Fuelled by her love of watching cheese melt over a flame-grilled beef pattie, Jess Pryles created her barbecue devoted blog, BurgerMary. Jess splits her time between Texas and Australia, thus her blog covers all things barbecue, burgers and Southern-style comfort food.
We chat to Jess about what to eat in New Orleans, foods that shouldn't be barbecued, the the perfect accompaniment to a juicy beef burger.
You review both US and Aussie eateries. How do the two differ?
The main feature of Southern cooking is lots of fat, flour, meat, and down-home goodness. It’s usually high fat and high taste. Modern Australian cuisine tends to be a little more health conscious, and often has Asian influences. I guess the similarity is that both have been developed using ingredients local to each region.
What's the best accompaniment to burgers?
It has to be fries, right? I'm a fan of crinkle cut and the traditional French fry, but my ultimate would be a combination of hand-cut regular and sweet potato fries, as offered by Austin burger joint Phil’s Icehouse. Yum!
Which American cooking method should we adopt here?
Cooking in cast iron pans and skillets. It’s a tradition in the South, where pans are so resilient that with a little care, they are handed down through the generations. There are certain foods that automatically taste better from being cooked in a cast iron skillet – like cornbread.
What Southern-style dish did you originally dislike, but has now grown on you?
Cream gravy seemed really unappealing to me when I first discovered it. It’s also called sausage or sawmill gravy, and it’s thick and white. It's just made with bacon fat and flour, with lots of black pepper, and often served on chicken fried steak (think schnitzel, but a battered not crumbed coating). Once you get over the visual, it tastes pretty spectacular.
You invented a new food adjective?
Saucesome! It’s used in place of 'awesome" and has that foodie twist to it with the inclusion of 'sauce". Plus, if you’ve ever heard an East Texan say 'It’s awesome", it pretty much sounds like saucesome anyway! It’s not exactly rocket science, I know, but people have been quick to catch on. I got a Tweet from someone in Memphis who saw it and has started using it themselves; I thought that was pretty cool. Most importantly, it’s just a fun and saucesome word to say.
What's one ingredient that shouldn't be barbecued?
Poultry and pork. We all know that Texas barbecue is the only kind that counts, and, in Texas, beef is king. Okay, that may be a bit extreme"¦ Probably cutlery. If you travel to most of the places down in Lockhart (the barbecue capital of Texas), they refuse to give you a fork with your meal.
You’re asked to host the ultimate Southern-style feast for those who've never tried it. What do you cook?
Mac 'n' cheese, Southern fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, salad with blue cheese dressing, shrimp and grits. Two desserts of course – key lime pie and peach cobbler. If I actually had pit smoker skills, I’d definitely do a brisket, too.
For someone who's heading to New Orleans for the first time, what are the Top 5 dishes you'd recommend?
- Turtle soup – very controversial, but all the old-school fine dining Creole restaurants serve this regional classic, which is laced heavily with sherry.
- Poboy at Domilise's. [It's] off the tourist path. Order the off-the-menu special; it’s a fried shrimp poboy on Leidenheimer's bread, smothered in gravy.
- Alligator and shrimp cheesecake at Jacques-Imos. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a savoury entrée.
- A crawfish boil or any dish with crawfish in it – because you cannot visit the crescent city without eating a mudbug.
- Gumbo, jambalaya, or étouffée, but preferably all three. All these dishes are native to Louisiana and, therefore, must not be missed!
For the record, that was an incredibly difficult list to narrow down!
What does your ideal Sunday morning breakfast involve?
If I'm at home in Australia cooking for myself, it would be biscuits, (American) bacon, fried eggs, grits and hot sauce. With strong black drip brew coffee. If I’m in Austin, Sunday brunch will always start with a bloody mary, and will likely consist of migas – a Tex Mex dish of scrambled eggs with tortilla strips, tomato, capsicum, onion and other assorted awesome ingredients.
What’s a poboy and how did it come to be?
A poboy is a traditional sandwich from New Orleans, usually filled with fried seafood such as oysters or shrimp. It came to be as a sandwich for the lower classes, originally being called a 'poor boy". Seafood was cheap and plentiful in Louisiana, and bread was also extremely low cost. Baguette-style loaves were popular given the French influence in the city. Eventually, some smart soul thought to combine the two, and the poboy was born.
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