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Honor Mom with meal on Mother’s Day

My first weekend that I was no longer working in the restaurant business was the weekend of Mother’s Day. This was intentional. Mother’s Day is the busiest day for restaurants. All staff members work and it is a long day.

It also can be one of the worst experiences in a restaurant. Many places present an abbreviated menu and rush you through your meal so that they can seat as many customers as they possible can. If you are looking for a great relaxing meal, my suggestion is to cook at home.

That first weekend free, I was able to cook a Mother’s Day meal for my mom and family. Believe it or not, it was an easier day than if I was still working in the restaurant. It was also more enjoyable to be able to do for my mom what I was unable to do before.

So, to honor my mother, here are a few of her recipes. Two of them are appetizers and one is for dessert. All of them are recipes that I cherish.

My mother loved to cook with artichokes as an ingredient. She has numerous that use canned artichoke hearts. If you have fresh artichokes, you can substitute the same amount of cooked fresh hearts in place of the canned variety. Below was one of her go to recipes for gatherings.

Artichoke Squares

1 can Artichoke Hearts
1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 Egg
Garlic to taste

Preheat oven to 350℉. Drain hearts and set juice aside in a bowl. Mash hearts and add bread crumbs, cheese, garlic and olive oil. Add egg and juice and beat. Add this to mixture and stir until well blended. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate. Cut into squares before serving.

This artichoke dish is the one that received the most request for the recipe as well as most request to be prepared. The key to this dish is the boiling of the artichokes. If you over boil them, the leaves will not stay attached. If you under cook them, the leaves will be hard and you don’t get the full artichoke flavor.

Stuffed Artichokes

2 Artichokes
1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 teaspoon Dried Parsley
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
1/3 cup Olive Oil

Boil artichokes for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350℉. Mix the dry ingredients. Saturate the dry mixture with olive oil. Stuff the leaves of the artichoke with the mixture. Bake, covered with foil for 1 1/2 hours in a large dish with 1 inch of water in it, to keep the stuffing from drying out. Serve warm.

This is a recipe that I did not know about until after my mother passed. One of her friends made it and brought it to the house for the guest after my mothers funeral. My older siblings remembered my mom making this dish. However, the younger group were not aware of it. It is one of the moistest cakes I have eaten. In this day of cake mixes that line the grocery store shelves, this cake is as easy to make as a mix.

Sour Cream Cake

1/2 cup Butter
2 cups Sugar
4 tablespoons Cocoa
1 cup Boiling Water
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Sour Cream
2 cups Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Cream butter and sugar. Add cocoa and mix well. Add unbeaten eggs and blend. Add sour cream, then flour gradually. In a separate bowl, pour water over baking soda and add to the above mixture and mix well. Add vanilla and mix. Bake in a greased and floured pan for 30 to 35 minutes. For a 2 layer cake, divide batter equally between two pans. When cake has cooled, top with your favorite icing.

I hope that you enjoy my mother’s recipes as much as I have over the years. Her recipes are ones that I never change. I enjoy them and the memories just the way they are.

Down Home Favorites

New Orleans is known as a city with great restaurants. However, not all of the great cooks are found in restaurants. You can find a great cook just by knocking on most neighborhood doors.

From Gumbo to Jambalaya to Red Beans and Rice, these one pot dishes are staples in kitchens across Louisiana. They can also be found in the finer restaurants in town. In the home kitchen, these dishes are as easy to prepare as they are to clean up after.

Another down home dish that can be found around Louisiana is the Natchitoches Meat Pie. Mrs. Wheat’s pies can be found in many grocery store freezer sections. However, they are not difficult to make and taste much better when they are home made.

The traditional Monday meal in New Orleans is Red Beans and Rice. Monday was wash day. Wives needed a dish that would cook long and slow. Red Beans is the perfect dish. Women would have used whatever meat was leftover from Sunday’s meal, usually pork. Traditionally, Red Beans are served with sausage, either smoked or Andouille. But many neighborhood restaurants offer them with other meats, like fried Pork Chops. Try it one Monday or whichever day you do laundry. Just remember to put the beans on to soak on the night before.

Red Beans and Rice

1 pound dried Red (Kidney) Beans, I prefer Camellia Brand
3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Tasso or Ham, chopped
1 1/2 cups Onions, chopped
3/4 cup Celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
2 tablespoons Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Dried Thyme
1 1/2 pounds Smoked Sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons Garlic, minced
10 cups Chicken Stock
4 cups Cooked White Rice

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for at least 8 hours. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the Tasso and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the onions and celery to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and start to thicken, about two hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more stock, about 1/4 cup at a time). Remove from heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15-20 minutes. Remove Bay Leaves before serving over rice.

