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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.

Poaching eggs not as hard as it seems

It has been said that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. Eggs are often a main focus of this meal. Poached Eggs are the centerpiece of fancy egg dishes. Numerous versions can be found on menus across New Orleans.

Many people shy away from poaching eggs, feeling that they are too difficult to make. You can buy an egg poacher to make it easier. However, it is not difficult to do without one.

The key to poaching eggs without a poacher is the temperature of the water. Make sure that the water is not at a full boil. You want it to be at a simmer, which is just below the boiling point. You also want to make a whirlpool in the water before you put the eggs in. This will help the egg white remain close to the yolk.

How to poach eggs:

Fill a large deep skillet with water. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Break one egg in a small cup. Stir the water to create a whirlpool. Gently slip the egg into the center of the slowly boiling water. Repeat with remaining eggs, keeping track of the order the eggs are going in. Reduce heat; simmer eggs for 2 to 3 minutes, until the whites are firm near the yolk. Remove with slotted spoon in the order you put them in and place in a pan of ice water. Set aside.

If you need to reheat the eggs, fill deep skillet with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add eggs with slotted spoon and heat for a minute.

Eggs Benedict is a dish that is found on menus across the nation. From neighborhood cafes to 5-star fine dining restaurants, Eggs Benedict is the first poached egg dish people think of. So, let’s start off with this cliché dish.

Eggs Benedict

8 Poached Eggs
2 Tablespoons Butter, divided
8 slices Canadian bacon
4 English Muffins split in half
Hollandaise Sauce

Directions:

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat one tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add Canadian bacon and cook for 4 minutes, 2 minutes a side, until browned. Divide and toast muffins. Spread remaining butter on muffin halves. Place muffin halves in oven and keep warm.

To assemble:
Arrange 2 muffin halves on a plate. Top each half with a slice of Canadian bacon. Top with eggs. Make sure to drain them well before plating them. Top with Hollandaise Sauce and serve immediately.

This recipe has been published before. In case you don’t have this recipe, here it is again.

Hollandaise Sauce

2 Egg Yolks
1 Whole Egg
2 Sticks (1/2 pound) Margarine
1 Stick (1/4 pound) Butter
1 ½ teaspoon Lemon Juice
½ teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
½ teaspoon Ground White Pepper
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Melt margarine and butter over medium fire. Bring to a boil, remove from fire and allow to cool. Blend egg yolks, egg, vinegar, cayenne, white pepper, and lemon juice. With blender on, pour melted margarine/butter slowly into other ingredients. Blend to thick.

This dish is from the original Brennan’s restaurant. After a breakfast at Brennan’s, there is no need to eat lunch. The amount of food will carry you over to dinner and possibly beyond. A breakfast or brunch at Brennan’s will easily take you at least an hour or longer to consume. Here is one of their original poached egg dishes that is not topped with Hollandaise sauce.

Eggs Nouvelle Orleans

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) plus 1 tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Milk
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 tablespoon Brandy
1 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked over to remove any shell and cartilage
8 Poached Eggs
Salt and White Pepper to taste

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes over medium heat, then gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir in the brandy and season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium sauté pan, melt the remaining tablespoon butter, then add the crabmeat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes over medium heat.
Spoon 1/4 cup hot crabmeat mixture onto each plate and top with 2 poached eggs. Spoon cream sauce over the eggs and serve.

Poached eggs are my favorite way to eat eggs. When you break into the yolk, it takes your dish to another level. Just don’t be afraid to try to cook them.

Soup to warm up your soul

Winter is upon us. Time to start cooking dishes that warm your body and soul. My wife has already started to ask me when am I going to start making soups. Not Gumbo, which I make all times of the year but soups that I usually make during the colder months.

Two soups that are welcomed the colder it gets are Onion Soup and Sweet Potato Soup. Onion Soup is a classic French dish and Sweet Potato soup is a South Louisiana staple. They also showcase two different types of soups, a broth based soup and a cream based soup. The broth base will be a lighter and the cream base will be richer. I would suggest pairing your soup with a dish that has the opposite texture. Onion soup goes well with pastas and heavier dishes whereas the Sweet Potato soup would pair well with chicken or fish dishes. That way, you will keep you dinner balanced.

One of my favorite soups is Onion Soup. The tasty broth, the silky onions and the melted cheese makes for one of the best spoonfuls you can put win your mouth. It’s great for a cold winter’s night.

