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Holiday

Crawfish, Holiday, Hungry for Louisiana

In Louisiana, Easter means boiled crawfish

March 22, 2016

Easter signals ham, lamb and casseroles in other parts of the South, but in Louisiana, boiled crawfish is front and center. In recent years in the state, Holy Week has become the pinnacle of the crawfish harvest, with farmers working double time to meet demand and consumers often having to plunk down deposits to reserve sacks.

My Easter weekend routine likely resembles many of my fellow Bayou State residents: immediate and extended family gathered outside on a (hopefully) warm and clear spring day while sacks of live crawfish wait to be poured into roaring, spiked water.

Boiling crawfish, like so many native dishes, is highly personal — and those who boil have strong opinions on how it should be done…

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Celebrations, Holiday, Thanksgiving, The Writing Life

My secret date with cornbread dressing

November 11, 2015

Ahh, the holiday rotation. Years ago, my hubby and I put a system in place that divvied up the holidays as fairly as possible among the grandparents, none of whom live here in Baton Rouge. I won’t bore you with the drama (you can probably relate), I’ll just share the result. For the last 15 years, the system has pretty much had us traveling to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving, while we host Christmas. I love planning and hosting the Christmas meal, but I have to admit, I miss the opportunity to cook — really cook — traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, we bring stuff. But it’s minor. The main meal, and especially the dressing, is claimed by our family’s various Thanksgiving hosts. And you gotta respect territoriality, especially where cornbread dressing is involved.

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Appetizers, Cooking with Kids, Fall flavors, Halloween, Healthy, Holiday

Remember popcorn balls? Try these with honey and trail mix

October 15, 2015

Popcorn balls, at once gooey, sweet and crunchy, are a classic fall treat. They’re perfect Halloween party fare and they’re great for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, too. This version, developed by nutritionists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center here in Baton Rouge, is also nice for after school snacking because it’s made with honey instead of the typical binder, corn syrup. You can really get creative with the trail mix additions, too.

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Celebrations, Easy, Holiday, Southern

The only mac-and-cheese recipe you’ll ever need

May 4, 2015

In time for Mother’s Day, here’s a recipe for that timeless and versatile Southern side, macaroni and cheese. It was passed down to me from my paternal grandmother who made mac-and-cheese frequently and often serve it with fried fish, ham or pork roast. When I taste it today, it’s a tether to memory: I can’t help but think of large family gatherings and plates overloaded with food. My favorite item among the crowd of casseroles and platters on the kitchen counter was always the mac-and-cheese.

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Celebrations, Christmas, Fresh from the Gulf, Holiday, Hors d'oeuvres

Crabby snacks!

December 24, 2014

Need a quick hors d’oeuvres for the holiday frenzy? Cucumber cups filled with something creamy and wonderful are a great place to start. I filled these with fresh Gulf lump crabmeat blended with a little mayo, lemon juice, capers, some chopped celery and a little salt. I found Persian cucumbers at Trader Joe’s, but you can also use English cukes. The goal is to find a cucumber that’s on the thinner side. Peel it, cut it into manageable widths and scoop out the pulp gently from one side, leaving a “floor” on the other. Fill the cup with the crab mixture and place on a pretty plate. A regular cucumber also works fine. Just slice it into thin discs and serve the crab on top, as shown.

One-bite snacks like these are perfect starters for heavy Christmas day meals or with evening cocktails. Great with rosé or sparkling wine. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Celebrations, Christmas, Fresh from the Gulf, Holiday, Seafood, Soups

Soup, indeed.

December 22, 2014

Shrimp and corn. Artichoke and oyster. Gumbos of all sorts. Cozy soups with memorable ingredients add so much to get-togethers with friends and family this time of year. From casual family suppers to Christmas day lunch to New Year’s Eve dinner, holiday meals invite something luscious and warm.

I love soups right now for so many reasons, not least of which is that there are great seasonal raw materials to work with, including game, fresh seafood, root vegetables and leafy greens. But what I also love about soups is their spontaneity. More often than not, home cooks aren’t following instructions by the book when they get out their stockpots. They’re discerning what ingredients to include and what to leave out, and they’re tasting, adjusting and correcting by feel and by gut. Many are mimicking the soup styles of their forbears, while others are diverging in inventive directions. Whatever the case, soup is one of those from-the-heart dishes meant to inspire and soothe. Now is the perfect time to make some for your friends, family and for yourself.

Here’s an easy version of shrimp and corn.

Shrimp and Corn Soup

Serves 6

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

5 stalks celery with leaves, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup light roux

2 cups homemade shellfish stock, or one 15 oz. can good quality seafood or shellfish stock

2 bay leaves

1 16 oz. package frozen white corn

¼ cup heavy cream

1 ½ cups skim milk

1 pound large headless shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

In a Dutch oven, sauté onion, celery and garlic in olive oil until soft. Whisk in roux, then add stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Continue to whisk until roux is thoroughly incorporated. Add corn and simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Add cream and milk and return to simmer. Add shrimp to hot liquid and watch carefully, ensuring they poach, but do not overcook. This should take about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

When ready to serve, garnish soup with fresh parsley and serve with warm, crusty French bread.