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May/June 2012

Although summer will not officially arrive until June, the pleasantly warm weather is ideal for outdoor dining. Crawfish, Louisiana’s freshwater crustaceans, are in season and plentiful. The bays along coastal Louisiana, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, are teeming with shrimp, crabs, speckled trout, redfish and flounder.
It’s time for fish-fries, seafood boils and other casual, kick-back, leisurely meals.
Let’s begin with crabs. Lump crabmeat is not always necessary to the dish. The jumbo lump or the regular lump, both the most expensive, is what I want when preparing a luxurious salad or when it’s going to be the focal point of the meal. Flake or special white crabmeat is ideal for making crab cakes or to extend lump crabmeat in a recipe. The claw meat, the least expensive, is stringy and usually darkish, but it’s quite flavorful and is ideal for making casseroles and dressings.
If you’re going to splurge on the white, delicate lump crabmeat, by all means prepare this delectable dish that can be served as an appetizer or a main course.

CRABMEAT REMICK
Serves 6 main courses or 12 appetizer servings
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • Dash of celery salt
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
  • 6 strips bacon, crisply fried

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, chili sauce, dry mustard, lemon juice, paprika, Tabasco, and celery salt. Mix well.
Divide the crabmeat evenly into six large ramekins (or twelve small ones). Spoon the sauce generously over the crabmeat and top with the bacon.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles. If you want to brown the tops, put them under the broiler for one to two minutes.
You can use any type of crabmeat for this dish – mix and match if you like.



CRABMEAT CASSEROLE
Makes 4 servings
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell peppers
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 1/2 pound regular lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
  • 1/2 pound claw meat
  • 1/4 cup dried fine bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sauté the green onions, celery, and bell peppers in the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Blend in the flour. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and creamy.
Add the lemon juice and season with salt and cayenne. Gently stir in the crabmeat. Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased baking dish. Top with the bread crumbs and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and lightly brown on top. If shrimp tickle your taste buds, then by all means boil ‘em up and serve them with tartar sauce, remoulade sauce or whatever sauce makes you happy.



BOILED SHRIMP
Makes about 4 servings
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 large lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered
  • 1/4 cup cayenne
  • 1 cup salt
  • 3 pounds shrimp, heads and shells on

Combine the water, lemon, onion, cayenne and salt in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, bring back to a boil, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and serve hot.



DIPPING SAUCE FOR SEAFOOD
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
You can use just about any kind of fish for fish-fries. Fresh-water catfish or your favorite salt-water fish will do.



FRIED FISH
Makes about 4 servings
  • 1 pound fish fillets, cut into 1×3-inch strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 cups corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 large yellow onionS, peeled and thinly sliced

Season the fish with the salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Place the strips in a bowl with the milk, mustard, lemon juice, and Tabasco. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours. Heat about 3 to 4 inches oil in a large, deep pot or electric fryer to 360 degrees.
Put the corn flour and cornstarch into a brown paper bag. Remove the fish from the marinade, a few pieces at a time, allowing the marinade to drip off. Put the strips in the bag and shake well to coat evenly. Drop the catfish into the hot oil and fry, turning the pieces once or twice, until they pop to the surface and are golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Arrange several slices of the onion over the fried fish and cover with a layer of paper towels. Repeat the process until all the fish is cooked.
You simply must have tartar sauce in which to dip the fried fish.



TANGY TARTAR SAUCE
Makes about 2 cups
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 pods garlic, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced onions

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving.
For dessert, a tart lemon pie – a perfect ending to any seafood meal.



MY LEMON PIE
Makes one pie, to serve 6
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 pre-baked 9-inch pie shell
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow creme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the sugar, cornstarch and a pinch salt in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add the water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for one minute, or until the mixture is clear and thickened. Stir a small amount of the hot mixture into beaten egg yolks, then return this mixture to the hot mixture. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, then add the lemon juice, butter and lemon rind. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.
Beat the egg whites and a pinch salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add the marshmallow cream beating until stiff peaks form. Spread over the filling, sealing to the edge of the crust.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned. Watch carefully. Remove and cool before serving.


March/April 2012

The season of Lent has arrived. And I’m betting that there are many who partied much too hard during the Carnival season who welcome the season of repentance, prayer and sacrifice with open arms. Well, maybe not open arms, but at least might relish the thought of six weeks of Lent as a time to have a spiritual renewal of the soul, not to mention some recuperation of the body.


