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One last cookout for great Labor Day

Labor Day is the unofficial last day of Summer. For many across the country, school starts on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Labor Day, the first Monday in September, became a federal holiday in 1894. This long weekend is a great opportunity for one last cookout. Here are a few recipes great for your Labor Day blowout.

Flank Steak is a cut of meat often eaten in Arkansas. It is most often used in Mexican restaurants for steak fajitas. This long flat cut is also known as London Broil. The key to a tender flank steak is to make sure you cut it across the grain. The grain is the direction the muscle fibers run. Look at the steak before you marinade it to determine the direction of the grain.

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak

2 pound Flank Steak
1 cup Cooking Sherry or Red Wine
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
2 tablespoons Salt Free Creole Seasoning
2 tablespoons Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Put the flank steak in a large ziplock plastic bag. Whisk the sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar, Creole Seasoning, garlic, tomato paste, and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture into the bag and seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours.

Preheat your gas or charcoal grill. Allow the surface to get nice and hot.

Remove the steak from the marinade and pat it dry. Grill the steak for about 6 minutes on each side for rare. Increase the cook time for other doneness. White it cooks, pour the marinade into a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Cut the steak across the grain into thin diagonal slices, and serve with the sauce on the side.

I love to cook fish on the grill. Fish lends itself to different marinades and sauces. As I say in the recipe, make sure that the grill is hot, hot hot or the fish will stick to the grill. If you want, you can spray the grill with oil before heating to help prevent sticking. Great substitutes for redfish are Catfish, Cod, Grouper and Salmon.

Grilled Redfish with Rosemary Lemon Sauce

2 pounds Redfish
3 Lemons
4 tablespoons fresh Rosemary, coarsely chopped
1/2 tablespoon Salt Free Creole Seasoning
2 teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Garlic, minced
4 cups Cooking White Wine
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Zest the lemons, then juice them. In a large bowl, combine lemon zest and juice with the rosemary, Creole Seasoning, pepper, garlic, wine and olive oil. Mix together and add the fish. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the grill. Allow the cooking service to get nice and hot. This is especially important for fish. If the grill is not hot, hot, hot, the fish will stick and fall apart. If you are using a fish grilling basket, make sure the basket is hot before adding the fish. Grill fish 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from grill. Heat remaining marinade, simmer for 2 minutes, skim the top and pour over the fish before serving.

Every great meal deserves a great dessert. This parfait is perfect for a cookout. It is made to be assembled then stored in the refrigerator until serving. If you wish, you can substitute the white chocolate for dark or milk chocolate.

Double Chocolate Cheesecake Whipped Parfaits

1 cup cold Heavy Whipping Cream
8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
3 tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons Milk
1 block White Chocolate, grated

Using a stand mixer with a 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 mixture into mini glass serving dishes. Top with whipped cream and grated white chocolate. Refrigerate until serving. For a twist, fresh strawberries or raspberries make a great topping. Put those between the cheesecake mixture and whipped cream.

Although Labor Day is the unofficial end of Summer, the weather is still warm enough for a few months to continue to have a cookout. These recipes are great any time of year.

Key Lime

Summertime is when most people take vacations. One of my favorite vacation destinations is Key West. You can not think of Key West without thinking of the Key Lime.

The Key Lime is smaller than the traditional lime. It also has a stronger acidity and aroma, which gives it the unique flavor that it has. Key limes are not often found locally. However, there is a great product you can use in its place.

Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice can be found in local grocery stores. This Key Lime Juice got its start being bottled on the tiny island of Key West. It can easily pass for freshly squeezed juice. It’s a perfect ingredient to add a Key West flair to your dishes.

This is the first thing that you think of when you hear Key Lime. It is a simple dessert to make. I can’t think of a more refreshing way to end a wonderful summer meal.

Key Lime Pie

1 1/2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/2 cup Sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter, melted
2 cans (14 ounce) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup Key Lime Juice
2 large Eggs
1 cup Sour Cream
2 tablespoons Powdered Sugar
1 tablespoon Lime Zest

Preheat oven to 375℉.

