Archive for category New Orleans

Louisiana Crawfish Boil

crawfish boilIt’s a feast like no other. Mudbugs and all the fixins. You can buy crawfish fresh (they can be mail ordered) or frozen. If you buy them fresh, however, they require a lot of cleaning. (That’s why they’re called mudbugs.) This is essentially the Cajun version of a New England Clam Boil (a recipe I promise to include on this blog at a later date; right now we’re celebrating Mardi Gras).

For this crustacean feast, you’ll need about a 40-quart pot. Amazon sells a really nice 44-qt version with a strainer insert. Ironically, it’s called the Bayou Classic! That’s what I call built-in convenience!

Be sure to have plenty of Tabasco on hand, as well as a nice Cajun Aioli for dipping (recipe follows).


10 lbs crawfish

1-1/2 lbs small Red Bliss potatoes (cut in half if they are larger than 2″)

1-1/2 lbs small Yukon Gold potatoes (cut in half if they are larger than 2″)

8-10 ears of corn, halved

1-1/2 lb andouille sausage, cut into 1″ pieces

3 onions, quartered

3 lemons, halved

2 heads of garlic, unpeeled but separated

5 gallons of water

5 tbsp Kosher salt

4 tbsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp onion powder

2 tbsp dried thyme

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 tbsp dried mustard

1 tbsp coriander

1 tbsp dill weed

2 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper

5 bay leaves


Put 5 gallons of water in your 40-quart pot. Then add all the spices. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. This should take about 35-40 minutes.

If you’re using fresh crawfish, this is the time to clean them. Dump them into a large container and fill with water. Stir them around, then drain. Refill the container and stir them again. Put them into a colander in small batches and rinse them in cold water. Then return them to the large container and fill with water. Continue to repeat the process until the water is clear. This could take several repeat processes.

Once the water is boiling, add the garlic, lemon, onions, potatoes, corn and Andouille sausage. Cover and boil for 10-15 minutes.

Add the crawfish, and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and allow the pan to sit for 10 minutes before draining.

Serve with Tabasco and Cajun Aioli for dipping.

Cajun Aioli

This is an easy aioli, not the kind you have to use a food processor for. You can buy the creole seasoning pre-mixed.


3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup Thousand Island dressing

1 tbsp garlic paste

1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1-1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

3 tbsp Sriracha

2 tsp creole seasoning


Mix everything together in a bowl and chill until serving. Simple.

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Mardi Gras King Cake

king-cake3This might be the only recipe in this blog that isn’t mine. This is a traditional recipe provided by Chef Emeril Lagasse. Here’s the story of the King Cake:

“The King’s Cake has its roots in pre-Christian religions of Western Europe. It was customary to choose a man to be the “sacred king” of the tribe for a year. That man would be treated like a king for the year, then he would be sacrificed, and his blood returned to the soil to ensure that the harvest would be successful. The method of choosing who would have the honor of being the sacred king was the King’s Cake. A coin or bean would be placed in the cake before baking, and whoever got the slice that had the coin was the chosen one.

When Christianity extended its influence and began overshadowing the religions that came before it, many of the local customs were not outright abolished, but instead were incorporated into Christian tradition and given a new spin Catholic priests were not predisposed to human sacrifice, so the King’s Cake was converted into a celebration of the Magi, the three Kings who came to visit the Christ Child.”

According to tradition, you may not make and serve The King Cake before Twelfth Night (January 6th) or after Mardi Gras. (Weren’t rules made to be broken?)


2 envelopes active dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

1 cup warm milk heated to 110 degrees

5 large egg yolks at room temperature

4-1/2 cups unbleached flour

2 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tsp canola oil

1 lb cream cheese at room temperature

4 cups confectioner’s sugar

5 tbsp milk at room temperature

3 tsp fresh lemon juice

purple, green and gold sugar sprinkles

1 king cake baby (or a pecan half)


Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook. (If the dough is uncooperative in coming together, add a bit of warm water (110 degrees), a tablespoon at a time, until it does.)

Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner’s sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn’t a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner’s sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.

YIELD: 20 to 22 servings

By the way, you can read more about the King Cake and other Mardi Gras traditions here.

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Rib-Stickin’ Louisiana Gumbo

gumbo (1)Yes, it’s Mardi Gras time again. And this is Fat Tuesday, February 12. What could be better than a recipe for Gumbo? This is no time for “designer” New Orleans food. What we need here is the real deal, and Gumbo is about as authentic as it gets.

