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MARCH/APRIL 2013

CRAWFISH SEASON


I’m just back from four days in Santa Clara, California attending an international travel promotion show. It was spectacular—complete with areas devoted to zip lines, mountain climbing, a segway course AND a pool in which to bounce around zipped inside huge clear beach balls!


But the Louisiana entourage was THE hit at the culinary stage. I was part of the group with the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival and we cooked a plethora of what else, but crawfish-based dishes. Every time it was announced that we were cooking crawfish, attendees began lining up to taste our sumptuous dishes. On the “menu” was crawfish etouffee, crawfish stuffed bell peppers, crawfish and eggplant fritters with remoulade sauce, crawfish salad in avocado halves, and my personal favorite—crawfish fettuccini.


You had better get your stash of fresh, live crawfish, boiled crawfish, peeled crawfish tails and crawfish puree so you can duplicate our dishes at YOUR house. Don’t forget the French bread!


This can be mixed with rice to make a crawfish jambalaya. I also mixed it with rice and used it as a stuffing for red and green bell peppers.


CRAWFISH STUFFED BELL PEPPERS

  • Makes 8 to 10 servings
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound peeled crawfish tails plus 2 cups crawfish puree
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour dissolved in 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 2 tablespoon chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Cooked long-grain rice:


Heat the butter over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery, and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the crawfish and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to throw off a little liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the water and flour mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and cayenne. Remove from the heat. Add the green onions and parsley.


Combine the mixture with 3 to 4 cups cooked rice.


For the stuffed peppers:
Cut red and/or green bell peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Put the peppers in a shallow baking pan with about ¼ inch water or chicken broth and bake in a 350-degree oven until the peppers are slightly soft. Drain off the liquid in the pan. Spoon the crawfish/rice mixture into the peppers, sprinkle with bread crumbs and return to the oven. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve warm.



CRAWFISH FRITTERS

  • Makes about 2 dozen
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onions
  • ½ pound peeled crawfish tails
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups solid vegetable shortening for frying

Seasoning mix (combination of 1/8 each of salt, cayenne, black pepper and garlic powder)


Season the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne. Heat the two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until slightly soft, 2 or 3 minutes.


Add the onions and cook stirring, until soft, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the crawfish and cook, stirring, until they throw off some of their liquid, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.


In medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, baking powder, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon cayenne in a mixing bowl. Add the flour, ¼ cup at a time, beating until the batter is smooth. Add the eggplant and crawfish mixture, and fold to mix.


Heat about 4 fingers of the shortening in a deep pot or electric fryer to 360°F. Drop the batter, a heaping tablespoon at a time, into the hot oil. When the beignets pop to the surface, roll them around in the oil to brown them evenly. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with the seasoning mix and serve immediately with the remoulade sauce for dipping.


Remoulade sauce

  • Makes about 2 ½ cups
  • ¼ cup Creole mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

Put all the ingredients except the oil in an electric blender or food processor. Cover and blend at low speed for 30 seconds. With the motor running, gradually pour in the oil in a steady stream. Sauce will thicken. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. * Since the mayonnaise is made with a raw egg, it’s best to use within 24 hours.



    CRAWFISH IN SPICY CREOLE MUSTARD

    • Makes 8 to 10 appetizer portions
    • 1/4 cup Creole mustard
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup rice or red wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
    • 1 tablespoon ketchup
    • 1/8 teaspoon (about 6 dashes) Tabasco sauce
    • Zest from 1/2 lemon, finely chopped
    • 1 pinch chopped parsley, plus 1 tablespoon chopped in reserve
    • 1 tablespoon chopped green onions, plus 2 tablespoons chopped in reserve
    • Cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1 ½ pounds peel crawfish tails, rinsed

    Combine all of the ingredients (except for the 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons chopped green onions) in a mixing bowl and whisk until all is well blended. Refrigerate for 24 hours. It may be stored for up to one week. When ready to use, whisk again. To serve, toss the rinsed crawfish tails in some of the sauce, according to your personal taste. Add the reserved parsley and green onions. This is excellent served atop assorted mixed salad greens, or in tomato or avocado halves.



