I have identified several large, centuries-old oak trees with ground sweeping boughs in public spaces in various small neighborhood parks around town in which to meet friends. It is always 10 to15 degrees cooler under such a tree and I have taken to arranging intimate picnic luncheons or happy hours with small groups if friends under the trees’ leafy canopies.
Under such circumstances take-out entrees are simply too onerous to eat, balancing a cardboard container on your knees as you attempt to knife and fork your way through, but a sandwich – poor boy or otherwise – is just the thing. Those planning to join the socially distanced gathering can dust off their festival chairs and grab their own hand-held meal from their favorite sandwich shop or restaurant to bring along.
Fresh and surprisingly light, grilled catfish poor boys from Frankie & Johnny’s (321 Arabella St., 504-243-1234, frankieandjohnnys.net) served dressed to order on Leidenheimer bread were just the thing with cold Abita Ambers when our group met at nearby Alma Peters Park neighborhood park sat Annunciation and Eleanor streets, Uptown.
Sloppy but oh-so-good breaded chicken Parmesan, saucy roast beef, or meatball with mozzarella and red gravy poor boys, were among the choices from R & O’s (216 Metairie Hammond Hwy, 504-831-1248, r-opizza.com) in Bucktown when we decided to meet on the nearby Lakefront, where no oaks are present but a breeze always is.
Numerous sandwiches, all of them built on fluffy pita baked in a wood-burning oven, are available at Tal’s Hummus (4800 Magazine St., 504-267-7357, ordertalsonline.com), our stop for fortifications when we gather at Wisnor Dog Park a few blocks away. Filling options range from vegan falafel; a folded herb omelet; eggs poached in fiery tomato shaksuka with feta cheese; and grilled chicken; to kebab burgers.
Missing the divine garlic rib-eye Yakiniku poor boy you enjoy every year at JazzFest? Ajun Cajun (8433 Oak St., 504-866-7077, ajuncajun.com) has it on the everyday menu! The Sambal chicken poor boy is also a standout. Ajun Cajun is located just a few blocks from the Mississippi River levee where it turns into Jefferson Parish, a fine and breezy spot for an al fresco gathering.
Nearby Fresco Cafe on Maple Street (7625 Maple St, 862-6363, orderfrescocafe.com) is a good bet of you are heading to either Audubon Park or one of the many shady spots on the Tulane University campus. The menu includes many sandwiches but those on lavash are particular standouts. The Chicken Portobello Roll includes plenty of succulent grilled chicken breast, Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, mozzarella, spinach and feta cheese sautéed in a creamy house-made roasted red pepper sauce. The Spinach & Artichoke Roll is loaded with baby spinach, artichokes, sun-dried tomato, and caramelized onion sautéed with garlic butter cream sauce and melt-y mozzarella and cheeses. All sandwiches come with sides of excellent garlic roasted baby new potatoes.
Baked Gulf Oysters with Country Ham, Braised Greens, and Cornbread Crumbs Courtesy of High Hat Cafe
Serves 12 as an hors d’oeuvre, 4 as an appetizer, 2 as an entree
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 stick butter plus 12 thin pats of butter
- 4 slices country ham soaked overnight, finely chopped
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 bunches mustard greens, cut in a fine julienne
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups cornbread crumbs
- 12 Gulf oysters shucked, on the half shell
- Add olive oil and 1/2 stick butter to a very large pan set over medium high heat.
- Add the ham, onions, and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the greens, stir thoroughly, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the greens have withered and released their liquid, about 15 minutes.
- Strain to remove excess liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool.
- Heat an oven to 350°F degrees.
- Mix the cornbread crumbs into the cooled greens mixture.
- Add a 1/2-inch layer of rock salt to a rimmed sheet pan.
- Nestle 12 oyster shells into the rock salt.
- Place one oyster within the cavity of each shell. Mound full tablespoons of the stuffing over each oyster in its half shell. Add a pat of butter atop each.
- Bake until bubbling and golden, about 15 minutes.