Thursday, February 4, 2010

Here's Lookin' At You...

Just a few days away from the Creole Superbowl (kinda catchy?!?)...& I'm reminded of my first visit to Louisiana.

The last few days of Summer before my Junior year at Baylor University, I traveled with a small group of my sorority sisters to Louisiana State University. Our support the ADPi House with their Summer rush for new pledges & to have fun in the process...the primary goal of any serious college student :)

We were welcomed enthusiastically & graciously invited into their House. After a full day of meet & greet with potential new sisters, we gathered eagerly around the long dining tables...this group of sassy young sorority girls...famished!

Dinner was served...& it was...looking at me!

Now I didn't know much about Cajun cuisine. I'm talking Yellow Rose of Texas Southern girl...& in Texas, you might get your steak rare...but even then, the eyes would NOT be included! There I was ...face to face with hundreds of tiny crustaceans...struggling...conflicted! What would Emily Post do right now? And if I were able to consult her Guide to Etiquette, what indeed would she say about sucking the brains out of the crawdad head after consuming the almond sized piece of "meat" they had to offer?

I did what any well-mannered Southern girl would do in this moment...I asked...very politely..."where is the closest pizza parlor?"

In the years since then, I have had the pleasure of experiencing a wide variety of Creole dishes...discovering along the way that most will NOT be looking at me! I have a personal favorite spice blend that I have used to give a number of ordinary recipes a little Louisiana Lagniappe (lan-yap)...translation: a little something special :)

Creole Spice Blend
2/3 cup

2 1/2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme

Place all spices in a blender & pulse until well blended. Store in an airtight container. (A good alternative to purchase is Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning which contains no MSG.)

Bayou Country Meatloaf
6 servings

1 lb lean ground turkey or beef
1 cup (8 oz) organic tomato sauce, divided
1 cup prepared brown rice
1/4 medium onion, chopped
4 drops Tobasco sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can organic stewed tomatoes
1 tsp prepared brown mustard
1 tsp Creole Spice Blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a loaf pan with butter or butter flavored cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine meat, 1/3 cup tomato sauce, brown rice, onion & Tobasco. Mix well. Press meat into loaf pan & bake for 30 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine remaining 2/3 cup tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, mustard, & spice blend. Pour tomato mixture over meatloaf & bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven & let rest for 10 minutes before serving. This is a super moist meatloaf...good to the last bite!

Cajun in The City Salad
4 servings

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp Creole Spice Blend
6 cups Romaine lettuce
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 ripe but firm Bosc pear, cored & sliced
1 sweet tart apple (Honey Crisp, Pink Lady), cored & diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Combine first four ingredients until smooth & well blended to make a dressing. Can be prepared a day ahead.

When ready to serve, toss Romaine lettuce with dressing & divide onto 4 plates. Top with remaining ingredients & serve.

Excellent accompaniment to roasted BBQ chicken or grilled salmon. As an entree salad, divide ingredients onto 2 plates & top with a serving of chicken or salmon.

The Waldorf salad was created at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1896 by the maitre d'hotel, Oscar Tschirky, & became an instant success. The original version contained only apples, celery & mayonnaise.

So, even if you're not cheering for the Saints on Sunday, I hope you enjoy a bit of what their culture has to offer even in the most ordinary of recipes!

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler,


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