Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Creole Crawfish!

I was poking around in the freezer and found a bag of frozen crawfish tails begging to be cooked. Hmm...I had several pasta ideas, but I was needing something for a sort of first course before a dinner-level soup. I dug around in my files and came up with a handwritten recipe. In a handwriting I don't recognize. Looking at the ingredients, it had to date from my days in New Orleans, almost 20 years ago. But it sounded quite tasty and just what I needed. And in fact I must say it was even tastier than it sounded! If you try it, be sure to get the crawfish tail meat that comes in bags with the juices and fat crom the crawfish. And don't forget the bread!
Here it is:

3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup celery, finely chopped
1/3 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup green onion, with some of the green top, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup REAL mayonnaise
1/4 cup Zatarains creole mustard, or other whole grain mustard
2 tsp parsley, minced
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 egg
1 lb crawfish meat,
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat the butter in a sauté pan and add the veggies. Cook over medium high heat until tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, worcestershire, salt, cayenne and peppers. Blend well, then whisk in the egg. Add the crawfish with all the juices from the bag and gently toss.

Spoon into 8 half-cup ramekins. Pour 2 tbsp heavy cream over each. Sprinkle with paprika and baked until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with crusty bread to dip into the juices. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 23, 2005

French Paradox Round Table

I happened across this interesting article in The Morning News, a daily online magazine. It details a discussion by several French women who happen to be food bloggers as well, about the French paradox...or why French women don't get fat. I have spent no small amount of time in France, mostly in my younger days, and it brought back memories of the way I ate and lived there. Even eating what I thought was great amounts of new and richer foods, I inevitably lost weight there. Check it out and see how your diet and daily activity compares!

Is My Blog Burning - Soufflé

This is definitely a cheater's soufflé. I've been making it for years, and have never given out the recipe. It's WAY too simple. Here it is: 6 egg whites, beaten until stiff. Gently fold in one can of Solo apricot filling, available at most supermarkets. Put into six one-cup ramekins (one big soufflé dish won't work). Bake in a preheated 375 oven until puffed and golden, 15-20 minutes. Serve at once with fresh berries, or in a pinch, a package of frozen raspberries, thawed. That's it.

I usually take the filling out of the can before dinner (so my guests won't see how easy it is!). It's short work to whisk up the egg whites (a big copper bowl seems to help to give more volume) when you're ready to bake them.

Promise you won't tell anyone I know about this...

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What fun!

Well, don't say I don't keep you informed of fun things to do. Next week we must all head over to Pulaski, TN (a little south of Nashville) for the Chili, Cappuccino and Cornbread on the Square.

An annual event, held this year on October 27, they claim to have the best chili east of Texas, with prizes for team spirit, booths and of course, the hot stuff!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Spanish Potato-Chorizo Gratin

Baked and yummy! Posted by Picasa

I love reading about food almost as much as cooking and eating it. Recently our chef lent me a book about regional foods of Spain, a large book with lots of pictures. I've been reading it bits at a time.

It brings to mind the trip I took a few years back with two friends. We spent about a week in Madrid, and then did what I like to do best when traveling. We rented a car and just took off in the general direction we wanted to go. We would look for a hotel in whatever town we found ourselves when we decided to stop, staying as long as we wanted.

I like to stay off the superhighways; you meet people and often find better places to eat in small towns or along the side of the road.

One day we were ready for lunch. It was sort of an understood rule that the driver got to choose the lunch spot and I was driving this particular day. Passing what was quite obviously a truck stop, I made a U-turn and went back. Three women entering among all those truckers might have been unusual, but three American women (or more precisely, two American and one English) had to have been a first. We seated ourselves, as the sign directed, but were escorted to a separate dining room, the larger being reserved for truckers only. We had a charming waiter and a great meal. In my journal I noted a potato-chorizo gratin.

Recently I invited friends to give it a try. I am not going to swear that this is the exact same dish, but golly, it sure is tasty.

I used Yukon Gold potatoes, but red potatoes would be equally successful. Baking potatoes get too soft and mealy in a gratin for my taste. Be sure to wash the leeks well; they are good at hiding bits of sand between their layers. If you can find sweet Spanish chorizo (which bears NO resemblance to the hot, fresh Mexican kind). use it. I used slicing pepperoni, which is similar in taste and texture. Manchego is a wonderful mild sheep's milk cheese from Spain, available in cheese and gourmet shops. You could substitute any semi soft sheep cheese, or in a pinch, Danish Havarti. This can be assembled in advance and baked just before serving. Add crusty bread, a glass of wine and a Flamenco CD and you're set for a rustic Spanish dinner.


1-1/2 lb potatoes
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch (3 large) leeks
1/2 lb young Manchego in one wedge
6 oz Spanish chorizo or pepperoni, not too thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until just barely tender. Drain and let cool. Cut the root ends off the leeks and cut in half lengthwise. Rinse well and drain. Cut crosswise into 1Ó slices, up to and including the light green part. Discard the tough top dark green leaves. In a skillet cook the leeks in the butter until soft and translucent. Spread on the bottom of a gratin dish or shallow baking pan. Arrange the chorizo or pepperoni on top.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange over the sausage and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the wedge of Manchego on its side (so it is resting on a cut side) and cut off the thin brown top slice. Cut into thin pie-shaped wedges, discarding the bottom brown slice. You can leave the outside brown on the wedges, it is olive oil that was rubbed on during the curing process.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Paper Chef #11

Autumn Pain Perdu Posted by Picasa

During the warmer months (most of them here in Memphis) standard breakfast food doesn't seem to do much for me. A glass of OJ and a piece of toast fills the bill.

