Louisiana white shrimp appear in late summer and fall. I believe they are the world’s best shrimp. Here’s a chilled shrimp dish that qualifies, I suppose, as Creole antipasto. It’s pretty good as is, served chilled. Or you can toss it with greens or with cooked, chilled pasta as a salad.
1/2 cup Creole mustard
1/2 Tbs. salt
1/3 tsp. red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped green onion
3/4 cup chopped chives
2 Tbs. salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs. liquid crab boil
2 lbs. medium-large shrimp, peeled
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1. Mix the mustard, eggs, salt, and red pepper in a food processor. (You can also use a wire whisk in a bowl.) Add the oil a few drops at a time while continuing the blend the egg mixture. When the mixture begins to thicken, increase the oil addition to a thin stream. Blend until well mixed. Add the vinegar, green onions, chives, and parsley.
2. Bring one quart of water to a rolling boil in a saucepan, with the salt, lemon juice, and crab boil. After the water has boiled for three minutes, add the shrimp. When the water returns to a boil, turn off the heat and allow the shrimp to steep in the water for about four minutes–until they’re pink and firm. (When you first wonder whether the shrimp are cooked, that’s when they are.) Strain out the shrimp and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
3. Blend the shrimp and the artichokes into the sauce. Cover the bowl and put it into the refrigerator to marinate for at least one hours. Serve tossed with salad greens, tomatoes, or chilled pasta–or all by itself.
Serves eight appetizers.
From Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food cookbook, copyright 2006 Tom Fitzmorris
Chef Gunter Preuss was formerly the owner of Broussard’s where he created a version of the famous French soup-stew with a local flavor. This dish is very similar to bouillabaisse, but without the saffron and with more pepper and other Louisiana ingredients.
1 stick butter
4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, white parts only, well washed and chopped coarsely
6 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups white wine
3 fresh, ripe, peeled, seeded tomatoes
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
3 quarts chicken stock
3 Tbs. butter
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb. fish fillets (redfish, trout, sheepshead, drum, etc.)
2 dozen oysters
1 lb. lump crabmeat
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. In a large saucepan, heat the butter until it bubbles. Saute the carrots, onions, leeks and celery in the butter until they turn limp.
2. Stir in the tomato paste, then pour in the brandy. Carefully flame the brandy and allow the flame to extinguish itself.
3. Pour in the white wine and bring it to a boil. Reduce by about one-fourth, then add the tomatoes and garlic. Return to a boil, cook for about a minute more, and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat the 3 Tbs. butter in a skillet and, in turn, saute the shrimp, fish, and oysters. The shrimp should turn pink, the fish should turn opaque, and the edges of the oysters should curl. Take care not to overcook anything.
5. Add the shrimp, fish, oysters, crabmeat, and parsley to the soup and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. This dish can be served as is, with rice, or with pasta. The consistency should be like that of gumbo.
This dish was invented at Mr. B’s, and it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before. It replaces the rice in a good sausage-and-chicken jambalaya with pasta. This version was created by the Taste Buds–the three chefs who own Zea–for their first big restaurant concept, Semolina. (Only one Semolina survives, , in the Clearview Mall.) The Buds added two interesting wrinkles: Creole sauce and smoked gouda cheese. The latter touch gives the smoky flavor we all want in a jambalaya.
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 lb. andouille, sliced thinly
8 oz. chicken breast meat, bone and skin removed, cut into medium chunks
2 Tbs. tasso, chopped
1 small red onion, cut into strips
1 small bell pepper, cut into strips
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
4 tsp. minced garlic
1 stick butter
3 cups Creole sauce (see recipe)
2 lbs. orecchiete, shell, or spiral pasta, cooked and drained
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked gouda
2 green onions, tender green parts only, thinly sliced
1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet. Sear the chicken, andouille, and tasso in corn oil until the chicken is nearly cooked. Drain excess fat.
