Sunday, March 29, 2009

Frank Brigsten Crawfish Callas

After his fantastic cooking class, I was anxious to give some of Frank Brigsten’s recipes a go. The obvious first choice was Brigsten’s class lagniappe, crawfish calas.

The first step to this recipe was getting the rice ready.

Frank was adamant about his support of Louisiana rice, particularly Panola popcorn rice. Luckily, I had picked up a few bags at a Breaux mart last time I was in New Orleans.

Another thing Frank was adamant about was building flavor. During his class, he had made the rice with crawfish stock. Lacking any myself, I made my rice with chicken stock.

While the rice was cooking, I got started on the green onion dipping sauce. It has a very simple ingredient list.

2 egg yolks

2 cups of green onions

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of black pepper

4 tablespoons of white vinegar

2 cups of vegetable oil

Here are the first five ingredients in the processor

After processing till smooth, I was ready to start adding the oil

The idea is to have the processor running and then slowly add the oil.

When all two cups of oil has been added, I ended up with this lovely mayonnaise.

With the rice cooking and the green onion mayonnaise made, I started with the crawfish calas.

I started with a 1 lb pound of crawfish tails and portioned out a cup of tails. Combining that with 1 tsp of Paul Prudhomme’s seafood magic seasoning, 1/4 thinly sliced onions, and 3/4 tsp of minced garlic, I added the mixture to 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat.

The idea is just to heat the crawfish through, about 1-2 minutes.

Once the crawfish are heated through, I slid everything into a bowl

And then into the fridge to thoroughly chill.

As I mentioned before, Brigsten is very big on building flavor. One way to build that flavor is to have purree half of the crawfish.

The idea is that instead of getting a lump of crawfish every few bites, the flavor of the crawfish would permeate the calas.

With everything cooked, cooled, and purreed, it was time to actually make the calas batter.

I started by whisking 2 eggs until frothy.

Next I whisked in 1/4 cup of milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 cup ap flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of white sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Then it was time to add in the purreed crawfish.

The purreed crawfish really changed the appearance of the batter, but not as much as the next ingredients.

That is 2 cups of the cooked popcorn rice and the rest of the crawfish.

With everything added, this was a great looking batter, although it seemed sticky as hell.

The solution to stickiness was to use an ice cream scoop.

Each scoop of batter was rolled into a pot of 350 degree oil and cooked for 4 or 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Delicious looking results.

The finished results.

Cooking the Book - Commander’s Kitchen - Seafood Jambalaya

After my success with the chicken etouffee from the “Commander’s Kitchen” cookbook, I decided to try out another New Orleans favorite, seafood jambalaya.

The recipe for seafood jambalaya starts like so many good things, with pork.

About a pound of andouille sausage is the first ingredient. I believe I picked this particular specimen up at Tony’s seafood at Baton Rouge.

With my pot on high heat, I added two tablespoons of butter and began to saute the andouille.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of seasoned, smoked pork and sizzling butter.

Once the andouille had sauteed for 6 or so minutes, I added in my vegetables.

1 large bell pepper, 1 large onion, 3 ribs of celery all in large dice are in the bowl, along with a whole bulb of garlic that has been peeled and minced.

I added all the vegetables into the pot, along with some cajun seasoning, salt, & pepper to taste.

The idea is took cook everything long enough for the vegetables to caramelize, in this case, about 8-10 minutes.

With everything nice and caramelized, I went for the gusto and added in almost every other ingredient.

First in were two large, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes’

Next was a pound of peeled and deveined shrimp, and a pound of crawfish tails. The recipe actually calls for 1/2 pound of fish fillets, but I prefer crawfish. Let’s not forget the two, hard to see bay leaves.

With almost everything in the pot, I added 3 cups of thrice rinsed long grain rice.

Everything was gently stirred and incorporated.

Then 6 cups of water were poured into the pot. With all but one ingredient in the pot, I brought the mixture to a boil, covered, and reduced it to a simmer for about 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes were up, I took a look at the pot.

The rice had absorbed most of the water, thus making it the time for the last ingredient.

With the heat turned off, I grabbed my the last part of the seafood jambalaya.

1 pint of shucked oysters in their liquor

I folded them into the jambalaya, put the top back on, and let the residual heat cook the oysters for about 8 or 9 minutes.

I knew that oyster liquor was a rich liquid, but I didn’t expect this.

With everything added, the jambalaya had turned almost into a risotto. Maybe it was the panola popcorn rice, maybe it was the oysters, who knows?

Dressed with some sliced green onions and little tabasco, this was a delicious dish.

The real beauty of the jambalaya is the simplicity. Without a complicated roux, this is the perfect dish to introduce someone to creole cuisine. I know that I heard nothing but rave reviews from this dish, with my webmaster Sam going as far as to say that this was the best dish I’ve made so far. Lofty praise, but the real credit is again, to the Commander’s Palace and their excellent recipes.

Cooking the Book - Commander's Kitchen - Chicken étouffée

Needing something for dinner on Saturday night, it occurred to me that I haven’t anything Cajun or Creole since I was in New Orleans last month. An easy way to remedy that is to pull out my copy of “Commander’s Kitchen”. A tome of more than 150 recipes from the Commander’s Palace, “Commander’s Kitchen” soon presented an answer with a recipe for chicken étouffée.

