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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.

Andouille: Sausage of Choice

You may have noticed my use of Andouille sausage in my recipes. Many people think that Andouille and Hot Sausage are the same thing. Although andouille can be spicy, it is no where near the same as hot sausage. Andouille is seasoned with garlic and other spices.

Andouille is often found in many different New Orleans dishes. It is the sausage of choice. What makes andouille different is the fact that it is double smoked. This helps to reduce the amount of fat in the sausage. I remember a friend of mine telling me after taking a cooking class in New Orleans, “Now I know why you use andouille for gumbo. There is no fat to skim off the top of the gumbo.” The double smoking makes all the difference.

Not far upriver from New Orleans is the town of LaPlace. They claim the title of Andouille capital of the world. Any time you have some andouille from LaPlace, you have a great quality sausage.

Now to the recipes. Here is a soup that uses two ingredients that are Louisiana staples, sweet potatoes and andouille. This recipe is adapted from the Palace Café, a restaurant owned by a friend of mine, Dickie Brennan.

Sweet Potato and Andouille Soup

6 pounds Sweet Potatoes
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter
1 pound Andouille Sausage, diced
1 cup Celery, minced
1 cup Onion, minced
3 quarts Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Molasses
Salt and White Pepper to taste

Place the whole unpeeled sweet potatoes in a baking pan and bake at 350℉ for 1 hour or until easily pierced with a knife and the sugars began to release. Cool, peel and chop the sweet potatoes.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the sausage. Over medium heat, cook until the sausage is brown. Add the celery and onion and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Add the sweet potatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until the flavors blend.

Purée the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. Return to the saucepan and stir in the molasses, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes and keep warm until ready to serve.

One night, I was wondering what I could do with some boneless pork chops. I had a small amount of shrimp and andouille I was doing nothing with. Not having enough of these items for a meal of either, I thought a stuffing would make a great way to use these items. My wife, who is not a fan of dishes like these, thought it was a great combination.

Stuffed Pork Chops with Cane Gastrique

4 8-ounce Boneless Pork Chops
1/2 pound Shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced into small pieces
1/2 pound Andouille, diced
1 tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup Onion, diced
1 tablespoon Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Seafood or Chicken Stock
1/3 cup Seasoned Panko Breadcrumbs
Creole Seasoning, Granulated Garlic and Smoked Paprika to season Pork Chops

Preheat oven to 325℉.

Trim pork chops of excess fat and butterfly ( sliced 3/4 of the way thru the width of the pork chop, they should resemble a butterfly when the pieces are fanned out).

Over medium heat, melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and sausage. Cook for two minutes, making sure not to overcook the shrimp.. Add the stock and breadcrumbs and cook for 2 minutes. ( You can add additional breadcrumbs and/or stock to reach desired consistency of the stuffing. You want it moist but not liquidly.) Season with creole Seasoning to taste. Allow stuffing to cool.

Stuff each pork chop and secure with a toothpick or two. Lightly spray a baking dish with olive oil. Season both sides of the pork chops with Creole Seasoning, granulated garlic and smoked paprika. Add a little layer of stock or water to the pan.

Cook for 1 hour at 325℉. Remove toothpicks and serve with Cane Gastrique.

Be careful with this sauce. It is very addicting. Steen’s Cane Vinegar can be ordered online thru various websites.

Cane Gastrique

3/4 cup Steen’s Cane Vinegar
3/4 cup Steen’s Cane Syrup
In a 2 quart saucepan, bring the the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until it has been reduced by 1/2. Serve over Pork.

If there are any recipes you would like to see featured, send me an email.

A Different Kind of Tradition

This article originally ran Feb. 2017

This year, Mardi Gras is on February 28th. On this day of revelry, food plays a big factor in your celebration. Mardi Gras is the last day before the season of Lent begins, the season of fasting to prepare for Easter.

Mardi Gras is spent on the street watching the Rex parade and the others that follow. Over the hours, most people reach for Fried Chicken. Popeye’s is the choice of my family. There are food vendors that sell all types of foods meant to be eaten with your hands.

