Dinner last night was inspired by the impending Mardi Gras and Knoxville music legend, Todd Steed.
And we were fortunate that his missus and Knoxville attorney and owner of Glowing Body Yoga STudio, Tammy Kaousias, no slouch herself, could accompany him to our place for dinner.
When my husband moved his worldly positions to our new home, he noted that he had saved a large number of music announcement posters for the KNoxville band, Smokin' Dave and the Primo Dopes. You'll see a somewhat younger version of Todd in his full out band days in this photo:
So when Paul said, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and the answer wasn't Sidney Portier, I thought it would be wrong not to come up with some sort of "music theme" dinner. So combining Knoxville music history (the last place Hank Williams played), Todd Steed, and the prospect of Mardi Gras right around the corner, is it any surprise that our meal was Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie and File Gumbo? But I didn't serve it in that particular order.
Roux is a cooking mixture of wheat flour and fat (traditionally butter). It is the thickening agent of three of the mother sauces of classical French cooking: sauce béchamel, sauce velouté and sauce espagnole. Clarified butter, vegetable oils, or lard are commonly used fats. It is used as a thickener for gravy, other sauces, soups and stews. It is typically made from equal parts of flour and fat by weight. When used in Italian food, roux is traditionally equal parts of butter and flour. In Cajun cuisine, roux is almost always made with oil instead of butter and dark brown in color, which lends much richness of flavor, albeit, less thickening power.
One thing for sure about making a roux. Once you mix your flour with your fat, you CANNOT leave the stove. You must stir it CONSTANTLY for up to 30 minutes. If you let the flour stick to the bottom of the pan, it will bur and ruin your roux. It might also make it lumpy which is also a SIN. In communicating amongst cooks, it is important to communicate when to stop stirring the roux. YOu can communicate in number of minutes but also by the color.
This crawfish pie roux is done when it looks like PEANUT BUTTER. Other characteristic roux descriptions are: blond, brown, brick and chocolate. The darker the roux, the less thickening power they have. For example, a white sauce like grandma's biscuit gravy or bechamel will thicken much better than a chocolate gumbo roux.
So the crawfish pies, which were very easy and cooked in a muffin tin had a peanut butter classic butter and flour roux. And my second course, Smoked Trout and Porkloin Gumbo, had a chocolate roux. Never heard of this type of gumbo? ME NEITHER. I made it up and here is why. I wanted to do something with a little different twist than Seafood Gumbo, especially since I was also serving jambalaya which is heavy on the seafood. I once tried Duck Gumbo in Lafayette, Louisiana in the heart of Acadian Cajun country and it was wonderful. I found a great Emeril Lagasse recipe for Duck Gumbo with Mushrooms. What I could not find was DUCK? Where is the duck? I called Kroger. No duck. I called Earthfare. No duck. I called Fresh Market. Here is the conversation.
"Hello, do you have duck?" This always reminds me of Prince Albert in a can.
"What kind of duck?"
Resisting the urge to say the kind you eat, I said, "Fresh duck."
"We have frozen whole duck and we have fresh duck breast."
"You do?" BIG SMILE. "Do you have that in stock every day?"
"Yes, ma'am. Every day."
Celebration whooping ensues.
So Sunday, I am a bit sleepy after all night call, so my very sweet husband gives me a lift to Fresh Market and I walk to the meet counter with my big fat smile still on my face and say, "2 duck breasts please."
And the meat man looks at me and says,"We don't have any duck breast."
"Yes you do, " I protest. "You have it every day."
"We don't have it today, " he says nonplussed, completely unconcerned with the armageddon he has created in my menu plans. "Would you like something else? We have beef."
We have beef, I am thinking? In what way, pray thee tell, is beef equivalent to duck? This is why carrying a handgun is a bad idea. It would be so easy to blow off the head of the messenger... Then it would be a shooting by "that bitch." (See post for January 7, 2012 Back At Work: Trio of Salads/Trio of Patients to find out who "that bitch is!")
So I start thinking, what can I substitute since I already have all the other ingredients and no plan B? I desperate search the meat counter. Finally I spy smoked North Carolina trout. And I figure instead of a sausage which you usually serve in a gumbo, I will sear pork tenderloin, render the fat for the roux and it will taste at least okay. And it did. What a happy accident! I would even make this again sometime. That's one nice thing about gumbo. You put in the "trinity"- celery, onions and bell peppers, and then whatever meat you have available. Louisiana food frequently uses small amounts of numerous meats, because often in the bayou environment, living off the land, what you had was a little bit of this and that, and not a whole lot of any one thing.
After the soup course, I served Cajun Jambalaya. I used shrimp, leftover Thanksgiving turkey (and I still have about 2 cups of that left....ARGGGG), scallops and Andouille sausage as the protein component.
Jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish of Spanish and French influence. Jambalaya is traditionally made in three parts, with meats and vegetables, and is completed by adding stock and rice. It is also a close cousin to the saffron colored paella found in Spanish culture. There are two primary methods of making jambalaya.
