Wednesday, October 30, 2013

50 Chefs and Paul Prudhomme and Mirliton Pirogue Stuffed With Shrimp

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 So here we go again.  50 Chefs for 50 Years continues.  Today, Paul Prudhomme and his book Louisiana Kitchen.  He is the godfather of Cajun cuisine, and I remember the day I got this book.  I had never been to New Orleans, but blackened fish was all the rage when we moved to Atlanta in 1991, and I really wanted to explore this cuisine.  This book was on a list of the 50 greatest cookbooks of all times, and  I guess as Louisiana cooking goes, it really is the authority.  However, I have never cooked a thing out of it.  It is rather complicated, lots of steps, and it wasn't food I had a lot of experience with.  So now that I am older and wiser, here we go.

We have a lot of families on my daughter's volleyball team from Louisiana, and I was talking to them about Mirlitons.  I wish I could give you a pronunciation, because a Louisiana native doesn't pronounce it the way it is spelled.  At all.  It's like mel-i-tone.  Not sure where that R went to.  Anyway, some friends brought me a basket of them, and here I am. They are also called chayote, but I have yet to see them in my local grocer under any name.   I followed Chef Prudhomme's recipe to prep these, by boiling them until tender.  Then I cooled, peeled and cored them, reserving the pulp for the filling.

Here's what I learned.  They look like a squash, but are not starchy at all.  They are actually in the cucumber family. Also called a vegetable pear.  The flesh is sweet and bright, and they are not easy to scoop out into perfect little Pirogues.  What's a Pirogue, you ask?  I know this only because I watch Swamp People.  A Pirogue is the boat they use in the swamp, very shallow hull, and here is a great photo of one.  My Pirogue (pronounce pee-row), will be filled with shrimp and andouille.  I left out the Tasso and Oyster Hollandaise for a couple of reasons.  First, it would make a simple dish that already has a few steps in it, much more complicated,  and second, it calls for a pound of butter, 4 egg yolks and 1/4 cup margarine.  I have seen Chef Prudhomme on Top Chef this season, and I am going to guess this gentleman isn't eating a lot of hollandaise these days.  He was a large man when this book was published and he is easily half his weight now.  So I too opted out of all that fat.  I thought without the hollandaise, I would get a better flavor of the mirlitons, the andouille and the shrimp!  I was right.

Before we get into the details of the recipe, I have to tell you, I LOVE these.  The mirliton after it was boiled and peeled was delicious.  Really.  The flavor is hard to put my finger on, but I think it could go sweet or savory.  It enhances other flavors, like the spicy andouille, and they fried, yes fried to a gorgeous crispy treat.  The meat was delicious with it.  My next adventure will be boiling them and maybe making a cajun fry baked in the oven this time.  I made extra seasoning, so there'll be plenty of flavor!  A new favorite here for sure!

Mirliton Pirogue Stuffed with Shrimp

2 large Mirlitons
1/2 cup milk
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

I doubled this because I know it will be good on sweet potato fries, brown rice, chicken... 

Seasoning Mix

1 T salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

vegetable oil for frying

One andouille would have been plenty, but there were only 2 in the case.  I felt guilty buying just one.

3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup andouille sausage (I used 2 links)
1/2 pound peeled shrimp

Boil the mirlitons in a large pot of water until they are fork tender.  Rinse and cool.  Slice down the middle and peel and deseed.  Scoop out extra pulp so you have a 1/2 inch thick shell.  If you make the mirlitons ahead, simply cover and chill them until ready to use.

Fry the sausage until the meat is cooked through.  Add the and extra mirliton pulp and the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are cooked through.  Turn off heat and set aside.

The Dipping Stations
Add 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mix to both the flour and the panko, and mix well.  Make stations for your dipping process.

One pirogue is plenty!
Add enough vegetable oil to a deep skillet so it is about 1/4" deep.  Dip the mirliton pirogues into the seasoned flour first, then into the egg, then into the seasoned Panko.  Fry in hot oil until crispy, flip and fry on the other side.  Drain on paper towels or brown bags.  Fill with the shrimp andouille mixture and enjoy!!! An Abita Beer or root beer from New Orleans would be a great addition!!

Check out the prior chefs in my 50 Years and 50 Great Cooks/Chefs.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

50 Chefs for 50 Years, The New Basics and Silver Palate

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The sign of a good book!

Hearty...needs a salad, bread and wine!
 My 50 Chefs for 50 Years continues.  The New Basics is probably the cookbook that changed my life.  The authors are Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  I find this book much more valuable than The Silver Palate, which I love, and also by the same team. Both books are full of recipes, no color pictures, but lots of tips of the trade, charts of cuts of meat, olives, apples, etc. and cooking charts with suggestions that go with the recipes.  My copy is falling apart, is full of cards, letters, pictures my kids drew, and most importantly, notes alongside the many recipes I have made from this book.  I've missed it, and pulling it out was really a joy.  The inscription inside to me is one of my favorites, from my mom.

As I read through these books, it is a bit of my history.  I write the date and event with my recipes, and remember so many of those days.

Anyone who has ever been to a party at my house knows that the Marinated Shrimp from the Silver Palate is my standard appetizer.  Delicious, beautiful and easy.  And I love soaking up the marinade with a piece of crusty bread! I have also adapted the Palmier recipe a dozen different ways.

But The New Basics is the book I love.  In November 1990, I made Apple Chicken for my neighbors in Grand Rapids, both of whom I still keep in touch.

