Getting back to Blogging…After Mickey and for Charlie!

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I have been pretty absent from my Blog since the Kidnapping of Mickey Shunick. She, as well as her sister, Charlie, are close friends with my daughter, Meredith. Since May 19th, I just found myself unable to write about something as “trivial” as food…when a beautiful young woman had been taken by some horrible stranger as she was just riding home, where she lived with her parents.

This whole tragedy has shaken our family, as well as the entire Lafayette Community…to the core. Our Community came together in a spirit of unity, determination and with so much love – that I knew existed here, but had never seen it in action. From day one, family, friends and strangers from all over showed up to Help Find Mickey. Hundreds of thorough foot searches in heavy wooded fields, swamps, coulees and bayous were conducted all throughout Acadiana. Hundreds of volunteers came forward to make flyers, pass out flyers, tape up flyers, coordinated fund-raisers, candlelight vigils, making t-shirts, bracelets, yard signs and bumper stickers! Children would come to the Headquarters to color butterflies for Mickey. Anything that you could think to do…got done, quickly and usually through donations from our generous community. There was a calendar set up to bring food to the Shunick Family that was very well-coordinated, so that they would not have to worry or even think about meals…they simply showed up!

And the family…Nancy, Tom, Charlie and Zach…They have to be the most genuine, gentle and loving people who I have ever had to honor to meet. This is what “True Grit” is, my friends…”Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway”. This family “saddled up” and rode through the saddest days of their lives with the courage of saints, with grace and dignity that I truly thought no longer existed. I will always look to them as my role model on how to cope with tragedies when they come along in my life.

And then there is “Mighty Mickey”…after waiting and searching for 3 months to Find Mickey, we finally know what happened on that tragic night. We know how hard she fought to stay alive. As her mother Nancy has said, “It took a truck, a knife and a gun to bring Mickey down”. “She fought for the life she loved, and she DID love everything about her life!” Mickey has been able to lock away a Rapist, a Kidnapper and a Murderer for the rest of his life. He will never be able to hurt anyone (or their families and friends) again. I believe that Mickey is now “walking through rainbows”, touching stars and looking out for all of those wonderful people in her life that loved her so dearly. There is not a doubt in my mind that she is in perpetual peace with her Lord where we will all meet up again!

So, as I am trying to close this chapter, I remember Charlie being so excited about some of my blogs…expecially the post on Sylvain’s in New Orleans…(She worked there and was with us when we went!!) So, Charlie…in your honor, I am committing to getting back to business with this Blog, “When Food Works”.

I really want to encourage everyone to have fun with food – make your kitchen a warm gathering place for family and friends. Try new foods, go to new restaurants, go to your old faithful places too….but mostly make memories! Life is short and then there are memories…

This post is being written with a heavy heart, but a heart that knows that we need to continue doing those things that make ourselves and others happy. We all need to love our lives, at least a fraction of how much Mickey loved hers!

Food Works when people are in pain, Food Works when people are happy….my best guess is that Food Just Works!

God Bless Mickey and God Bless her family and friends. She will never be forgotten.

Gazpacho – Cold Soup for Hot Days of Summer!

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I guess it was in the peak of our “little drought” in June, when the tomatoes were at their peak…I was trying my best to keep the plants from frying in the sun and at the same time – trying to find (and invent) ways to use them all!  That is when you are “up to your ears” in wonderful Heirloom Tomatoes of all colors – and if you have your own plants (and, of course,  I always get carried away in early spring when it is time to plant!) you are finding every sunny windowsill lined and baskets on the countertops full of these juicy summer miracles.

After you have gotten over the thrill of another year of ripe tomato sandwiches (made with real – not light mayo on fresh slices of Evangeline Maid white bread) with a touch of salt and pepper, tomato salads, stuffed tomatoes, tomatoes in everything you cook, you might even decide to put some up in canning jars – just to ensure that you can enjoy them longer!  Yes, I did put up a whole pot of creole tomatoes and plan on making them last as long as I can!!

