Out and about in 2010

What I saw.





















Have a ball. A crawfish ball.

I was lucky enough to hit the fantastic foodie¬†city of New Orleans about a month ago. That was probably the beginning of crawfish season in the Gulf Coast and there were all sorts of dishes¬†and yummy treats prepared with the mud bugs, as they’re lovingly called.

I had never tried crawfish balls before, but I loved them! Sorta like a crabcake¬†shaped like a ball and fried.¬†The moment I took a bite¬†I knew I would be making them at home and so I did. I don’t really think there’s a need¬†for a very specific recipe, but I’m listing the ingredients and the amounts I used here. In the end, you want the dough to be wet, but pliable enough to hold its shape.¬†These can easily be frozen and just fried as needed.

Crawfish Balls

2 cps  crawfish tails, peeled & deveined
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped (optional)
4 slices of stale bread
1 egg
3 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
3 tbsp green onions, chopped
Salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste
11/2 cups of bread or panko crumbs

If you have a food processor, don’t worry about chopping the ingredients finely. I essentially threw all the aromatics and the bread into the processor and¬† blitz it until they were pretty fine, then added the crawfish, egg,¬†salt & pepper and pulsed until blended. This way, some of the tails are still in pretty large chunks.

Shape the dough into balls about the size of a ping pong ball and roll in bread crumbs. I found it beneficial to shape the balls and place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes before rolling in the breadcrumbs. Once they have been rolled in crumbs, you can freeze them in an airtight container or ziploc bag and use them at a later date.

Fry them in a deep fryer or use a regular pan with enough oil to submerge the balls; heat the oil to 375¬į and cook until deep golden brown. Serve with a remoulade or cocktail sauce.

Cookingly yours,

I etouffe, you etouffee

On my last visit to New Orleans I had the yummiest¬†etouff√©e¬†at Deanie’s. I ordered a Crawfish Quartet: crawfish etouff√©e, crawfish au gratin, fried crawfish tails and crawfish dressing balls; I had planned on skipping the balls since¬† I was low-carbing. When the waiter placed the dish before me I was a bit taken back by the color. I have to apologize, I didn’t take a picture of that dish. It was lightly golden brown, not how I’ve seen etouff√©e for the most part.

But when I took the first bite, I was in HE.A.VEN! This thing was delicious beyond words. Creamy and smooth, bursting with seafood flavor and tomato-less. I was in love and regretting I didn’t order a double portion. I knew¬†it would be one of the first¬†dishes I would attempt to recreate when I got back home.

Once in Houston, I looked around for recipes that sounded promising, and became increasingly frustrated when they¬†added tomatoes and¬†other nonsense. So, I decided to wing it, I’ve watched Emeril make some happy, I can do it too!

I’ll have to make a few disclaimers. First, I used duck fat, because I made some yummy duck¬†a few days before. You can use any fat you like, but I would avoid butter because it burns so easily. However, I’ve been told that animal fat is too unstable for roux–not that I had any problems with my duck fat. The other, is that I had some crab stock in the freezer, you can use any seafood or even chicken/vegetable stock. And lastly, I used both shrimp and crawfish, you can use just one of the two. No sweat, mmkay pumpkins? Here’s my rendition.

 Seafood Etouffée

4 tbsp duck fat or oil
1/4 cp flour
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cp celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 1/2 cp shrimp stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cp green onions, thinly sliced
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb crawfish tails and its butter, cooked
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp hot sauce (I used Crystal, but Tabasco works)
3 tbsp butter
Salt & ground white pepper to taste

Season the shrimp with a bit of salt & pepper and 1 crushed garlic. Set aside. In a large heavy-bottom skillet, heat the fat over medium high heat and the flour. Lower the temperature to medium heat and continue to cook the flour, stirring it often until it reaches the color of peanut butter. This will take about 5-7 minutes.

Add the onions, celery and bell pepper cook until the aromatics have soften, then add the garlic and green onions. Stir to avoid burning.