2. Add onion, bell pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic, and butter. Continue cooking until the the garlic is fragrant. Add Creole sauce and bring to a boil. Stir well to incorporate butter into the sauce.
3. Put the pasta into a large bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss the pasta with the sauce to incorporate. Divide the pasta jambalaya on six plates. Top with the cheeses. Garnish with sliced green onions.
Semolina’s Creole Sauce
1 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. yellow onion, finely diced
1/4 cup bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup celery, finely diced
1 Tbs. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. basil
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. green onions, chopped
1 cup whole canned tomatoes with juice, diced
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 cup stock (shrimp or chicken)
1/2 tsp. Crystal hot sauce
1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, basil, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, bay leaves, sugar and green onions. Cook until the bell pepper turns bright green and the onions begin to become transparent.
2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
This recipe came from the late Chef Jamie Shannon at Commander’s Palace., one of the most likeable people ever to work in the local restaurant business. There’s nothing like the taste of fresh corn, which matches the flavors of seafood exactly.
1 qt. heavy cream
5 ears of corn, cut (save cobs for sauce)
4 oz. butter
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
1 cup tequila
2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 lbs. catfish fillets, the smaller the better (cut them if very large)
2 Tbs. Creole seasoning
3 Tbs. Creole mustard
2 cups cornmeal
2 Tbs. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
1. Make the sauce first. Put the corn cobs with the cream into a saucepan, and reduce the cream over medium-low heat by one half.
2. In another saucepan, heat one ounce of butter and saute bell peppers, garlic, shallots, and fresh corn until translucent. Add tequila and (if you’re comfortable with this, careful, and have taken safety precautions) flame it. (Otherwise, just bring it to a light boil for two minutes.)
3. Strain cream into other ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Add parsley, green onions, salt and pepper. Whisk remaining butter into sauce. Keep the sauce warm.
4. Rub Creole mustard and seasonings on catfish fillets and marinate for an hour.
5. Season the cornmeal with the salt and pepper. Dredge the catfish in the cornmeal. Don’t worry that not as much will stick as usual
6. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet until grains of cornmeal sizzle in it. Fry the catfish, turning once, till golden brown. Allow the oil to recover heat between batches.
Place the sauce on a plate and top with the fried catfish.
New Orleanians celebrate the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the Carnival season on the same day: January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, also known as King Day for the three Magi to whom the baby Jesus was first revealed to the world. The day has its distinctive dish: king cake, inherited along with the rest of New Orleans’s French culture. King cake is as popular in New Orleans as any other local specialty. We start seeing king cakes in large numbers right after Christmas, and they’re everywhere until Mardi Gras. In recent years, bakeries have begun making king cakes much earlier–in Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even Halloween colors. I am opposed to this spread of what is more enjoyable in its season, but know that the trend is unstoppable.
Here’s something else I know: Unless you really enjoy baking and are good at making yeast breads, it’s not worth the trouble to make your own king cake. It’s the kind of thing that a commercial baker can turn out far more easily than the home baker. Not only that, but people are so accustomed to eating bakery-made king cake that they often reject as weird even a well-executed individual work.
I gave up on creating my own king cake recipe years ago. However, I have a baker friend in Washington D.C. who has a great recipe in his book GoodDamSweet. David Guas is a New Orleans guy who moved to D.C. with his wife Simone Rathle (who was for a long time the p.r. lady at the Windsor Court). So he understands the concept of king cake and what people expect of it. He has his own artisinal bakery in the D.C. area, and his book is terrific. I add more cinnamon when I bake his recipe, but otherwise it’s perfectly to my taste.