In the not too distant past, meals during Lent were not only meatless, they were simple, albeit nourishing, and because there were certain days of fasting, when snacks between meals were forbidden.
Most of the meals prepared during Lent in New Orleans were referred to as Lenten soups or in French, potage maigres. And these soups were simple broths or consommés, flavored with carrots, onions, turnips, beans or peas, cabbage, and parsley. Sometimes a handful of spinach or a potato or two might be added as well.
In rural areas of south Louisiana, the locals made a stew of potatoes and eggs. A roux was made, then water was added along with cubed potatoes. The mixture was seasoned with the usual salt and cayenne, and sometimes eggs were poached in the liquid, or finely chopped hard-boiled eggs were added to give the meager stew some texture.
Of course in the city and in the country there were meals consisting of different types of seafood. Perhaps there was a courtbouillon or bouillabaisse, or a shrimp stew, fried fish, crab soup, and now and then, a crawfish etouffée. I can attest to the fact that I ate, as a child, my fair share of tuna salad sandwiches, butter and sugar sandwiches, fried egg sandwiches grilled cheese sandwiches, and a whole lot of fish sticks accompanied by macaroni and cheese.
Of course these days, they’re a great variety of vegetarian dishes that have come into vogue that are not only delicious, but also nutritious. With all of that said, I usually try to make Lenten dishes a challenge. There is such a wealth of fresh vegetables available year-round in the supermarkets and at local farmers’ markets, no one should be hard pressed to be a bit creative. And of course, we here in south Louisiana have a great wealth of local seafood—shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish, oysters, and fish—to choose from.


So here then are some recipes that might give you some inspiration for your Lenten meals.



BARBECUED SHRIMP
Makes 4 servings


  • 6 pounds large shrimp, heads on (don’t peel them)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco® (or more, according to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
  • Rinse the shrimp in cool water and drain. Spread the shrimp in a large shallow baking pan. In a saucepan, melt butter, then add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Pour sauce over shrimp and marinate for one hour. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir a couple of times with a spatula. Do not overcook. Serve in a soup bowl with lots of hot French bread to sop up the sauce. Be sure to have some trays around on which to put shells and such. Be forewarned – this can only be eaten with your hands and I would advise you not to wear your best outfit since it can get rather messy. I sometimes have plastic bibs for guests or, if nothing else, large napkins to tuck in the collar.



    CATAHOULA COURTBOUILLON
    Makes 8 servings


    • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 medium-size onions, chopped
    • 1 medium-size green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    • 2 celery ribs, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
    • 2 cups diced canned tomatoes
    • 1 can Ro-tel tomatoes (tomatoes packed with peppers—use the mild version)
    • 1 quart warm fish stock or water
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 2½ pounds fish (such as redfish, speckled trout or any white-fleshed firm fish) cut into 2-inch chunks.
    • 1 bunch green onions (green part only), chopped
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
    • Combine the flour and oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly make a roux the color of chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and Ro-Tel and stir to blend. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil forms a thin layer, like paper, over the top of the mixture, about 30 minutes.
      Add the fish stock or water, the salt and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. The mixture should be slightly thick. (If the mixture becomes too thick, add more stock or water.) Add the fish, cover and cook (do not stir) until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary with salt and cayenne.
      Add the green onions and parsley, and serve immediately in soup bowls with steamed rice and pass plenty of hot French bread at the table. (Note: I always have a bottle of hot sauce at the table in case guests want to add a little bit of “heat.”)
      Shrimp Creole is a dish that I love, but I’ve eaten some really nasty ones through the years. This is a recipe I’ve worked on for a few years and I think you’ll like this version.



      SHRIMP CREOLE
      Makes 4 to 6 servings


      • 4 tablespoons butter
      • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
      • 1 cup chopped bell peppers
      • 3/4 cup chopped celery
      • 3 garlic cloves, minced
      • 2 bay leaves
      • 2 cups peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes or 2 cups canned, chopped with their juice
      • 1 cup shrimp stock or chicken broth
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
      • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
      • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
      • Combine the butter and the flour in a medium heavy pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring, to make a blond roux, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and lightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
        Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, shrimp stock, salt, and cayenne. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes.
        Remove the bay leaves. Add the parsley and serve over rice.
        And for you crabmeat lovers, here is a simple casserole that can be put together quickly and shoved in the oven to bake while you have a cold beer or a glass of wine.