In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter with your hands. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake until brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 325℉.

In a separate bowl, combine the condensed milk, lime juice and eggs. Whisk until well blended and place the filling in the cooled pie shell. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Once chilled, combine the sour cream and powdered sugar and spread over the top of the pie using a spatula. Sprinkle the lime zest as a garnish on top of the sour cream and serve chilled.

This is a great dessert for any dinner party. The addition of the strawberries and kiwi makes for a great presentation. This dish is a wonderful ending to any meal from a back yard cookout to a 5 course meal.

Key Lime Parfait

1 can (14 ounce) Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 Egg Yolks
4 Ounces Key Lime Juice
8 ounces Pound Cake
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Powdered Sugar
6 whole Strawberries
1 Kiwi, peeled, sliced in 6 slices

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, combine milk and egg yolks and blend at low speed. Slowly add lime juice and continue mixing until well blended. Slice pound cake into 1-inch slices and cut to fit inside of a stemmed glass. Pour Key Lime filling over pound cake and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Whip heavy cream with powdered sugar and top each glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry and a slice of kiwi. Serve.

Cheesecake is a dessert that has always been a favorite in my family. I thought that I would combine the tart Key Lime Juice with the creaminess of cheesecake. It was a hit. I know you will enjoy it too.

Key Lime Cheesecake

2 cups Graham cracker Crumbs
1 1/2 cups Sugar, divided
1/2 cup Butter, melted
24 ounces Cream Creese, softened
6 Eggs, separated
1 cup Sour Cream
1 1/4 teaspoons Lime Zest
1/2 cup Key Lime Juice

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Combine crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter in a small bowl. Mix well. Press mixture in the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a buttered springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool in pan.

Beat cream cheese with mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in sour cream, lime zest and lime juice. In another bowl, beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Fold into cream cheese mixture. Pour batter into prepared curst. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn oven off. Partially open oven door. Let cheesecake cool in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately run knife around the edge of pan to release sides. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cover and chill for 8 hours before serving.

The next time you are planning a summer meal, thing about including Key Lime Juice in your dishes. It will bring a little part of the Keys to your home.

Leap into something new with Frog Legs

First things first, frog legs taste like a cross between chicken and fish. Their mild flavor has people believing that they taste like chicken. Their texture is the same as chicken wings. You can prepare frog legs in many of the same ways as chicken.

Frog Legs can be considered either seafood or meat. This question is often brought up during the Lenten season, when some religions fast from eating meat on Friday. On menus, you always find frog legs listed under the seafood dishes. More often than not, frog legs are deep fried. As you can see from the recipes that follow, there are many other ways to prepare these delicacies.

One night, when my wife was out of town, I was looking for a different way to prepare frog legs. I thought that I would substitute the shrimp in my BBQ Shrimp recipe with the frog legs. My intuition was correct. The frog legs were just as tasty. It is a very easy and quick meal to prepare.

BBQ Frog Legs

3 pounds Frog Legs (cut the legs so they are single legs)
1 1/2 pounds Butter (6 sticks)
1 1/2 cups Olive Oil
8 tablespoons Garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons dry Basil Leaves
4 teaspoons Salt
3 teaspoons Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons dry Oregano
2 teaspoons dry Thyme
2 teaspoons BBQ Seasoning
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning

Over medium-high heat, melt butter in olive oil in a large pot. Combine all other ingredients, except the frog legs, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the frog legs and cook for 10 minutes. Serve in bowls with French bread for dipping in the sauce.

This dish is named after our Yorkie, Abigail. As a puppy, she was attracted to the frogs we would get in our yard. She would chase and catch them, which caused a reaction when she had the frog in her mouth. While writing my cookbook, I wanted to include a recipe named after my sweet little girl. Frog Legs were the obvious choice. This is great served over pasta.