Whenever I have a crowd over for a crawfish supper, this is THE ONE. It’s very rich, creamy and oh, so delicious.


SHRIMP AND CRAWFISH FETTUCCINI

  • 3 sticks butter
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled crawfish tails
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound Gruyere or Fontina cheese, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • Salt and cayenne
  • 1 pound fettuccini, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a heavy, large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until they are wilted and lightly golden.


Add the flour and stir to mix. Cook, stirring often, for two to three minutes. Add the parsley, shrimp and crawfish. Cook, stirring often, for about five minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink.


Add the half-and-half, cheese, jalapeno peppers and garlic. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture thickens, about five minutes. Season to taste with salt and cayenne.


Arrange the fettuccini in a three-quart casserole and pour the seafood mixture evenly over it. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture bubbles.


FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013

By Marcelle Bienvenu


I don’t want to see a King Cake until next Carnival season. I’ve had so many (cream-cheese filled, cinnamon, blueberry, strawberry, and even lemon curd) that even the Carnival colors of gold, green and purple have lost their luster.


I believe I am primed for the season of Lent, although before I know it we’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day, which will certainly entail more eating.


Crawfish season is NOW and I’m ready for anything cooked with our Louisiana freshwater crustaceans. And in fact, something just caught my eye on this website – crawfish jelly! I’m ordering some pronto and can’t wait to figure out what to spread it on – toast, biscuits, chunks of cheese???


In the meantime, my taste buds are waiting to be tickled with some of my favorite crawfish dishes. Remember – buy ONLY Louisiana crawfish!


SHRIMP AND CRAWFISH FETTUCCINI

  • Makes about 12 servings
  • 3 sticks butter
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled crawfish tails
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • Salt and cayenne
  • 1 pound fettuccini, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a heavy, large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until they are wilted and lightly golden.


Add the flour and stir to mix. Cook, stirring often, for two to three minutes. Add the parsley, shrimp and crawfish. Cook, stirring often, for about five minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink.


Add the half-and-half, cheese, jalapeno peppers and garlic. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture thickens, about five minutes. Season to taste with salt and cayenne.


Arrange the fettuccini in a three-quart casserole and pour the seafood mixture evenly over it. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the mixture bubbles.



CRAWFISH STEW-FAY

  • Makes about 8 servings
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 pounds peeled crawfish tails
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery. Cook, stirring often, for about five minutes or until they or wilted.


Add the crawfish tails and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and add to the mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for three to four minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly. Season with salt and cayenne. Add the green onions and parsley. Serve hot over steamed rice.


CRAWFISH JAMBALAYA

  • Makes about 8 servings
  • 1 (10 1/2-ounce) can beef consommé
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 small fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (4-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 pound peeled crawfish tails
  • 2 1/2 cups long-grain uncooked rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all of the ingredients in an eight- to ten-cup rice cooker. Do not add water. Turn on cook cycle. When the cycle is over, keep on the warm cycle for at least 30 minutes. Do not attempt to cook this in a smaller rice cooker.


If these recipes do not satiate your hunger, then by all means stock up with our mini crawfish cakes, crawfish pies and crawfish balls. They’re great for nibbling or to serve as appetizers before your next dinner party.



ST. PATRICK’S DAY


As you can imagine there aren’t many Irishmen to be found around Acadiana. Oh, there are a few O’Briens and O’Malleys who probably ventured forth from New Orleans somewhere along the way, but there are certainly far more Broussards, Oliviers, and Thibodeauxs in these parts. But no matter, you will probably find a band or two of those who have proclaimed themselves Irish, at least for the day, swilling green beer at the local pubs.


