Archive for category Test Kitchen

Test Kitchen: Sabauce Handcrafted Marinade

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I recently sampled a new, online marinade based out of Columbus, Ohio called Sabauce.  The 16 oz insulated container of marinade arrives in a box that also includes: one lime, a small seasoning packet, instructions, and a plastic marinade bag. You’ll immediately be impressed with the contents of the package, along with the informative instructions. Heck, the instuction card, with its beautifully pictured, marinade-soaked chicken wings, even has suggested prep and dining music options. Welcome to 2017! While the company motto is “Create Your Own Tradition,” these particular chicken wings were speaking to me, meaning I had to do my best to replicate them.

And so I did.

I went to Whole Foods and purchased two pounds of chicken wings, rinsed, patted dry, and then placed them in the plastic bag, along with about 8 oz of the marinade. I then gave the wing/marinade mixture a good toss and placed in the fridge for 5 hours. The instruction card suggests to marinate anywhere from three hours to overnight, so I definitely leaned towards the shorter time zone.

After a quick 24-minute grilling (about 12 minutes on each side) and a 10-minute rest period, the wings were ready to eat. I opted to forgo the seasoning packet and squeeze of lime because I wanted to taste the marinade by itself. Both visually and taste-wise, the marinade struck me as a delicious, ramped up version of tikka masala. The flavors were perfectly balanced and absolutely delicious, and what I enjoyed most about the product was the appropriate level of heat that permeated the wing. From the picture, you probably noticed my inclusion of fresh, chopped cilantro. I put cilantro on almost everything, and it was particularly good on these wings.

Chef/owner Amit Amin has an outstanding product on his hands and you can tell it’s something he’s put a lot of time and energy into. Says Amin, “My passion for cooking comes from my mother. I was always in the kitchen with her in the evenings growing up after helping my father with business during the day. Growing up in high school and throughout college, my friends and family always would ask me to cook for all the gatherings and trips that we had. I LOVED to see all of the smiles on everyone’s face after I made a grilled meal. It was priceless. It really brings joy to my heart that I can bring my flavors into everyone’s home from something that I have created. The marinade you are having has been tweaked for over 15 years.”

I’m looking forward to using the rest of my marinade for some grilled tofu later this week, and in the future, I have no doubt it would pair well with fish, pork, or shrimp. Below are some other product details…

  • 1 16 oz. bottle costs $9.99 (with shipping, close to $17 total)
  • 2 16 oz bottles cost $18.99
  • 1 gallon container costs $64.99
  • Marinade will last up to a month in the fridge and 3 months frozen

To order Sabauce, head over to the website and click away! I enjoyed the product and would not only order it for myself, but also as an affordable gift for any of my food-loving friends and family.

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The Little Rock Chicken & Sausage Gumbo Showdown

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Which Little Rock restaurant’s chicken and sausage gumbo reigns supreme?

Let me start off by saying that I am no gumbo expert. I rarely eat it, and when I do, I am very particular in what I like. In short, gumbo is a highly subjective food item … some would say in the realm of burgers and pizza. The other day, a friend reached out to me, asking if I would conduct a blind taste-tasting on gumbo. He was making some chicken and sausage gumbo at home and wanted to compare his version to some of the other restaurants around town. It took me about 2 seconds to agree to it. Below, I’ve tried to spell out as many details surrounding the tasting, followed by a best-to-worst rundown of each gumbo, graded on overall taste on a scale of 1-10 (1 = terrible, 10 = outstanding) . Here we go…

-5 gumbos were sampled (home cook, J. Gumbo’s, Capital Bar and Grill, Maddie’s Place, Boudreaux’s)
-All gumbo was chicken and sausage (My friend has a strong aversion to shellfish, and since this thing was his idea, it’s his rules.)
-It was mostly blind taste-testing (I picked up the gumbo at Boudreaux’s, and had them put it in a to-go container, but realized I forgot to ask them to keep the rice separate from the gumbo. The other 4 gumbos were purchased or prepared by my friend and completely blind to me.)
-Each gumbo was purchased from the restaurant, taken home, and refrigerated. They were then reheated to precisely 160 degrees via sous vide.
-Each gumbo was numbered and plated in a small bowl as well as a small plate.
-The only sampled gumbo that I had previously eaten was Maddie’s Place, and that was well over a year ago, if not longer.)
-I sampled each gumbo, followed by a Miller Lite palette cleanser.

Here are the results…

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Home Cook

#1 Home Cook (9.0)
Overall, this was just an outstanding gumbo. I favor a more golden roux and this one was just that. Highlights included: a sizeable portion of tender, shredded chicken, perfectly cooked sausage, an ample amount of okra, and a consistency of the base that was neither thick, nor runny. It was just right. I also enjoyed the subtle heat that came with each bite. This gumbo was heads and shoulders above the competition. After the results, I was informed this was the second time “home cook” had ever made gumbo.

