Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

bananas foster bread pudding (510x383)

Have you ever been there in New Orleans facing life’s ultimate quandary: whether to order bread pudding or bananas Foster for dessert? Well, I have. And I set out to make that a quandary no more.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1 ½ cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

7 ripe bananas, sliced into coins

½ cup banana liqueur

½ cup dark rum

5 eggs, beaten

3 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

7 cups cubed day-old French bread

Sauce:

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon water

½ teaspoon lemon juice

½ cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large (10 X 14 inch) baking dish. Then, make traditional bananas Foster: Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Stir in 1 cup of the brown sugar and the cinnamon, stirring until smoothly incorporated. Add the bananas and cook just until soft, depending on their degree of ripeness. Stir in the banana liqueur, then carefully add the rum and flame till the fire burns out. Let mixture cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, the remaining ½ cup brown sugar, cream, milk, vanilla and almond extracts. Add the cooled banana mixture and incorporate. Add the cubed French bread and press into the liquid till all cubes are soaked. Transfer to the buttered baking dish. Bake until firm and golden brown on top, about 1 hour. Cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Combine the sugar with the water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until all sugar is dissolved, then allow to bubble without stirring until the mixture turns golden. Don’t let it burn. Stir in the cream, being careful not to splatter, until the sauce is smooth. Drizzle over the slightly cooled bread pudding and serve in squares. Serves 16-18.

 

Beef Stroganoff

sweet and spicy stroganoff (510x416)

Any season of any year, one of my favorite things to cook is that oldtime Russian classic, Beef Stroganoff. I’ve been working on a sweet and spicy version using a Fischer & Wieser sauce that’s being introduced this summer. But in case you get hungry before then, this seems reason enough to thank Mr. Stroganoff for his contribution, whoever he was.

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ pounds round steak, cut into strips

Salt and black pepper

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

10-12 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 cup beef broth

½ cup dry red wine

1 ½ cups sour cream

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Cooked egg noodles

In a large pan, melt the butter with the olive oil, then stirfy the beef strips. Season as you to with salt and pepper, lemon pepper and garlic powder. Pour the beef and most of its liquid into a bowl and add the mushrooms to the remaining liquid in the pan. Splash in a little of the red wine and saute until mushrooms soften; pour them into the bowl with the beef. Saute the chopped shallot in the pan just until it turns translucent, then return the beef and mushrooms.  Add the broth and red wine. Once the liquid is heated through, stir in the sour cream and tomato paste to thicken. Stir in the parsley. Serve hot over egg noodles, garnishing with additional parsley and, if desired, crushed red pepper. Serves 6-8.

Shrimp Remoulade

shrimp remoulade (510x400)

1 cup coarse-grained Creole mustard

½ cup prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon prepared ketchup

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 pound cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Shredded lettuce

8 tomato slices

1 can sliced black olives, drained

In a bowl, combine the mustard and horseradish with the paprika, ketchup, lemon juice, chili powder, hot sauce, garlic powder, lemon pepper and sugar. Add the shrimp to the remoulade sauce and fold to cover completely. Set in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. When ready to serve, cover the bottom of 8 small plates with lettuce, then set a tomato slice on each. Divide the shrimp with sauce atop the tomatoes and garnish with black olives. Serves 8.

Green Chile Pork Stew

hatch (510x320)

As I learned during a visit to record radio shows in Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque, green chile stew is the “national dish” of New Mexico. The key, of course, is the “chile,” using the fresh peppers in their green stage rather than their red. 

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ pounds pork loin, cut in bite-sized pieces

2 medium onions, chopped

8 garlic cloves, minced

8 cups chicken broth

8 medium potatoes, cubed

1 cup crushed green chile

½ cup chopped cilantro

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon oregano leaves

½ teaspoon freshly black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and brown the pork with the onion and garlic. Add all remaining ingredients, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until meat and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Serves 10.

Gulf Coast Paella

paella (510x510)

This dish is half great taste and half nostalgia, since it references the Gulf Coast that curves through so many of the places I’ve lived (and loved) my life. My plan here is to take Spain’s classic rice dish on a similar journey, with a nod to the Cajuns and Creoles of southwest Louisiana while we’re in the neighborhood that most often makes jambalaya.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 chicken breast halves, cut bite-sized

1 pound smoked sausage

1 onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled

1 tomato chopped

½ cup frozen green peas

3/4 cup chunky salsa

2 (10-ounce) packages yellow rice mix

7 cups water

Heat the olive oil in a large saute (or paella) pan and brown the sausage and chicken. Add the onion, red pepper and carrot and cook until lightly caramelized. Add the minced garlic and stir quickly until golden. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, onion and garlic powders. Add the shrimp and stir just until pink, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato, green peas and salsa, stirring to incorporate. Pour in the rice and saffron seasoning, followed by the water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Serves 12-14.

Boudin-Stuffed Chicken

boudin stuffed chicken (510x474)

Recently I came into a stash of Cajun boudin from southwest Louisiana – specifically boudin blanc made from pork and rice, as opposed to boudin noir, the traditional blood sausage. This dish has quickly become a favorite to serve family and friends.

4 (6-ounce) chicken breast halves

1 cup cooked pork and rice boudin filling

1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion

1 tablespoon plus ½ cup minced red bell pepper

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced parsley

Creole seasoning

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup finely chopped shallot

¼ cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken broth

Caramelized green beans

Minced parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a cutting board, using a sharp knife, cut a deep horizontal pocket into the thick side of each chicken breast. Be careful not to cut through to the other side. Wash your hands. Mix the boudin filling with onion, 1 tablespoon red bell pepper, garlic and parsley, then stuff this into the pocket you just cut. Lightly sprinkle with Creole seasoning.

