Meet Jack Chew: Two decades ago, he fell in love with Louisiana cooking during a whirlwind tour of the bayou country in his Airstream trailer. Today, he’s a retired police officer living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida who cooks for fun and friends. In fact, every Monday night he cooks for the “Marching and Chowder Society”–a group of retired guys who Jack says, “enjoy good food and conversation with cold beer and cheap wine.”
And now, Jack is chewing his way through the pages of Acadiana Table recipe-by-recipe. Check back weekly for new episodes and join my friend Jack Chew on his culinary adventures.
Jack Chew writes: This week’s menu began on Friday when I thumbed through the book looking for a likely Monday night meal. The Seafood Pastalaya (pg 75) literally leaped out at me. What in the world is “Pastalaya” anyhow? A brief perusal of George’s explanation quickly made me decide that this would be the next star for my Monday crowd.
Costco had oysters for $7.99/pt. and I bought those. Winn-Dixie had bay scallops for $5.99 (12 oz.), so two of the main ingredients were bought on Saturday. I had more than enough shrimp on hand in the freezer.
Monday morning I made my trinity, cut the green onion tops and stored everything in plastic bags in the fridge. The shrimp and scallops were defrosted and joined the trinity to await later use. I decided to make the recipe for six, so, scaling the ingredients accordingly, my proportions were right on with what the recipe required. I used half and half to replace the heavy cream. I weighed out 1 1/2# of rotini twists for the pasta, these curly morsels hold the sauce in the dish much more conveniently than regular strand spaghetti. In retrospect I could have gotten away with just one pound of the pasta, but I erred in the favor of having more. No local grocery had yellow grape tomatoes, so 1 pt. of red grape tomatoes were substituted.
This recipe lends itself readily to staging, since each step is a logical transition from the previous one. Prep began at 5:30 for an announced 7:30pm serving.
I cooked the pasta to one minute short of al dente, poured it back into the pot with two TB of olive oil, and left it covered on the count for 7 minutes. Cooking times for the next ingredients were slightly longer than the recipe indicates because of the increased quantities.
I used a 10″ Dutch oven for cooking the main ingredients, and, while everything was reducing, I prepared a double recipe of corn bread to which I added a can of whole kernel corn. I preheated the cast iron skillet in the oven and then added Crisco to the sides before pouring the batter. The double recipe took about 25 min to cook completely.
I mentioned earlier about the rotini twists, the 1 1/2#, when added at the end, completely filled the Dutch oven nearly to overflowing. That much just was a bit of overkill on my part. If you decide to make this, increase the other ingredients but leave the pasta the same.
We served a fresh kale salad with a Dijon-based vinaigrette, parmesan cheese and lots of real butter for the cornbread. Cold beer and red wine completed the entree. My Tabasco Gumbo Mugs were the perfect serving choice.
There were leftovers this time, but everyone had some to take home and nobody complained.
Jack Chew writes: This was a busy week and I had no time to decide on a menu for Monday night, so, on Monday morning I sat down with the book and began searching. After a few minutes, I zeroed in on the Cheesy Beef and Potato Skillet (pg. 98). It was a perfect fit for the tastes of my crowd. I had the ground beef from last week, lots of green pepper, onions and celery for the trinity, and every spice known to man in the kitchen. I would need to go to the grocery store for russet potatoes, jalapeno jack cheese, spinach, and a red bell pepper, something I knew wouldn’t take a great deal of time. Other things kept me around the house until nearly 4 PM, at which time I went to the store and got the missing supplies.
It is my usual tactic to make trinity in the morning, but since it called for RED bell pepper I put off the task until it was time to cook. In retrospect, that turned out to be a mistake, albeit a small one.
I decided to expand the recipe by 1/3, and a lucky thing I did!
Cooking started at 5PM for a 7PM serving.
I bought three large russet potatoes and sliced them on the mandolin so that I would have a consistency of thickness when cooking. I started with the potatoes since they were the longest cooking segment of the recipe. I used a recently acquired Wagner (really old, 1920 or before) 10″W x 3″D cast iron Chicken Fryer skillet. The problem was, because of the diameter of the pan, I was only able to cook about ten potato rounds at a time, and the task required constant attention to avoid burning. This meant that I couldn’t leave the stove to prepare the rest of the ingredients and I had neglected to make the trinity first. Bottom line, because of the limited size of the pan, the potatoes took about 30 minutes. I was slightly behind time but not in crisis mode like last week.
