SHRIMP AND CRAB SAUTE

November 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

So you have a pound of lump crab meat on hand and you want to gag at the thought of crab cakes yet again.  Here’s a great recipe inspired by Galatoire’s that is simple and yet good enough for company.  It’s even better with a side of roasted asparagus topped with a tangy lemon and tarragon sauce or a green salad with Italian dressing or a vinaigrette.

 SHRIMP AND CRAB SAUTÉ

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Green bell pepper, chopped

1 Red bell pepper, chopped

2 Medium yellow onions, julienned

1 Lb. jumbo shrimp

1 Lb. lump crab meat

8 Oz. mushrooms, sliced

3 Cloves garlic, minced

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Pasta

Parmesan cheese

_______________________________

Heat oil and butter over medium heat until butter is melted.

Add peppers and onions and saute until vegetables are wilted.

Add shrimp and cook until shrimp turn pink. Salt and pepper to taste.  Add crab meat and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are soft.  Be sure to toss only, rather than stir, so as not to break up the lump crabmeat.

Remove from heat and add the garlic, tossing to mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Toss with the pasta of your choice.

Top with Parmesan cheese, if you wish.

SHRIMP AND SAUSAGE JAMBALAYA

August 14, 2010 § 3 Comments

I’ve talked before about authentic Cajun cooking.  Cajun cuisine is home cooking.  Trying to “gourmet-ize” Cajun cooking would be like turning meatloaf and mashed potatoes into fine dining.  It can certainly be done, but it loses a lot of its charm.   

One important aspect of Cajun cuisine is its reliance on what is on hand.  If you have fresh oysters in the fridge and a few ducks in the freezer, you’d think of cooking up an oyster and wild duck gumbo.  A pound of Louisiana crawfish will get you an étoufée, or a crawfish stew.  A couple of crabs and a stew or gumbo may be in order.  

Rummaging around in the refrigerator after work yesterday I found some nice, mild pork and beef smoked sausage, shrimp and all the makings for a delicious jambalaya.  

The ingredients are ready

Jambalaya is a rice dish and one of the few true Cajun dishes that combine a roux and tomatoes.  Where I come from, jambalaya is comfort food par excellence.  Jambalaya includes almost any seafood or meat or bird you like, in any combination, cooked in a liquid with rice.  The result is a mouth-watering amalgam of flavors and textures that will entice you to have several servings, unless you’re being polite.   

Another thing you need to know about Cajun cooking is that the ingredients, quantities and seasonings are all approximate.   My jambalaya calls for a small roux, and I know how much oil and flour will do the job to my satisfaction without measuring.  Same with the amount of onions, bell pepper and celery, salt, pepper, and shrimp and sausage.  I like my jambalaya on the tomato-y side, some do not.  According to your taste, you may like more celery and shrimp and less sausage, or more oil and less flour in your roux, or you may even prefer to make your jambalaya without a roux.  It’s all in what you like.  

One thing I recommend: use medium-grain or even short-grain rice.  Long-grain rice does not absorb the liquids or release its glutens as it cooks like medium- or short-grain rices do, and the result is entirely different.  Medium- or short-grain produces an almost risotto-type result that is juicy, creamy and much more satisfying than its drier long-grain counterpart.   

My jambalaya calls for a roux, but some people prefer it roux-less.  If you choose to cook it without a roux, simply cook down the vegetables in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil before adding the other makings.  I like roux in jambalaya because it thickens it and makes it less soupy.  For the roux, use good quality vegetable oil that can stand up to high heat; butter or olive oil will burn before you get to the final result.  Cook on medium-high to high heat, stirring constantly.  Once the roux starts to bubble even slightly, do NOT stop stirring.  Be careful not to splash while you stir.  We call roux “Cajun napalm” for a good reason, and it’s not a term of endearment; it’s a description of its ability to burn the daylights out of you if it splashes on you.  My grandmother taught me to use a wooden spatula to stir.  It moves more roux at a time and makes your job easier.  The roux for this recipe is a golden roux, more or less the color of a paper bag.  It will impart some flavor, but its main function is to thicken the dish.  Caution: If you see black specks in the roux, or it smokes and smells strong, you’ve burned it and will need to dump it out (safely) and start over.     

When you prep your vegetables, cut them coarsely so they don’t disappear in the cooking process.  

