Monday, February 27, 2017

Neufchatel Shrimp and Black Rice Stuffed Holland Pepper with Tarragon Livornese Sauce







     A Different Stuffed Pepper!
     Mild cheese and shrimp go well together and this combination is often used to stuff vegetables and pasta.  In America, Soft Cream Cheese or Neufchatel is the top choice for this kind of stuffing.  
     American Neufchatel should not be confused with the original Neufchatel Cheese from Northern France.  American Neufchatel was the result of an American cheese maker's failing attempt to replicate French Neufchatel.  The end result turned out to be a soft spreadable cheese that had lower fat content than Philadelphia Cream Cheese, so American Neufchatel is a healthier choice.  
     Either Indonesian Black Rice or Thai Black Jasmine Rice can be used in today's recipe.  Black Rice is an ancient super grain that has a high protein content and it is a good source of fibrous carbohydrates.  Black Rice stains with a deep maroon color.  This means that the stuffing for today's pepper will turn a deep maroon color.  Selecting a sweet yellow Holland Pepper is a good idea since the stuffing will be so dark.    
     Livornese Sauce is actually a classic Italian veal sauce that can also be served with seafood.  This sauce can be made al fresco with fresh tomatoes or it can be made with Salsa di Pomodoro.  Livornese Sauce is made by adding Italian black olives, green olives, capers and dry white wine to a simmering tomato sauce.  This sauce sounds simple, but the flavors are bold and complex.  Tarragon is rarely used in Italian cuisine, but it is added to today's Livornese Sauce variation.  Tarragon helps to marry the Livornese Sauce with the rich flavor of the stuffed Holland Pepper.

     Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     Follow this link to the recipe in this website.
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Neufchatel Shrimp and Black Rice Stuffing:
     This recipe yields about 2 cups.  (Enough for 1 large Holland Pepper or 2 medium size Holland Peppers.)
     Holland Peppers (Sweet Yellow Bell Peppers) do vary in size, so the amount of stuffing needed will depend on the size of the Holland Peppers that you choose.  The best way to cover the stuffing volume variable is to cook some extra Black Rice, because the rice can be used as a filler to increase volume.  Basically, when making stuffed peppers, it is better to have too much stuffing than not enough!  Any extra black rice or stuffing can be used for other recipes. 
     Dried Black Rice usually only doubles in volume after being cooked.  About 2/3 cup of dried black rice will equal a little more than 1 1/3 cups after being cooked, which will yield enough stuffing for 1 large Holland Pepper.        
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of water in a small sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Add 2/3 cup of Black Rice
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer and steam till the water is absorbed and the Black Rice is tender.
     Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon each of:
     - minced carrot
     - minced onion
     - minced celery
     - minced green onion
     Briefly sauté till the petite mirepoix starts to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of chopped peeled deveined shrimp or whole popcorn shrimp (krill).
     Briefly sauté till the shrimp start to cook.
     Step 5:  Add 1 cup of shrimp stock.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced curly leaf parsley
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add the reserved portion of black rice.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.  (2 pinches)
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till most of the liquid has evaporated.
     Step 7:  Add 3 tablespoons of cream.
     Add 1/3 cup of American Neufchatel Cheese, while stirring.
     Stir till the cheese softens and combines.
     Gently simmer and reduce, while stirring, till the consistency of the stuffing becomes thick enough to easily be gathered with a spoon.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the stuffing to cool to room temperature.  The stuffing should thicken a little more as it cools.  

     Neufchatel Shrimp and Black Rice Stuffed Holland Pepper:
     This recipe yields 1 large Stuffed Holland Pepper.
     Step 1:  Select 1 large Holland Pepper that will stand up straight when placed on a flat surface.
     Cut the top off of the pepper.
     Scrape out the pulp and seeds.
     Lightly brush the pepper with vegetable oil.
     Step 2:  Fill the Holland Pepper with the Neufchatel Shrimp and Black Rice Stuffing.  (Any extra stuffing can be saved for other stuffed vegetable recipes.)  
     Place the Stuffed Holland Pepper in a large muffin pan cup, so it stands up straight.  (A 3 1/2" to 4" wide cup muffin pan is good.)
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the stuffing is hot and the pepper is tender, but not browned.
     Keep the Baked Stuffed Pepper warm on a stove top.  
     *The Tarragon Livornese Sauce can be made while the stuffed pepper bakes!
     
     Tarragon Livornese Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.  (1 portion)
     An Italian Livornese Sauce is modified for the Neufchatel Shrimp and Black Rice Stuffed Holland Pepper. 
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced shallot.
     Sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of minced capers.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green olives.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced black olives.
     Add 1 or 2 minced oil cured olives.  (optional)
     Briefly sauté till the olives and capers become aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add 3/4 cup of salsa di pomodoro.
     Bring the sauce to a simmer.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth.  (Veal broth is usually used to make this sauce.)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced fresh tarragon.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  (Add a splash of vegetable broth if the sauce becomes too thick.)

     Neufchatel Shrimp and Black Rice Stuffed Holland Pepper with Tarragon Livornese Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Spoon a generous amount of the Tarragon Livornese Sauce on a plate as a bed for the stuffed pepper.  (About 3/4 cup)
     Place the Neufchatel Shrimp and Black Rice Stuffed Holland Pepper on the center of the sauce, so the pepper stands upright.
     Step 2:  Garnish the sauce with 6 black olive halves.
     Garnish the stuffed pepper with a sprig of curly leaf parsley.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of thin bias sliced green onion over the stuffed pepper and sauce.

