Category Archives: Louisiana Traditions

Family Holidays and our Easter Sunday tradition

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two crawfish
Two crawfish

Ten years ago this month, my younger sister married a foreigner…sort of.  To be exact, she married a Canadian from Nova Scotia.  The reason I say, “sort of” is that we can trace at least one branch of our family tree back to the time when the French people who had settled in Nova Scotia, the Acadians,  were expelled from that country by the British.  A large group of them made their way down to Louisiana where they settled, and eventually were called, “Cajuns.”

My sister visits several times a year.  One of those visits is usually Easter.  She came home to Louisiana a few years ago for Easter to christen her first born daughter, and brought a group of Canadians (and a Brit) with her.  Since then, it has been an annual Easter tradition.  Every year we have a different group of visitors…sometimes we have repeat visitors, but almost always someone new joins the group.  Our friend Joe, who is British and in the navy once had to ask (and was granted) permission from the Queen to attend our festivities.

The group usually spends a couple of days in New Orleans before traveling down to Plaquemine, where my mother lives, for the weekend.  Saturday is usually a crawfish boil which is sometimes held on our cousin’s houseboat while traveling down the bayou.

boiled crawfish
Crawfish on the houseboat

 

This year was a special treat because my friend Helana Brigman of Clearly Delicious Food Blog and her friend attended the crawfish boil.  We had a great time teaching the children how to lull the crawfish to sleep!

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As an appetizer I made our favorite Essential Roasted Tomatillo Salsa from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Cookbook.  Everyone wanted the recipe so I have included a link to it.

little girl holding a crawfish
Addie and the crawfish

 

Crawfish and children
Introducing children to crawfish is always fun, especially when they’ve never seen one!

 

 

Easter Sunday always starts with Easter Sunday Mass at the Cathedral on the Bayou (St. John the Evangelist Church in Plaquemine) and then culminates in an Easter picnic and Easter Egg Hunt.

My Loup Garou usually cooks a great Louisiana dish as the main course.  The 2013 main course was Alligator Sauce Piquant.  A sauce piquant (also spelled piquante) is a spicy tomato based stew.    Some of you may know of the History Channel series, “Swamp People.”  The Canadians (and some of the Americans)  who visited were quite enamored with the idea of eating alligator because they had seen the television show.  I am told that the alligator we used was killed by Troy Landry himself!   Ever since Easter, we have had requests for the recipe.  Finally I am posting it!

This is a recipe that we perfected with chicken before we started using alligator, so if you do not have access to alligator, you may substitute boneless skinless chicken.

alligator sauce piquant
Alligator Sauce Piquant is a spicy Louisiana tradition

Alligator Sauce Piquant

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3-5 lbs alligator meat cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 10 oz can of diced tomatoes and green chilies (such as Ro-Tel)
  • 1 16 ounce can of chopped whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 Tablespoons of garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup pureed carrots
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup sherry

Instructions

  1. Season alligator with salt, black pepper and cayenne.
  2. In a heavy cast iron skillet heat oil over medium high heat.
  3. Brown the alligator meat in the oil until golden brown.
  4. Remove the browned alligator from the pot and set aside.
  5. Add flour to the oil carefully.
  6. Stir the flour and oil (roux) until the roux is brown.
  7. Add tomato paste and continue to stir, 5-6 minutes or until the sauce is a nice brown color
  8. Add onions, celery, bell pepper, carrots and garlic.
  9. Saute 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted.
  10. Add all of the tomatoes and stir into the wilted vegetables.
  11. Add chicken stock and stir until the mixture is well blended.
  12. Bring to a boil.
  13. Reduce heat and simmer.
  14. Add alligator and blend into sauce
  15. Add oregano, bay leaves and Worcestershire.
  16. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, then add lemon juice.
  17. Simmer for 45 minutes or until alligator is tender.
  18. Just before serving add sherry, shallots and parsley.
  19. Serve over rice in bowls.
http://www.gumbogoddess.net/?p=293

Easter Egg Hunt
The annual Easter Egg Hunt is a tradition in our family

 

Killer Poboys are a danger of the serial kind — I am compelled to return again and again…

