Friday, March 18, 2011

“If It Runs, Hops, Swims, or Scuttles,…

it can be 'improved' at Poche's. And it will be devoured”(Julie Ardery at

You walk past the meat cases displaying an assortment of sausages, boudins, and specialty meat products. Are you wondering what chaurice might be? It’s the Creole take on chorizo and is flavored with some classic southern ingredients: natural pork, green onions, onions, celery, garlic, and seasonings and is known to be the traditional red beans and rice sausage. This is not to be confused with chaudin which is the Acadian version of haggis (stuffed pig stomach).

Turn right at the end of the counter and there, across from an array of Cajun seasonings and hot sauces, is the cafeteria line for Poche’s plate lunch house.

“...Antoine and Aleda Poché settled the village of Poché (‘pocket’ or ‘bag’) Bridge in the year 1859. In this isolated farming community, Antoine, along with his wife and seven children, owned and operated a store and cotton gin near the wooden bridge, which is now known as Poché Bridge. The businesses were later destroyed by fire.... Antoine's grandson Lug Poché and his wife Eleanor established Poche's Market and Restaurant in 1962. Lug prided himself on selling quality products and providing excellent service to his customers. Lug retired in 1976, handing the reins over to his son Floyd…” (from the restaurant’s web page).

Poche’s represents another form of plate lunch house—one that is attached to a store that sells products necessary for the Cajun kitchen.

But I suspect that Poche’s dining area is significantly larger than most. There are some tables for two running along one wall, but most are designed to seat four, six, or more at long wooden tables.

And each table comes equipped with a canister of Poche’s seasoning (heavy on red pepper and light on salt) and a bottle of hot sauce.

The empty tables only mean that we arrived well past 1:00 p.m. I have noticed that once the clock on the wall reads 12:55, almost every restaurant empties.

As a reminder that we are in Saints territory, the flat screen TV was set in a wooden frame hailing the team as the 2010 Superbowl Champions.

Poche’s has also entered the computer age and has its daily menu posted on line. This being Friday, we could expect to find fried catfish, fried shrimp, crawfish etouffeé, chicken stew, marinated turkey, potato salad, and cole slaw. “What! No rice?” you may be saying. That is a given.

But as we reviewed the menu board, we saw some omissions and additions. I passed on the garfish courtbullion (Pronounced here as coo-bee-yon and a tomato-based “gravy” poured over fish before baking. This is not to be confused with the French version which is more like a thin stock.) And I noticed some round patty-like objects which didn’t seem to match anything on the menu. These turned out to be catfish patties.

Chuck chose the fried catfish with rice dressing, potato salad, and cole slaw. I chose the catfish patties with crawfish rice, potato salad and cole slaw.

The cole slaw was a shredded and creamy version that was light on the vinegar. The potato salad, alas, was the more-mashed-than-chunks version with mustard, egg, and onion. While it was certainly better than Laura II’s the day before, I still have a major problem with the texture.

Chuck’s plate contained four large catfish filets that had been rolled in a cornmeal heavy seasoned fish fry mixture. Under the almost too hard crust, the fish itself was sweet, moist, and flakey. But the coating almost overwhelmed the fish.

Now, his rice. As he is snarfing this down, he keeps repeating: “This rice is really good. This rice is really good. This rice is really good.” Finally, I couldn’t hold it in. “You know that this probably contains ground chicken livers or gizzards, don’t you?” “I was afraid of that,” he replied, “but it’s still really good.” Sometimes he surprises me.

My catfish patties contained bits of fish, onion, and Cajun seasoning, bound together by what I think had to be mashed potatoes. Our Thrifty German Mothers would salute the Thrifty Cajun Mothers for this recipe. While neither of our mothers would have dreamt of adding a spicy seasoning, they would embrace the spirit of making much from little. The patties had been lightly breaded and fried and had a wonderful crisp outside and moist and soft inside.

My crawfish rice was basically a rice pilaf containing small crawfish tails and was a good partner for the fish patties.

Another good lunch with a mind blowing amount of food. Note to selves: don’t go to plate lunch houses on successive days if you plan to eat on Day Three.

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