 

It was at the end of one of those long hot days, when I just had to have a cold soup…one that I could make and keep in the fridge for the week –  to bring along to work for a cool light lunch (Maybe with one of those decadent tomato sandwiches!).  With all of the tomatoes sitting on my counter and something had to be done with them!…a Gazpacho was the first and most logical soup that popped into my mind….

I use the recipe that I picked up at The Hub City Farmer’s Market from “Linda Jo”, from Youngsville, La,  who makes homemade salsa.  It is so easy and comes out perfect every time!  Now, of course, not everyone will be fortunate enough to have a pantry full of Linda Jo’s Salsa….so just use your favorite or make your own!

Ingredients:

1 cucumber seeded and chopped, but not peeled

1 red pepper and 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 ripe tomatoes – chopped

3 cups tomato juice

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 16 ounce jar of Linda Jo’s Salsa (or your favorite brand)

small bunch of cilantro – chopped finely

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well and chill before serving…best if chilled overnight!

Will keep well in fridge for a week.

This cold soup is a favorite in my family…so I can promise that it would work for yours!!  Enjoy….

Corn Dip and Guacamole Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes – Party Food!

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“Party Food”!  Who doesn’t like party food?  Everyone I know (almost!) loves to graze on dips and hors d’oeuvres for hours!! Not realizing that those little finger sandwiches (that you just pop in your mouth) are really 1/4th of a whole sandwich…who hasn’t eaten their share of those wonderful little bites – only to realize, later, that they probably ate the equivalent of 3 whole sandwiches!  Same thing with those darn little meatballs or meatpies…or God forbid those little wieners drenched in barbeque sauce!! Why don’t we just stick to the beautiful little veggie tray – we all hit it (out of self-respect)…but, not many of us can (or should, in my opinion) turn down real party food~

Whenever I have any type of party, I always go overboard on the food…go figure!  But, there is one dip that I always have and no one can resist…good ole Corn Dip.  If you don’t have this recipe and have never tasted this addictive dip, then you need to copy this recipe for your next party – your friends and family will love you for it!

CORN DIP

2 cans of whole kernel corn

1 8 oz container of sour cream

1 cup of mayonnaise

1 bunch of green onions – chopped

1 fresh jalapeno pepper – seeds removed and chopped finely

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp cumin

1/2 cup of salsa

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 bunch cilantro (fresh – chopped finely) or 1 tsp dried

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and let sit in fridge at least 4 hours or longer…

That’s it!!!  Quick and easy…but a favorite – I promise!

Now, for a party food that I don’t make every time I have a party, but is one of my favorites – from years gone by…Guacamole Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes.  You can really stuff the cherry tomatoes with any kind of soft herb cheese, shrimp or crab salad – anything you can think of…but my favorite is always with guacamole.

GUACAMOLE STUFFED CHERRY TOMATOES:

2 dozen large “round” cherry tomatoes

3 ripe avocados

2 tbsp minced onion

1 lemon – juice only

2 ripe tomatoes – finely chopped or use the “scooped out” portion of the cherry tomatoes

1 tsp chili power

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Clean the Tomatoes:

With a very sharp paring knife – cut out the stem of each cherry tomato.  Then, cut a little hole into the middle – removing most of the center of the tomato.  Use a very small spoon, if necessary.  Reserve the “scooped out” tomato pieces and juice for the guacamole.

Place each tomato upside down on paper towels to drain.

Make the Guacamole:

Peel and remove the seed of each avocado

With a fork, mash the avocado well

Add tomatoes, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion and lemon juice and blend well with mashed avocados

Stuff the Tomatoes:

Using a very small spoon or piping bag – fill each tomato with the guacamole.

Top each tomato with a sprinkle of chili powder.

Put on a pretty party tray and watch them disappear!!!

Party Food that works…kind of makes me start thinking about our next little event –  both of these will be there, for sure!!!!

Easter Tradition – Grillades and Grits!