There are many ways to make onion soup. Most onion soups have a large crust of melted cheese on top. This is achieved by putting a piece of toasted bread in the soup os the cheese does not sink to the bottom. This recipe uses a little Parmesan cheese to keep this a lower fat soup. But if you like cheese, substitute grated Swiss cheese and melt the cheese under a broiler before serving.

Creole Onion Soup

1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter
1 large Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
2 quarts Beef Stock
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon White Pepper
Salt to Taste
1/4 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large pot and sauté the onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Blend in the flour and cook the mixture another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Adjust the seasoning with salt to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about fifteen minutes. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with
Parmesan cheese.

This is a wonderful soup using a staple Louisiana crop, sweet potatoes. This soup is easily made vegetarian by subbing vegetable oil for the bacon drippings, vegetable stock for the chicken stock and omitting the bacon and using a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in place of the bacon drippings. With or without meat, this soup is a welcome addition to any meal.

Sweet Potato Soup

3 large Sweet Potatoes
3 teaspoons Salt
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/3 cup Onion, chopped
2 Bacon Slices
3 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
Chopped Parsley, for garnish
Freshly Grated Nutmeg, for garnish
1/2 cup Sherry, optional

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place them in the oven on a foil-lined sheet pan for about 1 hour or until they are soft and a fork completely pierces one easily. Set then aside to cool.

When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a 2-quart bowl and mash them with butter and sugar.

Fry the bacon slices in a deep skillet ad set them aside on a paper towel to drain. Sauté the onion in the rendered fat drippings. Add the chicken stock, cream, salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, top with parsley, nutmeg and sherry.

Let these soups warm your body and soul. The weather will only get colder, so keep warm.

Add dishes to New Year’s traditions

New Year’s Day is full of traditions and superstitions. Most people make resolutions to improve their life, many which are not kept. Of course, certain dishes figure into these traditions. Black-eyed peas, greens, cornbread and pork are among the dishes that grace many southern New Year’s tables. They represent luck, wealth and moving forward. So this year, why not put a New Orleans twist on your traditional dishes.

Black-eyed Peas is one of the main dishes at a New Year’s table. Black-eyed peas are eaten for luck. When the Union troops raided the Confederate supplies, all they left were the peas and salt pork. So, the southerners considered themselves lucky to have the peas to eat. Here is a New Orleans spin on black-eyed peas, Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya.

Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya

6 sliced Bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 cup Onion, chopped
1/2 cup Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1/4 cup Celery, chopped
1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Ham, diced
1/2 pound Andouille, sliced
3 cups Chicken Stock
2 cans (15 ounce cans) Black-Eyed Peas, undrained
2 cups uncooked Rice
1/4 cup Green Onions, sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 Bay Leaf

Directions

Over medium heat, put the bacon into the bottom of a Dutch oven and sauté until slightly browned. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery; sauté for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the ham and Andouille and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the broth and the black-eyed peas; bring to a boil. Stir in the rice and green onions. Season with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning. Add the bay leaf and return to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit covered for another 10 minutes before serving.

Greens are a dish that represent wealth for the New Year. Greens are said to symbolize money, specifically folded money. In my family, the traditional green is cabbage. Here is a Creole style cabbage dish.

Creole Cabbage

5 cups Cabbage, chopped
2 tablespoons Butter
1 large Onion, chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounce) Diced Tomatoes
1 teaspoon Sugar
Creole Seasoning to taste
1 cup extra sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated

Directions
Preheat oven to 325℉.

Cook cabbage in boiling salted water for 10 minutes; drain well and place in a pan. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and sauté onions and peppers. Add tomatoes with juice, sugar and Creole Seasoning and simmer for 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake about 20 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Pork is another tradition found on New Year’s menus. Pigs root around with their snouts moving in a forward direction. So, pork is eaten to symbolize progress in the New Year. Chickens, who scratch backwards, could be bad luck. You want to move forward not backwards. Here is a dish that gives you a double serving of pork, Andouille Stuffed Pork Loin.

Andouille Stuffed Pork Loin

1 pound Boneless Center-Cut Pork Loin
1 pound Andouille Sausage
1 teaspoon Basil
1 teaspoon Thyme
1/4 cup Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Cane Syrup
10 Pearl Onions
6 Medium Yams, peeled and diced
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Creole Seasoning to taste
Dash of Hot Sauce

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Using a knife, pierce a hole through the loin from end to end. Using your hands, push the Andouille though the center cut. Place the loin in a large roasting pan and season with basil, thyme and garlic. Glaze the loin with cane syrup and garnish with pearl onions and yams. Season to taste with Creole seasoning and hot sauce. Drizzle olive oil over meat, cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for one hour. Slice and serve with onions and yams on the side.