I made the Roquefort Spread in May 1993, living in Atlanta, when I was very pregnant with Christina.  I borrowed some Port from my friend Tracy and didn't know it was rancid.  I had never had it before and tasted a little glass (it was sickly sweet).  Every pregnant woman's nightmare ensued, and I was sick for over a week. So needless to say the dip was a failure.

I can see us in our last house in TN gathered around the counter with friends and lots of napkins eating Grilled Cumin Shrimp, yum!

Waffles on Easter Sunday?  Yes, from this book in 1992, a full year before Christina was born.

And the showstoppers, Beef Wellington and Stuffed Flank Steak.  Christmas Eve 1991 and 1995, and many, many Christmas Eves to follow.

In 1996, Scott was traveling and Nic wanted Beef Stew, so I obliged, and we had dinner with candles according to my notes.  It was a special night just me and the kids.

We had a snow day in 1997 and I made Olive Rosemary Country Bread.  I have made it many times since!  This is my Better Homes and Garden equivalent.  I have never owned BH&G, but I know it was the go-to book for many home cooks.  The New Basics is the book my kids will fight over one day.    So the dilemma, really, is what to make for the tribute to these fantastic books?

That was easy.  I had friends coming for the weekend, Scott was gone, and I needed something that could be made a little ahead and kept warm.  It had to be hearty and delicious.  Chicken Puttanesca!
This is from The Silver Palate and was a winner all the way around!  I had most of the ingredients on hand, it cooked in under an hour and was perfect for dining outside with a glass or two of wine! Serve it with lots of bread to soak up the amazing sauce!

Chicken Legs Puttanesca
(adapted from The Silver Palate)

3 Tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken thighs, trimmed up

Cook the thighs in hot oil until browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and add,

1 onion, cut into slices
6 cloves garlic, sliced

Sauté until the onion begins to brown a little, do not burn the garlic!  Add

1 can plum tomatoes (around 24oz)

Stir well, breaking up the tomatoes.  Add each of the following ingredients, one at a time.

2 ounces anchovy paste
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
1/4 cup capers
5 sliced, sundried tomatoes packed in oil
1 Tablespoon Italian Herbs
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Your kitchen will smell heavenly!

Add the chicken back to the pan.  Cover and turn the heat down.  Cook for about 1/2 hour or until the chicken is cooked through.  Bread, salad wine....perfection!

Have you missed the previous chefs?  50 Chefs for 50 Years:
#1 Mom, and Steak In A Bag and Ambrosia Pie
#2 Chuck Williams (founder of Williams Sonoma) and Cheese Souffle and Chuck's Zucchini
#3 Dinah Shore, and Corn Crab Cakes with Jalepeño Tartar Sauce
#4 Deborah Madison, and Summer Squash Tatines
#5 & 6 Eli and Max Sussman, and The Best Fall Dinner EVER!
#6 Ina the Barefoot Contessa and Chopped Cape Cod Salad

Stay tuned.  We have a long way to go until I turn 50!  About 9 months......What are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

50 Great Chefs For 50 Years, Ina, And Cape Cod Chopped Salad

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Delicious Dinner!
 Do I need to say more?  Here's an empire that's hard to ignore.  For my 50 Great Chefs for 50 Years, I couldn't forget about Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa.  Granted she was a TV chef, which I rarely saw, but her books are amazing compilations of simple and elegant dishes that the home cook was thrilled to make and eat.  She writes a great book.  Her original book has been thumbed through and cooked through.  I also own just about every other book of hers, but Back to Basics is special.  Care to guess why?  Ok, yes.  I met her at a cookbook signing.  She is so cute!  I wrote a blog about our signing and the Leftover Party we heard about.  And I cleaned out my freezer.  You'll have to read the old blog to understand, it's a funny one.

So on to the book. The one recipe I make over and over is her Italian Wedding Soup, which we all love.  There are others I have made with great success.  But short of having a dinner party every week, doing an entire menu from a chef is getting fattening!  So we decided we were making the ultimate Autumn salad.  A perfect light dinner, and a recipe that really embraces her philosophy.  It doesn't have to be fussy.  But it should be done well.  I made roast beef and fontina paninis with balsamic onion jam too, I mean a salad needs a little more sometimes.

Roast Beef, Fontina and Balsamic Onion Jam

The panini is my creation.  The salad is all Ina.  And it is delicious!  The recipe that follows is my version.  I left out the orange juice and orange zest, and I subbed dried cherries for the dried cranberries.  I also added some romaine lettuce as the recipe calls for just arugula.

Cape Cod Chopped Salad
adapted from Ina Garten

4 oz. thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped
4 oz. baby arugula
Chopped romaine
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries
3 oz. blue cheese

This mini cast iron fry pan toasts nuts beautifully!


3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
salt and pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

This battery operated blender gets used every day for homemade salad dressing.

Cook the bacon as desired and cut into pieces.  In a large bowl add the arugula and romaine and top with the bacon, blue cheese, dried cherries, and toasted walnuts.  Mix the dressing ingredients in a small jar and emulsify the oil at the end.  Toss with the dressing and serve.

Have you missed the previous chefs?  50 Chefs for 50 Years:
#1 Mom, and Steak In A Bag and Ambrosia Pie
#2 Chuck Williams (founder of Williams Sonoma) and Cheese Souffle and Chuck's Zucchini
#3 Dinah Shore, and Corn Crab Cakes with Jalepeño Tartar Sauce
#4 Deborah Madison, and Summer Squash Tatines
#5 & 6 Eli and Max Sussman, and The Best Fall Dinner EVER!

Stay tuned.  We have a long way to go until I turn 50!  About 9 months......What are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!