1 (1-1/4-oz.) package dry-active yeast
1/4 cup warm milk (105°F–115°F or warm to the touch)
1 cup plus 6 Tbs. bread flour plus extra for rolling
1 Tbs. honey
3/4 cup cake flour
2 large whole eggs plus one large egg yolk
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. salt
5 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 Tbs. milk
Icing and decoration
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
3 Tbs. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups granulated sugar
Green food coloring
Gold or yellow food coloring
Purple or red and blue food coloring
1. Whisk the yeast with the warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer until dissolved. Add 6 Tbs. bread flour and the honey. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until smooth with a few small lumps, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
2. When the dough is doubled, add 3/4 cup bread flour, and all the cake flour, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then switch to a dough hook. Increase the speed to medium, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
3. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add 4 Tbs. of butter, one Tbs. at a time, mixing well between additions. Continue to knead until the dough forms a slack ball that will hang loosely on the dough hook and be sticky to the touch. (It shouldn’t slap the bowl, but it should hold together). This should take 2-3 minutes. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add up to 1/4 cup of bread flour and keep kneading until it does.
4. Coat the inside of a large bowl with 1/2 Tbs. of butter. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning it over in the bowl to coat with butter. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and put it in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough has doubled in size–about 1 hour.
5. Line a rimmed baking sheet pan with parchment paper. Coat the parchment paper with the remaining butter. Generously flour your work surface with bread flour. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and sprinkle the top with flour. Using your hands, press and flatten it into a rectangle.
6. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1/4-inch-thick strip about 24 inches long by about 6 inches wide. Starting with one of the long sides, roll the dough on top of itself, making a long, thin baguette-shaped length. Pinch the edge to the body of the dough to seal. Then turn the dough so it lies horizontally on your work surface, and gently roll it to even out any bulges and create a more or less consistent 1 1/2-inch-wide rope. Bring the two ends of the dough together and pinch them together.
7. Carefully transfer the dough oval or circle to the prepared sheet pan. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Set in a warm, dry spot to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
8. Heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the top and sides of the dough, and bake the king cake until golden and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Set on a rack to cool completely.
9. Make the icing while the cake cools. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, milk, and vanilla together in a bowl until smooth and completely incorporated. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel until you are ready to glaze the cake.
10. To make the colored sugars, divide 1 cup of the sugar into three sealable quart-size plastic bags. Add 4 drops of green food coloring to one bag, 4 drops of gold or yellow to another, and 4 drops of purple to the last bag. (If you don’t have purple, mix 2 drops each of red and blue food coloring in a spoon, and mix with a toothpick.)Seal the bags and shake them to combine the sugar and food coloring.
11. When the cake is cool, spoon the icing over the cooled cake. Immediately after icing, decorate with the colored sugars in patches of one-third or one-sixth to surface area. Slice and serve immediately.
Confession: I never make fried chicken the same way twice. It’s a work in progress that’s been going on for over ten years. This recipe is an amalgamation of the ideas that resulted in the most delicious chicken–so far.
The primary challenge in frying chicken is that the various pieces cook at different rates. This is why, I suspect, the Colonel used to cut his chicken differently than the standard breast-wing-thigh-drumstick configuration. I like that idea, if you’re up to cutting your own chickens. What you do is pull the breastbone of the chicken out with the two tenders still attached. This removes about a third of the meat from each breast, making it more the size of the other pieces.
The problem is not entirely solved. Breast meat cooks faster than leg meat of the same size. Consider that as you cook. One more thing. There is no question that the flavor of the chicken gets better after you’ve fried one chicken. Or that it starts deteriorating after you’ve fried about five chickens. So refresh the oil–strain it and add fresh–along the way.
1 quart buttermilk
2 Tbs. salt
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 Tbs. tarragon
1 Tbs. dill
1 Tbs. garlic-flavored Tabasco
2 whole chickens, cut up into breast tenderloin, two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, and two wings
4 cups self-rising (yes!) flour
2 Tbs. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. thyme
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbs. granulated onion
2 cups vegetable oil
1. Combine the marinade ingredients, mixing until the salt is dissolved. Divide the chicken among gallon food storage bags. Add enough marinade to complete soak the chicken. Place the bags in the refrigerator eight hours to overnight.
2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off excess. Place the chicken pieces on a rack over a pan (the racks you use to cool cakes are perfect). Place the chicken out of the way but in the open air, and allow to warm up for about a half hour.