My wife and I wish you a Happy and Blessed New Year. I thank you for welcoming me into your homes and kitchens.

Multicourse Feast regaining popularity

New Orleans has a holiday tradition that dates back to the early 1800’s, the Reveillon (REV-ee-on) Dinner. The word “reveillon” means “awakening.” The Creoles celebrated the start of Christmas with a big family meal when they returned home from midnight mass. This multi-course feast was inherited from their European cousins as a way of breaking the daylong religious fast leading up to Christmas Eve.

BY the 1940’s, the Reveillon tradition, which had been slowly fading out over succeeding generations, all but disappeared. However, it was revived in the 1990’s, with modifications reflecting the times, and has been increasing in popularity ever since.

Among the modifications, the emphasis on the Reveillon tradition shifted from family dinners at home to the tables of the city’s top-tier restaurants. Also, the meals are offered at more conventional dining times during the day, instead of in the wee hours of the morning. Today dozens of New Orleans restaurants offer Reveillon Dinners with menus inspired by those enjoyed by the Creole family who began the tradition.

Most Reveillon menus offer 4 courses: Appetizer, Salad, Entree, and Dessert, with options in the Appetizer, Entree and Dessert selections. Today, I am featuring recipes from some of New Orleans top restaurants: Mr. B’s, Emeril’s and Brigtsen’s.

Every restaurant has their version of BBQ Shrimp. Mr. B’s, in the French Quarter, has one of the best in the city. Most BBQ Shrimp are cooked in butter. Mr. B’s was the first restaurant to cook the shrimp then incorporate the butter into the sauce.

Mr. B’s Barbequed Shrimp

16 Jumbo Shrimp (12 per pound, about 1 1/2 pounds), its heads and unpeeled
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice (about 2 lemons)
2 teaspoons ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted Butter, cubed

Directions

In a large skillet, combine shrimp, Worcestershire, lemon juice, black peppers, Creole seasoning, and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until shrimp turn pink, about 1 minute on each side. Reduce heat to moderate and stir in butter, a few cubes at a time, stirring constantly and adding more only when butter is melted. Remove skillet from heat. Place shrimp in a bowl and pour sauce over top. Serve with French bread for dipping.

Duck dishes are often featured on Reveillon menus. For our menu, here is a basic Roasted Duck from the chef that became the face of New Orleans kitchens, Emeril Lagasse.

Emeril’s Roasted Duck

2 Ducks, cleaned
Olive Oil
Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
2 large Yellow Onions, quartered
8 cloves Garlic, mashed

Directions

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Rub the ducks lightly with olive oil and liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff each bird with equal amounts of the onions and garlic. Arrange the ducks, not touching, on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. Bake until the skin is golden, the juices run clear, and the internal temperature reaches 165℉, about 2 1/2 hours.

To finish this Reveillon dinner, here is a dessert from my friend, Chef Frank Brigtsen. Every year, Frank features a bread pudding as one of the dessert choices. This is Brigtsen’s Banana Bread Pudding recipe.

Brigtsen’s Banana Bread Pudding

6 whole Eggs
3 Egg Yolks
1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon
2 very ripe Bananas, puréed (“black-spot” bananas)
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
3 cups Whole Milk
1/2 can (or 10 tablespoons) Sweetened Condensed Milk
12 cups stale French Bread, diced into 1/2-inch pieces (2-3 loaves)
3/4 cup Raisins
2 ripe Bananas, thinly sliced (no black spots)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and yolks, and whisk until frothy. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, puréed bananas and vanilla. Whisk until fully blended.

Add both sugars, and whisk until blended. Add milk and condensed milk, whisking again until completely integrated.

Add diced bread to the egg/milk mixture. Mix well until bread has absorbed most of the custard mixture. Add raisins and sliced bananas, and stir to combine.

Pour pudding into a shallow baking pan and let sit for 30 minutes. Place pudding pan into a slightly larger pan and add about 1 inch of hot water to large pan, to create a water bath.

Bake uncovered until center of pudding is no longer runny, about 1 hour. Serve by itself or with ice cream, whipped cream or caramel sauce.

