Skip to content

Strawberries can be sweet and savory

Local strawberries are starting to make their rounds. Strawberries are so popular that there are numerous cities that claim to be the Strawberry capital of the world. In Louisiana, Pontchatoula claims that title. This year, they are having their annual festival April 13-15.

Locally, there are two cities that celebrate the strawberry. Cabot will celebrate their Strawberry Festival on April 25th. The city of Bald Knob celebrates the Strawberry Homefest May 10-12. If you love strawberries, make plans now to attend these celebrations of the sweet red fruit.

Today, I am sharing two strawberry recipes, one a non-traditional preparation, Strawberry-Glazed Pork Loin and one traditional recipe, Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream.

Most often, strawberries are used in desserts. Here is a great recipe with the strawberries used in a savory dish. This dish is a take on a recipe from chef John Folse, one of the leading authorities on Cajun and Creole cooking and culture.

Strawberry-Glazed Pork Loin

1 (3-5 pound) Pork Loin
2 tablespoons Onions, minced
1 tablespoon Celery, minced
2 tablespoons Strawberries, finely diced
2 tablespoons Green Onions, finely sliced
Creole Seasoning to taste
1/2 cup Strawberry Syrup
1/4 cup Melted Butter
24 large fresh Strawberries
1 cup Onions, diced
1/2 cup Celery, diced
1/2 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
2 cups Yams, diced
2 cups Beef Stock
1 sprig fresh Rosemary
Dash of Hot Sauce

Preheat oven to 375℉.

In a large mixing bowl, combine two tablespoons minced onion, 1 tablespoon minced celery, two tablespoons diced strawberries, two tablespoons sliced green onions and Creole seasoning. Cut one-inch long slits in the pork loin and stuff with seasoning mixture. Drizzle strawberry syrup and melted butter over top of pork loin. Season to taste with Creole seasoning. Place loin in a large Dutch oven or roasting pan and surround with strawberries, remaining onions, celery, bell pepper, yams and beef stock. Season with rosemary and hot sauce. Cover roasting pan and bake one and a half hours. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice roast and surround with strawberry sauce and vegetables.

Everyone loves ice cream and nothing taste better that homemade strawberry ice cream. This recipe is from the magazine Louisiana Kitchen and Culture. Its founder, Susan Ford, is a friend of mine who has published a few of my recipes in her magazine and on her website. This is a great magazine for all of your Louisiana cooking needs. Pick up a copy. You will be glad you did.

Strawberry Ice Cream

2 cups Heavy Cream
1 cup Whole Milk
1 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
6 Egg Yolks
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 pint Strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 tablespoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
Red Food Coloring, optional

Combine cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract in a heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until milk steams and bubbles begin to appear around the edges; do not simmer. Meanwhile, beat egg yolks until they start to lighten in color, 2 to 3 minutes. While whisking, very slowly drizzle about 1 1/2 cups of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks to temper them; add tempered egg mixture to remaining cream. Cook, stirring gently, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon; the custard should be about 170℉. Add salt to taste; a few grains blooms the flavor. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to two days. ( If desired, strain the mixture.)

About 2 hours before you’re ready to freeze the ice cream, combine strawberries, sugar and lemon juice and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. If you want a smooth texture, place the strawberry mixture into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. For a chunkier ice cream, just pulse a few times in a blender.

Stir berry mixture into chilled custard, adding red food coloring if desired. Transfer to the bowl of an ice cream freezer and freeze according to directions. Once finished, serve at once for soft serve or transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Enjoy all the local strawberries while you can. They are far superior that the ones you find in the grocery stores the rest of the year.

Try Alligator in Kitchen

Many people say that alligator, like frog legs, taste like chicken. It does have a mild flavor, firm texture and picks up the flavors of the ingredients it is prepared with. It resembles chicken and the two proteins can be used interchangeably.

Alligator is a very healthy protein. It contains very little fat, making it a great addition to a healthy diet. By law, all alligator meat that you find in stores are farm raised. It is also often tail meat that you will find. I know that many colleges like to grill whole alligator at tailgates on the day their team plays the University of Florida. Today, I am sharing two more traditional recipes using the monster of the swamps.