The Natchitoches Meat Pie is Louisiana’s answer to the Central American Empanadas. Natchitoches is located in the North Central part of Louisiana. It was made famous in the movie Steel Magnolias. But I think that the Meat Pie is their real claim to fame. A soft flaky dough filled with seasoned meat, deep fried to perfection.

Natchitoches Meat Pies

1 pound Ground Beef
1/2 pound Ground Pork
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Flour
1/2 cup Onions, minced
1/4 cup Celery, minced
1/4 cup Green Bell Pepper, minced
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 15oz package refrigerated Pie Dough at room temperature

Preheat Deep Fryer to 375℉.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until it is a nutty brown color, 2-3 minutes. Stir in vegetables and cook until soft and onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add meats and brown until they are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in the Creole Seasoning and drain the fat. Cool to room temperature. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Use a 5-inch cookie cutter to cut circles in the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture and put it in the center of the dough round. Fold the dough over and seal the edges using a fork. You may need to combine and reroll the dough scraps to make 15 meat pies. Deep fry pies in small batches until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve while hot.

Red Beans and Rice was a favorite of New Orleanian Louis Armstrong. He would sign any correspondence with Red Beans and Ricely Yours. One day I will share with y’all his family recipe.

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.

Breakfast starts the day off great

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s the meal that gets your motor running. In New Orleans, it is also the meal that gets you thinking about your entire days dining preferences. At tables all across the Crescent City, many people talk about what they will eat for lunch. At lunch, the conservation turns to your dinner dining options. Of course at dinner, you talk about what you will eat tomorrow. Most people eat to live. In New Orleans, you live to eat.

My first recipe is a dish that almost everyone has heard of, Beignets. A trip to New Orleans is not complete without a trip to Café du Monde in the French Quarter for beignets. Open 24 hours a day 364 days a year, closed only on Christmas Day, Café du Monde has been serving beignets since 1862. Although you can buy the Café du Monde Beignet mix locally, I find the beignets don’t puff as much as homemade ones.

Beignets

1 1/2 cups Lukewarm Water
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1 envelope Active Dry Yeast
2 Eggs, beaten slightly
1 1/4 teaspoons Salt
1 cup Evaporated Milk
7 cups Bread Flour
1/4 cup Shortening (Crisco), softened
Peanut Oil for Frying
Powdered Sugar for Dusting

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix the egg mixture into the yeast mixture. App 3 cups of the flour to the mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Put dough in the bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours. Preheat peanut oil to 350℉. Roll the dough out, on a lightly floured surface, to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares. Fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden brown. When beignets are done, quickly drain on paper towels, and then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Breakfast at Brennan’s is one of the most popular meals in New Orleans. It is also one of the most expensive. However after eating a 3 course meal for breakfast or brunch, you will probably not eat the rest of the day. One of the popular entrées for breakfast is Grillades and Grits. Most often made with veal, this dish is a Creole classic. Don’t take the name of the dish too literally. The veal is more often fried instead of being grilled. Either way, it is a delicious dish.

Grillades and Grits

2 pounds of Veal or Beef Round, 1/2-inch thick
1 tablespoons Canola Oil
Creole Seasoning
Flour
1 medium Onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 small Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 cup Tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh Thyme, chopped
3 cups Cooked Grits

Cut the meat into 3-inch squares. Season with Creole Seasoning, and then dredge in the flour shaking off the excess. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Brown the meat lightly and drain on paper towels. Make a roux in the skillet with 2 tablespoons of flour and the remaining oil, browning until it is a rich dark color. Add all remaining ingredients, except grits, to the roux and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, cover the skillet and cook until tender, about 1 hour, stirring often. Serve the Grillades and sauce over grits.

What a better way to start your day than with one of these wonderful New Orleans dishes! You will not be skipping breakfast anymore.

Using the Crawfish Boil Leftovers

Now that you have had a delicious crawfish boil, now you are looking for ways to use up the leftover food. Any potatoes can be used for mashed potatoes or sliced and sautéed in butter for a quick side dish. The garlic, onions and sausage can be used in any recipe that calls for those ingredients. The crawfish, however, beg for recipes.

Crawfish Pastalaya is a take on the iconic South Louisiana dish Jambalaya. Pastalaya is basically a jambalaya with pasta replacing the rice in the dish. The first restaurant to make this substitution was Mr. B’s in the French Quarter. It has since been copied by many restaurants. Here is my interpretation, using crawfish is place of the more common chicken often found in Pasta Jambalaya.