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DSC_0156
It all started when after a day of Saints football and drinking in the French Quarter, my sisters, our husbands and I  were looking for a place to eat before we headed to watch Better Than Ezra play at Harrah’s Casino.   For some reason no one in our group had thought about the fact that few restaurants are open in the Quarter for dinner on Sunday.  We headed to Vacherie which was near our hotel.  We had eaten at Vacherie for breakfast a few times and just knew that dinner was going to be perfect!   I should have known when I walked into the dining room and saw no one, that something was not right.  “We are closed for dinner on Sunday,” was the reply when I asked for a table for eight.  After trying a couple of other places, we were quite frustrated.  We really didn’t want to go to an elegant restaurant where jackets are required.  Casual atmosphere was in order for the evening, but it goes without saying that it had to have flavor and atmosphere.  It was time to head to the Erin Rose…not to eat, because they don’t serve food.  For some reason the Erin Rose, a small Irish pub on Conti, became my brother-in-law’s favorite New Orleans Irish Pub the night we were kicked out of the place because he argued with a Texan in a ten-gallon hat about who had to buy the next round. For some reason we always run into the most interesting people there.

I digress.

The Erin Rose was the perfect environment to brainstorm over a pint. Little did we know what would happen next!

We headed to the back of the bar, because the front was full–the back is cozy and it soon filled up too. Once in the back, we discovered that we were wrong. The Erin Rose has food! Not only food, but Killer Poboys! This pleased me to no end, because I. Required. Food. NOW! I had to wait a bit though.  I was hesitant. These are not your every day run of the mill poboys. The sign said that they are, “Internationally inspired chef crafted poboys.”   I mean, it seemed a sacrilege of sorts to play with the traditional New Orleans sandwich.  I really had my mouth set on a shrimp poboy. Crisply fried shrimp on a loaf of French Bread and fully dressed (meaning that it has lettuce, tomatoes and mayo)– that is what I just HAD to have! I told my Loup Garou to order a Shrimp Poboy and a Tin Roof beer…and make it snappy! He brought me the menu and I paused…

Menu from Killer Poboys in the Erin Rose, New Orleans
Killer Poboys Menu

The Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp Poboy has:

“Marinated Radish (radish is my favorite red vegetable!), Carrot, Cucumber, Herbs and Special Sauce (hmm…got to have the special sauce!).”

Be still my beating heart…that just makes my mouth water to read about it.

But on a poboy?  It sounded like something I would expect to find in an Asian restaurant served over noodles.

While he was ordering, my Loup Garou found out from the chef that they have not been at the Erin Rose very long. (We knew this because we were in the Erin Rose in April.) They take cash only, and they serve menu items until they run out of the ingredients. The first one they usually run out of is the, “Dark & Stormy Pork.” NOLA Rum braised pork with lime slaw and garlic aoli sounds decadent.  We weren’t able to have any because Goldilocks had been there right before us and it was ALL GONE!

When I saw the poboy that I ordered, I just knew that I had to take a picture of it, because I knew I was going to write about it.

Apparently, however, I did not take that photo.  I really thought I did, but I can’t find it!

I must have been so enraptured with my poboy that I just plain forgot!  It was the perfect blend of Asia and New Orleans.  The marinated shrimp was grilled and served with fresh cilantro, radish, carrot and cucumber, and was so amazing that I still remember the way it tasted a month later.  In fact, I swear I dreamed about it.

In fact, last weekend at Food Blog South, 2013, my friend, Helana Brigman of Clearly Delicious  and I were chatting with the keynote speaker, Kenji Lopez-Alt, Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats. He wanted to know the best place to get a poboy in New Orleans. I suddenly had a flashback to a memory of being in my grandmother’s black Cadillac, my grandmother, my mother, my sisters and I  piled in my grandmother’s car and headed to Deanie’s Seafood to get shrimp poboys.  My grandmother lived in New Orleans when I was growing up, and Deanies was her go-to place for a shrimp poboy.  I mentioned a couple of other  traditional New Orleans poboy restaurants such as Domalise’s… and then…

Suddenly I felt a flash of heat on my side!  I looked down at the bag on my shoulder and remembered that I still had the menu from Killer Poboys with me.