The idea for this dish was a menu item on a Carnival Cruise. Every night, they put an item on their menu for more adventurous diners to sample. People at our table tried the Alligator Fritters and thought it was a good dish. My issue was that it had very little flavor. When I came home, I decided to make this a Creole dish. Here is my interpretation of that cruise ship dish.

Alligator Beignets

1 pound Alligator tail meat, finely ground
1 Onion, chopped fine
1 Bell Pepper, chopped fine
1 clove Garlic, minced
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/8 teaspoon Mace
1/2 teaspoon Dry Mustard
1 teaspoon Sat
2 large Eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Canola or Peanut Oil

Grind the alligator in a food processor. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper and garlic and pulverize with the alligator in the processor. Sift the flour with the baking powder, mace, dry mustard and salt. Combine the beaten eggs and the flour mixture. Add the melted butter and Worcestershire sauce and combine. Add to the alligator mixture and combine. Pour 1-inch of oil into a skillet and heat to 380℉. Drop the batter one tablespoon at a time into the hot oil, turning the fritters over with a slotted spoon as they brown. Remove when browned on all sides and drain on paper towels. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce, mine would be a Remoulade sauce.

Sauce Piquant(pee-kahnt) is a Cajun dish that is often used with game meats. Game meats usually require longer cooking time to tenderize the meat. Sauce Piquant also tends to be a spicy dish. You can adjust the seasonings to your own heat level, adding or subtracting the cayenne pepper to your taste. Feel free to substitute chicken, venison, seafood or any protein you want if alligator is not to your taste.

Alligator Sauce Piquant

2 pounds Alligator Tail meat, cubed
1 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
1 cup Flour
2 cups Onions, chopped
2 cups Celery, chopped
2 cups Bell Pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic, chopped
1 29-ounce can Tomato Sauce
1 28 ounce can Rotel Tomatoes
3 teaspoons Dark Brown Sugar
2 cups Seafood or Chicken Stock
3 Bay Leaves
1 tablespoon fish Basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh Thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh Oregano, chopped
2 teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
Cooked Rice

Season the meat well with Creole seasoning. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-low heat. Brown meat in oil. Remove the meat and make a medium dark roux with the oil and flour. Add onions, celery and bell pepper. When the pot has somewhat cooled, add the garlic and sauté the vegetables over medium heat until tender. Add tomato sauce, rotel, stock and brown sugar and cook for 3 minutes. Add the seasoning and the meat and simmer until thickened and meat is tender. Serve over hot rice.

Don’t be afraid to eat alligator. It is a great protein for any diet. Remember, it’s better to take a bite on a alligator than to have one take a bite out of you. See you later!

Make Easter, every day sweeter

Easter is the largest candy holiday in the United States. A large percentage of this candy is chocolate. Chocolate is also an excellent ingredient in many desserts.

Chocolate has been around since the beginning of time. In Mexico, it was often used to make beverages. Columbus brought cacao beans back to Spain after his fourth voyage to the new world where it continued to be used as a beverage. In 1847, Englishman Joseph Fry discovered that adding cocoa powder and sugar to melted cocoa butter allowed him to mold chocolate. Thus the chocolate bar was born. It wasn’t until 1893 that Milton Hershey purchased chocolate processing equipment and began the career of Hershey’s chocolate that we all know and love today.

White chocolate, which is a favorite of mine, is actually not chocolate at all. Since it contains no cocoa solids at all, many countries do not consider it chocolate at all. Since there is no cocoa solids, white chocolate does not contain theobromine or caffeine, which makes it safe for animals. But lets talk about regular chocolate with the following recipes.

Here is a fancy twist on a chocolate dessert. Many people think that a Creme Bruleé is hard to make. This easy to make dessert looks like you spent hours creating it.. Finishing the dessert allows me to use one of my favorite kitchen tools, my small torch. Of course if you don’t have one, you can always caramelize the sugar under a broiler.

