Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The big easy, California style

I have never actually been to New Orleans. For god sakes I have never been to Louisiana, or even it's bordering states for that matter. This simple fact does not seem to have any bearing on my overwhelming and slightly fanatical love for New Orleans. I have this strange and misguided theory that in some strange way I am a defacto native of the area. In college we had a guy on an exchange program from LSU and I followed that poor boy around and badgered him for any information about his hometown that I could get out of him. I hung around his dorm and struck up a friendship with him just to hear him talk, and to eat the crazy food he made(his mom sent alligator!! we made stew). It was as though I thought that some of his awesome cool Luisiananess would rub off on me. It did not, but I did fall even further in love with New Orleans.

About three weeks into my stalking stint Hurricane Katrina blew through his hometown. He told me all the stories that he was getting from back home. We watched the news coverage. It was horrifying. I remember being so devastated by not only the madness of the political situation and the mind numbing amount of pain was being absorbed by so many, but also at the loss of such an amazing place. My heart went out then, and still goes out now to all of those that lost so much in that disaster; people they loved, the places they called home and everything within, and the culture of a city like no other. To this day I am amazed by the resiliency of the people from that region and I am so grateful that they have worked so hard to rebuild and preserve New Orleans. Hopefully one day I will actually get my ass down there.

All that to tell you that I was really excited that the Saints were going to the Superbowl!!! In honor of this occasion Alex and I had a Louisiana inspired evening. There was even Sweet Tea wine that I found at Cost Plus. It was actually a little too sweet for my taste, I had to mix it in to some white wine to get a sangria effect, which worked nicely. Look at that bottle though...ahh soo cool.

I actually got my act together and chopped/organized my ingredients.
Makes life so much easier.

We made (Just like your mawmaw's) Shrimp Creole (we used chicken sausage not shrimp to save $$) from the Trader Joe's Companion cook book that I got from some friends for my birthday this year. My preparing this recipe marked a monuments occasion. I made my first roux. A roux is simply a mixture of fat and flour that is used as the base for a lot of Cajun stews. The flour and fat are combined in equal parts and then cooked until it becomes a dark brown color. The roux has a deep nutty taste that it lends to the dish as well as giving it a rich color that is hard to resist. It is a bit of a tedious task but it is well worth it. The creole was perfect, spicy, thick and satisfying. The roux gives the stew an almost smokey flavor, a very subtle richness that is perfectly offset by the spice of the chili powder and the sausage. And I really recommend using the fresh tomatoes, the acidity is perfect and the texture of the skins makes the dish a lot more interesting.

The roux in the beginning

Finished Product

Go Saints!! Creole

Adapted from (Just like your mawmaw's) Shrimp creole from The Trader Joe's Companion

  • 1 lb Andoullie Sausage sliced or chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup, carrot chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (could use chicken)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cup chopped tomato
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

Begin by making your roux. Using a flat bottomed pan over medium-low heat warm up the oil. Slowly add the flour and whisk together. Once the flour is Incorporated you need to continue to stir the mixture until it has turned a light brown (a color similar to peanut butter). This should take about 15 minutes. You can cook the roux for longer, my understanding is that the longer it cooks the more authentic it is.

Once you are satisfied with the roux add your onion, pepper, carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes, until the veggies have softened.

Add the garlic, thyme, broth, wine, chili powder, tomato and tomato paste. Stir until the paste has dissolved and the entire soup is well blended. Allow everything to simmer for about 30 minutes. The creole will have thickened up a great deal, add as much extra liquid (stock or wine preferably) as you feel you need.

Once you have the consistency you want add the sausage and cook for about 10 more minutes.

We served ours the way they do at our favorite Louisiana style restaurant, with a scoop of rice on top, and we added a bit of Greek yogurt to the top because we put in extra chili powder and it was hot!! Stick to 1/4 teaspoon chili powder if you are adding spicy sausage!!

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