3. When ready to begin cooking, combine the coating ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a large, clean paper bag.
4. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pot to 375 degrees.
5. Put three or four pieces of chicken into the bag with the seasonings. Shake to coat uniformly. (The bag method will also shake off excess coating.)
6. Using tongs, put four or five pieces of chicken into the hot oil and fry, without turning, for eight to ten minutes. Turn it over and fry on the other side, again for eight to ten minutes. The color you’re looking for is a bit darker than the usual golden brown.
7. As you remove the chicken from the pot, drain it in a large sieve over a bowl. Shake it a couple of times and let it remain there for at least one minutes. If nobody grabs it immediately (the recommended way of eating fried chicken), keep it warm in a 150-degree oven until serving.
Red beans and rice is the official Monday dish in New Orleans, found on that day in restaurants of almost every kind all over town. Although most people agree on the recipe, the trend in recent years–especially in restaurants–has been to make the sauce matrix much thicker than I remember growing up with. This version is the old (and, I think, better) style, with a looser sauce.
I have, however, added two wrinkles. One came from a radio listener, who advised that beans improve greatly when you add much more celery than the standard recipe calls for. That proved to be correct. Also, the herb summer savory (sometimes just called “savory” in the spice rack) adds a nice flavor complement. If you can’t find savory, use oregano, or just leave it out.
Red beans are classically served with smoked sausage, but they’re also great with fried chicken, oysters en brochette, or grilled ham. But the ultimate is chaurice–Creole hot sausage–grilled to order and transferred, along with all the dripping fat, atop the beans.
1 lb. dried red beans
1/4 lb. bacon or fatty ham
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
12 sprigs parsley, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. savory
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1. Sort through the beans and pick out any bad or misshapen ones. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. When ready to cook, pour off the soaking water.
2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon or ham fat till crisp. Remove the bacon or ham fat and set aside for garnish (or as a snack while you cook).
3. In the hot fat, sauté the bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley and garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the beans and three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the salt, bay leaf, savory, black pepper, and Tabasco.
4. Simmer the beans, uncovered, for two hours, stirring two or three times per hour. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.
5. Mash about a half-cup of the beans (more if you like them extra creamy) and stir them in into the remainder. Add salt and more Tabasco to taste. Serve the beans over rice cooked firm. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley.
The Ultimate: Grill some patties of Creole hot sausage and deposit it, along with as much of the fat as you can permit yourself, atop the beans. Red beans seem to have a limitless tolerance for added fat.
Meatless Alternative: Leave the pork and ham out of the recipe completely, and begin by sautéing the vegetables other than the beans in 1/4 cup of olive oil. At the table, pour extra-virgin olive oil over the beans. This may sound and look a bit odd, but the taste is terrific and everything in the plate–beans, rice, and olive-oil–is a proven cholesterol-lowerer.
When I was growing up, my mother made gumbo every week, usually twice. She made chicken filé gumbo on Wednesdays, and seafood okra gumbo on Fridays. They tasted utterly different. Her special touch was that she sauteed the okra before adding it to the pot, thereby avoiding the texture problems that some people have with the innards of okra.
The great truth about gumbo is that no two chefs make it alike. Anybody who tells you that there’s only one “right” way to make gumbo is nuts. If you have an idea that you think might make your version better, you should feel free to use it. I’ve seen just about every imaginable foodstuff in gumbo.
Here’s my version. A few points. Not all recipes for seafood gumbo call for making a stock, but I always do, using either the little gumbo crabs that you can buy frozen year round, or the remnants of big boiled crabs. Or shrimp shells or crawfish shells. Or oyster water. It depends on what I have around.
Also, following the technique of restaurant chefs, I make the roux separately and add it to the broth well into the process, not at the beginning. This would have been thought of as crazy by my mother, but I think it give you more control over the amount of roux in the soup. My way or hers, this will make a gumbo with a light texture. The very thick gumbos that came into vogue in the last twenty years never seemed as good to me as this one. But cooks can argue about that until the shrimp come home.