Chocolate Creme Bruleé

6 Egg Yolks
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 quart Heavy Cream
6 ounces Chocolate, finely and evenly chopped
1 Vanilla Bean, seeds scraped

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl. Bring cream to a simmer with vanilla bean. Remove bean and add chocolate. Let rest in order for the chocolate to melt. Add cooled cream mixture to sugar and yolk mixture and blend. Place in ramekins, in a water bath, and cook for approximately 20 minutes, until set. Remove and chill. Before serving, sprinkle sugar on top and torch or broil to caramelize the sugar.

Here is a great recipe for the spring and summer months. This easily made dessert makes a great ending to any meal. That is, if you can wait till the end of the meal to eat it. It also makes for a wonderful afternoon snack.

Whipped Chocolate Cheesecake Parfait

1 cup cold Heavy Whipping Cream
8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons Milk
Grated Dark Chocolate for garnish

Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whip heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside. Mix cream cheese, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and milk together until fully combined. Reserve enough whipped cream for topping. Add the remaining whipped cream to cream cheese mixture and slowly mix until combined. Spoon whipped chocolate cheesecake into shallow stemmed glasses. Top with whipped cream and grated dark chocolate. If you wish, fresh strawberries or raspberries make a great topping also.

This next recipe is a chocoholic’s delight. This flourless cake is enough to satisfy all of your chocolate cravings. This recipe is from the greatest chef I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, Warren Leruth. I don’t think there will ever be a chef as talented as he was.

Pave au Chocolate

1 8-inch Cake pan, lined with waxed paper
12 Eggs, separate yolks from whites
12 ounces Butter, melted
12 ounces Dark Chocolate
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract

In a double boiler, melt chocolate and remove from heat. Beat egg yolks and fold them into the melted chocolate. Next, fold in the melted butter. Whip egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour mixture into pan and chill overnight. Slice and serve with whipped cream.

I hope that these recipes satisfy your sweet tooth. Until next time, keep on cooking!

Recipes from New Orleans first family of restaurants

New Orleans Is known for having some of the best restaurants in the country. Many of the best restaurants are owned and operated by the first family of New Orleans restaurants, the Brennans. This family started out when Owen Brennan opened Brennan’s Restaurant on Bourbon Street. He started planning the move to a larger location, to 417 Royal St, its current location. Unfortunately, Owen passed away before the new location opened.

This left his siblings to continue the work he did. Now into the second generation, the Brennan family has amassed a restaurant empire. They currently own and operate fifteen restaurants nationwide, with seven located in the French Quarter. Today, I am sharing with you recipes from two of Owen’s siblings, his brother John and sister Ella. Ella was the one who really took over after Owen’s death and was the driving force behind this empire.

This is a recipe from the website of Ralph Brennan, John’s son. It is a great dish for a party, since it needs to be prepared in advance. Of all of the second generation of the Brennan family, Ralph has the most restaurants of the lot. His eight restaurants include Brennan’s on Royal Street and the Red Fish Grill. He also has the Jazz Kitchen located at Downtown Disney in California.

Lump Crabmeat, Bacon & Onion Dip

1/2 pound chopped & Cooked Bacon
1/2 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
12 ounces Cream Cheese
3/4 cup chopped Onions
4 ounces Mayonnaise
2 ounces Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons Green Onions, sliced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco Hot Sauce to taste
Chopped Fresh Parsley, about 1 tablespoon
French Bread Crostini Slices

Stir together first 9 ingredients. Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours before serving. Stir in parsley just before serving. Serve with French bread crostini slices.

This recipe is from one of my favorite French Quarter restaurants. Mr B’s. Bistro. John’s daughter Cindy runs this location. We have visited this restaurant on many special occasions, celebrating anniversaries and Valentines day. The main cooking appliance is their wood burning grill. Mr. B’s was one of the first to design their menu around the wood burning grill. Here is a recipe that put that grill to good use.

Honey Ginger Barbecued Pork Chop

1 cup Honey
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Ginger
1/2 cup firmly packed Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Sriracha Sauce
1/4 cup Sesame Oil
2 tablespoons minced Garlic (about 6 cloves)
1/4 cup minced fresh Chives
4 Center Cut Pork Chops

In a bowl, whisk together honey, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, garlic and chives. Grill chops on a preheated grill or griddle about 4-6 minutes a side, reaching about 155℉ internal temperature. Place on a warm plate and drizzle with honey ginger sauce before serving.