Of course, I ripped it out, (it was kind of crumpled by then from all of the times I took it out and read the ingredients again) and told him that he simply HAD to try the Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp poboy at Killer Poboys, (of course with Zapps Cajun Crawtators on the side.)

He may take my word for it…or not.

However, just this morning, I saw a CBS story about the legendary poboy and its history. Mo Rocca interviewed the chef of Killer Poboys as part of his segment about: NOLA’s po boy: The story behind the iconic sandwich.

The caption underneath says, “A new CBS News poll shows 60 percent of Americans would like to try the famous new Orleans sandwich,..”

Coincidence? I think not.

Why don’t you try it and decide for yourself?

Killer Poboys on Urbanspoon

 

Chocolate Cannoli and the Italian Birthday Feast

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Last weekend I attended the wedding of a childhood friend.  It was wonderful to catch up with the, “old gang” and find out what everyone had been doing in the years after high school.  Some of us moved away and others stayed close to home.  One amusing subject that came up was how we all tell strangers we meet that we are from Baton Rouge.  The fact is that we are from a small town across the river from Baton Rouge, but I have learned that for most people from other states, New Orleans is the only town, “on the map” in Louisiana.  Even so, Baton Rouge is the capitol, and we expect people to have heard of it even if they don’t know where it is.

Almost any woman from Baton Rouge whose mother cooked anything at least had a copy of River Road Recipes.  It is a cookbook published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge and although there have been four different River Road cook books, the first one, published in 1959 is a classic.

Until recently, I always used the River Road lasagna recipe, because that one was the recipe that my mother used.  It’s the one I remember bringing to the Girl Scout potluck suppers when I was growing up.  When I became a mother and started using that recipe, I always doubled the meat sauce, and it was always a hit – especially with the guys.  It was also guaranteed to feed the multitudes.

I mentioned in a recent post that it is a tradition in our family for the, “Birthday Girl/Boy” to choose their birthday meal.  In June, my oldest, “Sweet Thing One”  turned 17 and wanted to invite friends to her birthday dinner.  At first she requested pan sautéed fish.  When I learned that she was inviting six of her friends in addition to the eight family members I’d already invited, I suggested lasagna.  Her response was, “Only if it’s really yummy.”

Always a fan of Italian cuisine, I have recently been watching and learning from the many wonderful Italian chefs on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.  I realized that the recipe that I had been using was not traditional, and remembered that my mother-in-law recently gave me an Italian cookbook that she found at the Pottery Barn.  The title is, The Italian Country Table: Simple Recipes for Trattoria Classics, by Maxine Clark.  Although I have not ever heard of Maxine Clark, I decided to try her recipe for, “Oven-baked lasagna” instead of my old tried and true.  I was glad I did.

I remembered that one of  my Sweet Thing One’s favorite Italian desserts is chocolate cannoli.  In fact, we once walked all over Little Italy in New York on a quest for chocolate cannoli and she had to settle for one that had a chocolate dipped cannoli shell and a regular ricotta filling.  A friend of mine who had once made chocolate cannoli shared a recipe with me some time ago, and I thought that this might be a good time to try it.  I gave my daughter a choice – cake or cannoli.  She said, “Can you do both?”  Since the cake she wanted was Italian Cream Cake, I said, “Sure, why not?!”  (Am I a glutton for punishment or what?)  I have used the same recipe for Italian Cream Cake for years, so I knew I could handle it.  Cotton Country Collection, a publication of the Junior League of Monroe, Louisiana has a recipe for Italian Cream Cake that turns out very moist, and has a pecan and coconut cream cheese icing that has me licking the bowl, the spoon and the beaters!

My daughter’s 17th birthday turned out to be a memorable one!  I did adjust the lasagna recipe a bit, as I felt that for the crowd I had, I needed more meat and tomato.  The cannoli was a hit, although my daughter’s friend thought they were eggrolls when she first saw those chocolate ricotta filled tubes of deliciousness.  The friend quickly learned what cannoli was.  I used the recipe my friend gave me and combined it with others.  The dough for the shells proved to be the biggest challenge.  I realized as I was working with the dough that it is really a basic pastry dough, such as a pie crust.  A little cold water went a long way in helping me to roll out the dough.  The recipe I have posted is a combination of a recipe given to me by  Matthew Mechana and this one at Cooks.com.

