Creole Grillades and Fresh Peas

Before the Swallowtails Eat All the Parsley

This is a close copy of the Grillade recipe in The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook. As I cannot follow any instructions, I added one ingredient.

Ingredients

One cube Steak, cut into small pieces

Bacon Fat

1/2 Onion, Diced

1 clove Garlic

1 tablespoon Flour

2 medium Tomatoes, milled

Chicken Stock

Salt and Pepper

Chopped Parsley

To start, cook the onions in the bacon fat. Add the garlic, and cook for a few seconds. The addition of the flour makes the roux–brown it properly. Add the steak, and cook for about a minute. Finally add the tomatoes and chicken stock for something of a creole sauce. The parsley is garnish.

We use LA rice to go with this, and we just bought a basket of perfectly fresh pink eye purple hull peas. What we didn’t eat went into the frizzer for the winter. We are the ants in the Ant and Grasshopper fable, as we also buy twenty pounds of rice at a time. We just about need a bigger frizzer.

Presidential Pie for the Inauguration Day

Emma and Siegfried Wish You a Hippy Inauguration Day

I have been waiting for just the right opportunity to make this pie, and here it is. It’s a combination sweet potato and pecan pie, and it only has about ten million calories in it. It was also the favorite pie of one President Obama. Naturally, it’s from a bakery in Virginia.

A digression here: since Mr. Jefferson of Virginia was asked to write the constitution for the first French Republic (he declined,) let’s have a few lines of the French national anthem.

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé, 

“Arise, Children of Patriots,

The Day of Glory has Arrived!

Against us, the Tyrant’s banners

Are elevated.”

Damn skippy. Now, back to pie.

The origin of this pie is Red Truck Bakery in northern Virginia, and the genius behind it is Brian Noyes. Go buy his cook book.

Ingredients

1 Creole Pie Crust (more Southern than the original. I really can’t follow a recipe very well.)

Hickory Nuts (not in the original recipe. See above. As it turned out, mine were all ruined anyway.)

Baked and mashed Sweet Taters, Precious

1 Egg

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon Whipping Cream

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Bourbon (as much as you dare)

Fill up half the pie dish. That’s plenty.

That’s just the bottom layer. To quote Will Shakespeare, “I will call it Bottom’s dream.” Quoted out of context as usual. Now to the pecan top layer, which is the scary part.

Ingredients

2 Eggs

1/2 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Sorghum Syrup (VERY southern)

Some Bourbon and Cinnamon

2 tablespoons melted Butter

Pinch of Salt

Here’s where I really depart from the recipe: corn syrup, as called for, is verboten in our kitchen so we improvised a replacement.

Honey

Maple Syrup

1 tablespoon Flour

A layer of Pecan Halves

The last ingredient is a thickener. The result is a masterpiece.

“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.” Or at least for Couple of Days

The crust is a bit ragged, but it will have a short life anyway. Handsome Joe and Handsome Kamala should drop by for a bite. Otherwise I am gaining several pounds.

Making Creole Mustard

Needs to Age

If you are weary of rich and sweet Christmas food, here’s one answer to waking up your taste buds. Make some Creole Mustard. This is a simplified traditional recipe.

Ingredients

1 cup ground Brown Mustard Seeds (I ground mine coarsely in an old hand cranked grinder)

1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1 teaspoon Horseradish Powder

1 ground Clove

1 ground Allspice

1 teaspoon ground Fennel Seeds

Pinch of Salt

Equal parts White Wine and White Wine Vinegar

Simple and pungent, this whole grain mustard is a modernized version of the classic recipe from The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook (For those who have the newer hardback reprint, edited by Ms. Bienvenu, the recipe is on page 553.) The old method is to steep the spices (they also use Mace) in the white wine on the stove, strain out the spices, add the wine, along with some Tarragon Vinegar and Apple Cider. Warning–the last two ingredients are not included on the ingredient list in the book, and no quantities are specified. I just mix everything after grinding it all, and pour in as much liquid as I need to get the consistency I want. The simplest solution is the best.

This will be blazing hot on the first day, but leave it covered on the counter, and it will become gradually more civilized as the days pass. After a couple of weeks I put it into a mason jar, and then the fridge. You can also can this for future use. Either of these approaches beats anything at any supermarket.

Turkey and Vegetable Soup Gumbo

Healthy Gumbo? Mon Dieu!

I’m a little late with my Thanksgiving leftover recipe, but any fowl will do for this recipe, or even frozen leftover turkey. It’s a simpler version of a standard gumbo, as it uses already prepared soup as the base for the gumbo.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Bacon Fat or other Oil

1 tablespoon Flour

1 pint Vegetable Soup (preferably home made, and frozen is fine)

1 cup chopped cooked Turkey or Chicken (maybe Guinea Fowl, anyone? P-trak, p-trak)

Poultry Stock

Extra Frozen Okra

Salt and Pepper

Quick and dirty here. The only thing that requires a good deal of attention is the roux, which should be a dark brown roux, so start with the oil/fat flour combo, and stir constantly. Once that is to the as you like it stage, add the soup and the turkey. Cook until it begins to simmer, and gauge how much stock you want, or how soupy you want your Gumbo to be. The extra okra is optional, but it adds some color to my home made veg soup.

