Monday, December 31, 2018

Welcome to Creole Cookin' Libby

Hello y'all I'm Libby and I miss my home town New Orleans. I miss it's comfort and its food. Together we're gonna help me return from time to time by sharing the recipes I was brought up on. There is always a good story (that goes w/most situations) in the South. Here is the lore I was told regarding the first recipe I'm sharing. A meal of Jambalaya I made for a supper at my church. Part of what I was told, due to necessities, certain dishes were made on particular days. I only remember Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Monday was Red Beans and Rice, Fridays Shrimp Creole; I'll tell you a bit mo 'bout dat when I cover those recipes.

This is what I was told about Jambalaya. Since there wasn't a good way to preserve foods (no refrigeration) and one didn't want their efforts (cookin',gatherin' and such) nor food go to waste; Jambalaya became Saturday's meal.  (the ultimate left over meal)  Maybe a bit of sausage, chicken, pork might be tossed in. There was always rice. (We put rice w/everything!)

There is confusion between Creole and Cajun and subsequently their foods. I'll try to break it down as best as I can. Creole is a full-flavored cuisine of refined European settlers in New Orleans (the best of the French, Spanish and African cuisines) Creole cooking relies on the culinary “trinity" consisting of chopped green bell peppers, onions and celery. Creole dishes typically use more butter, cream and tomatoes than Cajun dishes. A famous dish of Creole origin is Etouffee (a spicy and delicious stew traditionally made with crayfish (crawfish) shrimp and a dark roux; look for further roux description in the gumbo recipe)

The French word etouffee means smothered. Cajun is the  country-style cooking of the descendants of the French Acadians (known as Cajuns). Cajun cooking uses a dark roux as the base of many dishes and it relies on the culinary “trinity”as well. Many Cajun dishes are spicier than Creole dishes. One more famous dish of Cajun origin is Jambalaya (a rice dish that contains the trinity, tomatoes and various meats, poultry and/or seafood; as I said, the ultimate left over meal)

Justin Wilson (I knew as a humorous story teller, the rest of the country knew him as a Cajun cook on PBS that told stories) once told a story while demonstrating a recipe said he was asked once "How could you tell a Cajun?" His answer was (after some thought) "If a man can walk up to a field of rice and can tell you with in two tablespoons how much gravy or sauce it'll take to cover it, he's a Cajun!"

Sometimes there may or may not have been Shrimp Creole left over & that's why the difference between the two styles of Jambalaya brown or red. (Shrimp Creole being made w/tomato) Y'all may be confused as to the published date of this intro; I have set this blog up with the intro as a landing page so one can go from recipe to recipe quickly. Otherwise, there would be a long trek to the end of the line as in a comet. (where I don't like to be end of the line that is)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Divinity Fudge

Old fashioned divinity candy recipe a wonderful sweet treat, a Southern confection that is perfect for adding to a plate of goodies shared with loved ones during the holidays! That's when I remember best eatting it; I love, but have never made but often eatten it.
Divinity Fudge
 I’m surmising few people have heard of it, let alone tasted it. (unless you grew up in the South) As I said I haven't made but have eaten tons w/pecansand w/out; I’ve compiled several recipes.
The classic vintage candy recipe, a meringue-based candy that could be described as somewhere between a nougat & marshmallow (a light, super-sweet, airy confection which tastes, divine, hence the name; although there is no chocolate, that I know of, it's still called Divinity Fudge)
It's made with just a few ingredients granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water boiled together with a pinch of salt until they reach a hard ball stage before very slowly pouring the liquid sugar mixture over stiff egg whites in a thin, steady stream.  Then chopped pecans and a little vanilla are stirred in at the end for texture and flavor.
You will want a candy thermometer (a must) for this recipe, because if you don’t bring the sugar/corn syrup mixture up to 260 degrees F before slowly adding it to stiff egg whites while beating, then candy won’t set.   (You’ll need a stand mixer as well as the candy thermometer  apparently, in the divinity-making affair if the syrup isn’t cooked to hard ball stage the divinity won’t set. As persnicty as I am) Kudos for modern technology. Give me a gadget & I'm there. I keep thinking what a challenge doing it all the old fashioned way; throwing the mixture in cold water for hardball determination)
Divinity Fudge w/ pecans
    Ingredients:                                          2 cups (400gr) sugar
    ½ cup (120ml) light corn syrup
    ½ cup (120ml) water
    2 egg whites
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    Pecan halves
 


