People often ask about the recipes included in the Author’s Notes from the Louisiana Gentlemen Series. Usually, they’ve lost or misplaced their copy of the book with the recipe they particularly liked, or else have some question concerning it. Here are the recipes as a collection, with a few of the more usual questions answered. In the best Louisiana tradition, a little something extra has been added as lagniappe.
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2 cups self-rising flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fig preserves
1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)
Grease and flour a 9 1/2 x13 inch baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift dry ingredients, including sugar and spices. Add eggs, oil and buttermilk and mix thoroughly. Add vanilla, fig preserves, and mix until figs are chopped into the batter (some chunks may remain, according to taste.) Fold in nuts as desired. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Tip: The traditional fig preserves of the South are made with Celeste figs, an old-fashioned, candy-sweet variety which turns dark brown when preserved. With the addition of the spices, they give the cake a distinctive caramel color. Other varieties of fig preserves may show different results. Fig preserves can be found in many grocery stores, particularly in the southern United States, and are also available online. Strawberry preserves are a fair substitute for the figs.
Caramel Frosting for Fig Cake (Optional)
2 cups sugar
1 scant cup milk
2 tablespoon butter
½ cup pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place 1 cup sugar in a heavy sauce pan and caramelize (brown) slowly over low heat. Dissolve milk and remaining 1 cup sugar thoroughly, and then bring to a boil. Add caramelized sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, until a soft ball forms in cold water. Place butter in separate bowl and pour hot syrup over it. Stir. Add vanilla and mix well. Add cream until frosting is of spreading consistency.
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (8 oz) can cream of coconut
In a mixer, mix cream cheese and sugar. Add cream of coconut and mix until smooth. Serve with fresh fruit. Especially good with melon, pineapple and strawberries.
Tip: Cream of coconut is usually sold in the supermarket baking section. It can also be found in the drink mixers section since it is an ingredient in pina coladas.
Red Beans & Rice
1 pound red kidney beans
1 pound smoked sausage cut in bite-size pieces
2 cups chopped smoked ham
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s Creole Brand Seasoning
1 small piece of tasso (dry-cured and heavily smoked pork shoulder) for extra smoked flavor (optional)
Wash beans. Place in a large soup pot and add ham, sausage and tasso. Cover with water and bring to a slow simmer. Sauté, bell pepper, onion, and celery in tablespoon of olive oil until clear. Add to pot. Add seasoning. Cook slowly until beans are tender and bean soup is thick. Adjust salt and seasoning to taste. Serve immediately over hot, cooked rice.
Note: Red beans and rice is the traditional meal served on Monday, or laundry day, in Cajun households since it can be put on early and simmered all morning without requiring much attention.
Tip: If you don’t have Creole seasoning on hand, or are unable to find it, a fair substitute can be made by mixing 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon red pepper, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. You may prefer less red pepper if you aren’t used to hot dishes, or more if you like it HOT. Use the mixture sparingly in the recipe to begin with, then adjust to taste.
4 cups water
2 cups long grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon butter
In a heavy saucepan that has a tightly fitting lid, bring water to a rolling boil. Add rice, salt and butter. Stir quickly with a fork and place the lid on the pot. Reduce heat at once, and simmer on low for 30 minutes without removing the lid. Fluff with a fork. Serve at once.
Note: I should say that I normally make steamed rice, however, in a vegetable steamer which has a rice bowl. Follow the manufacturer’s directions. This turns out perfect every time and the plastic bowl is easy to clean. Any of the electric rice pots on the market also make good rice.
Tip: Short grain rice has more starch in it than long grain rice, so seldom cooks in the preferred way which is with every grain separate. Most Louisiana cooks much prefer long grain rice.
Cooked rice can be easily reheated in the microwave. Place rice in a covered dish or plastic bag, sprinkle with a small amount of water, and microwave on high for 30 seconds per 1 cup serving, or until desired temperature.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
6 chicken breast halves
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 pound smoked sausage
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup cooking oil seasoned with 2 T. bacon drippings
2 large onions, chopped
2 bunches shallots (green onions), chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 Bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme
Red pepper to taste
½ teaspoon gumbo filé
Cover chicken with water. Add bouillon cubes, half the chopped onion and half the minced garlic, and simmer until tender. Remove the chicken and reserve the liquid. Debone chicken, removing bone, skin, and gristle. Cut chicken into bite size pieces and set aside. Cube the pound of sausage and set aside.
Make a roux by heating the oil in a large, heavy soup pot, then browning the flour in it over medium heat, stirring often. The flour mixture should turn the color of well-tanned leather. When the roux is well browned, immediately add the remaining onion, garlic, and other chopped vegetables to the hot mixture and sauté over medium to low heat, stirring constantly, until onions are clear. (The mixture will be extremely thick, so take care not to burn it.) When vegetables are done, immediately add reserved chicken stock liquid and stir well to prevent lumps. Additional water or chicken broth may be added if required. Add chicken meat and sausage. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add spices and bay leaves. Simmer slowly for 1-2 hours. Remove bay leaves. Serve over hot rice. Sprinkle with additional gumbo filé to taste. Serves 8-10.