The final recipe is from the best restaurant in New Orleans, Commander’s Palace, run by Ella’s daughter Ti and John’s daughter, Lally. This grand restaurant was where we first met Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse. Their presence in the kitchen here elevated the food to the level it is now, headed by Chef Tory McPhail. I am not sure who created this dessert but it is a wonderful way to finish any meal. It is also Lally’s favorite dessert.

Praline Parfait

1 1/2 cups White Corn Syrup
1 1/2 cups Dark Corn Syrup
1 1/2 cups chopped Roasted Pecans
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Dash of Nutmeg
Dash of Cinnamon
8 scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup Heavy Cream, whipped
6 Maraschino Cherries with stems

Mix together corn syrups, pecans, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Put 2 tablespoons each of this sauce in the bottom of 4 parfait dishes. Add 2 scoops of ice cream to each dish and top with a generous lacing of sauce. Top the sauce with a lavish spoonful of whipped cream and garnish with a cherry. (There will be some sauce left over for use another time.)

One day, I will write about the only Brennan family member who is a trained chef, a friend of mine, Dickie Brennan. Dickie’s three French Quarter restaurants are among the most popular in the city.

Irish Style cooking for St. Patrick’s Day

New Orleans has a large Irish population. It also has one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Every year, I return to New Orleans to march in the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s parade, which is held the Saturday before March 17th, unless the 17th is a Saturday, which this year it is. There are four St. Patrick’s parades, not counting the Irish-Italian parade, which parades the weekend after St. Pats.

I know what you are thinking. Centola is not an Irish name. However, my fraternal grandmother’s maiden name was Murphy. Back in Boston, I have cousins with the last names of Duffy and O’Brien. I think this qualifies me to march in the St. Pat’s parade.

I am fortunate enough to be able to march with my three brothers. Also included in our group is a couple of cousins, and friends, including my neighbor who started marching with us last year. Our group, The Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club has one of the largest parades in the city of New Orleans, rivaling some of the Mardi Gras parades.

The riders of the floats toss cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes to the crowds. Add some stew meat and seasonings and you have everything you need to make a New Orleans Irish Stew.

New Orleans Irish Stew

3 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 pounds Stew Meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Onions, cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dried Thyme
3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 pint Beer
4 cups Beef Stock
1 tablespoon Sugar
3 Bay Leaves
3 tablespoons Butter
3 Carrots, sliced into rounds
4 large Potatoes, cubed
2 cups Cabbage, sliced
2 tablespoons Parsley, chopped

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat oil. Add beef and brown on all sides. You might need to do this in two batches. It will take about 5 minutes for each batch to brown. Remove and set aside.
Add onions and sauté about 3 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and thyme and continue to sauté until garlic releases oils, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and continue to sauté for 1 minute. Add the beef back into mixture and continue to sauté until browned, about 4 minutes.
Deglaze with beer. Add stock, sugar and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
In a sauté pan, heat butter and sauté carrots and potatoes until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add cabbage and sauté until slightly wilted, about 3 minutes.
Add sautéed vegetables to stock pot and cook through before serving. Garnish with parsley.

Here is a recipe for all of you crock pot cookers out there. Corned Beef and Cabbage is a great dish to put on in the morning and have ready for you to eat when you come home from your busy day.

Irish Channel Corned Beef and Cabbage

3 pounds Corned Beef
1 Onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Water
1 pint Chicken Stock
4 Carrots, chopped
1 head Cabbage, broken apart

Rinse the corned beef and cut off excess fat. Place the onion on the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the crowed beef on top of the onion. Add water, stock, carrots and cabbage.
Cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours, or until meat is cooked and the vegetables are tender.

Next time, I will tell you about New Orleans first family of the restaurant business, the Irish family of the Brennan’s.

Wishing you Irish Blessings and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Recreating five-star restaurant recipes

My wife and I are planning our annual March trip to New Orleans. The conversation quickly turns to which restaurants we would like to dine at. One restaurant that, if it were open, would be at the top of my list, LeRuth’s.

