The Natchitoches Incident (aka Illustrative Proof)
Below is a post that originally appeared on The Omaha Chronicles on March 22, 2009. It’s one of the posts I figured I’d move here, my new blog home, because it perfectly illustrates why the kitchen can be a trial for me.
Let me start this post by first saying: I will not forget this cooking adventure anytime soon. In fact, I will, quite literally, bear the scars of this adventure for years. Serious cooking burns are funny like that… Details below…
More to the point of this blog, I officially embarked on my cooking challenge today. On the menu were two items from a recent acquisition that I’m slowly, but surely falling in love with. Namely, “Cooking Up A Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.” I first heard about this book in a New York Times article by Kim Severson and immediately ordered it.
Per the title and the article, these are recipes that Louisiana residents lost during Hurricane Katrina and that are much loved by so many people. Given the importance of recipes in my family, the story of this book’s creation absolutely resonated with me.
Now, as part of the cooking challenge, I set a rule for myself. In picking a recipe, it has to be new to me in some way. Cooking Natchitoches Meat Pies definitely counts as new. 1) I’ve never made them before. 2) They involve deep-fat frying, which I’ve not done before – at least not without parental supervision, which maybe I still need – all things considered.
The original recipe makes a HUGE batch of Natchitoches Meat Pies. So I cut the recipe by a third, but pretty much followed the directions for making the meat mixture of ground beef and pork along with the assorted spices and whatnot.
I will admit to getting lazy though.
I did not make the dough from scratch. I figured deep-fat frying was going to enough of a challenge for one day. Instead, I used pre-made pizza dough. Maybe not an exact substitute, but – in the end – it worked out alright.
Also on the menu from “Cooking Up A Storm” was Chiqui’s Creole Cream Cheese Dip. According the recipe, which includes cream cheese, creme fraiche, ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, assorted herbs and spices, and Worcestshire sauce; this is for crackers, but it was just right as a dip to complement the Natchitoches Meat Pies. This counts as new-to-me because I’ve never made it, never heard of it, and typically use little, convenient, pre-made packets of seasonings when making dips.
Lastly, I have a bunch of avocados. I put one of them to work with some creme fraiche, lemon juice, fresh ground pepper and Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning. This dip was good, but would have been better with sour cream instead of creme fraiche. I made do with what I had though. This is a recipe I made up, so it does not count against my cooking challenge.
Now… To the part of this story where I tell you about burning the holy living daylights out of my wrist.
Going into this, I knew that deep-fat frying might not be the safest thing for me to do. However, I was determined to try. Frying the Natchitoches Meat Pies (I like saying Natchitoches. Have you noticed?) went just fine. In fact, it was way easier than I expected. While they might not be the prettiest things around (see above…), they tasted great.
However, when I went to move the pot of hot oil off the burner, I knocked the pot on the back burner just hard enough to slosh flipping-hotter-than-all-get-out oil out of the pot and all over the stove and my wrist.
To make matters worse, I couldn’t tend to my burns immediately because I had to put out a very small grease fire. Seriously, this was a tiny, miniscule fire. Small enough that I was able to blow it out like candles while simultaneously reaching for the flour jar so that I could smother it. No damages to anything in my kitchen – not counting my wrist.
Unfortunately, I now have a rather serious burn on my wrist (see the odd blister, upper left corner) along with three or four other smaller, not so bad burns. I’ve had similar burns before (a story for another day); and, 15 years or so later, I can still see the scars ever so faintly. So I’m pretty sure that I’ll have a nice little scar to commemorate the first time I ever made Natchitoches Meat Pies.
Now, last but not least, I’d like to give a shout out to the hero of today’s debacle. My aloe vera plant.
Thank you Mr. Aloe Vera Plant for your leafy sacrifices today as well as in the coming days. Your aid in helping ease my pain is very much appreciated.