Tag Archives: ella brennan

Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana

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From Cochon Butcher

My copy of Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana arrived last Thursday, and I was like a kid opening his first gift on Christmas morning, shuffling for something to open the box with, flinging aside the bubble wrap to stare into a beautifully photographed crock of Gumbo. The title is in big bold white letters REAL CAJUN, as if to say, ok, enough with the blackening already, enough with the notion that everything Cajun is super spicy, enough with the Bourbon Chicken in the food courts; let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Real Cajun, rustic, simple, home cooked meals.

It seems only fitting that the Chef owner of Cochon, and Cochon Butcher (no, I’m not forgetting Herbsaint), would have homemade Bacon as the first recipe in his cookbook, with the first “chapter” bearing the title La Vie Cochon, with recipes including Tasso, Boudin, Pork Belly Cracklins, and more. The most mouthwatering recipe in this chapter, in my humble opinion, is Smothered Pork Roast over Rice, a simple recipe based on his Granny’s preparation, with a photo so beautiful that I swear you will try to lick the wooden spoon before the sauce drips back into the pot.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that he didn’t include more Charcuterie than he did, but I totally understand why he didn’t, keeping it practical for the home cook I guess. (I have my fingers crossed for a follow up book surrounding Louisiana Charcuterie, or a Cochon cookbook.) Don’t get me wrong though, the Charcuterie recipes that are included, Bacon, Boudin, Tasso, Deer Sausage, etc.. are top notch, I can’t wait to try Chef Link’s Boudin recipe, the photo is outstanding as are all of the photos in this book all by Chris Granger. I was looking for Chef Link’s Andouille, Hog’s Head Cheese, and Creole Mustard, but the recipes that filled these spaces totally made up for it and more.

The book’s recipes are wonderful in their simplicity (this is not a restaurant cookbook, although some of the dishes from his restaurants appear) with beautiful photographs that make me long to be in the stifling heat of Louisiana everytime I look at them. Some of the photographs from the book are hanging on the walls of Chef Link’s private dining facility Calcasieu, which is next store and upstairs from Cochon Butcher.

From Cochon Butcher

Real Cajun is mostly cookbook and part memoir, which all builds wonderfully around the recipes, just the kind of cookbook that I love, and reminiscent of another favorite of mine, Marcelle Bienvenu’s Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make A Roux? What comes through in both books is a love of Louisiana, real Cajun cuisine, family, and tradition.

This book is loaded with great recipes, I’ve tried out a few of them now, all were absolutely outstanding. Including Catfish Fried in Bacon Fat. The bacon fat adds an incredible richness to the crisp and moist catfish without taking over the flavor. I also made my own Tartar sauce as an accompaniment with crumbled Bacon added to it; what the hell right, the cholesterol meter is already broken. This is probably the best Catfish that I’ve made:

From Nola Cuisine
From Nola Cuisine

I also made the Chicken & Dumplings, a lot of great technique in this recipe, the best I thought was putting the pan into a 450 degree F oven to finish the dumplings. The stew is very similar to my recent Chicken Fricassee recipe, but the real magic happens when the dumpling batter is added and the whole pan is popped into the 450 oven. By the way, I made this for my wife and my Mom & Dad last night and they said the dumplings reminded them of Thanksgiving Stuffing, I agree. Awesome flavor with the addition of dried Oregano and raw minced onion.

From Nola Cuisine

I also used the Buckle recipe, but used Blueberries as they were the best fruit that I could find, his is made with fresh Peaches which aren’t in season right now. The Blueberry Buckle was dessert last night with good strong French Market Coffee, following the Chicken & Dumplings.

From Nola Cuisine

All in all, I haven’t been this inspired by a Louisiana cookbook since first reading the year 2000 publication of Commander’s Kitchen by Ti Adelaide Martin and the late great Jamie Shannon.

I don’t recommend just anything, but I really think that this a great book, loaded with not only great recipes, but stories to go with each one. My copy is already getting a little worn, the page with the buckle recipe has some dried egg white on it, the back cover has a sticky substance from my kitchen counter. All signs of a good cookbook I guess.