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Over the years, I have tried many different holiday menus on my “patient” family (you name it – I’ve cooked it!)…always ending with Mama’s Coconut Cake!  But, that Coconut Cake…most of the time, the poor thing just leaned in one direction and some years, I just told the kids that the Easter Bunny knocked it over when he was filling their baskets!  So, when it doesn’t “lean” or “fall”…I am thrilled

About 5 years ago, as we sat down for an Easter Brunch of  Grillades and Grits, Baked Tomatoes, Cheese Biscuits and Fruit Salad…everyone was sooo happy – that it was agreed (loudly) that it should be a tradition!  And, my children know that they don’t have to ask twice…it was a done deal!  Now that I am really thinking about it…maybe it is the “Brunch” idea that they really like – meaning that I feed them earlier than normal – sort of!

My Grillades recipe has been worked out through the years and is now set in stone…in my house….(You can use beef, veal or pork, but I always choose beef sirloin – sliced about 1/2 thick.)

Seasoning mix:

1 Tbsp salt

1 1/2 tsp onion powder

1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves

Mix all seasonings together in a small bowl.

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4 lbs top sirloin or round steak (no thicker than 1/2 inch) – cut into pieces (about 4 inches X 4 inches)

8-10 cups beef consomme’ or beef broth (canned in fine!)

3 medium onions – chopped finely

4 stalks celery – chopped finely

1 bell pepper – chopped finely

4 cloves of garlic – minced

1 large can of tomato paste

1/2 cup of canola oil

All purpose flour – enough to coat meat

1/2 cup green onions – chopped

2 bay leaves

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Season meat with 1/2 of the seasoning mix and coat with flour

Heat oil in a large heavy pot

Brown meat well, on all sides, scraping the bottom of the pot often (cook in 2 batches if necessary…only brown one layer of meat at a time)

Remove meat from pot and set aside in a platter or half sheet pan

Scrape bottom of pot to loosen the drippings or “debris”

Add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic to pot and cook until soft – continue to scrape bottom of pot to make sure that all of the drippings consolidate with the onion mix;

Add tomato paste and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes – stir constantly

Slowly add beef consomme’ or broth to pot, blending well in between the additions

Return browned meat to pot

Add the other 1/2 of the seasoning mix and bay leaves

Cook on a medium heat, stirring often, until the meat is “falling apart” tender – about 3 hours.

Sprinkle with green onions and serve over creamy grits…

Pair with baked yellow and red tomatoes…

Savory Cheese Biscuits…

And, a bright fresh fruit salad…

Now, this is a meal that works!

Getting back to that Coconut Cake…not a “slider” and not a “Leaning Tower of Pisa” – It became a combination Easter/Birthday cake for my son-in-law!

It’s my mama’s filling that really wins you over!

Just for lagniappe  –  It would be considered a venial sin if any holiday would come around and I would not go by Keller’s Bakery, in Downtown Lafayette, for a box of our favorite cookies!  Everyone, in my family, expects to see them…but more importantly – it gives me “the warm fuzzies” to just look at them on a pretty platter…

Who could resist?!!!

A note about Keller’s Bakery and these cookies…When I was growing up, every Sunday night (after 6:00 pm mass) our parents would take my brother and I Downtown to get some Folse’s Hot Tamales and Keller’s cookies.  These Sand Tarts with Chocolate Centers and the White Iced Brownies were the ones that we always picked out…Many a Sunday night – as we watched the Ed Sullivan Show, my brother and I would wipe out an ungodly amount of these delicious little things (Almost to the point where we thought that we would get sick!).  We never grew tired of them and still today, they are our favorites…If that isn’t something that “works” then I don’t know what else would!!!

I love days like today – good ole “new” days that bring back old memories and traditions helping us to create some of the best memories that we can imagine for the kids and that wonderful “next generation”…If you think that they aren’t paying attention – you’re not watching ….they don’t miss a thing, always watching!.  I guess if you are making good food and bringing your family together – the good new memories just happen – I promise…

Grillades and Grits for an Easter Sunday Brunch or any special occasion…Wonderful!!

 

Warming Up With Orange Seared Lamb Chops and Roasted Okra…

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Lamb was not something that we ate when I was growing up…not sure why – it just was never “the meat of choice”!  And “Roasted Okra” would have never entered my mother or grandmother’s mind…smothered or pickled – Yes…but not “roasted”!  So, this delicious recipe and combination comes without a history – just from my love of fresh locally farmed ingredients. (And, I am getting sooo spoiled!)