Directions:
1) Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat and set aside.
2) In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, corn syrup and salt and cook stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to boil clip the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue to cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 260 degrees F (about 8-10 minutes)
3) change to cooking the mixture on low heat stirring continuously until sugar is completely dissolved.
4) Turn the heat back up to medium high and continue to cook the mixture without stirring until it reaches 250°F on candy thermometer.
5 ) While the sugar mixture is cooking, beat the egg whites on high speed using a hand electric mixer or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Once the sugar mixture reaches 260 degrees, remove from heat and very slowly pour it in a thin, steady stream, over the egg whites while mixing on high speed. (2 minutes for pouring/beating the egg whites; go slow and I hear tell don't rush this step)
6) Continue to beat on high speed for another 5-8 minutes until the candy loses some of its glossiness and starts to hold its shape. You can stop mixing and test a small amount of candy by dropping a small spoonful of it onto the parchment paper to see if it holds its shape in a nice mound w/ swirls on top or if it melts down into a puddle.
7) If the divinity doesn't hold its shape yet  continue to beat a minute or two longer, test again, mix in the chopped pecans and vanilla when the candy stays in a mound nstead of melting into itself.
8) Using two spoons sprayed lightly with cooking spray, drop tablespoon size scoops of divinity onto the prepared baking sheet, using one spoon to scrape the hot candy off the other spoon. You will want to work quickly while the candy is still hot.
9) Let the candy set, then store for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
(As I said kudos to modern technology, you’ll need a stand mixer and a candy thermometer a must; if the syrup isn’t cooked to hard ball stage, your divinity won’t set, ah well)

Recipe Notes
From everything I have heard or seen divinity can be finicky about setting up on humid days. I haven't experienced this firsthand, not having made it but thought I would give y'all heads up; you might not want to make the divinity on a  raining day. (choose another day, a drier one. If you wish colored divinity, for the season) prepare a piping bag with large round tip and draw a few lines with red and green gel food coloring inside the piping bag then transfer the divinity mixture into prepared piping bag and pipe out 2-inch rounds on prepared sheet. (I prefer it white)
Rest divinity at room temperature for at least 2 hours to set, or overnight. (The candies should set in about 2 hours) They can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze them in airtight container for up to 2 months.

(There are two tests/tips to help you out w/testing to make certain candy is done) The trickiest part to making this old fashioned divinity candy recipe is knowing when it's ready to be dropped into little mounds or poured into a pan to set, so I've heard)
1st test is by turning off your mixer and lifting the beaters.  If the candy falls back into the bowl in ribbons that immediately merge back into themselves, it's not done and you need to keep beating.  Eventually, it will lose it’s glossiness and sheen stop being so sticky, that means it’s ready.
The 2nd is even easier, I'm thinking, because all you do, if you are having a hard time telling whether the divinity is still glossy or not, drop a teaspoonful of candy onto wax paper if the candy will hold its shape 'tis ready; if it puddles no, if it holds a peak and stays in a nice mound, you are good to go.

Using two spoons sprayed lightly with cooking spray, drop tablespoon size scoops of divinity onto the prepared baking sheet, using one spoon to scrape the hot candy off the other spoon.  You will want to work quickly while the candy is still hot.  Let the candy set, then store for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Divinity Candy Variations
While perusing recipes I discovered these Divinity variations because the base itself is such a great backdrop for mix-ins like pecans chosen here.  But some other great flavor ideas could be stirred possibly in the following combinations.

Walnuts and 1 teaspoon of maple extract for maple walnut divinity
Crushed peppermint sticks for peppermint divinity (good for Christmas)
Maraschino cherries for maraschino cherry divinity
2 cups coconut for coconut divinity
Almond extract with dried cranberries for cranberry almond divinity
You can color any batch of divinity with just a couple of drops of food coloring just to change things up.  (I prefer the white look and nutty taste of the classic old fashioned divinity candy recipe I remember eating)

(a bonus recipe)
Divine Divinity Fudge
Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse
Total:25 min Prep: 5 min Cook: 20 min
Yield: about 24 pieces
Ingredients
2 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans
Directions
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Put the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, bring to a boil and cook until the temperature reaches 260 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or the hard-ball stage, when a bit of the mixture dropped into cold water holds its shape, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour in a thin steady stream into the beaten egg whites and beat with an electric mixer on high for about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla, and continue beating on high just until the candy starts to lose its gloss, 5 to 6 minutes. When the beaters are lifted, the mixture should fall in a ribbon that mounds on itself.
Cook's Note
If the mixture flattens out, beat again for 1 minute more. If the mixture is too thick to drop, beat in a few drops of hot water until the candy is a softer consistency. Add the pecans, stir to mix, and quickly drop the mixture by tablespoons onto the prepared sheet. Place the candies on a serving candy dish and pass. **(If the candy is poured into a pan and cut into squares, you should have about 48 pieces
yield: 20-30 Candy, depending on size)


Friday, February 23, 2018

Turkey and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Recipe based on one by Cooking Light

