New Orleans

Bourbon Street Sign in New OrleansBucket List 
I turned 50 a few weeks ago and to mark the occasion, y’all, my amazing husband has gifted me with the opportunity to scratch an item off my bucket list. I am heading to the Big Easy, cher!

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I have an affinity for all things Cajun and Creole. There are numerous posts about favorite dishes, cookbooks, or chefs in our archives. For decades I have dreamed about eating my way through the city of New Orleans and, starting this week, I get to do exactly that.

This is my sport of choice and I feel like I have been training for this for years.  I am currently at the top of my game. I am unstoppable. Bring on the beignets…

In honor of this momentous occasion, I present to you a list of just a few of the recipes from chefs and restaurants we have featured over the years, in case you feel inspired. I highly recommend you give them a look. There are some good ones in there.

So, until next week, mes amis, laissez les bon temps rouler!!! Read more…

“Dirty” Rice (Cajun Rice Dressing)

"Dirty" Rice (Cajun Rice Dressing)Getting’ Dirty
The arrival of February means we leave the dullness of the last days of January and move headlong into a series of events that happen within the span of two weeks. First up is Super Bowl Sunday and while it may not be as exciting this year due to restrictions and whatnot, it is still an afternoon of much-needed and appreciated entertainment. Next comes Valentine’s Day which will also see its celebrations dimmed by the current situation. But, it still gives us something to celebrate and it highlights the importance of letting the ones you love know how you feel. And lastly, bringing up the rear, is Mardi Gras…

I recognize that, outside of Louisiana, Mardi Gras may not be that big of a deal. Ash Wednesday is much more widely observed. I, however, see Mardi Gras as an excuse to make recipes from one of my favorite regional cuisines. This year, because I am still on my trying new things kick, I will be making recipes from my new award-winning cookbook, The Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin.

If you have ever wanted to taste the legit flavors of the Louisiana bayou, this book is for you. On top of that the pages are filled with fantastic stories of the people who live there and about their struggle to earn a living and maintain their way of life in the face of global warming. I have recently made a number of recipes from the book and have yet to find one that wasn’t outstanding. Be prepared to plan ahead, though. These recipes are authentic and require certain ingredients that you just won’t find on the West Coast and will have to be ordered to get the right flavors.

A couple of weeks ago, I made the Braised Duck Legs on a blustery Sunday and the results were fall-off-the-bone fantastic. As suggested by the author, I also made the Rice Dressing to go with it. Rice Dressing is more commonly known to the rest of the United States as “Dirty” Rice because of the “dirty” color that happens when you add the ground meat to it. No matter what you call it, the rice is good eatin’ and can be served along side duck, chicken, beef or turkey. It’s also good on its own with a side salad, fresh green beans, or stewed greens. The recipe makes a lot. But, the rice tastes better the next day—so it’s worth it.

If you have never tasted this Louisiana staple you have definitely been missing out. Don’t be turned off by the inclusion of chicken liver (I don’t use gizzards). It just gives the dish richness. I strongly urge you to give this rice a try.

And, laissez les bons temps rouler, Cher…

“Dirty” Rice (Cajun Rice Dressing) Recipe
Adapted from The Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou by Melissa Martin
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo for Mardi Gras

Smoked Duck and Andouille GumboFat Tuesday
I got a call from my sister over the weekend to see if I had her cookbook. I did, in fact, have it. I have been holding it for ransom for quite some time.

It is not surprising that she would be looking for this particular cookbook this time of year, because next Tuesday happens to be Mardi Gras. And this cookbook, in my opinion, happens to be one of the best New Orleans cookbooks available. Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking is filled with wonderful things.

New Orleans is one of those bucket list places for me. I have never been, and I have absolutely no desire to visit during Mardi Gras or the heat of the Summer. But I do have a desire to go and eat my way through the city. There is just so much history, not only in the streets but in the music and food. It makes my mouth water to think about it. Just not sure when I am going to get there…

In the meantime, cookbooks like this one give us a taste of the city, and whet our appetites for more. I have written about recipes from Spicer’s book, and I now bring them to your attention in advance of Mardi Gras. Her Autumn Salad with Apples, Comté, and Hazelnuts and Cornmeal-Crusted Crayfish Pies are good, But without question, the best of the best is the Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo.

And for something a little sweet to go with your Mardi Gras feast, there’s Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce from Emeril Lagasse.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo
Adapted from Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer
Yields 8 Servings
You can substitute an equal amount of roasted chicken for the duck. But if you get a chance to use duck, give it a try. It’s delicious!

Read more…

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce

Bananas Foster Bread PuddingSuper Mardi Gras

The Super Bowl is this weekend, and if you read last week’s post you already know that I am indifferent. But there is something else coming up that I find I am excited about…Mardi Gras is Tuesday.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler, Y’all!

I have never experienced a New Orleans Mardi Gras in person, and I am of split mind as to whether I would want to. It’s possible that I am just too old, and missed the opportunity when I was in my twenties. I would definitely do it for the food and cocktails, and I have no problem with people wanting to throw jewelry at me, but I do draw the line at flashing people to make it happen. Plus, that barely-controlled chaos vibe doesn’t appeal to me. (Unless it’s a stampede for beignets…that I can get behind.)

Making “theme dinners” mid-week can be challenging, so I’m combining Super Bowl with Mardi Gras to cover all bases. The hardest part is picking what to make. I love Cajun and Creole food. (Jambalaya, Gumbo, Crawfish, Muffaletta…yum!) But, I have to make something everyone will eat. If there is okra in it, my husband will have lawyers on the phone. Too spicy, and the kids won’t touch it—unless it has sausage, maybe. So I’m still brainstorming that one…

Anything sweet is eaten without complaint, so I will be making this dessert, a favorite of my sister’s. It calls for day-old French bread. I have made it with croissants as well—just that much more decadent. You could even do it with banana bread if you really like bananas (but expect it to be pretty rich). Feel free to nix the banana liqueur; you’ve gotta have the rum, though. You could even serve it buffet style for your Super Bowl crowd.

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse and the Food Network
Yields 10 to 12 servings Read more…