Serve over rice, or if you’re really hungry, red beans and rice. Coastal dwellers regularly add shrimp or oysters to their gumbos. The p-trak sound is the incredibly loud call of the crazed and wild guinea fowl. I want a few, as they are predator proof and require zero food. Alas, they will drive your neighbors bonkers. Maybe I should get a dozen.

Grillades with Mushroom Brown Sauce

Accidentally Making Great Food

If you do the right thing, Karma will treat you right. MJ and I have given away so many eggs that we are getting free food in return. Long live bartering.

Case in point was the cooler full of locally grown beef that one brother-in-law gave us, and the cow was grown by yet another brother-in-law. In the pile of meat were a couple of packs of cube steak, something I had never eaten before, and usually associated with greasy spoon diners. Then I read on the interwebs that good quality cube steak is really round steak that has been pounded flat for tenderizing. This was of the best quality, and I immediately thought: Grillades.

Turning round steak into a Grillade is the classic Southern way of turning inexpensive meat into a thing a beauty, and is sometimes referred to as fried meat a la Creole. I adapted the recipe for Grillades with Gravy from the latest reprint of the Picayune’s Creole Cook Book, and the result was unbelievably good.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Bacon Fat (Grandmother Lilian’s trick)

1/2 Onion, chopped

1 clove Garlic, diced

1 tablespoon Flour

4 inch squares of pounded Round Steak, seasoned highly with Salt and Pepper

6 large Mushrooms, sliced, and sauteed in Bacon Fat, Lard, Butter, or Oil

Water

The recipe in the cook book uses tomatoes instead of mushrooms, but we won’t have good fresh tomatoes here for a while, and I had bunches of shrooms. Begin by cooking the onion in the bacon fat for about a minute. When they begin to soften, add the garlic. Cook until you can smell the garlic but DO NOT burn it.

Add the flour, and begin the basis for a brown roux, aka a gravy. Stir regularly, as a roux is also known as “Creole Napalm.” When you get to a brown color to your liking, add the Grillades to the top of the roux, along with the mushrooms. Add the water and stir. Mine looked like this.

Simmer Time!

That’s my favorite heavy cast iron skillet. Close it about 7/8 of the way with an equally heavy cast iron lid. Stir regularly, because even with the stove set at the lowest setting, this sauce will stick and burn, and the dish is ruined. Add more water when the gravy begins to thicken excessively. Simmer a minimum of thirty minutes, though we just cook ours until it is completely tender. This cooked forty or forty five minutes.

Serve over Louisiana, or any other good, rice, and garnish with chopped parsley, unless you enjoy food that is just really brown. That was served on one of Grandmother Lilian’s Tennessee made plates. Leftovers made the best steak and biscuit with gravy, the next morning, in history.

Grillades. It’s what’s for supper.

The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook, 1901 Edition Reprint

I love people who hate on Amazon and our corporate overlord Bezos, when I know that they are buying like crazy from them. Life these days would be nearly impossible without them.

I have been saving writing about this cookbook for a couple of years now, and this is only a teaser. I’ll begin with the modest assertion that this is the greatest cookbook ever written (or at least it’s my favorite). You are allowed to ask why.

First, thanks to archduke Bezos, I was able to purchase a mint quality hardback of the 1989 version of the book for $3 plus change. It is expertly edited by a great cookbook writer herself, Marcelle Bienvenu, who wrote the definitive cookbook on Cajun cooking, Who’s Your Mama…? And please don’t confuse Creole food with Cajun food, unless you want to get laughed at.

Then, the recipes are superb, especially the meat recipes for chicken, beef, and Gulf seafood, as well as every vegetable imaginable. There is even a suggestion about how to serve broiled Robins or Larks–this one is not suggested by me, but the recommendation is to serve your songbirds on buttered French toast, and garnish with parsley.

The last mystery was as to who wrote this mammoth book (this latest version is 629 pages). An intrepid young scholar at Tulane University named Rien Fertel has determined that the author was one Marie Louise Points, a writer for the Picayune, who was “from a white, French-Creole family in New Orleans; her ancestors were from Virginia and around the Gulf Coast.” This is a common enough history, as my two favorite “Louisiana” writers came from Missouri and Alabama, respectively.

Bienvenu took the interesting approach of using the recipes from the second edition, but the introduction to the first edition. Anyone who has a copy of the second edition knows why. The second edition has an introduction that contains every racist stereotype that one would expect from the city that brought us legalized segregation with the case of Plessy v Ferguson in 1896–only four years before this book was first published. Fortunately, when it comes to the kitchen, all women and men are created equal.

Great Southern Cookbooks, Part Two–Real Cajun, by Donald Link (2009)

Real Food for Real People

There is only one thing to not like about this book, and that is I wish it was ten times longer. When you keep going back to the same cookbook over and over, you know it’s good. The “home cooking” part is the key here–these are recipes to use everyday.

