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Take advantage of Okra Season

Walking around the farmer’s market, I noticed some wonderful looking fresh okra. With the weather starting to get cooler, my thoughts turn to making gumbo. In Africa, okra is also known as gumbo. I know that my wife is waiting for that first pot to come off the stove.

I then started thinking of other dishes that you can put okra in. I have seen it used in salads, as a side dish and included in a entrée recipe. Often, I have found a pickled okra as a garnish in a Bloody Mary, a spicy tomato juice drink made with or without alcohol. So, to take advantage of this versatile plant, here are a couple of non-gumbo dishes highlighting okra.

This dish can be served as either a side dish or as a entrée. As a side dish, there is no need for the rice. Either way, it is a tasty dish that is welcomed on my dinner table anytime.

Smothered Okra with Shrimp and Andouille

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil, divided
1 pound fresh Okra, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup Onion, choppednju
1/2 cup Red Bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons Garlic, minced
1/2 pound Andouille, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 (12 ounce) jars Roasted Red Peppers, drained and puréed
2 cups Seafood Stock
1 ( 6 ounce) can Tomato Paste
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne
1 pound medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 cups cooked Rice

In a large saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Add okra, and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes, remove okra, and set aside. In the same pan, add remaining 1/4 cup of oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add sausage and cook until the sausage is browned. Stir in puréed peppers, stock, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture boils. Stir in okra, simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until pink and firm. Serve over rice.

This is a take on a classic New Orleans recipe. I think that okra and tomatoes are a match made in heaven. The addition of okra to Chicken Creole brings this dish to a whole new level in flavor.

Chicken Creole with Okra

1 stick Butter
6 Chicken Leg or Breast Quarters
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 bunch Green Onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
1 large Onion, finely chopped
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 (8 ounce) can Tomato Sauce
4 cups Water
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme, chopped
2 pounds whole fresh small Okra
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Hot cooked Rice or Noodles for serving

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven. Add the chicken and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side. Remove from the pan.

Stir the flour into the drippings over low heat. Cook for approximately 10 minutes until you have a light brown roux. Add the green onions, onion and garlic, and continue cooking over low heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the water, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the liquid simmers. Add the chicken to the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Lay the okra across the top of the chicken. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes, or until both the chicken and okra are tender. Stir lightly with a fork to avoid breaking the okra. Remove the bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper and serve over rice or noodles.

Okra is a wonderful addition to many dishes and remember, It’s not just for gumbo.

Dish to warm body soul

I don’t have many regrets when it comes to the kitchen. I am not afraid to try different things or cook in different kitchens. My biggest kitchen regret was that I was never able to cook with or eat food prepared by my father-in-law, Wesley Anderson.

I have been told by my in-laws that he and I would have gotten along great. They tell me that he made the best Jambalaya and Redfish Courtbouillon. I always joke back by saying that he makes the second best of those dishes. That remark always brings me dirty looks.

My father-in-law was a fixture in the Lions Club in New Orleans. It is for there meetings and fundraisers that he would put on his apron and please everyone with his tasty creations. I know that his jambalaya recipe is still floating around, although the recipe is scaled to serve 100 people. I am not sure if his Redfish Courtbouillon recipe has been saved.

My wife tells me that when it came to cooking, her dad would dirty every pot in the house and leave the kitchen looking like it was hit by a hurricane. She is thankful that I have spent many years working in restaurant kitchens. In the restaurant, you are taught to clean as you go. The reasoning is two-fold. One, a clean station keeps you from getting unnecessary things on the bottom of the plates that are being served. Secondly, by cleaning as you go, you have less to clean up at the end of the night when you are ready to go home. Since my wife cleans the kitchen after we eat, she is happy that the kitchen is mostly cleaned before she starts.

Redfish Courtbouillon (cou-be-yon) is found on many menus in New Orleans and the surrounding area. It is a great meal when the weather starts to turn cool. The Red Fish or Red Drum are plentiful in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a medium dense, light meat with a mild to moderate flavor. If you can’t find Red Fish, it can be replaced with Catfish, Cod, Grouper or any like fish. Here is my homage to my father-in-law Wesley Anderson.

