Hoppin’ into the New Year

December 28, 2013

Hoppin John

Hoppin’ John is one of my favorite dishes, and it’s something that really shouldn’t be confined just to the first day of the year. For those of you who have never heard of Hoppin’ John, it’s a traditional Southern dish made with rice and black eyed peas, and when eaten on New Year’s Day, it is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity for the year. It is generally served with greens. The black eyed peas are supposed to resemble coins, and the greens add to the year’s prosperity and wealth due to their green color (you know, the color of money). Sometimes cornbread also gets into the action, given its golden color (again, the color of a different kind of money). While I’m not sure about all that, I am sure that creamy black eyed peas mixed with the saltiness of bacon and spiced up with some andouille and pepper makes taste buds happy and fills up bellies. (more…)

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The pressure cooker diaries: Red beans and rice

May 20, 2013

Red Beans and Rice

Something I’ve had my eye on for quite a while now is a pressure cooker. Yes, like most of us, my mom and grandmothers had an ancient version that sits on the stove top, sputtered around with this funny metal thing on top that spouted steam, and quite frankly sounds like a scary pain in the rear to use with all the caution needed to ensure it doesn’t explode whatever food you’re cooking all over the kitchen, the hot stove, you, guests, etc. So while I was intrigued by being able to shave hours of time off my cooking, I still couldn’t quite pull the trigger on buying such a monstrosity.

Then I discovered the electric versions. Still, I couldn’t pull the trigger. Another large item that does just one thing. One thing maybe well… I wasn’t sure. Since it wasn’t like my mom’s, and like my grandmothers’, maybe it didn’t quite work as well. So I continued to put off the purchase.

Then, then I found out there were units that pressure cooked and slow cooked. A slow cooker is another item that I have put off buying, mainly because I’m super-paranoid about the idea of leaving food cooking while not at home (i.e. the way slow cookers are marketed – “Come home to a heavenly meal!”). But I must admit, occasionally I think I want one, and that I should quit being so paranoid. At the least it might be handy on those work-from-home days or the weekends when I’m around. Though, really, wouldn’t my dutch oven suffice.

I digress. I settled on a pressure cooker – the Nesco PC6-25P 6-quart electric programmable pressure cooker (isn’t that a mouthful?). I unearthed it from its box, cleaned it up, then tried to decide what on earth I should make that needed to be cooked quickly. My initial foray was a pulled pork, which did work out quite well, if not missing a bit of the smokiness I would expect. Then I moved onward and upward to beans. How I hate soaking beans the night before! This would change everything for me. Especially since the manual said the beans would cook in 5 to 7 minutes. (more…)

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Countdown to Fat Tuesday, Part Deux: Dirty Rice

March 7, 2011

Dirty Rice

As I was reading through the recipe for Smothered Rabbit yesterday, I decided I wanted to go beyond the basic white rice and try making dirty rice. Usually I fry the livers and giblets and serve them as an appetizer with a bit of creole mustard sauce, but since I had made rabbit stock and had 2 cups leftover (just the perfect amount for the dirty rice), I thought I’d try my hand at this Cajun classic.

Here’s a bit of a shocker — as much Cajun and Creole food as I’ve eaten over the years, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a homemade dirty rice made with the giblets. The old standbye was Zatarain’s dirty rice with sausage thrown in.

So back to the rice. If I don’t use parts of an animal, I tend to throw them back into the freezer for later use. (more…)

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A Little Cajun to Celebrate Mardi Gras

March 7, 2011

Smothered Rabbit

Yesterday, I decided we were way overdue for a rabbit dinner. Rabbit is one of my favorite meats, probably because I don’t get it very often. Since we’re coming up on the Mardi Gras grand finale, I decided to pull out a Cajun recipe from Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, Smothered Rabbit. The recipe was très simple – pan fry the rabbit, make a dark rous with the leftover oil and flour, add a bit of celery and onion, and mix it all into a boiling pot of stock. So off to the store I went to pick up the vegetables, along with a little TurboDog and Dixie beers to round out the perfect Cajun meal.

On the way back from the store, I decided instead of serving this with white rice or mashed potatoes as suggested, I would whip up a bit of dirty rice instead, which was out – of – this – world! (more…)

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