“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…

Brie and Fig Fondue

Brie and Fig FondueTake a Dip
The 70s were a funky time, man. We had bell bottoms and disco. There was a lot of plaid and polyester–tragically sometimes at the same time. (Yikes!) We had 8-track tapes of Abba and the Bee Gees. And let’s not dare forget the abundance of macramé. Be honest, you all had a macramé owl on your wall at some point. As a child of the 70s, I survived all of these. One thing I didn’t experience? Fondue…

It seems strange, really. As a food family, you would think, given its popularity, that fondue would have been a regular occurrence. You would, however, be very wrong. And, apparently this is something that has been missing in my life. That would be the only logical explanation I could come up with that would explain why I quite randomly used a gift card I received for the holidays to purchase two, yes, two, fondue pots, very much out of the blue.

To be fair, I did not order two of the same fondue pots. Why make this wackier than it needs to be? I instead ordered an electric one and the more traditional fondue pot that you keep hot with tea light candles. Why the two versions you ask? Because, and I had no clue this was the case, fondue is not just a pot of melted cheese. One can also Fondue with hot oil or broth. (Mind blown.) For the oil or broth version it is best to have an electric fondue pot so it is easier to control the temperature. Makes perfect sense.

The arrival of said fondue pots—and, of course, the requisite library of fondue cookbooks—was way more exciting than it should have been. (This is what happens when you’ve been locked up with your family for entirely too long and have reached the end of Netflix.) We had to try it out immediately. We opted for a hot broth fondue as well as a cheese fondue. I went with broth because we’re all a little twitchy right now. And, I found the idea of hot oil to be potentially problematic. You will be happy to note that no people were harmed in the making of this fondue. In fact, I was pleased to note that doing fondue this way is essentially like having Asian Hot Pot. (I know, but this was a revelation for me.) The recipe I chose was good but I would like to find another one that has a bit more oompf. When I do, I will make sure to pass it along.

For the cheese, I went with a brie fondue that was so, so good. The original recipe called for fig preserves to be mixed into the melted brie. I thought this would make it too sweet. So, I left it out and served the preserves on the side as a dipping sauce. I think it was better that way, but feel free to try both versions. The cheese “dippers” were a traditional variety of cut bread, veggies and fruits. But, we all agreed the absolute best combo was dipping a crunchy red grape into the cheese. Divine!

Since stormaggedon is upon us and it looks like rain is in the forecast for the next week, now would be a great time to enjoy some hot, melty cheese when the temperatures are chilly outside. Can you dig it?

Brie and Fig Fondue Recipe
Yields 2 to 4 servings
Recipe adapted from The Essential Fondue Cookbook Read more…

Korean Seafood-Scallion Pancake (Haemul-pajeon)

Korean Seafood-Scallion Pancake (Haemul-pajeon) Fry It Up In A Pan
So, I have been continuing my Korean cuisine adventure. It’s been fun and certainly informative. The food has been great. But, I think I now know the reason it’s better to go out and get Korean food. Of course, home made is better, but if yours is not a daily Korean kitchen you will find that having the correct ingredients and the variety of ingredients can be overwhelming. My pantry is not set up to handle this. For example, I wanted to make my favorite tofu stew and it called for kimchi. The kimchi recipe made eight pounds! I like kimchi but with pounds is a bit much. And, my sister will only take so much off my hands. In a nutshell, this quest has made me tired.

As much as I wanted to make truly authentic Korean food (and I am still working on it) my interest has wandered to the dishes that are a little easier to make—and that don’t require a multitude of ingredients that I may only use once.

My main focus has been the pancakes. I love the pancakes. For me, no Korean dinner is complete without at least one pancake and one is usually not enough.

I love these anytime. They’re great for lunch and even better in the middle of your table as a side along with your Galbi or Bulgogi. My favorite are the seafood pancakes but I won’t say no to a kimchi pancake or even just a plain scallion pancake. I’ve also just discovered zucchini pancakes that are served with a pine nut sauce. YUM! I am the only person in my house that would even think about eating zucchini. So, those will be reserved for the nights when it’s just me…whenever that may be.

Korean Seafood-Scallion Pancake (Haemul-pajeon)
Adapted from Maangchi’s Real Korean Cookin
Yields 2 or 3 servings

This pancake recipe calls for shrimp and squid which is pretty mild in flavor. If you prefer, you can ditch the squid and use shucked oysters instead for a stronger flavor. Read more…

Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing

Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage StuffingThat’s The Stuff-ing
The past 48 hours have been immensely frustrating. A few weeks ago, in anticipation of having to talk about all things Thanksgiving, I was searching for different recipes for stuffing. And, I found one that I though looked so interesting. But now, for the life of me…I can’t find it anywhere.

I don’t know what it’s like in your household, but in mine, the stuffing is ridiculously important. If there were no stuffing on the Thanksgiving table it would be a major issue—no matter who is in charge of making the meal. As a general rule, my family likes to cook most of the stuffing in the bird. But, we also do some extra in a casserole so there is enough to go around. There is plenty of debate on which is best. Personally I am conflicted. I like the flavor of the stuffing cooked inside the turkey. But, I also like the crispy stuff that is cooked in the casserole. I‘m good either way. Stuffing that bird is a problem though…if you choose to spatchcock your turkey.

Since we are not doing Thanksgiving the normal way this year, I am cooking Thanksgiving for my immediate family. And, since my oven isn’t super huge I am forced to spatchcock my turkey if I want to have a bird big enough to allow for leftovers. And, there must be leftovers.

So, I was looking for stuffing recipes that aren’t cooked in the bird and I found one made with sausage, herbs, the usual breadcrumbs, and possibly mushrooms. It had been moistened, chopped fine (or possibly put in a food processor) molded into a log, cooked, and then sliced. It looked so cool and elegant—and definitely different. But, that is the recipe I can no longer find. Arrrrrrgggggh!!!

If this sounds at all like something anyone of you have heard of please let me know and pass along the recipe if you can. It’s going to drive me batty until I can find it again!

My frantic search has been good in one respect. I have found some really interesting possibilities for this year’s stuffing for those who are inclined to change things up. There are stuffings using rye bread and others with figs and kale. There’s traditional apple and sausage stuffing as well as some with chorizo. Below is a recipe for Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing and it is the most appealing to me for this year. It’s a bit of a departure from our usual. But, then again everything about this year is new territory…

Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing
Adapted from Anthony Bourdain in Food and Wine Magazine
Yields 8 to 10 servings

This recipe can be made the day of and timed to come out of the oven when the turkey is ready (or kept warm). Another option is to partially prepare the stuffing the day before and place in the fridge overnight—to be easily completed and popped into the oven about 50 minutes before serving. Read more…