Tip:The name “gumbo” comes from the African word for okra, a vegetable brought to Louisiana by slaves. Okra can be added to any gumbo for extra flavor; however Louisiana Cajuns consider a gumbo with okra as a summer gumbo, while winter gumbo seldom contained the vegetable because it was not in season. The purpose of the okra, other than flavor, is to thicken the gumbo to make a heartier meal. Gumbo file—the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree–was also used by the Indians of Louisiana and Mississippi to season and thicken soups and stews. It serves the same purpose today.
4 cups blackberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Place blackberries in a casserole dish and sprinkle with sugar, reserving 2 tablespoons. Sift dry ingredients. Cut butter into the flour mixture until coarsely mixed. Add milk, and stir until just mixed. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead dough lightl, then roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into strips. Crisscross the strips of dough over the sugared berries. Add cinnamon to remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Sprinkle over the dough strips. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.
1 head cabbage, chopped
1 pound ground meat
1 pound smoked sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
¼ cup olive oil
1 c. raw rice, rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon. chili powder
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with juice
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere’s seasoning (or other spice, salt and pepper blend.)
Additional salt to taste
Sauté the ground meat in oil. Season meat well with Tony Chachere’s seasoning or salt and pepper and your choice of spices. Add chopped onion, celery, and smoked sausage. Cook until onions and celery are clear, about 10 minutes. Add garlic. Combine the meat and all remaining ingredients and place in a large roasting pan or casserole dish. Adjust seasoning. Cover and bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour. Remove from oven and stir with a spatula. Replace cover and bake 1 hour longer.
Tip: This recipe makes a large amount, so is an excellent dish for church suppers and other covered dish events. It reheats well in the microwave but does not freeze well.
Pirate’s Bread Pudding
1 loaf French bread
2 cups milk
2 cups half and half
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup chopped pineapple
1 cup pecans
1 cup raisins
1 jigger (1 ounce) rum
Pour rum over raisins and set aside to soak. Break bread into bite-size pieces and place in large bowl. Pour milk and half and half over bread and set aside for an hour. When well softened, stir until mixed. Whisk eggs, then add sugar, salt, spices, and vanilla. Add to bread and milk and mix well. Fold in raisins, pineapple and pecans. Melt butter in the bottom of a heavy 9×12 cake pan, then slowly pour pudding mixture into the pan. Top may be dotted with more butter if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until set.
Tip: The rum may be omitted if desired. In that case, soak the raisins in 1 – 2 ounces of pineapple juice. Dried cranberries, blueberries, or cherries, as well as other fruit, may be added for a taste change.
Whiskey Sauce for Bread Pudding (optional)
1 stick butter
¾ cup sugar
1 jigger (1 ounce) Bourbon whiskey
Whisk egg until frothy. Add sugar and beat thoroughly. Melt butter in a saucepan over a low flame. Slowly add egg and sugar mixture to the warm butter, and stir constantly over low heat until steaming hot, but not boiling. Add whiskey and stir to a creamy smooth texture. Drizzle over warm bread pudding.
Tip: Rum may be substituted for the whiskey.
Lagniappe for ADAM, the Benedict clan novella published in WITH A SOUTHERN TOUCH:
Old Fashioned Pralines
3 cups sugar
½ stick butter
1 scant cup milk
2-3 cups pecans
Measure one cup sugar into a heavy saucepan (black iron or heavy gauge aluminum works best) and caramelize (stir over low heat until it begins to brown). At the same time, bring milk and remaining two cups of sugar to boil in a separate saucepan. Add milk mixture to the caramelized sugar. (Be careful when adding the milk to the caramel as it may foam up.) Cook for two minutes, or approximately 236-238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from fire and add butter. Beat by hand until melted. Add pecans and continue beating until thick and creamy but not set. Spread sheets of waxed paper over kitchen counter. Drop pralines mixture by spoonfuls onto the waxed paper. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen palm-size candies.
Tip: For best results, pralines, as with many other candies, should be made on a sunny day with low relative humidity and high barometric pressure. They won’t set correctly on a damp and rainy day.
Note: Tradition says the recipe for pralines was created by the chef to Marshal Praslins of France in the late 17th or early 18th century and named for his employer. The original recipe used the most common nut available in France, the hazelnut. When the recipe was brought to Louisiana, the most common nut of the area was substituted, the wild pecan. The recipe may also be made with almonds. The correct pronunciation for this old-time candy, at least in Louisiana, follows the French form for Praslins, so is, phonetically, a praw-leen (singular) or praw-leens if you can manage to get your hands on more than one. Pralines have always been a traditional Christmas treat since pecans are readily available in the fall and winter.
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