Thanks to Gotreaux’s Family Farm in Scott for our local supply of fresh, young lamb…and many other local farmers for our bounty of fresh okra!

Orange Seared Lamb Chops:

Ingredients:

6-8 small young lamb chops

1 Tbsp sea salt

Fresh ground black pepper

(Pat lamb chops dry and season with salt and pepper; Set on platter, cover and refrigerate over night;)

Prepare Mustard/Herb Mix:

In a bowl whisk together…

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp blood orange vinegar (or juice from 1/4 orange blended with 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar)

1/2 tsp chopped fresh mint

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Pre-Heat oven to 400 degrees;

Heat 1/4 cup canola oil in a large heavy skillet;

Sear lamb chops for about 2 minutes on each side (you want to just sear or brown each side);

Take out of pan and toss in Mustard/Herb Mix;

Return to burner on high heat to reheat pan and chops (about another 2 minutes);

Place pan in pre-heated oven for 5 minutes;

Serve immediately!

Roasted Okra…

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped okra

1 onion – finely sliced

1 ripe tomato – roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

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Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl, toss vegetables with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper;

Place in a single layer on a large baking sheet;

Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, stirring and turning over every 10 minutes;

This really is an easy, fast…and healthy meal.  If you don’t remember to season the lamb chops ahead of time – just season them, pat dry and set in refrigerator while you cook the okra~

This was sooo good that every little bone was “neatly” gnawed on – something that you just can’t do in a restaurant!!  Not to mention, your dogs (or someone’s dog) will love you…

And, no leftover okra…I’d say that this combo works!

Coq au Vin – “Rooster with Wine”!

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Can’t quite nail down the reason that I went on a crazy tangent – in search of everything that has been written about Coq au Vin – translated as “Rooster with Wine”…but it happened!  I came across some article “somewhere” that talked about classic French dishes…some of which I have conquered; But, there it was – “Coq au Vin”, a dish I had not yet given much thought to (until now!).  That is where it all started…

Most people, today, use a hen or several small chickens to make this dish.  But, not here – I had to find the real deal…nothing but a rooster was going to make me happy.   Of course, most markets are not selling roosters (I’ll bet that it has been a while since you saw a nice rooster nestled between the chicken breasts and pork chops at Albertsons!) – but, just as I was in the middle of mad googling to see where I could buy one (not a whole case!),  I stumbled back on Gotreaux’s Family Farm’s website…they are selling, not only the most wonderful organic chickens and lamb, but – yes – roosters and guinea hens! 

I could hardly wait until Saturday morning, to get to the Hub City Farmer’s Market…”early”, to make sure that I would get my rooster!  Then, it dawned on me…I haven’t had a Guinea Gumbo in years, get a guinea too!  Walking back to my car, with my bag containing a big fat rooster, a guinea hen and a huge roasting chicken, I felt like the luckiest person in the world…hard to imagine that it takes so little to make me feel so good! 

Of course,  while the search was on, I had been collecting and printing every recipe that I could find on how to make a very traditional Coq au Vin…but, as always, I consolidated ideas from several and came up with what I thought would work.

There is a little tidbit that you should know, if you ever want to cook this fabulous dish – you have to marinade “the bird” for at least 24 hours, in a whole bottle of red wine, to really get the flavors to come through.  Just think ahead!  So worth it…

“My version”:

Ingredients:

Marinade:

1 bottle red wine

1 bag of pearl onions – peeled – or 2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 carrots – chopped roughly

1 stalk of celery – chopped roughly

4 cloves of garlic – chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tbsp chopped fresh sage

1 bay leaf

Cut rooster or hen into 8 pieces (the breasts need to be cut into 4 pieces instead of 2)

Mix marinade together in large container. Put all pieces of rooster or hen into marinade and toss to make sure that all pieces are coated well. Cover and place in refrigerator for 24 -72 hours.  (All of the pieces should be covered by the marinade)

To cook the Coq au Vin:

Ingredients:

1 large rooster or hen, cut into 8 pieces (marinated as above)