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J. Gumbo’s

#2 J. Gumbo’s (7.0)
This one was a Solid 7 all the way around. The roux was dark, super rich, and just a notch above soupy. The sausage was left in big, round pieces which weren’t dried out. No onions or celery were detected, which was a bit of a negative for me. The roux was slightly bitter, but other than that, this was a very traditional gumbo and one I wouldn’t hesitate to go out and purchase.

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Capital Bar and Grill

#3 Capital Bar and Grill (6.5)
I had a very difficult time choosing which was better between this one and J Gumbo’s. In the end, CBG’s version had many positives, but a few more detractions, including: a lack of both duck and sausage, a slightly oily base, and a lack of spice. I loved the color and consistency of this gumbo, but it just didn’t have a flavor that really made me want to embrace it. *Note: only gumbo to include duck.

Boudreaux's

Boudreaux’s

#4 Boudreaux’s (4.0)
Some will say that this competition isn’t truly apples-to-apples because the Boudreaux’s sampling included rice. That’s fair. But the bottom line is this … rice or no rice, this gumbo was woefully bland. And it was served with too much rice. It really felt like I was eating a rice dish with a little gumbo in it. A decent amount of tasty sausage was about the only thing that saved this well below average gumbo.

Maddie's Place

Maddie’s Place

#5 Maddie’s Place (2.0)
This came as a complete shock to me. As stated above, I’ve eaten Maddie’s gumbo before. Hell, I’ve even highly recommended it. This version tasted and looked nothing like what I’ve previously eaten. It was thick, gloppy, and super peppery. Frankly, it didn’t look, nor taste like gumbo. The golden roux was nice, but included tomatoes, and again, was just way too thick. I love Maddie’s, and when things are rolling right, I believe it’s a top 5 restaurant in Little Rock. But this particular batch of gumbo didn’t reflect that.

Summation: We need better chicken and sausage gumbo in Little Rock. While it’s not really truly fair to compare a home cook’s version to a restaurant’s, this blind-tasting definitely drove home the fact that the gumbo coming out of these restaurants isn’t the type to make me do backflips.

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Test Kitchen: Italian Wedding Soup

2013-10-15 15.34.46Just trying out a recipe from another food blogger!

Thanh Rasico’s recent Italian Wedding Soup recipe post sent me into an immediate “I gotta make that” mode. It wasn’t a matter of “if” it would happen, but “when.” Well, that ended up being tonight.

I’m a big fan of Thanh’s blog, mainly because her recipes are simple, beautiful, and delicious. She also happens to be a big fan of two ingredients I just adore—ground pork and fish sauce. This soup recipe includes both.

Her Italian Wedding Soup is also at-home fusion coming at its finest, marrying Italian and Asian flavors into one perfect bowl of soup. I made just a few modifications to the recipe: substituting chicken stock for the broth (on Thanh’s suggestion) and baby kale for the more traditional mature kale. No real reason for the kale substitution, other than it looked good at the store. I will say I ended up enjoying the flatter, more tender baby kale leaf.

This turned out to be such an easy recipe to make. I ended up using a melon baller to form the meatballs; I then rolled them quickly in both hands before dropping the meatballs into the boiling broth. The chopped green onions and fish sauce helped make the meat so moist and flavorful. The kale and carrots provided the healthy elements to the dish…and the best part, the kids didn’t mind either ingredient.

Props to Thanh! This recipe is a winner.

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Test Kitchen: Stir Fried Sticky Rice Cake Sticks

We try out a recipe from a fellow food blogger!

Admittedly, the Test Kitchen section of this blog is one I’ve let slip over the past several months. That’s really a shame because checking out new blogs and testing recipes is truly one of my favorite aspects of food writing.

But here’s the thing: most bloggers just don’t have much time to follow other blogs. They’re too busy writing their own.

I know…woe is me.

But one of the blogs I’ve really carved out time to follow is called Red Kitchen Recipes—a site mainly comprised of Asian recipes. Thanh, who runs the site, is a local Little Rock foodie and a recent cyber friend of mine. She does an amazing job of bringing her readers uncomplicated, user-friendly recipes with straightforward directions and spectacular pictures.

And there’s a personal added bonus: she lives fairly close to me and thus, we shop at the same markets. Having that connection can at times make a huge difference. It did when I stumbled upon her Stir Fried Sticky Rice Cake Sticks and noticed that Thanh gets her ingredients from K Oriental on Bowman.

Have you ever cooked rice cake sticks? This was a first time for me and I must say…I’m hooked. These little, soft pillows are a tad chewy and prove to be a perfect match for Thanh’s delicious sauce concoction.

You’ll find the sauce thickens up to a nice, gravy-like consistency (from the cornstarch), with a wonderful balance of flavors. And the best part of all…that minced fresh ginger. I always add twice as much as the recipe calls for.

I substituted some sweet Chinese sausage for the shrimp (due to my wife’s shellfish allergy), and I added some chopped cabbage, so the dish would eat more like a meal, rather than a snack. Success!

It’s just a matter of time before I dive into Thanh’s arsenal of other recipes. In fact, got my eye on her Duck Gumbo!

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