Frog Legs Abigail

16 pairs Frog Legs, separated
1 teaspoon Salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper, divided
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Clam Juice
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Heavy Cream
6 tablespoons cold Butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1 tablespoon Fresh Parsley, chopped
Pinch Black Pepper

Lightly season frog legs with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper. Combine flour with Creole Seasoning and the remaining salt and white pepper. In batches, dredge the frog legs in flour and shake off the excess. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add frog legs in two batches and cook, turning constantly until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Carefully drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan and return to the heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add clam juice and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add heavy cream and cook for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the butter, several pieces at a time, stirring constantly, until all of the butter has been incorporated. Remove from heat. Stir in the parsley and black pepper. Return frog legs to the pan and cook over medium heat to warm through, shaking the pan back and forth to coat the frog legs evenly with the sauce, about 1 minute.

If you have not tried frog legs, take a leap of faith and try them. If you like chicken, which most people do, you will like frog legs.

Chicken can be versatile

I feel that chicken often gets a bum rap. It is an inexpensive meat and many often turn to chicken to stretch their budget. It is easy to feed a family of 4 for under 10 dollars.

However, chicken is a very versatile protein. Its blank canvas lends itself to many different ways to cook it as well as things to serve with it. In the movie Forrest Gump, Bubba tells Forrest the many ways you can serve shrimp. I think there are as many, if not more ways, to serve chicken. My two recipes this week use two different cuts of chicken, cut up whole chicken and chicken breast.

Chicken Fricassee is a dish that I remember fondly. My grandmother cooked it often. I was once asked what the difference was between this dish and Chicken Stew. The difference is the cooking of the chicken. You cook the chicken in the roux for a few minutes for a Fricassee. This gives a crusty texture to the chicken. For Chicken Stew, the chicken is cooked after the liquid is added.

Chicken Fricassee

1 Chicken, about 4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
Creole Seasoning to taste
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Onions, Chopped
1 cup Bell Pepper, chopped
4 to 5 cups warm Chicken Stock
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons Green Onions, chopped

Season the chicken pieces generously with Creole Seasoning. Set aside.

In a large black iron or stainless steel pot, make a roux by combining the oil and flour over medium heat. Stir constantly for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is dark brown. Add the onions and bell peppers. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat well with the roux mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes. Slowly add the stock and the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about two hours, or until the chicken is tender. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Remove the bay leaves, then add the parsley and green onions. Serve immediately.

This dish is named after the buildings that surround Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The Pontalba apartments on the upper floors of these buildings are considered the oldest continuously-rented apartments in the United States. The dish was created at Brennan’s restaurant and is widely found on menus in New Orleans.

Chicken Pontalba

Olive Oil
8 6-ounce Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
Creole Seasoning
1/2 cup Butter
4 tablespoons Garlic, minced
2 cups Onions, chopped
2 cups Green Onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups Ham, diced
2 cups Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cup Potatoes, diced and deep-fried about 2 minutes
3 tablespoons Fresh Parsley, chopped
3/4 cup White Wine or Chicken Stock
3 cups Bérnaise Sauce, recipe to follow

Preheat oven to 175℉.

In a large skillet, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Season the chicken with Creole Seasoning. Sauté the chicken over medium heat until done, about 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken and keep warm in the oven.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and sauté the garlic, onions, green onions, ham, and mushrooms until the mushrooms are brown. Add the wine or stock and reduce by 1/3. Add fried potatoes and parsley and cook 2 minutes. Put 1/8 of the potato mixture in the center of the plate. Place the chicken breast on top. Top with a generous amount of Bérnaise Sauce.
This is a variation of Hollandaise Sauce. A classic French sauce, Bérnaise is a great sauce to serve over chicken and steaks. This blender recipe is a simple way to make this sauce.