1/2 lb. bacon

1 small bag of pearl onions, peeled

2 carrots, chopped

1 stalk of celery, chopped finely

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups button mushrooms

2 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 can rotel tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

2 quarts chicken broth

1 bouquet garni (5 sprigs of parsley, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 leaves of fresh sage)

1 bay leaf

Salt

Fresh ground black pepper

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Remove rooster or hen from marinade and dry with paper towels. Set aside;

Place marinade (with all veggies) in a sauce pot and cook on medium heat until it has reduced by about 1/2.  As it cooks down, skim off the foam that rises to the top.  Take off of heat and strain into a bowl.  Reserve the sauce;

In large dutch oven – brown the bacon over a medium heat.  Remove when crisp. (You won’t be using the actual bacon, only the drippings – go ahead and make someone a bacon sandwich!)

Brown the rooster or hen pieces in the bacon drippings.  When they are well browned on all sides, remove and place on a platter or tray;

Add and saute’ pearl onions, carrots, celery and garlic in drippings.  Cook until  tender;

Stir in the tomato paste, blending well.  Add sugar and continue stirring the paste with the veggies – cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes;

Add the rotel tomatoes, chicken stock, mushrooms, reserved marinade sauce, bay leaf and bouquet garni.  Stir and blend all well;

Place all pieces of the browned rooster or hen pieces back into pot;

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a medium heat.  Cover and cook for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat begins to fall off of the bones or is very tender.

At this point, I like to remove all of the meat and bones – returning only meat back into the pot;

Taste for seasonings and add salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.

Serve over medium egg noodles, fresh rice or potatoes;

Finally, after all of the anticipation of cooking my first Coq au Vin – as I finally sat down and tasted this beautiful traditional French dish, I sat back in amazement… this is the best thing that I have ever cooked!  Who would ever imagine that a rooster could turn into my favorite dish?  But, the deep rich flavors of this “very proud” bird captured my heart and pleased my palate… Gotreaux’s Farm – keep the roosters coming!

January Wine Dinner at Charley G’s – 1st Time’s a Charm!

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I have heard and read a lot, over the past couple of years, about the Wine Dinners at Charley G’s…and for some unknown reason, Robert and I have never attended (how and why, I’ll never know!).  But, when we received an e-mail from 2 new friends of ours – about the January Wine Dinner – we immediately said “Yes”…and we were so glad that we did! A five course dinner…with wine pairings and getting to visit with friends and new acquaintances – on “hump day“?!  It was just great…

Just walking into Charley G’s has always been a calming experience – there is almost always great music being played, on the piano, by some of Lafayette’s favorite musicians and… honestly, I have never once been dissapointed by the solid creative menu, quality of food or service (not to mention the ambiance!).  Chef Holly Goetting, who has been executive chef at Charley’s G’s, is just remarkable!  Always knowing that your Lunch or Dinner will be perfect means sooo much… Just imagine a Wine Dinner at Charley G’s!

This is it…

1st course:

Marinated Shrimp, Celery & Chives tossed in a Shallot-Thyme Vinaigrette, Tobikkoi Creme Fraiche;  Paired with a Simonnet-Febvre  Cremant de Bourgogne, Brut Blanc

The wonderful and fresh flavors of the Jumbo Gulf Shrimp, bright vinaigrette, tiny bits of caviar in the creme fraiche was perfect – with what I would call a great  “champagne”…but really a Brut Blanc!

2nd course:

Lyonnaise Salad, Quail Egg, Apple Slices Frisee, Bacon Vinaigrette, Roasted Fingering Potatoes;  Paired with a 2008 Domaine Vincent Girardin  Rully Blanc, Vielles Vignes;

I just love fresh salads with a poached egg sitting alongside or on top…just waiting for you to pierce it and let the wonderful richness of the yolk run and “pull together” all of the flavors… And, of course, paired with a fabulous white wine – well, it just made me smile!