Crawfish Pastalaya

2 pounds Crawfish Tails
12 ounces uncooked Bow Tie Pasta
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Onion, diced
1/4 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/4 cup Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
4 tablespoons Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons Flour
1 quart Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped
1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped
Creole Seasoning, Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers and garlic. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables are wilted. Sprinkle in the flour and, using a wire whisk, stir constantly until a white roux is achieved. Add stock, one label at a time until all has been incorporated. Add tomato sauce, thyme, basil and season to taste with Creole Seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Gently blend in crawfish into the simmering liquid. Add green onions and fold in the pasta. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pasta is al denté and the liquid has been absorbed.

More often than not, there are not enough crawfish for an entrée. One day, with only a small amount of crawfish left over, I created this dish. I used all of the leftover seasonings, sausage and crawfish in this one dish. The added seasoning from the crawfish boiling water add to this great appetizer.

VooDoo Rolls

10 ounces Crawfish Tails
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
1/4 cup Onions, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
6 ounces Andouille or Smoked Sausage
5 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
8 ounces Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
20 Egg Roll Wrappers

Put Creole Seasoning on crawfish tails and toss to cover. Sauté onions and garlic in Worcestershire sauce for 2 minutes. Add crawfish and sausage. Sauté for 3 minutes more. Drain and allow to cool. Mix cheese with the cool meat mixture. Place egg roll wrapper on a dry surface. Place 2 tablespoons of the meat and cheese mixture in the middle of the wrapper. Fold the sides of the wrapper 1/2 inch over the mixture. Wet one end and roll towards that end. Press to seal. Fry rolls at 375℉ until golden, about 2 minutes. Make sure to turn the rolls so that both sides cook evenly. Serve with Casian Dipping Sauce.

After making the VooDoo Rolls a few times, I thought it could use a dipping sauce. I started playing with my Asian ingredients that I had on hand. Looking for a sweet note, I reached for Steen’s Cane Syrup. This ingredient gives the sauce its Cajun influence. My neighbors, Jay and Caro, said it was a hit and took the sauce home to use with other items.

Casian Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup Hoisin Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Rice Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Sesame Oil
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Cane Syrup, I prefer Steen’s Cane Syrup
1/4 teaspoon Fresh Ginger, grated
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce (optional)

Mix together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to combine. Remove from refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.

Of course, you don’t have to use leftover crawfish for these recipes. You can buy packaged already peeled crawfish tails at most grocery stores. Just make sure you are buying Louisiana crawfish tails and not an imported product. The Louisiana tails have a better flavor.

Tips for Crawfish Boil

Spring is upon us. When the weather starts to lose it’s winter chill, New Orleanians gather their families and friends, breakout their boiling pots, and have a crawfish boil. Crawfish boils are as much a sign of spring as seeing flowers starting to bloom.

Crawfish have become synonymous with the Cajun people. Cajuns are French Canadian descents who settled in the Louisiana Swamp area after being forced out of Nova Scotia by British Troops. One legend says that after the Cajuns were exiled, lobsters yearned for the Cajuns so much that they set off cross country to find them.

This journey, over land and sea, was so long and treacherous that the lobsters began to shrink in size. By the time they found the Cajuns in Louisiana, they had shrunk so much that they hardly looked like lobsters anymore. A great festival was held at their arrival, and this smaller lobster was renamed crawfish.

On spring weekends, crawfish boils are held all across Louisiana. When I first moved here, I thought crawfish boils were a thing of the past. Fortunately, I am able to get a good supply of live crawfish from a few different places locally. It has been a joy to share my crawfish boils with my new friends here in Searcy. Here is my recipe so you can boil your own.

Boiled Crawfish

Equipment

A large boiling pot with a strainer. They range in size from 22 quarts to 100 quarts. They come with a burner that gets hooked up to a bottle of propane for heat.

This recipe is based on using a 60 quart boiling pot. Adjust seasonings to the size of your pot.

Ingredients

Sack of Live Crawfish ( 30 to 36 pounds), purged
3 26-ounce Salt Rounds
1 box Zataran’s Crab Boil in Bag
3 cups Zataran’s Liquid Crab Boil
1 cup Zataran’s Dry Crab Boil
3/4 cup Cayenne Pepper
6 Large Lemons, cut in half
6 Yellow Onions, Peeled
6 Heads of Garlic, peeled of outer skin but enough left to keep head in one piece
24 small Red Potatoes
10 Corn Cobettes
4 pounds Smoked Sausage, cut into bite sized pieces

Zataran’s is a New Orleans spice company, whose products I use. You can use whatever brand of seasonings you prefer.