Corndogs and sausage on a stick are popular treats. So, I wondered how a corndog would taste made with sausage. Here is the results. However, this is not any type of sausage, it is the Cajun Andouille sausage that is in the center of this treat. Next week, I will tell you more about Andouille.

Andouille Corndogs

1 1/2 cups Yellow Cornmeal
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
2 cups Buttermilk
2 large Eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 pounds Andouille Sausage, cut into 3 or 4 ounce links
1/4 cup Cornstarch
8 (8-inch long) thick wooden Skewers

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, Creole Seasoning, and cayenne. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and canola oil to the cornmeal mixture and stir to combine. The batter will be lumpy.

Heat a deep fryer to 360℉.

Place cornstarch in a shallow pan, and dredge andouille in the cornstarch, rolling to coat. Spear the sausage links with the wooden skewers. Holding the long end of the skewer, dip each sausage into the batter, turning to coat evenly.

Slip the coated corndogs, in batches, into the hot oil and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot with Creole Mustard for dipping.

The only dessert to eat on Mardi Gras is a King Cake, especially since they will not be available again until January 6th. Since I have already written an article on the traditional King Cake, here is a recipe for a French King Cake.

This recipe was given to me by my brother Larry. I am not the only person in my family that enjoys the kitchen. It is a very different type of King Cake. There are not colored sugars or glazes over this cake. It has an almond paste and is topped with powdered sugar. The pastry is also lighter than the traditional King Cake.

Galette des Rois

1/3 cup Almonds
1/3 cup Sugar
Pinch Salt
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Few drops Almond Extract
1/2 cup unsalted Butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 sheets Puff Pastry, thawed
Egg Wash- 1 Egg beaten lightly with 1/4 cup Water

In a food processor, grind almonds. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond extract and process until blended lightly. Then add butter, flour and baking powder and process to make a smooth paste for about 10 seconds.

Place one sheet of the puff pastry on a cookie sheet. Spread mixture evenly over puff pastry, living 1 inch margin around the perimeter. Paint the perimeter with the egg wash. Place second sheet of pastry on top and carefully seal the edges with a fork, egg wash top of cake. Make sure the pastry is sealed well and that there are no holes or all of the filling will leak out during baking.

At this point, you can bake the cake or freeze and bake later. I think that it is better to get the dough really cold and freeze again before baking. Place frozen King Cake in a preheated 400℉ oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. When cooled, dust with powdered sugar.

If there are any recipes you would like to see featured, email me your suggestions.

A cup of soup warms up a cold day, even in New Orleans

As warm as it gets in New Orleans, one would think that soups are not often served in months that are not cold. Of course that is not true, with Gumbo being the official state food of Louisiana. Chefs in Louisiana have created more soups than just Gumbo.

From Gumbos and Bisques to Turtle Soup and Oyster & Artichoke soup, New Orleans have many different varieties of soup to offer. When the weather gets warmer, the orders for soup does not decline. Because of the flavors of these soups, most feel that a meal without soup is incomplete. Hot or cold weather aside, it’s all about flavor in New Orleans cooking. These soups are definitely full of flavor.

Today, I will share with you two New Orleans soup recipes that are very different from Gumbo. One is the quintessential soup found on menus all around town and the other is a great vegetarian soup.

Oyster & Artichoke soup was invented in the 1960s by Chef Warren Leruth. I had the pleasure of starting my restaurant career at his 5-star restaurant. While I consider my mother as my mentor, I learned a lot watching Chef Warren and his two sons, Larry and Lee. Their ability in front of a stove, in my opinion, are unmatched today. In future articles, you will be hearing more about these great chefs. This soup was originally made without cream and with dry seasonings. Here is my attempt to duplicate this wonderful soup.