LeRuth’s was the first job that I had. This five star rated restaurant was the best restaurant in New Orleans. Reservations had to be made at least 2 weeks in advance, 3 if you were going on the weekend. The food was the best examples of Creole cooking.

The genius behind the restaurant was Chef Warren Leruth. (Only the restaurant name has a capital R in it.) He began his career as a baker in the Army. After working in a few restaurants in New Orleans, he became a research chef, developing the Green Goddess dressing for Seven Seas. He returned to New Orleans in 1966 to open his restaurant. He eventually sold the restaurants to his two sons, Larry and Lee, who were both talented chefs, having learned from the master, their father.

Sadly due to personal tragedies, the restaurant closed in 1991. I remember going to visit the kitchen on that last night. It was sad that this great restaurant was closing. A few years later, Chef Warren came in to Cannon’s restaurant, where I was working at the time. As I approached him, he remembered my name and we talked for 1 1/2 hours about the restaurant business. He was amazed how many people who once worked for him were still in the business. So today, here are two recipes from that wonderful restaurant.

Chef Leruth did not think a dinner should start with a cold appetizer. However, this was the exception to the rule. It also makes a great substitute for a salad.

Shrimp Remoulade


3/4 cup Creole Mustard
2 tablespoons Paprika
1 cup Corn Oil
1/4 cup chopped Onion
1/2 cup chopped Celery
2 tablespoons chopped Parsley
1/2 teaspoon Sugar (optional)
Tabasco to taste

Mix well and refrigerate before serving.

To assemble appetizer
24 large Boiled Shrimp, deveined with shells and tail removed
1 head Lettuce, shredded
4 Boiled Eggs

Place lettuce on bottom of a chilled 6-inch plate. In the center put the boiled egg, then surround with shrimp. Top with a generous serving of the remoulade sauce and serve.

This is my version of my favorite entrée for LeRuth’s. Every night they would have a veal special. When asked what entrée I would like to have for my senior prom dinner, this was the one that I selected. It is usually made with King Crab meat, but Lump Crabmeat also works well.

Veal Marie

Crepe Batter

1 3/4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 tablespoon Sugar
2 cups Milk
1 Egg
1/3 cup Canola Oil
5 tablespoons melted Butter, plus extra for pan

Place the flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the milk, egg, oil and butter. Heat a nonstick sauté pan or crepe pan over moderate heat. Lightly coat with melted butter. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the center of the hot pan and tilt it in all directions. The batter should coat the pan in a light covering. After about 30 seconds, the bottom side of the crepe should be lightly browned and the crepe should be ready to be flipped. Shake the pan in order to release the crepe, and then turn it by using a spatula. Cook the crepe for an additional 15-20 seconds and then remove it from the pan and set aside. Repeat process until all of the batter has been used. This can be done in advance as the crepe will heat up when topped with the sauce.

Crabmeat Sauce

2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons All-purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Dash White Pepper and fresh Nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Half and Half
1 pound Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook until evenly combined. After the mixture is combined with no lumps, slowly add the half and half, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until evenly blended. Stir sauce over medium heat until the mixture bubbles across the entire surface. Cook and stir for a few more minutes. Add crabmeat, stir and keep warm.

4-3ounce slices Veal, pounded thin
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning

Mix the flour and creole seasoning in a shallow bowl or plate. Lightly dust the veal in the flour. Add enough oil to a large skillet to coat the bottom. Heat pan over medium heat. Sauté the veal for 1 1/2 minutes on each sider until golden brown. Cook the veal in multiple batches, so you do not overcrowd the pan. Add oil to the pan as needed. Keep veal warm until assembly.

To assemble, place a piece of veal on the bottom of a warm plate. Top with a crepe and a generous portion of Crabmeat sauce and serve.

I am hoping one day Larry Leruth will publish a cookbook with his father’s recipes. Until then, I can only try to recreate those delicious dishes.

Considering cooking with Lamb

In New Orleans, lamb is a popular dish for the Easter feast. However, I have another memory that I associated with lamb. My maternal grandmother found out that I liked lamb. She would buy leg of lamb with the intention of inviting me over to eat, since many in the family did not care for lamb. Even though she was advancing in age, at least once a year I would get the invite for a lamb dinner.