The first and most common is Creole jambalaya (also called "red jambalaya"). First, meat is added to the trinity of celery, peppers, and onions; the meat is usually chicken and sausage such as andouille or smoked sausage. Next vegetables and tomatoes are added to cook, followed by seafood. Rice and stock are added in equal proportions at the very end. The mixture is brought to a boil and left to simmer for 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the recipe, with infrequent stirring. Towards the end of the cooking process, stirring usually ceases. Some versions call for the jambalaya to be baked after the cooking of all the ingredients.
The second style, more characteristic of southwestern and south-central Louisiana, is Cajun jambalaya, which contains no or very little tomatoes (the idea being the closer to New Orleans one gets, the more common tomatoes are in dishes). The meat is browned in a cast-iron pot. The bits of meat that stick to the bottom of the pot are what give a Cajun jambalaya its brown color. A little vegetable oil is added if there is not enough fat in the pot. The trinity (of 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% green bell pepper, although proportions can be altered to suit one's taste) is added and sautéed until soft. Stock and seasonings are added in the next step, and then the meats are returned to the pot. This mixture is then simmered, covered, for at least one hour. Lastly, the mixture is brought to a boil and rice is added to the pot. It is then covered and left to simmer over very low heat for at least 1/2 hour without stirring. The dish is finished when the rice has cooked.
For dessert, what else could I serve but BREAD PUDDING with Creme Anglais? This version is absolutely some of the best bread pudding I ever made and it is SO EASY and you make it in the crockpot!!! It takes about 4 hours, but you just dump everything in the slow cooker and forget about it. And your guests are going to say Uuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
What did my sweet honey who is also a jazz radio host have to say about this ragin' Cajun meal?
Trout and Porkloin Gumbo: Laissez le bon temp roule!
Jambalaya: Tres bien, mon cher
Bread Pudding: Make yo mouth water, I guar-on-tee!
CRAWFISH PIE RECIPE
I followed this pretty much to the letter. The advise I would give is that the regular size muffin tin does not permit a very large portion of the pie filling. SO if I had to do this over again, I would use a large muffin tin and perhaps make 1/3 more of the crust. Since I had left over filling, I poured it over the top of the crawfish pies. No one had a clue that this wasn't the original recipe. It was very good.
8 tablespoons butter, cubed and softened
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter, sliced
6 tablespoons all-purposes flour
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 small carrots, diced
1 bunch scallions, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 pound frozen crawfish tails, thawed
3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
For the crust: In a large bowl, blend together the butter and cream cheese. Stir in flour and chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Separate dough; reserving 1/3 for pie tops, and using 2/3 for pie crust bottoms. To form bottom portions of dough, create dough balls approximately 1-inch in diameter and place into bottom of muffin tin cups, flattening to form crust bottoms. Bake crusts only until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
For the filling: In a saucepan, add butter and flour, stirring together over heat to create a roux. Cook until mixture is the color of peanut butter. Add all vegetables and saute until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add crawfish, Cajun seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Saute mixture for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and cook, stirring, until mixture boils and thickens. Spoon mixture into crusts. Top with circles of unbaked dough cut from the reserved 1/3 of original dough. Make a small slit in the top of the dough to allow steam to escape. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve while warm.
SMOKED TROUT AND PORK LOIN GUMBO
12 oz smoked trout
2 pork loins
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds wild mushrooms (chanterelle, wood ear, shiitake, oyster), cleaned, stemmed and diced
1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 cup finely chopped green, red and/or yellow bell peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 (12-ounce) bottle Abita Turbo Dog, or other stout beer
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Steamed long or medium-grain white rice, accompaniment
1 cup chopped green onions, green tops only, for garnish
1/2 cup chopped parsley, for garnish
Take the smoked trout meat off the skin and cut into bite size pieces.
In a frying pan or Dutch oven warmed over medium high heat, drop pork loin that has been cut into bite size pieces and brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Leave pan medium hot.
To the fat remaining in the pan, add the vegetable oil. Stir in the flour. Using a heavy wooden spoon, stir the roux constantly over medium heat until it reaches the color of dark chocolate, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the mushrooms, onions, celery, peppers and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beer and stir to incorporate. Add the stock, thyme, bay leaves, Essence, cayenne pepper and the remaining 3 teaspoons of salt. Stir well to blend. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and return the seared pork and the trout pieces to the pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
To serve, ladle into large soup bowls and top each portion with about 1/4 cup of hot rice. Garnish with the green onions and chopped parsley, and serve immediately.
CAJUN JAMBALAYA RECIPE
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
4 ounces chicken or turkey, diced
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tsp file powder
1 cup of frozen okra or fresh
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3/4 cup rice
3 cups chicken stock
5 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
Salt and pepper
In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, okra, file, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.
CROCKPOT BREAD PUDDING RECIPE
This is both the simplest and the most delicious bread pudding I have ever made.
8 cups cubed day-old cinnamon or white bread
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup raisins
Place cubed bread in crockpot. In a mixing bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients; beat until smooth. Stir in raisins. Pour over bread; stir gently. Cover and cook on LOW for 3 hours.
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Combine the cream, the zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a medium
saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and frothy,
about 2 minutes. Slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of the hot cream, whisking
constantly. Return the mixture to warm milk and stirring constantly,
cook over medium heat until thick, about 4 minutes. Remove from the
heat and serve warm. (Or, to serve chilled, place in an ice bath to
cool, then cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface
to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, about