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Monthly Archives: May 2019

Oyster dishes can be delicious, easy

Oysters are a seafood that you either love or dislike. There does not seem to be any in between. Oysters are best during the winter months. The rule to only eat oysters in the months with R’s in them dated back to times before refrigeration. Oysters do not travel well unless they are kept cool. The months with R’s in them correspond to the late fall thru spring, when the weather is cooler. Now with refrigeration being what it is today, you can eat oysters throughout the year.

However, I always stick to the months with R’s theory. During the summer months, the waters that the oysters live in are warm and not as salty. This is the time of year when the oysters reproduce. This can lead to oysters looking milky and not tasting as good.

The only way that my wife will eat oysters is if they are fried. My favorite way to eat an oyster is as soon as I have shucked it from its shell. The main issue with shucking oysters in Arkansas is being able to get them still in the shell. I am still working on a good supplier for that. Fortunately, you can buy oysters already shucked in pint containers. The following two recipes do not require you to shuck your own oysters.

Here is a wonderful Creole Italian dish. Oysters cooked in New Orleans style bordelaise sauce served over cooked pasta. Make sure that you have plenty of bread to get every drop of the sauce.

Oyster Bordelaise

2 dozen Large Fresh Oysters
1/4 cup Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Softened Butter
1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic, minced
Creole Seasoning to taste
1 pound Cooked Spaghetti
3 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the oysters, cooking them by shaking the pan and making them roll around until they plump up. Add all the other ingredients except the pasta, parsley and Parmesan and cook until the green onions have wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss with a large fork to distribute pan contents among the pasta. Place in bowls and top with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

With the weather starting to turn cool, soups are starting to become more relevant. In a few weeks, I will share some more soup recipes. Many New Orleans restaurants feature Oyster soup or Stew on their menu. This recipe is my favorite, from the old Brennan’s restaurant. The oyster flavor in this soup is an oyster lovers dream.

Oyster Soup

2 cups (about 48) shucked Oysters
3 quarts Cold Water
1 & 1/2 sticks Butter
1 cup Celery, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons Garlic, minced
1 cup Green Onions, minced
4 Bay Leaves
1 tablespoon dry Thyme leaves
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon White Pepper
1/2 cup fresh Parsley, minced

In a large saucepan, combine the oysters and 3 quarts cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer about 5 minutes; skim any residue from the surface. Strain the oysters, reserving the stock. Dice the oysters and set aside. Melt the butter in a large pot and sauté the celery and garlic over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender. Add the green onions, bay leaves and thyme, then stir in the flour. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Using a whisk, blend in the oyster stock, then add the Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Cook the soup over medium heat about 20 minutes until thickened, then add the parsley and oysters. Simmer until the oysters are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

With the holiday’s coming up, oysters are featured in some New Orleans Dishes. Next week, I will offer a traditional Oyster Dressing as part of my preparation to Thanksgiving articles.

Shortcuts, substitutions OK to use

October 12 was National Gumbo Day. I wanted to honor the day but I was feeling under the weather and did not want to stand over the stove to make a roux. Fortunately, there is a easy substitution for this. So today, I will let you in on a few of my go to shortcuts.

There are a few options for making a roux. You can buy a jar of pre-made roux or you can by a roux mix. When in a pinch, I use Tony Chachere’s Creole Instant Roux Mix. It is a foolproof way to make a roux. The best thing about the mix is that you never have to worry about burning the roux. Once a roux starts to burn, you must throw it out and start over. It is almost impossible to burn the roux mix.

Many of my recipes call for stock. A homemade stock will elevate your dish to another level. However, many people do not want to take the hours to make stock from scratch. In the soup isle of your grocery store, you will find many different brands of pre-made stock. Beef, Chicken, Seafood and Vegetable stocks are all available. I have used all of the different brands. They are all good.When I purchased the seafood stock, the cashier told me that she did not know that they made that product. It gives you a much better end result than broth.

Another decent shortcut can be found in the sauce isle. Many people are afraid of making Hollandaise and Bernaise sauce from scratch. You can buy mixes of these sauces that are good substitutions for the real thing. Again, the mix will take the guesswork out of the preparation. Many people hesitate before making hollandaise sauce because it can easily break or separate. While they are easy to fix, most people will not attempt to make the sauce again. To fix a broken hollandaise sauce, you can either slowly add hot water or an egg yolk to your hollandaise to bring it back. The same can be done with Bernaise.

If a recipe calls for fresh herbs, you can substitute dry herbs in their place. The rule of thumb is to use 1/3 dry in the place of the fresh. The flavors of the dry herbs are more concentrated than the fresh so less is more. Make sure that your dry herbs are up to date. They start to lose their freshness after 3 months.