Trinity was quickly prepared and left to saute on low. Meanwhile, the spinach was stemmed and the beef seasoned. Things came together rapidly after that.
Once everything was cooked and the beer evaporated, I added the jalapenos, cheese, and potatoes to the pan and put it into the oven. I doubled the jalapenos in the recipe, and there were no complaints.
This left me just enough time to prepare Paula Deen’s Cheesy Squash and Onion Casserole as a side dish. Check this recipe out, even though it isn’t really Cajun/Creole, it fits the cuisine like a glove. I always use more cheese than is called for, adding Swiss to the squash/onion/cheddar/sour cream mixture and using Ritz BACON flavored crackers as a topping, mixed with a little extra cheddar.
TIP: If a recipe calls for cracker crumbs don’t go to the store and buy them, make your own. Take a sleeve of crackers, unopened, and wrap them tightly in a kitchen towel, hit with your fist a few times to break the crackers into smaller pieces then finish the job by squeezing into crumb size with your hands. Unwrap the result, tear the sleeve open, use whatever amount you need, and put the rest in a freezer bag and save for later use. There is no mess, no bowl to clean, and you don’t have to buy more than you actually need.
There were only four present for tonight’s gathering but when the meal was done only about a single serving for leftovers remained. Another George Graham culinary conquest. Several recipes in the book call for Savoies Rice Dressing Mix, a product which isn’t available in S. Fla. I came across Zatarains Dirty rice Mix in Winn-Dixie yesterday and I will try that as a substitute. If anyone has any information about the switch, feel free to let me know.
Jack Chew writes: This week of cooking through Acadiana Table started with an email from George suggesting that I reheat the Boudin by wrapping in a paper towel soaked in water, and then microwaved for a minute or two. This procedure worked quite well and resulted in perfectly steamed sausages.
I had cooked the first of the batch in a skillet with oil, which crisped the casing and made eating similar to a hot dog on a bun. This was good but a little messy. Steaming is not only the proper way to prepare the sausage, it changes the eating experience. I use natural hog casing for the stuffing so it is still raw before steaming or grilling. After steaming I understand what George was saying when he wrote (on pg. 252) that a Cajun squeezes the link like a tube of toothpaste right into his mouth. The practical reason for this is probably that the casing is VERY rubbery and not really chewable. Squeezed onto a saltine with a dab of Zatarain’s Creole Mustard is a whole new experience and one that I intend to repeat often.
The menu for this week was the Creole Meatballs in Red Gravy (pg. 270-271). I messed up on this one big time; the principle of “Read the Directions Stupid” rose up and bit me in the butt. I started early making the Trinity for both the meatballs and the gravy, then bagged and refrigerated them. After lunch, I went to the grocery store and bought my beef and pork. Ground Beef was on sale @ $5.49/3#, a bargain from the regular price. Grou d Pork was just over $4.00, but pork shoulder was on sale BOGO @ $4.47. By purchasing two 3/4# pkgs, I got the pork for an effective rate of $2.24# , I ended up paying $5.59 for the pork and $2.74 for the beef. I froze the remaining 1- 1/2# of beef for later use.
With the Trinity made and plenty of roux on hand, my only task before actual preparation was to grind the pork in the food processor. Since that is a five-minute task, I felt confident that starting the prep for the meal could begin at 5 PM for a 7 PM serving. I hadn’t read the directions or rather I had failed to notice that there are actually TWO recipes for this dish, definitely not the fault of the author or the printer only the cook who was over confident.
When I actually started at 5:15 I had the meat ground in a jiffy I, mixed it in the bowl and then proceeded to cook the first batch of Trinity. That’s when it hit me, it is already 5:35 and I am planning to serve at 7 PM.
- Make the meatballs ( 15 min)
2. Brown the meatballs in batches of ten (all that would fit in the pot without crowding, total meatball yield was 43 for the 3# of mixed meats and Trinity (20 min)
3. The meatballs have to cook in the oven for forty-five minutes, followed by an hour in the gravy at a simmer.
4. This leaves me the prep time for the gravy (20 min) once the meatballs are in the oven. That went smoothly and by 6:15 the gravy was happily simmering away on the back burner.