2 1/2 pounds Redfish Fillets, cut into chunks 2-3 inches wide
1/4 cup Flour
1/4 cup Butter
2 teaspoons Green Onions, chopped
2 cups Onions, chopped
1/2 cup Celery, chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 large can Tomatoes, drained reserving the liquid
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 teaspoon Marjoram
1/4 teaspoon Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon Thyme
1 teaspoon Hot Sauce, not Tabasco
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups Seafood Or Chicken Stock
Hot Cooked Rice

In a heavy pot over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add the flour and cook for ten minutes or golden brown, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and stir in the green onions, onions, celery and bell pepper. Cook until the vegetables are soft, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for three more minutes. Stir in the marjoram, basil salt, pepper, thyme, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Slowly stir in one cup of the reserved tomato liquid and the stock. Simmer for five minutes. Add the redfish and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Serve over hot rice.

With the fall weather soon to be upon us, this wonderful dish is welcome to warm your body and soul. And thanks to Wesley for giving me my most precious gift, his daughter Peggy.

Mirliton are Louisiana staple

When we first moved to Searcy from New Orleans, my wife asked if I could buy mirlitons locally. Since I know that outside of Louisiana, they are known by other names. Here in Arkansas, they are known by their common name of Chayote or Vegetable Pear. Of course, they are available in the produce section of the grocery store. They belong to the gourd family, along with melons, cucumbers and squash. They are a good source of Vitamin C.

Mirlitons are often par-cooked and scooped out of their shells. Then you add other ingredients, stuff them back into their shell, then cook them in the oven. Today, I have included two recipes, one in which the mirliton is the main dish and the other as a side dish. You will often find mirlitons as a side dish around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving.

Seafood Stuffed Mirlitons is one of my most popular recipes. Twice, it was featured in the weekly newsletter of Louisiana Kitchen and Culture magazine. It was in the top ten viewed recipes on their website for the years of 2011 and 2012. This classic preparation uses the wonderful bounty of the waters that surround Louisiana, Shrimp and Crabmeat. You can often find this dish on many New Orleans restaurant menus.

Seafood Stuffed Mirlitons

8 Mirlitons, medium sized
1 1/2 pounds Shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
1/4 pound Ham, diced
1/2 pound Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1 stick Butter, divided
1 3/4 cups Onions, minced
1/3 cup fresh Parsley, minced
1/3 cup Green Bell Peppers, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme, minced
2 Bay Leaves
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
2 Eggs, beaten
2 cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Place the mirlitons in a large saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove mirlitons from the water and allow to cool on a platter until easy to handle. Cut the mirlitons in half, then remove the pit and scoop out all of the pulp. Reserve the shells and set the meat aside. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions, parsley, bell pepper, garlic, thyme and bay leaves in 2 tablespoons of the butter for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, ham, crabmeat, Creole seasoning and mirliton meat. Stir occasionally and allow to cook for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and vigorously stir in the beaten eggs. Add enough breadcrumbs to bind it all together.

Divide the stuffing among the mirliton halves, sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs on top and use the remaining 6 tablespoons of the butter to dot the top of each. Bake, in the oven preheated to 350℉ until the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Here is a way to prepare Mirlitons as a side dish. You can experiment by using other cheeses or seasoned breadcrumbs. A good twist is to replace the Parmesan with Romano cheese. Either way, it is a tasty accompaniment to any meal.

Mirlitons au Gratin

3 large Mirliton
7 tablespoons Butter, divided
2 cups Onions, chopped
1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
2 cups grated Parmesan Cheese, in all
1/2 cup Unseasoned Breadcrumbs

Boil the mirlitons in a pot of salted water for 30 minutes, drain and cool. Cut each mirliton in half, remove the pit and scoop out the pulp, leaving the shells intact. Mash pulp and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 5 tablespoons of the butter. Sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Stir in mirliton pulp and Creole seasoning and cook for two minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups of the Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 350℉. Stuff filling into shells. Top with 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining butter, breadcrumbs and the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Mirlitons are a Louisiana staple that is always welcome at the dinner table. Just don’t be surprised when people outside of Louisiana don’t understand what you are looking for when you ask for mirlitons.

Veal more versatile

Veal is found on many New Orleans menus, not just the Italian restaurants. Veal is the meat of calves as opposed to beef, which is from older cattle. Veal contains less fat than beef, so you can get your red meat fix without all of the fat. For the longest, it was hard to get veal in Searcy. Now, you can find it at local grocery stores..