I remember the nuns (Sisters of Mercy) pinning green paper shamrocks to the collars of our Catholic school uniforms when I was in grade school. After all, the foundress of the order of Sisters of Mercy was Catherine McAuley from Dublin, Ireland. But it wasn’t until I worked for the Brennan clan at Commander’s Palace in the 1970s did I witness firsthand how to truly celebrate St. Paddy’s Day.


Festivities began in the morning and lasted well into the night. There was green beer, Irish stew and side dishes of cabbage and potatoes. Parades wound through the streets of Uptown, Downtown and of course in the Irish Channel.


But, like a lot of others, I can be Irish for a day and have yet another excuse to party, and right smack dab in the middle of Lent, can you believe.

Forage in your closets for anything green. I turned up some green linen napkins, a couple of green serving platters and did a little research and now I’m ready for a dinner party of six guests, one of whom claims to have some Irish blood running through his veins.


If green beer doesn’t strike your fancy, serve champagne with a platter of Irish smoked salmon, garnished with watercress sprigs and serve with Irish soda bread. Pot pies filled with corned beef and cabbage accompanied by a warm salad of green beans, cucumbers and potatoes followed by lemon mousse and what else but Irish coffee should get us in the spirit. Oh, and don’t forget to wear green. I’ve even coaxed a couple of nieces into making me lots of paper shamrocks which will be wonderful scattered on the white tablecloth.



CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE POT PIES

  • Makes 6 servings
  • 14 ounces shredded cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons Creole mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 8 ounces very thinly sliced cooked corn beef, cut into strips
  • 2 pounds purchased puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water for glaze

Cook the cabbage in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until tender. Drain well. Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for three minutes, blending well. Whisk in the milk. Cook until mixture is smooth and very thick, whisking constantly. Gradually mix in the Gruyere. Add the mustard, nutmeg, dill, salt and cayenne. Stir in the corned beef and cabbage. Cool. Divide the filling among six 1-cup ramekins. Cut the puff pastry in half. Roll one piece out on a lightly floured surface to 3/8 inch thickness. Refrigerate the second piece. Cut our three rounds, about 2 ¼ inches larger in diameter than the ramekins. Reserve the scraps. Brush one side of the round pastry with glaze. Arrange the glazed side down on top of the ramekin, pressing firmly against the sides of the ramekin and pushing up slightly at the rim. Do not press down on the rim. Press the pastry to sides of the ramekin with the tines of a fork to seal. Trim the pastry overhang to 3/4 inch. Repeat with remaining two pastry rounds. Roll out the second piece of puff pastry and repeat the process. Brush the top and sides of the pastry with the glaze. Lightly score the top of the pastry without cutting through the pastry. Gather the scraps and roll out to about 3/8 inch thick. Cur out twelve 2-inch shamrocks. Brush with glaze and arrange on baking sheet glaze side up. Place the pies on the baking sheet.


Refrigerate the shamrocks and the pies for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake in the center of the oven until the pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pies to plates and arrange one shamrock on each pie and one on each plate.



WARM SALAD OF GREEN BEANS, CUCUMBERS AND POTATOES

  • Makes 6 servings
  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 ¼ pounds new, small potatoes
  • 6 ounces breakfast bacon, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions or leeks
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Cut the cucumbers crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Cook the beans in boiling salted water until slightly tender. Drain well. Boil the potatoes, unskinned, until tender.

Fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp and drain on paper towels. Discard all but ¼ cup of the drippings in the skillet. Add the green onions or leeks to the skillet and stir for two to three minutes over medium heat. Whisk in the vinegar and mustard and heat through. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and vegetable oil. Mix in the salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Drain the potatoes and quarter. Mound the potatoes in a large deep salad bowl. Pour about 1/3 of the dressing over the potatoes. Set the skillet with the dressing over low heat. Add the beans and stir until heated through, about one minute. Arrange the beans around the potatoes. Add the cucumbers to the skillet and warm slightly. Arrange the cucumbers around the beans. Pour the remaining dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with the bacon and serve warm.



