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December/January 2011-2012

If you haven’t made your Christmas shopping list, then you had better get going. No, I’m not talking about your gift list, I’m thinking about your FOOD shopping list.

Here is my list and all you have to do is go to www.cajungrocer.com and place your order NOW.

  • 1. Turduckens (several)
  • 2. Boudin (get all kinds)
  • 3. Gulf Shrimp (order big and small – great for all kinds of party offerings)
  • 4. Andouille sausage (for gumbos, jambalayas or throwing on the grill)
  • 5. Stuffed breads (great for parties AND for giving)
  • 6. Crawfish pies, meat pies and crawfish pies (ideal for serving while watching all those bowl games)
  • 7. Pickled beans and asparagus (for garnishing Bloody Marys)
  • 8. Steen’s syrup (for drizzling on biscuits, pancakes and hot French bread)
  • 9. Pecans (oh my – I want them all)
  • 10. Crabmeat (add some to your gumbo, put it in your omelet or use it to make dips and spreads)

CORPORATE GIFTS
Cajungrocer.com is the ideal place to order corporate gifts for your customers. Do it now!



BRUNCH
As far as I’m concerned, brunch is a very civilized manner of entertaining on Saturday and Sundays, since such a get-together is not too early in the morning. I think too a brunch is ideal for holiday entertaining since just about every weekend evening, and those in between as well, is taken with cocktail or dinner parties.
A brunch suggests a hearty meal, as it is intended to take the place of breakfast and lunch. Here in Louisiana we take our brunches seriously with menus that include eye-openers, like Bloody Marys and Milk Punches, assorted juices, strong coffee, perhaps mellowed with hot milk or cream, and a wide range of delectable dishes.
My personal taste runs to foods that wake up the taste buds, like spicy and rich grillades served with creamy cheese grits, or any of the egg dishes—Eggs Sardou, Eggs Hussard, Eggs Benedict—that brought world-wide recognition to Brennan’s in New Orleans. A friend of mine says he likes a brunch that includes stacks of pancakes or waffles, thick slices of ham with red-eye gravy and biscuits lathered with butter and drowning in cane syrup. The egg-lover that my husband is likes nothing better than scrambled eggs or omelets prepared with cheese, onions, peppers and tomatoes teamed with sausages and skillet cornbread. No matter what you choose, it’s important to have lots of it and to prepare as much in advance as possible. Invite guests to lend a hand in keeping the coffee pot going, buttering biscuits, refilling drinks. One host I know sets up an omelet station with an array of fillings so that guests can do their own. If it’s a family occasion, get older kids involved making pancakes or waffles. If desserts are not your forte, let your bakery provide cookies or a special cake. Remember, this is supposed to be fun and relaxing!
To make it easier, I’ve done some work for you. This is a collection of some of my favorite brunch items. Get your guest list together and if they offer to bring or do anything, graciously accept.
Grillades and grits are traditional brunch fare. There are those who will argue that they should be made with pork. Others will tell you to use veal. Some experts are staunch in their belief that tomatoes are a no-no; I disagree. This is my version and seldom do I have any left in the bottom of the pot. Prepare it a day ahead to allow the tastes to meld. I suggest serving grillades with baked cheese grits. Just so you’ll know, the word is pronounced gree-aahds.



GRILLADES
Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 4 pounds beef round steak (about 1/2 inch thick) * Or, use 2 pounds of beef rounds and 2 pounds of veal rounds
  • 3 teaspoons salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 3 cups whole canned tomatoes, crushed with the juice
  • 2 cups water or beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Remove and discard fat from the meat. Cut the meat into two-inch squares. Combine the salt, cayenne, black pepper and garlic powder in a small bowl and blend. Have the flour at hand. Lay several pieces of the meat on a cutting board and sprinkle with the seasoning mix and a bit of flour. Then with a meat pounder, pound each piece of meat until slightly flattened. Flip the pieces of meat over and repeat the process. Do this with all of the meat.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot, over medium heat. Add the pieces of meat, in batches if necessary, and brown the meat on both sides. Add the onions, bell peppers and celery and cook, stirring, until tender, eight to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and their liquid. Add the water or broth, bay leaves, tarragon and basil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about two hours, or until meat is tender and the gravy has thickened. Adjust seasonings. Add the green onions and parsley and cook for about five minutes. Served over baked grits.



BAKED CHEESE GRITS
Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 2 cups (not instant) yellow grits, prepared according to package directions
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 pound grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • Salt and cayenne to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the cooked grits with the eggs, cheese, milk and butter and blend until cheese is melted. Pour the mixture into a two-quart baking dish and bake until the mixture sets and just bubbling, about 30 minutes.
These buttermilk biscuits are a great accompaniment.



BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
Makes about 16 biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter or lard
  • 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the flour, soda, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter or lard and mix until the mixture resemble coarse meal. Stir in just enough buttermilk to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and roll to about one-half-inch thickness. Cut out the biscuits with a cookie cutter. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Red-eye gravy is usually made by frying thick slices of Smithfield country-cured ham in a skillet until the ham is nice and brown. Then the ham is removed and cold coffee (about 1 cup) and cold water (about 1/2 cup) for every 6 to 8 slices of ham is added to the hot skillet. The gravy is stirred around for a couple of minutes, then served with ham and biscuits. Smithfield ham is hard to come by, but I’ve substituted a good quality smoked ham and the result is quite satisfactory.

Eggs are sometimes difficult to fool with when there’s a crowd. I learned this trick of cooking them in a double boiler that makes them soft and fluffy.



DOUBLE-BOILER EGGS
Makes 6 servings

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Several dashes of Tabasco brand hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions (green part only)

Break the eggs into a bowl. Add the milk, salt, pepper and Tabasco and beat with a fork. Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler over gently boiling water. Add the eggs and cover. Stir occasionally until the eggs thicken. Remove from the heat. Stir until the eggs set. Garnish with green onions.
My neighbor fixes these eggs for just about every brunch she hosts and I never tire of them. They’re rich, creamy and sinfully delicious. If you happen to own an electric skillet, now’s the time to use it.

JERI’S EGGS VERMOUTH
Makes 6 servings

  • 8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 English muffins, toasted
  • 12 slices Canadian bacon, warmed

Melt the cheeses and butter in the skillet over low heat. Then gradually add the cream, stirring to blend well. Add the vermouth and stir to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crack and drop the eggs, one by one, and distribute evenly into the mixture and allow the eggs to poach until desired doneness. To serve, top each muffin with a slice of Canadian bacon, then top with poached egg and cheese sauce.



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