Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

This isn’t exactly a New Orleanian recipe, but it ought to be as it tastes exactly like a cherry sno-ball. Agua de Jamaica (ha-ma-IKE-uh) is a brilliant crimson drink made from the dried flowers of a hibiscus plant (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and is very popular in Mexico, Central America, Texas, California, Egypt, and Latvia (of all places). Here in California you can find bottled Jamaica in most stores along with powdered mixes.

Agua de Jamaica
2 ounces flor de jamaica (dried jamaica flowers)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (or to taste)
6 cups cold water

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the flowers and the sugar and stir while the mixture boils for one minute. Pour into a glass bowl (or other non-corrosive bowl) and steep for at least 2 hours like you would tea. The flowers stain, so be sure to use a non-staining bowl if you don’t use glass. Strain the mixture through a sieve pressing on the flowers to extract as much liquid as possible. Taste for strength and sweetness. If it’s too strong, add bit of water or if it’s too tart then add more sugar.

Cover and refrigerate until time to serve. Serve over cracked ice.

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Creole-style Baked Beans

BBQ time…

This would be good paired with the Creole Potato Salad from last summer.

Creole-style Baked Beans

2-16 oz. cans of Pork & Beans or White beans
1 large red bell pepper, grated
1 large yellow onion, grated
2 toes garlic, minced fine
1/2 lb. smoked sausage or chaurice, sliced on bias
1 small can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons creole seasoning
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/4 lb. dark brown sugar
3 strips of bacon

Set aside brown sugar and bacon. Brown sausage. Add bell pepper and onion and sauté until most of water is gone. Add garlic and tomato sauce. Add sausage/vegetable mixture to all other ingredients, mix well, and place in a lightly greased casserole dish. Lay bacon over the beans and sprinkle top with rest of the brown sugar. Bake in a 325º oven for a full hour. Remove from oven and allow beans to rest for 15 minutes. Serves 10.

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Mirliton Casserole, a Mexican-Creole fusion

School’s out for summer and we’ve moved. Now that I have more time to cook, I thought I’d try to make mirliton casserole again. I realized as I was gathering my ingredients that I didn’t have any mushrooms, but I did have a can of pickled carrots (zanahorias en escabeche) from our local Latino grocer. I love these. If you’ve never had them, they are carrots pickled with jalapeños and onions. The vinegar adds a nice edge to the dish I didn’t know it needed.

Latino Mirliton Casserole

3 medium mirlitons, boiled, peeled, and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 toes garlic, minced
1 lb. chicken thighs, deboned and diced
1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced on bias
1-14 oz. can diced tomato or Ro-tel (canned tomato and jalapeño)
1 small can pickled carrots (zanahorias en escabeche)
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
2-2 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

optional:
1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Halve the mirlitons and boil them in lightly salted water until you can pierce them all the way through without using excessive pressure. Then remove them from the pot and set them aside to cool.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and sauté the chicken until browned. Add sausage and brown. Add onion and bell pepper, sauté until wilted. Add garlic and sauté until everything is soft and tender. Add carrots, tomato, and spices. Scoop the cooked mirliton meat into a bowl and mash or dice well.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Add to the the mirliton meat to the mixture and cook until the sauce forms a paste-like consistency (15 minutes).

Begin working in bread crumbs into the casserole mixture (this is best done a little at a time). When all the crumbs are added, you should end up with a somewhat dry paste that sticks to the spoon. If it is still too moist, add a few extra bread crumbs, if the mixture it too wet it will run during the baking process. If your stuffing mix turns out too dry, moisten it with a little canned chicken broth.

Transfer the mixture to a large casserole dish. Put the dish into the oven on the center rack, and bake it uncovered for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the topping turns a toasty brown. For a little extra, liberally sprinkle the casserole with shredded Parmesan cheese when it has 10 minutes left to bake in the oven. This will form a nice crusty topping on the dish.

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