The most popular veal dish is Veal Parmesan. This Italian dish can be made by taking Panné Veal, topping with Mozzarella cheese and Italian seasoned Tomato sauce and melting the cheese in the oven. Since many people already have a go to recipe for Veal or Chicken Parmesan, today I will share with you two quick but memorable veal recipes.

This traditional New Orleans dish is often requested around my house. It is a simple dish to prepare but don’t let the ease of preparation fool you. It is a delicious dish that lends itself to adding a sauce over it. You can top this with a Cream of Crawfish sauce or Shrimp Étouffée.

Panné Veal

8 3-once sliced Veal
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
2 Eggs, beaten
3/4 cups Seasoned Breadcrumbs
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
Olive Oil
Fresh Parsley, chopped

Pound the veal with a meat tenderizer between two pieces of plastic wrap until each piece is doubled in size. In a large shallow platter, mix the flour and Creole Seasoning together. In another platter, mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese together. Lightly dust the veal in the flour. Dip the veal in the egg, shaking off the excess. Dredge the veal through the breadcrumb mixture, shaking off the excess. Heat about 1/2-inch of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. To check to see if the oil is ready, throw in a pinch of the breadcrumbs. If it starts to fry quickly, you are ready to cook. Cook the veal, not crowding the pan, for about 1 1/2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Garnish with parsley when serving.

This classic dish is found on the menu in most Italian restaurants. Marsala wine is produced around the city of Marsala on the Italian island of Sicily. The sauce is made by reducing the wine to almost a syrupy consistency and adding mushrooms. Some recipes add heavy cream but I usually don’t. You can also use this sauce with other meats. Chicken Marsala is very popular and locally you can find a Ribeye Marsala.

Veal Marsala

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 pound Veal Medallions, pounded thin
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
Creole Seasoning to taste
1 large Shallot, minced
1 pound fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Dry Marsala Wine
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Beef Stock
2 tablespoons Butter

Preheat oven to 200℉.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the veal medallions with flour, and season with Creole seasoning. Cook in the heated skillet about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Remove from skillet, place in a baking dish covered with foil, and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve. Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté the shallots and mushrooms, scrapping up any browned bits, until the shallots are tender. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the Marsala and garlic. Cook and stir until thickened. Mix the stocks into the skillet, and continue to cook and stir until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove from heat, and whisk in the butter until melted. Serve over the veal.

Both recipes can be made with chicken in place of the veal. While either dish made with chicken will be delightful, veal brings these recipes to a different level.

Dressing up Filet Mignon

The premier cut of beef is the Filet Mignon, translated tender fillet. This is the most tender cut of beef, due to the inactivity of the muscle. There should be little fat in and around the steak. That is the reason you often find a piece of bacon wrapped around the filet. I often find that for a medium rare filet with a piece of bacon wrapped around it, the bacon is almost never cooked enough. That’s why I prefer to have a sauce with it.

The way I often cook my filets are to turn the oven up to 375℉. I heat up an oven proof sauté pan and sear the steaks for a few minutes on each side. I then place the pan in the oven to continue cooking until the steaks are medium rare, making sure to turn them once. I then return them to the stovetop, melt 2 tablespoon butter in the pan and spoon it over the top of the filets. I love to serve them with Bérnaise Sauce.

Steak Diane is often found on many of the old school restaurant menus in New Orleans. While a Strip Steak is a great substitution, the filet is the usual cut of choice. In some restaurants, Steak Diane is prepared table side and flambéed. This favorable sauce also works well with thick cut boneless pork chops or venison.

Steak Diane

1/2 stick Butter
8 slices of Filet Mignon, about 1/2 inch thick
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 small Onion, chopped
2 stalks Celery, chopped
3 sprigs Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3/4 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Lemon, juiced
3 drops Louisiana Hot Sauce

Heat oven to 175 ℉.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter starts to bubble, sauté the filets, turning once, until cooked to your desired degree of doneness. Remove the filets and keep warm in oven. Add the garlic, onion, celery, parsley, salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are tender. Add the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and hot sauce. Bring to a low boil and simmer until the sauce is thickened somewhat. Return the filets to the pan and cook in the sauce for about 30 seconds. Remove the filets to a serving platter and pour the sauce over them.

