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M-M-M!! What would a page about Mardi Gras be without some recipes from Louisiana?? Gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, beignets, pralines. Just the words alone are enough to make your mouth water. So, here you go, enjoy!! But remember.......


FIRST YA MAKE A ROUX

Just as it is in classical French cuisine, roux is a mixture of flour and fat, usually butter or oil. It is the basis for many Louisiana dishes, particularly gumbo, but also etouffees, sauce piquantes, and more.

There are three basic types of roux: light (or what the Cajuns call "blond"), medium (or "peanut butter" colored), and dark. There is white roux also, which is cooked for just a minute to get the flour taste out, but this is rarely used in Louisiana cooking. For gumbos, for instance, Creole cooks tend to prefer a blond or medium roux, where Cajun cooks tend to prefer a very dark roux, which is wonderfully smoky tasting. (There are, of course, exceptions to this.)

Preparation of a roux is dependent on cooking time; the longer you cook, the darker the roux. A blond roux will only take four or five minutes; a dark roux up to 20 or 25 minutes at high heat, or up to an hour at low heat. Roux must be stirred constantly to avoid burning. Constantly means not stopping to answer the phone, let the cat in, or flip the LP record over, and if you've got to go the bathroom ... hold it in or hand off your whisk or roux paddle to someone else. If you see black specks in your roux, you've burned it; throw it out and start over.

When you're stirring your roux, be very careful not to splatter any on you. It's extremely hot, and it sticks. They don't call it Creole napalm for nothing ... I have a lovely burn scar on my forearm from last year's Christmas Eve gumbo, when I got sloppy with the stirring.

Certain dishes (like crawfish etouffee) would benefit from a butter-based roux, but if you're going to make a dark roux, this will take a long time. Butter roux must be cooked at low to low-medium heat, or the butter will scorch. Darker roux are better suited to being made with oil. If you know what you're doing, you can make an oil-based roux over medium-high to high heat, whisking like hell, and you'll have a beautiful near-milk-chocolate colored roux in about 20 minutes rather than an hour. Peanut oil works best for high-heat roux cooking.


(Excerpted from Creole/Cajun: Know Your Ingredients)


2 tablespoons oil 2 tablespoons flour

In a thick pot or heavy skillet (a true Cajun swears that only cast iron skillets work "right"), add flour to oil and use medium heat. Stir constantly until dark brown, being very careful not to burn the roux. If even a hint of over-browning (I read this as "burning"!) occurs, dump the roux and start again!!



SHRIMP GUMBO


2 pounds shrimp 1 can tomatoes
2 tablespoons oil 2 quarts water
2 tablespoons flour 1 bay leaf
3 cups okra, chopped 1 teaspoon salt
or 1 tablespoon filé 3 pods garlic
2 onions, chopped Red (cayenne) pepper
2 tablespoons oil

Peel and de-vein uncooked shrimp. Make a roux (dark) of flour and oil. Add shrimp to this for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside. Smother okra and onions in oil. Add tomatoes when okra is nearly cooked. Then add water, bay leaf, garlic, salt and pepper. Add shrimp and roux to this. Cover and cook slowly for 30 minutes. If okra is not used, add gumbo filé after turning off heat. Serve over rice. Serves 6 to 8.

For variations, chicken and sausage can be substituted for the shrimp. For seafood gumbo, add oysters and crab to the shrimp.



JAMBALAYA


1 1/2 pounds sausage 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons flour 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped 2 cups rice
1 bunch green onions, chopped 2 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper 2 teaspoons salt

Cook sausage down and remove from pan, leaving the sausage grease. Add flour and make your dark roux from this. Add onions, parsley and garlic. Cook until soft, then add water and rice, salt and pepper and the meat. When it comes to a boil, lower the heat to lowest point, cover tightly and cook for about an hour. When rice is done, uncover and let cook for a few minutes until the rice dries a little. Serves 6 to 8.



HUSHPUPPIES

1 cup cornmeal 1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder 3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt Dash of red pepper
1 teaspoon sugar Chopped green onion tops
1 cup flour 1 tablespoon grated onion

Legend has it that Jim Bowie insisted the Hushpuppy wasn't properly made without using a touch of bacon grease as flavoring -- I've tried it and I'm with Jim

Sift dry ingredients into bowl. Beat egg, Add milk and add this to the cornmeal mixture. Add onion and red pepper. Drop by spoonfuls into hot deep fat (375 degrees F) and fry until brown. Makes about 2 dozen.


(The 3 recipes above gotten from the River Road Recipes cookbook published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, Louisiana)







CRAWFISH ETOUFFEE

A Louisiana delicacy. Ecrevisse in French. Some folks call 'em "mudbugs", hillbillies (Jed Clampett, for instance) call 'em "crawdads", tourists and Yankees call 'em "crayfish". If you go to New Orleans and ask for "crayfish", you'll be asked, "Oh hey dawlin', where ya from?" They are crawfish.

