Some Lent Learnin’

Entree Curried TilapiaLula’s Curried Tilapia

So, for lots of us (and the grocery stores) fish is in store for the next few weeks – and I want to give you a helpful tip to keep your at home fish from being tough and dry.

Fish (any kind) contains ALOT of water and has a very loose protein structure that makes cooking fish a delicate process.  You just don’t want to over cook fish, because fish, more than any other protein, has dramatic “carry-over” cooking.

What is carry over cooking?  Well…you follow instructions when roasting meet to “let it rest” to re-absorb juices, right?  Well, it’s also finishing the cooking process right there on the counter.  That’s why most cookbooks/instructions tell you that medium rare is 130 degress…but they tell you to pull your meat from the heat at 125 degrees.

Same for fish, and funnily enough, when you cook your fish at a higher temperature, the carry over cooking is much more dramatic (ex. salmon at 250 degrees reaching a 125 temp will raise another 7 or so degrees sitting on the counter for 5 minutes, but salmon cooked at 450 degrees to 125 will raise another 27 degrees after 5 minutes!!  SO…..UNDERCOOK your fish at a LOW temperature and let it rest just like you do meat, and you’ll have moist, flaky, perfectly done fish!!  You’re welcome.  -Lula

Asparagus – I love you Thick or Thin!

Every year around this time I publish something about asparagus – it’s in season and cheap and always delicious – whether it’s thick or thin.  “Diameter” of the asparagus has nothing to do with its age in season, it has to do with the age of the plant.  A thin spear in February for example, if left on the plant, will not grow into a thicker spear in March.

A thinner spear indicates a young PLANT, and vice versa.  Both are equally sweet and tender after snapping off the woody bottoms (or shaving them as I sometimes do for presentation).  Thin is better for steaming and stir frying (quickly, now!), and thick is better for grilling/roasting.  We love to serve our “medium stalked” asparagus grilled with our Feta Jalapeno Dipping Sauce pictured here.  Did you know it is also perfectly acceptable to eat asparagus with your hands?  The Viking in me loves this. 🙂

Lula’s Latest Luncheon Adventure

So I had a little adventure the other day, which went from mild annoyance to are you kidding me? to let’s just laugh about this…anyone who knows me, knows I can find the joy in any speck of food (except okra, cream of wheat, oatmeal and rutabagas) – from any greasy spoon to the most haute of cuisine.

On this day my car needed two new tires and a friend picked me up from Goodyear downtown (this is the only hint you’re going to get people!) to grab a bite and network for a bit.  As she had her 4 year old in tow, we needed a pretty basic place so we chose an old, established downtown location that neither one of us had ever been to, because we both agreed that we loved greasy spoons.

I have a sixth sense.  I’ve probably said it before.  Not about everything, but about restaurants, quality, and service – I can feel it in the air from the second I cross the threshold.  We should have turned and run when we stood outside and wondered if it was open because there were no lights on.  However, there were about 6 cooks/servers behind the counter staring dully at us so we thought we’d try the door…which was open (it was 11AM and this is a breakfast/lunch joint).  We walked in, asked if they were open, and received a “yes” and a tentative nod from someone else…so we asked if we could sit anywhere or only where there was light reflecting from the kitchen area.  They told us they would turn on the lights wherever we wanted to sit – how accommodating!!!  So, after trying to find a ray of sunlight and not succeeding, we picked a barren formica table, sat down and the lights flicked on for us (manually – let there be no confusion that ambient light found us through motion).  OK, so we’ve gotten through table selection…NOW…

