9.22.2016

The German Cajun Connection

(Brats and Kraut?)
   It's around  this time of year that almost every small town in our area is having some kind of German festival.  For whatever reason, it's not been widely known that German migrants also settled mostly along the Mississippi River and still has a strong influence on our culture. 
   As with other branches of our region's Cajun "family tree", besides the  French, Spanish, African,  Italian and Native American cuisines, German food has also impacted our life, as well. Their wonderful sausages and beer to name just two. 
   Some historians credit the Germans with the evolution of Boudin, one of our most treasured Cajun sausage-like, (but not sausage) "gotta haves".
       I have my own theory about this:  
   While the Germans most likely had a boudin-like sausage, it is unlikely they would have used rice as a cereal filler.  I have noticed over the years that the closer to the Mississippi River you travel, the less rice is used in the making of boudin. Here in our little river town the people who make boudin insist on using no rice in their boudin. To me, this suggests a German influence and lends credence to my theory. That and the fact that the local phone book has a ton of German names listed. Anyway, I digress and never intended this to be a history lesson...just my take on Cajun-German "fusion" food stuff.  

On to my main topic. At first glance, you might wonder what's Cappy doing with brats and kraut in his beloved ol' black iron pot? Well, this is my "Cajunized" version of brats and kraut.  It's just fresh spicy Cajun sausage with smothered cabbage.  
I let the sausages sizzle covered in the pot with a splash of oil for a few minutes.
I turned them over and pricked the skin with a fork to allow the juices to escape into the pot.
I put the lid on and while the sausage was simmering away in its own juices, I turned three onions
into long pieces,
I took the browned sausages out and put the onions in the pot, then added some of our own Cajun seasoning and let them cook, (covered )
while I whacked up half a head of cabbage that had been lurking around in the fridge for some time.
In went the cabbage with the onions, 
got all stirred up and covered again for a while, 'til it "simmered down".  I occasionally stirred it all around while it was on low heat, and after an hour or so, I put the sausages back in on top, stirred a bit more, then called it "done". 
   It was a wonderful hearty meal in honor of Fall approaching; my favorite time of year.
So thanks to the German influences that contributed richly to our culture! Instead of the traditional October Fest greeting, we wish you in true Cajun fashion, Happy Fall Yall!!!
  (Peg said she has some German in her heritage, too, and proved it by drizzling vinegar over this meal in her bowl, and was also her way of letting me know me the cabbage was not kraut and the sausage was not the boudin that I'd been talking about as far as cultural food influences. Hmm...I forgot about the Yankee influence here in my own house.)

9.14.2016

Dipping Our Toes in the Garlic Harvesting Process

   Thanks to help from some of our friends here in town and my favorite gardening forums, our first ever garlic crop went stinkin' good!
   Here's a link that will catch you up on our project, from the fun and "veryyy interesting" planting process, next to the harvesting of the danged stuff, then how I experimented with the knotting and braiding of the garlic strands with my big ol' "Cappy fingers" and then tried drying it as best we could in our steamy environment of wet and sunny South Louisiana. Read here:
http://cappyandpegody.blogspot.com/2016/06/our-first-garlic-bed-from-planting-to.html 
   So, now that the braids have been hanging in the cabinet for a couple of months, being admired from time to time by us, one day when Peg cut off a bulb to use in one of our dishes, we were alarmed to find that several of the heads were turning brown and almost mushy!!  Oh NO! Not after all that work! 
   We hurriedly clipped the heads from the remaining braids, and I sat and "processed" them all by separating them into individual garlic toes, wondering the whole time what in the world we were going to do right away to save them. I tole Peg I was doing the hard part, separating them and that I was leaving her the easiest part, peeling all of them. She just gave me a dim look and sniffed. What??  
   Well, I found out "what", cuz it took both of us about all day to do it, working tag-team. Oh sure, it's easy peelin' 'em when ya mash 'em first on the cutting board just before you use 'em in a skillet for whatever you are about to cook, but leaving them whole and trying to peel the thin paper skin off...? The skins fight tooth and nail, sticking to each and every little toe of garlic, then, too, ya end up with sticky, goopy, garlicky fingers that makes the job so much harder with such a mess, that ya gotta get up and go wash yer hands every now and then, fuming the whole time yer doin' it. We thought it would never end!  (We'll have to google and look for easier ways to do it in the future.) 
  While it was Peg's turn to fight with 'em, I got online and called around, researching what in the world we might could do with them so they wouldn't spoil. Armed with lots of information, we decided to forget most of it and take the advice of our good friend Sam, who's gardened most of his life and knows a lot. He's given us great advice in the past, so when he said we should stick our toes in olive oil, that's just exactly what we did. We put the now nekkid garlic toes in canning jars and topped them off with olive oil, then parked them in the fridge.