5 At 6:40 the meatballs went into the gravy (a little early for the gravy) and the hour of meatballs cooking in the hot tub began.
Guests began arriving about 6:45, the wine stock was immediately imperiled so two more bottles were put into emergency cooling in the freezer. (about 15 min works, turn once)
- At 7:20 the rice went on and things finally began to congeal.
Randy and Attie brought fresh salad makings from his garden: long beans, basil, green onion tops and kale; added were carrots, shredded Asiago cheese, and onions, all from the fridge. The salads are delicious, and so much more flavorful than the stuff that was picked days earlier. A real plus, NO added pesticides, he doesn’t use them.
As soon as the rice went on we sat down to eat the salad and drink a little more wine. At 7:45 everything came together and the meal was served 45 min late. This is a great dish, just be ready for a lot of steps because you are actually cooing two recipes for a single entree. I underestimated the cooking times (my fault) but the end result was a great meal enjoyed by all.
George, you may be a little off in your portions for this one, we served four and everyone had seconds (that’s 8 servings), I only cooked 4 cups of rice and had leftover. I bagged 8 meatballs and 3 or 4 cups of gravy for Shawn and Tracy (2 more servings) . There are still enough leftovers to make another full meal for two with seconds. By my reckoning that is about 14 servings, give or take a few. Understand, please, I’m not complaining, just wondering how much a CAJUN eats at a serving if this only makes 6 to 8 portions.
I think that the red gravy will go very nicely in other dishes; spaghetti/pasta comes to mind at once, and chicken thighs or quarters as well. I could easily see stuffed pork chops with the gravy and I am sure that other dishes will come to mind as I go along.
Jack Chew writes: This week of cooking through Acadiana Table actually began on Saturday when I decided to serve the Whole Catfish in Creole Red Gravy (pg. 84) to my Monday night bunch.
Catching, skinning, and prepping catfish just wasn’t on the agenda, While catfish are plentiful in the S. FL canals, time constraints forced a more convenient substitution for the main ingredient in the recipe. Earlier last month I had purchased a 10# case of SWAI fillets. These are farm-raised catfish and portion controlled to 8 oz. servings. I don’t think anyone should hesitate to buy this product, the meat is firm and tasty and stands up well to long cooking times.
While the recipe called for two, whole, 2# catfish, I used four 8 oz. fillets for a four-portion meal. The logic was: A. The whole fish were to be removed and boned after cooking anyhow and, B. I had the fillets on hand, to begin with. With heads removed and skinned I think that the fillet solution probably yielded nearly the same amount of cooked fish. I don’t think that the substitution had any effect on the recipe.
To be sure that there was enough volume to the dish I increased the Andouille by one link (about a half cup). I again used boxed seafood stock in the amount called for in the dish, then used the remainder to replace 2 cups of the water when making the rice.
While separating the case of Swai and vacuum packing the fillets into 16 oz. meal-sized portions I managed to cut my thumb. Note to self: next time use a DULL knife to separate frozen food.
Prep for this dish is pretty straightforward, just make your trinity, remembering that the bell pepper is half red, half green. All of the other ingredients are routinely available in the grocery stores except for the dark roux.
I make roux about two cups at a time and, as George suggests, freeze the leftovers. I use a melon baller to portion, then allow them to freeze in small plastic cups, a cookie sheet would also work. Each ball in my device yields approximately 2 TB. Once frozen, the balls are put in ZipLock bags with the air evacuated and stored until needed. Four of these balls equal a cup using my measure, your device may yield a different amount.
While this recipe calls for an entire can of Tomato Paste many others do not. I always cut out both ends of the can and push the product onto my cutting board. After using whatever amount the recipe calls for I put the leftover paste into the bottom of a sandwich bag, squeeze out the air and shape it into a roll about the diameter of a quarter and freeze it. When the next recipe calls for tomato paste it is simple to slice off the amount needed, reseal the bag and return it to the freezer.