So we begin with a roux …  

Flour and oil ready to cook

... cooking ...

Golden brown, ready for the next step

Mix the vegetables into the roux until ...

... they are coated by the roux, and then let them cook down

Then add the tomatoes and seasonings and let them percolate a while

Add in the rice, shrimp, sausage, stock and ...

Cover to cook

Proper Cajun cooking attire

Tick, tock ... waiting patiently for the rice to absorb the liquid ...

Done and ready to serve

Plated and ready to be garnished

The flavors blend into a satisfyingly delicious melange that you will find comforting, particularly on a stormy night like we had in Meridian last night.   

Now try it for yourself.  My advice is to start with a recipe and over time to refine it to your own taste.  You may prefer it without the sausage, or even without the shrimp, with chicken instead, or some other combination thereof.  

Here’s a recipe to use for a starting point, but remember that everything is subject to adjustment and change to suit your taste and preferences.  Enjoy:  

SHRIMP AND SAUSAGE JAMBALAYA 
 
3 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 tbsp. flour  

1 ½ cups chopped onions  

½ cup chopped bell pepper  

1 cup chopped celery  

1 clove garlic  

Salt to taste  

black and red pepper to taste  

2 ½ cups chicken stock  

1 pound raw peeled shrimp  

½ pound mild smoked sausage, chopped into 1/4″ slices  

1 can whole tomatoes  

1 can tomato sauce  

2 cups raw, medium-grain  rice  

Make a golden brown roux with flour and oil.  Add onions, peppers, celery and garlic, and let cook until transparent, stirring often. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce and cook until oil rises to the surface. Stir in raw rice, raw shrimp, and 2 ½ cups chicken stock.  

Cook, covered, over low heat until rice is tender. Add more oil and water if mixture appears to be too dry. Garnish with onion tops. Serve hot.

CREDIT:  Lisa took all the photos here, along with a few “In your face” photos I refused to include.  Here’s the credit she insisted on, plus “Happy Thirty-Ninth Anniversary 8-14-10.”

LOOKING BACK AT WEIDMANN’S

August 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

A Weidmann’s photo gallery …

Weidmann's in 1950, and pretty much how it appeared until 2004

An original peanut butter crock. There was one on every table

The counter as it appeared in 1979

The place for lunch in downtown Meridian in 1979

Steamboat wheel chandelier in the 1870 Room

New look 2004

Today

Thanks to The  World According to Carl for these photos, except for the bottom one, which was taken by my wife.  Reminiscences of the original Weidmann’s are at Carl’s website.

WEIDMANN’S & SUCARNOCHEE REVUE

August 7, 2010 § 1 Comment

We made it to the newest version of the new Weidmann’s last night.  The food was pretty good.  The company was great.  I’ll withhold a review while they get through their shakedown period.  We’ll be back, and I am eager to try them out for lunch.  Here are  a few pics …

The old logo is back

An old icon returns

Enjoying the meal

Stuffed flounder

 After dinner, we ambled over to the Sucarnochee Revue at the Temple Theater, beginning their seventh year.  As it happened, the show was being recorded by MPB for airing later, and it was announced that the public network will televise 26 shows.  Last night’s production featured music of Elvis and Meridian’s Jimmie Rodgers.  It was the first time for Lisa and me.  The music ranged from bluegrass, to mountain folk, to jug band, to blues, to rock and roll, to country.  The quality was surprisingly good, although that should not be surprising, given Meridian’s history of talented musicianship. 

The show was a great reminder that Mississippi is indeed, the birthplace of America’s music, and that Jimmie Rodgers played a major role.

Performers included Britt Gulley and Water Mocassin, Jakeleg and the Stompers, Dr. Jim Matthews, and Track 45.  There were many others, but I never could put my hands on a program, before or after the show, and I didn’t have pen and paper to write them down.  Next time I’ll try to do better.  Here are a couple of pics …

Audience grows

Entertained by the house grand organ before the show

The show

PIGGING OUT ON REAL CAJUN

July 31, 2010 § 4 Comments

Being possessed of a genuine Cajun pedigree, I am sensitive — perhaps overly so, I admit — to the use of the term Cajun when it comes to cuisine.  In the land of my upringing, the word “Cajun” emphatically is not synonymous with “obnoxiously seasoned,” as it is most everywhere else. 

