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 turned out to be a week where one night’s leftovers found their way back to the table mid-week for another meal. I mentioned that there was quite a bit of leftover Jambalaya after Monday night’s feed, enough to form the basis for a second four-serving meal. Since I had cooked the shrimp on Monday separately from the rest of the recipe, I had two (2 lb.) butter tubs of leftover jambalaya with Andouille but no seafood.
Lurking in the back of my freezer was a little more than a pound of sea scallops, some of which I had used previously in the Pastalaya recipe; these were earmarked for tonight’s meal. While the scallops were thawing in ice water, I retrieved the Jambalaya from the fridge and put it into the top of a steamer pot. A couple of cups of water and a dollop of apple cider vinegar went into the bottom. Everything was covered and put on the stove to await heating; allow about 5 min. or so for heating, once the water has started to boil.
When the scallops were thawed I dried them thoroughly, top and bottom on paper towels, and allowed them to warm to nearly room temperature prior to cooking (about 15 min.). The scallops were seared on both sides in a hot pan with butter and a tbs. of coconut oil. It is important to remember with scallops that they must be VERY dry when attempting to sear them, otherwise, they will just steam in the pan and will never brown properly.
The Jambalaya had three days to mature and meld flavors in the fridge, and when served with the scallops, produced a wonderful flavor that was even better than the first serving.
Tasty stuff, George, and the beauty of this meal is that, by using leftovers, everything came together in very short order, probably about 20 minutes or so total, after thawing.
Jack Chew writes: I posted last week about the Royal Red Shrimp purchased from Penn Dutch food store. They were such a bargain that I went back on the last day of the sale and bought another 8 lbs, frozen, which I broke down into 1 lb. lots and vacuum sealed. These are great shrimp, with an almost lobster-like flavor and the shells cook down into an awesome seafood stock.
Sunday afternoon found me once again thumbing through Acadiana Table for a Monday night recipe. Since I had plenty of shrimp on hand, and the price was right ($7.99 lb), I could afford to be generous. I settled on the Creole Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya (pg.76).
A key ingredient of this recipe is the seafood stock, and, since I had plenty of shells in the freezer, I made up a 3 qt. batch. For my stock, I used about a pound of shrimp shells and tails, 1 onion, 3 carrots, 3 stalks of celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary, a little tomato paste ( 3 tbsp), salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a cup of white wine. No need to peel anything: just cut the onion, chop the celery and carrots, split the garlic and cook away. Minimum cook time for this concoction is about 2 hrs, but I left mine to slowly simmer on the stove overnight, adding water to fill the pot and covering just before bedtime. This will yield three qts. of finished stock from a large stockpot. For additional flavor, you can pre-roast your ingredients in a 350 deg. oven for about 15 min before adding everything to the stockpot. If you decide on overnight cooking, be sure to top off the pot with fresh water.
When going over the recipe I realized that I didn’t have any tasso left, so I substituted slices and pieces of spiral ham, available from Winn-Dixie and Walmart as a stand-alone product. I always keep one of these packages on hand; they will last about 3 months unopened, but should be used or frozen after that.
Everything else was on hand (except for the yellow cherry tomatoes; none in the store, so I substituted red) and the recipe proceeded as instructed until it was time to add the bacon, shrimp, tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. I put everything in EXCEPT the shrimp for two reasons, first, these are very delicate deep-water shrimp that don’t stand up well to long cooking times, second there was such a volume of shrimp they would have filled the pot to overflowing and I wouldn’t have been able to get the top on. Overcooked shrimp are tough and rubbery and I departed from the recipe in order to eliminate any possibility of ruining the dish. I also think that the use of the stock added sufficient shrimp flavor to the dish, eliminating the possibility of overcooking.
I allowed everything to cook for the first hour, checked the rice for tenderness, shut off the oven and then let the pot rest there for the next 10 minutes. At that point I added my shrimp to the now cooked-down Jambalaya and allowed them to “continuation cook” for another 5 min. on top of the finished rice and sausage. I brought them to the table still covered in the pot, and we dished them out as a topping for the Jambalaya.
The result was a success with my guests, although there were leftovers (six shrimp and about three large butter tubs of rice mixture survived the onslaught), everyone had already eaten their fill. As suggested, this was served with cold beer, crusty bread, and a fresh kale salad. Homemade Dijon Vinaigrette dressing for the salad complements the lusty flavor of the Jambalaya and provides another layer of flavor to the meal.