Bay leaves are always a choking hazard and sometimes it is difficult to remove all of them from a finished dish like a stew. I simply pull off a 6″ length of kitchen twine, form a slipknot in one end and then secure the bay leaves by tightening the knot. When the dish is done it is easy to locate the string and all of the bay leaves come out at once.
This recipe called for whole peeled tomatoes, which I used. When it came time to break them up prior to serving, I used a potato masher, simpler and a lot faster than chasing those slippery little devils around the pot with a spoon.
I served a side of Collard Greens with onions and turnip added, tasty and appropriate. I also had some homemade vinegar and pepper sauce to enhance flavoring. This is an easy condiment to make: use 2 hot peppers (I used the little bird peppers) sliced open on one side lengthwise. Boil a cup of cider vinegar, drop the peppers in for about two minutes then bottle the result, including the peppers. Let the concoction stand for about a week before using the first time. Once this is made you can simply add hot vinegar to the container, the strength of flavor and heat will last for six months or more. Net cost is less than a nickel a cup.
Once again, I zested the lemon before putting the slices into the gravy, then I served the zest as a garnish, along with the green onion tops and hot sauce, for anyone wishing to add a more intense lemon flavor to the dish.
I can reliably report, once again, that we had NO leftovers from this Acadiana Table meal.
On the agenda for tomorrow: Shawn and I are going to make Boudin (pg.252). I have already cooked the pork and the liver, the rice will be fresh. I bought 45′ of hog casing at Penn Dutch, but it is also available from Bass Pro Shops and online at Amazon. If you use natural casing, remember to soak it first to remove the preservative salt and increase flexibility. I own a sausage stuffer, but the recipe says you can also make patties, so don’t be intimidated. Sausage sounds much more complicated than it really is and you ALWAYS know EXACTLY what went into the recipe, no fillers, no preservatives.
To make patties use an ice cream scoop and a cookie sheet to lay out your mixture. When all of the portions are on the sheet use a 2″ or 3″ biscuit cutter and the bottom of a 10 oz. can or a small glass to press them into shape.
The book has already seen a lot of use, probably more than normal because I made a deliberate decision to cook from it every week. To save wear and tear on the pages I have, from day one, copied each recipe on my printer and cooked from that sheet. I would rather not have the volume open on the counter and at risk from spills, spatters, and dirty fingerprints. This method also allows you to make prep notes, record changes, and keep a permanent record of the dishes you have cooked
George has made judging the success of a recipe more difficult. Previously I could tell by the amount of leftover food just how well a dish was received. To date, even though I usually make enough for at least two extra servings, there have been no leftovers. This speaks well for the recipes AND the author.
Jack Chew writes: This week of cooking through Acadiana Table began at Shawn and Tracy’s on Sunday night. Shawn prepared the Grilled Baby Eggplant with Parsley-Pecan Pesto. (Pg. 134), and the Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs (Pg. 230)
Changes to the recipe:
Bone-in/skin on chicken thighs were used because he had them on hand. One thing in the recipe was a bit confusing, the second lemon, quartered, appears in the ingredients but no mention is made in the preparation instructions. It was my take that it was intended to be served as a garnish and squeezed over the thighs at the table. I wasn’t there when he made the recipe, so absent the instruction, he simply cooked the quartered lemon along with the chicken thighs. I doubt that it made any significant difference to the final product.
This is the mildest recipe from the book to date, none of the flavors reached the intensity level of other dishes such as the Garfish Courtbouillon. That being said, the level of flavoring was subtle, like your wife giving you a peck on the cheek in passing and a lewd wink promising later pleasure. Altogether satisfying.
Jack Chew writes: Monday was scheduled to be the Shrimp Etouffee Over Softshell Crabs. DISASTER STRUCK! The three softshell crabs (Whales, the largest size) that I was sure were safely ensconced in my reach-in freezer were nowhere to be found, and those in the grocery stores here are almost always of the “heat and serve” variety, not useable for this dish. The Memory and Freezer Gods had once again conspired to thwart my plans, especially the memory guy.
Welcome to the world of “Cajun/Tidewater Fusion Cooking”. I am absolutely certain that this is not the first time someone has materially altered one of the recipes but necessity and time constraints made it imperative to insert a major substitution for one of the principal ingredients. MARYLAND CRAB CAKES! This traditional dish from my youth made the perfect substitute for the missing softshell crabs.