Bérnaise Sauce

2 tablespoons dried Tarragon
3/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 tablespoons Shallots, minced
2 Egg Yolks
1 Whole Egg
2 sticks (1/2 pound) Margarine
1 stick (1/4 pound) Butter
1 1/2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground White Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté tarragon, red wine vinegar and shallots for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture becomes paste-like and remove from heat. Melt margarine and butter over medium heat. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a blender, blend egg yolks, egg, vinegar, cayenne, white pepper and lemon juice. With blender on, pour melted margarine/butter slowly into other ingredients. Blend to thicken. Add the tarragon mixture and blend well.

Next time you are feeling creative, pick up some chicken and experiment away.

Getting Creative with Catfish

When I first arrived in Searcy, one of the first places my sister-in-law took us to eat was an all you can eat Catfish Buffett. Catfish was not as popular in New Orleans as it is here in Arkansas. Over the years, I have found that catfish is a versatile fish. It is mostly found fried in Arkansas. There are different ways, other than frying, to cook catfish. Today I am sharing with you a way to cook catfish on the stovetop and in the oven. I have also included a couple of sauces to top fried catfish with.

I have always said that Jambalaya can be made with any protein. One day, I had some catfish that I wanted to cook without frying or baking. Looking around the kitchen, I saw rice. The first attempt was good, so I knew I was on the right track. After a few more attempts, here is the best result.

Catfish Jambalaya

4 medium Onions, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 stalk Celery, chopped
2 sticks Butter or Margarine
1 (10 ounce) can Chopped Tomatoes
4 ounces Fresh Mushrooms
Salt and Pepper to taste
8 ounces Catfish Fillets
2 cups cooked White Rice
2 tablespoons Green Onions, chopped

Place all ingredients except the catfish, rice and green onions into a large saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to turn a light brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the fish and cook 15 to 20 minutes longer. Stir in the rice and green onions and serve.

Stuffed Trout is a dish that is often found in New Orleans. Since Speckled Trout is not easily found in Arkansas, I thought I would use catfish. The results were delicious. There is no need for me to bring trout back from New Orleans when catfish is readily available here.

Stuffed Catfish

Stuffing
1 pound Claw Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1 stick Butter
1/2 cup Onion, minced
1/2 cup Celery, minced
1//4 cup Green Onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning

Melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the vegetables and parsley and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add crabmeat and remove from heat. Add breadcrumbs and Creole Seasoning and mix well. Set aside.

4 Catfish Fillets
Lemon Zest
1 cup Seafood Stock

Preheat oven to 325℉.

Take a 4 ounce ball of stuffing and wrap a fillet around it. Sprinkle a pinch of lemon zest over each fish. Add 1/4 cup of seafood stock to the stuffed fish and wrap it in aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. You can top this with any sauce you like.

Here are a couple of sauces that are perfect toppings for fried or stuffed catfish. The Cream of Crawfish can also be made with shrimp.

Cream of Crawfish Sauce
1/2 cup Crawfish Tails, slightly chopped
2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
2/3 cup Onion, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Butter, cut into pieces

Coat crawfish with Creole Seasoning. In a medium sauté pan, add the crawfish, onions and Worcestershire sauce. Over medium heat, sauté for 2 minutes. Add heavy cream and reduce for 10 minutes. Add butter and stir until butter is melted and incorporated. Serve over fried catfish.

Pecan Meuniére Sauce

2 sticks Butter
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup Pecans, chopped

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter until it stops bubbling and the milk solids at the bottom of the pan begin to brown. Carefully add the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce; the butter will foam. Cook until the foam subsides. Add pecans and serve over fried catfish.

Don’t hesitate to cook catfish other than frying. It is a great tasting fish however you cook it.

Preparing perfect pasta

Pasta is a dish that is often introduced early in our childhood. The softness of the pasta makes it a great meal for a child who is cutting teeth. Our fondness for pasta carries on as we get older. It is also a great meal if you are on a budget. Pasta doubles in size when you cook it.

Often you see the words al denté associated with pasta.The translation form Italian is “ to the tooth.” You want pasta to have a firmness to it. When you overcook pasta, the softness leaves no resistance when you chew it. Correctly cooked pasta adds more texture to your completed dish.