Thanks again, George. Your recipes can always make an ordinary cook look good in front of his friends.
PS: Penn Dutch food store has the Royal Red Shrimp again this week and I’ll buy another five pounds today. These are U16’s and one whopper of a deal @ $7.99 lb. Tonight’s dinner will be a grilled Teriyaki Steak with mushroom gravy and Royal Red Shrimp with roasted mini potatoes, steamed broccoli, and Caesar Salad.
Jack Chew writes: This week started with a reversal of concept, instead of finding a recipe to prepare, I had to scan Acadiana Table for recipes based on an ingredient already on hand. On Wednesday, Penn Dutch food store featured Royal Red Shrimp (U 16, wild caught) for $7.99 lb. I rushed out and bought 6 bags (2lbs. ea.). Now I had to find the proper dish to honor these tasty beauties.
The recipe for Potato Chip- Fried Shrimp Boats (pg. 186) fit the bill perfectly. It calls for COLOSSAL shrimp, string-fried potatoes and cole slaw, all served in toasted bread boats. I could hear Hank Williams and Shrimp Boats Are A- Comin’ echoing down the halls of my memory from my teenage years.
Shopping was a breeze: 4 baking potatoes, 4 large Hoagie Rolls (French Bread rolls not found), a bag of coleslaw mix, a jar of Marie Callender’s Coleslaw Dressing, a bottle of Crosse and Blackwell Louisiana Shrimp Sauce, and two bags of Sea Salt and Black Pepper Kettle Chips. I had already decided to seek help from the grocery store on this one since prep time was definitely a consideration, thus the coleslaw mix and commercial sauces.
The curly fries gave me an excuse to spend $12 on a “Veggie Pro” slicing tool that makes short work of any task requiring ribbons or spirals. It works on potatoes, carrots, zucchini, crookneck squash, etc. The tool conveniently breaks down and can be stored flat in a drawer. I got mine at Bed Bath & Beyond.
I was expecting four guests so I prepared 2 lbs. of the shrimp. This is a little generous by my standards but actually less than the recipe that calls for (colossal 8 to 10 per lb.)
Preparation was easy because I used a shrimp deveining tool rather than trying to cut each shell with a sharp knife. These tools have been around for ages and mine dates to the 1940’s. Modern versions are available on Amazon for around $5.00. Remember to save the shells for stock making. You can also avoid this step entirely by purchasing EZ Peel shrimp; just pull the shells off and proceed to butterfly them.
With the shrimp iced down and waiting, I went ahead and started to make the curly fries. I had bought four potatoes, which weighed around 3lb. total, and by the time I had made two of them into spirals I realized that the quantity was sufficient for the meal. Potatoes were bowled and covered pre-cooking.
I used evaporated milk and vinegar to prepare my buttermilk, and this was set on the counter until ready for use. The hoagie rolls were an adequate substitute for French bread rolls and took about 5 minutes to prepare “oven ready”. The torn out insides were reserved to make bread crumbs later.
Before starting on the shrimp I unbagged the coleslaw mix, placed it in a bowl of ice water, and left it on the counter to rehydrate (about 30 minutes or so). Just before we began to cook the fries, I drained it, spun it in a salad spinner, and put it in a bowl with the dressing to meld flavors. To the Marie Callendar’s dressing, I added a tablespoon of celery seed; it is already in there but I like the taste so I used more. Making the potato chip breading was an absolute breeze, but I used only a single 1lb. bag. This proved more than adequate for breading on 30 or so shrimp.
Shawn arrived early and was put in charge of the curly fries, I have a small countertop fryer and it required several baskets to completely cook all that I had prepared. The butterflied shrimp were all breaded in about five minutes using the three pan method, flour, batter, breading. Remember to use only one hand when doing this, you should always keep a clean hand in case you have to pick up something. The shrimp were fried in batches of four, thus it took about 15 minutes to cook all of them. The bread boats came out of the countertop oven just as I finished the last of the shrimp and everything went to the table at once.
This recipe was outstanding, and I would never have dreamed of breading shrimp with potato chips if George hadn’t blazed the trail. The bottom line was that everyone was stuffed after this meal, I couldn’t even eat my bread boat, I was that full. Needless to say, no leftovers! Kudos again to George!
