10.30.2018

It BeauxBear's Repeating!

   Saturday evening my dawg, in his New Orleans Saints shirt, and I decided to 'honor' the winning streak of our beloved team with a Sunday football BBQ. (Not that a Cajun needs any excuse to fire up the bbq pit again.)
   So, I took a pack of country-style ribs out to thaw, and Sunday morning I washed the bonemeal off of them and began the seasoning process. (Ever notice butcher's "sawdust" on the meat? It's from when they cut through the meat and bones, and most likely, apparently, they leave it up to the customer to wash it off.) So I did.
The first thing I do is get out the jug of Steen's syrup.

I pour enough syrup on the ribs 'til I think it looks about right, like in the picture below, then I rub it all in with my hands 'til they are shiney and sticky (and yeah, so are my hands--worth it!)
The syrup makes a nice sticky surface for our Cajun seasoning.
I shake on some Chrystal hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. ('bout four or so shakes of each) and a bunch of our spice.
I let it sit and "think about that" for several hours.
Sometime later in the afternoon I got the pit ready.
My trick is to put all the coals on the side by the lower air intake, with a pan of water on the "cool" side under the smoke stack. The heat flows from left to right and on up the stack, keeping the "cool" side a moist 225 to 250 Fahrenheit. That's where I place the seasoned pork, on the cooler side, so it's not sitting directly over the heat.
Once the ribs were on the pit, I got the music fired up too, then I went to the shed for an ol' tradition passed on down to me by the men in my family.
Since way back, I always have kept a jug of whisky in my shed.  'Til very recently I had the bottle my Dad had hidden in there years and years ago (God rest his soul).  I can tell you, I shed a tear when it fell and broke. I replaced it with his brand and continue the custom by giving a him toast and giving Thanks for the life of the animal who has graced our dinner table.
Here is to you Daddy I sure miss ya.
The ribs kept a-cookin', music playing and an air of pre-game excitement fill our yard.
After an hour of being on the pit, I basted the meat  with leftover marinating juices mixed with about 1/2 cup of wine and a stick butter, warmed to melt the butter.
Beaux (pronounced Bo) my BBQ buddy looked on happily and intently every time I opened the pit. (He knew what was coming.)
 
We had a wonderful afternoon. Peg was busy doing her thing in the house, but managed to come out and sit with us on occasion. Just before the game, she to hooked us up with some corn and pork and beans. Not a bad meal for a football game.
The food was wonderful,
                                                    And the Saints won(!)  
                                            Another Fall BBQ,
                                                          And the "company" was fun.


10.22.2018

Fire Pit Season! (FINALLY.)

Sunday, October 21 marked this year's official beginning of fire pit season at our house. First thing in the morning I knew that was it! 
   Actually BeauxBear figured it out before we did. He got up early, went outside through his doggy-door and came back in, jumped up on the bed, sat there at the foot of it and began 'talking'. He wasn't barking or all excited; just in his deep little doggy voice, he sounded like a person talking--in another language. Peggy says all her bichon frises were 'talkers'. SparkyBear only 'talked' when he was mad, and if you didn't know better, you'd swear he was cussing,(!) that dawg. So anyhow, BeauxBear sat there apparently telling us that it was nice out, followed by, "hmmm??" We'd wake up enough to roll over and pull up the blankets. He asked if he'd mentioned that the cold front had passed and that it was nice and cool and crisp out, "hmmm?"
   Finally, he got Peg's attention, "mom...mom...mom...hmmm?"
   She staggered out of bed wondering what in the world he wanted that he didn't already have access to. Seeing that he'd gotten somebody up, he was so exited, jumping around, wagging his tail and wanting her to follow him. So she did...out the back door, where the brisk air and bright sunshine woke her right up! The hot, muggy, sticky, clingy air was gone. Fall must have officially arrived while we were asleep. YAY!!
  She tromped back into the bedroom, followed by BeauxBear, and quietly said, "The cold front has finally gotten here...ya hear me...hmmm?"
  I guess I did, cuz I got up.
  They were right. The temp and humidity were both in the mid 50's and the humidity stayed there while the temp warmed to the mid 70's... a picture-perfect day, the first in a long while. It marks the beginning of camping season(!) and play in the yard time(!) --a real holiday, to me. 
  And the whole thing that made it even better was the New Orleans Saints victory, despite an excited announcer's "jinx". (You could just tell whose side he was on... not 'ours'.) He said, "In a seven year career, this guy has never missed an extra point!!!"
   Aha.......Till now! Geaux Saints!!
   So, it was a double celebration Fall day. I went outside and lit my pit; the first fire of the season. With a nice cold beer and a rehash of the ballgame on the radio, I told my sidekick, BeauxBear, "It doesn't get any better than this, Buddy, does it...hmmm?"
Thank God for the first fire of the season.