If my memory serves me correctly, I think this is the Irish coffee recipe from Commander’s Palace.


IRISH COFFEE

  • Makes 1 serving
  • 1 ounce Irish whiskey
  • 1 ½ teaspoon simple syrup
  • 6 ounces strong hot black coffee
  • Heavy cream

Put the whiskey and syrup in a mug or Irish coffee cup. Stir. Pour in the coffee and top with cream.


Now, where is my green dress!


JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013

I barely had the Christmas decorations put away before I had to start getting out flags, beads, and masks in readiness for the Carnival season, which officially began on January 6, also known as Twelfth Night. Mardi Gras is early this year – February 12. We have to pack in a lot of parades and parties into a short time, but not to worry I am already stocked with the makings for gumbo and jambalaya. I also ordered several King Cakes to have on hand for last-minute get-togethers!


While Gumbo and jambalaya are always welcome before or after parades, I think this year I’m also going to add something else to my celebratory menu.


TAMALE PIE

    Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Cayenne to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar
  • 1 (4-ounce) can green chili peppers, chopped

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring, until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until the beef is no longer pink. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, corn, olives, cumin, allspice, chili powder, salt, cayenne, Worcestershire, Tabasco and one tablespoon cornmeal. Stir to mix well.


Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Spoon the mixture into a 2 1/2-quart casserole. (At this point, the mixture can be refrigerated for one or two days.)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining cup cornmeal, the flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, milk and egg and stir until the batter is combined. Add the cheese and chili peppers. Stir to blend. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls around the edge of the casserole. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the batter is golden. Serve immediately.


This colorful salad is one that I think pairs well with the tamale pie.



AVOCADO AND RED ONION SALAD

    Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • 3 medium, ripe avocados, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Creole or Dijon-style mustard
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onions
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a salad bowl, toss the avocados with the lime juice. Add the sliced onions and parsley. In a small jar combine the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, chopped red onions, salt and pepper. Put the cap on the jar and shake well for about 30 seconds. Add the dressing to the avocado and onion mixture. Toss to mix. Serve immediately or chill for about 30 minutes.



To cool down the mouth, what could be better than a caramel cream custard. Here’s my version.


BURNT CREAM

    Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a mixing bowl and beat for three to four minutes, or until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Heat the cream in a heavy saucepan until small bubbles begin to form around the edges. Do not boil. Pour the cream in a slowly stream into the egg mixture, beating constantly. Add the vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a baking dish.


Place the dish in a shallow pan and add boiling water into the second pan so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the custard dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Refrigerate for at least four hours before serving. About two hours before serving set the oven broiler to its highest temperature. Sprinkle the top of the custard with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Coat the surface as evenly as possible. Slide the dish under the broiler about three inches from the heat. Cook for four to five minutes or until the sugar forms a crust over the cream. Watch carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Cool the cream again and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.



Make sure you mark your calendar NOW. Valentine’s Day is two days AFTER Mardi Gras, so you don’t want to forget your honey, right? After the hectic season of Carnival, perhaps Valentine’s Day this year can be spent quietly at home.There’s something to be said for a quiet romantic dinner à deux for Valentine’s Day. Rather than head out to a restaurant, why not prepare your spouse or loved one a simple but elegant meal at home? With a little planning and organization, you can prepare much of the meal in advance.


The location doesn’t have to be in a formal dining room, but if it is, sit next to each other than across from! Or, be a little innovative. Set a small table in front of the fireplace if the weather outside is frightful. A couple I know sometimes have a meal together at a small table in their kitchen in front of a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that overlooks their cozy patio. While the landscape may be a bit short of lush during the winter months, she claims they can watch a full moon rising and the twinkling of the stars in the inky-black sky. Another couple who has an expansive kitchen with an adjoining sitting room makes it cozy by dimming the lights and setting a table there rather than in the dining room.


Lots of candles can set the mood. Do NOT turn on the television unless you plan to watch a romantic movie AFTER dinner.