In a large bowl, mix the flour with Creole seasoning. Beat the egg with the water in another bowl. Lightly dust the stuffed chicken breasts with the flour. Shake off excess, coat with the egg wash and lightly dust with flour again. Heat the oil and butter in a large oven-proof skillet. Add the stuffed breasts and sear until golden brown, 2-3 per side. Set the pan in the oven and finish cooking the chicken, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and transfer breasts to a platter.

Set the pan over medium-high heat and add the shallot and remaining bell pepper, briefly caramelizing. Stir in the thyme, then add the wine and chicken broth. Cook over high heat until syrupy and reduced by about ½, 6-8 minutes. Position each stuffed chicken breast atop green beans. Spoon pan sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 4.

 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

pork arugula salad (510x383)

While packed with flavor and a sense of celebration, this is actually one of the lightest dishes to carry the Gulf Coast flavor brand.  And perhaps best of all, the dressing from the salad is all the additional sauce you should need.

1 (1 ½-pound) pork tenderloin

Extra-virgin olive oil

Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 cups baby arugula

1 pint cherry tomatoes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onions

Lemon pepper

Preheat the grill. Slice the pork tenderloins across about ½ inch thick. In a dish, coat the slices with olive oil then sprinkle with Creole seasoning, lemon pepper, garlic powder and crushed red pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile combine the arugula and cherry tomatoes in a bowl. Toss salad with 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, dehydrated onions and a sprinkle of lemon pepper. Grill the pork slices until medium rare, 2-3 minutes per side. Divide onto 4 dinner plates and top with the salad. Serves 4.

 

Chocolate-Pecan Bars

chocolate pecan bar (510x354)

There’s not too many things Southerners love better than pecans, unless of course it’s pecan pie – unless of course it’s chocolate pecan pie. These chunky, chewy and gooey dessert bars deliver exactly that kind of pleasure.

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup fine Graham cracker crumbs

½ cup butter, softened

¼ cup packed brown sugar

3 large eggs

3/4 cup corn syrup, such as Karo

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (11.5-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chunks

2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To form a crust, beat the flour, Graham cracker, butter and brown sugar in a bowl until crumbly. Using your fingers, press this mixture into a greased 9 X 13-inch baking pan or baking dish, covering the bottom completely.  Bake until crust is lightly brown, 13-15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling by beating the eggs with the corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate and the pecans and, when crust comes out of the oven, pour in the filling. Bake until thoroughly set, 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan set on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then set pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes more. When chilled, cut into three bars across and 4 or 5 lengthwise. Serve at room temperature. Makes 12 or 15 dessert bars.

Crawfish Beignets

crawfish beignets

This recipe concept started making the rounds in New Orleans and eventually caught on across the Gulf Coast – wherever crawfish are boiled. The name “beignet,” though, is a bit romanticized since the dish has more in common with the fritters made with tenderized conch meat in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas and other tropical outposts in the Caribbean.    

Citrus Remoulade:

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon lime zest

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

½ teaspoon lemon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 ¼ cup canola oil

½ teaspoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon finely chopped cornichons

Beignets:

½ pound crawfish tails, finely chopped

¼ red bell pepper, minced

2 tablespoons minced green onion

21 tablespoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon minced jalapeno or other hot pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons butter, melted

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

Oil for frying

¾ cup whole milk

Creole seasoning

In a food processor or blender, combine the egg yolks, lime zest, orange juice, Creole seasoning, lemon pepper and garlic powder until smooth. Slowly incorporate the oil until he sauce is thick. Stir in the remaining remoulade ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Prepare the beignets by combining the chopped crawfish in a bowl with the bell pepper, green onion, garlic, hot pepper, parsley and butter. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.

Heat oil in a deep pan to 375 degrees. Stir the flour mixture into the conch mixture, then add the milk to form a batter. Drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot oil and cook until golden brown on all sides, 2-3 minutes. Transfer the beignets to paper towels using a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with Creole seasoning. Serve hot with Citrus Remoulade. Makes about 16 fritters.

Cocktail Meat Pies

meat pies

These things are wildly popular on BOTH sides of the Sabine River, for every good reason. They’re delicious as empanadas in Texas, of course. In Louisiana, they’re known as Natchitoches Meat Pies – from the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. Feel free to call them whatever you like, as long as you’re talking with your mouth full.

Dough:

1½ cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) chilled butter, diced

½ cup cold water

Filling:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ small onion, finely chopped

½ green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon minced jalapeno

1 pound ground beef

1 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup dried currants

1 teaspoon chopped parsley

4 ounces ricotta cheese

 

½ cup flour for dusting

1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water

To prepare the dough, combine the flour and salt in a food processor and add the butter, processing until fine crumbs form. Add the cold water while the processor is running and pulse until the mixture becomes a dough ball. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Make the filling by heating the oil in a large skillet and sauteeing the onion, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno until soft. Add the beef and stir until lightly browned. Season with the Creole or Cajun blend, garlic and onion powders, and cumin. Add the tomatoes, currents and parsley. Cover the skillet and finish cooking, about 10 minutes. Transfer the filling to a bowl, add the cheese and stir to combine thoroughly. Let filling cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Dust a clean, flat surface and a rolling pin with flour, then roll out the dough until 1/8 inch thick. Cut out circles using a 4-inch cookie cutter. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling at the center of each circle; seal by folding and pressing the edges. Brush the surface of the meat pies with the egg wash and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Serve hot. Note: these meat pies are also excellent when deep fried. Makes 15 small pies.