So today, I will share with you a couple of lamb preparations, one using a leg of lamb and one using lamb shanks. You can find both of these at local stores. If you like lamb, you will love these dishes.

This is my version of the dish that my grandmother would prepare for me. It is close to the flavor that I remember hers to have. It is delicious to eat, but still not quite as good as hers.

Roasted Leg of Lamb

1 whole Leg of Lamb, about 6-9 pounds
20 cloves of Garlic, large ones cut in half lengthwise
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Thyme
Creole Seasoning
Olive Oil
Red Wine

Prepare leg by removing most of the visible fat. Cut slits into the top portion of the roast with a small sharp knife. Insert garlic clove into each slit and push down with finger until it is no longer visible. Rub the herbs and Creole seasoning all over the surface. Do the same with the olive oil. Splash with wine and rub again. Cover and let meat marinade for at least 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting.

Preheat oven to 450℉. Place the lamb leg in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 10-15 minutes for the initial searing, and then reduce the temperature of the oven to 350℉. Continue roasting for 8 minutes per pound for rare, 10 minutes per pound for medium, or 18 minutes per pound for well done. Baste occasionally with pan juices. Remove roast from oven when done. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest 10-20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, reduce the liquids in the pan and deglaze to get all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add wine, beef stock or water if necessary.

I have seen a nice selection of lamb shanks at the local large grocery store. The best way to prepare them is to braise them in liquid over a long period of time. This will give you a delicious lamb dish that falls right off the bone.

Braised Lamb Shanks

4 Lamb Shanks, about 1 pound each
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
2 Onions, cut into chunks
2 large Carrots, cut into thisk coins
3 stalks Celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Marjoram
2 sprigs Fresh parsley
1 Orange ,cut into eights
1 1/2 cup White Wine

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Trim as much fat as you can off the lamb shanks, unless they are already trimmed. Don’t get too zealous about this; there should be a little fat still there. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Season the shanks with Creole seasoning. Brown the shanks on all sides and remove from the pan. Place the shanks into a roasting pan. Add all the other ingredients around it except for the wine. Put the skillet back onto the burner on medium heat. Add the wine and bring to a boil, while whisking to deglaze the pan. Hold at a light boil for about 2 minutes, then pour over the shanks. Add enough water or beef stock to come about 1/3 up the sides of the shanks. Cover, or wrap with aluminum foil, the roasting pan and cook for 90 minutes, turning the shanks every 30 minutes. After 90 minutes, remove the cover, turn the shanks and roast for another 30 minutes. The meat should be falling off the bone with just a touch of a fork, if not add more liquid, if necessary, and continue to cook uncovered until done. Discard the vegetables. Strain the pan juices, skim off the fat and reduce until you have about 1 cup of liquid to serve with the lamb.

I hope you enjoy these lamb dishes as much as I do. While some may find the flavor a little gamey, I enjoy the difference and I think you will as well.

Doing more with Venison in Kitchen

Now that deer hunting season is over, I hope many of you have landed your buck. Now, I am not a hunter myself. I do, however, like to cook and eat venison. Of course, my favorite, like many, is venison sausage. But, there is so much more you can do with the meat. Here are two ways that I like to cook venison.

This is a great way to use a venison roast without grounding it up into sausage meat. This is a two day event. I feel the key to this roast is the marinade. It flavors the meat while tenderizing it. You can speed this up if you want by raising the heat, just make sure that you check it and add stock if needed, to prevent the stock from evaporating out.

Venison Pot Roast

1 3-5 pound Venison Roast
1 tablespoon Black Pepper
1 tablespoon White Pepper
1 tablespoon Pink Peppercorns
3/4 cup Italian Dressing
1/2 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Honey
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon Granulated Garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons Dry Mustard
2 tablespoons Salt
4 to 5 cups Beef Stock
1 Onion, chopped
1 Bell Pepper, chopped
1 stalk Celery, chopped
2 Potatoes, cut in half and sliced
1 bag Baby Carrots

Combine venison, black & white peppers, peppercorns, Italian dressing, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, garlic, mustard and salt in a large nonreactive container or zip-lock bag and marinate overnight in refrigerator.
Remove venison from marinade, place in a large skillet over high heat, and brown on all sides. Set aside.
Add stock, roast and remaining ingredients to a Dutch oven. Cover and simmer over low heat until the meat is tender, about 8 hours. Served sliced with vegetables for the pot.