This is probably the fanciest steaks that you can eat. Steak au Poivre, in French, is translated Pepper Steak. Most often, this is done with a Filet but other cuts of steaks work well with the sauce. Some recipes have the crackers peppercorns used as a coating for the steak. I like to put them in the sauce. That way, you can have as much or as little pepper with your steak.

Steak av Poivre

4 Filet Mignons, 7 to 10 ounces each
Creole Seasoning to taste
1 tablespoon Butter
1/2 teaspoon Garlic, chopped
1/4 cup Brandy or Apple Cider or Juice
1 tablespoon Cracked Black Peppercorns
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Preheat oven to 175℉.

Lightly season the filets with Creole Seasoning. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and turn the pan to distribute and melt the butter quickly. Put the steaks into the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes per side, for medium rare. If the steaks are thick, cook them on the sides as well as their faces. Remove the steaks from the pan and keep them warm in the oven. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until it is just beginning to brown. Add the brandy or apple cider to the pan and bring to a boil. (Be careful; the brandy might catch on fire, which is alright for the flavor for the dish but it can be dangerous). Use the brandy and a spoon to dislodge and dissolve the browned bits of meat in the skillet. Add the cream and the peppercorns. Bring to a light boil and cook, agitating the pan to mix the ingredients 3 to 5 minutes, or until reduces by 1/3. Place the steaks on warm plates and spoon on the sauce.

While all of these preparations are great with any cut of steak, the filet is even more impressive when served fancy.

One last cookout for great Labor Day

Labor Day is the unofficial last day of Summer. For many across the country, school starts on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Labor Day, the first Monday in September, became a federal holiday in 1894. This long weekend is a great opportunity for one last cookout. Here are a few recipes great for your Labor Day blowout.

Flank Steak is a cut of meat often eaten in Arkansas. It is most often used in Mexican restaurants for steak fajitas. This long flat cut is also known as London Broil. The key to a tender flank steak is to make sure you cut it across the grain. The grain is the direction the muscle fibers run. Look at the steak before you marinade it to determine the direction of the grain.

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak

2 pound Flank Steak
1 cup Cooking Sherry or Red Wine
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
2 tablespoons Salt Free Creole Seasoning
2 tablespoons Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Put the flank steak in a large ziplock plastic bag. Whisk the sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar, Creole Seasoning, garlic, tomato paste, and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture into the bag and seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours.

Preheat your gas or charcoal grill. Allow the surface to get nice and hot.

Remove the steak from the marinade and pat it dry. Grill the steak for about 6 minutes on each side for rare. Increase the cook time for other doneness. White it cooks, pour the marinade into a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Cut the steak across the grain into thin diagonal slices, and serve with the sauce on the side.

I love to cook fish on the grill. Fish lends itself to different marinades and sauces. As I say in the recipe, make sure that the grill is hot, hot hot or the fish will stick to the grill. If you want, you can spray the grill with oil before heating to help prevent sticking. Great substitutes for redfish are Catfish, Cod, Grouper and Salmon.

Grilled Redfish with Rosemary Lemon Sauce

2 pounds Redfish
3 Lemons
4 tablespoons fresh Rosemary, coarsely chopped
1/2 tablespoon Salt Free Creole Seasoning
2 teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Garlic, minced
4 cups Cooking White Wine
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Zest the lemons, then juice them. In a large bowl, combine lemon zest and juice with the rosemary, Creole Seasoning, pepper, garlic, wine and olive oil. Mix together and add the fish. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the grill. Allow the cooking service to get nice and hot. This is especially important for fish. If the grill is not hot, hot, hot, the fish will stick and fall apart. If you are using a fish grilling basket, make sure the basket is hot before adding the fish. Grill fish 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from grill. Heat remaining marinade, simmer for 2 minutes, skim the top and pour over the fish before serving.

Every great meal deserves a great dessert. This parfait is perfect for a cookout. It is made to be assembled then stored in the refrigerator until serving. If you wish, you can substitute the white chocolate for dark or milk chocolate.