February/March 2012

During the Carnival season, I always somehow end up with bits and pieces of King Cake. Either I eat too much of a good thing or that last piece or two lingers around the kitchen and goes stale. Since I hate to waste, I began storing those leftovers in a big plastic storage bag in hopes that I would find a use for them. Lo and behold, a friend of mine sent me a couple of newspaper clippings on how to use those chunks of sweet cakes—make bread pudding! Now, why didn’t I think of that before? It really doesn’t matter what kind (Bavarian-filled, chocolate, almond cream, cinnamon, blueberry-cream cheese), I just dumped all the chunks into a large Pyrex baking dish, combined whole milk and a couple of eggs, and covered the pieces with the mixture. I scattered pieces of butter over the top and shoved the dish into a pre-heated 325-degree oven and baked it until the mixture set. Wow! Delish!



THE SEASON OF LENT
The season of Lent has arrived. And I’m betting that there are many who partied much too hard during the Carnival season who welcome the season of repentance, prayer and sacrifice with open arms. Well, maybe not open arms, but at least might relish the thought of six weeks of Lent as a time to have a spiritual renewal of the soul, not to mention some recuperation of the body.
In the not too distant past, meals during Lent were not only meatless, they were simple, albeit nourishing, and because there were certain days of fasting, when snacks between meals were forbidden.
Most of the meals prepared during Lent in New Orleans were referred to as Lenten soups or in French, potage maigres. And these soups were simple broths or consommés, flavored with carrots, onions, turnips, beans or peas, cabbage, and parsley. Sometimes a handful of spinach or a potato or two might be added as well.
In rural areas of south Louisiana, the locals made a stew of potatoes and eggs. A roux was made, then water was added along with cubed potatoes. The mixture was seasoned with the usual salt and cayenne, and sometimes eggs were poached in the liquid, or finely chopped hard-boiled eggs were added to give the meager stew some texture.
Of course in the city and in the country there were meals consisting of different types of seafood. Perhaps there was a courtbouillon or bouillabaisse, or a shrimp stew, fried fish, crab soup, and now and then, a crawfish etouffée. I can attest to the fact that I ate, as a child, my fair share of tuna salad sandwiches, butter and sugar sandwiches, fried egg sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, and a whole lot of fish sticks accompanied by macaroni and cheese.
Of course, these days they’re a great variety of vegetarian dishes that have come into vogue that are not only delicious, but also nutritious. With all of that said, I usually try to make Lenten dishes a challenge. There is such a wealth of fresh vegetables available year-round in the supermarkets and at local farmers’ markets, no one should be hard pressed to be a bit creative. And of course, we here in south Louisiana have a great wealth of local seafood—shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish, oysters, and fish—to choose from.

So here then are some recipes that might give you some inspiration for your Lenten meals.



SOUPE AU PISTOU
Makes about 10 servings

  • 1/2 cup fruity olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 leeks, well rinsed, trimmed and chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound tender green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 to 3 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cans (19-ounces each) cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 pound ditalini pasta

Pistou:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh basil (tightly packed), rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • To make the soup, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, leeks, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring, until they are slightly soft, five to seven minutes.
    Add the potatoes, the water or broth and the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes.
    Add the green beans, zucchini, cannellini beans, and the pasta and continue simmering the soup until these vegetables and pasta are tender, about 20 minutes.
    Season again if necessary.
    To make the pistou, crush the garlic and salt together in a mortar. You want a creamy paste. Add the basil, a few leaves at a time, grinding each batch until incorporated in the garlic paste. Slowly work in enough olive oil to thin the pistou to a creamlike drizzling consistency. Stir in the Parmesan. (Since I don’t have a mortar that big, I’ve made the mixture in a my food processor. Simply put all the ingredients in the processor and pulse several times until the mixture is smooth.)
    To serve, ladle the soup into large bowl and stir in a generous tablespoon of the pistou into it. Extra pistou can be passed at the table.



    VICHYSSOISE
    Makes 4 to 6 servings


    • 2 small leeks (white part only), coarsely chopped
    • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
    • 1 pound Idaho potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled and chopped
    • 2 cups vegetable broth
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
    • 4 cups cold milk
    • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

    Combine the leeks, onions, potatoes, stock and seasonings in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
    Pour the mixture into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the milk and cool to room temperature. Chill for an hour or so before serving. Garnish with the chives.