The Etouffee was prepared according to the recipe instructions, scaling up to six servings. The cook times for everything were spot-on. Once again, if you scale up, be certain that you have a large enough pan; the Trinity for six servings is four and a half cups and doesn’t cook down a whole lot.
I substituted peeled and deveined “Fisherman’s Wharf” shrimp in “Jumbo Gumbo” size (71-90), tail off, from Winn Dixie. These were on sale ($5.99) for 12 oz, and I used three packages in the recipe, they are also a frequent BOGO and I stock up when I can. I think that the smaller size shrimp might actually enhance the flavor of the recipe. I also poured the meltwater directly from the pack into the Etouffee when I added the seafood stock.
The seafood stock available in the grocery store is a poor substitute for one you have made yourself, but I was all out of shrimp shells and tails, which I save and freeze religiously, and, to date I have been unable to locate any of the dried shrimp mentioned in Acadiana Table. I have found dried shrimp on the Internet but they seem to be of the fish food variety and I am hesitant to use them in something I’m going to eat myself or feed to my family and friends
The recipe calls for lemon juice and it has been my habit to zest the fruit prior to squeezing. The zest can be used later, to enhance/intensify the dish you are cooking, or frozen and saved for another day. In this case I added a pinch of the zest on top of every cooked crab cake just before ladling on the Etouffee. It worked.
Since the recipe calls for only 2 1/2 C of stock I used the remainder of the quart in the preparation of my rice, adding water to complete the necessary volume. I always cook rice with stock, it intensifies the flavor and I frequently add butter for the same reason.
This is the most expensive recipe I have prepared to date, about $45 for everything, which breaks down to $7.50 per serving not including the wine. That being said, if you can duplicate such a meal for under $30.00 per serving at any quality restaurant anywhere in the country, please send me the address.
The side for this meal was Green Beans with Ham Hock, a traditional southern dish which goes well with anything. Two #s of beans, trimmed and cut, one large onion diced, one smoked ham hock, some garlic, pepper but no salt, and a half gallon of water. Bring it to a boil then put it on the back burner to simmer for four hours. The liquid will reduce to about 1/4 of the original volume. When done, remove the ham hock, trim and dice the meat from it, and add back to the pot. Cook another ten minutes, then serve.
A few words on preparation:
Trinity is always a combination of green pepper, celery and onion in equal portions, A few recipes vary this ratio but it seems to be pretty common. When preparing a recipe you seldom wind up with an exact amount, either you have too much or too little. My solution is always to make more than I need and vacuum pack the excess. I have a Food Saver, but if you don’t have this appliance it is simple to put the excess Trinity into a ZipLock sandwich bag, close it most of the way, and submerge the sealed part in water. The air will be forced out and you can then complete the sealing. Preserved this way I have used Trinity as long as five or six days after original preparation with no detectable change of flavor. I have never tried to freeze Trinity this way but I am a little dubious because the freezing could break down the fiber in the veggies and result in a mushy finished product.
George is dragging me, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. Every recipe in Acadiana Table has the gram equivalent printed next to the traditional cup, tablespoon, etc. Since I almost always scale up my recipes using a gram scale to measure beats the bejeebers out of measuring the old style. Try it; you’ll like it. I still don’t use gram equivalent for every measurement, I have been mixing by eye for so long that I can get nearly every Tbs. or tsp. correct just by estimating in the palm of my hand.
The crab meat was backfin lump from Winn-Dixie ($19.99) The lumps in this product are smaller than those in Phillips Seafood (usually about $22.00), but nobody had any of that brand this week, so I used what was available.
When making crab cakes, or any product requiring a mixture that will be made into patties or balls, I find that it is convenient to use an ice cream scoop (or a melon baller for smaller sizes) to arrive at even portions. In the case of yesterday’s crab cake, the pound of meat, when mixed with the other ingredients, worked out to be ten generous portions (about 4 oz. ea.). Each scoop was rounded off to the size of a racquetball, ejected onto a cookie sheet, flattened by hand and refrigerated for an hour or so before cooking.
Jack Chew writes: This week of cooking through Acadiana Table: Monday night’s Maque Choux With Shrimp and Tuesday’s Garfish Courtbouillon wiped out the last of my Tones Cajun Seasoning (12 oz.) which had to be at least five years old anyhow.