     Viola!  A unique modern diner style stuffed pepper entrée!  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Zitoni al forno e funghi









     Long Zitoni Tube Pasta Baked With Mushrooms, Cheese, Besciamella and Tomato Sauce!
     Today's baked pasta is a nice hearty entrée that is perfect for a cold winter day.  When the weather is cold, carbohydrate, protein and lipid intake should be increased in order to stay warm.  The energy that it takes to keep the body warm can affect energy levels needed for physical activity if there is a nutritional deficiency.  Eating a big hearty portion of energy packed pasta practically guarantees that there will be no tired feeling for many hours, even when the outdoor temperature is below zero.
     On the other hand, eating a heavy rich baked pasta meal in warm weather will have an opposite effect.  The body will simply go into a mode of storing the excess energy from a meal that has a high proportion of carbohydrates, protein and lipids.  This means that a tummy full of rich pasta will certainly cause a sleepy feeling and the next few hours will probably be spent reclining in an easy-chair.  Even so, those who work hard all week will certainly relish the thought of spending few lazy hours comfortably dealing with the after effects of heavy pasta meal!    
     Zitoni is a long tube shaped pasta.  This pasta is usually only used to make home style recipes and it is rarely served in restaurants.  This is because most people just break the long Zitoni pasta tubes in half before boiling them in hot water.  As one can imagine, serving broken pasta in a restaurant is taboo.
     Zitoni can be cooked whole, but the problem is finding a pot that is big enough to submerge this long tube pasta, so it cooks evenly.  Using a wide braising pan or a deep wide roasting pan is an option, but rapid water evaporation will likely occur.  If Zitoni is cooked unevenly, it will split apart, so it has to be fully submerged when boiled.
     Fully cooked whole Zitoni pasta tubes are a wiggly, sloppy, messy pasta to eat.  When eating at the table, the long hollow pasta tubes whip around in the air no matter how they are picked up, so it is best to wear a pasta bib eating whole Zitoni Pasta that was not intentionally broken before they were boiled.  Zitoni actually is so fun to eat, that the sloppy splattered mess does not matter.  The long tubes of Zitoni Pasta cannot be "slurped up" like spaghetti or linguini.  If you try to eat Zitoni by using the Italian pasta slurping method, then all you will accomplish is making noises that sound something like sucking on a straw in a milkshake glass that is almost empty.  Children like the sounds that Zitoni tube pasta makes!  If you want laughter at the dinner table, then serving whole unbroken Zitoni is a good choice!
     Many baked Zitoni recipes call for a tremendous amount of cheese or a combination of cheese and Besciamella Sauce.  Today's Baked Zitoni recipe is made with Besciamella Sauce, Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce that is flavored with thyme.  Thyme is usually not thought of being an Italian cuisine herb, but many regional Tomato Sauce recipes do require thyme, especially when the Tomato Sauce is used to make a baked casserole style entrée.
     Today's Zitoni al forno recipe features Italian mushrooms.  Porcini, Ceps and Portobello create a deep mushroom flavor.  These mushrooms can be found fresh or dried in most grocery stores.  Porcini and Ceps are basically the same strain of edible Bolete Mushroom, but there is a subtle difference in flavor.  Porcini are a type of Cep that grows in one certain area of Italy.  The environment and climate where Porcini grow causes this Cep strain to have a rich smokey mushroom flavor.  Ordinary Ceps have a rich classic wild mushroom flavor.  Portobello are Italian Brown Field Mushrooms and they have a little bit deeper flavor than an ordinary Button Cave Mushroom, which is the mushroom strain that Portobello are related to.  White Truffles are definitely an option for today's pasta, but these mushrooms are not widely available.  White Truffle Oil can be used to add flavor, but good White Truffle Oil is quite expensive.  Most of the low price White Truffle Oil that is sold in common grocery stores is so diluted, that it is not worth adding to a recipe.        

     Cep and Porcini Mushroom Preparation: 
     If fresh Cep and Porcini Mushrooms are used for this recipe, then skip over the soaking steps. 
     Step 1:  Place 5 dried slices of Cep and 5 dried slices of Porcini Mushroom in a container.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Soak the mushrooms overnight in a refrigerator.
     Step 2:  Remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid and place them on a cutting board.
     Save the mushroom soaking liquid.
     Cut the Cep and Porcini Mushrooms into bite size pieces.
     Chill the mushrooms and soaking liquid till they are needed.

     Tomato Sauce for Pasta Casserole:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups.
     This is an "a la minute" Tomato Sauce that only takes about 30 minutes to make.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Gently sauté till the onion turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 3/4 cup of imported Italian canned crushed plum tomatoes.
     Add 1/3 cup of imported Italian canned tomato puree.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir and bring the sauce to a simmer.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the flavors meld and the sauce is a medium thin consistency.  Stir occasionally.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Set the sauce aside and let it cool to room temperature. 

     Besciamella Sauce: 
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.    
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux is pale whitish yellow color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of cream while stirring.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of milk while stirring.
     Stir till the sauce comes to a gentle boil and thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium consistency that can easily coat a spoon.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley while stirring.
     Set the Béchamel Sauce aside and let it cool to room temperature.
 
     Sautéed Italian Mushrooms:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 large portion of Zitoni Pasta.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Pomace Olive Oil.
     Add 2 to 3 small Portobello Mushrooms that are thin sliced.  (About 1/4 cup)
     Add the reserved prepared Cep and Porcini Mushrooms.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté till the mushrooms are lightly browned.
     Step 2:  Add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till only about 2 tablespoons of liquid remains.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Let the mushroom mixture cool to room temperature.    

