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Monthly Archives: August 2018

Crabmeat versatile in the Kitchen

One of the easiest ways to elevate a dish is to top it with crabmeat. In New Orleans, many dishes that are topped with crabmeat are given the name Pontchartrain, after the lake on the edge of the city where Blue Crabs are plentiful. But crabmeat is also a great main ingredient.

You can go into almost any grocery store and find crabmeat. I am not talking about the imitation crabmeat which you find in sealed plastic. This product actually contains no crab at all. It is fish with a little crab flavoring added.

Crabmeat is usually found in round containers made out of hard plastic or in a can. Most places offer two types of crabmeat, Lump and Claw. Lump crabmeat is found in the body and is white. Claw meat is obviously from the claws and is darker. However, the claw meat has more of a crab flavor than the lump. Claw meat is used is dishes where the flavor is more important than the appearance, as in Stuffed Crabs. Both of these are interchangeable in any recipe.

The third type of crabmeat is the Jumbo Lump. This is the most expensive crabmeat and are found in finer restaurants. There are 2 of these Jumbo Lumps in each crab. While it taste the same as regular lump crabmeat, it makes for a more appealing visual. Many Crab Cakes are made with Jumbo Lumps and not much else.

The most important step in all crabmeat recipes is the cleaning of the crabmeat. You must pick thru your crabmeat for any shells that may have made it thru the packaging process. The last thing you want is to have a guest take a bite of your dish and get a small piece of shell.

The following recipe is one of my earlier blog post. I had posted a recipe for a hot crawfish dip. One of my readers asked if I had a hot crab dip recipe. She had said that she already had one, but thought others may be interestedqww. I had been posting my recipes for 3 months and realized that people are actually reading what I was posting. It was around that time that I started thinking about writing a cookbook.

This dip is great for any gathering. Cocktail parties, Pot Luck dinners, family gatherings are just a few opportunities to make this dish. It also works well with a sit down dinner. You can serve individual portions as an appetizer.

Hot Crab Dip

16 ounces Cream Cheese
8 ounces Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1/2 cup Half and Half
Creole Seasoning to taste

Combine cheeses, Worcestershire sauce, green onions, parsley and half and half in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until the dip reaches desired consistency. Add crabmeat and creole seasoning. Cook for 3 minutes. Serve with crackers, bagel chips, tortilla chips or anything you can dip with.

Here is one of my top three Crabmeat recipes. It is also one of the most versatile. You can use any cheese that you like in preparing this dish, although Bleu Cheese would probably overpower the crabmeat flavor. A traditional Crabmeat au Gratin tends to be on the bland side, allowing the crabmeat to shine. However, you may add whatever herbs and spices you like.

Crabmeat au Gratin

2 Egg Yolks
12 ounces Heavy Cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter
1 large Onion, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1/4 cup Flour
1/2 cup Mild Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Lightly spray a 9×9 inch baking pan with butter flavored pan spray. In a medium bowl, whip together egg yolks and heavy cream. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic about 3 minutes. Season with salt, white pepper and the creole seasoning. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally, until very tender. Mix the flour into the saucepan, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Mix in egg yolk mixture. Stir in the mild Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses until melted. Remove from heat and fold in crabmeat. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and sharp Cheddar cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbling lightly.

There is no need to be afraid to cook with crabmeat. It is almost impossible to over cook. Your guest will be amazed by your use of this exotic ingredient.

There’s more than one type of sausage

As you have noticed by now, I love to cook and eat Andouille sausage. There is another Louisiana sausage that I love to use and eat, Boudin. It is not, however, a traditional sausage.

Boudin is a sausage made with pork or seafood and rice. Since it is mostly made of rice, it is a great way for Cajuns to feed a large family with little meat. Boudin can be found in grocery stores across the nation. It seems that the stores in Searcy each carry a different variety. I have tried them all and they are all good. Try them all and I am sure you will find one you like.

The first two recipes are appetizers. You can find them on many menus in Cajun Country. Fried Boudin Balls also can be found in many convenience stores. It is a take on the Italian Arancini, which is stuffed rice balls, often using a sauce and cheese with the rice.

