Wednesday, November 23, 2011

(No) Turkey Day

Edit// So, I know this is super late, but just pretend I posted it on time ;).

Thanksgiving is almost here! This means family, friends, and food.

At my house, no one really likes turkey. My dad has had food poisoning twice from turkey, so he really doesn't like turkey. Instead, we've decided to go cajun/creole for Thanksgiving. In part, because we are so close to Louisiana here in Texas, and in part because my dad got this awesome book in thanks for speaking at an industry conference called My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh:

Greatness awaited us within the pages of this book...

Since it's just my dad and me for Thanksgiving we decided only to make two dishes (showing remarkable restraint for my family). This restraint was helped by the fact that a client gave my dad a pecan pie so we don't need to make any dessert.

What we DID decide to make, though, is very exciting! Red beans and rice and shrimp creole.

Since this is also a fashion blog, I figured I'd show you my totally cute apron from an artisan linen shop in Puerto Rico. I'm super into cute, unique aprons:

Kinda looks like a dress!

Anyway, back to THE FOOD! Here's the recipe for Red Beans and Rice:


Red Beans and Rice 

Time is the key to making successful red beans: they need to cook slowly and well. (I totally agree, and I think this is true for almost any bean.) Using flavorful fat is another secret. Just as my grandmother did, I keep the fat from every batch of bacon I make, and I save the fat that solidifies on the surface of chilled chicken soup and roast chicken drippings, too. (Thankfully, my dad has been saving the fat from his breakfast bacon for a few days now for this recipe.) Just a little bit adds big flavor. 

Serves 6

2     onions, diced 
1     green bell pepper, seeded and diced 
1     stalk celery, diced 
2     tablespoons rendered bacon fat 
1     pound dried red kidney beans 
2     smoked ham hocks 
3     bay leaves 
½     teaspoon cayenne pepper 
3     green onions, chopped 
       Freshly ground black pepper  
3     cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice  (We're using regular long grain white rice because we couldn't find Louisiana White Rice)

Dad and I went to our local Fiesta for the freshest ingredients that would be cheaper than Whole Foods.

Viva Mexico!

My dad: cool as a cucumber.

The fish counter was super sweet. Yes, that is a big balloon shaped like a dolphin in the back. 

This is a picture of all the ingredients laid out on our kitchen island (minus shrimp and rice):

This is about how big we chopped the veggies. I thought it said "chop" not "dice" the onions, so I did them too big. However, in the words of Julia Child, "never apologize."

I learned how to cut lemongrass from this video:

This was "the tender part," which is the part perpendicular to the knife if it's not clear from the video:

1. Sweat the onions, bell peppers, and celery in the rendered bacon fat in a heavy soup pot (ours is 8 qt) over medium-high heat. (Sweating the pot means with the lid on, according to my dad. So that's what we did)

2. Once the onions become translucent, add the kidney beans, ham hocks, bay leaves, and cayenne, then add water to cover by 2 inches. 

Picture pre-water:

Picture post-water:

3. Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and allow the beans to slowly simmer for 2 hours. Periodically stir the beans to  make sure that they don’t scorch on the bottom of the pot, adding water if necessary, always keeping the beans covered by an inch or more of water. 

4. Continue cooking the beans until they are creamy and beginning to fall apart when they’re stirred. 

5. Remove the ham hock meat from the bones, roughly chop it, and add it back to the pot of beans. 

6. Stir in the green onions and season with salt, black pepper and Tabasco. Serve with white rice.


These beans were extensively tested and approved by my dad.

Ta da! Dish 1 done.

Dish 2 is shrimp creole:

Oh, sorry, am I drooling? My bad. Oh, you too? Rock on.

Shrimp Creole

This new version of a longtime Louisiana favorite has Vietnamese influences; it's spicy and sweet, full of herbs and flavor. Any ultraripe tomatoes will work. 
Makes 12 to 15 servings, but what you will see on this blog is a halved recipe, so just halve all the quantities. 
5 pounds jumbo Louisiana or wild American shrimp, peeled and deveined We used pre-deveined and "easy peel" wild American shrimpSalt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
1/2 cup olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bell pepper, red, green or yellow, seeded and diced
5 pounds overripe Brandywine tomatoes or other heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped - In this case we had to use stewed tomatoes, unsalted, because we couldn't get any ultraripe tomatoes on short notice. 
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Leaves from 2 branches fresh basil, chopped
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
6-8 cups cooked white rice
1.  Put the shrimp into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, then mix in lemongrass. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over moderate heat. Add shrimp, stirring and tossing them with a spatula. Saute until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Shrimp after being seasoned yet before starting to sizzle:

Shrimp ready to be put off the heat:

2. In the same skillet, add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, onions, garlic, celery and bell peppers. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and when sauce comes to a simmer add bay leaf, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Simmer 10 minutes.

4. Add shrimp back to the skillet along with basil and mint. Cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too tart, add a little sugar to balance the flavor. Remove bay leaf. Serve over steamed white rice.

And there you have it! That's what we made for Thanksgiving. Let me know if you try it out, it's totally delicious. To wrap things up, here's a picture of what our table looked like:

It lasted roughly five minutes.

Happy Eating!

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