Jack Chew writes: The Monday night meal was moved to Tuesday this week because of Police/Fire Retirement activities surrounding the holiday. I smoked 40 pounds of pork for one of the luncheons and just wasn’t able to get home in time to prepare a meal from scratch as I usually do.
I had already decided on the Pepper Pot Egg Skillet (pg.30) for the next meal and needed only a few things from the grocery store.
Left over from the Sunday luncheon was a large plate of smoked pulled pork butt, and I decided to make TWO skillets, one using the Tennessee Pride hot smoked sausage (chaurice sausage is not in stores here), and one using a pound of the pulled pork. Fortunately, I have several cast iron skillets and cooking a double recipe wasn’t a problem.
This recipe, like most of them in Acadiana Table, is pretty straightforward and easy to prepare. Prep time for both was about an hour, then twenty five minutes in the stove and a ten minute rest period brought everything together and table ready in a little over an hour and a half.
The recipe didn’t mention what to do with the small sweet peppers, but, looking at the picture I could see that these had been sliced into circles. The big peppers and onions were sliced per recipe instructions. I did add an additional half cup of cheese on the top when the skillets went into the oven, this as much for appearance as enhanced flavor. During the rest period I noticed a lot of fat around the edges, probably due to the extra cheese; a couple of paper towels sucked that right out of there.
I had planned to serve biscuits and gravy along with the skillet, but when I saw the total volume of the finished product, I realized that the recipe needed no further enhancement.
Five showed for dinner, and Randy brought fresh kale, long beans, and green onion tops from his garden for the salad. The bitterness of the fresh kale perfectly contrasted with the spicy heat of the skillet dishes.
I can tell you that when the meal was finished five of us had eaten all but a few slices of both dishes. Didn’t the recipe say “serves 4 to 6 ” EACH? No excuses, it was plain and simple GOOD!!
This recipe is flexible in a couple of ways: It isn’t only for breakfast, it can be served at any meal, and it lends itself to changes without altering (apparently) the basic nature of the dish. While the pulled pork worked well, and would have been acceptable as a stand- alone dish, it didn’t have the same spicy/heat delight as the sausage version. When, and if, I do this recipe with substitute ingredients, I will make it a point to add more heat in the form of extra hot sauce and red pepper flakes.
Thanks again, George, another notch in your belt and an extra hole in mine.
Note: The recipe calls for buttermilk, I used evaporated milk (undiluted) with two TB of white vinegar added. Add the vinegar to the bowl of milk about an hour before using it, then let it stand on the counter until needed. You have a perfect buttermilk substitute. Freeze any leftover in a sandwich bag, label it, and save it for the next time.
This was started on Wednesday and now it is Saturday afternoon and I find myself with still another paean of praise for George’s great recipes.
PS: Yesterday was a busy day and I couldn’t find time to go to the grocery store, however, I had some chicken thighs in the meat drawer and whipped up a THIRD recipe of Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs (pg. 230). This goes together so easily, so quickly, and is so tasty, that it has become a regular item on my menu. Keep this one in mind if you are short on time and need a quick tasty meal for your family.
Jack Chew writes: Penn Dutch Food Center sent an email flyer advertising “JUMBO LUMP CRAB MEAT” for $9.99 lb. Since this is exactly half price, I rushed to the store and bought 5 cans. When I got home I had some critical decisions regarding still edible food in the refrigerator and enough room to store fifty bucks worth of white gold. Needless to say, I made room.
I consulted Acadiana Table for an appropriate recipe and zeroed in on White Asparagus and Crab Meat Au Gratin (pg. 142). Like George, I had never seen white asparagus on the produce counter at Winn-Dixie or Publix, but many specialty grocers have opened their doors in recent years and I found the product at Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and Lucky’s, all for around $4.99 lb. When speaking to the produce people I quickly learned that this product has an average shelf life of only about three days, so I deferred my purchase until Saturday. I bought two pounds since the stalks were kind of skinny, and I needed to feed a confirmed six.
For a side dish I settled on corn pudding, not a dish featured in the cookbook but one that I fondly remember from my early years in Maryland. It is appropriate for almost any seafood entree, slightly sweet with a crunch from the whole kernels of corn. There are a number of recipes for this dish on the Internet, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. I’m sure that George can provide a distinctly Cajun slant to this dish, but I had to settle for traditional this time.