Some people suggest that you add oil to the boiling water to prevent the pasta from sticking together. While it will prevent the pasta from sticking, it will also prevent your sauce from sticking to the pasta. The only thing you should add to the water is a decent amount of salt. This will add flavor to the cooked pasta.

This is one of my wife’s favorite dishes. She first had it at Drago’s restaurant in New Orleans. I have since recreated the dish so I can cook it for her whenever she wishes. For variety, you can substitute other seafood for the shrimp and crabmeat.

Shrimp and Crabmeat Pasta

2 cups Heavy Cream
1 tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon ground White Pepper
1 cup Green Onions, thinly sliced
1 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 pound raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1/2 cup shredded Swiss Cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 pound Fettuccine, cooked al denté

Pour cream into a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just about boiling. Reduce heat and add herbs, salt, peppers, onions, and parsley. Simmer 7 to 8 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in seafood, cooking until the shrimp are no longer transparent. Stir in the cheeses, blending well. Serve over pasta.

This is Creole Italian cooking at its finest. This is not your typical meat sauce recipe. It has more flavor due to the addition of the Beef Stock and Worcestershire sauce. It is also chunky due to the chopped tomatoes.

Pasta Creole

3 cups Egg Noodles, cooked al denté
1 pound Ground Beef, sautéed

Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 cup Celery, finely chopped
1 cup Onions, finely chopped
2 cups Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Dry Thyme
3 Bay Leaves
6 cups Beef Stock
1 cup Water
1/2 cup Cornstarch
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Melt the butter over low heat in a large skillet. Add the chopped vegetables, paprika and sauté until soft and slightly browned. Add the bay leaves, thyme, beef stock, and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Mix cornstarch together with enough water to make a thin paste then add to sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sautéed meat and cook for 5 minutes Serve over pasta.

This is my interpretation of Copeland’s Shrimp and Tasso Pasta. This simple but delicious dish is what is commonly known as Alfredo. The addition of the Tasso gives it that Louisiana flavor. It takes longer to cook the pasta than it does to make the sauce. I always keep heavy cream and Parmesan cheese on hand to whip up an Alfredo sauce.

Shrimp and Tasso Pasta

10 tablespoons Butter, divided
1 tablespoon Garlic, minced
2 cups Heavy Cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 dozen medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 pound Tasso, diced
8 ounces Bow Tie Pasta, cooked al denté

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté garlic in 8 tablespoons of butter for 3 minutes or golden brown. Add the heavy cream. Heat until the edges start to bubble. Slowly add the Parmesan Cheese and mix until well blended.

In a medium sauté pan, sauté shrimp and tasso in remaining butter until the shrimp are no longer transparent. Add shrimp and Tasso to the sauce. Keep warm for 3 minutes. Serve over Bow Tie Pasta.

You will want to keep Parmesan cheese to top your pasta dishes. I always keep a small wedge on hand to grate over pasta. It’s better tasting than the grated cheese you find in containers near the pasta.

Blackberries drive summertime memories, recipes

Blackberries are a great summertime treat. Growing up, my grandmother had a blackberry bush in her yard. Every summer, I spent time picking blackberries. My grandmother would make blackberry pies and cobblers. Every time the family got together, blackberries would be part of the meal.

The season was just perfect. Just when you would get tired of eating blackberries, they were done for the year. After a few months, you start missing fresh blackberries. In the spring, we would always check the berries to see if they were ripe. As soon as they were, the picking would commence and the cycle would begin again.

When most people think of dumplings, Chicken and Dumplings comes to mind. Dumplings are also great as part of this blackberry dessert. What makes it Cajun you ask? Cajuns were known for using ingredients that were readily available. All ingredients, except for the blackberries, are found in every kitchen. I use bottle water instead of tap water. The filtered water has a neutral flavor that tap water does not have.

Cajun Blackberry Dumplings

4 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 cup Milk
2 large Eggs, well beaten
3 1/2 cups Sugar, divided
2 teaspoons Vanilla
3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
4 cups Bottle Water
1 1/2 quarts Blackberries
Whipped Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream for serving

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, milk, eggs, 1 cup sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and stir, but do not over mix.