A woman reeking of smoke ambled up with two menus and we began to peruse.  All kitchen eyes were gleaming dully in our direction.  Hmmm…we had choices!  You could get an omelet but not eggs.  You could get bacon but only in an omelet or on a sandwich.  If you order an omelet with bacon it comes with whole strips of bacon wrapped up in see through pre-fab from a carton scrambled egg product turned INTO an omelet by throwing the liquid on a grill so hot that the product seizes up into a solid, see through veil of egg which is then rolled around the bacon strips.  You can get American cheese product or Swiss cheese product!  You can also get ham!  Oh, and you can get TOMATO! But not in an OMELET!  You can get onion on a burger but you can’t have it in an omelet!  “Honey, onions ain’t been on our menu in 15 years”.   You can’t have anything else because nothing else is on the menu.  No sir, no salad.  You can get lettuce and tomato on a burger but not a salad.  Two full pages of every combination of bread, cheese product, ham or bacon ( and there’s a burger and a DELUXE burger!!).

Woops, there’s “homemade” soup of the day, coleslaw and BBQ. Because I couldn’t get anything real, I thought I’d chance a cup of soup. “It only comes in one size honey” was the response.  OK!  I’ll take THAT size!  It was the strangest greasiest thinnest “size” of chicken noodle soup I’d ever had, with a tang of tomato broth (or maybe it was just starting to go bad).  I also got excited when I saw a fish sandwich (you can get lettuce and tomato on a fish sandwich but you can’t get American or Swiss cheese product – not that I would WANT that offering).  WOOPS!  Fish is only served on FRIDAY.  Count fish out.

So my friend orders a bacon omelet because it comes with toast (white) and her little girl likes toast.  I order a grilled ham and cheese because why not – let’s give this a whirl – I’m hungry.  You can get grilled sandwiches here!  Please refer to picture above for reference to a REAL Grilled Sandwich  – Lula’s Grilled Bacon, Tomato and Gruyere.  Let’s just say I ate the potato chips that came with it, just like I ate the saltines that came with my soup.  Our four year old asked why she couldn’t have butter with her toast.  Mom explained it came already buttered (you can’t explain to a 4 year old that the toast had been dipped in yellow food colored liquid oil already) – and the kid insisted on butter.  So we motion over Ms. Virginia Slim and ask for butter.  “We ain’t got butter but I’ll see what I can do”.  She comes back with a soufflé (those little disposable cups you put your ketchup in at fast food chains) full of yellow food colored liquid oil.  Our little angel didn’t understand.  Frankly, neither did I, but hey – we’re on an adventure!

We’re quite ready to leave and try to do so.  No credit cards accepted.  No sign to that effect – not on the door, not on the menus.  We’re cashless.  I do not even HAVE a debit account.  I have my trusty Visa and that’s all.  My friend has a debit card but we’ll have to leave the restaurant to find a machine.  NO CAN DO.  We’re being held hostage.  So I take out my driver’s license AND My Visa and give it to them to hold while we go in search of money.  I ask her to take me back to Goodyear because I have some cash in my car (now you KNOW!!!) but I’m not sure if it’s enough.  My tires are on and I’m good to go…but they won’t give me my keys because I don’t have my Visa to pay for the tires.  I’ve been going to this Goodyear for over 20 YEARS and they’re holding my car hostage!

It all worked out but in the confusion my friend lost her wallet.  We feel sure it found its way into the diner’s grease trap, sucked into their infinite hole of haplessness and misery.  My reasons for withholding the name this charming eatery are twofold: 1) we foodservice slaves work very hard and I would never want someone slamming me if they had one bad experience (though my imagination is hard pressed to find a good experience here with their set menu – or lack thereof) and 2) I want you all guessing – please email me here if you think you know of the establishment about which I speak!  If you do, then I’m sure we will share the laughter!

A Note From Chef Lori

In addition to the fabulous House Smoked Bourbon Salmon in the pic above, know that Lula’s Catering LOVES all kinds of fish and can cook any type any way you want (except deep fat fried, which we can do on premise if you prefer!)  From the most delicious grouper prepared a variety of ways to our shellfish selections (just LOOK at our Bleu D’auvergne Encrusted Scallops with our Champagne-Lavender Sauce!), know that we’ve got your Fridays (or ANY day of the week) covered!

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