You will notice that the big jar on the right there, isn't full of garlic. Since we didn't have enough toes to fill it, Peggy wandered outside and came back in with a handful of Rosemary (who seems to be holding her own this year). Peg said this way we could try what all the food channels talked about when they mentioned "infused" olive oil. We could have stuck in a number of other things, as well, but this was what she wanted to start with...see how it comes out, etc.

Sam recommended that we wait a couple of weeks to let it infuse...flavor up the oil before we tried it. You know me...I could hardly wait to try it, so after about a week, I did. The oil is taking on a wonderful garlic taste and hopefully will get more flavorful as time goes on.

  Meanwhile, while Peg was busy in the computer room, I sneaked out a little spoonful of the garlic infused olive oil, took it in to Peg, who was totally preoccupied and tole her to taste what I had in the spoon. (I did this to her one time with a heaping big tablespoon of cod liver oil and 'innocently' told her to taste it, not telling her what is was. She absolutely refused, so I put the whole spoonful in my own mouth and pretended it was yummy, but she still wouldn't do it. Gah! I 'scolded' her,"Do you know what I went through trying not to show I was gagging?" It was horrible. Curses! "hoist with my own petard", like  Peg's ol' Shakespeare liked to say.) 

 So now back to the other day, she musta not trusted me now, an' that was years ago. She sipped a tiny bit of the garlic olive oil and said, "Gah! It almost tastes like fish oil...what is it?"

Well, that kinda hurt my feelings, but when I told her it was our garlic infused olive oil, she smacked her lips a couple of times, furrowed one brow and said, "Oh yeah...heh heh...our olive oil...yeah, mebbe it does kinda taste a little like garlic olive oil," (totally redeeming herself) then followed directly on my heels as I headed back to the kitchen. 
    I minced up three of the garlic toes and cooked them in a ground meat, macaroni, tomato dish that my Mama used to call "dog food", but Peggy's family calls it goulash...but instead of tomatoes, I used her homemade BBQ sauce...it was SO delicious we coulda slapped both our Mamas, it was that good!  
 Now, even tho' we're supposed to wait 'til the olive oil gets more infused, I secretly can't wait to wait to nibble on Rosemary's toes...and I don't think Peg will mind, either. :-D 






9.09.2016

Labor Day at Sam and Louise's House...Our Friends.

   I was rather embarrassed when my good friend Sam called at 8:30 Labor Day morning, catching me just sliding my overalls on.  I had slept late. I hurriedly poured me a huge "go" cup of strong Cajun coffee, jumped in Tinker Bail, my Jeep and headed across town to his smokehouse. 
   I backed up to his smokehouse shed, dropped the tailgate and set a well-stocked ice chest on it.
It was raining, but we didn't care; we sat visiting in his shed man cave while our lunch smoked and smelled up the neighborhood.
 This is what a corner of a Cajun man cave looks like. Notice all the spices he's got lined up on that top shelf. His "apothecary" that he uses for his own blend of Cajun seasoning that makes all his cookin' come alive!
     After an hour of visiting, Sam went outside and investigated his smokehouse that he had been tending for about four hours.
In there ya got two nice slabs of ribs, two chickens, some of the sausage he made, and assorted peppers. Done to a fare-thee-well! We took everything out, brought back it into the shed and I helped by slicing up some sausage for sampling purposes.
I slathered it with Peggy's amazing homemade BBQ sauce that I had brought along and we munched on them as I separated the ribs and quartered the chicken. At least that way I felt like I was helping with part of the cooking.
Once we got the meat all carved up, slathered some more of  Peggy's BBQ sauce on it, then parked it in a slow oven for a while so the meat could "get to know" the sauce. 
Next we took it out of the oven, stacked it in a pan and carried it across the street to their home for the main meal.
Peg had showed up sometime after I had, so the girls had been in the house chatting while Sam and I had been "working" in his shed.
video
 My beautiful best friend (No, not Sam) had also prepared, besides her BBQ sauce, a Waldorf Salad, a pasta salad and her delicious coconut pudding for dessert.  
          Sam and Louise cooked the meat and some tasty smoked chicken salad dip. Like usual we had a great time together laughing and enjoying each other's company. 
video
This was my plate.
Was it good you ask? We 'crushed' it!
It was so good we brought some home and had it again for supper the next day. It was a great Labor Day BBQ with our friends, who we don't need a holiday for an excuse to pass a good time with, especially since there was hardly no labor at all.

9.04.2016

Fish CAN Be a Wonderful Dish...Here's How!