I learned a great deal from that  birthday dinner.  Tradition is important, but the most important thing about tradition is not necessarily doing exactly the same thing over and over again.  It’s about re-creating the feeling that you associate with that warm memory of what happened and that you want to create over and over again!

Chocolate and ricotta filled cannoli
These cannoli tubes filled with chocolate and ricotta fillings were delicious!

Cannoli Shells

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 Tablespoons white wine or Marsala wine
  • 2 eggs beaten lightly
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Cannoli molds -- may be purchased at a kitchen store, or you may make them from wooden dowels.

Instructions

  1. Preheat vegetable oil to 375 degrees. (Or, if you do not want to fry them, you may bake these in the oven at 375 for 10 minutes.)
  2. Put flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Add butter and work with fingers until mixture resembles fine meal.
  4. Add wine and 1 egg.
  5. Mix with a fork until dough can be formed into a ball.
  6. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic and silky.
  7. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest in a cool place for 2 hours.
  8. Divide dough into 8 balls.
  9. When you are working with this dough, remember it is pastry dough. Keep a glass of ice water handy as the dough will dry out. It helps to cover the dough with a damp cloth when you are not working with it. It helps to work in batches, frying around four at a time.
  10. Run 1 dough ball through a pasta roller on its widest setting, then repeat several times, gradually moving to narrower settings, until it can be run through at the narrowest setting.
  11. Or, if you do not have a pasta machine, roll each dough with a rolling pin until it is as thin as you can get it and still work with it.
  12. Cut the dough into 3.5" by 3.5" squares.
  13. Wrap each square around a cannoli form and seal the edges. Fry until golden brown.
  14. Allow to cool before sliding off of the mold. (The metal molds especially can get very hot. Be careful when you're removing the shell from the mold. You may want to use a butter knife to carefully slide the shell from the mold. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
http://www.gumbogoddess.net/?p=226

Cannoli Filling

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of ricotta (I'm told sheep's milk ricotta works well if you can find it)
  • 1 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

Instructions

  1. Beat ricotta with a mixer at high speed until smooth.
  2. Add sugar.
  3. Add vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until thick.
  5. Fold the whipped cream into the ricotta/sugar mixture.
  6. If you want to have both chocolate and vanilla cream filled cannoli, then divide the filling into two bowls. Add cocoa to one of the bowls of filling.
  7. Chill the fillings for 1 hour before filling the shells.
http://www.gumbogoddess.net/?p=226

To assemble the cannoli, spoon a little of each filling into separate pastry bags.  Pipe the filling into each of the shells.  For a garnish, you may dip the tips of the filled shells into shaved chocolate, mini chocolate chips, crushed pistachios or chopped candied citrus peel.

Chill 30 minutes before serving.

Funerals in Louisiana…and Wyoming

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Yes, I know…this is a food blog.  One of the most important reasons I started my blog was my desire to illustrate for people our unique Louisiana culture.  Funeral traditions are an important part of an area’s culture, and my father’s recent death and the activities on the days surrounding his death inspired me to write about how we go about saying our permanent goodbyes to people we know and (most of the time) love.  I say most of the time, because there was a story I heard about someone who attended a wake for a political figure just to make sure that the man was really dead!

One may wonder how food and funerals happen to be mentioned in tandem.  In south Louisiana, when two or more are gathered for any reason, there is food.  Sharing a meal together signifies a connection among those at the table.  Around here, after a funeral, there is usually a sort of reception at someone’s (usually the relatives) home.  When someone dies, there is a general thought that the grieving shouldn’t have to think about cooking.  Friends often deliver gifts of food to the home of the deceased as a way of imparting comfort and nourishment to the mourning family.  Many generous people delivered food after my father’s death.  Delicious soup, salads, meats, sandwiches, sweets and casseroles overflowed my mother’s refrigerator.  We were overwhelmed with the generosity and love of friends and family!