Double Chocolate Cheesecake Whipped Parfaits

1 cup cold Heavy Whipping Cream
8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
3 tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons Milk
1 block White Chocolate, grated

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside. Mix cream cheese, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and milk together until fully combined. Reserve enough whipped cream for topping. Add the remaining whipped cream to cream cheese mixture and slowly mix until combined.

Spoon mixture into mini glass serving dishes. Top with whipped cream and grated white chocolate. Refrigerate until serving. For a twist, fresh strawberries or raspberries make a great topping. Put those between the cheesecake mixture and whipped cream.

Although Labor Day is the unofficial end of Summer, the weather is still warm enough for a few months to continue to have a cookout. These recipes are great any time of year.

Key Lime

Summertime is when most people take vacations. One of my favorite vacation destinations is Key West. You can not think of Key West without thinking of the Key Lime.

The Key Lime is smaller than the traditional lime. It also has a stronger acidity and aroma, which gives it the unique flavor that it has. Key limes are not often found locally. However, there is a great product you can use in its place.

Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice can be found in local grocery stores. This Key Lime Juice got its start being bottled on the tiny island of Key West. It can easily pass for freshly squeezed juice. It’s a perfect ingredient to add a Key West flair to your dishes.

This is the first thing that you think of when you hear Key Lime. It is a simple dessert to make. I can’t think of a more refreshing way to end a wonderful summer meal.

Key Lime Pie

1 1/2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/2 cup Sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter, melted
2 cans (14 ounce) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup Key Lime Juice
2 large Eggs
1 cup Sour Cream
2 tablespoons Powdered Sugar
1 tablespoon Lime Zest

Preheat oven to 375℉.

In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter with your hands. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake until brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 325℉.

In a separate bowl, combine the condensed milk, lime juice and eggs. Whisk until well blended and place the filling in the cooled pie shell. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Once chilled, combine the sour cream and powdered sugar and spread over the top of the pie using a spatula. Sprinkle the lime zest as a garnish on top of the sour cream and serve chilled.

This is a great dessert for any dinner party. The addition of the strawberries and kiwi makes for a great presentation. This dish is a wonderful ending to any meal from a back yard cookout to a 5 course meal.

Key Lime Parfait

1 can (14 ounce) Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 Egg Yolks
4 Ounces Key Lime Juice
8 ounces Pound Cake
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Powdered Sugar
6 whole Strawberries
1 Kiwi, peeled, sliced in 6 slices

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, combine milk and egg yolks and blend at low speed. Slowly add lime juice and continue mixing until well blended. Slice pound cake into 1-inch slices and cut to fit inside of a stemmed glass. Pour Key Lime filling over pound cake and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Whip heavy cream with powdered sugar and top each glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry and a slice of kiwi. Serve.

Cheesecake is a dessert that has always been a favorite in my family. I thought that I would combine the tart Key Lime Juice with the creaminess of cheesecake. It was a hit. I know you will enjoy it too.

Key Lime Cheesecake

2 cups Graham cracker Crumbs
1 1/2 cups Sugar, divided
1/2 cup Butter, melted
24 ounces Cream Creese, softened
6 Eggs, separated
1 cup Sour Cream
1 1/4 teaspoons Lime Zest
1/2 cup Key Lime Juice

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Combine crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter in a small bowl. Mix well. Press mixture in the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a buttered springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool in pan.

Beat cream cheese with mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in sour cream, lime zest and lime juice. In another bowl, beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Fold into cream cheese mixture. Pour batter into prepared curst. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn oven off. Partially open oven door. Let cheesecake cool in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately run knife around the edge of pan to release sides. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cover and chill for 8 hours before serving.

The next time you are planning a summer meal, thing about including Key Lime Juice in your dishes. It will bring a little part of the Keys to your home.

Leap into something new with Frog Legs

First things first, frog legs taste like a cross between chicken and fish. Their mild flavor has people believing that they taste like chicken. Their texture is the same as chicken wings. You can prepare frog legs in many of the same ways as chicken.

Frog Legs can be considered either seafood or meat. This question is often brought up during the Lenten season, when some religions fast from eating meat on Friday. On menus, you always find frog legs listed under the seafood dishes. More often than not, frog legs are deep fried. As you can see from the recipes that follow, there are many other ways to prepare these delicacies.