Crawfish have a marvelous, delicate flavor, and the crawfish fat adds a mind-bogglingly delicious enrichment to sauces and the like. There no substitute for crawfish; if you want to make crawfish etouffee and you substitute shrimp, you've made shrimp etouffee.

BEWARE! Crawfish do not keep well, and if they smell or taste the least bit "fishy", they're off. Best bet is to have them shipped live (or the frozen tails) from a source in Louisiana.

(Excerpted from Creole/Cajun: Know Your Ingredients)


This is from the Louisiana Crawfish Cookbook by Bunny Jumonville and Joy Mounger. Etouffee means to cook smothered until a rich sauce is produced and I'm sorry but there's just none other like crawfish etouffee!

1 1/2 tablespoons flour 1 pound crawfish tails with fat
1 stick butter 1/2 cup chopped green onion
3/4 chopped celery 1/4 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup chopped white onion 3/4 cup chopped bell pepper
Salt and black and red pepper

Make a light roux with flour and butter. Add celery, onion and bell pepper. Sauté until vegetables are transparent. Add seasonings and crawfish, mix well. Cover pot and let steam for 15 minutes on low heat. Add green onion and parsley and let set about 5 minutes off heat. Reheat just before serving. Serve over rice. Serves 6.

There are really only two required dishes to serve with a Cajun meal -- a salad, usually coleslaw or a green salad and Hushpuppies. If you don't have these, you didn't do it "right"! ;-)







RED BEANS AND RICE

I usually make this recipe using dried kidney beans, but time doesn't always permit it so I sometimes use canned kidney beans. Either way, it's a simple great tasting recipe.

2 lb dry red kidney beans (or equivalent canned approx. 4 cans)
2 medium onions (chopped) 1 cup celery (finely chopped)
6 green onions (chopped) 1 lb sausage (sliced)
3 garlic cloves (minced) cajun seasoning to taste

Wash and soak beans overnight (if using dry).
Drain and put into large pot.
Cover with water and bring to boil over high heat.
Stir well and let beans settle.
Add sausage, onions, celery, garlic, and seasoning.
Bring to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for two to three hours until beans are tender.
For a thicker gravy, remove one cup of beans and mash thru strainer. Add back to pot and stir.

NOTE: I personally don't use bell peppers but they can always be added.

Makes 6 generous servings. Serve over hot rice.


(© Neil Dronet/Cajun Brew, All Rights Reserved
Recipe found at Cajun Home Brew Home Page / Recipes)



SHRIMP CREOLE

This wonderful recipe was donated by Alex Fontenot, a cook on the offshore drilling rig Glomar High Island IV. Alex is one of those old Cajun chefs who can make anything taste good. His version of Shrimp Creole is extra spicy because of his adding Burgundy wine to the meal while cooking.

-- Ingredients --

1/2 cup vegetable oil 6 green onions, chopped
1 large onion, chopped 2 medium, green bell peppers, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced 3 celery stalks, chopped
6 large tomatoes, peeled, chopped 1-1/2 cups Burgundy wine
1 (8-oz) bottle clam juice 1 large bay leaf, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon minced parsley, preferably flat-leaf
3/4 teaspoons dried leaf thyme 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lemon 3 lbs. uncooked medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
Hot cooked rice Chopped green onions
Minced parsley, preferably flat-leaf

-- Cooking Instructions --


1. In a heavy 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
2. Add 6 green onions, onion, bell peppers, garlic and celery; sautè until vegetables are thoroughly wilted, about 10 minutes.
3. Stir in tomatoes and wine.
4. Cook, stirring often, until liquid is reduced by 1/2.
5. Stir in clam juice, seasonings and lemon juice.
6. Cover; cook over medium-low heat 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Stir in shrimp. Cook just until shrimp are coral pink, about 7-8 minutes.
8. Taste for seasonings; adjust if necessary.
9. To serve, spoon rice onto each plate; top with sauce and shrimp.
10. Sprinkle green onions and parsley over top; serve hot.

Makes 4-6 servings.


(Source: New Orleans & Cajun Country - A Louisiana On-Line Magazine. Recipe found at Cajun Home Brew Home Page / Recipes)







SOUTHERN PECAN PIE

1/2 cup butter or margarine 1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup 4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 9-inch pastry shell 1 cup pecan halves

Combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Cool. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix well. Pour filling into pastry shell, and top with pecan halves. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes.


(© Jeff Marquez, All Rights Reserved. Recipe found at Cajun Home Brew Home Page / Recipes)



BEIGNETS

My favorite cajun treat is beignets (benyays). They take about 15 mins.