    GRILLED VEGETABLES WITH PASTA
    Serves about 8


    • 1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
    • 2 medium zucchinis, about 1/2 pound, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
    • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into wide slices
    • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into wide slices
    • 1 teaspoon salt>
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
    • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
    • 8 ounces sliced portobellos, cleaned and stemmed
    • 1 pound spinach fettucini, cooked and drained
    • 1 quart spaghetti sauce, homemade or commercial brand
    • 1/2 cup fresh, grated Romano cheese

    Poach the eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers in simmering hot water in a large pot for several minutes, or until the vegetables are justly slightly soft. Remove them from the water and drain. Put them in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, black pepper, cayenne, olive oil, soy sauce, and the mushrooms. Toss to coat evenly. Prepare a charcoal or gas fire in your grill or barbecue pit. Grill the vegetables and mushrooms, either directly on the grill, or in a grill basket, over a medium fire for about five minutes, turning them once or twice.
    In a large casserole dish, make a layer of the vegetables and mushrooms. Make a layer of the fettucini. Spread the sauce evenly over the pasta and top with the cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and hot. Serve immediately.



    GRILLED VEGETABLES UNDER WRAPS
    Makes 3 to 4 servings


    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (coriander), or Italian parsley
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
    • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded and cut into lengthwise strips
    • 1 medium-size zucchini, cut lengthwise into strips
    • 1 sweet onion, peeled and quartered
    • 1 large portobello mushroom, thickly sliced
    • 8 to 10 thin asparagus, trimmed
    • Pita bread or flour tortillas (heated) for wraps
    • Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, cilantro, salt, black pepper and hot sauce in a small bowl. Combine the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and pour in the oil mixture. Toss to coat evenly. Place the vegetables in a grill basket (or grill wok) and place over a medium-hot fire. Cook for two to three minutes, turning the basket once of twice (or stir-fry in the wok), until the vegetables are slightly soft. Remove and serve immediately in your wraps.



      GRILLED PORTOBELLOS
      Makes 4 servings


      • 4 large portobellos
      • 1 cup olive oil
      • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
      • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
      • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
      • 2 teaspoons sugar
      • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
      • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

      Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stems from the mushrooms. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and herbs in a bowl and whisk to blend. Pour the mixture into a shallow bowl and add the mushroom caps, pressing them gently down into the marinade. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and grill over a medium fire for two to three minutes on each side. Remove and serve. If you wish, the mushrooms can be thickly sliced and tossed with pasta sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper.



      CRABMEAT SALAD Makes about 4 servings


      • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      • 3 dashes hot sauce
      • 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery
      • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
      • 1 tablespoon capers
      • 3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
      • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
      • 2 teaspoons Creole mustard
      • Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. The salad can be served atop a mound of salad greens, on thick slices of tomatoes, or in an avocado half. It can also be served as an hors d’ouevre, with crackers or toast points.



January/February 2012

The Christmas decorations are stored and replaced with Carnival flags, beads and masks. Yes, it is Carnival time in Louisiana! This year Mardi Gras falls on February 21 allowing plenty of time for balls, parades, brunches and a whole lot of frivolity.

If I were you, I would order my King Cakes NOW so you will be ready to party hearty. I never can decide what flavor I want so I just order ALL of them. You will also need Carnival-themed napkins, cups, and of course, lots of beads to give as favors at whatever kind of party you’ll be hosting. I personally like to entertain at a brunch and I try to do as much as possible in advance. Here is a menu that is fairly easy to prepare but oh, so delicious. Creamy, smooth but with a little kick, the milk punches can be made with bourbon, brandy or um—just choose your poison. Make the punch a day or so in advance and have it well chilled in the refrigerator. And oh, don’t serve the punch over ice lest it water the punch of the punch down!



MY MILK PUNCH
Makes 1 gallon

  • 1 (4/5-quart) bottle of bourbon, brandy or dark rum
  • 3 quarts half-and-half
  • ¼ cup tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Simply syrup (recipe follows)
  • Grated nutmeg

Simple syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Boil until the sugar dissolves and liquid becomes slightly thick. Cool completely before using. Combine the bourbon, half-and-half, and vanilla in a one-gallon container. Add the simple syrup to attain desired sweetness. Chill well in the refrigerator. Serve in chilled old-fashion glasses (not over ice) and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Our soup course features not one but three soups that can be easily served in demitasses centered on a base plate. The bloody Mary soup is basically a chilled gazpacho to which a splash of ice-cold vodka or gin can be added right before serving. Oysters are plentiful at this time of year so we offer this simple but good oyster soup. Leeks and spicy tasso pair well in a creamy soup. (I always give credit where credit is due and I thank Hallman Woods, Sr. from New Iberia for this delicious soup.)