Fried Boudin Balls

1 package Boudin
2 cups Corn Flour
1/8 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/8 teaspoon dried Basil
1/8 teaspoon dried Marjoram
Creole Seasoning

Preheat Deep Fryer to 375℉. Season corn flour with thyme, basil and marjoram. Cut the Boudin into 2-inch pieces and roll them in a ball. Roll in corn flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with Creole Seasoning before serving.

Serve with Creole Mustard or Remoulade Sauce for dipping.

The first time I ate a Boudin Egg Roll was at the Main Street Food Truck Festival in Little Rock. I was in line waiting to order some Boudin Balls. When I arrived at the window to order, they were sold out. They suggested the Egg Rolls. Skeptical but always willing to try new things, I ordered them. I was glad that I did. The flakiness of the egg roll wrapper gave a different taste to the Boudin. The Egg Roll did not have the heaviness of Boudin dredged in flour then fried. I eat them more that Boudin Balls now.

Boudin Egg Rolls

Boudin cooked then cooled
10 Egg Roll Wrappers

Preheat Deep Fryer to 350℉.

Place 2 tablespoons of Boudin in the egg roll wrapper. Fry until all sides are golden brown.
To roll the egg roll
1) Place the wrapper in a diamond position
2) Put Boudin in wrapper
3) Roll the bottom point oven the Boudin
4) Fold over each of the sides over the Boudin
5) Wet the top point of the wrapper and finish rolling the egg roll.

Serve with Creole Mustard or Remoulade Sauce for dipping.

Of course, Boudin makes a great stuffing. It is also the easiest one to make. All you have to do is remove the casing and stuff whatever item you are cooking. Boudin Stuffing adds a “Cajun Gourmet” twist to you meal.

Boudin Stuffed Pork Loin

4 boneless pork butterfly loins
1/2 to 1 pound pork boudin for stuffing
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
Creole Seasoning to taste
1/8 cup cooking oil

Preheat oven to 350℉.
Pound pork loins between wax paper to about 3/8″ thick and season with Creole Seasoning.
Lay the pork loins end to end overlapping each one about 1/3 onto the other. Remove boudin from casing and spread down the center of the loins. Layer green onions on top of the boudin. Bring one side of loins up and over boudin then bring up other side of loin and pin with toothpicks to form a roll. Bring up sides and pin to seal in boudin.
Pour oil into dish and place the rolled up loin into the glass baking dish and bake for 60 to 75 minutes. Let the meat rest 10 minutes, slice in one inch slices and serve.
For a simple Au Jus add a small amount of water to the drippings and cook for 5 minutes on top of stove.

Boudin does not need an ingredient in a recipe. It taste great as a meal or as a side dish. My only wish is that I could find Crawfish Boudin locally. Fortunately, Boudin freezes well so I bring some back from New Orleans when I visit.

Change up Easter Dinner This Year

As you would expect, Easter is a big holiday in New Orleans. Being one of the largest percentage of Catholics in the city, around 36%, New Orleans celebrates the end of the Lenten season with a big day on Easter Sunday. I know you are thinking that they must have an Easter parade. Actually, there are three. The Historic French Quarter Easter parade begins at Antoine’s restaurant and ends at The St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in North America. After 11:00 a.m. Mass, the participants head to across to Jackson Square to show off their Easter bonnets. Later in the afternoon, the Chris Owens French Quarter parade and the Gay Easter parade both parade int the French Quarter.

Of course, what would be a holiday without a big dinner. The first thing that my taste buds water for is the Easter ham. Usually a spiral cut ham, it is the star of the meal. You can use the glaze packet that come with the ham. However, here is a glaze that will raise the flavor of your Easter ham to new heights.

Spicy Sugar Ham Glaze

1/4 cup fresh Lemon Juice
1 cup Steen’s Cane Syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground Clove
1/4 teaspoon ground Allspice
1 tablespoon coarsely ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup (packed) Light Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Dry Mustard

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well blended. Allow to stand for at least 1 hour before using. Spread 1/3 of the mixture over ham before starting to cook. Continue to occasionally top ham with glaze throughout cooking time.

Most people serve mashed potatoes with their ham. However, here is a great substitution for those potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a staple is Louisiana cooking. This dish is also great for a picnic or barbecue.

