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Monthly Archives: July 2019

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.