Roast

If you want to let someone know you love them, make a roast. It’s a simple dish, but done right it can be one of the most wonderful things you ever put in your mouth. Roast is not complex or temperamental. It can be garlic pierced, seared on all sides, bathed in browned onions and carrots, and left simmering for hours upon hours. It needs a little love. It needs a little attention. And then, you need to give it some private time. No peeking, there is magic going on under the lid! You might as well put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your pot. But oh how the wait is worth it. Now, make sure you are alone whenever you open the lid. You are about to experience the aroma of heaven. Slowly take the lid off and breathe in deep. Take a moment. It’s worth it. Go ahead. I won’t tell anyone. In the pot, you will discover the most buttery, flavorful meat. Roast gives back when treated well. It’s Southern hospitality on a plate.

Recipe: Serves 8-10 Hungry Souls

4 ½ – 5 pd. Rump or chuck roast

2+ Tbs. of canola oil

1 Tbs. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. Tony’s Chachere’s

6 garlic cloves

¼ cup flour

2 onions, cut in halves

5 carrots, roughly chopped

4 cups of beef stock

2 Tbs. butter

Preheat oven to 275o

Heat a large pot on medium high heat. Add about 2 Tbs. canola oil. Place onions in the pot and cook until brown. Take the onions out and add carrots. Cook just until brown and take carrots out of pot. Pierce meat and add garlic cloves in the holes of the meat. Season with salt, pepper and Tony’s Chachere’s. Dust with flour. Place in the pot and sear each side until brown. Add vegetables and beef stock. Place the lid on the pot and place into the oven for 4-5 hours. Take roast out and add butter to the cooking liquid. Stir to combine.

 

 

 

 

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Banana Nut Bread

This recipe comes from a cookbook that lives in every kitchen of every woman I know in southeast Louisiana, Pirate’s Pantry. This near and dear book is a collection of recipes from men, women, family and friends all over the region. Bringing a dish to someone’s home and being able to share a recipe with others is part of the Southern tradition. One of the favored, dog-eared recipes in my little treasure chest is the banana nut bread. My grandpa would ask my grandma to make this moist cake to enjoy with coffee whenever we would come over. My grandpa and I share a passion for full-bodied, freshly brewed coffee, and this little cake is the perfect match for a strong cup of joe. I believe my grandpa hid exactly three bananas from my grandma just for this special occasion and magically revealed them to her whenever it was time for him to brew the coffee.

  Adapted from Pirate’s Pantry: Makes 1 Loaf

1 stick of butter, room temperature

1 ¾ cup of flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 pinch of salt

3 bananas, mashed well

Juice of ½ a lemon

1 cup of white sugar

½ cup of brown sugar

2 eggs

¼ cup of milk

½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 3750

Sift flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

Combine mashed bananas, lemon juice, pecans and vanilla in a separate bowl.

In a mixer, cream sugars and butter in a bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk in small amounts, alternating, starting with flour and ending with flour. Add the banana and pecan mixture and stir to combine. Pour the mixture in a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Cool for at least 15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.

Have with coffee! It’s a must!

 

Roasted Tomatoes

There is a special relationship between a Southerner and a tomato. I remember being in my grandma’s garden when I was a little girl. My chubby, little hand grasped for the ripe, ruby red fruit in front of my eyes. Eating a tomato right off the vine is an experience in itself. There is life in something so fresh, and I believe eating it brings life to you as well. I long for the experiences of eating a rich, juicy tomato in the winter. So I go for the next best thing, San Marzano tomatoes. I roast them at a very low temperature for hours and hours, only enriching their tomato goodness. My sister and me eat these tomatoes on the porch with bread while swinging in the Alabama sunset. We pretend to be Italian and speak in appalling accents, flailing our arms and everything. Buon Appetito!

 

Recipe: Serves 4-6: Adapted from Bon Appetit September 2008 Issue

 1 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, cut in half lengthways

1 cup of olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

1 pinch of sugar

¼ tsp. dried oregano

1 garlic clove, pressed

2 Tbs. parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 250o

In a shallow baking dish, add tomatoes cut face up to the dish. Add the olive oil and seasonings to the tomatoes. Put into the oven for 1 hour, flip the tomato halves over. After another hour, flip the tomatoes again. Bake the tomatoes for one more hour, 3 hours total. After the tomatoes have been baking for 3 hours, add the garlic and parsley. Mix to combine. Top the dish with foil until ready to serve.

 

Bananas Foster

Pie is lovely and pralines are sweet, but there is one dessert that is somewhat sinful. Creamy butter, spicy cinnamon and sweet-as-molasses brown sugar melds together in a pan, each one getting acquainted with their own lovely accents. The smell of spice fills the air, the creaminess of the butter combined with the sugar creates an exquisitely, thick, melt-in-my-mouth-please sauce. Then the stars are stripped of their bright yellow jackets to reveal a pale, soft yellow center. They jump into a pool of heaven that Augustus Gloop would be tempted to dive into as well. The heated sugar Jacuzzi softens the fruit ever so slightly and once they are relaxed and at ease, they are bombed with rum! Mwahahahaha (insert best evil laugh here)! The stunned and sensational concoction is then poured over anything cold, creamy and decadent. The survivors slowly slide across the velvet cream and alas find peace. There in lies my soul and my heavenly yet sinful bananas foster. Voila, the Big Easy in a bowl.