With this article, I am finishing up my first year of writing this feature. It has been a pleasure sharing my recipes and stories with you. Next year, I want to feature recipes that you are interested in. Please contact me at tommy@creolecajunchef.com with your recipe request.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

Don’t forget your Christmas Appetizers

Every family has their Christmas traditions. Of course, one of the many Centola family traditions involves food, specifically appetizers. I come from a large family, having 6 brothers and sisters. With the whole family together, it is almost the size of a small army. Opening presents can be a long drawn out affair.

To prevent hunger from altering the festive mood, every siblings family prepared an appetizer to nibble on during the gift giving. Over the years, we have eaten many different appetizers. So, I thought I would share with you 3 of the more popular recipes we have prepared; Crab Muffins, Crawfish Stuffed Eggs and Brie en Croute.

Crab Muffins could also be called Crab Pizza. The first time I tasted this recipe was one Christmas gathering. My sister-in-law, Edna, made these for the festivities. They disappeared in record time. The original recipe calls for Season-All seasoning. I like the flavor you get from substituting Creole seasoning for Season-All. Either way, your guest will quickly eat them up.

Crab Muffins

1 jar Old English Cheese
1 stick Butter
Garlic Powder
Creole Seasoning
1 pound Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1 package English Muffins

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Cream the cheese and butter. Sprinkle with garlic powder and Creole seasoning to taste. Add crabmeat and mix. Spread mixture over English muffins. Bake for 20 minutes to melt the cheese and butter. Cut muffins into quarters before serving.

Stuffed eggs are a Southern staple. They can be made in advance and kept fresh in the refrigerator. Crawfish are starting to come into season. Their peak is in the spring. If fresh crawfish are unavailable, you can always use frozen crawfish tails. Just make sure they are Louisiana tails. Imported crawfish tails do not have the same flavor.

Crawfish Stuffed Eggs

1 dozen Hard Boiled Eggs
1 pound Crawfish Tails
1 cup Mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Creole Mustard
3 to 4 dashes Hot Sauce
1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
Smoked Paprika for sprinkling

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and separate the yolks from the whites. Crumble the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Drain and squeeze the crawfish to remove as much moisture as you can. Select 24 large crawfish and set aside. Finely chop the remaining crawfish and place in the mixing bowl, along with the mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce and Creole seasoning. Mix well. Place the mixture into the egg halves, top each with a crawfish tail and sprinkle lightly with smoked paprika.

This recipe, Brie en Croute, is in honor of my late sister-in-law, Denny. Every Christmas, this is one of the dishes that she would make. While writing my cookbook, I wanted to honor her by including her Brie recipe. However, no one was able to get it for me. Here is my version of the Christmas memory.

Brie en Croute

1 sheet frozen Puff Pastry
1 Egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon Water
1/4 cup toasted Pecan Pieces
1/4 cup fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Apple Jelly
1 pound Brie Cheese

Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Mix egg and water. Unfold pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 14-inch square. Cut off the corners to make a circle. Sprinkle pecans and parsley n the center of the pastry. Top with apple jelly and spread evenly. Top with the Brie. Brush the edge of the pastry circle with egg mixture. Fold two opposite sides over Brie. Trim the remaining two sides to 2 inches from the edge of the Brie. Fold these two sides onto the Brie. Press edges to seal. Place seams side down on a baking sheet. Decorate the top with pastry scraps if desired. Brush with egg mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 1 hour. Serve with crackers.

Next time, I will share with you the New Orleans tradition of the Reveillon dinner.

Plan Christmas cookies in advance

Christmas time is quickly approaching. The hustle and bustle of the season is to be enjoyed by all. It is most people’s favorite time of the year. The celebration of Jesus’s birth, the gathering of family and friends, and the sights and sounds of the season makes adults and children alike warm and giddy.

One thing that many people do around this time a year is to participate in a cookie exchange. You gather a group of people and you make a dozen cookies for each of the people in the group. It is a wonderful way to show your Christmas spirit. So I thought I would share with you a few different cookie recipes.

I will start you off with Praline cookies. Everywhere you turn in New Orleans, you see praline flavor. Be it in ice cream, sno-balls, cheesecake, etc., praline flavor is ever present. So, it is natural to make a cookie with this flavor.