On Monday I bought a pound of pizza dough at the grocery, followed the directions for first rising, then rolled it out to 1/2″ thickness. I cut 5″ strips of this dough, rolled them between my palms, dusted them lightly with flour, and tied them into knots. A second rise is necessary once the knots are made, brush them with EVOO, cover them with plastic wrap, and let them rest on a parchment covered baking sheet until they double again in size (at least an hour). Just before baking, I added a light sprinkle of coarse garlic salt to the now risen knots, this for visible purposes only.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees then put them in about 15 minutes before serving I made a minced garlic, olive oil, salt and butter topping ( about 3/4 cup) and tossed the finished rolls with this in a large bowl, about a dozen at a time and adding topping as necessary to ensure an even coating. To keep the rolls warm I lined a large crockpot with parchment paper, set it on “warm” and brought it to the table for service. The yield was about 40 rolls, and they were all gone at the end of the meal.
Preparation for the White Asparagus and Crab Meat Au Gratin is pretty straightforward, but peeling the asparagus was another matter entirely. Since I was making six servings, I had two pounds of white asparagus to peel, yield was 7 stalks per serving. I can reliably report that white asparagus doesn’t peel as easily as carrots, I tried holding them in the usual manner and immediately broke two stalks. These things are DELICATE. The final solution is to peel them on a flat surface, rotating with each stroke, it takes about six cuts for each stalk. In the end, I had 3 1/2 oz. of peelings. You definitely can’t skip this step, the outer skin of the stalk is very stringy and must be removed.
Once the asparagus was cooked and in the ramekins, the rest of the recipe took around 20 minutes to finish. I used 2# of back fin lump crabmeat which yielded just over 5 oz per serving. This is a little more generous than the 4 oz. the recipe calls for, but I was using half-price crab meat and I feed some very appreciative guests. Preparation of the sauce was straightforward, although I used evaporated milk as the dairy, cutting it with water as needed until I reached the desired consistency. The evaporated milk is a strategy that I use personally because I’m not a big milk drinker myself (the children are gone thirty years), and it is simply easier to use canned product rather than have fresh go unused and spoil.
I bought a 1/2 lb brick of English Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded up two full cups and still have an ounce or two left over. These cheeses are a little on the pricey side but stand head and shoulders over the usual grocery store offerings of domestic product. TIP: If you use a box grater to shred cheese it helps to lightly coat the outside with a little oil, the cheese moves more easily across the surface and doesn’t stick to the grater.
Only one diner didn’t finish her portion, and that was because she intends to use it in an omelet later in the week. This meal was well received by all and I will make it again once I have finished cooking through Acadiana Table.
Thanks, George, another “killer” recipe from your fertile mind to the kitchens of America.
Jack Chew writes: Tuesday was a busy day (relatively speaking), and I didn’t think about dinner plans until late in the afternoon. Looking for something quick, I recalled the Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs that Shawn had prepared several weeks ago, found the recipe on pg 230, and proceeded to defrost some thighs that I had on hand. This recipe is the closest thing to a “30 Minute Meal” (thanks, Rachael) that I have encountered in the book so far.
Departures from the recipe: I used boneless skinless thighs because that was what I had, and they worked just fine. I had acquired a few Meyer Lemons from another friend and substituted them for the ones usually found in the grocery store. If you can find this variety I urge you to try them at least once. The flavor is lighter and less acidic than the fruit we normally associate with lemons, and the end result in this dish is simply outstanding. Since the Meyer Lemon will grow in S. FL I have made plans to buy and plant a tree in my side yard. There is an added benefit; the tree produces several crops a year. I will never recoup the cost of the tree but just the knowledge that the fruit is pesticide free is an adequate reward.
Thursday I had Shawn and Tracy over and we polished off the second stuffed pork loin. I reheated it in a foil pack at 300 degrees, 15 minutes, with about a cup of chicken stock. I must say that this dish is best consumed on the night it is prepared, still full of flavor but it was better the first time.