6 cups Artichoke Hearts, quartered (Reserve Liquid)
1/2 gallon Chicken Stock
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Hot Sauce
1 cup Onions, diced
1 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon Dried Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 tablespoon White Pepper
1 tablespoon Granulated Garlic
2 tablespoons light Brown Sugar
3 sticks (3/4 pound) Butter
3/4 cup Flour
3 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 quart Oysters, chopped

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter and sauté onions until transparent. Add green onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Mix chicken stock and artichoke juice. Add flour to onions and stir with a wire whisk. Cook for two minutes. Add the stock mixture and stir. Add artichokes, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese; stir. Add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, oregano, thyme, salt, white pepper, granulated garlic, and brown sugar, sprinkling all the ingredients over the entire area of the soup to avoid clumping of the seasonings. Cook for 10 minutes oven low heat. Add oysters and cook for 5 minutes and serve.

Roasted Garlic Soup was created by Chef Susan Spicer, who’s Flagship restaurant Bayona, was previously the location of Chef Lee Leruth’s restaurant Torey’s. Her first signature dish is her Cream of Garlic soup. This recipe is vegetarian, not containing any meat products. However, if you wish, you may substitute Chicken stock for the Vegetable stock.

5 cups Garlic Cloves, peeled
8 cups Vegetable Stock, divided
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
1 Carrot, chopped
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Butter
1 cup Heavy Cream

Preheat oven to 350℉.
Place garlic in a 13×9-inch baking pan and cover with two cups of the vegetable stock. Cover pan with aluminum foil and roast in oven for one hour or until tender.
Transfer garlic to a large pot and add the remaining 6 cups of vegetable stock, celery, carrot, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, about 45 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Gradually add flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, 6 minutes, or until the roux is ivory in color and starts to give off a nutty aroma.
Purée soup in a food processor or blender and return to the stove. Bring to a simmer. Stir 1 cup of the hot puréed soup into roux until well combined. Pour mixture back into the pot with the rest of the soup and cook 10 minutes. Add cream and simmer 5 minutes, or until hot. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

White Chocolate adds special touch

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. February 14th is my favorite day to cook. Of course, I cook for my wife on nights we eat at home. This is the only meal that my plan starts with dessert.

My wife always chooses our entrée. For dessert, the main ingredient is always White Chocolate. From White Chocolate Bread Pudding to White Chocolate Mousse, I think white chocolate adds a special touch to the end of this romantic meal.

White chocolate is not chocolate in the strict sense as it does not contain non-fat cocoa solids, the primary flavor in the unsweetened chocolate form. During the manufacturing process, the dark-colored solids of the cocoa bean are separated from its fatty content, as with milk, semi-sweet and dark chocolate. But, unlike those other chocolate types, the cocoa solids are not recombined. As a result, this fat, cocoa butter, is the only cacao ingredient in white chocolate.

The first recipe is for the most adventuresome cook, White Chocolate Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Sauce. Bread Pudding is found on menus across New Orleans, from the five star restaurants to the neighborhood cafés. What sets New Orleans bread pudding apart is the use of New Orleans French Bread. Made with local water, this bread is almost impossible to duplicate away from the city. My twist is that I use croissants as the bread component. I find this bread pudding a little less dense.

3 cups Heavy Cream
10 ounces White Chocolate Chips
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
8 Egg Yolks
6 large Croissants, torn into large pieces
White Chocolate Sauce (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven to 275℉. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream but do not boil. Remove from heat, add the white chocolate chips, and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. In a double boiler over barely simmering water, beat the milk, sugar, eggs and egg yolks together, and heat until warm. Blend the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Place the croissant pieces into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Pour half of the chocolate mixture over the croissants. Let sit for 30 minutes, and then pour in the rest of the chocolate mixture. Cover with foil and bake for one hour. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into squares and top with White Chocolate Sauce.

White Chocolate Sauce

8 ounces White Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Heavy Cream

In a double boiler, over barely simmering water, melt chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat and mix in the heavy cream. Keep warm. To store, let cool slightly and store in. an airtight container in the refrigerator. To reheat, in a double boiler, melt over barely simmering water and stir until smooth.

