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Monthly Archives: May 2018

A slightly different crab cake

I am often asked what my signature dish is. Not wanting to be pigeon-holed, it is a question I try to sidestep. The dish I am usually most proud of is the newest one I have created. That being said, let me tell you about my most published dish, crab cakes.

Crab cakes is a dish that originated in Maryland. Growing up in New Orleans, the stuffed crab was a dish most often found on seafood menus. A stuffed crab is usually 50 percent crabmeat, most often claw meat, and 50 percent breading and seasonings. When the crab cake came to New Orleans, it showcased the lump crabmeat with very little filler.

Most crab cakes are made with mayonnaise as a binder. I find that mayonnaise takes away from the flavor of the crabmeat. This recipe uses heavy cream to combine with the breadcrumbs.

You are probably wondering where this recipe has been published. In 2005, Thomas Kinkade the Painter of Light, had a contest for three recipes to be included in his wife’s upcoming cookbook. Everyone was allowed to submit three recipes. Two of my recipes were originally selected to be included in the cookbook. However, they wanted to spotlight three different contestants. They chose to publish the first recipe that they selected, my crab cakes.

The second time this recipe appeared in print was the April 2009 issue of “Louisiana Cookin’” magazine. A new publisher, Susan Ford, had taken over the magazine. One of the changes she made was to include a recipe each month from ones submitted from each month from ones submitted from her readers. So in April 2009, my crab cakes appeared as the first recipe of the magazine. She has said that she uses my recipe often when she entertains.

Susan has featured a few of my recipes in her new magazine “Louisiana Kitchen and Culture” and on the magazine’s website.

In August 2011, my cookbook was published. The day I first held my book in my hands was one of my most proudest moments. Of course, one of my wife’s favorite dishes, crab cakes, was included.

Here, published again, is my crab cake recipe. I know you will enjoy them.

Crab Cakes

Ingredients:

1 pound Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, picked thru to remove shells
1 tablespoon Butter
4 cloves of Garlic, chopped
1/3 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Old Bay with Garlic and Herb Seasoning
3/4 cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs
3/4 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh Basil, chopped

Directions:

Over medium heat, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Sauté garlic in butter until golden brown. Add green onions and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add parsley and cook one more minute. Add crabmeat to pan. Add Old Bay seasoning and mix thoroughly. Add heavy cream and mix well. The mixture should not be liquidly. If so, add more breadcrumbs. All mixture to cook. Form cakes in hand, making a 2 1/2-inch circle. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

You can cook them many ways.

Sauté them in an olive oil-sprayed pan over medium heat for 3 minutes a side.
Cook in a 350℉ oven for 10 minutes.
Deep fry them in a 360℉ deep fryer. Dip the crab cakes in a mixture of milk and beaten egg, then cover with breadcrumbs. Cook them for 3 minutes or until golden brown.

While the crab cakes are good by themselves, they are even better when served with a sauce, either on top or on the side. Here is on of the most versatile sauces you will find.

Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients:

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.

Directions:

Melt margarine and butter over medium heat. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool. Using a blender, blend egg yolks, egg, lemon juice, vinegar and peppers. With blender on. Pour the margarine/butter mixture lowly into the other ingredients. Blend to thisk. Keep warm until served.

Muffuletta sought-after cuisine

New Orleans cuisine is full of unique dishes. The Muffuletta (pronounced mufh-uh-let-uh) is one that most visitors to the city seek out. This sandwich is not found in the fancy restaurants, making it a dish to be enjoyed by all walks of life.

The Central Grocery, in the French Quarter, is credited with its invention. Most of the farmers in the French Market were Sicilians. They would go to the Central Grocery across the street from the market for lunch. Ordering some salami, ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad and some bread, the farmer proceeded to eat them separately. Salvatore Lopo, the owner of Central Grocery, suggested that they cut the bread and put everything inside and eat it like a sandwich. So they stacked the meats, cheese and olive salad inside the bread and the Muffuletta was created.

There are two main components that sets the Muffuletta apart from other sandwiches. Muffuletta bread, a round Sicilian sesame bread, was softer than an Italian twist loaf, so it was used by Central Grocery to make the sandwich. Since Muffuletta bread is impossible to find at the local stores, a French bread loaf or a round sourdough bread make good substitutions.

The other main ingredient is the olive salad. This is a mixture of olives, garlic, capers, seasonings and olive oil. This is made in advance and taste better after sitting a day.