There are a lot of potential ingredients for Gumbo, like duck, chicken, crab, shrimp, oysters, crawfish and sausage to go along with the fresh vegetables included. Mine is made with chicken, Andouille sausage and shrimp. This is great on winter nights.

You need a decent size pot for this recipe.


1 lb medium or large shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 lb Andouille sausage, cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp canola oil

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped pepper (green, red, yellow or a mix)

1 cup chopped celery

3 cups sliced okra (if frozen, thaw first)

6 cups chicken stock

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper (optional; not everyone can take the heat)

1 tbsp Creole seasoning

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tbsp minced garlic

2 bay leaves

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Tabasco sauce (for serving)

Parsley, chives or scallions (for garnish)


Coat the bottom of a heavy pot with 1 tbsp canola oil. Add the chicken and Andouille sausage and brown over medium-high heat. Don’t worry about the pieces that may get stuck on the bottom of the pan. They will release themselves. These bits are critical to the deep flavor of the Gumbo. Remove the chicken and sausage from the pan and set aside.

Cut the onions, celery and peppers and set aside.

Now, add the 1/2 cup of canola oil and flour to the pan. Stir well and cook to make a roux. This is a critical step in the process. You should cook the roux until it is the color of a copper penny. Next, add the onion, celery and peppers and cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock slowly and whisk well so that the roux and stock are well blended.

Add the chicken, sausage and the balance of the ingredients except the shrimp and okra, which is added towards the end. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes, then uncover and simmer on low heat for an additional 30 minutes.

Add the shrimp and okra, and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Serve in bowls with plain white rice. Serve 1-1/4 cups of Gumbo with 1/3 cup rice. That’s about the right ratio for an authentic New Orleans feast! Feel free to garnish with scallions, parsley or chives! And it goes great with my recipe for Ass Kickin’ Greens, by the way.

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The Muffaletta

muffaletta-sandwichIn my previous life, I worked for a major corporation as an advertising manager. I loved my job. One of the best parts of my job was travel to New Orleans for the Pittsburgh Conference every single year. There is no doubt that New Orleans is the haven of unbelievably good food, and one of the best things I learned to make on one trip down there was the Muffaletta Sandwich.

There are probably several different versions of this sandwich, but I’m Italian. So that means I like the original that includes Italian cold cuts. I also recommend Italian Focaccia bread as an alternative to what you’d find in New Orleans. This can come in many different forms: A whole loaf, or square formats that are ideal for sandwiches. Some include olive oil and rosemary. Some include cheese. Doesn’t matter what you choose. As my work associates, who are much younger than I, say, “It’s all good.” If you use a whole loaf, it should feed three people comfortably. So, this recipe is giving you enough ingredients for three sandwiches, whatever bread you choose to use.

The highlight of this sandwich is the olive spread. It’s what gives it a kick. My recommendation is that you make the olive spread the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. It’s also important that you give this sandwich proper “resting” time once it is assembled. (This sandwich reminds me of the Italian “subs” my mother used to make for us for Friday night supper.)

A nice big fat glass of red wine is ideal to go along with this (I like Cigar Box Malbec myself).

Ingredients for Olive Spread

1 cup of pitted olives, chopped (use a mix here of black, green, kalamata…)

1 tbsp minced shallots

1/2 cup roasted red pepper strips, roughly chopped

2 tbsp capers, rinsed, dried and chopped

4 Pepperoncini, roughly chopped

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp oregano, Tuscan seasoning or Italian seasoning (for the latter two, McCormick makes a great little mix)

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Mix these ingredients together and put them in the refrigerator overnight.

Ingredients for Sandwich

One loaf of Focaccia bread (or three individual, square Focaccias)

4 oz of Genoa salami

4 oz of Hot or Sweet Capicola

4 oz of Mortadella

4 oz of Prosciutto

4 oz of Provolone Cheese


If the bread is thick (and it usually is), hollow out a bit of the inside. Place a health portion of the olive salad on both the top and bottom of the bread.

Layer meat and cheese onto bottom half, and place the top on the sandwich.

Wrap the entire sandwich in either plastic wrap or aluminum foil (or both) and put a brick on top of the sandwich. (Yes, you read that right.) Allow the sandwich to sit for one hour so that the bread soaks up the olive spread.

Serve with a big ass glass of red wine. Simply unbelievable.

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