To Purge Crawfish

This is a very important step. If you don’t purge your crawfish, they may still taste like mud. Purging cleans the crawfish inside and out. Pour live crawfish in an ice chest or large metal tub and sprinkle 1/2 round of salt on crawfish. Fill the ice chest with water until the crawfish are covered. Gently stir the crawfish to dilute the salt. Leave the crawfish in water for 10 minutes or so. This will cause the crawfish to purge themselves of mud and other things. Drain the water and purge one more time. After the second purge, rinse the crawfish until the water around them is clear.

To Boil Crawfish

Fill boiling pot halfway with water. You can do multiple batches and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Begin heating covered water to a boil. When the water begins to boil, add seasonings. After the water has been boiling for 5 minutes, add everything except the crawfish. ( If you wish, you can put all of these items in a mesh laundry bag. This way, all of the sides are kept together.) Boil for 10 minutes. Add crawfish and boil for 4 minutes. When done, turn off the heat and allow to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. The longer you allow the crawfish to soak, the spicier they become. Allow the crawfish to drain before dumping them on a newspaper-covered table. Let the Feast begin!

How to peel a Crawfish

Grab the head firmly with one hand and grab the tail with the other. Twist and pull the tail from the head. Suck the head for a little extra flavor (optional). Peel off the first two or three rings. Pinch the end of the tail and pull the meat from the shell.

Next week, I will share with you some recipes to use the leftover crawfish tails from your boil.

Praline Recipes for your Sweet Tooth

Most people have a sweet tooth. In New Orleans, the praline(pronounced prah-leen) is the sweet of choice. For over 80 years, Aunt Sally’s has been selling pralines at the French Market in the French Quarter. In 1935, Pierre and Diane Bagur opened the first Aunt Sally’s. The company now consist of two locations and an online store, which you can purchase New Orleans gifts and souvenirs, including their world famous pralines.

In France, the praline is made with almonds as their nut component. When the French settled in Louisiana, they found that pecans were abundant. Many New Orleans recipes use pecans instead of almonds. Today, i am sharing 3 different flavors of pralines, Traditional, White Chocolate and Orange.

Traditional Pralines
2/3 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup Evaporated Milk
3 tablespoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) Butter
1 cup Pecans, chopped into small pieces

Add both sugars and milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat and stir about 15 to 18 minutes, to a softball stage. ( A softball stage is 235-240℉, using a Candy Thermometer to measure. At this temperature, the sugar mixture dropped into cold water will form a soft, flexible ball. If you remove the ball from the water, it will flatten like a pancake after a few minutes in your hand.) Cook 3-4 minutes longer. Remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla. Let the butter melt then add the pecans slowly and mix well. Spoon out pralines on wax paper coated with cooking spray to cool.

In my opinion, white chocolate makes a dessert classier. In almost any dessert, white chocolate can be substituted for regular chocolate. I use white chocolate every chance I get. My wife enjoys it better than milk chocolate.

White Chocolate Pralines
1 1/2 cups Sugar
3/4 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Milk
1 1/2 cup Pecans, chopped into small pieces
2 ounces White Chocolate Baking Squares, chopped into pieces

Combine all ingredients. Cook low, stirring constantly, until sugar and butter melts. Bring to a boil and increase the heat to medium. Continue to stir constantly for 3 minutes or until it reaches a softball stage. Remove from heat and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture begins to thicken. This may take up to 5 minutes. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper coated with cooking spray.

South of New Orleans is Plaquemines Parrish. Every year in December at Fort Jackson in Buras, Louisiana, the Orange Festival is celebrated. Through numerous freezes and hurricanes, the citrus farmers of Plaquemines Parish have endured. The yearly celebration is a testament to their hard work and perseverance. To honor the farmers, I have included an Orange flavored Praline.

Orange Pralines
1 quart Heavy Cream
2 1/4 cup Sugar
1 Orange
1 tablespoon light Corn Syrup
1 1/2 cup Pecans, chopped into small pieces

Pour the cream and sugar into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Grate the ring of the orange over the pot. Add the corn syrup and pecan pieces. Over medium heat, stir the mixture often until it becomes very thick and a candy Thermometer registers 275℉, about 1 hour.

Remove the pot from the heat. Drop the mixture by the tablespoon onto waxed paper coated with cooking spray.

These praline recipes will surely cure your sweet tooth.