     Zitoni al forno e funghi: 
     This recipe yields 1 large hearty portion.
     A deep large pot or a wide deep braising pan is needed to cook Zitoni because of the length of this pasta.  Take care not to break or split the Zitoni when stirring.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of unbroken whole Zitoni Pasta in a large pot of boiling water over medium high heat.
     When the Zitoni is cooked al dente, drain the hot water off of the pasta.
     Cool the Zitoni under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Step 2:  Place the al dente Zitoni Pasta in a large oven proof pasta bowl (or a deep single portion casserole dish).
     Pour 1 cup of the Besciamella Sauce over the pasta.
     Add the Sautéed Italian Mushroom Mixture and the small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of reduced mushroom broth from the pan.
     Gently mix the ingredients together, till the pasta is coated.
     Step 3:  Place large spoonfuls of the Tomato Sauce on top of the pasta mixture.  (About 3/4 cup is enough.)
     Step 4:  Sprinkle about 3/4 cup of grated Mozzarella Cheese on the pasta.
     Spoon a few dabs (1 tablespoon size dabs) of tomato sauce on some of the cheese.  (About 1/4 cup total.)
     Step 5:  Place the pasta casserole dish in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the sauces start to bubble and light golden brown highlights appear on the cheese.
     Step 6:  Remove the casserole dish from the oven.
     Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Place the hot pasta bowl on a doily lined serving platter.
     *Serve with garlic bread and some good Italian red wine!

     Break out the pasta bibs!  Zitoni al forno e funghi is a heavy, rich, aromatic baked pasta that is perfect for a cold winter day!     

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hungarian Liver Dumplings en Broth






     Májgombóccal!
     The flavor and aroma of Hungarian style Liver Dumplings is not what might be imagined.  Liver has the reputation of being strong tasting, but Hungarian Liver Dumplings actually have a delicate light texture and flavor.
     This recipe is very simple to make.  It is important to remember that his recipe is traditionally meant to have a delicate bland flavor.  Sometimes it is tempting to add extra herbs or aromatic vegetables in order to create an exciting flavor.  Not all food is meant to be exciting.  Sometimes a basic approach is best for comfort food.
     Many people look forward to simple comfortable flavors after a long stressful day.  When the taste buds focus on something that is simple and delicate, it seems to help relieve stress.  The psychology of how the sensation of taste can affect moods and perception actually was taught in Le Cordon Bleu classrooms that I attended.  This is an interesting topic to research and a lot can be learned.
     One just might say that today's Hungarian Liver Dumpling recipe is grandmother style cooking and that would be a correct presumption.  This same liver dumpling recipe has been made by many generations in many Eastern European countries.  The recipe is basically the same nearly everywhere in this region.
     The broth for Hungarian Liver Dumplings is simple too.  It is only made with chicken backs, necks and scraps, with no extra seasonings or aromatic vegetables.  A good chicken broth does not need to be enriched with flavor.  Many old world cuisines require a pure rich tasting chicken broth and the reason is not just for flavor.  Rich chicken broth is well known for its medicinal effect and it helps to cure illness, especially when the weather is cold.
     I used to rent a room in an elderly Hungarian lady's house and she always cooked something nice everyday.  Potato Pancakes were always on a plate in the kitchen.  I asked how she got to be such a good cook.  She told me that she had a choice of cooking for the Germans during WWII or be sent to a prison camp.  So, she chose to cook food for the occupying army.
      One of the things that I noticed was that every time she cooked, it was like she was feeding a small army.  There was always a ton of food in the kitchen when she was done.  Oddly enough, all of her neighbors were German and she always gave them the extra food she cooked.  In essence, the Hungarian lady captured the German neighborhood with her good cooking!
     I watched the old Hungarian lady finish making liver dumplings one time, but I missed the first part of the recipe.  The recipe was easy to find, because it is popular in Hungary.  I remember her saying that the liver dumplings were plain and simple and that is how they are supposed to be!  I used the same guidelines when making today's recipe.

     Chicken Broth:
     This recipe yields 1 quart of chicken broth. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 large chicken back section in a pot.
     Add 1 chicken neck.
     Add the meaty bone scraps from 1 chicken.
     Cover the chicken pieces with 2 quarts of water.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till about 1 quart of broth remains.  (About 2 hours.)
     Step 3:  Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Discard the chicken scrap pieces and bones.
     Use a spoon to skim off the chicken grease that floats to the top as the broth cools.  (The chicken grease can be used to flavor vegetables in other recipes.)
     Set the broth aside or chill the broth for later use.  

     Hungarian Liver Dumplings (Májgombóccal) en Broth: 
     This recipe yields 2 portions.  (About 4 cups of liver dumplings in broth)   
     Any kind of liver can be used to make the dumplings.  Even a mixture of liver can be used.  For a strong flavor, use pork liver.  For a mild yet rich flavor, use calves liver or chicken livers.  (Calves liver was used to make the dumplings in the photo examples.)
     Májgombóccal are made like spoon dumplings.  The liver dumpling dough should be a fairly loose texture.   
     Step 1:  Place 2 tablespoons of whisked egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of softened unsalted butter.
     Whisk till blended.
     Step 2:   Add 2 tablespoons of very finely minced onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 4 ounces of very finely minced raw liver.  (Beef, calves, pork or chicken liver can be used.)
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Whisk till blended.
     Step 3:  Slowly add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, while stirring with a fork, till a loose sticky dough forms.  (About 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of flour.)
     *The amount of flour needed depends on how moist the liver is.  The dough should be just thick enough to be gathered with a spoon and slowly poured off.  
     Step 4:  Place 1 quart of chicken broth in a sauce pot.  (The broth should be about 3" deep.  A 2 quart capacity sauce pot is about the right size.)
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Step 5:  Place the sauce pot over medium/medium high heat.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Use a serving spoon to scoop up a dumpling size portion of the liver dough.  (About 2 to 3 tablespoons of dough per dumpling is plenty.)
     Place the spoon into the gently boiling chicken broth and turn the spoon, so the liver dumpling dough slides off of the spoon into the hot broth.
     Repeat till all of the liver dumplings are in the broth.
     Step 6:  Gently boil the liver dumplings till they puff up and float.
     Continue to boil the dumplings for a few more minutes, till the dumplings are fully cooked.
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf from the pot.
   
