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…

Crab and Corn Pies with Corn Crab Sauce

Crab and Corn Pies Kickin’ It Up A Notch
I have been a fan of Cajun food from the first time I tried it. I was introduced to Cajun cuisine during the 80s when it was considered something new and exciting—though the food and flavors had been around for quite some time. Cajun cuisine soon became wildly popular, and it seemed like everyone had a blackened version of something.

I distinctly remember watching Paul Prudhomme and The Great Chefs of New Orleans repeatedly on PBS, while my mouth watered at the liberal use of butter, sausage and cayenne. It was during this time (at least in my mind. It could have been earlier.) that my mother started making dinners that had a decidedly “Nawlins” flavor to them like her Barbequed Shrimp.

I was dying to eat the foods that I saw being created on the TV screen in their native habitat, and had visions of eating my way through the lauded restaurants and cafes of New Orleans. Still do. Alas, that one remains an entry on my bucket list. It will happen.

In those days, Paul Prudhomme was “The Man”. He made a name for himself while cooking at Commander’s Palace. But it was his series of cookbooks and TV shows that introduced signature dishes like blackened redfish and turtle soup to people outside Louisiana, and started a craving for all things Cajun . As popular as Prudhomme was, the undisputed champion of Cajun cuisine has to be Emeril Legasse.

Before “kicking it up a notch” and throwing a little “Bam” into things on the Food Network, Emeril was making some really great food at Commander’s Palace, and eventually moved on to  his own restaurant, Emeril’s. His first cookbook The New New Orleans Cooking introduced cooks to a contemporary version of classic Cajun cuisine and launched an empire.

This weekend my cookbook club is having our cookbook dinner and we’ve been cooking from The New New Orleans. The food in the book is great but for me, it has been more fun to go back and see, taste, and remember the recipes that I wanted to try as a kid.

Read more…