Cold Weather, Good Food

  • September 09, 2020
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It took a while for cold weather to move through south Louisiana, but it Fall has arrived. When the first cold front blew through from the West, I headed to the nearest supermarket for a fresh, plump chicken and a pound of smoked sausage for my first gumbo of the season. It was simmering when my husband Rock arrived after work. He went straight to the stove, lifted the lid on the pot, and mumbled something about there’s probably not a chicken to be had south of Interstate-10. He turned to me and said that as he followed a loaded sugar cane truck down the highway in the wet, cold weather, he could think of little else but a steaming bowl of gumbo. “And just about everyone else in the area was thinking of the same thing! Through the crack in my window, I caught alternating whiffs of the sweet-sour odor emanating from the sugar mills and the unmistakable aroma of bubbling gumbo,” he laughed. By the next evening, the rain had ended but a cold north wind shuddered through the oak and pecan trees causing acorns and pecans to ping and pong on the tin roof of my office. All afternoon I had vacillated between the idea of making either oyster soup or Welsh rarebit for supper. I ended up making both. The next day my sister called to offer me a quart of turkey and sausage gumbo, which I promptly accepted. By the end of the week when the temperatures rose back into the 70s, I had made a pot of white bean soup and one of vegetable soup to stash in the freezer for the next cold front. Like the Boy Scouts, I am always prepared. I also cajoled a friend, the owner of a bread machine, to make me several loaves of assorted bread to keep in the freezer to go along with my soups and gumbos. Firewood for the fireplace is neatly stacked in the carport and I have several books at hand to get me through the long nights ahead. Let the cold wind blow! Welsh rarebit was one of Mama’s favorite meals to serve on bitter cold evenings. She usually served it on thick slices of toasted French bread. A salad of sliced apples, raisins, chopped celery, and toasted pecans or walnuts tossed with lemon juice and mayonnaise was the usual accompaniment. The rarebit is a popular with the British who serve theirs with sliced tomatoes. The dish becomes a “golden buck” when topped with a poached egg. Yum! Here’s Mama’s version:


  • Makes about 8 servings
  • 2 pounds grated American cheese
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 cans of white asparagus (you can substitute green asparagus if you prefer), drained
  • Salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste
  • Toasted French bread slices

Melt the cheese in a the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Add the milk slowly, whisking until the sauce is smooth and thick. Add the asparagus and season with salt, cayenne and black pepper. Spoon the mixture over the toast and serve immediately.   Here’s another version that is purportedly a British version. WELSH RABBIT OR RAREBIT

  • Makes 4 servings
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon beef bouillon powder
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon hoist sauce
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • 3⁄4 cup beer
  • 10 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 1⁄2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Scotch whiskey
  • 4 slices buttered hot toast

Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler. Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with the mustard, bouillon powder, soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, and allspice. Stir in the beer and add this to the melted butter. Stir over simmering water until hot, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the cheese, 1⁄4 cup at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cream and whiskey. Serve over the toast. This oyster soup was favored by Papa on Sunday nights. Although we usually had a large meal at noon on Sunday, he simply couldn’t do without supper.  


  • Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 quart boiling water (or if you prefer a heartier soup substitute 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 tasteCombine 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.

  My cousin Cooney showed me how to make this white bean soup and not only is it delicious, it can also be made in no time!


      Makes about 10 servings
      3 tablespoons vegetable oil
      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
      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.  


  • 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, 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.  

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