I decided to make my own following the recipe on pg.13. This is straightforward, takes less than five minutes to make, and is a SUPER cheap addition to the larder. The quantity is much less than you can purchase in the stores, which means that you will never again be using an ingredient that has been on the shelf for an indeterminate length of time. The Tone’s was probably at least five years old and, while still potent, had in all likelihood undergone a change of flavor.
I made one recipe of this and will never buy from the store again. The flavor is superb and I am secure in the knowledge that there is NOTHING in there but spices with no preservatives.
I found that the Celery Salt on hand (needed to compete the recipe above) had caked up solid. I tossed it and made my own, it is simple:
2 TB Salt (I used kosher) and 2 TB celery seeds. I ran the mixture through a coffee grinder and would up with a little more than 1/4 cup of FRESH Celery Salt. Again DIRT CHEAP, no additives, and you can make a new batch any time you run out, no need to go to the store.
Jack Chew writes: This week was Corn Maque Choux With Shrimp. I used 2 1/2# of 51/60 peeled and deveined frozen shrimp for this one and doubled the recipe. I also added 1 cup of the Tasso, diced fine, for additional flavor. I may have overdone the cayenne in this one or maybe the Tasso added more heat than I anticipated; in any case, if you are doubling the recipe I suggest that you keep the cayenne and the Cajun Seasoning to original quantities then add the heat to taste. I wasn’t bothered by the heat but had two comments suggesting that it could have been milder.
Jack Chew writes: This week of cooking through Acadiana Table was really busy: On Wed. I bought 6# of boneless pork shoulder boneless ribs (marked down for quick sale) and made Tasso, finishing the process including smoking by Sat.
On Fri. I bought a little over 8# of chicken backs, necks, and feet and made the chicken stock. I have made stock before using rotisserie chicken skin and bones, but the recipe in the book is clearly superior and yields an impressive result. Be sure to roast everything first, it adds a depth of flavor you won’t believe. On Sunday, Shawn made the Cajun Jambalaya from the blog and it was superb. Leftovers were even better on Tuesday. Monday night get together was moved to Wednesday. Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo– following the recipe but substituting Aidels’ Andouille Sausage because I needed to use that last pound in the fridge. Excellent results, tasty with rave reviews.
Jack Chew writes: This week I had six again for Monday night dinner. On the menu for last night was Sausage and Chicken Gumbo, and again Georges’ recipe was a hit with everyone There were enough leftovers for another meal for two.
I didn’t change anything, but I didn’t make the potato salad or the hard-boiled eggs. I have to use Aidells Andouille Sausage from Costco because there just doesn’t seem to be a source in Ft. Lauderdale for the real stuff. I had to use boxed chicken stock since I haven’t made any recently, but I just found a local source for chicken feet, necks and backs so I intend to make your version later this week. For those in Ft. Lauderdale area, it is Bass Bros. Supermarket at NW 9 Ave and NW 6 St., Ft. Lauderdale. The store is right in the heart of the ghetto but the area is safe. I am looking forward to making George’s stock.
I buy whole chickens at Costco, $.99 lb for two three pounders, total about $6.00. Butcher them at home and save a lot of money Cut out the backs and remove the wing tips with poultry shears; reserve those with the neck for later use in making stock. The livers will go great in Dirty Rice. I save the gizzards and hearts for poultry gravy.
Following the first hour of cooking, I removed and boned the chicken carcasses, reserving the bones and skin in the freezer for later stock making.
I first was introduced to “THE TRUE CAJUN CUISINE” when we visited Louisiana in 1988 for an Airstream Rally at Mardi Gras. Eight rigs decided to explore “Cajun Country” after the rally and we eventually arrived in the Houma area, camping on Bayou Blue. It was a cold, windy rainy week but we really had a lot of fun. In our wanderings through the area we ranged all of the way from Lafayette and Avery Island to a small restaurant on Bayou Petit Caillou owned and operated by an amazing woman, Wylma Duplantis Dusenberry.