For my Monday group, I decided on the Crab Gumbo (pg. 191). Winn-Dixie had Dungeness Crab Clusters on sale for $10.99 lb., I bought two packs of about 1 1/4lb. each, this gave me six clusters which were perfect for my needs. These crabs, like our South Florida native Stone Crabs, come pre-cooked and cleaned but still in the shell. This is a very tasty West Coast crab with a somewhat sweeter and saltier flavor, a little different from our traditional Blue Claw Crab of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts but perfectly acceptable for this recipe.
Preparation for this one started on Sunday morning, when I sat down and began picking crab. The claws were removed first, cracked, and set aside for use later in the presentation
Since this is a large crab the legs are quite fleshy and yield a lot of meat on their own. I cracked and cleaned the first two joints of every leg, skipping the small secondary joints and the tips since the flesh there is difficult to extract. After about 45 minutes, I had a full pound and a quarter of meat for the gumbo, and a large pile of shell, cartilage, and leg parts. The picked meat and claws were bagged and refrigerated for use Monday night.
The shells were covered with water and put on a back burner to simmer in a stock pot with a little salt, some peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, and the bottoms of the celery from my trinity. Since 12 cups of stock were going to be necessary I used a lot of water and cooked/reduced the product for three hours to extract every bit of flavor possible. The yield was about 2 1/2 qt. to which I added a couple of cups of chicken stock to round up to recipe requirements.
Everything else was done according to recipe directions and quantities. To make up for the crab bodies that George used, I added two cans of cheap canned crabmeat from Bumblebee for flavor only. I also doubled up on the trinity to give the stew a little more body, not really necessary, but I like a thick gumbo.
By the time I was finished it was late afternoon, and the second seasoning took me to the point where George says the Gumbo can be held indefinitely. Not wanting to warm up my refrigerator with a large quantity of hot stew, I put the gumbo into my large Crockpot, set it on “warm”, and went over to the kid’s house to watch the Superbowl. The stew remained in the Crockpot until I served it Monday night.
On Monday morning I skimmed about ¼ cup of oil from the top of the bowl, this probably came from the oil used in cooking the trinity and some from the roux itself.
An hour before serving I added the reserved crabmeat and the cracked claws, time enough to heat up the meat but not cook it any further. A fresh kale salad, garlic bread, rice, and corn on the cob completed the meal.
Once again George has come through with an outstanding recipe, but with the quantity prepared, I do have some leftovers which I eagerly look forward to finishing myself in the next few days.
Jack Chew writes: This week actually began last Wednesday when I received an email from Penn Dutch announcing a 2-day sale on pork loins @ $1.99#. I hadn’t planned on any particular dish for my Monday night crew but I knew that George had a couple of good pork recipes in Acadiana Table, after all pork is a staple in Cajun Country. The loins on sale averaged a little over 2 pounds, at that price I bought two, came to around $4.40 each.
On Friday I settled on the “BACON-WRAPPED STUFFED PORK LOIN WITH CHARRED PEACH GLAZE” (pg. 256). My first problem was that peaches weren’t on the produce counter in either Publix or Winn-Dixie. My alternatives were canned peaches or mango. I consulted George and he advised to go with the mango as he had no fondness for the artificially sweetened and syrupy canned peaches. He thought that Mango would add a South Florida flair to the recipe.
On Monday, as I went to the store to pick up the mangos, peaches had miraculously appeared at the Publix Produce counter. Saved from a messy preparation chore (mangos) by a miraculous intervention. I also found that if I had opted for the mangos there was Mango Nectar right next to the Peach Nectar on the grocery shelf, so a total substitution of two ingredients would have been possible, something to bear in mind for the next time I prepare this recipe.
The pork loins that I bought were a little over 2 pounds each, but I decided to follow the recipe and cook both. Due to the size it was necessary to slightly increase the quantities, 2 pkg of cream cheese and 8 jalapenos, went into the loin stuffing and about a pound and a half of thick-cut bacon was necessary to give complete coverage, my loins were each about 16″ long.
For the glaze, I used 6 peaches plus a little more chili powder and Cajun seasoning than called for. I don’t think that the recipe quantities for these ingredients are carved in stone. The pork loins were also pretty long, enough so that I had to use a baking sheet for the roasting. This was also a departure since George had much smaller loins for his recipe.
Everything went like clockwork and the recipe came together in under an hour, a near record time for me. The open roasting at 400 degrees took a little longer than anticipated, the bacon just refused to brown in only 15 min.