Unlike some people, cooking is therapeutic for me!  We had relatives coming in from out of town, and two separate days of funeral activities in which people had to be fed.   My father was cremated, and we buried his cremains on Saturday in a private family ceremony.  Monday was the funeral.  The afternoon of my father’s death was marked by cathartic cooking.  One of my mom’s favorite cookbooks (and mine) is the Susan Spicer  cookbook entitled, Crescent City Cookbook.   An Amazon link to the book may be found here in my list of favorite cookbooks.  Several of the recipes have become comfort food for us.  My mother decided to cook jalapeno pork roast with red and green rice for dinner Friday night.  She cooked the roast but by the time she got to the rice, she couldn’t think about food anymore and I took over the rice.  Saturday, we had a delicious gumbo provided by my sister’s mother-in-law.  Sunday, we had jambalaya, hot wings, and slaw.  Of course much of this was eaten by the time Monday came around, because the house was full of people!

While I was roasting the onions, tomatoes and peppers for the red and green rice, I thought about how Louisiana gatherings always have food as a centerpiece.  I wondered about what, “they” did in other places in comparison to here and thought it might make an interesting article.  I was concerned that a funeral topic might be inappropriate.  I shared my thoughts about the topic with my friend, Theresa and she thought it was a really good idea.  She said, “I think the way funerals are conducted here, with a reception afterwards and plenty of food is a warm comfort and a beautiful loving thing.”

roasted peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic
I roasted the peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes on the grill outside

I, “Googled,” FUNERALS LOUISIANA.  Not surprisingly, the top few links had to do with jazz funerals.   In New Orleans, the jazz funeral is a tradition.  That sometimes extends to other areas but is centered in New Orleans.  Other than that, the results were mostly funeral homes.

I must confess that I have never been to a funeral in a state other than Louisiana.  I have seen them in movies, of course.  One of my favorite funeral scenes is in the movie, Elizabethtown.  The family is all gathered at Paula Deen’s (for those of you who have not seen the movie, she does not play herself, but a relative of Orlando Bloom’s character.)  There’s a very funny moment in the scene when a mischievous little boy gets into trouble.  Although that gathering isn’t immediately after a funeral ceremony, it’s very much like what happens here when someone dies…family chaos included.

But what about outside of the south?  What about in a northern state?  Like, Wyoming?  I, “Googled” again.  This time I, “Googled,” Funerals Wyoming and in the top five list returned was, “White Lady Funerals.”  What?!  Then I read that it was a funeral business in Wyoming, Australia.  The term, “White Lady” here for any business would just not go over well.   I also found out that it is against the law to protest at funerals in Wyoming.  Interesting.  Again, many of the results I found were mostly web sites for funeral homes.

Determined not to give up, I decided to try a different term.  DEALTH RITUALS as a Google search term brought more of what I was looking for, but also many bizarre links.  I clicked on, “The History of Funeral Customs.”  There was information about general customs revolving around death throughout the world.  As I scrolled down to the bottom section entitled, “Modern Funeral Customs” I thought I was getting somewhere…I was.  Wyoming again.  At the bottom, right hand corner of the screen was the following:  “Copyright 2000, Wyoming Funeral Directors.”

Finally, the phrase FOOD and FUNERALS brought the result I was looking for.  In fact, on one link, a blogger, Ashley Johnson was writing for the same reason I was!  I tried to read about her to find out where she was from, but her bio in the list of contributors said nothing about whether she was from Wyoming.

My favorite article was this one from Reuters, which said, “Remains of the earliest known feast in a cave in Israel show that humans have been bringing food to funerals for millennia and suggest that burial feasts may have helped shape modern society,…”

The bottom line is that sending food to a family who has lost a close relative is a gesture that is ultimately human and comforting, no matter where one lives.

GG

 

Other links to funeral etiquette food and customs:

http://entertaining.about.com/cs/etiquette/a/funeraletiquett.htm

http://www.chow.com/food-news/53569/death-warmed-over/

http://likethedew.com/2009/04/04/good-grief-southern-funeral-food/

http://www.seriouseats.com/talk/2009/08/funeral-food-1.html

http://www.esquire.com/features/food-drink/huge-food/funeral-food-0311