At the time, Wylma was only open two or three days a week and Sunday afternoon for a big dinner. The floor plan was open with a waist high partition separating the cooking and dining areas. It was a amall kitchen with one cook, she only prepared enough food for about 40 meals and the menu was whatever she was serving that day. I have never had such great food in my life, and that is what hooked me on the cuisine. An added treat was the music on the Sunday we visited, the family is VERY talented. We ate there three times in a single week.
Wylma produced La Trouvaille Cookbook, The Simple Joy of Cajun Cooking and it has been my bible for the past 28 years. Now Acadiana Table will take its’ place beside Wylma’s book in a well-deserved position of honor. I don’t cook Cajun every day, but I consider these two volumes to be the ultimate authorities on the subject, and they will both be used frequently.
I’m certain that you are going to receive many compliments on Acadiana Table and I’m sure that a few nuts like me will start cooking through every recipe. Maybe you should have a separate page on the blog for Acadiana Table posts. I know I would like to see what experiences others are having and maybe pick up a few pointers along the way.
Jack Chew writes: Another week of cooking through Acadiana Table. Last week I cooked the Double Stuffed Pork Chops Stuffed With Apple Sausage (pg 264). I made a couple of insignificant changes that shouldn’t affect the recipe at all:
- I used pork loin chops because they were on sale at Costco, cheaper by $2 per #. They were nearly 2″ thick and were perfect for pocketing. I had 12 in the pkg. so reserved and froze six.
- I cooked for six, thus increased everything by 1/3, you will need a BIG pan to make the stuffing. The recipe easily converts for larger quantities.
- For the third pound of pork, I substituted a pound of Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage to add a little more heat.
- When the stuffing was about half cooked, I reserved a cup of liquid. I then added more cider, two TB of fat and two TB of flour to make a gravy in a separate pan. You should have about 2 1/2 C when you are done. We just like gravy, especially with pork.
- I served the pork chops with a side of Yellow Crookneck Squash Casserole baked with onions, cheese and a bacon flavored Ritz Cracker crust. I used a Paula Deen recipe for this, and it went well with the meal.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Only 4 showed for dinner, so I had to refrigerate the leftovers. The additional melding of flavors over two days was an amazing gustatory adventure. This was so good the third day that the next time I prepare it I will deliberately make too much.
Last Sunday, my son-in-law prepared the Sweet Heat Carrots (pg.137) as a side for his Sunday night barbecue. They were a hit. He included some parsnips in the recipe because they were on hand, and he didn’t want to waste them. I knew I had a good reason for buying two copies of Acadiana Table, now I’m not the only one in the family hooked on the cuisine.
Jack Chew writes: I made the Sausage and Onions today – a complete hit! I host a dinner on Mondays for some friends and there were ZERO leftovers–a usual occurrence when I make one of your recipes.
Alligator Sausage and Creole Red Onions aren’t available in S. FL, but you can assure your readers that the recipe works well with Roger Dean Hot Sausage from Winn Dixie and regular red onions with any dark beer in the store. The addition of horseradish to the potatoes is a stroke of genius, an unexpected flavor that really tweaks the palate.
Keep these coming: I’m a dedicated fan and a true believer!
Jack Chew writes: Tuesday night, I made the Garfish Courtbouillon. Naturally, Garfish just isn’t available at any market locally, so I used catfish fillets, sold here as “Swai”. This is CHEAP stuff, around $2.29 per#, but it is firm meaty white fish that stands up to longer cooking times. I doubled the recipe, used 3# of fish, and all that was left was about a pint of the liquid. I had to use Swanson’s Seafood Stock because I haven’t found the shrimp you mention in the recipe (the nearest Asian market is a few miles away). Five of us finished the double recipe, and the only thing left was about a pint of the liquid which I ate for lunch today with Oyster Crackers.
I’ll keep you posted each week. Next week is the Softshell Crabs with Shrimp Etouffee. I’m originally from MD and always keep a few softshells in the freezer.
Jack Chew writes: NO FAIR GEORGE! I have just started cooking my way through the Acadiana Table cookbook (it arrived Tuesday) and already you have thrown out another must-do recipe on the blog! Can’t wait for the next family cookout for serving your Smoked Sausage Po-boys.
