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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Gourmet Survivor II: Po'boys For a Good Cause

(Guest blogging for a good cause by Gourmet Survivor Contestant William)

Eatingpoboy_2These things can happen quickly. I participate in one little bitty scavenger hunt and before I know it, I'm blogging on one of my favorite foodie sites! I only hope I can keep up with Pim's high expectations. I'd hate for her to come over here and kick my butt. She might damage her Vialis.

As Pim mentioned in her earlier post, I'm taking part in the Gourmet Survivor contest being hosted by Adam over at The Amateur Gourmet. With your help, I'll be blogging my culinary adventures here every week based on challenges that Adam sets for me (with Pim's excellent coaching, of course!). My first task: to cook a traditional New Orleans Po'boy.

How does one perfect the lowly po'boy? Initially, I considered creating the most gourmet interpretation of the po'boy that I could imagine. Visions of delicately fried summer squash and roasted-chilli-and-corn remoulades danced through my head. Then I said to myself, "Hey, idiot: how is that a po'boy?"

Potato_closeupAfter apologizing to myself for calling me an idiot, I realized that I was right. Here's the thing: po'boys are good, old-fashioned comfort food. The perfect po'boy isn't about the ingredients, it's about how it's created. It's about potatoes that are enticingly golden brown on the outside and meltingly creamy on the inside. It's about the smell of roasted garlic and fried potatoes permeating through the house. It's the sights and smells and flavors that make a po'boy what it is. Comfort food.

PoboyingredientsAnd so I decided to make the most traditional of all the po'boys: the potato po'boy. It's so traditional that you just can't find it outside of New Orleans. There are still shops that sell them in the city, but you have to know where to look. The ingredients are pretty simple: potatoes, bread, cabbage, pickles. A festival of carbohydrates, you might say.

First, on Pim's advice, I had to forget that I work in a cardiology department. Comfort food isn't about healthy food. There will be no olive oil here. For decadently fried potatoes, lard is the thing.

At this point, we can assume that all of the Atkins folks and all of the low-fat crowd have stopped reading.

FryingpotatoesStill with me? Great! Let's start frying. It was strangely mesmerizing watching those potatoes fry, I must say. I guess I'm easily entertained. Here's a short movie of it. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't convey the wonderful potato aroma that was just beginning to emerge at this point. As you can see, I used a cast-iron skillet to keep the frying temperature more consistent. We don't want our precious potatoes turning out soggy.

DressedI assembled the sandwiches with plenty of mayo, sliced cabbage, and Crystal New Orleans hot sauce. Nope, no tomatoes. Tradition, or so I'm told.

I assembled the sandwiches with plenty of mayo, sliced cabbage, and Crystal New Orleans hot sauce. Nope, no tomatoes. Tradition, or so I'm told.

Did I mention that these things smelled great? Mike, who had come over to help out with the photography, couldn't resist having an entire po'boy even though he had already eaten dinner. I also ate more than was advisable, collapsing later into a heap on the couch. That's the sign of a well-made comfort food: you like it so much, you eat yourself into oblivion. Mission accomplished.

Traditional Potato Po'boy

3/4 c. lard (for frying)
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 green onion tops, sliced thinly
4 mini-baguettes
salt and pepper

To 'dress the sandwich':
red cabbage, sliced thinly
mayonnaise
pickles
hot sauce

1. In cast-iron pan, heat lard over medium flame. When hot, line with potato slices and cook each side until golden, about 4 minutes per side.

2. When nice and brown, add garlic and cook briefly until brown. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.

3. Season potatoes with green onion, salt and pepper (to taste).

4. Slice baguettes lengthwise, toast, and slather with mayo. Add potatoes and dress the sandwich with cabbage, pickles, and hot sauce, as desired.

Serves 4.

If you like my po'boy, and if you don't want to see Pim's shoes harmed, consider making a $5 donation to vote in the Gourmet Survivor contest. All of the money goes to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. You certainly don't have to stop at $5, either, but every little bit counts. Thanks!

More photos on Flickr.

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