For an easier, but no less rich and delicious dessert, here is my recipe for White Chocolate Mousse. It only takes about 15 minutes to put the mousse together and at least an hour in the refrigerator to set. This can be topped with almost any type of berry. I like to use chocolate sprinkles or shaved chocolate flakes.

8 ounces White Chocolate Chips
2 Egg Yolks
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 1/4 cups Heavy Cream, divided
Chocolate Sprinkles

In a large glass bowl, place the white chocolate chips and set aside. Add the egg yolks and sugar to a small bowl and whisk until pale in color. In a saucepan, over low heat, bring 1/4 cup of the heavy cream to a simmer, and slowly add the cream into the yolk and egg mixture to temper. Pour the creamy mixture back into the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until it coats the back of it. Pour hot mix thru a strainer over the bowl with the white chocolate. Stir until completely smooth. In another bowl, whip the remaining cup of heavy cream to almost stiff peaks. Fold half the whipped cream into the white chocolate mix to lighten then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spoon the white chocolate mousse into 4 serving cups and refrigerate until set, approximately one hour. Top with chocolate sprinkles.  

Enjoy your Valentine’s dinner!

Many different ways to Étouffée

Étouffée is a dish that no two people make alike. Étouffée, pronounced ay-Too-fay, in French means literally “smothered” or “suffocated”. This dish is most popular in New Orleans and in the Acadiana area in the southwestern part of Louisiana.

The reason that no two people make an Étouffée alike are the many ways it can be made. It can be made with or without a roux, tomatoes, or any type of seafood or poultry. It can be served over rice, pasta or jambalaya. It can be made spicy or mild.

Although Creole and Cajun cuisines are distinct, there are many similarities. In the case of the Creole version of Crawfish Étouffée, it is made with a blond or brown roux with a tomato product added. A blond roux is one that is cooked, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes to remove the raw flavor of the flour and to add a slightly “nutty” taste, while a brown roux is cooked longer (30-35 minutes) in order to deepen the color and flavor.

Here are two different versions of Étouffée. The first one is a Creole non-seafood version. The second one is the dish that is found all across Louisiana. Here is a Chicken and Andouille Étouffée recipe.

1/2 cup Canola Oil
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon Butter
1 cup Onions, chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped
1 cup mixed Red, Green and Yellow Bell Peppers, chopped
1 tablespoon Garlic, minced
3 Bay Leaves
1 pound Andouille Sausage, sliced
1/2 cup Tomato Paste
1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
8 cups Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme, chopped
1 pound boneless skinless Chicken Breast, cut into bite-size pieces
Kosher Salt to taste

Heat the canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour gradually. Cook until the roux is dark amber in color, whisking constantly remove from heat.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, and Andouille sausage and sauté until the vegetables are tender and the sausage s brown.
Stir the roux into the vegetables and sausage. Add the tomato paste and crushed red pepper and mix well. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chicken stock, fresh thyme and chicken.
Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, skimming the surface and stirring occasionally. Season with Kosher salt to taste and discard the bay leaves. Serve over rice, pasta, or jambalaya.

Crawfish étouffée is a cliché Cajun dish. It is found on menus all over the city, including Galatoire’s, one of the older restaurants in the city, Founded in 1905, Galatoire’s is a French Creole restaurant. To have this Cajun dish on their menu shows how popular the dish is.

1 pound Crawfish Tails
Creole Seasoning
4 tablespoons Butter
1 medium Onion, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Green Bell Pepper, minced
1/2 cup Seafood Stock
1 bunch Green Onions, chopped
1 punch fresh Parsley, chopped
Cooked Rice

Coat crawfish with Creole Seasoning. Melt butter and add the onions, garlic and bell pepper, stirring constantly, and cook until wilted. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes. Add the crawfish and simmer another fifteen to twenty minutes. Add the green onions and parsley and simmer five more minutes. Serve over hot rice.