One night, when my wife was out of town, I was looking for a different way to prepare frog legs. I thought that I would substitute the shrimp in my BBQ Shrimp recipe with the frog legs. My intuition was correct. The frog legs were just as tasty. It is a very easy and quick meal to prepare.

BBQ Frog Legs

3 pounds Frog Legs (cut the legs so they are single legs)
1 1/2 pounds Butter (6 sticks)
1 1/2 cups Olive Oil
8 tablespoons Garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons dry Basil Leaves
4 teaspoons Salt
3 teaspoons Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons dry Oregano
2 teaspoons dry Thyme
2 teaspoons BBQ Seasoning
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning

Over medium-high heat, melt butter in olive oil in a large pot. Combine all other ingredients, except the frog legs, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the frog legs and cook for 10 minutes. Serve in bowls with French bread for dipping in the sauce.

This dish is named after our Yorkie, Abigail. As a puppy, she was attracted to the frogs we would get in our yard. She would chase and catch them, which caused a reaction when she had the frog in her mouth. While writing my cookbook, I wanted to include a recipe named after my sweet little girl. Frog Legs were the obvious choice. This is great served over pasta.

Frog Legs Abigail

16 pairs Frog Legs, separated
1 teaspoon Salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper, divided
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Clam Juice
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Heavy Cream
6 tablespoons cold Butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1 tablespoon Fresh Parsley, chopped
Pinch Black Pepper

Lightly season frog legs with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper. Combine flour with Creole Seasoning and the remaining salt and white pepper. In batches, dredge the frog legs in flour and shake off the excess. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add frog legs in two batches and cook, turning constantly until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Carefully drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan and return to the heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add clam juice and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add heavy cream and cook for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the butter, several pieces at a time, stirring constantly, until all of the butter has been incorporated. Remove from heat. Stir in the parsley and black pepper. Return frog legs to the pan and cook over medium heat to warm through, shaking the pan back and forth to coat the frog legs evenly with the sauce, about 1 minute.

If you have not tried frog legs, take a leap of faith and try them. If you like chicken, which most people do, you will like frog legs.

Chicken can be versatile

I feel that chicken often gets a bum rap. It is an inexpensive meat and many often turn to chicken to stretch their budget. It is easy to feed a family of 4 for under 10 dollars.

However, chicken is a very versatile protein. Its blank canvas lends itself to many different ways to cook it as well as things to serve with it. In the movie Forrest Gump, Bubba tells Forrest the many ways you can serve shrimp. I think there are as many, if not more ways, to serve chicken. My two recipes this week use two different cuts of chicken, cut up whole chicken and chicken breast.

Chicken Fricassee is a dish that I remember fondly. My grandmother cooked it often. I was once asked what the difference was between this dish and Chicken Stew. The difference is the cooking of the chicken. You cook the chicken in the roux for a few minutes for a Fricassee. This gives a crusty texture to the chicken. For Chicken Stew, the chicken is cooked after the liquid is added.

Chicken Fricassee

1 Chicken, about 4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
Creole Seasoning to taste
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Onions, Chopped
1 cup Bell Pepper, chopped
4 to 5 cups warm Chicken Stock
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons Green Onions, chopped

Season the chicken pieces generously with Creole Seasoning. Set aside.

In a large black iron or stainless steel pot, make a roux by combining the oil and flour over medium heat. Stir constantly for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is dark brown. Add the onions and bell peppers. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat well with the roux mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes. Slowly add the stock and the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about two hours, or until the chicken is tender. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Remove the bay leaves, then add the parsley and green onions. Serve immediately.

This dish is named after the buildings that surround Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The Pontalba apartments on the upper floors of these buildings are considered the oldest continuously-rented apartments in the United States. The dish was created at Brennan’s restaurant and is widely found on menus in New Orleans.

Chicken Pontalba

Olive Oil
8 6-ounce Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
Creole Seasoning
1/2 cup Butter
4 tablespoons Garlic, minced
2 cups Onions, chopped
2 cups Green Onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups Ham, diced
2 cups Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cup Potatoes, diced and deep-fried about 2 minutes
3 tablespoons Fresh Parsley, chopped
3/4 cup White Wine or Chicken Stock
3 cups Bérnaise Sauce, recipe to follow

Preheat oven to 175℉.

