Happy Belated Fiesta 2007!

As you probably all know by now, I am a direct descendant of the Canarian immigrants (Canary Islanders-Los Isleños) who settled in SE Louisiana in the late 1700′s. No, that doesn’t make me latino (not that there’s anything wrong with it!). But according to the newest US demographic questionnaires (the ones you have to fill out for colleges, financial aid, and census information), it does make me “Hispanic-Other”. Those silly bureaucrats. Although, that “Other” bit makes me and my brother laugh. If you know us personally, you know why.

I am about a month late posting the following links since the Los Isleños Fiesta occurred on March 23 and March 24. I like to make a late entrance.

Canary Islanders Heritage Society

Los Isleños Society Events

Un favor, por favor. If any of you gentle readers happens to go to any of these various events in the future, piense de mí and kindly get me a shirt?

Now for a traditional Canarian recipe: Papas Arrugadas con Mojo Verde. This is similar to mainland Spain’s papas bravas except the papas in the former recipe are boiled and then steamed rather than pan-fried. This is a great substitute for hash browned potatoes at a brunch.

Papas Arrugadas con Mojo Verde

4 1/2 lbs. small or new potatoes
5 tablespoons Kosher salt (plus enough to make the water as salty as sea water)

Wash the potatoes well. Put salt into large pot—start with a few tablespoons, you can add more to the water later. Add water—it is best if you add enough water to cover the potatoes so that you know you have added enough salt—the potatoes will float when the water is perfect. Add the potatoes to the pot of salted water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain most of the water from the pot and sprinkle the potatoes with the 5 tablespoons of salt. Turn down the heat and gently shake the pot so that salt crystalizes on the potatoes. Finally, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a tea-towel for 5 minutes and the potatoes should now be arrugadas (wrinkled). The old school way of covering the potatoes was done with cabbage leaves in lieu of a tea-towel. Maybe for taste?

Mojo Verde:

1 teaspoon cumin
1 head of garlic
4 fresh jalapeño peppers
Italian parsley, fresh and chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt (fleur de sel)

You will need a mortar and pestle or a good food processor to make this. Take the cumin, garlic, and salt and combine them with your mortar and pestle or food processor until they create a paste. Clean out the peppers of all seeds and veins, dice and then add diced peppers and parsley to your mash. Blend well. Combine mash, vinegar. and olive oil and mix thoroughly. This can either be a dipping sauce (preferred) or poured over the potatoes.

Creole Potato Salad

It’s the nearly the Fourth… and what do you think of besides fireworks? Picnic food! And an obvious picnic food is potato salad. One of our local grocery chains carries Creole Potato Salad at the deli counter and given my past experience with the creole/cajun moniker in the past, I was suspicious of it (to say the least)… but it’s so good! After eating heaping spoonfuls of it and breaking down what has to be its ingredient list in my head, I believe that this recipe closely approaches what our local store sells.

Creole Potato Salad (modified from Zatarain’s website)

2 ½ lbs boiled Yukon Gold or red skinned potatoes
¼ cup celery, finely diced
½ cup red or yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 medium bell pepper, finely diced
3 hard-boiled eggs, finely diced
1 teaspoon creole-style mustard
1 teaspoon chow chow (you may substitute hot dog relish or yellow mustard)
½ cup pickle relish
½ cup dill pickle, finely diced
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
creole seasoning to taste
black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste

Wash, peel and dice potatoes into ½ inch cubes. Cook until firm done. Pour cooked potatoes into strainer and rinse with cold water. Set aside into large mixing bowl. Prepare all chopped vegetables and add to the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Add remaining ingredients and mix for uniform consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate and serve. Like all potato salads, this gets better as it sits, you may want to make it the night before your planned event. You may want to adjust seasonings one more time after the potato salad has chilled, spices tend to taste stronger when food is warm.

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Strawberries Creole

It’s strawberry time! A sure sign that Summer has arrived is the smell of fresh strawberries at the grocery store or farmer’s market. and the best tool for finding fresh strawberries–your nose. Many farmed strawberries, even in season, are picked while they are still green in order to help them while shipping. Although these will continue to get redder and softer once they have been picked, they will not get any sweeter (although an overnight refrigerated bath in honey may help in that department–that’s cheating though!). The real test is in their smell. If you can’t detect a whiff of strawberries, you probably won’t get the taste of them either. If at all possible, buy locally grown strawberries.

Strawberries Creole

Spice choices:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 scraped vanilla bean
1/4 cup dark rum (or 1/2 teaspoon rum extract)
1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur (or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 ounces sour cream
1 quart fresh, cleaned strawberries
Dark brown sugar

Mix one of the desired spices into sour cream. To serve, place sour cream mixture, sugar and strawberries in individual serving bowls. With fork or toothpick, dip strawberries into sour cream, then brown sugar.