     Presentation:
     This recipe describes 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Use a slotted spoon to place a few of the liver dumplings into a soup bowl.  (About 4 or 5 is plenty.)
     Pour about 1 3/4 cups the hot chicken broth over the liver dumplings.
     Step 2:  Garnish the broth with a few Italian Parsley leaves.
     Sprinkle 1 small pinch of Hungarian Paprika over each liver dumpling.

     This is some nice tasting Hungarian comfort food!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mezzi Occhi di Lupo Pasta Casseruola with Romano Besciamella, Roasted Red Pepper and Asparagus








     A Hot Tasty Baked Wolf's Eye Pasta Casserole For A Chilly Day! 
     Northern Italian style food for the winter season tends to be rich and hearty.  Cooking influences from France, Austria and Switzerland can be noticed in Northern Italian restaurants that cater to tourists.  Cream sauce pastas are more frequently seen on menus where tourists congregate, like at ski lodges and historic places.  Catering to the needs of guests is part of hospitality and Italy has been in the tourism business since the days of ancient Rome.
     Oddly enough, a few Italian chefs that I worked with, would eat no cream sauces.  When asked why, they answered, "Cream sauce pasta is food for tourists!"  Restaurants where Italians go to eat are not usually tourist oriented.  In fact, the respect for traditional Italian cuisine runs so deep in such places, that designing an entrée with a cream sauce for tourists would be practically unheard of.  
     Today's casserole recipe definitely is not a traditional Italian recipe.  Many of the ingredients are Italian and this adds to the appeal.  Today's recipe is not really a tourist trap recipe either, but it would be well received by guests at a ski lodge, where rich comfortable food is appealing after being out in the cold mountain air.  In fact, this is what today's recipe is all about.  A hot pasta casserole with vegetables and a rich cheese sauce is nearly irresistible on an ice cold winter day!    

     Formaggio Romano Besciamella:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of four, while constantly stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should look smooth and shiny, not caky.)  
     Constantly stir till the roux a pale whitish yellow color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 3/4 cups of milk while stirring with a whisk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Stir occasionally as the sauce comes to a gentle simmer.  (The consistency will be very thin at this point.)
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin sauce consistency that can coat the back of a spoon.  (The volume will be a little less that 1 1/2 cups.)  
     Step 4:  Add 3 tablespoons of finely grated Romano Cheese while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.  (The cheese will thicken the sauce to a medium thin sauce consistency.)
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Mezzi Occhi di Lupo Pasta Casseruola with Romano Besciamella, Roasted Red Pepper and Asparagus: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Mezzi Occhi di Lupo translates to Wolf's Eye Pasta.  This is a thin gauge short tube pasta that is perfect for making a baked casserole.   
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Mezzi Occhi di Lupo Pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat till it is almost al dente.
     One minute before the pasta becomes al dente, add 15 to 20 thin pencil asparagus spears that are about 3 1/2" long.
     Continue boiling till the pasta is al dente and the asparagus spears are blanched.
     Step 2:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Cool the pasta and asparagus spears under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta and asparagus.
     Step 3:  Place the pasta and asparagus in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small diced roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Step 4:  Add 3/4 cup of the Formaggio Romano Besciamella Sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Place the pasta mixture in an 8" wide individual size casserole baking dish.
     Try to arrange some of the asparagus spears on top of the pasta, so it looks nice.
     Step 6:  Spoon a generous amount of the remaining sauce over the pasta.  (About 1/2 cup.  Add enough to prevent the pasta from drying in the oven.)
     Step 7:  Place 1 thick slice of Plum Tomato on the center of the pasta.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil on the tomato slice.
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated Romano Cheese over the tomato slice and the pasta.
     Step 8:  Place the casserole dish on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the ingredients are hot and a few light golden highlights appear.  (Do not brown this pasta or the flavor will become bitter and the asparagus spear tips will become dry!)
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the pasta to cool for 1 minute, so it becomes a safe serving temperature.
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving platter.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
   
     Viola!  A rich comfortable baked pasta for a chilly day.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Red Jambalaya







     Jambalaya!
     Red Jambalaya is also called Creole Jambalaya.  Red Jambalaya is one of the most popular traditional Jambalaya recipes and it differs from Cajun Jambalaya.  Red Jambalaya has tomatoes in the recipe and Cajun Jambalaya does not.
     If you are familiar with Spanish Paella, then making Jambalaya will be second nature.  Jambalaya is cooked in three stages with one pan.  During the final stage, the Jambalaya is not stirred and the rice is allowed to lightly brown till a thin crust forms.  This browning technique also adds a rich "tomate pincer."  In classic French culinary terms, pincer means to pinch more flavor, as in lightly caramelizing tomato.  
     Red Jambalaya is relatively easy to make.  The ingredients can be found in a common grocery store.  The selection of herbs, spices and the trinity is what gives Louisiana style Creole cooking such a unique flavor.  Red Jambalaya is tasty, comfortable and it is a real crowd pleaser!
 