6 gumbo crabs and/or
4 cups shrimp or crawfish shells and/or
1/2 gallon oyster water, strained
1 small onion, cut up
2 ribs celery, cut up
Stems from one bunch of parsley
1 Tbs. black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 lbs. okra
2 medium onions, chopped
1 very ripe (turning red) green bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
1 Tbs. Creole seasoning
1/4 cup finely snipped green onions
Pick any two (or pick more, using less of each)
2 lbs. peeled large shrimp and/or
1 lb. claw crabmeat and/or
2 cups crawfish tails and/or
3-4 dozen oysters
1/2 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
2/3 cup flour
1. Make the stock by bringing about a gallon of water (including oyster water, if available) to a light boil. Add all the remaining stock ingredients. Return to a bare simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Strain the stock and discard all the solids.
2. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil until it shimmers. Add the okra and cook, stirring, for about three minutes. Remove the okra and drain the pot, but leave a film of oil in it.
3. Add the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Then add the stock to the pot, and bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaves, thyme, oregano, and Creole seasoning.
4. While the gumbo simmers, make the roux. Heat the I olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the flour and whisk until it changes texture. Then shift to a wooden spoon (preferably one with a flat end)and stir until the roux reaches the color of pecans. Remove the roux pan from the heat.
5. Add a cup of hot gumbo to the roux and whisk it in. Then add about two-thirds of the roux mixture back into the gumbo and whisk it in. Add more warm roux, a little at a time, until the soup is the color and texture that seem right to you. (You might not use all the roux.)
6. Simmer the gumbo for about an hour. Taste and add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Just before serving, add the shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish tails, and/or oysters. Simmer until the seafoods are heated through–about two or three minutes. Serve with long-grain rice, garnished with the chopped green onions.
Peach cobbler has a great Southern quality in its richly fruity flavor and sweetness. The latter is where the problems can come in: most recipes are, I find, quite a bit too sweet. The peaches (or whatever fruit you use) should be ripe and naturally sweet.
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 scant Tbs. cornstarch, dissolved in 1 Tbs. water
4 Tbs. butter
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. Peel and pit the peaches, and slice each into eight wedge-shaped slices. In a baking dish, toss with the other ingredients through the cornstarch. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until the peaches are soft and have thrown off some juice.
2. While the peaches are in the oven, cut the butter into the flour, and whisk until the butter disappears into crumbs. Whisk in the sugar.
3. Add the milk and stir lightly with a kitchen fork. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl until no dry flour remains. (Add a little more milk if necessary.)
4. When the peaches come out of the oven, use one teaspoon to scoop up the dough, and another to push it into the peaches. When all the dough is in the baking dish, stir the contents until the peaches and dough pieces are evenly distributed. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over the top.
5. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the tops of the dough are browned. Remove and cool until just warm. Serve in bowls.
I love blackeye peas, which have a much more assertive taste than most beans. I really think that you have to cook them differently from the way you cook red beans. This method heads off in the direction of barbecue beans, without the sauce. It helps to boil the beans the night before, then bake them all morning long. This is actually my wife’s recipe, and we serve it at most of the casual barbecues we are called upon to do.
1 lb. dried blackeye peas
2/3 cup Steen’s cane syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 whole cloves
2 Tbs. Pickapeppa or Tabasco New Orleans steak sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. summer savory
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. Creole mustard
1/2 pound lean bacon, cut into squares
1. Sort through the beans to remove bad ones and dirt, then rinse well. Put them into a pot with enough water to cover them about four inches deep, and bring to a light boil. Boil for one hour.
2. Drain the beans well and put them into a baking dish with all the other ingredients. Mix well.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bring two cups of water to a boil. Top the beans with just enough boiling water to just barely cover them.
4. Put the baking dish into the preheated oven and bake for three hours. Check it every hour, stirring and adding a little more water if the beans seems to be getting dry.