Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Voodoo on the Bayou

Happy Halloween folks! What better way to commemorate All Hallows' Eve than with a little Louisiana voodoo?

Marie Laveau is the late, great, undisputed Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. According to folklore, this exceptional beauty got rich selling gris-gris and her advice was sought after by world leaders. She danced with a snake and presided over blood-drenched rituals. And her powers caused the death of at least one Governor and one Lieutenant Governor.

It is believed that when a Voodoo Queen dies, her spirit re-enters the river of life and moves to the next realm, adjacent to this one. So, Laveau's spirit is always close at hand. To this day, people still visit her tomb in St. Louis Cemetery to call on her undying spiritual powers with the hope that she will grant their wishes.

One local pizza joint created a dish with a Cajun twist in honor of this South Louisiana legend. The Marie LeVeaux at Deano's Pizza in Lafayette is crowned with the biggest, tastiest Blue Point crabs, sauteed with mushrooms, onions and spices to create an amazingly flavorful and unique pie. Our family prefers to pay homage by eating our gris-gris instead of traipsing through a maze of above-ground graves.

Deano's, one of my ultimate hometown favorite spots, is also home to the Cajun Executioner - a pizza that will leave you breathing fire - topped with pepperoni, hot sausage, spicy shrimp, fresh onions, bell peppers, and jalapeños. Or try the Muffalata Pie - their version of a muffuletta sandwich - ham, salami, homemade olive salad with a special blend of spices and cheese piled high on a special olive oil pizza crust.

And if that's not enough for you, start your meal off with their Crawfish Nachos. Crisp tortilla chips topped with tender crawfish tails in a creamy, cheesy, spicy sauce. You'll be licking the plate clean.
Deano's Crawfish Nachos

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Looking for a tasty new addition to your Meatless Mondays repertoire? Or Tuesdays, as it were . . . this is a great vegetarian dish that is packed with protein and flavor. And, if you nix the bread crumbs, it's gluten free. This recipe is a spin off of the Quinoa Mac & Cheese recipe previously posted and works great as a hearty side dish or as a main course.

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 pint cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 10 grape tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions. Typically, you combine 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water to a sauce pan and bring that to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the germ separates from the seed (which looks like a white thread curling around the seed).
  3. In a separate pan, sauté the onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes in olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes.
  4. Whisk together the egg, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and hot sauce in a large bowl.
  5. Fold in the cooked quinoa, vegetable mixture, and grated cheese. Mix well.
  6. Apply a light coating of cooking spray to both sides of the bell pepper halves.
  7. Spoon the quinoa mixture into each of the peppers, pressing the stuffing down firmly.
  8. Place each of the filled peppers onto a greased cookie sheet.
  9. Top with panko bread crumbs. Sprinkle on some red pepper flakes for a little more heat.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-30 minutes until are golden brown.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Salted Caramel Apples

While Jared is preoccupied with all of his opening days of hunting, I also get excited about this time of year. The weather finally turns cool and crisp - perfect for gumbos, football season is in full swing, the holidays are right around the corner, and it's apple picking season in the mid-Atlantic region!
We spent Sunday afternoon out in Maryland at Larriland Farms, enjoying the gorgeous weather and hauling in a ridiculous amount of freshly-picked apples. Staymans, Braeburns, Fujis and Suncrisps, to be exact. 
While this isn't exactly something I grew up doing in south Louisiana, the New England Motts are well-versed in this fall activity. And they have a number of tasty recipes to help utilize the loot (some of those to come soon).
But for now, I'll stick with something I know and love: caramel apples. They are a sweet and gooey mess of a dessert that always make me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside . . . as long as I don't manage to burn myself on the molten candy lava. But I decided to mix things up a little bit with a slightly sophisticated twist, using a recipe for salted caramel that brings out the sweetness of both the apples and the candy with just a hint of savory. 
If you're weary of homemade candies or are down a candy thermometer, you can always opt for a bag of caramel squares. Just be sure to add about 1/4 cup of water and a teaspoon of fine sea salt when you melt the candies to have the same sort of effect. 