Sauce Piquante is a classic Cajun preparation. You can make this as spicy or as mild as you like. This recipe contained no extra pepper or hot sauce. My suggestion is to serve with a bottle of hot sauce on the table. That way, everyone can spice up their plate as much as they want.

Venison Sauce Piquant

1 cup Peanut Oil
1 cup All-purpose Flour
6 cups Beef Stock
2 cups Onion, chopped
1 cup Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped
5 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 6 ounce can Tomato Paste
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning, plus more to taste
3-4 pounds Venison, diced small
1 cup Red Wine
1 28 ounce can Crushed Tomatoes
4 Bay Leaves

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Stir in the flour, then turn the heat down to medium. Cook this roux, stirring often, until it turns the color of dark chocolate, about 15-20 minutes. Once the roux turns the color of peanut butter, you will need to stir it almost constantly to prevent it from burning. While roux is cooking, heat beef stock in another pot until boiling. Hold it at a simmer for now. When the roux is ready, add the onion, bell pepper and celery and stir to combine, Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until everything is soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, Creole seasoning and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook this, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Mix in the venison, then add the red wine, the can of crushed tomatoes and hot beef stock, stirring as you add. Add the bay leaves and bring this to a a gentle simmer. Let this simmer very gently until the meat is tender, about 3 hours or more.When the sauce piquant is ready, re-season with Creole seasoning, if necessary. Serve over cook white rice,

Until next years hunt, enjoy your venison..

Transforming dishes with seafood

America is one big melting pot. Many different cultures are represented in the population of this great country. You can see great examples of these cultures in the ethnic restaurants that have opened locally and around the country. These immigrants have adapted their recipes with the local products they can find. Today, I will take two traditional ethnic recipes, one Mexican and one Italian, and using seafood, transform them into dishes that are different from what you would find in these different cultures.

Seafood enchiladas are not traditional New Orleans food. However, Mexican restaurants are abundant in the Crescent City, as they are here in Arkansas. By including great seafood in this traditional Mexican fare, you get comfort food from both worlds, North and South of the border.

Seafood Enchiladas

1 medium Onion, chopped

1 tablespoon Butter

1/4 pound fresh Crabmeat, picked thru for shells

1/4 pound Shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined and coarsely chopped

1/4 pound Crawfish tails, coarsely chopped

Creole Seasoning to taste

8 ounces Colby cheese

6 (10-inch) Tortillas

1 cup Half & Half

1/2 cup Sour Cream

1/4 cup Butter, melted

1 1/2 teaspoons dried Parsley

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Salt

Preheat oven ot 350℉.

In a large skillet, sauté onions in 1 tablespoon of butter until transparent. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the seafood. Season with Creole seasoning. Shred the cheese and mix half of it into the seafood. Place a large spoonful of the seafood mixture into each tortilla. Roll the tortillas up around the mixture and arrange the rolled tortillas in a 9×13-inch baking dish.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine half & half, sour cream, melted butter, parsley and garlic salt. Stir until the mixture is lukewarm and blended. Pour sauce over the enchiladas, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Lasagna is Italian comfort food at its finest. In many restaurants in New Orleans, you can find lasagna made with seafood in a white sauce. Lasagna prepared this way takes your tastebuds on a trip to heaven. This recipe is basically a Shrimp Alfredo, that is layered with seafood goodness. Feel free to substitute your favorite seafood in this dish, making sure you have the correct amounts of protein.

