Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wild Duck and Andouille Gumbo

It's the last weekend of duck season up in the DC region, which means that Jared is off in the boat freezing various body parts off. Meanwhile, I am sitting in the comfort of the nice, warm apartment plotting out dinner.
The hunting crew got into a decent little diver shoot, rounding up some buffleheads, bluebills (also known as scaup), and even a hallowed canvasback - which was lovingly plucked and reserved for roasting. We also tend to hoard any mallards, black ducks, teal, and wood ducks for duck bites and other such gamebird-featured goodies.

The divers, on the other hand, are stronger in flavor and better suited for stews and gumbos.

Since it's cold and there are snow flurries today, why not break out the gumbo pot? So, I did.
  • 8 oz. Turbo Roux
  • 3 lbs. wild duck breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup green bell peppers, chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 green onion stalk, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste (may need to vary the seasoning amounts depending on the type of sausage used)
  • 1-2 dashes browning & seasoning sauce (optional)
  • water

  1. First, make a roux (see Turbo Roux recipe). I prefer to make the roux in a cast iron skillet. Once the roux is the color of an old copper penny, transfer to an 8-quart stock pot.
  2. Stir in the onions, bell peppers, and celery (also known as the Holy Trinity in Cajun cooking) and sweat over medium heat for 1 minute.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for one additional minute.
  4. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of water and simmer until the vegetables soften, about 7-8 minutes.
  5. Add water until 2/3 of the way to the top of the pot.
  6. Bring to a controlled rumble for 15 minutes, stirring periodically.
  7. Meanwhile, brown the pieces of duck breast in a separate pan.
  8. Add the duck, sausage, green onion, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, and browning & seasoning sauce (optional).
  9. Cook over medium heat for 1 1/2-2 hours.
  10. Season with salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce to taste. Serve over rice.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Gâteau Sirop

Happy Birthday Clo Clo! My wonderful, lovely mother is another year wiser today, and unfortunately I can't be there to celebrate. Instead, I'll have to settle for making Granny's famous gâteau sirop (cane syrup cake) in her honor.

This rustic Cajun dessert is dense and a little spicy. It gets its sweetness and texture from the rich, dark Louisiana cane syrup. And, my grandmother's recipe is the best around.

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup 100 percent pure cane syrup (preferred: Steen's Syrup Mill)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a large boil.
  3. Pour batter into a greased rectangular cake pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F until set and firm, about 40 minutes.
Mom and Granny

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Travel Bites - Barbados

So, I'm more than a little delayed on this post, but better late than never, right? Back in December, I joined some of my very best friends for an amazing little trip to the beautiful island of Barbados. 
This extended weekend adventure started out as a double quinceañera for my friend Meaghan, but turned into a birthday threesome (for Sarah, Abbie, and Meag). The rest of us were just along for the ride, and that was alright by me.
We spent most of our time relaxing on the beach and exploring the island. And we discovered some great food finds in the process.
Right down the block from our condo in the St. Lawrence Gap area, we stumbled upon the waterfront restaurant Pisces. Its simple, elegant seafood menu was just what we were looking for to kick off the weekend. We started with the sautéed tiger shrimp with garlic, tomato, chili and penne pasta. The sesame-crusted seared yellowfin tuna was cooked perfectly and topped with a sweet chili sauce.
The next day, Jared had coordinated a bit of a fishing excursion. So, a few of us headed out to Bridgetown not-so-bright, but definitely early on a quest for the wily kingfish (aka wahoo).  After trolling around the island for a while, we finally got one on the line.
And by we, I mean Jared. Courtney drank a few beers, Eoghan took a nap, and Meaghan and I enjoyed the scenery (in between our bouts of seasickness).
Forty minutes later, after a hell of a battle, this beautiful wahoo was on the boat.
Normally, Jared and I operate under our strict "you kill 'em, I grill 'em" policy, and Barbados proved to be no different. Once we got back to the condo, I started to prep the fish for a lovely "family" dinner. 
We cut the fillets into 4 oz. pieces and seasoned them with a blackening spice mix. Then, we wrapped the fish in an aluminum foil pouch, poured in a small amount of the local Banks beer, and placed them on the grill for about ten minutes. This method of cooking really brought out the fresh, clean flavor of the fish. It was mild, flaky, and absolutely amazing. 
After a long night filled with the delicious spoils of our catch and countless Mount Gay Rum cocktails, a few of us wandered to Café Sol for a much-needed hangover brunch. We slowly sipped on our 2 for 1 sangria and snacked on the char-grilled steak nachos, topped with melted cotija cheese, spicy salsa, and guacamole. Nothing spectacular, but it worked wonders.
Later on in the trip, Jared and I happened upon our favorite joint by far. Daddy's is a small lunch and dinner stand that serves some of the local favorites, including the fried flying fish. Lightly battered, deep fried and served with the ubiquitous spicy mustard. So simple and so awesome. Washed down with a nice, cold beer. It was heaven. 
It was a great final meal to cap off our trip. We made new friends, caught up with the old ones, swam with sea turtles, got momentarily kidnapped by the grocery store bus, and enjoyed every last sunset of our trip. It was such a great experience and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards

Just before Christmas, Lydia and Tim got engaged! And I couldn't be more excited for two such wonderful people. After a few weeks of thumbing through wedding magazines and websites, it was time to look for venues. 
They decided to start with some of the vineyards in Virginia wine country. Like the good sister-in-law that I am, I graciously offered to join in any potential wine tastings. Just to be helpful, of course.
They didn't have to look long, though. The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards is a beautiful, hundred-year-old stone and wood dairy barn that has been restored into a unique tasting room and event space. The vineyard sits on ten charming acres in the quaint, historic town of Hamilton, Virginia.
It's natural, rustic, and will make such a pretty backdrop for the wedding. Plus, there's wine! My two favorites are the Viognier, with bright notes of peach and apricot, and the Petit Verdot, deep in color and body with hints of spices and vanilla. Their Chardonnay is very crisp and lovely as well.
The barn has a warm and friendly atmosphere; great for sitting back and enjoying a glass of wine with family and friends. It's a wonderful place to add to your wine tour of Loudoun County.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Travel Bites - Southern Holiday

Now that we're legally bound to one another, Jared and I decided to partake in the very married tradition of splitting the Christmas holiday between both of our families. A wonderful idea in theory . . . not so much in reality, but we made the best of it.

Leg one of our southern adventure began in Lafayette with my family. And our first order of business was to get our hands on some of the early season boiled crawfish. Thankfully, our favorite spot was serving them that night.
In my mind, it's not really a trip home for Christmas if you can't squeeze in that trip to Dwight's. This local hot spot is famous for its plate lunches and is always packed when the crawfish are available. Since we were there, we also indulged in some of their other specialties. Their fried alligator is crispy, yet tender and seasoned to perfection. It's the best in the area, in my opinion. And their charbroiled oysters are topped with a bit of butter, spices, and mozzarella cheese then grilled until smokey and delicious.
The rest of the weekend was spent visiting with family and catching up with old friends. I, of course, attended the annual girls' Christmas party, which ended with late night dancing downtown.
We had our Cormier family dinner on Christmas Eve before heading to mass, then promptly had to pack up and prepare for the next leg of the trip. Jared's family typically spends the holiday at Dauphin Island, on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.  His grandfather started to head down there for Christmas in the 80s and the Pearson clan has made it into a tradition.
A nasty little line of storms had developed over a number of states and threatened to keep us away from our second holiday celebration. So, at the butt crack of dawn, we packed up our little rental car and plodded off towards I-10 E. Now, Jared hates road trips to begin with. Add to that high winds, heavy rain, bits of hail, and a painfully early morning and you've got a recipe for disaster. We had caffeine and Christmas music, though, so we avoided numerous potential arguments and made it to the island in one piece . . . and just ahead of the worst of the weather.
We rode out the storms in the beach house with the weather alarms sounding and the entire place swaying in the wind. It was special. 
Gulf Coast Whiting
We cooked and ate and relaxed and played some board games. The ladies pour over bridal magazines to help my sister-in-law Lydia get ideas for her wedding later this year. Jared did a little bit of surf fishing. And we made more than a few trips to the Ship & Shore (aka the mall that has it all). Overall, it was a great week with both families.

Monday, January 7, 2013

It's Carnival Time

Happy Mardi Gras (season)! Yes, friends, it is that special time of year again. Yesterday brought with it the feast of the Epiphany and now, it's carnival time. So, prepare yourselves for king cakes, parades, beads, balls, and every other welcomed indulgence during this most decadent and frivolous season!

In anticipation of the good times and good food to come (even all the way up here in DC), here's a little taste of my all-time favorite king cake. Courtesy of the old Southside Bakery in Lafayette.
Photos by Lindsey Michelle Photography
Last year, Jared and I got hitched on Samedi Gras, the Saturday before Mardi Gras. And we used it as an excuse to commission our very own tower of king cake. It was a bit unexpected, but beautiful and absolutely delicious. Here's hoping that this year brings just as much joy and just as much king cake as the last.  

Oh well it's carnival time, and everybody's having fun!