The sandwich is usually too large for a single person to eat it in one sitting. Most restaurants sell it by the whole sandwich, half sandwich or quarter sandwich. Locally, you can find a decent example of a Muffuletta at McAlister’s Deli. However, we are roughly 500 miles away from an authentic Muffuletta.

The Olive Salad is a versatile ingredient. It is often used in making pasta dishes, as a pizza topping or as a salad ingredient. Making your own olive salad is far superior to one’s that you find pre-made in the grocery store. It keeps well in the refrigerator.

Olive Salad
2 medium Carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1 cup Cauliflower Florets
1 small Red Bell Pepper
16 large Green Olives, pitted
2 cups medium Green Olives, pitted
1 cup rind-cure Black Olives, pitted
1 1/2 cups Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Brining Juice from the olive jar
6 large Garlic Cloves, chopped
4 ribs Celery, chopped
1/4 cup (a small jar) Capers
10 springs Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried Oregano
1 teaspoon dried Basil
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Boil the carrots and cauliflower until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside. Roast the bell pepper under a broiler until the skin turns black and blistered in spots. Keep turning until the entire exterior is that way. Remove, cool, peel, and remove stem and seeds. Cut into 1/2 x 1-inch pieces and set aside. with a knife (not a food processor), coarsely chop the olives. It’s okay if some of the olives are cut into just 2 pieces or not at all. Transfer the olives to a large non-metallic bowl. Add all of the remaining olive salad ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least one day; a week is better.

Muffuletta Sandwich
1/2 pound lean, smoked Ham, thinly sliced
1/2 pound Genoa Salami, thinly sliced
1 pound total of at least two of these cheeses: Mozzarella, Provolone, or Swiss, thinly sliced
One loaf Muffuletta Bread

Cut loaf in half crosswise and spoon olive salad with lots of the marinating oil onto both halves. Layer slices of meats and cheeses onto the bottom half. Cover with the top half of the loaf and cut into quarters to serve.

Some people like to have their sandwich warmed. For a warmed sandwich, before combining the two halves, place them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Place the two halves together and cut into quarters, then enjoy!

Bakers Non-Bakers can make King Cake

New Orleans is known for many things. Many people return every year for Mardi Gras. What most people don’t realize is that Mardi Gras is just one day. Starting 11 days before Mardi Gras, the streets of New Orleans will have carnival parades leading up to the big day.

Carnival season actually begins on January 6th. Known as King’s day, this is the day when the three wise men visited the infant Jesus. On this day, the dessert of the carnival season, the King Cake, makes its first appearance of the season.

The King Cake is a large part of the New Orleans Carnival tradition. King Cake parties bring families and communities together to celebrate the season. For many, the dessert is the main reason for the Carnival season..

In earlier times, carnival organizations used the King Cake to select their royalty. Today, the baby symbolizes luck and prosperity to whoever finds it in their slice of cake. Some bakeries now place the baby outside the cake, and leave the hiding to the purchaser. People not knowing of the tradition can be surprised when biting into the baby. King Cake parties are celebrated with the person “finding the baby,” a small plastic baby said to represent the baby Jesus, responsible for supplying the next cake. There are some people who try to hide the fact that they found the baby. However, this ruse never works.

A traditional King Cake is a twisted cinnamon roll dough topped with icing and sugar. King Cakes may also be filled with additional foodstuff, the most common being cream cheese, praline or strawberry. The three colored sugars found on the cake are purple, green and gold, the official colors of Mardi Gras. Created in 1872 by the Krewe of Rex, the colors represent purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

I find that there are two types of cooks, those who love to bake and those who don’t. Here are two recipes for King Cakes, one for bakers and one for non-bakers.

Here is a traditional King Cake.

For the Cake
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup Warm Water (110 to 115 degrees)
3/4 up Sugar, divided
1/2 cup Butter, softened
1/2 cup Warm Milk (110 to 115 degrees)
2 Egg Yolks
1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon grated Lemon Peel
1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
4 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 Egg, beaten

Glaze

2 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
2 tablespoon. Light Corn Syrup
3 tablespoons Milk
1/4 teaspoon clear Vanilla Extract
Purple, Green and Gold colored Sugars

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1/2 cup sugar, butter, milk, egg yolks, salt, lemon peel, nutmeg and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16 inch by 10 inch rectangle. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over dough to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side: pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet; pinch ends together to form a ring. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush with egg.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

While cooling, make glaze. Whisk the powdered sugar, corn syrup, milk and vanilla together in a bowl. Mix until smooth and completely incorporated. Spread over cake. Sprinkle colored sugars in sections on top of the glaze.