     Red Jambalaya:
     This recipe yields about 6 cups.  (2 to 3 portions)
     A wide braising pan or wide large sauce pot works best for this recipe.  More surface area in a pot allows the flavors to develop as they should.   
     After the rice is added, do not cover the pot with a lid, or the texture will become mushy!
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot (or deep braising pan) over medium heat.  (about 10" to 12" wide)
     Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 4 ounces of ham that is cut into bite size pieces.  (Louisiana Tasso Ham or Smoked Ham is best for this recipe.)
     Add 5 ounces of chicken breast filet that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 5 ounces of 1/2" thick sliced Andouille Sausage.
     Sauté till light brown highlights appear.
     Step 2:  Add 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 cup of diced onion.
     Add 1/2 cup of large diced mixed green bell pepper and red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1 minced seeded jalapeño pepper.
     Add 3 sliced green onions.  (1/4" thick)
     Sauté and stir till the onions are clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add 10 peeled large shrimp.  (Remove the tails.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of  tarragon.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thyme.
     Add 2 pinches of  basil.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of marjoram.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  (or to taste)
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Stir till the shrimp start to cook.  
     Step 5:  Add 1 cup of chopped ripe tomato.
     Stir till the tomatoes start to cook.
     Step 6:  Add 1 cup of tomato juice.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Add 1 cup of long grain white rice.
     Stir till the liquid returns to a gentle boil.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Simmer till the rice is a little more than halfway cooked.  (About 15 minutes.)
     Stir the Jambalaya occasionally,
     Step 9:  Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper if necessary.
     Check the moisture content.
     *Most of the liquid should be absorbed or evaporated by this time.  If the rice looks too dry to finish cooking, add about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup more chicken stock.  The rice only needs to be moist at this point. 
     Step 10:  *For the final stage of cooking, do not stir the Jambalaya at all!  It is traditional to let the rice lightly brown and get a little bit of crispy crust on the bottom of the pan. 
     Cook the Jambalaya without stirring, till the rice is tender and lightly browned on the bottom of the pan.
     Step 11:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Use a wooden spoon to scrape the rice crust on the bottom of the pan into the Red Jambalaya.
     Keep the Red Jambalaya warm over very low heat (or place it in a container in a 135ºF bain marie).
     Step 12:  The Red Jambalaya can be served family style in one large shared bowl or individual portions can be served in shallow 2 cup capacity soup bowls. (About 3 cups is a hearty portion and 2 cups is an average portion.)
     Try to serve equal amounts of the shrimp and other meats in each bowl.
     No garnish is necessary!
  
     The flavor is pure Louisiana Red Jambalaya heaven!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Daily Beans! Lima Beans & Smithfield Ham with Pan Fried Jalapeño Cornbread






     The Continuing Saga Of The Daily Beans!
     The Daily Beans is an old expression that has its roots in humble meals cooked during poor economic times.  A meal like this brings back fond memories of simpler times when fed a family for pennies on the dollar kept the loved ones together.  The Daily Beans was also a cheap meal for those who's luck took a turn for the worse.  Restaurants that served cheap meals in the 1930's were known as "Beaneries" and as one can imagine, these eateries were quite busy during the Great Depression.  A simple bowl of Beans & Ham was something to be thankful for when earning only a few pennies a day.  
     The Daily Beans is a daily special du jour at the old fashioned 24/7 diner restaurant in the Binion's Casino, Las Vegas.  At Binion's, the bowl of Daily Beans is always overflowing.  The cooks always allow the bowl of beans to overflow over the rim of the bowl onto the plate and this creates an awesome presentation, especially since this simple meal is served with a big piece of baked cornbread on the side.  From what I heard from some of the old timers, in the old days the Daily Beans was offered to gamblers that lost their shirt, because the owner never wanted to see an unlucky customer go away hungry.  
     When money flows freely, food choices tend to focus less on the basics.  Eating exotic gourmet food does become tiresome in more ways than one.  Often the body protests about dietary habits long before the mind realizes what is best.  Sooner or later, a craving for a simple comfortable meal that makes one appreciate the food on the table comes on.  Times like this are when the Daily Beans really hits the spot!

     Lima Beans and Smithfield Ham:
     This recipe yields about 2 3/4 cups.  (Enough for 1 hearty overflowing portion.)  
     When dried large Lima Beans are slow simmered for a long time, they will create their own thick rich gravy. 
     Step 1:  Rinse and clean 1 2/3 cups of Dried Large Lima Beans under cold running water.
     Place the Lima Beans in a container.
     Add enough water to cover the beans with 3" of extra liquid.
     Soak the Lima Beans overnight in a refrigerator.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the soaked Lima Beans.
     Place the soaked Lima Beans in a large sauce pot.
     Add 1 cup of chicken broth.
     Add enough water to cover the beans with 3" of extra liquid.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Boil for 17 minutes.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 6 ounces of hand torn chunks of Smithfield Virginia Ham.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     *Do not add too much sea salt, because the ham is salted when cured.
     Step 5:  Place a lid on the pot.
    Gently simmer till the Lima Beans just start to become tender.
    *The Lima Beans will soak up plenty of water and some evaporation will occur.  Add water as necessary to keep the beans covered with about 1/2" of extra liquid.  Stop adding water, when the beans can absorb no more water.
     Step 6:  Remove the lid from the pot.
     Place 1/2 cup of the Lima Beans in a mixing bowl.
     Thoroughly mash the beans.
     Return the mashed beans to the pot.
     Step 7:  Cover the pot with a lid.
     Continue simmering till the Lima Beans are very tender and the liquid turns into a medium thin bean gravy consistency.  (Only add water if there is not enough bean gravy to cover the beans.)
     *Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper if necessary. 
     Keep the Lima Beans & Smithfield Ham warm over very low heat.
  