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which links to all of the recipe featured on this site!

Also take a look at my Bibliography of Creole & Cajun Cookbooks!

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Bread Pudding Recipe

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If you’re ever in the neighborhood of Commander’s Palace in the Garden District, you can almost follow your nose to the front door by the aroma of bread pudding which wafts across the neighborhood. I always picture a looney tunes character, closing their eyes, nose to the air, flapping their hands and floating along the scent trail to the source. I always think of that when I make this recipe and my kitchen smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

Bread Pudding is a combination of two things that I hold dear, great cooking spawned from frugality, and comfort food. What is more comforting than a plate of warm bread pudding covered in spiked and sweet Whiskey sauce?

I based this recipe loosely on the Commander’s Palace recipe from one of my absolute favorite books Commander’s Kitchen by Jamie Shannon and Ti Adelaide Martin, by one of my absolute favorite restaurants. I will also be featuring the Commander’s style Bread Pudding Souffle in the next few days, which is, in my humble opinion, one of the best desserts around. Anywhere.

The recipe:

Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce Recipe

For the Bread Pudding:

1 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Freshly grated Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
6 Cups French Bread, cut inot 1 inch cubes (be sure it’s a light bread, meaning not too dense)
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Butter a square cake pan with the butter.

Mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl.
In a large Mixing bowl whisk the eggs, add the sugar mixture, then whisk in the cream and vanilla extract. Fold in the bread cubes being sure to not break them up too much. The trick to this recipe is to make sure all of the bread soaks up the custard, and that you don’t overcook it.

Place the prepared mixture into the cake pan, cover with foil and place the cake pan into a larger pan, sufficient enough to allow for a water bath which will cover the smaller pan by half way.

Place the pans into the oven and bake for 2 hours. Remove the foil and raise the temperature to 300 degrees for 1 hour more or until the top of the pudding is golden brown.

The finished pudding should be slightly firm, while moist, but not runny.

Serve warm with Whiskey sauce, recipe below.

Makes 4 servings.

Whiskey Sauce Recipe

1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 tsp Cornstarch
2 Tbsp Water
a few drop of Vanilla extract
1/3 Cup Bourbon
1/3 Cup Sugar

Mix together the water and cornstarch. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. While boiling slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry, when the sauce is thickened remove from the heat and add the vanilla, bourbon and sugar. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Be sure to visit my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes! It provides a link to all recipes featured on Nola Cuisine.

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Chicken Pontalba Recipe

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From Nola Cuisine

This is the last of the fancy New Orleans Chicken dishes that I’m going to feature for awhile, and I finished with my absolute favorite.
This dish was created by the great dutch Chef Paul Blange during the early days of Brennan’s Restaurant. It’s named for the Baroness Micaela Pontalba, famous for supervising the construction of the Pontalba buildings on the uptown and downtown sides of Jackson Square, and for the beautification of the square itself in 1848.
Legend has it that her friend Andrew Jackson, once failed to raise his hat to the Baroness, so when she funded the statue baring his likeness she insisted that sculptor Clark Mills depict Jackson forever raising his hat toward her apartment building. Probably not true, but it’s one hell of a fun story.

The Recipe:

Chciken Pontalba Recipe

2 Boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs, lightly pounded
1 Large Baking Potato, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3/4 Cup Ham, Diced
1 Small Onion Diced
1 1/2 Cups Mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 Tbsp Garlic, Minced
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
2 Tbsp Italian Parsley, Minced
1/2 Cup All purpose Flour
Kosher salt & Black Pepper
Cayenne
4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, in all
Vegetable Oil
1 Recipe Bearnaise Sauce

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the Potatoes in 2 Tbsp Vegetable oil and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and crispy.

In the meantime, season the flour with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Season the thighs also, then dredge them in the flour.

When the potatoes are almost ready, heat 2 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil in a saute pan. When the fat is hot, brown the chicken quickly on both sides, place on a ovenproof dish and finish in the oven.