  • 8-10 whole apples, small or medium in size
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • special equipment: 8-10 wooden skewers or chopsticks and a candy thermometer

  1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Coat with a light layer of non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Make sure all of the apples are cleaned, dried and stemmed.
  3. Insert a wooden skewer or chopstick into the top end of each apple. Set aside.
  4. In a deep saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  5. Cook until the mixture is a warm golden brown, swirling (not stirring) occasionally.
  6. In a small pot, bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  7. When the sugar mixture is a warm golden brown, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture. Beware: it will bubble up violently.
  8. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.
  9. While the caramel is hot, dip the apples in, twirling to coat evenly.
  10. Let the excess caramel drip off. Sprinkle with another pinch of sea salt. 
  11. Place the apples on the lined baking sheet.
  12. Place in the refrigerator to harden, about 1 hour.
   * Caramel recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's Fleur de Sel Caramels.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Supper - Shrimp Creole

This tasty staple out of New Orleans is one that my mother-in-law has perfected. It's somewhere between a Creole gumbo and a jambalaya with a spicy tomato base. And great for a big crowd. So, think about this dish the next time you have a Saints game watch party. Who Dat?!?

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4-5 stalks of green onions, chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 (16 oz.) can of chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
  • 1 (6 oz.) can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 5 lbs. wild-caught, jumbo Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • long-grain white rice, uncooked

  1. First make a roux. In a medium cast-iron skillet, combine the oil and flour. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes (or until the roux is the color of an old copper penny). Whisk constantly.
  2. Stir in onions, green onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Transfer mixture to a large cast-iron pot.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.
  5. Bring mixture to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  6. Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  7. Add the shrimp to the tomato base and cook for an addition 10-15 minutes, until shrimp turn pink.
  8. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
  9. Sprinkle in the fresh parsley. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thai X-ing

Hello lover. I believe I may have found my new favorite DC restaurant.

Yesterday, my darling friend Crickett turned 30 and a group of lovely ladies gathered together to celebrate. Reservations were made at Thai X-ing (Thai Crossing) - a place that I have been dying to try.  

This unassuming eatery is tucked away in a rowhouse near LeDroit Park. You walk in to find what is basically a glorified living room with tables and mismatched chairs set up neatly throughout the space. The lights are dim and the room is warm, cozy, and filled with an almost intoxicating aroma of the goodness in which you are about to partake. The chef, Taw Vigsittaboot, serves up traditional, authentic thai recipes family-style in a genuinely down-home setting. A meal here feels like you are eating at a friend's house, which was perfect for the occasion. 

The birthday girl arrived and we cracked open a few bottles of wine - this place is BYOB, with no corking fee, so be sure to come prepared. In this group, that meant at least one bottle per person. Enough to cover the meal and a few to take home, considering it was a Tuesday night. After a few introductions and a bit of catching up, the first round of dishes made it to the table. The meal is set daily by the chef - there is no menu, in the traditional sense - and yesterday happened to be a vegetarian and fish night.
We started out with a coconut milk soup. This complex and flavorful soup, with not-so-subtle hints of ginger and lemongrass, was perfect for the chilly weather. Appetizers also included a fresh and brightly-flavored papaya salad and fish cakes served with some variety of pickled vegetables and a spicy sauce. And everything was delicious. Which is wonderful, until you realize that you do, in fact, need to pace yourself for what was still to come.
Stir-fried ginger with black mushrooms. Stir-fried green beans. Sweet-and-sour tofu. All with immaculately balanced notes of heat, sweetness, sour, salt, and just a touch of bitterness.
Then came the pumpkin curry. Oh, sweet mother of goodness. This dish was ridiculous. I could have easily just eaten this and only this for dinner (ok, probably not, but you get the point that I'm trying to make here). The pumpkin was tender and perfectly cooked, then coated with a creamy red curry sauce. Sweet, yet slightly savory, and totally melts in your mouth. I'm drooling right now just thinking about it.
And even after all of that, the main dishes: pad see ew with tofu and whole steamed pompano.
Once we had delighted in the many, many dishes over the course of the night, enjoyed a few bottles of vino, and cackled at the ridiculous stories offered up, it was time for dessert and the obligatory birthday serenade. The restaurant served an amazing mango sticky rice and our friend Jazmin baked a strawberry cake for the occasion. The cake was dense, moist, and delicious and topped with a delicate, almost meringue-like frosting and fresh strawberries.

