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Shortcuts, substitutions OK to use

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a reworking of my Seafood Gumbo using shortcuts.

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

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

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

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

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

Eggplants are Versatile

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

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

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

Fried Eggplant Sticks

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

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

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

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

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

Stuffed Eggplant Pirogue Peggy

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

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

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

The overlooked art of the PoBoy

The sandwich is often an overlooked meal. Since it is simple to put meat, cheese and condiments between two pieces of bread, sandwiches are often thought of as something people on a budget eat for lunch. However, a nice hot sandwich will make a wonderful meal.

Sandwiches come with many names, Hoagies, Subs, Grinders, etc. Of course, most people have heard of the New Orleans version, the PoBoy. The most common PoBoy is made with Fried Seafood. I have many memories of Fried Shrimp or Fried Oyster PoBoys. How did the PoBoy get its name you may ask?

The most common origin dates back to 1929. There was a four month strike of the streetcar workers. Benny and Clovis Martin, both former streetcar conductors, owned a restaurant downtown. They would feed their striking brethren with sandwiches for free. Overtime one would walk into the restaurant, the workers would say, here comes another one of those Poor Boys. Soon the sandwiches took on the name. It eventually was shortened to Po’Boy or PoBoy.

A PoBoy can be made with any meat. A popular PoBoy from days past was the French Fry PoBoy. This is made by replacing the Roast Beef with French Fries and topping it with Beef Gravy. This sandwich cannot be found these days. For some reason, none of the sandwich shops will make it.

Another popular PoBoy is the Peacemaker. This is the sandwich that one would bring home to your wife after a disagreement. The Peacemaker is a Fried Oyster PoBoy, one of the best PoBoys you can eat. You can make a Peacemaker by replacing the roast beef and gravy in the recipe below with Fried Oysters. Add ketchup and hot sauce and you have one of the best bites between two pieces of bread.

If you are in new Orleans, pick up some French Bread. The French bread there is more airy on the inside and crisper on the outside. My favorite brands of New Orleans French bread is Leidenheimers and Gambinos.

The following recipe is for a Roast Beef PoBoy. Once a week, in high school, we were served a Roast Beef PoBoy for lunch. Accompanied by a homemade cinnamon roll, it was the best lunch at the school.

2 pounds Roast Beef, sliced thin

For the Gravy
3 to 5 cups Beef Stock
1/2 cup Flour
1 tablespoon Granulated Garlic
1 tablespoon Granulated Onion
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet

Bring 3 cups of the stock to a boil in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, garlic, onion, pepper and salt. Whisk in the oil and kitchen bouquet. When thoroughly blended, whisk the mixture into the boiling stock, whisking together well. Bring to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. If necessary, add more of the stock if the gravy is too thick. Let the gravy simmer for 20-30 minutes then adjust the seasoning to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350℉.

Lay the slices of beef in a 9×9-inch baking pan. Cover the beef with 2-3 cups of the gravy. Place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beef is falling apart tender.

Making the sandwich
4 6-inch pieces of French Bread
2 Tomatoes, sliced
2 cups Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
1 Dill Pickle Sliced
Roast Beef

Slice the bread in half lengthwise and lay both halves side by side. Slather a bunch of mayonnaise on both sides. On the top half, add pickle slices, tomato slices and lettuce. On the bottom half add 1/4 of the beef and gravy mixture. Fold the top over the side with the beef and put on a sheet pan. Place the sheet pan on the oven for 2-3 minutes to crisp and warm the bread.

The best Roast Beef PoBoys are messy to eat. Make sure you have plenty of napkins. And maybe a bib.

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.