3rd course:

Snail Ravioli in Tender Garlic Sauce with Melted Leeks;  Paired with a 2008 Domaine Vincent Girardin  Bourgogne Rouge, Cuvee Saint-Vincent;

Since I have had a few “tough” experiences with snails (escargot)…I was very hesitant about the “snail” ravioli – But, our friends (Mark and Linda) convinced me that they should be tender and have the texture of morel mushrooms…well, they were right!  It was my favorite dish of the night – perfectly cooked house-made ravioli with very tender snails (in a wonderful rich garlic sauce), that melted in your mouth…sitting alongside tender sautéed leeks!  As if that was not enough to make me sing – it was paired with a beautiful red wine!

4th course:

Confit Duck Leg, Fire Roasted Sweet Corn Cake, Blackberry Ginger Glaze; paired with a 2009 Chateaux Saint Martinde la Garrigue  Brozinelle, Coteau de Languedoc;

Everyone at the table was looking forward to the Duck Confit…and they certainly were not disappointed!  It was just fabulous…beautifully roasted duck leg (confit – cooked in its own fat) sitting on the slightly sweet wedge of corn cake sauced with  fresh blackberry glaze  – If we could have, very politely, gnawed and chewed on those duck legs…everyone would have!!!  Along with the boldness of the red wine, that it was paired with….this was the favorite for everyone sitting around me!!

5th course:

Chocolate, Macadamia Nut Shortbread, Orange Liqueur Mouse, Fresh Berries;  Paired with Mathilde Liqueur d’ Oranges au Cognac XO;

“Show stopping” presentation of a mild orange mousse sitting on top of a delicate and slightly savory shortbread – then topped with a thin “sheet” of chocolate… Paired with a great cognac that contained just hints of orange.  Great way to end a fabulous meal!

Can I tell you – at the end of the dinner… there was a room full of happy people!  (I know that it wasn’t just the generous pouring of the wonderful wines!) It sure seemed like everyone enjoyed the food, wine and company of each other…I know that we did! And, I know that we will be back for more…

Wine Dinner at Charley G’s – 1st Time’s a Charm!  Thank you, Chef Holly Goetting and all of the staff, for making it a night to remember.

Creole Onion Soup Hits the Spot!

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Soup again? 

Guess, it’s just the time of the year that screams…”SOUP”!  Even though the weather has been mild, in South Louisiana, so far – I just love making soup in January…and I love French Onion Soup.  But, when I see “Creole Onion Soup” on a menu…well, my heart stops!  Maybe, it’s because you just don’t see it that often or  maybe –  it’s just that good… Whatever the reason, if a restaurant has it on their menu, try it!  It is similar to French Onion Soup, except it is creamier (but without cream) and there isn’t a thick crust of cheese on top.

Don’t be mistaken into thinking or reading that it is “a short cut” to making a great onion soup…because, if you do it right – it’s not!  Yea, you still need to peel and slice a small mountain of fresh onions and cook them down slowly..but so worth the effort! 

Ingredients:

3 lbs medium Vidalia or other “sweet” onions – sliced very thinly using either a mandolin, food processor or by hand (have your goggles ready!)

1 stick unsalted butter

1/4 cup olive oil

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine (Justin Wilson was right on this one…never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink!)  Looks like a little more than a cup – just noticed! Guess, it worked…

1/2 gallon beef stock – homemade or using concentrated beef stock

1 can beef consomme’

1 cup of water

3 springs fresh thyme – if you can’t get fresh, just omit

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

1 clove garlic – chopped

1 loaf of baguette bread or small french bread – cut into small rounds, buttered lightly and toasted in oven

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Melt butter and olive oil in medium size dutch oven or soup pot;

Add onions (it will look like they won’t fit…but they will cook down quite a bit!)

Stir onions well – to make sure that they are all coated with the butter and olive oil;

Cook on high heat – stirring frequently – just until onions begin to saute’, then lower  to a medium heat;

Add salt and sugar – continue to cook and stir often until onions begin to carmelize (about 1 hour).  If onions begin to brown or cook too quickly, turn heat down;

Add chopped garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes;

Very slowly, add flour to onions (about 1/4 cup at a time) stirring and blending well in between additions, until all flour has been added;

Stir flour and onion mixture, stirring constantly (being careful not to break up the onions), for another 10 minutes;

Slowly, add wine – stirring and blending into mixture as you pour;

Cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping bottoms and sides of pot to delgaze, for about 10 minutes;

Add beef broth, consomme’ and water – stir to blend and combine into soup;

Add fresh thyme, bay leaf, cayenne and black pepper;

Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer – cook for 30 minutes;

Turn off heat, cover and let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving;

Place a piece of toasted bread round (or two!) in the bottom of a bowl and pour soup on top…

I promise…it’s good! 