The meal doesn’t have to be elegant. It can be as simple as a tossed salad, perfectly prepared steak and baked potatoes. Or if you prefer, your favorite pasta dish accompanied by a good bottle of wine, finished off with brandy freezes is perfectly acceptable. But if you want to really have a bash, here’s a menu I favor. Start off with the freshest, coldest raw oysters on the half shell drizzled with fresh lemon juice and enjoyed with chilled champagne. Follow with this salad.



MIXED GREENS WITH WALNUTS AND ROQUEFORT

    Makes 2 servings
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups mixed salad greens, such as arugula, radicchio, chicory and red leaf lettuce
  • 1/3 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until fragrant and golden. Let cool.


In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard and salt. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add the parsley and season with pepper.


In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with the roasted walnuts, Roquefort and the dressing. Divide the salad into two equal portions and serve on salad plates.


For a change of pace from beef, I like lamb. Use the best you can find. Have the butcher trim the rack, remove the chine bone and french the rib bones. I don’t think it needs a sauce of any kind, but a dab of hollandaise sauce would be nice. A Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot goes nicely with this dish.



RACK OF LAMB WITH ROSEMARY AND MUSTARD


    Makes 2 servings
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 trimmed rack of lamb, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 cup dried fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Creole or whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons roasted garlic puree (recipe follows)

In a heavy large skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the lamb and cook, turning, until it is browned all over, about two minutes. Remove from the skillet and let cool.


In a small bowl, toss the bread crumbs with the parsley, one teaspoon of the rosemary and the pepper.


In another bowl, combine the remaining teaspoon rosemary with the mustard and garlic puree. Spread the mixture evenly over the lamb. Pat the seasoned bread crumbs onto the mustard coating. (The lamb can be prepared to this point up to eight hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate until two hours before roasting.)


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place the lamb on a rack set over a shallow roasting pan. Put the lamb in the center of the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 120 degrees for medium-rare. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest in a warm place for about 10 minutes. Carve the lamb just before serving by slicing between the ribs.



Make the garlic puree ahead of time. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


ROASTED GARLIC PUREE


  • 2 large heads of garlic (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the head of garlic in half horizontally. Place in the center of a square of aluminum foil, then season with the salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. Gather the ends of the foil together to make a pouch. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the cloves are soft, about one hour. Remove and let cool.


Using your thumb and forefinger pinch the flesh out of the skin and put in a blender or food processor. Pulse several times to make a paste. Makes about 1/4 cup.

Vegetable accompaniments can be poached green beans or fresh asparagus. I happen to like spinach with lamb.



SPINACH WITH PERNOD

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, cleaned
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir for 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cover. Cook until wilted, two to three minutes. Add the salt, pepper and Pernod. Cook, uncovered, for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and serve. Makes 2 servings.


For dessert, serve chocolate mousse or brandy whipped with vanilla ice cream and a little heavy cream.



Enjoy!

October/November 2012

SOUPS ON!

            I remember Sunday nights many years ago when I often had a sleep-over at my great-aunt Belle. When a cold front rambled through, I remember the rain splattering on the frosty windows and the wind howling through the pecan and oak trees in her backyard. We were warm and toasty in her cozy kitchen, and there was always a big pot of soup simmering on the stove. We often sipped on hot chocolate tinged with a spoonful of strong coffee and I loved the marshmallows that melted in the hot cup.
            Aunt Belle had a repertoire of homemade soups—hearty beef and vegetable, simple oyster and milk, creamy split pea, and a marvelous white soup with bits of ham and sausage. Oh what fun we had putting the soups together, then retiring to the kitchen table to play cards, work on a jig-saw puzzle, or playing “I Spy.” When our pot of soup was done, we made cornbread or biscuits on which we spread lots of fig preserves or Steen’s cane syrup to go with our meal.
            Every now and then when the winter weather sets in, I invite a couple of my great nieces to join me for a bowl of soup on Sunday evenings. It’s a great time to visit with them AND to show them how to make a simple meal of a good soup. I think you’ll enjoy my repertoire of cold-weather soups.