But when the weather starts to cool, and the pumpkins start to appear in the farmers' markets, along with the new crop of apples and pears, a heartier dish starts to look more appealing.

This month's Paper Chef ingredients include duck, nut butter, ginger and pears. Hmmm...duck is not among my favorite foods, and not readily available here (except in the oriental markets and then you have to deal with things like heads and feet). But we sell duck fat at the shop, and I had half a sourdough boule needing attention. "Pain perdu," the French version of French toast, it had to be.

Autumn Pain Perdu

1/2 large sourdough boule
3 tbsp macadamia nut butter
6 tbsp cream cheese
4 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half (or milk)
a good pinch of salt
4 tbsp duck fat

One red pear
One Asian pear
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Meyers rum
Saigon cinnamon

Cut the boule into four 1-1/2" thick slices. With a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each slice of bread. Mix the nut butter and cream cheese and stuff into the pockets. Whisk the eggs, cream and salt together. Pour into a flat pan and add the bread. Let soak briefly on one side, and turn to the other about half-way through the cooking of the pears.

Core and thinly slice the unpeeled pears. In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter. Add the ginger and stir a bit, pressing on the bits with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the pears and sugar. Toss and stir until the pears start to caramelize but are still crisp. Warm the rum slightly, pour over the pears and flame. (Or, if flaming makes you nervous, simmer a bit more to cook off the alcohol).

In another heavy skillet, melt the duck fat over medium heat. Add the stuffed bread and cook, turning once, until both sides are nicely browned. Remove to a plate, top with the pears and dust with the cinnamon.

Serves four.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Wine tasting

For those who were at the shop last evening for the wine tasting, here are the wines we had:

Via Bisol Prosecco Brut (NV)
Lolonis Red Wood Valley Chardonnay (sorry I don't have the vintage)
Zaca Mesa Viognier 2003
B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Hardy's Whiskers Blake Port (NV)

And as promised, here is the recipe for the honey lavender vinaigrette:

1 sm Red onion; chopped
2 ts Lavender flowers; dried
2/3 c Rice wine vinegar
4 tb Dijon mustard
1/2 c Honey
2 c Extra-virgin olive oil

Place onion in food processor and puree. Add lavender, vinegar, mustard and honey and pulse until well blended. With processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil. Refrigerate for 24 hours for flavors to mellow. Good on any kind of salad, especially main-dish salads featuring seafood or poultry.

Chef Luke marinated the chicken satŽs in this overnight, then skewered and grilled them. Then he sent out additional sauce for dipping. I thought this was GREAT with the viognier, didn't you?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Spanish Travel Site

If you are planning a trip to Spain, you need to see this great Spanish food site. Besides some very interesting recipes, there is a wealth of information, and links to pages and pages of food culture goodies. There are also links to Spanish history sites, which, now that I think about it is pretty important in understanding the way Spanish cooking has evolved! There is even a link to the "real' music of Spain, with some sites that offer audio clips. If you think Spanish food, culture and music is like Mexican, you MUST check this out!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Last-of-the-Basil Mussels

End-of-Summer Mussels Posted by Picasa

I think I probably picked the last of the basil this weekend. Somehow basil means summer to me: red ripe tomatoes from the farmers' market and basil, or grilled seafood or chicken brushed with basil pesto and grilled, or with the spicy leaves torn into a salad. And picking the last of the basil signals the end of summer.

Another thing that means summer to me is mussels, probably because the first time I had them was in the summer on the Mediterranean coast. The family I was visiting built a great huge fire of grape vine trimmings, put a sort of fine meshed grate over them and poured mussels that had been coated with olive oil and herbs right on top. As they opened, we raked them off and, blowing on them and on our fingers, ate as many as we could hold, licking the charred herbs from the shells. I was hooked!

Well, we're not likely to do that in our back yards, are we? But mussels, one of the few shellfish I really like, are very easily available here and we can use the last of our fresh basil to make a great end-of-summer dish.

The mussels, which you have kept refrigerated, covered with a damp towel, need to be cooked at the last minute, but it will only take about 15 minutes, so you can have a nice glass of wine and nibble on a few olives with your friends first. Just be sure to have plenty of crusty bread to soak up the delicious juices!

(Italian inspired mussels)

2 pounds of fresh mussels
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large sprigs basil, chopped, stems and all
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup almond meal
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
Salt and pepper
More basil for garnish

Give the mussels a good rinse in cold running water. Pick over them, discarding any that are open and won't close when you give them a little tap on the counter on their pointy end.

Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven, add the garlic and stir a time or two. Add the basil, white wine and mussels. Cover and cook over medium heat until they are all opened, which could be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the mussels to a bowl and reserve.

Meanwhile, mix the almond meal with the vegetable stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the onion and celery until transparent.

Strain the mussel cooking liquid into the almond stock and add the onion mixture. Taste and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Return the mussels to the pan and just heat barely through. Ladle into flat soup bowls, garnish with a sprig and basil and enjoy!