Slowly add the stock, stirring as you do. In goes the Worcestershire, hot sauce and white pepper. The base should be about the consistency of gravy, not too thick, not too thin. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Add the crawfish meat with its butter, stir to coat. Finally add the shrimp and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the shrimp is pink.  Stir in the remaining  butter, and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Serve over white rice and eat your little heart out.

Cookingly yours,

That Bloody Mary!

There’s this place in the French Quarter called Yo’ Mama’s. They serve 2 of my must haves when in the area. A Peanut Butter Burger¬†and THE best Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever had. Since I’m still having FQ withdrawals and because¬†it is Social Friday, I thought I’d try my hand at the Bloody Mary, a first.

When in New Orleans, the only way to¬†have a Bloody Mary is spicy, at Yo’ Mama’s extra spicy is how they serve them. Watching Erica put it¬†together is like watching a mad scientist at work. A bit of this, a lot of that, splash and sprinkle then garnish with the popular spicy pickled green beans and olives and you’re in business.¬†Obviously she has it down to a¬†science, but I’m going to attempt to offer some measurements. As with any drink or food, adjust it to your personal taste.

N’awlins Spicy Bloody Mary
Makes 2 cocktails

4 oz  Vodka
V8 Juice (about 1 cp)
1 tbsp horseradish
2 tsp celery salt
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco, Crystal)
1 tsp ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 each fresh lime and lemon
Olives and pickled green beans for garnish
Splash of olive juice
Few dashes of cayenne pepper

Didn’t I tell you she was a¬† mad scientist? Combine all the ingredients, except for the garnish, and stir. Fill a glass with ice (a tumbler if you’re being modest, a highball glass if you’re really going for it).

Here’s the interesting part, she doesn’t shake it or do a lot of stirring. She pours it from one glass to another about 5-6 times to mix¬† it before serving.

As I mentioned, adjust to your taste. I like mine with lots of horseradish and black pepper, not to mention quite spicy. Enjoy!

Drinkingly yours,

What I saw in the French Quarter

I was so happy when I found out our conference would be held in New Orleans this year, even happier when I heard we would get to go.¬†I’d been to Nola twice before: once in my previous¬†life, about 15 years ago and last year for our honeymoon. As much as I missed the hubbz, I still enjoyed this visit immensely.

Sure I had to devote time to evil work duties, but I’m a fun-loving kinda girl and I know how to make time for it. I squeezed some fun and wonderment into this trip like nobody’s business. Then there was all the amazing food, which is no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard about this town. I tried to give you a play-by-play of my eating ventures, but I just didn’t have enough time to do both. I will revisit a few of the meals and share them with you soon.

As luck would have it, last week was the French Quarter Festival. The official start was Friday, but the quarter was buzzing with preparations all week. Check out a few of the shots I managed last week; you can go to the Flickr photostream¬†for the extended version. I’ll get back to cooking soon enough, right now I’m still in a New Orleans state of mind.

Lanterns, lanterns everywhere! They’re famous for them and you know how much¬† I love a lantern or a hundred!

This is the Pontalba,¬†probably the French Quarter’s most photographed building, it sits adjacent to St. Peter’s Cathedral.

I sat across the square to have some fried oysters and found out some history. Turns out this is could be my building. You see, the ironwork has initials. My initials. AP. I have a building in the Quarter!

The other thing I love about this area are the balconies and courtyards. Next time we get a house that’s what I want.

As the festival got under way, I saw interesting people, listened to some Blues and met a really cool lady.¬†Suzy and her husband have given up the corporate life in favor of one that allows them to earn a living from their creativity. They work in leather: she making bags and belts, he making lamps. I didn’t see his work, but her bags are beautiful. Let me know if you would like her contact information to purchase one or find out when she’ll be at a festival near you.

I’m still having French Quarter withdrawals, thank goodness I’ll be in Panama soon! Where are you going?

French Quarterly yours,