 *This recipe is usually served with vanilla ice cream, but I decided to serve it with creamy cheesecake!

 Recipe: Serves 4: Adapted from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans

½ a stick of butter

1 cup of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

4 bananas, peeled and sliced at a diagonal

¼ cup of good, dark rum

Ice cream or cheesecake or by itself!

In a sauté pan over low heat, combine sugar, butter and cinnamon in pan. Stir until dissolved and add the bananas. Whenever the slices begin to brown and soften, carefully add the rum. Allow the flames to subside. Carefully spoon the mixture onto ice cream, whipped cream, cheesecake, or your mouth!

 

Barbecue Ribs

 

Growing up in Louisiana, every season was barbecue season.  The weather was never too cold to throw open the pit, pile on a colossal amount of marinated meat, and let all the flavors socialize for hours under a blanket of smoke.  I have watched my grandmother and grandfather (whom I lovingly refer to as paw-paw) barbecue since I can remember. Grandma was like a magician with barbecue. We would drive down her driveway, and I would spot the silver, barrel-like pit next to the house. I knew automatically it was going to be a fantastic day. I would walk into her kitchen and the smell of sweet rolls and smoked meat met me at the threshold.  There, on the counter, was a pile of chicken, sausage and brisket that had been covered in a cloud of smoke until perfectly cooked, juicy and scrumptious.

Paw-paw, being the most patient man I know, treated barbecue like a work of art. He would baste the meat every thirty minutes or so with Jack Miller’s Bar-B-Que Sauce to add even more flavor to the meat. The women would be in the kitchen fixing all of the trimmings: potato salad, garlic bread, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and baked beans. There would be a picnic table with red-checkered tablecloth set up under the oak tree with all of the barbeque and fixings stacked high. That’s how I remember barbecue. The warmth of the pit would be like the warmth of the oven in the kitchen. It brought people together. The barbecue pit was as much of a hearth for my family as the kitchen was.

 

Recipe: Serves 12

3 racks of baby back ribs

2 slices of bacon

Extra- virgin olive oil

½ onion

2 garlic cloves

2 cups of ketchup

1 Tbs. of dry mustard

1 Tbs. of red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 285o

Season ribs and wrap the ribs in heavy-duty aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet. Cook them low and slow for about 3 hours.

To make the sauce:

Cook bacon on a saucepot until brown. Add onion and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add ketchup, dry mustard and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until all of the ingredients are melded together. Slather the sauce on the ribs when they come out of the oven. Put them back in the oven for 15 minutes until sticky and delicious.

 

Nutella Croissants

Croissants are a true weakness of mine. The fluffy, golden layers of loveliness call to me. Dinners at grannie’s house usually included a basket full of little, flaky croissants. I would watch the oven in amazement as these little pale pieces of dough would rise and rise. When they were done, my little hand would wisp a croissant off the cookie sheet and I would sit on the porch with my treasure. Before I took a bite, I would hold the pastry up to my mouth to look like a smiley face. I thought of it as a last request from the buttery croissant.  Then, I would devour the pastry quicker than I could realize my mouth was burning from the piping hot croissant. I never learned my lesson though. To this day, I still swipe croissants off the cookie sheet without thinking twice, and sometimes, in private, make a smiley face with the pastry.

-This particular recipe came from my sisters and me in desperate need of a fast, chocolate dessert late at night. We used what we had on hand: Nutella- check, puff pastry-check, future happiness in our mouths-check.

Recipe: Makes 12 pastries

1 package of puff pastry (thawed)

½ cup of Nutella

1 egg, slightly beaten

4 Lindt Truffles (optional)

Preheat oven to 400o

Lay out each sheet of pastry on a cookie sheet layered with parchment paper. The pastry will be creased in thirds (which is perfect for this recipe!). Just cut along the creases and you will have three equal pieces. Then, cut each piece in two long triangles. You will have 6 pastries on each cookie sheet. Lightly brush the egg mixture on the edges of the pastry, this acts as the glue to the pastry and also is a line that the chocolate dares not cross! Put about half a teaspoon of Nutella on a spoon and spread the Nutella across the pastry (starting on the fatter end makes this easier). Then you can add a nugget of truffle at the fat end, this is completely necessary the chocolate lovers. Then, starting at the fat end, gently roll up the pastry to the skinniest end. Lay the pastry on the cookie sheets and brush more egg wash on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and lovely. Eat (or devour) immediately!