A word of caution, if you use a sheet pan for the roasting be VERY careful when you remove it from the oven, going in there isn’t much liquid, coming out it is nearly overflowing and constitutes a spill risk (I found out the hard way).
For a side, I served the small purple “gourmet” potatoes that you can find in most stores these days for around $3.00 per bag. One bag will easily serve six. One way to prepare is to cover with water and bring to a boil for about 8 to 9 min, just long enough so that they are still not cooked through. Drain them and put back into the still warm pot to finish drying. In a bowl with about 1/4 cup of EVOO, dump the dry potatoes, a couple of tablespoons of Paprika, a couple of tablespoons of Montreal Steak Seasoning (or another grill seasoning), salt and pepper. Shake everything up then roast at 400 degrees for about 15 min, they are done when the skin just starts to wrinkle. I usually do this in the countertop toaster/oven, the oven pan is the perfect size for the quantity.
We had a cancellation this week so only four were present at 7PM when I served. To a man, they raved over the unique flavor combination, congratulations, George, still another winner from the pages of “Acadiana Table”.
Since we were only four at the table this week the second loin wasn’t even carved, I plan to have Tracy and Shawn over on Wed. when they get back from their out of town meeting. Maybe the flavors will meld even more over the two-day wait; I certainly hope so, although sometimes it is hard to improve on perfection.
Jack Chew writes: Preparations and planning for this week began as usual on Friday when I started looking for a suitable Monday menu. I finally decided on Creole Oyster and Spinach Soup (pg 56). There were two reasons for the decision, I had almost everything on hand to make the recipe, and it also reflected back on the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Stew I enjoyed growing up (and still make frequently). Just from looking at the recipe I could see that this dish had many similarities to the Maryland version, and they both had probable origins dating back to colonial times and what the settlers brought from Europe.
Sides for this dish were still spinning around in my head on Monday when I mentioned the menu to son-in-law Shawn, He immediately told me that he wasn’t a fan of oysters (raised in the mid-west) and especially ones in a cream based soup which would aggravate this lactose intolerance. Time to re-think tonight’s menu.
Returning to Acadiana Table I began looking at other seafood entrees, and finally settled on Seafood-Stuffed Poblanos With Mango Salsa (pg. 175). For the side dish I chose Squeezebox Sweet Potatoes with Sugarcane Cream Sauce (pg 126) both of these recipes had ingredients that necessitated a trip to the store.
I have mentioned before that Crawfish Tail Meat is not available in any of the local fish markets. As a substitute I have used either shrimp or Langoustine meat (available from Costco), but since the recipe already has shrimp I was narrowed to a single option, the Langoustine.
I decided that another Internet search might reveal some local source for the Crawfish. In my search I found numerous LA sources, but nothing local. Tucked away in the corner of one page, I noticed Boudreaux’s Crawfish Tail Meat listed as a Walmart product, only available in-store. This listing was on a page with other LA sources, so there was only a remote chance that the product would be available in Ft. Lauderdale.
We have a new Walmart Super Center just a few miles from my home. I called them and was connected to the Meat Dept. The first employee I spoke to had no idea of what I was talking about, nor did the second or third, finally, after nearly 30 minutes I spoke to the Frozen Food Mgr. who first checked his order book and then physically confirmed that they had the item in stock.
I immediately dressed and made my way to the store where I purchased three 12 oz. pkgs, one for today. The others went into the freezer for future recipes since the book is full of stuff that requires Crawfish in one form or another. I bought all of my missing ingredients, including some frozen Mango Chunks which were an absolute Godsend; prepping fresh Mango would have used up at least another fifteen minutes and made a real mess.
When I finally settled down to begin cooking it was after 5:30 PM and my butt was so far in the weeds I couldn’t see daylight. Dinner was definitely at risk of being VERY late. I called Shawn who volunteered to come over and lend a hand. Whenever I am cooking, I try to use the “mise en place” system, which means all of the measurements are done beforehand, ingredients are separated in order and used at the time when called for. I find that this saves a lot of time and reduces extra effort.
First to go was the sweet potatoes for the Squeezebox recipe. I put two wooden spoons parallel on the cutting board, sat a potato between them and made numerous 3/16″ slices. This works best if you use a VERY sharp knife, the raw sweet potato is very tough and requires a lot of effort if your knife isn’t up to the task. These were set aside for cooking in the countertop oven. The sauce had yet to be made but I was more concerned with getting started on the main course.