Situated in the section for krewe meals, chicken étouffée is hearty dish that is really is simple to make. For me, the hardest part was quartering the chicken.

After a few swipes of the knife, my standby poulet rouge chicken was transformed into quarters.

Or as close to quarters as I could manage.

When I was at school, I made a habit out of cooking lots of Louisiana foods, and that presented a problem. All of my favorite recipes include a lot of chopped vegetables, and this chicken étouffée is no exception. 2 onions & 2 bell peppers both in a large dice, 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, stemmed, and minced, and 15 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced make the vegetation in this dish.

With all the prep work done, it was time to start the ball rolling on this étouffée

That required me to get my dependable le creseut pot and ½ cup of oil to smoking and then introduce the chicken that had been salt & peppered and lightly dusted in flour.

Once one side was browned, it was time to flip and treat the other side likewise.

When everything has been browned, I pulled the chicken out and got the oil back to smoking.

With the oil smoking, it was time to add in the whole bowl of chopped vegetables

After 12 minutes of covered cooking and the occasional stir,

It was time to introduce the remaining flour

A real trick to this dish is making sure the vegetable roux turns a dark, nutty brown without burning. It took 4-5 minutes before I was happy with the color, but when once I was satisfied, I added 2 tsps each of dried sage and thyme and some salt and pepper

I gradually added the 3 cups of water, making sure to stir out any lumps in the roux

Back into the pot

Bring everything to a boil and then tone it down to a simmer.

After about 20 minutes and the occasional stir, I checked up on the chicken.

True to the recipe, the chicken was tender to the point of falling off the bone.

Believe me, I realize that this doesn’t look appetizing at all.

But once everything is mixed together with a little hot sauce, you won’t care how messy it looks.

The simplicity and sheer deliciousness of this recipe is a testament to the Commander’s Palace. Of course, the real testament to Commander’s is that the recipe will work in the real world. So often a recipe is so pretentious and convoluted that it’s an utter disaster in a home kitchen, not with the “Commander’s Kitchen”. Each recipe is user friendly and delicious. I can’t wait to cook up something else from the “Commander’s Kitchen”

Corndogs, Not Just for LSU fans

After taking a few liberties with Alton Brown’s recipe for corned beef, I thought that I should follow one of his recipes to the t. Luckily, the “man food show” episode was one tv last week.

Having always been a fan of corn dogs and wanting to try this recipe for a while, I figured there’s no better time than the present.

It’s not a very big ingredient list, but much more than I thought went into a corndog.

* 1 gallon peanut oil

* 1 cup yellow cornmeal

* 1 cup all-purpose flour

* 2 teaspoons kosher salt

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

* 2 tablespoons (approximately 1 large) jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced

* 1 (8.5-ounce) can cream-style corn

* 1/3 cup finely grated onion

* 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

* 4 tablespoons cornstarch, for dredging

* 8 beef hot dogs

First up was the jalapeno,

After it was seeded and minced, I set to work on grating the onion.

At first I tried a micro planer, but the onion disappeared. I ended up using my box grater.

I added the onion and jalapeno to a large bowl and then dumped in a can of cream corn and 1 ½ cups of buttermilk.

The dry ingredients, 1 cup yellow cornmeal, 1 cup ap flour, 1 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp baking soda, and ½ tsp cayenne pepper, were added to another bowl. Soon everything was ready to be mixed.

I made sure to stir until was just mixed, and then left it to sit for at least 10 minutes. Alton explains that the batter needs to rest in order for the starches to absorb moisture. It just gave me a chance to get oil and the hot dogs ready.

Here’s my key to success, all beef Hebrew nationals, much better than those mystery meat dogs from the fair.

You don’t know what weird is until you try to stuff a chopstick in a hotdog. Alton insists that unbroken wooden chopsticks are the best stick for corndogs. I figured the worst thing that could happen is I’m out a few chopsticks and hotdogs.

With some cajoling, I had seven sets of chopsticks in seven hotdogs.

An important step is to get a thin layer of corn starch on each hotdog, or else the batter won’t stick.

Speaking of batter, with a delicate touch and a spoon, I was able to get a glass full of batter.

With the oil ready at 375, I gave a hotdog a quick dunk in the batter and then into the hot oil.

I couldn’t figure out a way to keep the corndogs propped on the edge. In the end, I just acquiesced and let them float in the oil.


Sure it may not have that golden brown aesthetic quality of prontopup, but these corn dogs will kick any prontopup’s ass.

Even with seven corndogs, they were devoured before I could take a picture of one dressed with mustard.

The best thing, aside from the simplicity of the recipe, was the first bite. I’ve always liked Hebrew nats, but taking a bite of a Hebrew nat corndog is a surreal experience. It’s the flavorful crunch of the exterior combined with the juicy interior of the hotdog, punctuated by the kosher beefiness of the hotdog. As corny and clichéd as it sounds, these corndogs truly were good eats.