When dumpling batter is ready, combine water, 2 1/2 cups sugar and blackberries in a large skillet. Cook fruit over a medium heat until mixture thickens. Drop dumpling batter by heaping teaspoons into the blackberry sauce mixture in skillet. Cover and cook until the dumplings rise.

Test them with a fork to see if they are done. When a fork inserted into dumpling comes out clean, remove them from the skillet and continue with the remaining batter.

Serve warm right out of the skillet with the blackberry mixture. Top each dish with whipped cream or ice cream.

Strawberry shortcake is often found on menus in the South during the summer. Since blackberries were readily available, I thought I would use them in place of the strawberries. After a few adjustments, here is my recipe. Mascarpone is Italian cream cheese. It is not as sweet as the cream cheese you are used to.

Blackberry Shortcake with Mascarpone

Shortcake
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
6 tablespoons Butter, chilled and cubed
3/4 cup Heavy Cream
2 mashed Hard-Cooked Egg Yolks
2 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 tablespoons Sugar

Filling
3 pints Blackberries
3/4 cup Sugar
6 ounces Bottled Water
1 1/2 cups Mascarpone cream
4 ounces Heavy Cream
4 ounces Honey
Fresh Mint for garnish

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and work with your fingers until the consistency of crumbs. Add the cream and yolks and stir until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a work surface and roll out to 3/4-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to make rounds. Place shortcakes onto a baking pan. Brush the tops with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool, then split in half.

To make the filling, place the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add blackberries. Whisk mascarpone cream and honey in a different bowl. Now place the blackberry syrup and a dollop of the cheese mixture on the bottom half of each shortcake. Replace the top half and garnish with fresh mint.

Reminiscing about my grandmother has brought a smile to my face. It’s time to go pick some blackberries.

Plan ahead for your 4th of July picnic

The fourth of July is a great day for a picnic. Many towns have firework displays to celebrate the nation’s birthday. It’s a great day to spend time outdoors with family and friends.

What are the best foods for a picnic? There are too many answers to that question. In my opinion, the best foods for a picnic are dishes that can be eaten at room temperature. That’s what makes these following recipes great for picnics. They can be transported without refrigeration or ice and does not need to be heated to be enjoyed. Fried chicken is a popular food on Mardi Gras day. It is often bought the night before or early in the morning and enjoyed all day.

Is Fried Chicken a New Orleans dish? Of course it is. Popeye’s, the second largest chicken chain, was created in New Orleans. Al Copeland’s spicy chicken is known the world wide. His daughter Bonnie, a friend of mine, has told me stories of eating chicken 7 days a week, while Al was developing his recipe. I spent 2 years managing a Popeye’s in New Orleans. One day, I thought I could duplicate his recipe. Here is my result. If you wish, you can leave out the cayenne pepper.

Fried Chicken

Canola Oil
2 Fryer Chickens, cut into 8 pieces each
Creole Seasoning
1 cup Buttermilk
4 Eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup Water
2 cups Flour
2 tablespoons Granulated Garlic
4 teaspoons Granulated Onion
4 teaspoons Paprika
4 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper

Preheat large skillet filled with 2 inches of oil to 350℉.

Wash Chicken pieces and pat dry. Sprinkle generously with Creole Seasoning.

In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs and water; mix well. In another bowl, mix dry seasonings with flour. Dip chicken pieces in the buttermilk mixture and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Fry chicken for approximately 10-15 minutes until brown on both sides. Chicken is done when juice that runs out shows no trace of red. Drain well on paper towels before serving.

Perry Street is in New Orleans. It is where my wife and I lived before we moved to Searcy. This dish was created there. It is easy to prepare and great for any type of gathering. I often bring it to summer events, since it is delicious served cold or at room temperature. It is also one of my most requested recipes.