Shellfish Lasagna

12 Lasagna Noodles

3 tablespoons Butter

1 small Onion, minced

3 cloves Garlic, minced

3 tablespoons All-purpose Flour

2 1/2 cups Heavy Cream

1 cup Romano cheese, grated

1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning

3/4 pound Crawfish Tails

3/4 pound medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375℉. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the lasagna noodles until they are done, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet and cook the onions over low heat until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Over medium-low heat, stir in the flour with a whisk, then gradually add the heavy cream, allowing the sauce to thicken slightly before adding more. When the sauce has thickened to desired consistency, add the cheese and stir well. Add Creole seasoning and stir again. Add the seafood and cook until the shrimp are starting to turn pink, about 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the sauce from the skillet into the prepared pan. Layer noodles into the pan then top with seafood mixture. Continue this until the top layer of pasta is only covered with sauce and NO SEAFOOD. Make sure that all of the top surface of the pasta is covered. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, uncovered until bubbly. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

Experiment with Duck in kitchen

One of my favorite dishes to order in a restaurant is duck. The first time I had duck was at the now closed LeRuth’s. They served a half duck roasted on top of an oyster dressing with a green peppercorn sauce. More recently, I found a half roasted duck at Brigtsen’s. You usually find duck in a restaurant either served as a half duck or the duck breast. Either way is a great alternative to chicken.

Locally, there are many duck hunters. Stuttgart is the home of Mack’s Prairie Wings, the premier waterfowl sports outfitters in the world. Every year in November, the city holds the World Duck Calling Championship, which brings people of all ages from around the world to compete.

Down in south Louisiana, the Cajuns eat lots of foods that they catch themselves. When they first moved to Louisiana from Canada, they had to learn to live off the land. Hunting and fishing became a way to survive. Ducks, deer and fish are staples in their diet. So today, I am sharing with you two duck dishes prepared Cajun style, one featuring the half duck and one with just the breast.

Cajuns love to smother everything when cooking. The best thing about smothering that you can adapt your recipe to you own taste. To Creolize this dish, add some diced tomatoes. To make that Creolized dish even spiced, use Rotel.

Cajun Smothered Duck

2 Ducks, cleaned
2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Canola Oil
2 large Onions, chopped
2 large Bell Peppers, chopped
1 Celery Rib, chopped
1 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh Parsley, chopped
2 Bay Leaves
1 cup Chicken Stock, or more if needed

Preheat oven to 300℉.

Wash the ducks and pat dry. Season inside and out with Creole seasoning, then dust outside lightly with flour. Heat the canola oil in a roasting pan over medium-high heat. Brown the ducks in the oil, turning frequently, until the skin begins to crisp on all sides. Remove and keep warm. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon on the oil in the pan. Over medium-low heat, sauté the onions, bell peppers and celery until soft, about 2 minutes. Return the ducks to the roasting pan. Add a cup of chicken stock and bay leaf. Cover the pan and cook for about 2 hours. Every half hour, open the pan and turn the ducks over. Add a little more stock if the pan juices begin to dry out. The ducks are cooked when the meat begins to fall from the leg bones. Remove the ducks from the pan and keep warm. Let the pan contents stand for a few minutes; the fat will rise to the top. Skim and discard the fat. Bring the remaining pan contents to a very light simmer, and reduce until it thickens to a gravy consistency. Add the green onions and the parsley, and add more Creole seasoning to taste. To serve, cut the ducks in half from end to end. Remove and discard the backbone and ribcage and serve with the rest of the sauce.

The most desired part of the duck is the breast. This succulent meat is very versatile in the ways you can cook it. In the deep south, frying is the preferred method of cooking poultry. Here is how they fry duck breast down on the bayou.

Cajun Fried Duck Breast

2 Duck Breast
1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
2 Eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup Cracker Crumbs
Shortening for frying
6 quart heavy skillet, preferably cast iron

Tenderize breast slightly with a meat tenderizer. Cut each breast into 3 equal pieces. Soak in buttermilk for 2 hours. Remove duck from buttermilk, dip in beaten egg, sprinkle with Creole seasoning, and dredge in finely crumbled cracker crumbs. Deep fry in large skillet with 1 inch of shortening at medium heat for 20 minutes a side. Drain on paper towels before serving.

For you hunters who have not reached your limit, you have until January 28th to do so. If you already have your limit, try one of these Cajun recipes. You will be glad you did.