1/2 cup water 4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar dash salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour 2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla oil
powdered sugar

1. In pan, over medium heat, combine water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil and stir until butter melts
2. Add flour all at once. Cook over low heat until it forms into a ball
3. Remove from heat, beat in eggs, until smooth and shiny. Add vanilla
4. Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture into deep hot oil, turning until all sides are golden brown
5. Drop onto paper towel, and sprinkle with powdered sugar, let cool


(© Norman Edward Brown, All Rights Reserved. Recipe found at Cajun Home Brew Home Page / Recipes)



Here's the simplified version of making French beignets: Get a can of biscuits. Cut biscuits into fours. Drop into hot oil and let cook until golden brown. Then remove and place onto a papertowel. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. It's cheap and simple and you don't have to bother with the box stuff.


(© Bonnie Book, All Rights Reserved. Recipe found at Cajun Home Brew Home Page / Recipes)



LOUISIANA CARAMEL PRALINES

2 cups white granulated sugar 1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup evaporated milk 2 1/2 cups chopped pecans (toasted if you like)
1 cup granulated sugar 2 tablespoons butter

Place 2 cups of sugar and milk in a large saucepan. Cook slowly, stirring often. At the same time put the other cup of sugar in another saucepan on low heat; stir until melted. Pour slowly into the milk and sugar that should be ready to boil; stir while adding. Cook slowly until a firm ball will form when dropped into cold water (228 on a candy thermometer). Set off the heat. Add vanilla, pecans and butter. Beat or stir until this begins to thicken. Drop by spoonfuls as small as desired onto wax paper. Should set up immediately.



AND FOR THOSE NON-PURISTS...........


EASY PRALINES FROM THE MICROWAVE

Here's an easy way to make pralines using the Microwave.

1/2 pint of Whipping Cream
2 cups of light brown sugar (packed)
1 and 1/2 to 2 cups pecan pieces (or walnuts)
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Mix the Whipping Cream and sugar in a microwaveable bowl and cook on HIGH for 13 minutes. (no need to turn or stir). Remove and add pecans and Vanilla extract. Stir and spoon out onto wax paper (or Pam sprayed foil). Makes about 18 pieces. It's easy to make and fun to eat.

NOTE: Not all Microwaves are alike (some are stronger than others) -- the cooked ingredients should make a soft-ball.


(© Rufus Marin, All Rights Reserved. Recipe found at Cajun Home Brew Home Page / Recipes)







SEASONINGS AND COMDIMENTS

Both the rich, complex Creole cuisine of New Orleans and the homey, country-style Cajun cuisine of Acadiana (French Louisiana) rely heavily on many ingredients that are made and grown locally. Substitutions can be made for some, but if you're going for anything like the real thing, try to get authentic ingredients.

CANE SYRUP
The clear or brown syrup made from sugar cane, and often used locally instead of maple syrup or those thin, nasty, artificially-flavored "pancake syrups".

CAYENNE PEPPER
Fiery ground red pepper made from the cayenne chile. Powerful stuff, and used liberaly in Louisiana cooking, especially in combination with white pepper and freshly ground black pepper.

CRAB, SHRIMP AND CRAWFISH BOIL
Spices for boiling seafood. They come either in a flow-through packet, in dry powdered form, or as a liquid concentrate, used to flavor the water in which seafood is boiled. It's strong, pungent and spicy. Zatarain's, Rex, Yogi and Tony Chachere's are the prevalent brands. Zatarain's comes in the well-known "flow-through" packet; the others are granulated, which you can add to the water and/or sprinkle on the seafood itself after boiling.

CREOLE MUSTARD
A thick, pungent, spicy, coarse local mustard used on po-boys as well as an ingredient in many dishes. The mustard seeds are marinated before preparation. Most common brands are Zatarain's and Horse Shoe. If you can't find this where you live, substitute a coarse-grained, country-style Dijon mustard.

FILÉ POWDER
Filé powder is made from dried and ground sassafras leaf. It is used as a seasoning and primarily thickening agent in gumbo, and has a wonderfully pungent and aromatic flavor. Common local brands are Zatarain's, Rex or Yogi. There is no substitute. Remember that filè should never be added to a pot of gumbo, only to individual servings. If cooked or reheated, it will turn stringy.

TABASCO
The King of All Pepper Sauces. Available worldwide, and made in Avery Island, Louisiana by the McIlhenny family since the 1880s. Used as a table sauce and as a cooking ingredient. Other good pepper sauces that are not as distinctively flavored as and are mellower than Tabasco are Crystal and Louisiana Red Hot. Sample and pick your favorite, remembering that there are over 60 different brands of hot sauces made in Louisiana.


(Excerpted from Creole/Cajun: Know Your Ingredients)

(For a free sample of Tony Chachere spices go to Tony Chachere's ® Creole Foods: Free Samples)









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