In a large skillet, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Season the chicken with Creole Seasoning. Sauté the chicken over medium heat until done, about 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken and keep warm in the oven.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and sauté the garlic, onions, green onions, ham, and mushrooms until the mushrooms are brown. Add the wine or stock and reduce by 1/3. Add fried potatoes and parsley and cook 2 minutes. Put 1/8 of the potato mixture in the center of the plate. Place the chicken breast on top. Top with a generous amount of Bérnaise Sauce.
This is a variation of Hollandaise Sauce. A classic French sauce, Bérnaise is a great sauce to serve over chicken and steaks. This blender recipe is a simple way to make this sauce.

Bérnaise Sauce

2 tablespoons dried Tarragon
3/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 tablespoons Shallots, minced
2 Egg Yolks
1 Whole Egg
2 sticks (1/2 pound) Margarine
1 stick (1/4 pound) Butter
1 1/2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground White Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté tarragon, red wine vinegar and shallots for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture becomes paste-like and remove from heat. Melt margarine and butter over medium heat. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a blender, blend egg yolks, egg, vinegar, cayenne, white pepper and lemon juice. With blender on, pour melted margarine/butter slowly into other ingredients. Blend to thicken. Add the tarragon mixture and blend well.

Next time you are feeling creative, pick up some chicken and experiment away.

Getting Creative with Catfish

When I first arrived in Searcy, one of the first places my sister-in-law took us to eat was an all you can eat Catfish Buffett. Catfish was not as popular in New Orleans as it is here in Arkansas. Over the years, I have found that catfish is a versatile fish. It is mostly found fried in Arkansas. There are different ways, other than frying, to cook catfish. Today I am sharing with you a way to cook catfish on the stovetop and in the oven. I have also included a couple of sauces to top fried catfish with.

I have always said that Jambalaya can be made with any protein. One day, I had some catfish that I wanted to cook without frying or baking. Looking around the kitchen, I saw rice. The first attempt was good, so I knew I was on the right track. After a few more attempts, here is the best result.

Catfish Jambalaya

4 medium Onions, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 stalk Celery, chopped
2 sticks Butter or Margarine
1 (10 ounce) can Chopped Tomatoes
4 ounces Fresh Mushrooms
Salt and Pepper to taste
8 ounces Catfish Fillets
2 cups cooked White Rice
2 tablespoons Green Onions, chopped

Place all ingredients except the catfish, rice and green onions into a large saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to turn a light brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the fish and cook 15 to 20 minutes longer. Stir in the rice and green onions and serve.

Stuffed Trout is a dish that is often found in New Orleans. Since Speckled Trout is not easily found in Arkansas, I thought I would use catfish. The results were delicious. There is no need for me to bring trout back from New Orleans when catfish is readily available here.

Stuffed Catfish

Stuffing
1 pound Claw Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1 stick Butter
1/2 cup Onion, minced
1/2 cup Celery, minced
1//4 cup Green Onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning

Melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the vegetables and parsley and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add crabmeat and remove from heat. Add breadcrumbs and Creole Seasoning and mix well. Set aside.

4 Catfish Fillets
Lemon Zest
1 cup Seafood Stock

Preheat oven to 325℉.

Take a 4 ounce ball of stuffing and wrap a fillet around it. Sprinkle a pinch of lemon zest over each fish. Add 1/4 cup of seafood stock to the stuffed fish and wrap it in aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. You can top this with any sauce you like.

Here are a couple of sauces that are perfect toppings for fried or stuffed catfish. The Cream of Crawfish can also be made with shrimp.

Cream of Crawfish Sauce
1/2 cup Crawfish Tails, slightly chopped
2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
2/3 cup Onion, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Butter, cut into pieces

Coat crawfish with Creole Seasoning. In a medium sauté pan, add the crawfish, onions and Worcestershire sauce. Over medium heat, sauté for 2 minutes. Add heavy cream and reduce for 10 minutes. Add butter and stir until butter is melted and incorporated. Serve over fried catfish.

Pecan Meuniére Sauce

2 sticks Butter
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup Pecans, chopped

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter until it stops bubbling and the milk solids at the bottom of the pan begin to brown. Carefully add the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce; the butter will foam. Cook until the foam subsides. Add pecans and serve over fried catfish.

Don’t hesitate to cook catfish other than frying. It is a great tasting fish however you cook it.