7.25.2018

Cappy's Take On What They're Calling, "Opelousas Chicken"

   I've been hearing folks refer to "Opelousas-style" baked chicken for quite some time now, so it finally made me curious enough to investigate their recipes. 
   I was born in Opelousas, Louisiana and spent my early years just down the road from Opelousas, so ya'd think I'd know more about this "style" of chicken before I turned 60 years old.
   "Opelousas" chicken, indeed:  after reading several different versions of the recipe, I realized that "Opelousas-style" chicken is just what my family, friends and neighbors always called our basted  or roasted chicken. It was served as plate lunches, or church functions, and even showed up in our school cafeterias, kinda often. 
   When they serve it professionally, like for plate lunches, it's cut in halves or quarters. If you're really hungry, ya go for the half, with the "sides" that go along with it, like beans, corn, greens, salad, etc. 
 When it's cooked for family at home, we usually cut the chicken in smaller pieces, like legs or breasts, (Mama used to use a 'whole fryer' that she'd cut into portions) and slow bake it,  basting every 15 minutes. 
   Lemme show you how my family did it:
    Here's a pack of chicken thighs that I got on sale at "the Pig" down the street last week. (Piggly Wiggly)  I highly seasoned it with our own blend of Cajun seasoning, worcestershire sauce, and Crystal hot sauce. I don't measure, I just dump and sprinkle 'til it looks about right. This step is hard to go wrong.   

   I laid out the pieces in this baking dish, leaving a basting hole open. Too much butter goes on top... like I said, "too much butter goes on top!" 
 Make an aluminum foil tent and cover the chicken, then stick the chicken in a preheated slow 275 F oven for half an hour. 
  --Take the chicken out of the oven, remove the foil, dip a big spoon into the hole and baste the chicken over and over. Looks good already, doesn't it?
  --Put the chicken back into the oven, for another 15 minutes and savor the wonderful smells filling the house.
After the 15 minutes, take 'er out of the oven and baste it good again, then back in the oven she goes. Repeat this basting process every 15 minutes for about 2 hours, or 'til golden brown, and I use my meat thermometer to check and make sure the internal temperature is 165 degrees, Fahrenheit.
You might think it sounds kinda labor intensive, taking the chicken out of the oven and basting it every 15 minutes. The reason I take it out of the oven is because it needs to be basted very, very well, and trying to do this while it's in the oven could be awkward and sloppy. I dose each and every thigh with a big spoonful of the butter sauce, and then, I dump a few extra spoonfuls on anything that doesn't look shiny. After 7 bastings, I checked the temp of  a piece of chicken that I thought looked done. 167 F, almost perfect for chicken. 
   Mmmm-mmmm!! Tasting it, I knew that all the work was more than worth it.
  A bowl of beet salad, that didn't make the photo, was the starter for this meal. Black-eyed peas accompanied the chicken to dinner.
   The chicken was very moist and tender, Cajun seasoning all the way down to the bone.
  If you take the time and baste your chicken this way and set a timer, you will be amazed at the best dang baked chicken you have ever tasted.
 --An added bonus when ya remove the chicken, you are left with this amazing chicken butter sauce.
   I could have thickened it with cornstarch, roux, or gravy mix and used it as an amazing gravy, but, instead, this time, I poured the sauce into a jar and saved it in the fridge to use for other meals.
  Make ya some and let us know how ya love it.  It will make ya chicken a star. 
   Now, since I was born in Opelousas, and raised in the Opelousas area, and this being one of the wonderful chicken dishes from Opelousas family homes, and even though, to us, it was just our regular basted or roasted chicken, next time I hear it called Opelousas-style chicken, I can take pride in my heritage and brag all about it with obvious knowledge and experience of the dish.

