Friday, July 14, 2006

Fat Po’ Po’ Boy

When I lived in Luling, right near New Orleans, we never had a Po’ Boy sandwich. We were the token northerners living on a tiny bump of land, surrounded by swamp on all sides, with Cajun folk all around. Who brought all their northern customs with them.

The houses on stilts, with families on the front porch in the evening sipping on their Dixie beer, crawdads (crayfish) swimming in the drainage ditches right in your front yard, alligators and water moccasin snakes (poisonous, of course) slithering nearby, and occasionally through our yard, Zydeco music, smokin’ hot Cajun food. All stuff we saw but didn’t see. We took a look at the grand plantation homes with their tall white columns and long rows of live oak trees lining the roads, and the funky little Pirates Alley in the French Quarter, but left the bayous alone.

We were the ugly transplants. Seeing the tourist side of New Orleans. Pretty much oblivious to the rest of the area, people, customs, foods. Living as if we were still in the high north, just suffering from a long hot and humid spell. Talk about Po’ Boy!

We only stayed there a few years, and I was just a kid at the time. It wasn’t until much later that I had the chance look a little deeper.

Had a chance to visit K-Paul’s a few times. Sipped some Chicory flavored coffee with some beignets from Café du Monde (OK, I was a tourist after all!). Got a chance to hear some ‘real’ Zydeco music (I guess, as I’m not an expert, just a fan). And try a few Po’ Boys at Mother’s (of course with cabbage, not lettuce!).

In New Orleans, they make these Po’ Boys with deep fried oysters, deep fried fish, ham, beef, sausage, crabs, you name it. The trick is to not think about the fat while you’re making them and eating them (see how SoCal I’ve become!).

For those who don’t know, a Po’ Boy is a sandwich. Consisting of a long loaf of French bread split down the middle, slathered with mayonnaise, hot sauce, pickles (usually), some sort of deep fried meat or fish, and a spicy hot sauce and mayonnaise laden cabbage slaw. Often, depending on the filling, slathered with gravy as well. Piled high. The goal being to get a much calories balanced on that skinny piece of bread as possible.

As is the usual case with such things, they are delicious, and a messy sort of fun to eat as well. But not to worry, in the sort of places that serve good Po’ Boys, you’re usually always amongst friends, who are in the process of making a mess as well. All good, tasty fun.

So we made some Po’ Boys. With fresh catfish fillets. Catfish being the official fish of the deep south. At least in my mind. In a hot and spicy cornmeal breading. With the official cabbage piled on top.

But, of course, this being California, with the fat police living with here with me, I was forced to take out some of the calories. So this is more of a Fat Po’ Po’ Boy. Yogurt in the slaw instead of mayonnaise. Tomato slices instead of pickles. Fish fried in the pan in olive oil instead of deep fried. I did get away with brushing the bread with garlic butter and toasting it, but that’s just because no one saw me.

None the less, it was fun, messy, and tasted great!

Fat Po’ Po’ Boy
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

2 long French baguettes
4 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds catfish fillets (skinless, boneless) (note – I cut mine into somewhat narrow strips so they would fit on the bread better)
1 cup cornmeal
½ cup flour
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 egg mixed with 2 tbsp milk
Olive oil
4 tomatoes, sliced
Additional hot sauce (Tabasco), if desired

Po’ Boy Slaw
1 small green cabbage, shredded fine
2 carrots, grated
1 red onion, chopped
2 chipotle chilies, minced
2-3 tbsp hot mustard
1 to 1 ½ cups low fat yogurt
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp celery seed
1-2 tsp hot sauce, such as Tabasco
salt, pepper

Mix all the slaw ingredients well in a large bowl. Add just enough yogurt to moisten everything, not make it wet (the cabbage will give up water as it sits). Let sit in refrigerator for 1-2 hours, tossing occasionally.

Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Add garlic, and let sit of a few minutes. Slice the baguettes lengthwise, brush with the melted garlic butter, and toast under the broiler until lightly browned. Reserve.

In a shallow plate, mix together the corn meal, flour, and all the herbs and spices. In a small bowl, mix the egg with the milk.

Dip the catfish fillets in the egg mixture, then coat generously with the cornmeal mixture on all sides, pressing the coating a little. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet. When hot, fry the breaded catfish fillets on both sides until lightly browned and cooked through.

Line the bottoms of the toasted baguettes with tomatoes. Lay the catfish fillets on the bread, heaping them as necessary. Sprinkle the fillets with a few shots of hot sauce, if desired. Mound the slaw on top. Cover the sandwich with the top of the bread. Slice each Po’ Boy into two or three pieces. Serve. Enjoy!

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