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Creole Hot Water Cornbread

I had never heard of hot water cornbread in all my years, but when G. and I went to Louisiana Fried Chicken a few weekends ago, it was one of the options for a bread. It reminded me of a large, flattened hush puppy and was pretty tasty. I don’t recall where I found this recipe, but if you recognize it as yours (or your mama’s) please tell me and I will credit that person. I tweaked it a little as the original recipe called for lard for frying (which I don’t like, it has too heavy a taste for me) but feel free to use lard instead if you so choose.

Creole Hot Water Cornbread

1 2/3 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 3/4 teaspoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning
5 teaspoons shortening
1 1/4 cups boiling water
peanut oil for frying

Combine the cornmeal, Creole seasoning, onion, and sugar in a medium bowl. Pour in boiling water and shortening; stir until the shortening melts. Place peanut oil to a depth of 1/2 inch in a large skillet; bring to a temperature of 375 degrees over medium-high heat. Shape heaping tablespoons of the dough into flattened balls (thickness is a personal preference). Fry in hot oil, turning once, until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels or better yet, a brown paper (like paper bags).

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Stuffed Artichokes

Another recipe that your grandmaw knew how to make. My mother still waxes poetically about my grandmother’s stuffed artichokes, I remember her raving about them when I was a kid. I was far too young to fully appreciate them then, but now I understand completely. I did however love scraping the individual stuffed leaves across my front teeth. Here in California, we get some great baby artichokes which happen to be the perfect size for this recipe.

Stuffed Artichokes

6 small artichokes
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cups French bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

Trim stem of each artichoke, leaving 1/2 inch. Remove any damaged or tough lower leaves and trim off upper edges of remaining leaves. With palm of hand, gently press down on artichoke to open up or separate leaves. Wash artichokes in cold running water. Heat oil over medium heat; add garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in crumbs, cheese, parsley, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Stuff each leaf with crumb-cheese mixture. Place artichokes in large saucepan and steam in 2 inches water over low heat 1 hour or until leaves can be removed easily. During steaming period, occasionally baste artichokes with additional olive oil.

NOTE: If you use seasoned bread crumbs, you will want to omit the parsley and parmesan cheese.

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Fried Grits

Grits is a common dish in the cuisine of the Southern United States and it shares many characteristics with the foodie favorite, polenta. The primary difference is that grits are made from coarsely ground hominy which is corn that has had the hull from the kernel of the corn removed before grinding (called Nixtamalization, protecting us from developing pellagra) and polenta is essentially yellow corn meal. When properly cooked, grits and polenta have similarly smooth textures, “grit” referring to the texture of the dried corn before cooking. This recipe will transform a food with “low class” connotations into one with world-class expectations. Serve anytime you might have polenta.

Fried Grits

2 cups cooked grits (preferably leftover and refrigerated)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (white, if you want to be extra fancy)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. Roll cold grits into a large log and cut the grits into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices. Beat eggs with your salt and pepper. Dip the slices of grits into the egg wash and brown each side in the oil, 5 minutes on each side.

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French Bread

If you’re like me, you have a difficult (if not impossible) time finding good French bread, outside of New Orleans, that isn’t tough or hard. This recipe from the folks at NOPSI (now Entergy) have an excellent recipe for French bread good enough for Cochon de lait po’boys.

French Bread
1 package yeast
1 tablespoon shortening
11/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal

Dissolve yeast in water. Add salt, shortening and sugar. Stir in flour. Knead on lightly floured board until smooth. Place in greased bowl; brush lightly with shortening. Cover, let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. Punch down and divide into 2 equal portions Roll each half into an oblong 15 x 10 inches; roll up tightly from the wide side. Seal ends by pinching together. Roll dough back and forth to taper ends. Place shaped loaves, fold down, on greased baking sheets. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal. Brush with Cornstarch Glaze (see below for recipe). Make 1/4-inch slashes in dough at 2inch intervals. Place large pan of boding water on lower rack of oven. Place bread on rack above and bake in 400-degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush again with Cornstarch Glaze; continue baking 20 to 30 minutes or until brown. Yield: 2 loaves.

Cornstarch Glaze: Combine 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 teaspoon cold water; gradually add 1/2 cup boiling water. Cook until smooth. Cool slightly.

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Creole Style Red Beans and Rice

It’s Monday… you know what that means.