Perry Street Pasta Salad

24 ounces Rainbow Rotini, cooked al denté
1 medium Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
1 bunch Green Onions, sliced thin
1 pint Grape Tomatoes, washed
1 can (2.25 ounces) Sliced Black Olives, drained
1 pound Ham, diced
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon Granulated Garlic
1 bottle (16 ounces) Robusto Italian Dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions. Cool with running water. In a large bowl, add pasta, vegetables and ham; toss well. Add dry seasonings to the salad and toss. Add salad dressing and mix well. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavors to blend. Toss before serving. This can be served either cold or at room temperature.

My wife, Peggy, loves pecan pie. It is a dessert that is often asked for. Looking for a variation, I saw a picture of a Chocolate Pecan Pie. After a few attempts, here is the results. Now, I get as many request for this as I do regular pecan pie. It is the perfect balance of chocolate and pecan.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

3 cups Sugar
Pinch Salt
7 tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa
4 large Eggs
1 tablespoon Vanilla
1 can (12 ounces) Evaporated Milk
1 stick Butter, melted
1 cup Pecan Halves
2 unbaked Deep Dish Pie Shells

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, salt and cocoa together. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir into the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and stir until well blended. Sprinkle pecan halves in the pie shells, about 1/2 cup per shell. Pour the filling over the pecans. Bake for 40-45 minutes. The pie is done when a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Have a Safe and Happy 4th of July!

A Different take on Cooking Class Dishes

There are many of things to do in the city of New Orleans. One of the popular attractions is the New Orleans School of Cooking. Located in the French Quarter, The New Orleans School of Cooking is the premier learning experience. Since 1980, the staff, now headed by Chef Kevin Belton, has been teaching tourists and local alike the finer points of Creole and Cajun cooking.

You have a choice of attending a cooking demonstration or participating in a hands on cooking class. Both classes feature dining on the items that are being prepared. What dishes are featured you may ask? Gumbo, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Pralines and Bread Pudding are among the dishes that fill their calendar. After the classes, you are encouraged to browse thru the Louisiana General Store. Here you will find Cookbooks, Spices, Gift Baskets, and Cookware among other things.This week, I will share with you my interpretation of two of the dishes they teach, Crawfish Pie and Grillades and Grits.

This is a cliché Louisiana dish. Immortalized in the song Jambalaya by Hank Williams, crawfish pie is a dish that is learned early in Louisiana culinary education. Of course, it is best made with leftover crawfish from a boil but feel free to use the frozen crawfish tails. When buying frozen tails, make sure they are Louisiana crawfish and not imported tails.

Crawfish Pie

1 9-inch Deep-Dish Pie Crust
1/4 cup Butter
1 cup Onion, chopped
1/2 cup Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1/2 cup Celery, chopped
1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/8 teaspoon White Pepper
1 cup Diced Tomatoes
1 pound Crawfish Tails, peeled
2 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Seafood Stock

Place the pie crust into a deep-dish pie plate. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the onions, bell pepper, celery and dry seasonings, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and crawfish tails, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 3 minutes to marry the flavors, stirring occasionally. Whisk flour and stock together in a bowl until the mixture is smooth, and pour it into the crawfish mixture. Bring the filling to a simmer, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 20 to 30 minutes to finish thickening.

While the filling is cooling, preheat the oven to 400℉. Pour the filling into the pie crust, and bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is hot, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Grillades and Grits are a perfect brunch dish. Most restaurants in Louisiana use veal for the grillades but beef works well also. The keys to this dish is cooking the meat long enough to ensure its tenderness and using a good quality grits.

Grillades and Grits

2 pounds Veal or Beef Round, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
3 tablespoons Canola Oil, divided
Creole Seasoning
Flour
1 medium Onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 small Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 cup Tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh Thyme, chopped
3 cups Stone Ground Grits, cooked

Cut the meat into 3-inch squares. Season with Creole seasoning, and then dredge in the flour and shake off the excess. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Brown the meat lightly and drain on paper towels. Make a roux in the skillet with two tablespoons of the flour and the remaining oil, cooking the roux until it is a rich dark color. Add all the meaning ingredients, except the grits, to the roux and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, cover the skillet and cook until tender, about 1 hour, stirring often. Serve the Grillades and sauce over the grits.