Rice went on the stove and began cooking. Celery and onions were diced, green onion tops, cilantro, cheese, cajun seasoning, hot sauce, Rotel tomatoes, shrimp, crab, and crawfish were on the counter and waiting. BTW, I wasn’t about to open a $20 can of backfin lump to use only a cup or so. I substituted 2 cans of Bumblebee Fancy White Crab Meat that came in under $7. There is a definite difference in texture, no lumps, but I don’t think anyone noticed. I prepped the Poblanos on the front burner. I used an older cake rack to arrange them since there was a tendency for the peppers to fall through the grate top and they were difficult to handle otherwise. These were covered and set aside for later peeling.
The rest of the meal went into the skillet and cooked up in less than ten minutes. The mixture was added to the now peeled poblanos and put into the oven for finishing. Just before putting the poblanos in the oven, I added some more cheese on top of each one, this bubbled up while cooking but didn’t brown. For the cheese I substituted a shredded Habanero Jack cheese available at WalMart. This may sound like it has a lot of heat but it is actually just a little more spicy than the Monterey Jack.
Shawn arrived and I set him to work on making the Mango Salsa. Tracy arrived also and she was tasked with completing the Squeezebox Potatoes with Sugarcane Cream Sauce. Since the potatoes were already sliced she started on the sauce. It was now 6:30. Tracy came to me and pointed out that the recipe called for the potatoes to cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours of baking. I had already considered that and we put them in the microwave, without the sauce and cooked them on the “potato” setting. This takes about five minutes. Once the potatoes were cooked, and they were still a little al dente, we added the cream sauce and put them in the countertop at 400 degrees for finishing, about another ten minutes.
With the additional help, the dinner was only about ten minutes late. Served with the Poblanos and Sweet Potatoes we had a fresh kale salad with home grown long beans and home grown green onions. Randy provides these ingredients each week when in season. Service, as usual, is family style at the table. Each diner got one stuffed Poblano and a half of a Squeezebox Potato. There was garlic bread for all, and lots, cold beer, cheap wine and great conversation.
The Squeezebox Potatoes were a sensation, the flavors are intense and unexpected; everybody raved. This will definitely be a consideration for future side dishes and could even substitute for dessert. After preparation there was some leftover stuffing, this was put into two stainless ramekins and cooked along with the poblanos. This filling will no doubt be a lunch or two later this week
Jack Chew writes: This week’s menu is a redo of one I attempted earlier in the fall. On my first attempt to cook Shrimp Etouffée Over Softshell Crabs (pg 196) I found that I was out of crabs and substituted Crab Cakes which worked very well. I have since remedied the problem with the purchase of three dozen “whales”, the largest size of softshell crab available. I purchase these from a MD supplier, Marshall Seafood and Farming in Marion Station, MD. They are a reliable source, they ship promptly, and I have no hesitation in endorsing them. They are a family operation and the service is personal.
I am originally from Baltimore, MD where everything “crab” takes on a religious connotation, from preparation to consumption there are strong opinions on how the dish should be served. In my family, softshell crabs were a regular staple, usually served as sandwiches with a side of French Fries, on two slabs of homemade bread. My grandmother was the cook and preparation was simple–flour, salt and pepper, a little cornmeal, and a heaping amount of Old Bay seasoning. These were sautéed in a skillet with butter. My mouth still waters when I recall those meals. Baltimore’s row house neighborhoods, with white marble steps and brick streets, were centers of entrepreneurship. In South Baltimore near the Inner Harbor, and East Baltimore near the brickyards, almost every block had an enterprising housewife who served crabs out of the basement window in the spring and all summer.
Needless to say that the preparation of soft crabs in any other way than what I grew up with required a huge leap of faith. I made my trinity early, and at the same time I opened a can of Evaporated Milk added two TBS of white vinegar, then set it aside in a bowl at room temperature. This would constitute the buttermilk portion of George’s recipe. The etouffée went together in short order, much easier the second time around. I used 36 oz. of Winn-Dixie Fisherman’s Wharf “Jumbo Gumbo Shrimp to make six ample servings. These raw, peeled and deveined shrimp, are a real bargain and they are often a BOGO which makes the price even better.