6.27.2018

Our Anniversary Eve Eve

   We always celebrate The eve of our anniversary eve.  It is a very special day.  It's Peggy's mother's birthday and my boyhood best friend David's birthday.  Since it's 2 days from our anniversary, we figure it's a great excuse to kick off the party.  Peggy loves good fried chicken, but sadly, due to her celiac disease she can't just pop in to the local chicken joint for it.  So, good southern fried chicken, for us, is a special treat.  Sure, I occasionally buy some for me, and share it with my dawg, but always feel guilty, us eating it in front of Peggy.  
  This time I fried the chicken like my daddy usta do it, in corn flour aka Fish Fry. At the family camp we only used Fish Fry flour to fry chicken in our big black iron pot. 
  So, I fried Peggy up a batch, and as a surprise, I fried her some kosher dill pickle spears to go along with it. I really hate to admit that this is a "yankee" trick I learned at an upstate New York Blues bar. The bar claimed to cook Cajun food so naturally, I opted for a burger.  (If I want Cajun food, I'll cook it myself and not have some yankee try their hand at it.)  I must admit though, the burger came with fries and a fried pickle spear, and they were "prit dang good".  I bit into the deep-fried pickle spear thinking it was a potato log, like we have down here in South Louisiana, but was pleasantly surprised to find a kosher dill taste in that crunch.  I've always made them from pickle slices, but I've gotta say, it was a trick I didn't mind stealing from that danged yankee bar. 
 You oughta give it a try; I think you'll love 'em, too.  
Couple this , couple that , some of those and the other and a few too many beers.  Truly an epic eve for our anniversary eve.  Happy birthday Peggy's Mother in heaven.  Hope ya had a great day ol' friend of mine.  Not a bad day and who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Hi, Peggy here! One thing I'm hoping tomorrow will bring is getting my beloved old computer fixed. With all the issues the house has been going through during this last five or so months, my video and photo editing capabilities have been kaput due to the computer suffering some kind of malady that may or may not have been brought on by whatever the house was suffering...with, or, well, who "nose" what. Sooo...whatcha see here, in the photo Cappy insists on posting, is a fine example of what I cannot do to make the wonderful meal Cappy cooked, look as delicious as it really was.  And believe me, delicious it was! 
Cappy and my Mom (May God rest her sweet soul) had a lot in common when it comes to cooking projects. She'd get this almost electric excitement before and during. Cappy is the same way. I just thought we were going to simply fry some chicken. He said, "Nooo...this is going to be an adventure, like my family used to do at the camp out on the bayou."
He hauled out the big ol' 50 lb. black iron pot...well, mebbe it's not that heavy, but I, myself, can hardly lift the thing. I was going to use the small black iron frying pan and use maybe an inch or so of oil. I think Cappy used about a quart or more. He had me take the chicken out of the fridge where it had been marinating overnight...more like hiding out, I'm thinking. He ordered a sundry number of bowls and plates and pans, one to be double lined with brown wrapping paper, plus an assortment of tongs, forks, an onion to be cut into 'sticks', and I don't know what all. More bowls were called in, as I hadn't gotten out enough in the first place. I just couldn't imagine what was about to take place, so I busied myself making coleslaw and whatever else I could think of to stay out of his way. Well, that didn't work. The first thing I knew, corn flour was flying everywhere, I was elbow deep in raw chicken, cornstarch, egg-wash and highly spiced corn flour, while Cappy merrily tended to his pot. When his onion 'sticks' were cooking away just right in the ton of hot oil, letting him know the temp was perfect, he began gingerly laying the chicken pieces (which by now looked like fat dough boys) into his caldron, only three at a time, lest one more piece make the oil cool down. 
He had music blaring on the stereo, having a ball. Once or twice we ended up dancing with our chubby heavily flour dusted bellies bouncing to the beat of some old Johnny Cash song. We had fun.
We finally ate around nine...at night! Cappy apologized for the mess in the kitchen. I told him it was worth it and that I'd have it cleaned up in no time. Twenty minutes later, all of his accoutrement was in the dishwasher and the leftovers in the fridge.
 Stowing it all away, I had to laugh to myself because Cappy is always telling me that I always make a mess when I cook. He sez, "It takes two knives, one spoon, three pans and a cutting board just for you to boil water." That's a good one, Cappy, but alas...I think my Mom used to say the same thing, (God rest her sweet soul.)