Creole Style Red Beans and Rice

1 lb. red kidney beans (the best brand IMHO is Camellia, but you can use whatever local brand you can get. Mexican or Latin groceries might be a good place to look as well.)
1 quart water
1 quart vegetable stock/broth
3 tablespoons olive oil (2 tablespoons if using meat)
1 large yellow onion
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 stalks celery, diced (I don’t like celery in mine, it imparts a “too sweet” flavor that I don’t like much… you may opt out of using celery)
3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme)
2 toes garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
Kosher salt to taste
1 tablespoon creole seasoning
1 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
Hot sauce (Crystal is best) to taste
Optional: 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (leave out if using meat)

Soak beans overnight in a large pot and use enough water to ensure the beans remain covered in water, otherwise they will harden and never “cream up”. Rinse beans and pick through them for rocks and dirt. Put beans back into pot along with liquids. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer for one hour. While the beans are simmering, sauté onion, bell pepper and celery in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until onion is translucent. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. After the beans have simmered for one hour, add sautéed vegetables, bay leaves, remaining olive oil and seasonings. Bring back up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 2 more hours or until beans have become tender and made their own thick sauce. Stir occasionally to prevent bottom from scorching. Adjust seasoning as you go. You may want to smash about a cup of the beans along the side of the pot and stir that in to make a thicker sauce, the consistency should be close to refried beans at the end but that (along with this recipe) is a matter of taste.

Serve over hot white rice, use at least one cup cooked rice per serving.

Variation: Traditional red beans and rice recipes call for meat, typically ham or pickled meat. Add 1 lb. of meat of choice along with vegetables and reduce amount of olive oil to 2 tablespoons. Meats that work well are: chopped smoked ham, a ham bone, chopped pickled meat, sliced andouille sausage, smoked sausage or Louisiana hot links. In the past, I have found that Turkey meat replacements (i.e. turkey ham, turkey sausage) do not give off enough oil, you will want to add your extra olive oil to compensate.

Another variation: add 1 can of tomato paste. Add this when you are sautéing the onion and caramelize the paste until it is a mahogany color. This is my favorite version… the acid of the tomato brightens the beans nicely. You may also want to try 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar instead.

Serves 6

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Stewed Tomatoes and Okra

Good on a cold night as a side or as a main course. Many people think they hate okra, mainly because it’s gummy or slimy, but in this dish (and gumbo) it uses that “slime” to help thicken the dish. Good with french bread.

Stewed Tomatoes and Okra

1/2 stick butter (substitute 1/8 cup olive oil for vegan)
1 large yellow onion
1 package frozen okra
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 toes garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons creole seasoning

Melt butter in a large saucepan and add chopped onion and okra. Saute until onion is translucent and slime has mostly cooked out of the okra. Add all remaining ingredients. Season and then simmer slowly for 30 minutes or until it has acheived a stew consistency. Serves 6.

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Jambalaya

Another flexible dish, like gumbos, with infinite combinations. There are two types of jambalaya that I am aware of; creole and cajun. Creole jambalayas use tomatoes and lean on the red side as a result, cajun jambalayas lean on the brown side and (as far as I know) don’t use tomato. The following recipe will be for a creole jambalaya.

I make jambalaya in a strange way… according to tradition. Rather than cooking the rice WITH the sauce, I cook them separately so that the rice comes out correctly each time. I found that when I did it the traditional way (cooking the rice in the sauce for an hour or so), the rice either came out underdone or mushy. If you choose to make it the traditional way, double the chicken/beef stock to 1 1/2 quarts.

Fin!

Jambalaya

1 lb. smoked sausage or andouille, sliced and browned
1 lb. chicken thighs, cut from bone, diced and browned
1/2 cup + 2 Tbps. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
2 toes garlic, diced
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 quart chicken or beef stock
1 small can of tomato paste

1 tablespoon creole seasoning (use more if you like)
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce

6 cups rice, cooked

Brown the sausage and chicken in half the olive oil in a large saucepan or iron pot. When meat is nice and brown and you get the “gratin” on the bottom, saute the trinity. Add diced tomato (juice and all), garlic, bay leaves, thyme and heated stock. Add creole seasoning and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes at least, preferably longer like an hour or two. While sauce is simmering, in a separate small pot take 2 Tbps. olive oil and heat over medium heat. Empty can of tomato paste into hot oil and stir, stir, stir. This is called pincé-ing. Stir until paste is the color of mahogany (deep reddish-brown). Add paste to sauce. This will serve two purposes: one, it will thicken the sauce slightly and two, it will add that extra bite. When sauce is done, add cooked rice and mix thoroughly. Serves 6.

Variation: you may use pasta instead of rice. Add 1 lb. cooked pasta. Bake in a preheated 350 degree; oven for about 30 minutes in a casserole dish.