So good, that when my husband, Robert, started eating his bowl of soup (In front of the TV…on his lap!)  I could hear him moaning…”That is sooo good – no, delicious!”  then a little louder…”what kind of cheese did you use?”  To my, “No cheese!”; then…”is that sherry in the soup?”  “No, white wine!” …Finally, “man, I need another bowl of that stuff!” And my final warning…”remember, onions and your heart burn!”  Surprise…he ignored me and had the second bowl! 

That good….

Portuguese Kale and White Bean Soup…Cajun Style!

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After coming home from the Hub City Farmer’s Market this past Saturday morning, looking at the beautiful “3 Kale Mix” from Gotreaux’s Family Farm, I knew instantly what I wanted to do…cool January Day and a quiet house – Soup Day!!!  Not just any soup – the Portuguese Kale and White Bean Soup that I have made a couple of times before…yes,  I had just the recipe.

Robert, my husband, just happened to have cooked a big pot of white beans on Thursday, so I knew they would be great with the Kale…and I always keep a package of Savoies Pork Sausage in my fridge (what good Cajun girl doesn’t?)!  Fresh tomatoes from my “front porch garden” – thought that they would never turn red!  But, they did…and I  just had to use those precious “3” in something that would really be wonderful – If you ever watched “3” (yes, only 3!) tomatoes slowly grow, and slowly turn light pink, then red…and then your plant is done – you know what I mean!!!  To top off all of these ingredients – my herbs are still doing great and thriving on the porch – and those fresh herbs are sooo important in the flavor of this soup.  But, don’t ever not cook this soup if you don’t have fresh herbs…you can, now, buy them at almost every market or use dry herbs.

Looked like I had all of the ingredients for this wonderful special soup…

Ingredients:

Kale – 1 bunch chopped

3 fresh tomatoes – chopped or 1 can of whole tomatoes chopped

(Just look at those precious tomatoes!)

1 package of dried white beans – cooked or 2 cans of cannellini or any type of canned white beans

2 quarts of homemade chicken stock or 2 quarts of chicken stock made from dry or concentrated chicken stock

1 pound of Savoies Smoked Pork Sausage or any other type of smoked sausage you can find – chopped into bite size, small pieces

3 medium potatoes – chopped into small pieces

2 Onions – finely chopped

1 Bell Pepper – finely chopped

3 cloves garlic – chopped

Bouquet Garni – 6 stems of fresh parsley, 6 stems of fresh lemon thyme and 4 fresh sage leaves tied together and removed after soup in cooked or use 1 tsp of each herb dried

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 tsp black pepper

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Heat olive oil in medium size soup pot or dutch oven on medium heat

Add chopped sausage and stir frequently until browned

Add kale, onions and bell peppers and continue to cook on a medium low heat until all veggies are soft

Stir in tomatoes and potatoes – cook for 15 minutes, stirring often

Add chicken stock and white beans –  blend all ingredients well

Stir in Bouquet Garni or dried herbs and pepper – you shouldn’t need any additional salt, because the sausage contains a lot of salt

Bring to a boil, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes

Turn off heat and let soup sit for at least 30 more minutes

Serve with any good fresh “crusty” bread…enjoy!!!!

My oldest daughter, Kimberly, came by and loved it so much, that she took some home for supper and asked if I could freeze some for nights when she wanted something warm to eat…which, of course, I was thrilled to do!! Then, brought some to my precious Anne Marie, who just had her first baby (and I miss her like crazy, at work!).  I even had enough to freeze a few containers to keep…Imagine!

So, if you want to know if a Cajun girl can cook a “Portuguese Soup”…of course we can!!!  Works for everyone I know!