Authentic Cajun cuisine is rustic, simple, earthy and straightforward.  The ingredients are what have been traditionally available locally in Cajun country:  fresh seafood, pork and beef, crawfish, rice, okra, peas, yams and corn.  The seasonings are uncomplicated: salt, red and black pepper, and the “trinity” of onions, bell pepper and celery (in place of the mirepoix that serves as the base of so many other cuisines).  Done properly, the flavors of Cajun cuisine are to be savored and enjoyed, not suffered through and sweatily wrestled with.     

Thus, I approached Chef Donald Link’s restaurant COCHON (PIG en francais) in New Orleans last night with doubt bred from many disappointing experiences that have taught me through the years that the only good Cajun cooking is in Acadiana.   

Only this time there was no disappointment.  

Link’s success with Cajun food comes from his focus on a much-ignored aspect of the region’s cooking: Boucherie.  As in locally produced pork and beef butchered locally and turned into the most delectable morsels that one could imagine.  

In my own home town of Abbeville in southwest Louisiana there were several boucheries that prepared and sold superb boudin (noir and blanc), andouille, gratons (cracklins), sausages, tasso, pork roasts and chops, stuffed chickens, steaks and beef roasts, and every imaginable piece of pig that the law allows (and some that it doesn’t).  Hebert’s and Richard’s (that’s pronounced Ree-shard’s for the uninitiated) are the two best in Abbeville, in my opinion.  

Where Link succeeds is in evoking the fantastic flavors and textures of the boucherie in his cooking.   

The wood-fired oven

The first thing that one senses on entering COCHON is the smoky atmosphere.  The chefs cook in a wood-fired oven.  Now, one could consider that an affectation in the sense that you just won’t find a wood-fired oven in any boucherie that you visit in southwest Louisiana, but honestly, I can’t argue with the results.  

Cochon de lait ready to be carved

My dish was cochon de lait — suckling pig — served on a bed of grits, corn and okra.  The best cochon de lait is seasoned by slitting the uncooked meat and stuffing in a mixture of garlic, parsley and other savory herbs, then roasting on a spit over an open fire.  The result should be a crispy, cracklin’-like skin and tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat with delicate flavors.  And that is exactly what I got.  The skin was crisp and salty, a perfect counterpoint to the succulent, sage-y tenderness of the meat.   

Cochon plated

Lisa's ham hocks with eggplant and shrimp dish

Lisa ordered ham hocks with black-eyed peas and maque choux (sauteed corn, tomato, onions, bell pepper).  The ham hocks were dusted in corn flour, roasted and fried.  Although they were flavorful, we found them a little on the tough side.  Braising would probably have been as kind to the flavor and yet produced a more tender dish.  The maque choux was quite good.  

We shared a dish of eggplant and shrimp, a concoction commonly found on the Cajun household table, and although it was not traditional in its presentation, it was every bit as good as what one might enjoy on a home visit to Carencro or Erath. 

 All in all, we found the cooking superior and the atmosphere exceptional.  The service was attentive without being intrusive.  Our questions were answered knowledgeably and accurately.  

Chef Link comes by his Cajun cooking honestly, having been raised in southwest Louisiana and having learned from his German-Cajun grandparents to cook and enjoy the cuisine.  He is the author of Real Cajun, a cook book that introduces the best of boucherie in Cajun cuisine for American kitchens.  

Be sure you make reservations or you will be disappointed.  We arrived a little early and were seated without a problem, but the placed filled quickly around 7 pm.  COCHON is located in the warehouse district at 930 Tchoupitoulas, a few blocks west of Lee Circle.  Parking on the street did not appear to be a problem, but we found it easier to take a cab in lieu of wrangling with the traffic.   

On the way to a full house

COCHON is a restaurant we will visit again.  I am drawn to the catfish courtbouillon, fried boudin with pickled peppers, and the pork cheeks.  Lisa would like to try the smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad and the caramelized onion and grits casserole.  We know it will all be good.

HOOVER’S GIFT TO MISSISSIPI CUISINE

July 18, 2010 § 5 Comments

The Mississippi Delta is the fountainhead of so much Mississippiana.  The blues, of course, and I’m talking the birth thereof, as in Robert Johnson, W.C. Handy (sorry, Memphis) and Muddy Waters (aka McKinley Morganfield) among many, many others.  Tamales even a Zapatista would revolt for.  And, of course, Hoover Sauce.