If you are looking for something to do in New Orleans, I highly suggest spending some time here. I have often thought about doing some cooking classes in White County. I am not sure where to have them or if anyone would be interested. If you are interested or have an idea where to have some classes, drop me a line, tommy@creolecajunchef.com.

Desserts do not need to be Complex

Everyone loves dessert. Whether it is chocolate, fruits, pie, cake or ice cream, most people has a sweet tooth. Many would like to eat their dessert before dinner. Sometimes, I think that is a good idea.

Dessert can come in many forms. The very first dish I cooked by my self at 8 years old were Chocolate Chip Cookies. I did not follow this path becoming a pastry chef. I love to make desserts as long as they don’t require too much precision. A lot of baking require precise measurements and adjusting to the weather around you. With the following recipes, you don’t have to be exact on your measurements just close. It won’t make a drastic difference in the finished product.

This is my mother’s cheesecake recipe. However, it is not your traditional cheesecake. It has the consistency of a pie. To me, it is the best cheesecake I have ever eaten, but I may be bias. This recipe is very adaptable. I have added White Chocolate and Key Lime to change up the flavor. I have also made a King Cake Cheesecake out of it. The best version will always be the original.

My Mom’s Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 375℉

For the Crust

2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 stick Margarine, melted
1/2 cup Sugar

Mix graham cracker crumbs, margarine and sugar. Press into a 9-inch pie pan.

For the Filling

16 ounces Cream Cheese
2 Eggs
2/3 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Blend all ingredients for filling in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into pie crust Bake for 20 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.

Raise oven temperature to 425℉.

For the Topping

8 ounces Sour Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Sugar

Mix topping a small bowl and smooth over cooled cheesecake. Bake again at 425℉ for 10 minutes. Cool before putting in refrigerator. This dish is best served cold.

This fancy dessert is easy to make. When translated Creme Brûlée means Burnt Cream. The burnt aspect is the thin coat of caramelized sugar on the top of the dessert. It is a great contrast to the creaminess of the custard. It is easy to add different flavors to the custard, giving you many different variations.

White Chocolate Creme Brûlée

4 ounces White Chocolate Chips
4 large Egg Yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup Sugar
2 cups Heavy Cream
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Additional Sugar for caramelizing

Preheat oven to 300℉.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until smooth. IN a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavy cream to a simmer. Add white chocolate to simmering heavy cream. Turn off heat and whisk until white chocolate is completely melted. Add white chocolate mixture to egg yolk mixture whisking continuously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and whisk in. Pour into 4 ramekins. Place ramekins in a 13×9-inch baking pan. Add enough waters cups sit in 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water. Bake until set, about 45 minutes. These can be served either cold or at room temperature.

Before serving, sprinkle additional sugar on top. Broil for 4-5 minutes to melt the sugar or until desired level of caramelization. If you have one, it is fun to use a small torch to melt the sugar.

While not a classic Louisiana dessert, this recipe has special meaning to me. Everyone in my family likes peanut butter. My brother Lyle, who passed away in 2015, would eat peanut butter directly from the jar with a spoon. As a high school state wrestling champ, he was always to eat foods to keep his weight. He would eat the peanut butter as his dessert. I guess that is where I get it from. I also eat peanut butter from the jar.

Peanut Butter Ice Box Pie

12 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
16 ounces Creamy Peanut Butter
1 1/4 cups Sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
8 ounces tub Whipped Topping, divided
1 prepared Chocolate Graham Cracker Pie Crust

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Fold in half of the whipped topping. Mound filling into pie crust and then smooth the top. Freeze for 10 minutes and then top with remaining whipped topping. Chill for at least 4 hours or freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

Add a little flavoring to the cheesecake and Creme Brûlée. You will be amazed at the results and your new creation.