Crayfish Tails in Creole Sauce

Also Known as Mudbugs

A good Crayfish, like an honest man, can be hard to find. We had some decent ones from Spain, and then I was wandering through a big box store trying to find some edible seafood, and I saw a big bag of crayfish in the freezer section, festooned with a giant gold fleur-de-lis, so I thought, here are some real Louisiana crayfish. I picked up a bag, and the back had printed on it, “Product of China.” Puke. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been there.

I finally found good pre-cooked crayfish from LA in our southern based supermarket chain. Here’s my favorite recipe.

Ingredients

12+ Crayfish Tails, shelled and de-veined

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 Tablespoon Flour

The last two are for the roux. This needs a blonde, aka un-browned, roux, so don’t cook it too long. Then add the following.

1/2 chopped Onion

1/2 chopped sweet Pepper

Saute these together. If it’s summer, add–

2 fresh Tomatoes (I mill mine)

Chicken Stock

Salt and Pepper

Cook these until they are right tasty. Then add the no longer secret ingredients

Garlic Paste

Hot Sauce (I like Tabasco Cayenne and Garlic here)

Because the tails are already cooked, they only need to be re-heated. This dish takes about as much time as it does to make the rice to go with. Naturally, we use Louisiana rice. About six mudbugs per person is a decent serving. Now if only Santa Clause can bring the Saints a spot in the Super Bowl.

Pickled Sweet and Sour Peppers with Capers

Free Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

Our seventies vintage Mirro-Matic has a couple of new parts, and pressure canning has gone into overdrive–it will process 16 pints at one time. Our local supermarket, not to mention the entire tomato farming regions of Italy, could go bankrupt.

Speaking of Italy, these pickled peppers are a take on a classic Italian condiment. Their’s is preserved in olive oil, but it’s pickle country here. This will make two half pints.

Ingredients

8 sweet Peppers

1 clove Garlic (I used Elephant Garlic)

A few Capers, chopped

White Wine Vinegar

Sugar

A wine glass of Water

Salt (not much)

Olive Oil

Cook the peppers and garlic in olive oil, just until they are soft. Dissolve the sugar in vinegar and water–the sweetness is up to you. Combine all with the capers, and pressure can, or just use an interminable hot water bath. Or find a Mirro-matic at a flea market.

My mother almost burned down our house, because she let a pressure cooker boil completely dry, and the top blew off of it. No one was harmed, but we thought our parakeet was a goner. A little fresh air, and he was chirping like crazy again. Don’t let that happen to your Budgie.

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.

Homemade Habanero Powder

Habanero with the Offensive Instrument that Made it

Just a brief note about what to do with end of the season really hot peppers. A bunch of really squishy looking yellow peppers were hiding in the bottom of a big container of hot peppers I bought at the Festhalle. It was obvious what they were: Habaneros.

Not intending to use them fresh, I turned to my lowest tech imaginable method of drying, with the sun as the only source of heat. It does a great job of heating up the South every summer. I threw them in my drying platter, and forgot about them. Before I knew it, they were ready for the grinder.

I have a couple of electric machines, but none clean up as easily as the trusty Enterprise #602. More peppers are drying as we speak. Should I ambush my in-laws with this? Maybe.

Pepper “Poblano”

With Hardy Begonia

Unbelievably, there may be more Hoya! about Poblano peppers on the interwebs than there is about any other pepper. (For those not familiar with Hoya!, it’s the stuff you don’t want to step in while in the horse barn). First, it is sold under two names–Poblano and Ancho, though the name Ancho is usually (but not always) reserved for dried ground, red, Poblanos. Secondly, it is said to grow in zone 10 and further South, and be no more than 25″ tall. Guess again–I’m in zone 8, and this plant is 52″ tall and still growing.

Ocular Proof

The last and third pile of Hoya! is that these are a mild pepper. Actually, Jalapenos can be also, if you buy one of the varieties that has had all the heat bred out of them. The worst case of pepper burn I have had all summer was from Poblanos I cut up to freeze. I bought them from one of our best local Hispanic farmers, and she neglected to tell me they were really hot. Let the buyer beware.

In short, be skeptical. Grow some yourself, and see what result you get. I am mixing up a seed mix with upwards of ten varieties of hot peppers for next year, so I can see which ones are best. It’s called evolution in action. That is, as long as I survive the pepper burns.

Pepper “Royal Black”

Or is it Black Pearl?

