Crawfish boudin paella chased with a gin-filé cocktail and followed by a Creole cream cheese snoball? What’s your most creative use of the ingredients featured in Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey? Compete in this fun 4th of July contest and you could win a free, signed copy of the book and a complimentary package of hand-harvested bay leaves, so essential in Louisiana cooking.
So excited! My book, Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey (LSU Press) is out this month. You can find it on Amazon or in regional book stores, including large chains and local independents. It’s also in some gift shops and culinary stores, like Red Stick Spice Co. in Baton Rouge.
This was so much fun to work on. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. The book includes an intro that explores how Louisiana’s food culture was local before local was cool and how there are few places in the world with such intact culinary traditions. Each subsequent chapter peers into a different food or ingredient from the state’s culinary tableau. Discover the quirks and traditions behind crawfish, jambalaya, Creole cream cheese, snoballs, filé, blood boudin, Zwolle tamales and oysters. Meet some of the people who produce these famed eats. This is breezy food writing with a few recipes at the end of each chapter.
What Ashley Hansen of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz did when her grandfather’s famed snoball machine was on the fritz…
Why the northeast Louisiana town of Zwolle has a deep and meaningful tradition of tamale-making that is nothing like the Mississippi Delta’s…
Exactly what makes a pot of jambalaya achieve blue ribbon excellence at the annual Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales, Jambalaya Capital of the World…
And lots more.
Please keep coming back to this site for updates, additional material, photos and more recipes.
Thanks for your interest!
Oysters are the perfect addition to the 2015 Super Bowl party menu, both as a nod to two seafood-centric coastal locales, New England and Seattle, and to our own Gulf oyster season still underway here in South Louisiana. For parties, I like to serve them baked or grilled on the half-shell, and for the Super Bowl in particular, adding bacon and barbecue sauce makes them festive and football-y. Pretty sure that’s a word this week.
One of my all-time favorite oyster recipes is Oysters Fitzpatrick from the Junior League of Baton Rouge’s 1959 food bible, River Road Recipes, but here I’ve reworked it with a locally made barbecue sauce, Jay D’s, made by my friend and fellow food writer/blogger Jay Ducote (BiteandBooze.com).
One of my smarter moves as a home cook was holding on to spent oyster shells after my hubby John and I smoked several dozen with our next door neighbors one winter. We bought a sack of live oysters from Tony’s Seafood here in Baton Rouge, one of my favorite seafood purveyors, tossed the briny bivalves on the charcoal grill and waited a few minutes for them to open. Mildly sweet and smoky, they were a perfect communal snack on a still, cold night. At the time, I was playing around with the three recipes for oysters Rockefeller in River Road Recipes, one of the best selling community cookbooks of all time and published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge in 1959. I needed shells for my baked oyster experiments, and the ones from that night were perfect. I cleaned the living daylights out of them – soap, bleach, time, you name it. Health department officials may disapprove, but I keep those shells in their own plastic box and pull them out anytime I feel like making a baked oyster dish.
Oh good gosh, it was cold this morning! I know my buddies northward are laughing at what a wimp I am, but it was 29 degrees when we woke up — way too cold for us thin-blooded Southern weenies. The only antidote is a steaming bowl of gumbo. I’m guessing it’s what everyone around here will be making this weekend.
My go-to gumbo is usually seafood (unless it’s a post-Thanksgiving turkey-bone gumbo), and I’ve played around with the recipe for years. Gumbo is inherently forgiving, but seafood – less so than chicken and sausage. Plus, it’s costlier to get wrong.
Lots of trial and error and plenty of mediocre batches have taught me what it takes to achieve a great seafood gumbo. Sure, dark homemade roux is important. So is using fresh Gulf seafood that you take the time to clean properly. But the most important ingredient in my opinion is patience: Don’t put the seafood in until your broth has had ample time to brew. Overcooking tender shrimp, crab and oysters leaches their flavor and sends their texture in a mealy direction. It’s the easiest way to ruin a batch of seafood gumbo.
Here are a few tips to making a fabulous version of this beloved dish.
- Make your own roux and bring it to as dark a hue as you’re comfortable. Anything between dark brown to nearly black will provide optimum flavor and color. I don’t get too hung up on the overall color of the gumbo as long as the flavor is there.
- Use my 1-2-10 rule. One cup of roux, 2 pounds EACH crabmeat, oysters and shrimp and 10 cups of seafood stock.
- Buy your shrimp head-on, and make a quick seafood stock out of the heads and shells as you’re cleaning them and making your roux. Add onions, celery, carrots, garlic, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves and simmer for 30-60 minutes.
- Combine the roux, chopped aromatic vegetables (onions, celery, bell peppers) and stock and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes. Taste to ensure the broth has plenty of flavor and is well-seasoned. Remove from heat. Then add the fresh seafood. There’s no need to turn the heat back on. The crab is already cooked. The oysters will curl and the shrimp will turn firm and pink in 1-2 minutes. Remember, they’ll continue to cook in the hot pot, and will cook further each time you reheat the gumbo.