“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…

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…

New Orleans Style Shrimp

New Orleans Style BBQ ShrimpResolution Revolution
It’s the New Year, and you know what that means. Everywhere you look is someone or something offering advice (whether you want it or not) on how to lose the pounds you put on over the holidays. Now, I am all for good health. To borrow one of my father’s favorite and oft-used phrases, “Health is good.” I do, however, sometimes have a problem with the advice givers. They can be, shall we say, overexuberant.

There always seems to be someone, in desperate need of a cheeseburger, out there touting the wonders of chia, or kale, or whatever is the hot superfood of the week. If they want to eat kale morning, noon, and night (in chip form or otherwise) I say, More power to ’em. I, however, will pass.

Perhaps my attitude toward post-holiday health is a personality thing. My mother and sister have always bemoaned the fact that I tend to be contrary just to bug them. And of course they’re right. (Though, the word contrary is a bit harsh. I prefer the words unique, non-conformist, self-confident, trail blazing, and entrepreneurial.) That said, I have decided to buck the New Year’s fitness trend and go with something definitely not on the “Drop 10 Pounds By Valentine’s Day” diet.

My friends, I give you New Orleans Style Shrimp.

My mother made BBQ shrimp for us from time to time when we were growing up. This was not your typical kid fare, but we ate it up and licked the bowl it came in…or used some bread to mop up all the buttery awesomeness. This was one of those die happy in a vat with a straw type recipes. It was very messy, but oh so worth it.

Mom has since misplaced the recipe. But the rumor is it took a pound of butter to make the shrimp. There may have been some exaggeration on her part. (Mom likes a good story.) But, there was definitely a lot of butter.

This is my best replacement recipe. This January, if you are feeling ornery, contrary, or whatever world you like, give it a try.  Read more…