This gumbo is a great use for leftover roasted turkey, though cooked chicken will also work. We skip the long-stirred roux here in favor of filé powder, a thickener made from the sassafras plant; look for it on the spice aisle. For the best results, stir in the filé powder off the heat.
This gumbo is a great use for leftover roasted turkey, though cooked chicken will also work. We skip the long-stirred roux here in favor of filé powder, a thickener made from the sassafras plant (one can use Okra in place of file' as a thickener but not simultaneously; for the best results when using, the filé powder off the heat; as heat can cause a bitter flavor)
Ingredients
2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces andouille sausage links, thinly sliced
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (10-ounce) package sliced frozen okra 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
9 ounces cooked skinless, boneless turkey breast, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons filé powder (often used as a thickener for some gumbo &/or stews as stated above)
4 cups hot cooked rice
Directions
Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon.
Add onion, green bell pepper, celery, and garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add stock, yellow bell pepper, salt, sausage, tomatoes, and okra to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in parsley, thyme, and turkey; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove pan from heat; stir in filé powder. Divide rice among 8 bowls; top evenly with gumbo, or follow freezing instructions. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bacon.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Tomatoes with Charred Okra, Vidalias, and Malt Mayo adapted from Cooking Light

 (Malt vinegar has a mid-palate that pairs nicely with the acidic tomatoes, crispy okra, and sweet onion)
Ingredients
1 tablespoon malt or balsamic vinegar
Tomatoes with Charred Okra, Vidalias
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup very thinly sliced Vidalia onion
1/2 cup small basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
10 ounce fresh okra pods, halved lengthwise (remember what I had to say about less "slime" when cut lengthwise in the Creole Shrimp and Okra Recipe)
3 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes,  divided and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 pasteurized large egg yolk

Directions    
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of okra to pan, cut side down; cook 4 minutes. Turn; cook 1 minute. Remove okra from pan. Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining okra. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Arrange tomato slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand 5 minutes.Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and yolk in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until pale yellow and creamy. Stir in vinegar and mustard. Slowly add canola oil in a thin, steady stream, stirring constantly
       

Arrange tomatoes on a platter so they overlap slightly; top with any juices that have accumulated on the pan. Top tomatoes with okra and onion; drizzle vinegar mixture evenly over top. Sprinkle with basil, parsley, and black pepper.                                                         
(Total Time 26 Mins Yield Serves 8 w/serving size: about 1 cup)
                                                                                           

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Creole Shrimp and Okra Recipe

Creole Shrimp and OkraThink of this mainly as shrimp and grits with a distinctly Cajun attitude. Halved okra not only looks gorgeous, but it'll also give off less "slime" than chopped okra. The halved okra not only looks good, but it'll also give off less "slime" than chopped okra. Let the vegetables caramelize a bit in the pan for a richer base.
Ingredients
3 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson) 
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk 
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
1 bay leaf 1 cup stone-ground polenta or grits 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided 
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cups fresh okra, trimmed and halved lengthwise 
1 cup vertically sliced onion 
3/4 cup diagonally sliced celery 
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined 
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
3 cups fresh marinara sauce 1/2 cup water 
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Directions
  • Bring stock, milk, garlic, and bay leaf to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add polenta and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 20 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Cover and keep warm.
  • Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add okra, onion, and celery; cook 2 to 4 minutes or until browned (do not stir). Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, shrimp, red pepper, and black pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in sauce and 1/2 cup water; bring to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Stir in vinegar.
  • Place 1/2 cup polenta in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 1 1/2 cups shrimp mixture. Sprinkle evenly with green onions.
As said sbove think of this as as shrimp and grits I have done so and y'all may wish to substitute grits. If you do follow the instructions on whichever grits you choose.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Roasted Whole Okra and Roasted Sliced Okra

Ingredients
30 small fresh okra pods (about 4 cups)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Directions
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Place okra in a single layer in a greased foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake, turning once, until lightly browned and fork tender, about 18 – 20 minutes.
Serves 4.
Roasted Sliced Okra basically the same but sliced 1/2 inch or so thick
30 small fresh okra pods (about 4 cups)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Directions
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Place okra in a single layer in a greased foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake, stirring once, until lightly browned and fork tender, about 18 – 20 minutes.
Serves 4.

Okra information and history

A bit of history about okra before I start w/the next recipes. Okra may have been introduced to southeastern North America from Africa in the early 18th century. Thomas Jefferson noted it was well established in Virginia by 1781.  The plant often has a red or purple spot at the base of the petals. The fruit (although most of us don't call it that) has a pentagonal cross-section, containing numerous seeds. (see below)

Although it was commonplace throughout the Southern States by 1800, It was being grown as far north as Philadelphia. . It is perennial, often an annual in temperate climates, and quite often grows around 2 metres (6.6 ft). What is ineresting to me, it is related to cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus. Okra has flowers that have white to yelowish petals.

Okra is a heat-loving plant with green pods that play a starring role in most gumbo recipes. Because it’s in season from May to September each year, you might have seen it in the produce section of your grocery. There’s much more to okra than soups and stews, so if you’ve never tried this versatile, nutrient-packed vegetable, check it out give it a try. Some are off put by it's texture but there are ways around that. Especially when one considers what good it packs.