Cabbage Rolls – Bring in the New Year….Every Year!

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Cabbage Rolls have been a traditional New Year’s Day meal in our family, for as long as I can remember…can I say – a long time!!! My mother learned to make these delicious little bundles from my grandmother (her mother-in-law) in the 1960’s and they have been a family tradition ever since! At some point in time, I sat by my mother and made her measure everything so that we would not lose this great treasure….The recipe comes out perfect every time – Just as it was written!!!

So what happens when my husband and I decide (for the first time ever!) to go out-of-town for the whole New Year holiday? Meaning that I won’t be home to make the “Annual Cabbage Roll Feast”… (This always consists of cabbage rolls, black-eyed peas, potato salad and a Honey Ham.)

Well, after my children all decide that I need to either stay home or make the cabbage rolls ahead of time (which I didn’t have the time to do)….. My oldest daughter, Kimberly, painfully pulls out the recipe that I had given to her years ago and decides that maybe it is time for her to give it a try… Many phone calls later, I am thrilled to report that she was successful with her very first attempt! She just didn’t know what to do with all of the rolls….the recipe makes about 100! She ran out of cabbage and saved the leftover meat mixture for me…I was sooo happy, because I just had to make – even the smallest of batches for my year to get off to the right start! Not just ready to pass the torch on making the “family cabbage rolls”, just yet….but it sure feels good to have a “back up”!

Ingredients:

4 lbs. ground beef
4 large onions chopped finely
1 1/2 cans whole tomatoes – cut up with juice
2 cans tomato soup
3 cups raw rice
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 cups shredded par-boiled cabbage (use the center portions of the whole head of cabbage after removing the leaves that you will use for the rolls)
5 heads of cabbage

In a large pot, fill with water and bring to a boil;
Have a large cookie sheet or some other shallow pan near the stove to put the leaves of cabbage on;

Remove a few of the tough outer leaves off of each head of cabbage and lin the bottom and sides of a large pot that you will be cooking the rolls in;

Remove center core of cabbage, and drop the whole head into boiling water;

After a few minutes start to remove the outer leaves with tongs and place leaves on pan;


Continue removing until the leaves begin to get too small to use;
Remove the par-boiled center and use for shredding into meat mixture;

Mix all ingredients in a very large bowl;

Place an ice cream scoop full on each leaf and roll ends in, then roll from the sides;
Start  layering your Dutch oven or large pan with cabbage rolls until it is full or you run out of the mixture or cabbage leaves;

Once the pot is full of rolls, add water to cover about 1/2 way up to the top of the rolls;


Place in 350 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Take one out to test for doneness (rice should be done). If rice is still a little crunchy, let cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove pot from oven, take lid off so that they will stop cooking and drain any of the liquid remaining in pot. Or, once they have cooled enough to be handled, you could carefully remove cabbage rolls from pot and place in another large container or in containers to be given to a few close friends and family….I can assure you they will be thrilled!

The last time I made cabbage rolls with my grandmother, she was 95…Still living in her home, doing quite well for herself – but wanted “her” cabbage rolls – and it is quite an undertaking, needless to say!  She knew that I made them just like she did, so she called me and asked me to come over to help her….I prepared all of the cabbage and mixture – as she looked on,  telling me..”yea, that’s how you do it”!  Then, finally came her favorite part…the rolling.  Now, she was a tiny woman and wanted to do this part of the process at her kitchen bar area…To get up, I had to give her a little “boost” up so that she could sit on one of her bar stools to roll with me.  We sat at that counter in her kitchen, laughing and telling stories as we rolled 96 of these precious cabbage rolls (and yes, she counted!).  When they were done, she ate a few, put some in the refrigerator for later, let me take home about a dozen…then carefully wrapped the rest separately in saran wrap, to put in zip locks, in her freezer for God only knows how long!  All I know, is that she wasn’t sharing with anyone…she was stashing them away for when she had that “envie” for one of “her” cabbage rolls.

I cherish the memories of that particular day with her – always will…

Cabbage Rolls have been working in my family for a long time – New Year’s Day or any old day!!!

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