I bought these seeds from the greatest seed seller around, J. L. Hudson from California. He has kept me in seeds for years, and this one sounded primo. It really is.

The black fruit, which ultimately will turn red, contrasts with the purple leaves. The blooms are also purple. It is a type of pequin pepper, a variety that originated in the pepper famous state of Tabasco in Mexico. Though the peppers are upright like a Tabasco pepper, this is actually listed as a different species.

The question: Should it have round or Tabasco shaped peppers? Most photos on the inerwebs show plants with Tabasco shaped peppers. However, they are all black, and quite hot, even up to the level of a Cayenne pepper on the Scoville scale. In short, they are hot to quite hot.

My father, who was a notorious seed thief (he called it “collecting”), would have walked away with at least one pocket full of these. He even stole all the lily seeds from a college that was attended by my three oldest sisters–only the college happened to be housed in a convent called Sacred Heart. I know that because I was there when it happened.

Hot Stuff!

Can’t Get Enough

Like every addict, you have to eventually confess about your addiction. That plate tells you that I am addicted to pepper flakes.

This year I am drying my own, with a nice mixture of kinds hot and really hot. Really hot include Cayenne, Tabasco, and Royal Black. Serrano is hot, but not like the first three. The mildest is the old standard Cowhorn pepper. These are all local.

After they are dried, they take a couple of trips through the old Enterprise #602 grinder.

Pizza!

What does MJ do but dive into a scrap pile cabinet of hers, and comes out with a pepper flake shaker–THAT HAS PEPPERS ON IT. Nothing to do this weekend but fire up the brick oven.

ORANGE Tabasco Pepper

Peppers Galore. The View from our Deck. Sage in the background

Everyone who has used the Southern classic Tabasco Sauce knows that it is dark red. Imagine my surprise when I went to our local vegetable plant seller in the spring, and found that he was selling orange Tabasco pepper plants. I can never resist growing strange new crops–I also have a row of red broom corn, which is actually a plant from the sorghum family.

This was the result.

Future Pepper Flakes

That little reddish orange pepper is the first ripe Tabasco. It’s probably as hot as that whole Serrano that is right below it. I don’t know how this will work, but my goal is to dry all these, and make multi-colored pepper flakes with them. Then I can make some psychedelic sausages.

Investing in Pepper Futures

Uncle Samuel decided to remit us some of the tens of thousands of dollars that we have unwillingly sent him over the years. It truly is a paltry sum, but I have decided to invest some of it in pepper futures. It’s a better use than sending money to defense contractors, or bailing out giant banks.

The amount I chose to invest was a total of $8.05. That gets me seventy five pepper seeds, more or less. My rate of return is likely to be enormous, as a small bag of fresh peppers at the Festhalle usually goes for around three bucks. At any rate, these are the three heirlooms I bought.

 Piment d’Espelette

Another of the official peppers of the Basque region of Spain. Mildly hot, it has only been around since 1523. Strangely enough, that was the year when I was born.

 Sigaretta De Bergamo

Let’s go to the Lombardi region of Italia, virus or no virus. A long sweet pepper, which surprisingly is the diameter of a cigarette. Try and find these at your local market.

Fushimi

Time to go to Nippon! That would be Japan. Another slim sweet pepper, and I can’t wait to try this one.

Moral of this story: grow your own, grow your own.

I am now at sixteen different peppers. Life is good. Thank you to the Federales for floating me eight bucks for pepper seeds. I threw in the nickel.

Simple Enchilada Sauce

Bring out the Tortillas

This is from so far south, it’s from across the border. It is, however also a staple of most Tex-Mex style Mexican restaraunts. Fortunately, it is also dead simple to make.

Ingredients

Peanut Oil

Flour

Can of Tomato Sauce

Salt

2 or more Chipotle Peppers, and Adobo Sauce

If you have cast iron intestines, you can go the Rick Bayless route, and make this with nothing but Chipotle peppers. As I prefer living, I go the tomato sauce way.

Start by making a little blond roux with the oil and flour. I used a regular size can of sauce, or you can mill some canned tomatoes, as it results in the same texture. After it begins to boil, throw in Chipotles that have been seeded. How many is strictly a matter of preference. The same goes with the amount of Adobo sauce you add. It only cooks until it is warmed through.

We made roast pork enchiladas with Vidalia onions rolled up in a tortilla, covered with this sauce, and grated Cheddar cheese. It’s a quick and easy meal, which only needs to be baked until the sauce bubbles. After that it’s time to swine away.