Of course, you can purchase onions and garlic already chopped. There is one item that I will not use a shortcut for, Parmesan Cheese. I always grated fresh Parmesan from wedges that you can buy. It only takes a minute or two but you are getting a more superior product. The powdered stuff is good if you are mixing with breadcrumbs for a breading. The pre-shredded cheese I find has a waxy flavor from the preservatives that are used in it. Always grate your own.

This is a reworking of my Seafood Gumbo using shortcuts.

Seafood Gumbo
1 cup Instant Roux Mix
2 cups Water
1 tablespoon Butter
I cup Onions, chopped
1/2 cup Celery, chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
3 Bay Leaves
2 32-ounce cartons Seafood Stock
1 Pound 70-90 count Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Dry Parsley Flakes
Cooked Rice
Filé Powder

Over medium heat, whisk instant roux mix with the water. Bring to a boil. After mixture begins to thicken, remove from heat. Continue to stir until well mixed.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté onions and celery until soft about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté one minute more. Add to the roux mixture.

Return the roux to the stove and add the seafood stock and mix well to make sure there are no lumps of roux. Add the dry seasonings and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to low. 20 minutes before serving, add the shrimp, crabmeat, green onions and parsley. Serve over cooked rice and season with Filé at the table.

Will you get a good result from using these shortcuts? Of course you will. Will it taste the same as if you made everything from scratch. In my opinion, no. But these shortcuts will get dinner on the table faster and you will have more time to spend with your loved ones.

Eggplants are Versatile

Eggplants are popular in Louisiana cuisine. It is a veritable ingredient. Although it is often served as a vegetable, it is actually a fruit. It is related to the tomato and potato.The egg-shaped, glossy, purple fruit has white flesh with a meaty texture. The cut surface of the flesh turns quickly brown when it is cut open.

Eggplant is used around the world. It’s most popular French preparation is Ratatouille. In Italy, it is fried and topped with tomato sauce and Mozzarella cheese as Eggplant Parmesan. Today, I am sharing two Louisiana dishes, Fried Eggplant Sticks and Stuffed Eggplant Pirogue Peggy.

This appetizer was one of the most popular at the last restaurant I worked at, Cannon’s. They can be prepared in advance so that all you have to do is drop them in the fryer. But don’t make them too far in advance; the breadcrumbs can become soggy. If they do, just recoat them with breadcrumbs.

Fried Eggplant Sticks

3 Eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 cup Flour
Chicken Batter, recipe to follow
2 cups Italian Breadcrumbs
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat deep fryer to 350℉. Cover eggplant sticks with flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the sticks into the batter. Remove and shake off the excess. Roll sticks in breadcrumbs until fully covered. Fry from 2-4 minutes or golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving. Serve with Hollandaise sauce for dipping.

Chicken Batter
8 Eggs
1 quart Buttermilk
2 tablespoons Salt
2 tablespoons Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Cumin

Beat Eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Keep cold until ready to use.

This recipe is named for my wife Peggy. A pirogue is a flat bottom boat that is used to travel the shallow water in the bayous. The eggplant shell resembles a pirogue. A great way to showcase eggplant is to remove the pulp from the shell, cook it, then stuff it back into the shell.

Stuffed Eggplant Pirogue Peggy

3 medium Eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 cup Ham, diced small
1/3 cup Onion, chopped
1/4 cup Yellow Bell Pepper, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
1/2 cup Seafood or Chicken Stock
1/2 pound medium Shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
1/2 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1/2 cup Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons fresh Parmesan Cheese, grated and divided
1/4 cup Green Onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Basil, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh Tarragon, chopped
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning

Preheat oven to 425℉. Score cut side of eggplant half in a crisscross pattern. Lightly coat cut sides of eggplant with cooking spray. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Bake at 425℉ for 10 minutes. Turn the eggplant halves over and bake for an additional 10 minutes or tender. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove pulp from the eggplant, leaving 1/4-inch thick shell. Place eggplant shells on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Chop pulp and put aside. Reduce oven to 350℉. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ham, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Satué for 5 minutes. Add reserved eggplant pulp and stock, cooking for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Stir in the shrimp and crabmeat, cook 1 minute and remove from heat. Add breadcrumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, green onions, basil, tarragon, lemon zest and Creole seasoning, stirring gently to combine. Mound about 1/2 cup of seafood mixture into each shell. Sprinkle each with the remaining Parmesan Cheese. Bake at 350℉ for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated and shrimp are done.

In the grocery store, you can find eggplants in the fresh vegetable section. Just remember, it’s a fruit.