Praline Cookies

1 Egg, beaten
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 1/4 cups light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 cup Pecan Halves

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Combine the egg, butter, sugar and vanilla, stirring well. Add the flour and salt and stir to mix well. Add the pecans. Drop by tablespoons onto un-greased baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

The next cookie is a Ginger cookie. Most people would call this a spice cookie. The different spices combine to give these cookies a worldly favor. The use of the cane syrup in place of granulated sugar makes this a typical Louisiana recipe.

Ginger Cookies

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground Clove
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 cup light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup Shortening
1/2 cup Cane Syrup
1 Egg
Granulated or Powdered Sugar for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 375℉.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together brown sugar and shortening. Beat in cane syrup and egg. Add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, beating thoroughly between additions. The mixture will be very thick.

Form 1-inch balls and roll in granulated or powdered sugar, if desired. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

I wanted to give you some nontraditional recipes. This one does not fall into that category. But I must included it because it is near and dear to me.

This is the very first recipe that I made by myself at 8 years old. My mom allowed me to go solo on a batch of cookies for the holidays. After making them, I was proud of what I accomplished. When everyone tasted them and told me how good they were, I was hooked. Thus began my life in the kitchen.

The recipe may look familiar. It is right of the back of the Toll House Chocolate Chip bag. Not too original, but still a crowning achievement.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Butter, softened
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 large Eggs
2 cups Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one t a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto un-greased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Optional ingredient: 1 cups chopped Nuts, added when you add the chocolate chips.

To continue with my Christmas theme, next week I will share with you some appetizers. My family tradition is to have finger food to nibble on while opening presents.

Making most of Leftovers

It’s after Thanksgiving. Black Friday shopping has been done. What to cook for dinner. Hopefully, you have turkey leftover from the big day. The easiest thing to do would be to put the leftovers on a plate, and warm them up in the microwave.But there is so much more that can be done with the leftovers, especially the turkey.

Here are two of my favorite turkey recipes that are great for around the holidays. One is from the best cook whose food I wish I was still eating, my mom. The other is a way to dress up the lefter turkey into a dish that would be welcome on many restaurant menus. Either way, you will be eating the turkey in a more favorable way than just reheating it.

This recipe is one of my mothers. It’s one that she would make to bring to covered dish or pot luck dinners. It is a twist on Thanksgiving dinner, with the turkey, stuffing and green beans. The only thing that is missing is the French Fried Onions that usually go on top Green bean casserole.It’s funny that I never seem to get my mother’s recipes to taste like they did when she cooked them. I guess she used a different kind of love when cooking them than I use.

Mona’s Turkey Casserole

2 cups Pepperidge Stuffing
1 small can French Style Green Beans
1 small can Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 cups Turkey, diced
1/2 cup Milk
2 teaspoons Butter
1/4 cup Hot Water
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Arrange in a casserole dish 2/3 cup dry stuffing, green beans, diced turkey, mushroom soup and milk. Mix together. Dot with butter. Add hot water, salt and pepper. Top with the remaining 1 1/3 cups of stuffing. Bake for 25 minutes.

This dish puts a fancy twist on leftover turkey. Although the finished dish looks like you have been cooking all day, it is an easy dish to prepare. You can use white or dark meat turkey. The important part of the dish is the bacon. You want to make sure that it is crispy before you place in the oven. It adds a different texture to the dish that I think is crucial. It just does not taste as good if the bacon is less than crispy.

Turkey Poulet

8 slices of Bread, lightly toasted
24 sliced Bacon, cooked crispy
24 ounces Turkey, sliced
Double recipe of Béchamel Sauce (recipe to follow)
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350℉.

For each serving, place two pieces of toast side by side on an oven proof plate. Place 3 slices of bacon and 3 ounces of turkey on each piece of toast. Cover with sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cook for 15 minutes.

This is one of the five, if not the most important, mother sauces. It is also the easiest to make.Béchamel is the basic for many different sauces. You add cheese to Béchamel to make a Mornay sauce, which is used to make Macaroni and Cheese. Adding different herbs and seasonings makes this sauce a must know how to make.

Béchamel Sauce

2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoon Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Dash of White Pepper
Dash of Nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Milk

In a small saucepan over medium 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 milk, stirring constantly with a whisk until evenly blended. Stir the sauce over medium heat until the mixture bubbles across the entire surface. Cook and stir for a couple more minutes to completely cook the flour into the sauce.

These last few articles have been a tribute to Thanksgiving. I hope you had an enjoyable day and I look forward to sharing more holiday recipes with you in the coming weeks.