I made the Chicken Leg Fricassee for Wednesday dinner, but used bone-in skin-on thighs because that is what I had, and I didn’t want to go to the grocery store to brave the crowds panic-buying supplies ahead of Matthew. Thighs didn’t make any difference as far as I could tell–delicious and easy to prepare. Another winner courtesy of George Graham.
I must say that I have never had great success in making roux, (I probably burn about one in four batches) but I recently found a microwave method that works perfectly and takes about 10 minutes or less to prepare. I have been making chicken stock for years, but never got the results you described. I will get on with your Dark Chicken Stock next week and let you know the results.
Jack Chew writes: I have been a subscriber to the Acadiana Table blog for some time now and frequently make your recipes. Last night I served the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf to family and friends and WHAT A HIT!
I made it with all the ingredients as specified but skipped the rice dressing since it wasn’t available at my local Winn Dixie store. The bacon weave was easy, and I never consulted the tutorial. The Red Pepper Jelly glaze was superb and really made the dish. The next time I make this recipe I will probably increase the Cajun Seasoning. I knew it was in there, but the flavor was covered by the savory goodness of the glaze and the crisp flavor of the bacon.
Instead of the dressing, I substituted quartered red skin potatoes rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted around and under the meat. Everything came out done at the same time and the addition of the flavors from the drippings added to the potatoes.
I also served Haricots Verts to which I added Sun Dried Tomatoes in olive oil, which I glazed at serving with Balsamic Drizzle.
If you have the flexible cutting sheets that are for sale in most of the big retailers you can build the weave on one of those (they are about the right size). That makes the transfer to the top of the meatloaf super easy and the weave doesn’t try to come undone when you lift it. Beats using a spatula anyhow.
AND CHECK BACK WEEKLY FOR MORE EPISODES TO COME
About Jack: I came to Ft. Lauderdale in 1957 from Baltimore and took a job as a lifeguard, transferring to the Police Department in 1963. I served 25 years on the Ft. Lauderdale PD, retiring with the rank of Captain in 1987.
Once retired, my late wife and I traveled the U.S. and Canada in an Airstream for the next fifteen years, visiting almost every state but Arkansas and Oklahoma. During these meanderings, I got hooked on Cajun/Creole Cuisine, primarily from a 1988 visit to La Trouvaille in the Houma area and our encounter with Wylma Dusenberry. La Trouvaille was a unique experience, we ate there three times in the space of one week following the 1988 Mardi Gras. Out of curiosity, I looked up La Trouville and discovered that it closed in 2002, a sad loss for those wishing to taste genuine Cajun cooking. The signed and dated first edition cookbook from Wylma holds a place of honor in my collection.
Over the fifteen years we traveled the country, Marylou and I accumulated a collection of about 1000 regional cookbooks, mostly of the Junior League and Church Supper variety. I use about a dozen or so on a regular basis but am looking for a charity or cooking school where they can be donated. If you have one in mind give me an address. I promised my wife that they would never be left out for the trash man or sold for fifty cents at a garage sale.
While Airstreaming, my wife Marylou and I hosted two National Rallies, (4 Orange Bowl, and 5 Follow Me to Paradise [Keys]). Each rally lasted from five to seven days and had from 50 to 80 participating rigs (100 to 160 people). I planned and cooked most of the meals, mostly dinners, with assistance, of course, from other club members.
I found the Acadiana Table blog a couple of years ago and started cooking from it almost from the first day. The recipes are straightforward, easy to scale, and almost universally acceptable to the crowd I cook for. I haven’t received any complaints on any of the dishes. Since I enjoy cooking, smoking, and barbecuing, Acadiana Table fits right into my primarily Southern style of cooking. My primary cooking these days is for family–one son, two grandkids, one daughter and their spouses.
I also host a Monday night “Marching and Chowder Society” consisting of a loose group of retired guys who enjoy good food and conversation, with cold beer and cheap wine. Group size varies from three to six, but they enjoy the product.I have freely included side dishes with the Acadiana Table meals that don’t necessarily come from the book. Collard greens with turnips, onions and Tasso, yellow squash casserole, red potato salad, Hasselback potatoes, just to mention a few
I once heard a comment “A Cajun will eat anything that doesn’t eat him first.” Garfish would probably fall into that category if you were from any other region of the country, but in Cajun Country it tops the menu.