly heated. Serve creamed tuna over mashed potatoes, rice, toast, etc., with vegetables if desired.

Makes approximately 2-1/2 cups.

Daring Bakers: Cheesecake Pops

I’m seriously not wanting to flake on this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, so this is acting as a placeholder for the entry, which will be late for two reasons: first, I seriously have no fridge space or freezer space at the moment, and need to use a few things up to make a bit of room, and second, I’m trying to find a way to scale down the recipe as well, so I don’t end up with more than a dozen or so pops – with my surgery and my lactose intolerance, the existing recipe would send me into a sugar coma. Have any of you other Daring Bakers been able to scale it down to like 25% of the original recipe successfully?

Stay tuned…

WCC #27: Mom’s Sticky Buns

Yes, two old recipes in one day. This one is for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge blogging event, and coincidentally, the theme this month was “Vintage Cookbooks” (where vintage = before 1980). Lucky for me, my mom recently handed down her well-used copy of that included her famous sticky bun recipe, the stuff the dreams of my childhood were made of. I’ve taken a few liberties with the recipe (like doubling the amount of butter/brown sugar in the topping, and using darn near a whole bag of pecan halves, because I like my sticky buns really chock full of nuts), but it’s got the spirit of the original. The only problem I ran into was with when I tried to remove it from the pan when it was done baking – most of the “sticky” stuff stuck to the pan, so I’m going to have to play around with that part of the recipe a bit. It didn’t affect the taste any, though.

stickybun

This has to be the best yeast dough I’ve ever worked with in my life. It rose and rolled out like a dream, and if all yeast recipes were this cooperative, I’d bake with yeast a whole lot more. I’m not sure if it was because I used rapid rise yeast or because I used the dough hook on my mixer to incorporate the flour initially, but this sweet yeast dough recipe is a keeper in any case. And my mom let me borrow her pans to make this, too – a couple of 12″ deep dish pizza pans work perfectly for this recipe. A couple of other quick notes: the recipe calls for scalding the milk, but this is an old recipe, and isn’t necessary in this day and age – as long as you get it up to around 105-110 degrees, it’s warm enough to activate the yeast – make sure it’s not hotter than that, though – or you’ll kill the poor things. And also, the filling didn’t go very far. Next time around, I’d double it.

stickypan

Cinnamon Rolls (aka Mom’s Sticky Buns)
recipe from “Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook (1970)”
1 cake yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp. sugar
Flour (about 6 cups)
1 c. scalded milk
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 c. melted butter

Filling:
4 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. broken nut meats

Add yeast to warm water, following directions on package. Pour half the scalded milk over salt and 1 tbsp. sugar. Cool to lukewarm and add softened yeast. Sift in about half the flour, beating thoroughly until the dough is smooth and falls from spoon in sheets. Place in greased bowl. Lightly grease surface and cover with clean, dry towel. When dough doubles in bulk, punch down. Mix remaining lukewarm milk and sugar with eggs and melted butter before adding to dough. Stir enough of the remaining flour in to form ball which does not stick to bowl. Turn out on floured surface and allow to rest 5 to 10 minutes. Knead dough until smooth and elastic and small blisters are evenly distributed under the surface. Set aside in greased bowl, grease and cover.

Let rise again; roll out on a floured board. To prepare filling: Mix sugar, butter, cinnamon, and nuts together wirth fork. Spread on dough, roll up like a jelly roll and cut crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Place on greased pan, cut side up, let rise until doubled in bulk and bake in 375 degree oven 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 24 large rolls.

stickydone

Caramel Pecan Rolls: Roll dough in rectangular sheet to 1/4 inch thickness. Spread with filling and roll up as for cinnamon rolls. Melt 6 tbsp. butter in baking ban and add brown sugar to a depth of 1/4 inch. Arrange 1/2 cup pecan halves over sugar. Cut rolls crosswise into slices 1 1/2 inches in thickness. Place, cut side up, in pan. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 25 to 30 minutes. Invert pan on cooling rack and allow to stand a few seconds before lifting off pan. Makes about 30.