OLD FASHIONED VEGETABLE SOUP
Makes about 6 quarts
2 pounds soup meat or brisket, cut into 2-inch cubes
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
3 bay leaves
3 quarts beef broth
1 cup chopped onions
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 cup cut green beans (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 cup baby lima beans (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
3 cans whole tomatoes, crushed with their liquid
6 ounces curly vermicelli (optional)
            Season the meat generously with salt, black pepper and cayenne.  Put it, the basil, bay leaves and beef broth in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about one hour, or until the meat is tender.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, beans, turnip, and tomatoes.  Simmer, uncovered, for one hour.  If the mixture becomes too thick, add a little more beef broth or water.  Add the vermicelli if using, and cook for about five minutes.  Adjust the seasonings and skim off any fat that rises to the surface.  Remove the bay leaves before serving.


SPLIT PEA SOUP
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 pound dried split peas
1 ham bone, or 2 cups cubed ham
3 quarts chicken broth
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup grated carrots
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons salt (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch or two of cayenne
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry sherry
            Combine all of the ingredients, except the sherry, in a large Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about two hours, stirring occasionally.  If it becomes too thick for your taste, add more broth.  Add the sherry and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves.  Adjust the seasonings if necessary and serve hot.


OYSTER SOUP
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions
1 quart boiling water (or if you prefer a heartier soup use 1 quart warm milk)
4 dozen freshly shucked oysters, drained and oyster liquor reserved
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
            Combine the oil and the flour in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Stirring slowly and constantly, make a light brown roux.  Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.  Combine the water (or milk) with the reserved oyster liquor and add slowly to the roux mixture, stirring constantly.   The mixture will thicken slightly.  Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the oysters, parsley, and butter and simmer until the edges of the oysters curl.  Remove from the heat. 
            Serve warm with crackers or hot French bread.


QUICK AND HEARTY WHITE BEAN SOUP
Makes about 10 servings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 pound salt meat or ham pieces, chopped
1/2 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
4 slices bacon, chopped (optional)
3 cans white beans (I prefer the Trappey’s beans that are creamy)
3 cans water or chicken broth
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste    
            Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, celery, salt meat or ham, sausage and bacon, if using, and cook, stirring, for about five minutes, or until the onions are soft and golden.
            Add the beans, water or chicken broth, and the tomatoes.  Stir to blend.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste with salt, black pepper and cayenne, but be aware that the salt meat, sausage, and bacon and the tomatoes are salty and peppery.  
            Skim off any oil that has risen to the surface then serve hot. 


CORNBREAD
            Crackers and hot French bread are fine to serve with soup, but you might want to make cornbread to offer for a Sunday night soup dinner.


CHEDDAR CHEESE CORNBREAD
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup corn oil
3 eggs
1 ½ cups white cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 (12-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
3 tablespoons half-and-half
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
            Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.  Mix together the first three ingredients in a large bowl.
            Combine the cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and add to the buttermilk mixture. 
            Stir together the corn and half-and-half and add to the batter.  Mix in the onion, bell pepper and sugar.  Pour half of the batter into the baking pan.  Top with the cheese.  Pour in the remaining batter.  Bake until browned and springy to the touch, about 40 minutes.


MEXICAN CORNBREAD
Makes 6 to 8 servings in the skillet, or 12 muffins
1 cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup chopped ham or tasso (optional)
2 large eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon baking soda stirred into ¾ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 (16-ounce) can creamed corn
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon minced pimentos
            Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a large iron skillet (or a muffin tin). 
            Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Pour into the skillet (or muffin tin) and bake until lightly golden, about 40 minutes.


SKILLET CORN BREAD
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
            Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
            Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, and the baking powder in a large mixing bowl.  Add the egg and milk and mix well, but do not beat.  Heat the shortening in a 10-inch cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking.  Pour in the batter and cook until the edges begin to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes before serving. 


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