   While reading one of the fishy forums I participate in, I stumbled across a thread talking about seafood recipes and was amazed at the number of people who wrote posts claiming they don't like fish. More amazing to me is the fact that a large number of people who actually go out and fish will never eat fish.  
  Well, I grew up eating wonderful fish, so I couldn't understand why so many other people couldn't seem to stand the stuff. This surprised me so much that I did some research surfing food blogs, fishing blogs and articles, and Face Book groups and found that it's true...many people can't stand fish and won't eat it. 
   After reading all these posts and opinions, I finally developed a theory about why it was so disgusting to them and so, am writing this post hoping it will help people understand that it doesn't have to be that way...fresh...really and truly fresh seafood, cooked properly, will melt in their mouth.
   Peg came down from western New York State hating seafood...except for shrimp and scallops. One day I told her we were going to a seafood store to get some fish. In her mind, she didn't plan on eating any of it once it was cooked, but went along with me to buy it. After a few stops at several markets on sundry other errands, we parked in front of the seafood store and were talking on the way in when suddenly, inside,  she stopped and looked around in amazement, "Where are we...in the fish market??"
   I told her, "Yep, we are, why do you seem so shocked?"
   "But...but...in New York State you can't even get within fifteen feet of the store without feeling the need to retch or at least gag. Even in the nice big supermarkets it smells horrible. I smell nothing in here." She went over to one of the counters and peered in, taking sniffs to prove to herself there really was fish in the place. Still unconvinced, "This is real? Not fake seafood?"
    The people behind the counter probably thought she'd been dropped from outer space. Never seen fish?
    I've since been to her neck of the woods and she's right; even in a fancy, upscale New York restaurant on the beautiful and clear Hudson River I was grandly and proudly presented with a plate of rotten fish. I couldn't eat it. The waiter looked alarmed and I hated to hurt his feelings, so I must of said something like I wasn't as hungry as I thought I had been.
  She's right about the grocery stores and seafood markets...I just couldn't believe they were selling the stinking stuff and worse, people were lined up to buy it!
   Down here in South Louisiana, Peggy learned another lesson the hard way while I was away on the boat. One day a friendly young man and his sociable girlfriend drove into our neighborhood selling shrimp. They came to the door and cheerfully asked if she'd like to buy some. "Come on out here and see what we got for ya."
  I'd taken Peggy down to the gulf coast where fisherman were selling their shrimp right off their boats, caught that morning. She'd never had fresh shrimp before, so she was thrilled.
  Now when this guy and his girlfriend sitting in our driveway said, "Come see these beauties, caught just this morning," Peggy remembered what I had told her, "always sniff it first before you buy it." So, she told the guy, "I need to smell it first," which she did. She bought about five pounds to surprise me when I got home.
  While the guy got busy putting Peg's shrimp in a plastic grocery sack for her, his girlfriend engaged her in all kinds of distracting conversation, then they left.
   Peg immediately put them into freezer zip lock bags and froze them all. Two weeks later when I got home and thawed out a pound or two of that shrimp....oh Lord, help us...it stunk so bad of strong...STRONG iodine. That means they were old and essentially rotted. I thought that since they were here, bless Peg's heart, I'd doctor them all up in an etouffee so maybe the ton of onions and Cajun spices would cover the iodine smell and taste. Nope! It was still so strong we couldn't eat it. Even the dogs looked up at us in disgust that we'd dared to offer it to them and slunk outside for a breath of fresh air.
  I told her that, that was an old trick. They let you smell the fresh fish then distract you while they grab fish outa the 'other' bucket. Ya gotta watch out for people.
  Alright...so if you are of a mindset now that maybe some of these reasons why you, too, (like Peg and so many others) don't like fish, well then, let me give you some pointers that might help. Try them and see if you don't find that you actually are liking some fish. It is so healthy for you.
                            How to Buy Seafood:
     I was very surprised to find that people often buy spoiled fish. The secret to buying good fresh fish is to use your nose. If you aren't allowed to sniff the fish don't buy it. Buy fresh fish. When you take a deep sniff all you should smell
is the ocean. A subtle "sea" smell and no fish stink. Seafood should be displayed in an open container on or in ice or in ice water slurry with a scale for customers to scoop out what they want to buy. 
  Again, if ya can smell 'fish' don't buy it. If the market reeks from the parking lot, don't go in. Smelling fishy smells from the road is never a good thing. 
   I'm thinking that the reason most people who hate it have been eating bad fish. Like I said, it happens in restaurants, too.  Sorry to say this, but most seafood is past 'fresh' long before it even gets to a restaurant. 
    Please, Dear Reader...please try fish again, except please buy fresh fish and seafood this time. Once you get your hands on some fresh seafood: any fish, shrimp, crawfish...anything, you will notice a big change from what you had been trying to choke down in the past.
   So, with all that being said, what follows is my hands-down favorite way to cook any seafood. I also have a 'killer' deep-fried crunchy battered recipe that I'll tell ya about later on another post, but this particular one I'm cooking now is one of the most requested dishes that I cook, which is a combination of all the fresh seafood I can get my hands on to stick in the same pot. This is how I cook my Court-bouillon (pronounced "Coo-bee-yaw").  It's a traditional dish that's spelled many different ways; "coubion" is often seen, but no matter how you spell it, this is my favorite way to cook seafood.
  This time we had some red fish fillets caught fresh by our neighbors, Jude and Sonia, from across the street. Trust me, if ya stuck your nose to these fillets they would smell fresh, clean and like the beach.
I took these fillets and cut them into bite sized chunks and seasoned it with our own Cajun seasoning, a li'l hot sauce and a splash of our own Meyer lemon juice and parked it in the fridge. The seasoning helps toughen the pieces by drawing out some of the moisture...makes it "meatier".
Next I turned this: (My friend, Smokin' Sam's Andouille)
into this:
Then I dumped it into our favorite pot with a li'l seasoning to brown.
The pot had about a tablespoon of veggie oil in it. While the onions began to soften, I turned this:
into this:
Next, the tomatoes (not drained) and the "mushies" (drained)  went into the pot.
I let 'em cook and cook and cook some more...slowly reducing the liquid in the pot,
video
'til all the juice was cooked out.
At that point I added a half cup or so of ketchup (my trick) and then I put in a drizzle of my "secret ingredient" that makes this pot extra special with a hint of hard-to-define yumminess.
video
  After adding the peppers, garlic, ketchup and syrup, I brought it up to a light bubble and let it simmer for a half hour more, stirring often, then brought the last ingredient to the party.
video
Now, normally we have this dish over a bed of rice, but we also love it over pasta. Actually, the sauce is very similar to my Cajun Chicken Spaghetti which my family and friends love so much. Today, we decided to make this with Gluten Free pasta.
 When combined with the finished sauce,
it makes an amazing meal which has 'magically' converted many a fish hater into a seafood lover. 
So, I challenge you to get you some FRESH fish. Either catch it yourself or buy it FRESH from the market. Remember, if you can smell fish from the street, I'd avoid that market. A terrific way is to have it given to you by a good neighbor with a boat on the back of his truck with an ice chest full of fresh fish that smells like the ocean or lake where he and his family had fun catching these beauties. We thank God for our neighbors and His bounty that they share with us.   
Right now, all we're fishin' for is compliments. Try our recipe and let us know what you think. Best wishes for your fish dishes!!
 
