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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gumbo with the Commish...

Take Away - Seafood and Okra Gumbo

On Monday, I had a meeting with Mike Strain, Louisiana's Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. Though we had a little business to discuss, I quickly got onto a tangent about my new project with thekingfishmenu. Dr. Strain is an engaging guy, and he was nice enough to indulge me. After all, we both love to eat and agree that food it is a huge part of what the culture in this state centers around.

Dr. Strain has an interesting background. He was the first Republican in the history of Louisiana to be elected as Commissioner of Agriculture. He is also a veteranarian and a cattle rancher (his family has been in the business for 200 plus years). Because of this, I assumed Dr. Strain to be a steak guy. That assumption was somewhat accurate. However, he informed me that if he had to pick one dish that he loves the most, it would be seafood and okra gumbo.

When I asked why, I got a pretty good explanation. One of his grandmothers used a seafood gumbo recipe that required him to work a little. This is because his grandmother would send him out into the marsh to find bay leaves and other herbs for the gumbo. He would then have to suffer for hours in agony as he smelled it cooking all day before being allowed to eat. The entire conversation inspired me to go to lunch.

While it is a little to warm for seafood gumbo, I thought I would share a recipe that I like to use come cooler weather.

Seafood and Okra Gumbo

1/2 to 1 cup oil (depending on how dark you want your roux)
1/2 to 1 cup flour (depending on how dark you want y our roux)
2 medium onions, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
3 ribs celery, finely diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick butter and/or vegetable oil to saute vegetables
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning (or to taste)
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 pounds okra, chopped
4 quarts shrimp stock, crab stock or fish stock
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 dozen oysters, freshly shucked, liquor reserved
4 blue crabs, cleaned (optional)
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
chopped green onions (just the green part)
8 cups cooked long-grain white rice

In a large, heavy pot, heat the chosen amount of oil and add the flour (make sure the oil to flour ratio is the same). Stir constantly until a light to medium brown roux is formed (remove from heat and continue to stir as roux will continue cooking).

In a very large separate pan, sauté onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic in butter and/or vegetable oil until the onions become translucent and tender. Add the seasonings and okra, and cook for another 10 minutes (if too dry, add a bit of the stock or additional oil)

Add the contents of pan to the pot of roux then add all of the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook another 45 minutes to 3 hours (the longer you cook, the better it will be).

Note: If the liquid begins to reduce too much, additional water or stock may be added (taste to ensure that additional stock does not add too much salt).

If you wish a more rustic gumbo, you may add whole blue crabs after about 45 minutes before serving. Remove the hard top shell from the crabs, and break each crab in two down the middle. Remove the claws. Add to the stock.

With the gumbo on very low heat, add the shrimp 10 minutes before serving, the oysters and oyster liquor 5 minutes before serving, and the crabmeat just before serving (don't cook the crabmeat, just stir until it is heated through). Taste and correct seasonings.

Place about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of rice in each bowl and ladle the gumbo over and around it. Sprinkle some green onions over the top (very important because it really adds to the flavor). Serve with plenty of french bread and good beer or white wine.

YIELD: About 10-12 entrée servings or 20-24 appetizer servings (omit hard shell crabs if serving cups of gumbo as an appetizer).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Anti-Shower Revolution (Truffled Mac and Cheese)

Take Away - Truffled Mac and Cheese

Today, my friend Zach Materne threw himself an anti-shower. His wife is expecting baby-Materne around the end of July. Since her friends were bombarding her with all sorts of items that none of us understood nor cared to indulge in identifying, the husbands/boyfriends grilled at his house to celebrate not being invited.

When Zach gets people together, he often has everyone over to the Transportation Revolution. To those of you who don't ride bikes (or those of us who are to large to attempt), the Transportation Revolution is a motorcycle dealership in downtown New Orleans that Zach and his family own. It deals everything from Dukati, to Triumph to Vespa. So whether you want an Italian speed bike, a hawg or something that people may make fun of you on....Zach has you covered.

Zach is normally a grill man only, but today he took it to the next level. I contributed a twice baked potato casserole and a broccoli/grape/roasted pecan salad; however, these items were nothing compared to the "Revolution Burgers" and Truffled Mac and Cheese. The burgers were stuffed with garlic butter and served with garlic aioli, and the truffled sidedish speaks for itself. As soon as the door to Zach's house opened, the smell of truffle oil made you know that good things were on the way.

I included a few "before" pictures when we all got there. The "after" pictures did not work out, as my camera skills experienced the same slow death we all did after eating enough carbohydrates to stop Nancy Grace from talking.

Truffled Mac and Cheese
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1.5 tablespoons truffle oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 pounds grated manchego cheese
  • 1/4 pounds grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 pound grated fontina cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 1 quart baking dish. In a bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour continuously while cooking for 3 minutes. When smooth, whisk in the half-and-half and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 3 minutes.
Stir in the manchego, cheddar and fontina cheeses and the mustard into cream mixture until the cheeses melt. Remove from the heat and stir in the truffle oil. Season with salt and peper to taste.