     Pan Fried Jalapeño Cornbread:
     This recipe yields 5 spoon bread style corncakes!
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of corn meal in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 cup of Masa Harina.  (Nixtamal Corn Flour.)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Mix the dry ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place 1 large egg in a second mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of warm bacon grease.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced seeded green jalapeño pepper.
     Add 1/3 cup of milk.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients while slowly stirring.
     Stir till a very thick stiff dough starts to form.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of milk at a time, while kneading, till the thick dough is sticky to the touch.
     *The thick cornbread dough consistency is just right, when it is squeezed and the surface is moist enough to not show any cracks.
     Step 4:  Cover the mixing bowl with a lint free pastry towel.
     Let the thick cornbread dough stand for 15 minutes.  (The corn meal will soak up some of the excess moisture.)
     Step 5:  Divide the dough into 5 equal size portions.
     Press each portion of dough into a patty shape that is about 3/8" to 7/16" thick.
     Step 6:  Heat a wide cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of smoked bacon grease.
     Add enough vegetable oil, so the level is about 1/4" deep.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is 325ºF to 350ºF.  
     Step 7:  Place a few of the Jalapeño Cornbread patties side by side in the hot oil.  (If necessary, fry in batches.)  
     Pan fry till the bottom side is fully cooked and golden brown.
     Use a slotted spatula to flip each cornbread over.
     Pan fry till the cornbread patties are fully cooked and golden brown on both sides.
     Step 8:  Set the Pan Fried Jalapeño Cornbread on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to remove any excess oil.
     Keep the pan fried cornbread cakes warm on a stove top.  
   
     The Daily Beans!  Lima Beans & Smithfield Ham with Pan Fried Jalapeño Cornbread:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Place a tall 2 1/4 cup capacity soup bowl on a serving plate.
     Step 2:  Overlap 2 to 3 of the Pan Fried Jalapeño Cornbread Cakes next to the bowl on the plate.
     Step 3:  Ladle the Lima Beans and Smithfield Ham into the soup bowl, till about 1/2 cup of the beans overflow onto the plate.  (Tilt the bowl slightly, so the beans overflow toward the front of the plate.)
     Step 4:  Garnish the plate with Italian Parsley leaves.
     *Serve with a small ramekin of salted butter and a bottle of hot sauce on the side. 

     The Daily Beans!  Southern style down home cookin' at its best!   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Manicotti al Tre Formaggi e Marinara







     A New York Italian Classic! 
     Manicotti is one of the most popular entrees that there is.  The flavors of good Italian cheese and tomato sauce are simple and appealing.  This entrée is a favorite of dairy tolerant vegetarians and those who want to feel comfortably full, especially when the weather is chilly.
     Manicotti is usually made with Crespelle instead of pasta.  Dried large tube pasta for Manicotti is a very thin gauge and it is easily damaged, so the thin tube pasta can be difficult to work.  Italian Crespelle are the same thing as French Crêpes, but the amount of sugar in the recipe is minimal when the Crespelle are used to make savory recipes, like Manicotti.
     The Crespelle batter for Manicotti usually has a slightly thicker consistency than a batter that is designed for desserts, so there are no lacy tiny holes in the finished Crespelle.  A slightly thicker batter also yields a slightly thicker Crespelle too.  Cooking at a slightly lower temperature than what is needed for French Crêpes also results in Crespelle that have no golden brown highlights.  This way the Crespelle truly look like thin gauge pasta.
     I have made tens of thousands of Crespelle in Italian restaurants.  In Italian restaurant kitchens, I used 3 seasoned non-stick pans on 3 burners set to a medium low flame to rapidly turn out enough Crespelle for a few days business.  A cook has to be very quick to handle 3 crespelle pans at a time over a medium low temperature.  Once the temperature of the pans is just right, things move quickly in rhythm and the Crespelle production is rapid.
     Manicotti are usually 6" to 8" long.  If 6" long Manicotti is preferred, then the Crespelle should be about 7" in diameter, because the ends of the rolled Manicotti will have to be trimmed so they are even.  To make 7" diameter Crespelle, the flat bottom surface of a non-stick sauté pan has to be 7" wide.  Basically, the diameter of the flat bottom surface of the non-stick sauté pan will determine the size of the Crespelle.  Some Italian restaurand take pride in grand portion sizes.  For extra large Manicotti, use a wide non-stick sauté pan with a 9" to 11" flat bottom to make extra large Crespelle!    
     Salsa di Pomodoro is the traditional choice of sauce for Manicotti.  Salsa di Pomodoro holds up well when baked in moderately high oven temperatures and this sauce has a rich fully cooked tomato flavor.  If Salsa di Pomodoro is preferred, follow the link to the recipe in this website:  Salsa di Pomodoro.
     Marinara can also be used, but the high proportion of olive oil in this sauce will separate when baked.  This is because Marinara is designed for sauté recipes or quickly made pasta recipes.  If Marinara is used, then any excess olive oil should be drained off before serving the Manicotti.  Marinara is a popular choice for Manicotti, because the fresh bright tomato flavor goes well with cheese.  The Cheese Manicotti in the photo examples was made with Marinara.
     Some may ask why a French Cru de Beaujolais wine is pictured with the Manicotti in the photos.  The answer is simple.  A fine Beaujolais it made with an Gamay Grapes, which were introduced in France by the Romans in ancient times.  Gamay Wine has a low tannin level and it is gentle on the palate.  This allows the Italian cheese flavors to mingle with this ancient Italian grape varietal in a nice way!      
 