It was a really wonderful night celebrating with a great friend. And I was glad to have finally experienced the tastiness that is Thai X-ing. Now I know what all of the fuss is about.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dark Chocolate Torte with Cinnamon and Cayenne Pepper

Today is my big bad sister's birthday! And while we celebrated together earlier last month (with our ridiculous and hilarious weekend in New York City), this lovely day needs to be commemorated from afar as well. Everybody loves extended festivities in their honor, right?

During our weekend in the big apple, Nikki and I stopped at a boutique chocolate shop and stocked up on their delectable concoctions. One of our favorites is a dark chocolate and chili blend. Using that as inspiration, I made this delightful little torte. The cinnamon and cayenne pepper complement the flavor of the dark chocolate. It's a little sweet, a little spicy, and totally amazing. Just like Nikki.

  • 8 oz. dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 9 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put the chocolate and butter into the top of a double boiler and heat over (but not touching) about 1 inch of simmering water until melted.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until blended.
  4. Whisk a small amount of the melted chocolate into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs. Then, slowly whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.
  5. Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9-inch round baking dish.
  7. Bake until the cake is set and the top starts to crack, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  8. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a very light dusting of cinnamon and cayenne pepper for a little extra kick.
Happy Birthday to the best f*&%ing big sister EVER!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Supper - Venison Chili

This weekend, we had the first cold snap of the year in Washington. And all it made me want to do was curl up on the couch with a big blanket and a bowl of something warm and hearty. And my venison chili recipe did the trick. 

It's great for the season, feeds a crowd and freezes well, if you happen to have any leftovers. This recipe also works well with ground beef, turkey, pork, veal, and lamb. Any type or blend of ground meat, really. But it's deer season here, and I attempt to be a supportive wife.
Bitches and Does
  • 1 lb. ground venison
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans of dark red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, undrained
  • 1 (14 oz.) can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  1. In a large cast iron pot, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on medium.
  2. Sauté the onions and bell pepper until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 1 additional minute.
  4. Add the ground venison and cook until browned, another 5-6 minutes.
  5. Add the kidney beans, black beans, bouillon cubes, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.
  6. Stir in the salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. 
  7. Simmer on medium-low for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  8. To stretch the chili, add water. For ever cup of water added, toss in an additional bouillon cube and cook until dissolved.
  9. Serve with your favorite toppings: sour cream, cheese, green onions, jalapeños, diced tomatoes, tortilla chips, and/or cornbread, etc.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wild Duck Bites

Oh yes, it's that magical time of year again. The weather is beginning to cool down. The leaves are starting to change colors. And Jared disappears until February . . . today is the first day of duck season in Virginia. And Maryland's is just around the corner as well.
The Urban Redneck Crew
Hopefully, this year will be full of successful trips and tasty waterfowl gumbos. In the meantime, here's another favorite recipe. These are great as appetizers or as a meal in themselves.

  • 2 wild duck breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • bacon strips, cut in half (need as many half strips as there are pieces of duck breast)
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • jalapeños, sliced (optional)
  • special equipment: toothpicks, pre-soaked in water

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the cubed duck breasts and Italian dressing. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. On a large work surface, place the sliced bacon strips, cream cheese, and jalapeños within reach.
  3. Spread a small amount of the cream cheese on one side of a bacon strip. Place one  jalapeño slice and one piece of duck breast on one end of the bacon strip.
  4. Wrap the bacon strip around the duck and secure with toothpick. 
  5. Repeat method with the remaining cubes of duck.
  6. Grill on a preheated outdoor grill or indoor grill pan until bacon is just crisp, about 10 minutes, turning once.