Celebrating Mardi Gras in Wisconsin last week while sharing classic Creole recipes to make and savor sparked interest in part two of what was cooked and enjoyed “out there in New Orleans.”
The people who reside there believe that Creole cuisine in Louisiana became a celebration of life due to French, Spanish, and African influences when using whatever was available in markets or on vegetable wagons. Food and flavors of the past were captured, explored and celebrated by author Gwen McKee in “The Little New Orleans Cookbook,” an exceptional 75-page compilation published in 1991 that my son, Raven, recently gifted to me. ‘add to a never-ending collection of outstanding cookbooks.
Here are some of McKee’s favorites to enjoy during Mardi Gras celebrations, Lent, or any time of the year.
1 package (6 rolls) mini French breads
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1 tablespoon parsley flakes (optional)
Slice the French bread into thin rounds (a generous ¼ inch). To melt the butter; add remaining ingredients. Very lightly brush both sides of the bread rounds with the butter mixture. Bake on 2 cookie sheets in 225 F oven for 40-50 minutes, until dry but not brown. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven for 30 minutes or more (or overnight). Store in a box or cookie jar.
Jazzy French bread
2-3 tablespoons of parmesan
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder (no more)
Slit lengthwise and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan. Melt margarine with oil, water and garlic powder; stir. Spread evenly over the buns. Bake in preheated 400 F oven for about 20 minutes until crispy and lightly golden.
Crab and Corn Bisque
16 ounces creamed corn
1 box of cream of potatoes
¼ pound grated Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in flour until well blended but not brown; add the onion. Cook over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Add all ingredients except the last four. Simmer for about 15 minutes, being careful not to burn. Before serving, stir in crabmeat, cheese, parsley and green onion.
3 tablespoons chopped dill pickle
²⁄³ cup Creole (or prepared) mustard
3 tablespoons lemon juice
It is important that everything is finely chopped. Put all the ingredients in a one liter jar, mix well and refrigerate. Keeps for several weeks and is enough for about 8-10 servings. For individual servings, spoon 2-3 tablespoons chilled sauce over ½ cup cold boiled shrimp on a bed of shredded lettuce. Pretty and delicious arranged with wedges of tomatoes and boiled eggs.
Creole okra and tomatoes
Mainly identified with prawns, it is superb with lobster, crab meat or fish. It is also excellent on lettuce wedges, tomatoes or avocados.
1-2 tablespoons bacon grease
2 tomatoes, cut into pieces
Cook the onion in bacon grease (or vegetable oil, but it’s not Creole) just one minute over medium heat. Stir okra into flour and add to softened onion, cook until okra is lightly browned 4-5 minutes. Add the tomato pieces (canned is OK), sugar and seasoning. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it’s soft and fluffy, it’s ready.
Mamaw’s Eggplant Casserole
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into cubes
4 slices of bacon or ham, cut into pieces
10 crackers (or Frenchies)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
½ teaspoon each: salt, lemon pepper, sugar
Soak the eggplants in salted water for about 20 minutes. Fry bacon or ham pieces in large skillet until almost done; add chopped onion. Meanwhile dip the crackers in the cream. Drain the eggplants. Now add everything to the pan. Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often. Place in a buttered gratin dish and sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes before serving. Mamaw also made it with shrimp.
Irish soda bread
It’s also time to think about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, when many will wear green and gather to enjoy Irish stew, soda bread and boiled beef to warm up any cold day with a freshly baked recipe for Irish Soda. Bread found in an old Junior League West cookbook.
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons melted shortening
Sift the dry ingredients together. Add raisins. Combine egg, shortening and buttermilk and stir into dry ingredients. Transfer the dough to a greased 5 x 9 inch loaf pan and bake at 350 F for 1 hour. (At high altitude, add 2 tablespoons flour and bake at 375 F.)
Boiled beef and cabbage
Looking for Irish recipes, here’s one from the Festive Food of America collection of recipes to make on March 17th.
1 large onion, peeled and studded with 2 cloves
8 medium potatoes, scraped and cut into wedges
8 medium carrots, scraped and quartered
1 small rutabaga (rutabaga), peeled and cut into thick slices
2 pounds green cabbage, seeded and quartered
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Soak the meat in cold water for at least 2 hours and drain. Place the meat in a deep lidded saucepan, add the onion and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, skimming off the scum and foam as it rises. Reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer for about 2½ to 3 hours or until the meat is tender. Add potatoes, carrots and rutabaga and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. If there is enough room in the pot, add the cabbage wedges, pressing them into the broth. Otherwise, cook the cabbage separately in salted boiling water for about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove meat and vegetables and drain. Slice the beef and arrange it on a dish in overlapping slices, surrounded by the vegetables. Serve the broth separately.
Did you know that March 9 is National Meatball Day? With fond, delicious, and wonderful memories of the past, here is Joe Troia’s Italian meatball recipe that his customers enjoyed while dining at Troia’s Restaurant many years ago on State Street in the heart of the University District and shared by his daughter, Judy Troia Wettengel.
½ pound bulk Italian sausage
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients with your hands until well blended. Add ½ cup of water to moisten and make it more binding. Roll into 1 ounce balls and toast until desired doneness is reached. (Meatballs will continue to cook if added to a sauce while simmering) Add to a basic Italian tomato sauce and serve with pasta topped with parmesan cheese.
Reader request: Baked eggs Benedict with English muffins, Canadian bacon and Hollandaise sauce.
Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, PO Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by e-mail at [email protected]