The leftover Seafood Stock went into the rice along with a generous helping of butter. Preparation of the crabs was done at the table, I use a West Bend Electric Skillet. If you don’t have one they can usually be found at garage sales for less than $5.You won’t need a gallon of oil to cook your crabs in this skillet, just pour about 2″ of oil (sufficient to cover your crabs) and deep fry away. I skipped the half and half but added a half stick of butter to the cooking oil.
Son-In-Law Shawn is from the mid-west and never developed a taste for the crabs; for him I made Tilapia fillets battered in the same flour and buttermilk and sautéed at the table along with the crabs. The etouffée and rice worked just as well for the Tilapia as it did for the crabs. I find that making the trinity and doing most of the prep work early in the day allows me to prepare these dishes in a more leisurely manner. The etouffée (minus the shrimp) takes about an hour, then can be kept in the oven until about 20 minutes before serving. Add the shrimp at this time, and return it to the stovetop for finishing. Shrimp, if cooked too long, get tough and lose a lot of flavor, I find that adding them as a final stage works very well.
Judging from the reaction of my buddies this will become a regular feature at our Monday night table. The etouffée is also a flexible component which can be used in many other seafood dishes, something like this makes you look like a genius when you serve it.
Jack Chew writes: This week on ACADIANA TABLE began by thumbing through the book last Friday. Cabbage Jambalaya (pg 145) just leaped off the page at me. Since Jambalaya was one of the first Cajun dishes I ever attempted, and this became the week’s project.
I have tried unsuccessfully to locate Savoie’s Rice Dressing Mix in my area so I thought I would try to substitute Zatarain’s Dirty Rice Mix for the missing ingredient. Fortunately, I emailed George and asked if this would be a reasonable substitute. His reply was a definite NO! He advised that making a recipe of Dirty Rice (recipe on the blog) would be an adequate substitution. The Zatarain’s mix is a dried concoction and uses ground beef for the meat and different spices, thus altering the balance of flavors in the final dish.
Shopping was a breeze and I only had to buy Chicken Livers ($1.39) and Pork Sausage. I use Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage frequently and this week it was on sale for $2.69, I bought two and froze one for later. Bell peppers were $1.00 each so I bought two, knowing that any excess would be used in other dishes. Parsley was $1.00 and the 2 heads of cabbage came to $2.67. My Aidell’s Andouille Sausage comes in three-pound packs so one pound cost a little over $4.00. It looks like the entire meal went together for under $20 including extras, sides, and dessert.
After shredding the cabbage I looked at the sheer volume of the stuff and realized that I would need a larger pot, it simply overwhelmed my 10″ Dutch oven. Using a large stock pot, I added the ham hocks, chicken stock and cabbage and started the first stage (1 hr.)
In a separate pan, I browned the Andouille and set it aside, then proceeded to cook the sausage and chicken livers with the trinity for the dirty rice. The chicken livers came in a butter tub-size container and probably weighed a little more than a pound, but I used them all anyway.
I cooked the rice in a separate pot with a little butter, some salt and a quart of chicken stock. TIP: coat the bottom of the pot you are using to cook the rice in with a light spray of Pam or other cooking spray, the rice won’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
A word of caution here, I used chicken stock for the dirty rice because the recipe called for COOKED rice. The Cabbage Jambalaya recipe calls for UNCOOKED rice. The end result was that:
- I used more chicken stock than required. (1 qt for the dirty rice, 2 qt. for the cabbage) The second qt. in the cabbage was needed to cover everything for the initial phase of cooking.
- My failure to pay attention caused me to put the COOKED dirty rice in the pot for the last 45 minutes and resulted in somewhat mushy rice.
What should have happened in this case was to add UNCOOKED rice to my trinity/ sausage/chicken liver mixture and finish everything in the last 45 minutes with the cabbage. Doing it that way would have made the 2 qt. in the big pot adequate for the entire recipe.
I had planned to serve Collard Greens cooked with onions and turnips as a side dish, but looking at the quantity this recipe provides convinced me that a salad and some garlic bread would be more than adequate.
Despite my errors the recipe was a success, everyone had seconds, and a couple had thirds. This is a generous recipe even after all of the eating there were leftovers for taking home and enough for another two servings later in the week.
Thanks, George, for the advice on the Zatarain’s.
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.