True Confessions of a Mid-Life Cook

There's a definite correlation between my profound love of music and how and what I've taught myself to cook. My favorite music to listen to and to perform is soulful, sensual, sometimes funky and always bluesy in nature . . . and that's exactly how I cook. I like to get my hands in the food. I chop, I knead, I stir with my hands. Sometimes I wear my big rimmed cowboy hat, nightie and Old Gringo boots in kitchen, sometimes a coonskin cap when the mood strikes and sometimes just an apron and a smile. Using the freshest of ingredients, I love to bringing a new spirit to old favorites. I am so to drawn dishes seeping in both Texas and Southern tradition,with a special affinity for those authentic old jewels found in South Louisiana.
Because they, too, are so powerfully soulful?

I've discovered being a good cook is a journey and not a destination. (Yes, I stole an over-used corporate slogan and made it my own--but it's still the truth) Every time we screw up, we learn. And in part, that's what this blog is about. Cooking fearlessly. With heart, with soul -- and with some damn good music to inspire. (If your three layer chocolate cake ends up looking like a Jerry Springer rerun or you cut the tip of your thumb off while making New Year's Day gumbo, WHO CARES?Proclaim Francine Reed's "I'm a Handful" your theme song. She would like that.)
We cook because we find ourselves kinda empty if we don't.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Crawfish Cornbread Dressing

Way down in the bayou, stuck in the mud.
There’s a little critter that the Cajun people love.
She got two big claws and eight tiny feet,
And a tail full o’ meat, that’s good to eat.

Crawfish, I got ‘em if you want ‘em.
Crawfish, eat ‘em while they’re hot.
Crawfish, gonna pour some pepper on ‘em.
Crawfish, I like it like that.
You boil ‘em down ‘til they nice and red,
You squeeze the tail and you suck the head.

New Years Day eating is not complete without crawfish cornbread at my house. In fact, I can't imagine starting out the new year without my favorite little mudbug.
This easy dish really draws out the "oohs and ahhs" from every mouth it touches. I make mine the day ahead (like. . .toDAY) because it just seems to taste even better the next day.

Serves 10

About 4 Tbs. bacon fat
1/4 andouille sausage, diced
1/4 lb of hot pork sausage, removed from casing (I use our local - to die for - Mikulek sausage)
1 med onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups crawfish tails, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tsp fresh parsley, minced
Leaves from one spring fresh thyme
1 - 2 tablespoons good quality Cajun or Creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere's)
6 cups crumbled cornbread
2 cups of good chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs lightly beaten
plenty of fresh ground black pepper

Cook sausage in bacon fact over med-high heat, breaking up the pork with a wooden spoon.
Once browned, add onion, celery, bell peppers and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes. Add crawfish tails and cook a couple of minutes.
Transfer mixture to mixing bowl.

Add remaining ingredients to mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Spoon into prepared baking dish (I use butter) and at this point the dressing may be covered and refrigerated for up to one day or go ahead an bake it in a preheated 350 degree oven until it is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

And as a note, I generally always use fresh herbs, because in the end the dish always tastes better, 'fresher.' But when in a bind, of course I will use what I have in my spice cabinet. I hope you do the same.
Suggested listening: Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Twist and Shout"

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