Yes, Hoover Sauce.  As in that delicious sweet-salty nectar of the Delta gods, that marvelous concoction that, when used as a marinade, apotheosizes mere grilled chicken into a dish that will rival anything you will find on the menu at Galatoire’s or Antoine’s.

Okay, I exagerrate.  But I’m serious on at least one count:  Hoover Sauce is some superbly good stuff.  A good friend who loves great cooking sent me a quart that I have managed to put to good use, and I used the last of it tonight to marinate chicken thighs.  Once again, as always, the results were scrumptious.  Man, I have got to get me some more of this stuff.  It’s sweet and dark, salty and tangy, garlicky and soy-saucy.  The result is phenomenally tasty and flavorful.  And chicken is only a start.  I have read about folks using it on catfish, wild duck, pork, shrimp, and who knows what else … portobellos?  doves?  pineapple?  taters?  vegetables?  

The wondrous mixture comes out of the hamlet of Louise, Mississippi, in Humphreys County, which is the hometown (pop. 315) of Hoover Lee, a native of China, who invented the magical elixir and peddles it out of the Lee Hong Food Company in his town. 

There is even an official Hoover Sauce web site.

I had planned to write an ode to Hoover Sauce, but Dixie Dining already did it here:  Dixie Dining’s praise for Hoover Sauce.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

June 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

The food was super as always. Thank goodness I don’t eat lunch in Clarke County every day!
 

Leanne and Shirley enjoying their feast

Marvin, Shirley, Peggy and Leanne know a good thing when they see it

Ellen is ready for seconds

WHAT’S COOKING IN COURT

June 24, 2010 § 3 Comments

Once a month the Clarke County Chancery Clerk’s office puts on a feed that is beyond rational.  There are finger foods, chips, dips, salads, sanwiches, desserts in quantities that could feed Paraguay for a week.  The Chancellor who is there at the time gets the benefit of the largesse.

This month the feed is scheduled for June 24, and Shirley and I will be there! I volunteered to bring a Boston butt, and it’s cooking on my Orion Cooker as I write this.

It was Henry Palmer (Head Chef Emeritus of the Lauderdale County Bar) who introduced me to the Orion. Henry is not one for contraptions for the sake of contraptions, so I was impressed at how he extolled the cooker in extravagant terms. I paid the tariff to purchase my very own, and have been so satisfied that I have one at my home in Meridian and one at my place in Oxford. I would have three, but I’ve run out of additional locations.  I have been so pleased with my Orions that I have talked no less than a dozen others into buying one.  I deserve some sort of commission from the company.

My Orion-cooked baby back ribs, butts, chicken, turkey and wings have gotten raves at tailgates, family get-togethers, and cookouts.  The bthing is fast: 3 racks of ribs in 1 hr 15 mins; boston butt in 3 hrs 30 minutes; turkey, 7 mins per pound.  Since it’s a completely closed system, the meat stays moist and tender.  You light it and leave it. No fiddling with it.  I haven’t cooked salmon or brisket, but those are definitely in my Orion future.

Henry has cooked combinations of meats at the same time on the different rack levels, experimenting with the upper meats basting the lower ones with their juices, and he assures me that the results have been excellent.

The Orion is not a traditional smoker or grilling cooker.  It’s more of a convection cooker.  For sheer flavor and tenderness, you can’t top it.

To prepare the butt to cook tonight, I rubbed it generously with white vinegar and then rubbed in my favorite seasoning.  The butt sat in the refrigerator all day enjoying the vinegar and seasoning bath.  Then, around 4:45, I put the butt on the bottom rack in the Orion, dropped in some hickory chips, and put on the cover.

Looks ghastly in the photo, but it'll end up delicious

Fill the lower and upper rings with ready-light charcoal, and VOILA.  Come back in 3 and 1/2 hours and it will be done.

Tomorrow we’ll have some pics of some happy eaters.

Orion loaded with butt, coaled up and ready for ignition

Starting to cook. Leave it alone for 3 1/2 hours

Cooked and ready to pull after 3/2 hours

Pulled pork ready for Quitman

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