     Marinara Sauce:
     This recipe makes 3 or 4 portions of marinara sauce!

     Tre Formaggi:
     This recipe yields about 2 3/4 cups of Italian 3 Cheese Mix.  (Enough for 4 Manicotti that are 6" long.)
     Never add salt and pepper to any ricotta cheese mixture or the sweet fresh flavor of the ricotta will be overwhelmed.  Salt will also change the texture of the fresh ricotta cheese curds.            
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of  ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese.
     Add 1/2 cup of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Add 1 raw large egg.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced basil.  (optional)
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Step 2:  Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate the Italian 3 Cheese Mixture to 41ºF, so the texture becomes stiff. 

     Crespelle:
     This recipe yields about 9 or 10 Crespelle that are 7" in diameter.
     The width of a flat bottom surface of a non-stick sauté pan is what determines the width of the Crespelle.
     • 7" diameter Crespelle are needed for making 6" long Manicotti, because the ends will be trimmed.  For this size, select a non-stick pan that has a flat bottom surface that is 7" wide. 
     • The batter should be made just thick enough, so the Crespelle texture is not lacy and the Crespelle is the thickness of thin sheet pasta.  The consistency of the batter is best judged by eye.  
     Step 1:  Place 4 large eggs in a measuring cup.  (About 1/2 cup)
     Add an equal amount of milk.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
     Step 2:  *The exact amount of flour may vary.  About 3/4 cup to 1 cup is needed.
     Add a small amount of flour at a time while whisking, till a thin batter is formed.  The batter should be thick enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon.
     *The batter should be slightly thicker than a French Crêpe batter.
     Step 3:   
     Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.  (7" wide bottom surface pan)
     Lightly brush the pan with olive oil.
     Pour enough Crespelle batter into the pan to evenly coat the flat bottom surface with a layer that is about 1/16" thick.  (1 1/2 to 2 ounces of batter.)
     Tilt the pan, so the batter spreads over any holes and so it forms a round crêpe shape.
     When the thin Crespelle becomes firm, use a thin rubber spatula to flip the Crespelle.
     Briefly cook the other side till the batter is solid.
     Step 4:  Check the quality!
    *To test the consistency, one Crespelle can be made as a sample.  If the Crespelle is to thin, add a little more flour to the batter.  If too thick, add a little more milk.  ...  The Crespelle should look like a pale yellow pasta color.  If light browning occurs, reduce the temperature slightly or cook the Crespelle for less time.  If the Crespelle is just right, save it for making Manicotti! 
     Step 5:  After checking the quality and/or making adjustments,  Continue making Crespelle till all the batter is used.
     Set the Crespelle side by side on a sheet pan, so they cool quickly.
     Stack the cooled Crespelle and cover them with plastic wrap.
     Chill the Crespelle till they are needed.  
     *Crespelle can be kept chilled for 2 to 3 days before they discolor.  Crespelle can also be frozen for later use.  

     Manicotti al Tre Formaggi:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée portion.  (Two 6" long Manicotti.)
     A  3 1/2 ounce to 4 ounce scoop is good for measuring each portion of the Italian 3 Cheese Mixture.
     Step 1:  Place 2 Crespelle that are 7" wide on a countertop.
     Place about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of the Tre Formaggi mixture on the center of each Crespelle.
     Spread the cheese mixture, so it forms a tall even mound across the middle of the Crespelle.  The thickness of the cheese will be the thickness of the Manicotti.  The long mound of cheese on each Crespelle should be about 3/4" to 1" tall.
     Step 2:  Roll each Crespelle into an even Manicotti tube shape, while applying just enough pressure to distribute the cheese evenly inside the Crespelle tube.
     Step 3:  Trim the ends, so the Manicotti are the same length and the cheese is flush with the end of the Crespelle tube.
     Step 4:  Spread 3/4 cup of Marinara Sauce on the bottom of a small roasting pan, as a bed for the Manicotti.
     *An oval shaped individual portion casserole dish is best for Manicotti, because the casserole dish can be set on a plate when served.  The problem is finding one that is big enough for 2 Manicotti!
     Set the 2 Manicotti side by side on sauce.
     Step 5:  Place the pan (or casserole dish) in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese stuffing becomes warm.  (About 8 minutes.)
     Step 6:  Remove the baking pan from the oven.
     Pour about 3/4 cup of the Marinara Sauce over the center of the Manicotti.
     Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of grated mozzarella cheese over the sauce.
     Step 7:  Place the Manicotti pan back in the 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the mozzarella cheese topping melts and the Manicotti is piping hot.  (About 5 minutes.  The center temperature should be about 165ºF.)
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Use a large long spatula to transfer the Manicotti to a serving plate.
     *Be careful when picking up Manicotti with a spatula.  It is easy for the cheese stuffing to leak out!
     Pour any excess sauce from the baking pan on the plate around the Manicotti.  
     Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese over the Manicotti and Marinara Sauce.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Manicotti is an Italian classic entrée that is guaranteed to satisfy a big appetite!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Filé Gumbo