SOUPS 1-1-1
Bloody Mary Soup
Makes about 20 small appetizer servings

  • 1 (46-ounce) can tomato juice
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-size green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1 medium-size cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (more or less to taste)
  • Chilled vodka or gin (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix. If you wish to puree, do so in a food processor. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving. It will last for about a week in the refrigerator and it only gets better with time.



Cream of Leek and Tasso
Makes about 20 small appetizer servings

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups coarsely chopped leeks (white and green parts)
  • 1 cup finely chopped tasso (pulse once or twice in a food processor)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 6 ounces heavy cream
  • Salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the flour. Cook, whisking, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Add the leeks and tasso and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Slowly add the stock, whisking, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for about five minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Serve warm.



OYSTER SOUP
Makes about 20 small appetizer portions

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • One and one-half cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 1 quart warm whole 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 butter 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 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.



As much as I love grillades and grits, sometimes I need a change. This crawfish and grits dish is a delightful alternative. Be sure to use Louisiana crawfish! The recipe comes from Emeril’s Creole Christmas, which I co-authored.



SMOTHERED GRITS WITH CRAWFISH
Makes about 10 servings

  • 1 pound peeled crawfish tails
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1 ½ cups quick-cooking white grits
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Toss the crawfish tails with the salt and cayenne in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until slightly soft, about 2 minutes. Add the crawfish and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the stock and half-and-half and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the grits and stir constantly until they are tender and creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until it melts. Serve warm.



Years ago my aunt served an asparagus dish for her ladies’ luncheon and I loved it but alas I didn’t have the actual recipe. However, several years ago I came across a very similar recipe in a Saveur magazine so I adapted it to suit my taste.



ASPARAGUS BAKE
Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 to 2 pinches paprika
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup coarsely crumbled Ritz crackers
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus. Cut the asparagus into pieces and cook in the boiling water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the size.
Drain but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Set the asparagus aside.
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the reserved cooking liquid, then the cream, stirring until smooth and thick, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the paprika, then season with salt and cayenne.
Layer the asparagus, eggs, and sauce alternately in a shallow casserole dish, ending with the sauce. Sprinkle with the cracker crumbs and cheese. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.



I am the first to say that I’m not much of a baker, but these biscuits always come out just right. Serve them with jam or preserves of your choice.



LIGHT-AS-A -CLOUD BISCUITS
Makes 24 good-sized biscuits

  • 4 cups biscuit mix
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cup chilled vegetable shortening
  • 1 ½ cups milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Sift all the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Drop the shortening into the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the milk over it. With your fingers (not with a spoon, pastry knife, or anything else), mix everything together, working in the dry ingredients until the dough has formed a nice, slightly sticky ball.
If you want to roll the biscuits, generously flour a pastry board, roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness, and cut with a biscuit cutter. Otherwise, make drop biscuits by dropping a tablespoon of the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sometimes I dust my hands well with flour and pat out little rounds. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Note: The uncooked dough can be frozen.



Bananas Foster is always a great dessert, but if you want to kick it up a notch as Emeril does, I suggest this recipe from the Bam Man himself. You can serve it with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with caramel sauce. Yum!



BANANAS FOSTER BREAD PUDDING
Makes about 12 servings

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 firm-ripe bananas, peeled and cut crosswise into ¾-inch slices
  • ¼ cup banana liqueur
  • ½ cup dark rum
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 cups (1/2-inch cubes) day-old French bread
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)
  • Caramel sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 by 14-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.
Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the brown sugar and the cinnamon and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas and cook on both sides, turning, until the bananas start to soften and brown, about 3 minutes. Add the banana liqueur and stir to blend. Carefully add the rum and shake the pan back and forth to warm the rum and flame the pan. (Or, off the heat, carefully ignite the rum with a match and return to the heat.) Shake the pan back and forth, basting the bananas, until the flame dies. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Whisk together the eggs, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, the cream, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the cooled banana mixture and bread and stir to blend thoroughly. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until firm, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
To serve, scoop the pudding onto dessert plates. Top each serving with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle with caramel sauce, and serve immediately. Serve the bread pudding with café au lait.



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