Link has won a James Beard award, so home cooking may sound like an odd subject for such an accomplished chef. However, that is his strong suit, in that he cooks real authentic Louisiana food. He grew up in the region where people are comically referred to as “Coonasses,” as he notes in the book, which is a regional term for Cajuns.

The recipes? My favorites are the Chicken and Rice Soup, the Hush Puppies, the Hot Pepper Jelly, and the classic Cajun sausage, the Boudin. Cajun Boudin is mostly rice with liver and pork, but it is incredibly tasty. A Cajun seven course meal is said to consist of a Boudin, and a six pack of beer.

Strangely enough, Link is not of mainly French descent, but from German and regular Southern folks. That there are Cajuns of German descent is a surprise to many people from outside the South. And yes, those are the classic Cajun spices of Paprika and Cayenne pepper in the picture.

Pie Crusts

A Mostly Creole Pâte Brisée, Stage 1

A homemade pie crust is so superior to bought ones that I am almost ashamed to even make the comparison. With a couple of small exceptions and adaptations, this is the same crust that has been made in the South for decades, if not centuries. This recipe makes one crust.

Basic Pie Crust

Ingredients:

One cup All Purpose Flour

One stick Organic Butter (4 oz.)

1/4 cup Ice Water

Optional: Salt, Sugar

The all butter pie crust is a tradition that makes perfect sense. The Picayune Creole Cookbook even trash talks about other fats in a pie crust.

Some persons use lard for pie crust. This is to be deprecated. The crust will never have the same flavor or be as flaky as when made with butter. Others, again, mix the butter and the lard. This, too, is to be condemned, if you wish for the best results.

There you have it. Unless you want to have your pie crust condemned to Creole pastry hell, use all butter.

Now, back to the crust. Step one is to separate the butter into small, pea to rice size chunks. I use a bench scraper/pastry scraper for this step.

Add ice water, a few drops at a time.

Make a well in the center of the dough and add the ice water in small amounts. Work the dough with one hand (preferably fingertips only) until it sticks together without crumbling. Use the heel of your hand (now we go to the “fraisage” step) to make certain that the butter is well incorporated into the flour. You can accomplish this by folding the dough over a few times.

Dough ready to refrigerate

Scrap the work surface clean and roll the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour or so. Then you can take out your frustrations on the dough.

Dough ready to be whacked

Spread an ample amount of flour on the work surface and give the dough a couple of good whacks. Oh, go ahead and make it as many as you like. My homemade super bad rolling pin is made of dogwood, and it’s brutalitarian. Roll out the dough as thin as you like. A thick pie crust is no good.

Crust ready to be transferred to a pie plate or form

Roll up the crust onto the rolling pin and transfer to your pie plate. Trim around the edges, and you’re done. It’s pie time.

A crust with added sugar is technically know as a pâte brisée sucrée, which strangely enough translates to pie crust with sugar. The Picayune Creole Cookbook recommends taking leftover dough scraps, cooking them as small squares, and serving with jams or preserves. A good pie crust is a terrible thing to waste.

Stewed Chicken, Brown Sauce

Ok, Greatest Southern Cookbook

What we have here is yet another recipe from the magnificent Picayune Creole Cook Book. I should start with a quote from the book itself about this dish: “It is a simple, elegant dish, within the means of everyone.” At least everyone who has a chicken in their pot. We always refer to this dish as just “Brown Sauce Chicken.”

I am going to get all Frenchified on you, as the cookbook gives the recipe names in both English and French. This is also “Fricassée de Volaille, Sauce Brune.” This is an important distinction as a Fricassee is a distinctive method of cooking.

The original recipe uses a whole chicken cut up, including the liver, heart, and gizzards, so think of this as a chicken cooked in its own giblet gravy. Mine is a simpler version for two people, as usual.

Stewed Chicken, Brown Sauce

1 Chicken Breast, preferably bone in and skin on

1/2 Onion

1 Tablespoon Lard, Oil, or Butter

1 Tablespoon Flour

1 sprig Thyme and Parsley

1 Bay Leaf

Salt and Pepper

Begin by cooking the onions in the fat (lard, oil, butter) until soft. I always use the heaviest cast iron skillet I have, but that’s just me. Then add the flour and make a brown roux with it. A roux, aka “Creole Napalm,” is really a matter of practice and patience. A brown roux should be dark brown, the darker, the better the taste. Whatever you do, don’t stop stirring, or let this stuff splatter on you. When satisfied, add the chicken, and brown it as well.

Here comes the fun part. Add stock or water, herbs, and seasonings, and stir well. Cover the pot and simmer for thirty minutes or so on your stove’s lowest setting (mine is 600 btu’s), or an hour for a whole chicken, and you’re done. Check frequently to make sure that the chicken does not stick, or “lay on,” as we like to say. Serve with rice, preferably Louisiana rice, or pasta. Potatoes will also work.

This dish is simple and amazingly good. It’s also a perfect way to practice your skills as a Fricassee cook.