Sweet Potato Salad

3 medium Sweet Potatoes
4 Green Onions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
2 ribs Celery, diced
1/4 cup Olive oil
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Juice of 1/2 Orange
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium Soy Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/4 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

Rinse and dry the sweet potatoes. Bake foil-wrapped potatoes at 400℉ until tender when pierced with a knife, about 40 to 60 minutes Set aside to cool.
When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut them into bite-size pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Add green onions and celery. Set aside.
Mix the oil, lemon juice, orange juice, soy sauce, garlic powder, chili powder, Creole seasoning and pepper.

Every great meals ends with a great dessert. The dark brown sugar that is used has more molasses added to it. It gives the cake a nice rich flavor. Serve it with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, softened
2 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons All-purpose Flour, divided
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 cups packed Dark Brown Sugar
3 large Eggs
1 cup Evaporated Milk
1 teaspoon Rum Extract (optional)
Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-cup Bundt Pan and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of flour. Swirl the pan to coat then dump out the excess flour.
Sift remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Beat butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add brown sugar gradually and continue beating until light and loose, about 4 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with 1 cup evaporated milk. Stir in rum until just mixed. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Invert onto plate. Dust with powdered sugar prior to serving, if desired. Store in refrigerator.

This is just a small sampling of a New Orleans Easter dinner. With a family as large as mine (I am one of 7 children) there are often as many as fifteen dishes to sample. These 3 are often repeated even year.

The Best Pecan Pie Ever

When most visitors to the city of New Orleans dine out, they tend to gravitate to the French Quarter. Some will venture to the Garden District to eat at Commander’s Palace. As good as those restaurants are, if I could only eat at one New Orleans restaurant, it would be Brigtsen’s. Located two blocks off the St. Charles Streetcar line in the Riverbed section of Uptown, Brigtsen’s is a converted house which serves some of the best food in the city. It is Creole cooking at its finest.

The talent in the kitchen is Chef Frank Brigtsen. This James Beard award winning chef started his career as a protege of Chef Paul Prudhomme while he was at Commander’s Palace. When Chef Paul left Commander’s to open K Paul’s, Frank followed to become the first night chef. In 1986, with the help of Chef Paul, Frank and his wife Marna opened their restaurant with him in the kitchen and her running the dining room.

The menu changes daily. His Roasted Duck is one of the best duck dishes I have ever eaten. The Crawfish Bisque is not to be missed. The Pan Fried Trout with Shrimp, Pecans and Meuniere Sauce is a classic. The BBQ Shrimp, in my opinion, is better than the original at Pascal’s Manale. As for desserts, the Pecan Pie is the best dessert on the menu. Frank also is a master when is comes to Creme Brûlée.

The recipe that I am sharing is for his signature dessert, Pecan Pie. This dish was featured on the Food Network Show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. During the first season of the show, Chef Frank’s Pecan Pie was included on the episode, Sugar Rush. One bite and you will agree, it is the Best Pecan Pie you ever ate.

For the Dough
1 cup All-purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
7 tablespoons Cold Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Ice Water

Preheat oven to 350℉.
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Using the large holes of a hand grater, grate the butter into the mixing bowl with the flour mixture. Lightly blend the butter and flour mixture with your fingertips until the texture is like coarse cornmeal. Be careful not to overwork the dough.
Add the ice water and blend until thoroughly incorporated. Form the dough into a ball and place it on a floured cutting board.
Roll out the dough, adding flour as necessary, to 1/8-inch thick. Place an 8 1/2 inch pie pan face down on the dough and cut the dough to fit the pan, leaving a border of about 1 inch.
Line the pan with the dough, trim the edges, and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Filling

1/2 cup Darkly Roasted Pecans, ground
3 Eggs
1 cup Granulated White Sugar
1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
2 tablespoons Melted Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Medium Pecan Pieces

In an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, add the eggs and beat on high speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, salt and ground roasted pecans. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Stir in the pecan pieces.
Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake at 350℉ for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 325℉ and bake until the filling is browned on top and the crust is light golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

Next time you are in New Orleans, make a reservation at Brigtsen’s. If you are like me, while dining, you will be planning your next trip to visit Chef Frank and Marna.