“So Dad, would you like an acai bowl?”
“Acai! You know what that is, right?”
“Nope. Can’t say that I do, Lauren.”
“C’mon Dad, it’s a berry harvested from a palm tree, and it’s mixed in a bowl with yogurt and granola, and well, it’s all the rage in the Valley. I’ll bet you haven’t had kombucha either, or poke, or matcha green tea, or even eaten your first avocado toast, or…”
That’s just one of the conversations I had at the beginning of the holidays with my 23-year-old daughter Lauren who recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. She has quickly absorbed the culture enough to be called a certified California girl. In fact, she’s even changed her name to Lo Graham (it’s an actors’ union thing; there’s already another Lauren Graham). It all happened so quickly, just since September. Before long, she’ll be trading in her white rubber shrimp boots for a pair of flip flops; cypress knees for palm trees; Mamou for Malibu. Oh, stop it!
Let’s be real here: Expanding her cultural perspective I can deal with, but this bland, monochromatic mishmash of hard-to-pronounce, uber-trendy culinary nonsense is where I draw the line. She comes from Cajun bloodline, weaned on the rich taste of boudin, grew up eating rice and gravy, and peels crawfish with the best of ’em. For the past three weeks, I’ve been indulging her down-home cravings: feeding her roux-infused gumbos, bacon-wrapped poppers, and sausage-stuffed pork chops. I’ve baked, braised, basted, and blackened every darkly delicious, down-home delicacy on the bayou.
And now it’s time for her to return to La La Land. I’ve done my job as a good Southern father—a Louisiana man that understands that eating well is one of the great adventures in life. I’m sending her back to the other LA with a taste for bacon, a hankering for andouille, and just the slightest piquant scent of dark roux in her hair.
And just for added insurance, so my bayou baby holds true to her culinary roots, I’m hiding a few goodies in the bottom of her suitcase, along with an easy recipe or two to impress her Cali friends. It’s a long way from the bayou to the bright lights, but with a jar of her momma’s Rox’s Roux at the ready, her gumbo connection is just a simmer away.
And to send her off with one final taste of Cajun comfort food, I’m pulling out one of her favorites Smothered Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy. Slow-simmered in a dark gravy spiked with the earthy flavor of mushrooms is just about as comforting as food can get. I love how the meaty flavors of the pork release into the stock to form a rich sauce, and with the added roux, it slowly thickens. This stew pot is the crowning glory worthy of a steaming mound of Louisiana long-grain white rice.
Ah, the comforts of home in a black iron pot.
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced red and green bell pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 cups chopped mushrooms (button or baby portobellos)
- 4 (8-ounce) bone-in pork sirloin chops
- 1 tablespoon dark roux, such as Rox’s Roux recipe here
- 4 cups chicken stock or water, plus more if needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
- 6 cups cooked long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- In a cast-iron pot over medium-high heat, add the bacon grease. Once the oil is sizzling, add the onion, bell pepper, celery, parsley, and mushrooms. Cook the vegetables until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a platter and keep warm.
- In the same pot, add the pork chops and brown on one side, turn and brown on the other, about 10 minutes. Add the vegetables back to the pot along with the roux. Add the stock, and season with salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1 ½ hours until the pork is tender. Check every half hour to make sure there is still plenty of cooking liquid.
- Serve the pork chops over a mound of white rice with hot sauce on the side.
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