It’s always enjoyable to talk about tailgating food during LSU week. From black pots full of delicious gumbo, jambalaya or etoufee to boudin balls, crawfish boils and a host of many other cajun and creole delights, Louisianans know how to bring some flavor to a tailgate. For today, we will focus on a New Orleans classic: The Po’ Boy sandwich.
Tell a poor uninitiated soul that you plan to make a Po’ Boy and the first question is likely to be, “What’s the difference between a Po’ Boy and a regular sandwich?” The primary answer is the french bread that the sandwich is served on, which offers a bit of crisp.
If you are interested in the origin of the sandwich or the name, late New Orleans historian Michael Mizell-Nelson has you covered:
Sandwiches served on French bread had existed previously, but the so-called poor boy sandwich originated in 1929 at the Martin Brothers’ French Market Restaurant and Coffee stand. After moving from Raceland, Louisiana, Benny and Clovis Martin had worked as streetcar conductors in New Orleans in the mid-1910s. They opened their restaurant in 1922. Years of transit service and former membership in the street railway employees’ union led to their hole-in-the-wall coffee stand becoming the birthplace of the poor boy sandwich. The term “poor boy” was first applied to the sandwich during the 1929 streetcar strike, and it began appearing in newspapers and on menus in the early 1930s. The new name displaced the older terms for large sandwiches—“loaf” and “loaves”—though a few of the oldest New Orleans restaurants retain the original terms.
Go to a good Po’ Boy shop in New Orleans and you will find all sorts of toppings, including beef debris, which is roast beef that has been cooked down to the point of falling apart. To most of us, however, the classic Po’ Boy involves fried shrimp or oysters along with some lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, finished with a tasty remoulade sauce.
There are endless variations of the sauce, but I generally like to make a pink hued variety that starts with mayo (Duke’s, of course!) and includes a bit of brown mustard, minced garlic, chopped capers, creole seasoning, hot sauce, worcestershire sauce, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Look around and you will find recipes that include horseradish, pickle relish instead of capers, and a host of other combinations. Don’t worry about ratios, add a little of whatever you like and taste as you go until you decide it’s perfect.
For those tailgating at home for this road game, you can do worse than a classic Po’ Boy. Pick up a loaf of french bread from your favorite local bakery, fry up some good seafood and assemble your masterpiece as we root Alabama to victory.