Background - wood

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Best Eats Series: BBQ, Please!

Since my greatest love besides my husband, family, and friends is definitely food, I've decided to do a "Best Eats Series", in which I'll review my favorite restaurants by genre and post my own favorite recipes.

The first genre is:


BBQ, Barbecue, Barbeque, Bar-B-Q. However you want to spell it, it's one of my favorites. I love it. I'll eat it on anything. I'll eat any kind. I like spicy sauce. I like mustard based sauce. I like Kansas sauce. I like vinegar sauce.

But my absolute favorite is the sweet and smoky Tennessee barbecue that I grew up on.

Here are my top 3 places to get good barbecue.

1) Central BBQ in Memphis, TN. 

     Memphis barbecue doesn't get any better than this, folks. This place is constantly voted #1 for best barbecue in Memphis and in the region, most recently by Memphis Magazine and the Memphis Flyer. Their pulled pork is the best I've had, and I've had a LOT of barbecue in my day. It's just perfect. It's tender, juicy, and flavorful, and their sauce is delightfully tangy. (Plus - they have a sauce bar so you can sample all their flavors!) The sides are also excellent. My husband especially loved their greens, and I destroyed their slaw. (I almost never eat barbecue without slaw. Especially on a sandwich.) Another thing that pushes these guys over the edge in my book is their involvement with Project Green Fork, an organization striving for a sustainable Mid-South by reducing environmental impacts and strengthening home-grown restaurants. 

2) Mo-Mo's BBQ in Dayton, TN

Literally a shack on the side of Rhea County Hwy, MoMo's doesn't appear to be the culinary gold mine it is. But man. I've eaten here more than any other bbq joint. Tender pulled pork (they also have beef and chicken, but go with the pork) basted with a perfectly sweet and spicy sauce. Seriously, this place is the real deal. When you approach the window, a woman with permed hair and long painted fingernails will pull open the screen and say, "What'll ya have, honey?", filling up a HUGE styrofoam cup with sweet tea. They've recently built a trailer next door for guests to sit down and eat. It features high tables with stools, buckets of peanuts, and a strong smell of sawdust. It's a great place to have barbecue and a good conversation. I recommend the pork plate (you can't go wrong with any of the sides. The onion rings are perfect. Colton always gets the fried okra, but it's best if you can eat it there instead of taking it home so it stays crisp) or my favorite college snack, the Mo-skins. They may not be on the menu, but they'll make them for you. Also, getting extra sauce is definitely worth the extra quarter.

3) Couch's BBQ in Ooltewah, TN

Couch's is where I grew up eating BBQ. It's in my hometown, family owned and operated. It was opened in 1946 by William and Agnes Couch, the Aunt and Uncle of the current owner, Ken. He's the young guy in the foreground, turning the ham's. The man on the right is long-time owner, Kenny, who ran the restaurant for years and years with his wife. His family went to our church in Ooltewah, so every big church event - picnics, potlucks, ice cream socials - featured mouth-watering barbecue. Ken was also in my church league softball team the year I played in college. I was in right field, and the few times the ball came to me and I actually caught it, I would throw it to Ken to throw in the diamond because I couldn't manage to toss it all the way in! He is the nicest guy.

Anyway. Back to the barbecue.

Couch's has very special barbecue. It's not the norm. For one thing, the meat is shaved instead of pulled. You can see it in the picture below.

It's really thin, almost like deli meat. It's smoked over hickory, which gives it a really nice flavor. Also, they don't baste their meat with sauce, but instead they leave it in bottles on the table so you can use as much or as little as you want. Their sauce is less sweet and more spicy than both Central's and Mo-Mo's. I recommend getting a pork sandwich topped with their hot slaw. (But it's not for the faint of heart!) Another stand out is their pie selection, made daily by the women from a secret recipe. Their chocolate is the best seller, but I also like the coconut and buttermilk!

So that wraps it up.

If any of you know of a good bbq place in Los Angeles, I'd love to hear about it. The best I can do is make a bbq pork roast at home then shred it. It's just not the same!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thai soup and other things

Finally, a new post!

To catch you up:

I've been working hard on my new jewelry line, Whisperwill. Here's my Esty shop! It's taking alot of my time, so that's a big reason why I've had a bit of a hiatus. We also shot the last two film reels for Jesus Fish, our short film. Hurray! Finally, I've learned that I love movies made in or around the 1960's. Some of my favorites we've watched recently: Raging Bull, Spartacus, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Cinema was really changing in this era. It's incredible to see such a shift in an artform I love!

Today, I'm going to post a recipe for a delicious Thai soup! I happen to be enjoying the leftovers right now as I watch (Ahem... the Bachelorette) on Hulu. (Colton judges me for my soft spot for reality shows.)

This recipe is for a coconut milk based soup that Thai restaurants often serve as an appetizer - I adapted the recipe from a Tom Kha Gai tutorial by the lovely Leela at Shesimmers. If you have access to all the ingredients she lists, you should make hers! It's more authentic, and probably tastes a bit better. However, I couldn't find everything, and so I made a few changes, while trying to remain as close to her recipe as possible. That's why I'm calling this "Thai soup" instead of "Tom Kha Gai" - Gai means chicken, but I decided to use shrimp. Tom is Galangal, a root herb. I'm using ginger instead. So really, the only word in the title that applies is Tom - cooked. And that's just not very descriptive.


Image by

Ingredients for 3-4 servings:

24 fluid oz chicken broth    *I used 32 oz, because that's how much was in my carton. It worked fine!
8-12 fresh shrimp               *You can add more! I use 4 shrimp per person I want to feed. Also, Leela uses chicken.
12 oz mushrooms, sliced thinly (I use Cremini. White is fine, but I wouldn't recommend Shitake.)
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped into 1 inch pieces then smashed with the side of your knife   *I was able to find fresh lemongrass at Ralph's. If you are not able to find it, check an Asian market. It is essential to the dish!
Zest of 1 lime
1 inch ginger root, peeled and sliced
1 can good coconut milk
A few red chilies (or any other small spicy chiles)
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Fresh lime juice
Fish sauce (this is easy to find in the foreign foods aisle in the supermarket!)

Begin by bringing your chicken broth to a boil and reducing it by about half. (This makes the broth much more flavorful without having to add such traditional things as chicken feet. Blech!)

Lower the heat to slighty below a simmer and add the smashed lemongrass, lime zest, and ginger root. Allow to infuse for about 10-15 minutes.

*After this infusion time, if you don't want to pick around the herbs later, strain them out. I leave them in, because I think they make it prettier.

Add the mushroom and shrimp, allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is done.

Pierce the peppers with the knife, give them a quick smash (like the lemongrass), and toss them into the soup right before serving.

Ladle into bowls, and flavor to taste with lime juice and fish sauce. *** This is essential!!!! This is where alot of the flavor comes from.

For each bowl, I use about 1/4 lime worth of juice, and maybe 3-4 good shots of fish sauce.

Top each bowl with a little fresh cilantro.


I like to serve this as an appetizer for Pad Thai, but it can also be served as a main course with Jasmine rice.