In the meantime, cook the mac according to directions. Drain, add the cheese sauce and mix well. Transfer to a prepared baking dish. Top with breadcrumb mix. Bake for 25 -30 until golden. Serve right away.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I found my thrill....on Money Hill (crawfish pies)

Highlight - Crawfish Pies

So some good friends had their first official engagement party this evening. The bride-to-be's parents moved to the Northshore after Katrina. Specifically, they moved to a neighborhood/Golf Club situation called Money Hill (near Abita Springs)...I'm not making that name up.

Although my cardiologist would prefer me to take up golf (or anything other than cholesterol-based hobbies), I am not an enthusiast. Thus, it was no surprise to all in the car that I did not know where to find the golf club and got us lost, as I am also not a directions enthusiast. We finally got back to Abita Springs, found Money Hill and ended up at the party....a little late.

The good wife took the helm for the drive back, but she is also blessed with my sense of direction. We skipped the Causeway, took the I-12, drove through Slidell, almost ran out of gas (but for a brief stint in New Orleans East) and added the same 45 minutes to the trip home...sorry Jessie and Beau.

It was all worth it. The food was great, the band was a nice addition, the party-goers enjoyed and the engaged (Christian and Jennifer) seemed relaxed. All in all...Money Hill was, well, money.

Most money of all were the crawfish pies. The mother of the bride made them, and looked at me like I was crazy when I told her that I was now blogging and would like her recipe. Nevertheless, she is sending it through Jennifer (hopefully tomorrow).

Crawfish Pies

1 stick butter
½ cup onion (approximately)
1/2 cup bell pepper (approximately)
1/4 cup celery (approximately)
1/4 cup minced garlic (approximately)
1-2 tablespoons flour
1 can cream of mushroom or celery soup (depending on your preference)
1 can cream of shrimp soup
Cayenne pepper, black pepper & salt
1 lb crawfish tails or shrimp tails
2 boxes small pastry pie shells thawed (brands like Bama come 8 to a box).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the crawfish with black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder & salt to taste (or use creole seasoning and garlic powder). Set aside.
On a medium to low heat, saute onions, bell pepper and celery in butter until almost translucent and/or until light brown (approximately 20 minutes). Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
Add the flour and cook an additional 2-3 minutes (stirring constantly). Add the cream of mushroom (or celery) soup and cream of shrimp soup, and stir in while maintaining heat (stirring in soups so that they blend well with other ingredients as they heat up).
Add the crawfish to mixture and cook on low for an additional 15 minutes.
**Note: The crawfish should release a large amount of juice. If this causes the mixture to seem too runny, a very small amount of additional flour can be used to thicken.
Put the mixture into the pie shells & bake at 350 degrees until slightly brown & bubbly (approximately 1 hr).

Makes 16 pies

From SINE DIE to Sunny Dallas (macaroni muffins)

Take Away - Macaroni Muffins

The 90 day legislative session finally adjourned "Sine Die," which is Latin for "without a day." I don't particularly care what it means....I'm just glad it is over. Of course, the good wife (Mollie) taunts that the adjournment of session equates to the end of a 90 day bender...

After about a week of decompression and office wrap up, it is great to get back to NOLA, and there is no better way to come home than to a party. Last night was Emily Franco's birthday party. You may ask, "Who is Emily Franco and why do I care?"

If you fused Paula Dean with Giada De Laurentiis and ended up with the best qualities of would have Emily Franco. Each year, she throws a birthday party with a very well thought out theme. This year the theme was Dallas (as in the 80's television series).

Mollie looked like the character played by Priscilla Presley in the series....I intended to look like JR, but looked more like a fat Bobby (post Step by Step series). We rode to the party with Craig Webb and Lizzie Schott. As the evening progressed, Craig and I planned to engage in "fisticuffs" over oil rights and end up in the pool. The girls put a stop to that since I was wearing a new suit and Craig was holding a briefcase he actually uses....I think it would have been great.

Emily ALWAYS cooks great food. Last night, she had a Texas Feast (complete with a variety of pulled pork, slow smoked beef brisket and all the trimmings). However, the two standouts were her AMAZING deviled eggs and macaroni muffins.

I will include some pictures and the recipe as soon as Paula De Laurentiis sends them.

Macaroni Muffin Recipe

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese (1 packed cup)
  • 4 ounces shedded or chopped pepper jack
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente. DO NOT OVERCOOK...Under is better than over. Drain, shaking off the excess water.

Brush four 12-cup, nonstick mini muffin tins with butter. Generously sprinkle with some of the Parmigiano (at least 3 talblespoons); tap out the excess. Per Emily, the parm is the glue that holds this muffin together.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and jack cheeses and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni.

Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano on top (up to this point can be done in advance and refrigerated overnight).

Bake the mini macs in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Let cool for 5 min­utes. Using a small spoon, carefully loosen the mini macs, transfer to a platter and serve.