One day, I wanted to surprise my wife with a King Cake. Knowing that I did not have a couple of hours to surprise her, I used a shortcut for the dough. Using a crescent dough sheet, I was able to pull off the surprise. She was amazed how authentic it tasted. This is now my go to King Cake recipe (I’m not a big baker).

For the Cake
1 can Crescent Seamless Dough Sheet
1 12-ounce container whipped Cream Cheese Spread
Cinnamon Sugar

For the glaze
2 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
3 tablespoons Milk
1/4 teaspoon clear Vanilla Extract

Purple, Green and Gold colored Sugars

Roll out the dough sheet and cut in half, lengthwise. Spread cream cheese over each half. Sprinkle each half with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar. Roll each half sheet by the widest part, sprinkling the cinnamon shear on the outside as you go. Place the crease where the dough ends on the bottom of a greased 13×9-inch pan. Connect the two rolled sections together to make a continuous cake. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17-20 minutes.

While cake is cooling, make the glaze. Whisk the powdered sugar, corn syrup, milk, and vanilla together in a bowl. Mix until smooth and completely incorporated. Spread over cake. Sprinkle colored sugar in sections on top of the glaze.

Roux can make or break Gumbo

One of the first dishes you think of when someone mentions New Orleans food is Gumbo. Of course, it is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. No one knows for sure where the name came from. Most believe it is derived from either a word from a Bantu language for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw word for filé (ground sassafras leaves). Okra and filé are used as thickeners in gumbo, usually not together. Okra is most often found in seafood gumbos.

Gumbo is an economical dish, as it can be used to feed a large group of people with a small amount of meat or seafood. It is also a versatile dish. You are able to use whatever meat or seafood you have on hand. Most gumbos are either made with meat or seafood, although you can sometimes find sausage in a seafood gumbo.

Many southern Louisiana cooking competitions revolve around gumbo. The town of Bridge City, just outside the city of New Orleans, is the self-described Gumbo Capital of the World. Locally, the Hot Springs Gumbo & Catfish Festival will be held on April 22, 2017. Also in April, West Memphis host a Gumbo festival.

To make a gumbo, first you make a roux. Many Creole and Cajun dishes are started by making a roux. A roux will make or break your dish. Roux is more than just a thickener. It also adds flavor to your gumbo and other dishes. You must be very careful with the roux. If you start smelling a burnt smell, throw it out and start over. Even if you think you got all of the brunt parts out, your finished dish will still taste burnt. You also need to make sure you do not splash any roux on you. It will leave a bad burn. Let’s get Cookin’.

Roux

Equal parts Vegetable Oil or Butter and Flour

Heat oil in a pan over moderate to low heat. Add flour and stir until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, to the desired color. Remember, the darker the color, the less the roux will thicken the dish. Roux should be glossy in appearance. White Roux should be barely colored, or chalky. Pale or Blonde Roux should be golden straw colored, with a slight nutty aroma. Brown or Black Roux should be deep brown, with a strong nutty aroma. Add your seasonings (onions, garlic, bell peppers, etc.) before you add your liquid. Make sure your liquid is room temperature or cool. This will ensure a smooth sauce.

Seafood Gumbo

When I think of gumbo, the seafood version is what comes to mind. This is the version that I grew up on. Most dishes are made to be eaten as soon as you have finished preparing them. I find that gumbo taste better the next day, allowing the flavors to marry.

3/4 cup Canola Oil
2 cups Onion, chopped
1 cup Green Bell Pepper, seeds removed and chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
5 Bay Leaves
8 cups Seafood Stock
1 pound medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
2 dozen shucked Oysters
1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Parsley, chopped
Cooked Rice
Filé Powder

Combine the oil and flour in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Stir slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, making a dark roux, the color of chocolate. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and bay leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft. Lower heat to low. Add stock and stir to blend. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours. Add the shrimp and Crabmeat and cook for 15 minutes. Add the oyster, green onions and parsley and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges of the oysters begin to curl. Remove from heat. Remove the bay leaves. Serve over rice and pass the Filé powder at the table.

Note: You can use whatever seafood you like. I know many people who don’t like oysters. They can be replaced with scallops, clams or more shrimp and crabmeat.

Good Cooking, Good Eating and Good Living!