 

8.18.2016

Old-Fashioned (Greasy) "Sticky Chicken"

  To some folks it's "sticky chicken", some call it "grease gravy" and others call it "smothered chicken".  It's a dish I remember from my youth that I go for years between cooking, but I really enjoy it when I do. The topic came up on our local Facebook group and once I heard about it, the ol' "envie" got ahold of me. (envie pronounced through the nose "au-VEE". It means a CRAVING.) Since it was rainy, I thought that seemed like a good time to indulge in this old dish. (actually, even if it hadda been sunny and hot, instead of rainy and hot...I'da done the same.)
  I called the local grocery to make sure they were not flooded, grabbed my "shramp" boots (what we Cajuns call shrimp boots...what the shrimper fishermen wear...and regular Cajuns, too.) and jumped in Tinker Bail (my Jeep) and drove to da "Pig". (Piggly Wiggly...gosh, I've gotta explain everything to some of yall, don't I?)  
   When I got home from making the groceries (buying the groceries) and "saved" 'em. (put 'em away...come ON...I gotta tole ya everything??)
   I seasoned up a family pack of chicken thighs in our own Cajun spice blend and put 'em in a black iron pot. No water no oil...no nothin', jes' chicken.
I put the lid on and let it go over medium heat while I whacked up a 3 lb. sack of onions.

The chicken pieces were fat and juicy so they made their own gravy. I cooked 'em for 15 minutes, then flipped 'em over to let 'em brown on the other side.
Once the chicken was cooked, I took it out of the pot...just the chicken and left the drippin's still in the pot. Store bought fryers are so tender that I have to remove them while I build the gravy or they'll fall apart. I dumped in the onions and seasoned them lightly with some more of our own spice. The salt in our spice blend helps break down the onions faster; pulls the moisture out of 'em, and such. (We're all on the same page now, right? I gotta watch some of these Yankees, callin' gravy, "sauce"...stuff like that.)
While the onions cooked, I cut up a big bell pepper and some garlic from our yard.
Once the onions cooked down, 
I added the chicken back to it, and the bell pepper and garlic, then turned it down to simmer for a half hour or so.
Tah-Dah!!
Once cooked (and no grease drained off, but a nice juicy, tasty gravy) and served with a side of veggies and some of Peg's homemade bread and butter pickles, I don't care what ya call this chicken dish, it became old-fashioned Cajun comfort food at its finest.
These days we try to eat healthy and remove as much fat as possible from our diet, but once in a great while we indulge in this heart warming meal (Cappy's guilty pleasure, ya got that? :-)