In the same saute pan, add the ham and onions, saute until golden brown and the onions are tender. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and a Tbsp more butter. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine, and cook until the alcohol evaporates.
Fold in the brabant potatoes from the oven and 1 Tbsp of the parsley, taste for seasonings. just before serving incorporate the last Tbsp of butter.

Split the potato mixture between two heated plates. Top each with a chicken thigh, and finish with a generous portion of Bearnaise sauce. Garnish with minced parsley.

Serves 2.

More fancy New Orleans Chicken dishes at Nola Cuisine:

Chicken Clemenceau
Chicken Bonne Femme
Chicken Rochambeau

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Creole Turtle Soup Recipe

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From Nola Cuisine Images – (reedited)

Turtle Soup is almost as synonymous with Nola Cuisine as Gumbo, in fact, it probably outsells the Gumbo in a lot of establishments. Unlike the clear Turtle Soups made in other parts of the world, the Louisiana variety is a dark, robust soup, bordering on a stew. There are also Mock Turtle Soups which are good as well, usually made with Beef and Veal. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that most restaurant versions are a combination of the two. Turtles are said to contain about 7 different flavors of meat, so it would be very easy to slip a more inexpensive meat in with the Turtle, I’ve even heard of some places slipping in some Alligator. I always raise an eyebrow when the “Turtle Meat” in some versions is ground, as opposed to cubed, it’s a red flag that says “Probably Not All Turtle Meat Here.” That’s fine though, they still taste delicious, and it would take a very refined palate to tell the difference.

As far as finding Turtle Meat in your area, you may have a bit of a challenge. If you have a great Asian Market in your area, it’s probably your best bet, they may even have them live if you would like to butcher them yourself. It’s a messy business though, with a lot of blood and Post Mortem squirming. No thanks, I buy frozen. If you do butcher your own you will have access to ingredients that squeamish cooks like myself can’t find in the freezer. Calipash and Calipee, and possibly Turtle eggs. Some connoisseurs have said that they can tell if a Turtle Soup is truly authentic by the lumps of Calipash and Calipee in the soup. Calipash is the dull-green fatty substance inside the upper shell (Carapace). Calipee is the light yellow fatty substance attached to the bottom shell (Plastron).
If you can purchase bone-in Turtle Meat, do so! You can Roast the bones and infuse the flavor into your Beef Stock. Roast them in a 400 degree F oven until a nice deep brown, then add them to your Beef Stock and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
Here is my recipe:

Creole Turtle Soup Recipe

Roux:
1 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour

4 Tbsp Usalted Butter
1 lb Turtle Meat Cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 Cup Onion, Finely Diced
1 Cup Celery, Finely Diced
1/4 Cup Green Onion, Finely Sliced
2 tsp Garlic, Minced
2 Fresh Bay Leaves
1 1/2 Cup Fresh Tomato, Diced
1 Qt Beef Stock
1 Pinch Cayenne
1 Pinch Ground Allspice
2 Tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
1 Tbsp Fresh Marjoram, Chopped
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
4 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tbsp Sherry
3 Hard Boiled Eggs, Whites diced, Yolks Riced
Lemon Slices
5 tsp Italian Pasley, Finely Chopped

Melt the 1 Cup of Butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk in the flour, cook to make a peanut butter colored Roux. Set aside. For more on making a Roux, click here.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt the 4 Tbsp of Unalted Butter over medium-high heat, add the diced Turtle Meat and saute until nicely browned.
Lower the heat to medium, add both types of onions, the celery, and garlic. Season with salt and black pepper. Saute until the vegetables are tender.
Add the tomatoes, season with a little salt so they will break down, cook for 10 minutes.
Add the Beef Stock, Worcestershire, Cayenne, Allspice, and Bay Leaves. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off any impurities that may rise to the surface.
Whisk in the Roux, simmer until thickened and smooth. Add the Thyme, and Marjoram, simmer for 15-20 minutes more.
Add the Lemon Juice, 3 tsp of the Parsley, and the riced Egg Yolk, heat through.
Serve garnished with Lemon Slices, Diced Egg Whites, and Parsley. Add the Sherry at the table, about 1-2 tsp per bowl.

Serves 4-6

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