Chicken Étoufée

Étoufée is not the most attractive plate ever. This dish will never win a beauty pageant. But as all dishes prepared with roux and love, the outcome is wonderful. Honestly, étoufée is most unsightly when preparing but after it has time to settle in and gain some confidence, it begins to have body and a lovely aroma commences to seep out of the pot. I frequently find myself with my face over the vessel inhaling for at least half an hour. There is something paranormal that happens as this liquid, vegetable mixture thickens and bubbles and brews. I don’t mind the dirty looks from the frequent spectators. It’s my prerogative. This dish is humbly served over rice, and if you close your eyes as you eat it, it turns into the most beautiful entity ever. No contest required, this dish wins the crown.

* This recipe is more “blonde” than most étoufées and I use chicken instead of the most traditional seafood étouffée.

 Recipe: Serves 8-10: Adapted from Commander’s Kitchen

1 Chicken, broken down, wings and backbone reserved for a stock

1 cup of flour

1 cup of vegetable oil

4 onions, chopped

4 bell peppers, 2 red and 2 green, chopped

30 (yes, 30) garlic cloves, sliced

4 jalapenos, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp. of red pepper flakes

6 cups of water

Salt, black pepper and red pepper

In a large, heavy pot heat oil on medium-high to high heat until smoking. Season chicken with seasoning and dust with a portion of the flour. Brown in the pot for about 10 minutes. Work in batches. Take chicken out of the pot and add the vegetables to the pot. Mix the vegetables into the hot oil and season. Add red pepper flakes. Put a lid on the pot and let cook for 12 minutes. Stir the vegetables, add the rest of the flour and continue stirring until combined. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has cooked out of the pot. This could take 10-20 minutes. Add the water and season again. Add the chicken to the pot. Bring the étoufée to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 25-30 minutes. The sauce should be thick and flavorful. Debone the chicken and return to the pot. Make sure to season the pot again before serving. Serve over rice.

Crème Brûlée

I come from a humble background. Meals were about making the best of the ingredients we had and spending time with family. There were no bells, whistles or crème brûlée dishes. But still, the idea of having a crème brûlée for dessert reminds me of the south. It’s a comforting dessert. It’s cream and sugar and goodness in a tiny dish. There is something magical about the warm cream and berries marrying together in a steam bath. The conversation that takes place between the custard and berries would make you blush. So what happens in the oven stays in the oven. But then, it turns into Christmas as the custard and berries gets christened with white sugar. And it makes a great sacrifice and endures being torched for our own delight, but oh the satisfaction to take the back of a spoon and crack the sugar into infinitesimal shards. It’s heavenly, it’s destructive, it’s comforting, and it must be Southern.

Recipe: Adapted from John Besh’s My Family Table: Serves 8

 2 Tbs. butter

1 quart heavy whipping cream

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split

10 egg yolks

¼ cup berries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of crème brûlée dishes or 3-inch ramekins. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cream, 1 cup of sugar and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil and stir to make sure that the sugar dissolves. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and let the vanilla steep for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

In a mixing bowl, mix the egg yolks with a whisk and slowly add the cream mixture until well incorporated. Place the berries at the bottom of the buttered dishes. Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins and put into a larger pan. Fill the pan halfway with water. Bake the custards in the water bath for 30-40 minutes, until the custard is no longer giggly in the center.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven and remove the ramekins from the pan. Let the custard cool completely. Before serving, sprinkle the tops with a few spoonfuls of sugar. Caramelize the sugar until is melts, gets darker and covers to custard tops. You can brown the tops with a broiler or a torch.

Collard Greens

 

Collard, turnip and mustard greens are the traditional “greens” of the South.  Most Southerners have learned to love the powerful scent of collards simmering in a pot on a cold (or warm) winter day. As a child, I remember the hum of greens heavy in the air as I reached the screen door of my house.  I happily obliged to take my homework outside, as I swore the odor of the color green would distract me from my studies.  My mother’s little trick was to keep a mug of vinegar next to the stove as she cooked down the greens. The vinegar was supposed to absorb the horrifying aroma.  I am convinced that greens have aromatic superpowers that cut through walls. As I grew older, I learned that greens are bitter sweet (no pun intended). You must champion through the smell to lavish on the silky texture of greens. These little leaves of leisure have been in a bubbling hot tub with onions, garlic and pork. With the lid closed for privacy, the Dance of the Greens forced everyone to get acquainted.  The end results made me momentarily forget the smell of the color green.

Recipe: Inspired by Highlands Bar & Grill: Makes 4 servings

1 bunch of greens, triple washed and dried

1 Tbs. olive oil

3 slices of bacon, chopped

2 small onions, sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare a pot of boiling, salted water. Also prepare an ice bath and salt as well. Roll greens up and julienne into ½ inch strips. Boil greens for about 2 minutes; you want them to retain their vibrant green color. Toss the greens into an ice bath and squeeze all of the excess water out.

In a sauté pan, heat oil on medium heat and add bacon until all of the fat is rendered out. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan. After 2 or 3 minutes add the greens to the pan. Sauté for 5 minutes longer. Take off heat and serve.