It’s one of the easiest dinners I’ve prepared this spring – a time when easy is essential. My three kids, one each in elementary, middle and high school, are in the thick of homework, school projects, swim practice, track meets, community plays and charity work, and they all come with their own mom-involved to do list. A simple dinner is key to survival, and I’m here to tell you that Grill Night checks that box and whole bunch more.
The weekday breakfast is like your taxes – required, but a big pain to get over the finish line. Despite what we’re told about its nutritional and social importance, it’s often a fleeting and unsatisfying moment in which food is unceremonious forced onto the plates (or into the hands) of young people as their parents suck down coffee and shoo everyone out the door. And now, here across south Louisiana, the daily sprint is further compounded by a post-flood reality with epic traffic, upended schedules and temporary housing. There’s a lot of stress out there.
So this week, I’m offering four easy breakfast dishes that are intended to provide some inspired calm. Yummy and healthy, they intentionally use minimal ingredients, and part or all of them can be put together the night before.
Like so many people who grew up in New Orleans, Kenyattah Robinson’s life as a kid included a grandmother whose cast iron pots made magic.
“She wouldn’t have to measure anything at all,” he told me recently. “She cooked everything by feel. She would nod off in the living room and wake up exactly when the food was ready. She had this internal clock. Every meal was freshly prepared. There was no eating out.”
Kenyattah left New Orleans to study at LSU, where he earned a degree in Liberal Arts and business, then landed a job on Capitol Hill with then-Louisiana Senator John Breaux. Later, he earned an MBA from Cornell University, and now works in Washington, D.C. for Jones Lang LaSalle as a senior vice president on the Public Institutions team.
A major theme of my book Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey is the grip Louisiana’s culinary culture has on those who have left the state. As part of my interview series with Bayou State expats, I wanted to pick Kenyattah’s brain about what he missed from Louisiana’s culinary tableau. I know there’s great food in D.C. – some of it made by Louisiana-born chefs and some of it meant to mimic the Bayou State experience. You can even get boiled crawfish in the nation’s capital.
Still, there’s no place like home, so from his K Street office, Kenyattah spilled to me his Top Five Most Missed Foods.
I’m very particular about gumbo. I will not order it from a menu. My mom makes a really mean gumbo and I usually bring some back to D.C. with me. It’s seafood with crab and shrimp. She also throws in pieces of sausage for flavor. No tomatoes. That’s wrong. That’s for shrimp stew or shrimp Creole.
(Uh. Oh. My prized seafood gumbo has a little bit of fresh tomato thrown in for color and sweetness, a typical Creole gumbo, says Chef John Folse. But I’m not bringing that up.)
Shrimp. Fully dressed with Tabasco, or Crystal, depending on the place. I like those small shrimp — and the bread needs to be right. Crunchy on the outside and soft inside. I usually stop at Parkway when I go home.
3. Red beans and rice with smoked sausage and cornbread.
4. Jazz Fest food.
I go every year and get the crawfish bread and a softshell crab po’boy.
It sounds crazy, but New Orleans Popeye’s MOST DEFINITELY. It just tastes different. Particularly the spicy chicken. There’s something about the flavor and the crisp of the skin.
So excited! My book, Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey (LSU Press) is out this month. You can find it on Amazon or in regional book stores, including large chains and local independents. It’s also in some gift shops and culinary stores, like Red Stick Spice Co. in Baton Rouge.
This was so much fun to work on. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. The book includes an intro that explores how Louisiana’s food culture was local before local was cool and how there are few places in the world with such intact culinary traditions. Each subsequent chapter peers into a different food or ingredient from the state’s culinary tableau. Discover the quirks and traditions behind crawfish, jambalaya, Creole cream cheese, snoballs, filé, blood boudin, Zwolle tamales and oysters. Meet some of the people who produce these famed eats. This is breezy food writing with a few recipes at the end of each chapter.
What Ashley Hansen of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz did when her grandfather’s famed snoball machine was on the fritz…
Why the northeast Louisiana town of Zwolle has a deep and meaningful tradition of tamale-making that is nothing like the Mississippi Delta’s…
Exactly what makes a pot of jambalaya achieve blue ribbon excellence at the annual Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales, Jambalaya Capital of the World…
And lots more.
Please keep coming back to this site for updates, additional material, photos and more recipes.
Thanks for your interest!