4.05.2018

When Turnips Turn Up

    I took this pack of country-style pork ribs out of the freezer the other afternoon, but I had no idea what I was gonna do with them.  
  They are a wonderful versatile cut of pork from the Boston Butt Roast that our local grocer had on sale when we bought them. So then, what to do with ém? Ya not gonna b'lieve this: like a sign from heaven, when we opened our front door the next morning, there sat a bag of turnips, left by one of our neighbors.
I immediately thought of good ol'-fashion pork and turnip stew, that's been a long-time-favorite of my family. With that in mind, I whacked the ribs into stew pieces.
I seasoned the meat with our own blend of Cajun seasoning and some Worcestershire sauce, then let them sit and think about it while Peggy peeled the turnips.
If you look closely, you can see the layer of turnip under the skin that needs to be taken off too.
 Sometimes it can be lifted off with a fingernail, but trust me, it comes off faster with a paring knife. If you don't take this layer off, the turnips are bitter. It's the same with rutabega. A lot of folks don't like turnips or rutabega for just that reason. Taking this layer off is the secret to good mild flavored turnips.  If you don't like turnips chances, are its because this layer wasn't removed.
So then, the seasoned pork went into a big black iron pot with a splash of water to get it started and covered over a med-low heat. As it cooked, I occasionally gave it a good stirring 'til it looked like this: (half cooked)
   When making jambalaya, the pork is cooked uncovered, but when making stews or gravies its better to cook it covered to retain the natural juices. 
    So then, I took this half-cooked meat out of the pot and set it aside, then added a big ol' chopped onion and a bit of smoked sausage that I had sittin' around in the fridge, so I kind of diced it up and stuck it in the pot with the onions and the nice sauce that the pork and spices had made. 

While I was doing this, Peg was dicing the turnips.
    Once the onions were cooking along nicely, I added the turnipsto the pot with, a bit more seasoning, just cuz it looked like it could use a little more spice.
I let this all cooked down a little more then invited the pork back in,
 covered the pot and allowed to simmer (put the burner on simmer) for over an hour. The turnips cooked down, the pork got soft and I was able to removed as much of the grease as I could.  
Peggy is a celiac, as most of you know, which means she is wheat and gluten intolerant, so we often thicken stews like this with 
McCormick's gluten free brown gravy mix. It has a great taste and makes a good gravy. 
                          3 packages and some cornstarch
get mixed together to make a kind of "slurry" and poured into the pot.
When it comes to a nice gentle boil it is done. It's so thick, rich and so creamy, it doesn't need rice. It stands on it's own as one of our favorite stews.
 So, I guess you could say (if you had a mind to) that we turned up the turnips that turned, up a notch or two, with a sweet little piggy. Stew-w-w-eeeee!!

3.26.2018

Friday Fish

   Friday fish has always been a special treat down here in Cajun country. Our seafood is always fresh and plentiful, caught by ourselves or gifted by friends. 
  For this Lenten Friday, I took a huge Red fish out of the freezer, caught and given to us by our tiny-but-feisty neighbor, Sonia. Before freezing it, I had cleaned it, but left the skin and scales on, (which serves to work as it's own baking dish, of sort) then laid it all out on a baking sheet and slathered it with melted butter and lemon juice...
and sprinkled it with our own blend of Cajun seasoning.
I parked the whole thing in a 300 degree oven for a half hour, or so, 'til it looked done.  
        While the fish was baking away, I put the leftover butter and lemon juice in my family heirloom black iron pot and added a couple of onions, diced by my sweet sous chef, Peggy.
I always dust my onions with our Cajun seasoning, because I find they cook faster that way.
Once the onions began to brown, I added a pound of small, cleaned and deveined shrimp.
I prefer small shrimp for this sauce, but I've used larger ones, cutting them into bite sized pieces, but, since the smaller ones are less expensive, I just go ahead and use the small ones.
  Once that was cooking along, Peggy made a slurry of evaporated milk and corn starch, then poured it into the shrimp, stirred it 'til it bubbled and thickened the shrimp sauce, making it rich and creamy.

When the fish came out of the oven,

                             I plated us up each a chunk,

               Then I smothered in Peggy's thick rich sauce.
I can't begin to tell ya how good this is
 (and shouldn't tell ya that I had 3 servings!)
   This amazing dish was "thrown together" in less than an hour. It is easy to make! C'mon! Give it a try with your favorite fresh fish. The sauce could make a tennis shoe taste good, so you know it's gonna make fish taste good. 
 Our motto would be: Friends don't let friends eat bad fish.
 So, just remember, friend: use fresh fish (fish that smells like the ocean) and you will not be disappointed. Cést si bon!