     Hearty Satisfying Gumbo!
     I worked with a few Cajun cooks many years ago and I learned some great Louisiana style cooking techniques.  Cajun food is like no other food anywhere else in the world.  The basic Acadian cooking techniques are like French cuisine from 300 to 400 years ago.  As the Acadians adapted to the new world, culinary influences and ingredients from other cultures have been incorporated through the years.  Native American cuisine was a principal adaptation too.  What this all adds up to is this.  Louisiana Cajun cooking is an innovative adaptive cuisine that is unique and full of diverse traditions.    
     The word Gumbo is African slang for Okra.  The various North African spellings of the word Okra translate to "slimy or mucilaginous vegetable" in Arabic languages, so the characteristics of Okra have always been well known for adding a unique texture to a stew.  African Slaves often were employed as cooks and African style stewing or frying techniques dominated the cooking styles in the American South.  This is probably why Okra ended up being part of Cajun style roux thickened stews.  This heritage is also probably why these unique stews ended up being called Gumbo.
     Filé Powder is fine ground Sassafras Leaves.  Sassafras is a tree that can be found throughout the midwestern states and the south.  The leaves of these trees are pleasantly aromatic and the flavor is unique.  Sassafras Leaves also have medicinal value and a tea made from the leaves tastes so good that it naturally puts a smile on one's face.  Native Americans used Sassafras medicinally and to thicken stews.  The Cajuns adapted ground dried Sassafras Leaves to their own cuisine as a stew thickener and because of the unique flavor that brings on smiles.
     For Gumbo making, the Cajuns definitely are credited with the traditional use of roux.  A dark brown roux is what gives today's Gumbo recipe a deep brown color.  The Cajun rule of thumb for roux making is easy to understand and it is the opposite of modern French roux applications that were defined later in the 1800's.  By Cajun definition, for dark color meat, a light color roux is used.  For light color meat, a dark color roux is used.  For pork and wild game meats that are in the middle of the color range, a reddish light brown roux is the right choice.
     Always be careful when making roux, because it can spatter and cause severe burns.  To be safe, wear a long sleeve shirt and gloves when making roux, especially if a recipe calls for a brown or black color roux.
     Andouille sausage can be added to this recipe, but not every gumbo requires andouille sausage.  Many gumbos are made with no sausage at all.  Sometimes a Cajun style highly seasoned ham, like Tasso, is added for flavor, but this is an optional ingredient too.  If there is plenty of orange color crawfish fat in the crawfish shells, then adding extra flavors is not necessary at all.
     Being proud of one's own Gumbo making ability is important and every home cook should boast about how good their own Gumbo is.  I once made a Bayou Gumbo with Alligator Tail, Frog Legs, Crawfish and Catfish for a new menu at a seafood restaurant in a Florida luxury resort back in 2001.  The Swiss executive chef that managed every restaurant in the resort stopped by to taste each new menu item, as a quality control measure.  After one taste, the Swiss chef could not stop eating the Bayou Gumbo that I made and he ended up eating 3 cupfuls.  He said it was the best soup he ever tasted and he was a Swiss born French chef for over 50 years!  Next thing you know, I was transferred to the upscale Michelin rated French restaurant in the same resort.  Now, that was a great compliment for Cajun Cuisine and my Gumbo making skills that I learned from old Cajun chefs!

     Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Filé Gumbo:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/4 cups.  (2 large portions) 
     Gumbo takes about 2 hours to make.  Be sure to have all the ingredients ready, before starting the brown roux.
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of diced celery in a bowl.
     Add 1/2 cup of diced green bell pepper.
     Add 1 cup of diced onion.
     Set the Trinity vegetables aside in a container.  (The Louisiana Trinity is always 1 part bell pepper, 1 part celery and 2 parts onion!)
     Step 2:  Heat a pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring to make a roux.
     *The roux should look like shiny warm peanut butter and it should not be caky.
     Constantly stir till the roux turns a dark brown color.
     Step 3:  Immediately add the reserved diced celery, onions, peppers.
     *This will stop the roux from cooking any further.  Be careful, because steam will be produced.
     Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add 2 chopped green onions.
     Add 1 minced seeded Green Serrano Chile Pepper.
     After the steam subsides, briefly stir the vegetables with the roux, so the vegetables start to cook.
     Step 4:  Add 5 cups of shrimp stock.
     Stir occasionally as the gumbo heats and thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Bring the gumbo to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature low heat.
     Add 4 ounces of thick half moon shaped slices of Andouille Sausage.  (optional)
     Add 1/4 cup of diced tomato.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Simmer the gumbo for 30 minutes and stir occasionally, as the brown roux flavor mellows.  Allow the level of liquid to slowly reduce.
     Step 6:  Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  (To taste.)
     Add 2 pinches of white pepper.
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 7:  Raise the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 8 ounces of shelled medium size shrimp, that are sliced in half.  (Remove the tails.)
     Add 1 cup of shelled poached crawfish tails and the orange fat from behind the crawfish heads.
     Simmer the gumbo for about 10 minutes.
     Step 8:  Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 cup of thick sliced okra.
     Simmer and reduce till the Gumbo is a rich medium thin consistency and the volume reduces to about 4 1/4 cups.  Stir occasionally.
     *Only add water if the okra is not tender before the Gumbo finishes reducing. 
     Step 9:  Keep the Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Filé Gumbo warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.  
     Step 10:  Add 1 teaspoon of file' powder to the Gumbo while stirring, just before serving.
     Serve each 2 cup portion of gumbo with a 3/4 cup portion of plain long grain white rice.

     The amount of cayenne pepper added to a Gumbo is a matter of personal taste.  Some like it spicy and some like it mild.  Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Filé Gumbo is Louisiana style down home cookin' at its best!