I Love New Orleans (GIVEAWAY)

Ahh New Orleans. I used to not appreciate the city at all. All I would relate to New Orleans were the potholes, the murders, and the questionable people walking around everywhere. I saw all of the negatives and it made me thankful to live in the suburbs.

2005 came, and the unimaginable happened. Katrina hit. I used to want to be a meteorologist in school, and would WISH for a hurricane to come near us so I could experience it like the Weather Channel people do (and also, take off of school). Well, Katrina devastated New Orleans. A lot of my family and friends had to rebuild and lost priceless items. My immediate family lucked out, since they live slightly West of New Orleans. (If you’re just west of a hurricane, you seemingly get less of a punch than if you were dead center or just east of it.)

After Katrina hit, all I longed for was New Orleans. The happy New Orleans that I was so blind to originally see. I remember tearing up listening to the 12 Yats of Christmas that December. That February, I went to my first Mardi Gras parade in 2006 since the storm. The city had a mildew-y odor, but I didn’t care. It was New Orleans, and things were coming back. Things still aren’t completely back, 5 years later, but the spirit is stronger than ever!

When I first read about Disney making an animated movie, called The Princess and the Frog, set in New Orleans, I was excited. When the movie came out on DVD (I haven’t gone to a movie at a theater in ages…$10 for one ticket…hecks to the no!), I watched like a giddy 6 year old. ::disneyfreak::

I would smile when I saw St. Louis Cathedral, drool when I saw Tiana serving beignets, tear up when her family shared gumbo with the neighborhood, and giggle when Tiana helped the VooDoo lady make her gumbo “the bee’s knees” with a little Tabasco sauce. :)

So, to kind of give a shout-out to this movie, which I highly recommend, I’m doing a giveaway. I know most of these items aren’t nationally available in stores, so I want to share some of the featured foods from the movie (with a little bit of lagniappe/something extra) to one lucky reader!

NOLA Giveaway

Included in this package:

  • Cafe Du Monde’s beignet mix (heaven on a plate, basically)
  • Cajun Gumbo Mix
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Tony Chachere’s Seasoning (good in just about EVERYTHING)
  • Jambalaya Mix
  • Dirty Rice Mix

Want to know how to win? Leave a comment about what your favorite NOLA dish is or what NOLA dish you’re interested in trying.

You have until Monday, May 17th to enter. This giveaway is only valid to readers in the continental U.S.

More ways to win (and please comment each time you do one of these)

That means you have 5 chances to win this Louisiana Feast!! Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

**Products from this giveaway are provided by The Nifty Foodie.**

Crawfish Pies

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I absolutely love crawfish pie. Usually for a meal, it’s served as a regular pie in slices, but since the main course for the party was the actual boil, I decided to make mini hand pies. I made the filling the night before, allowing the flavors to meld in the fridge overnight. I definitely recommend doing this because the filling was firm to work with for making these pies, and also, the flavor was definitely awesome!

The only problem I have with this original recipe is that it calls for 1 cup of oil. This was WAY too much oil, in my opinion. I ended up spooning the oil/fat off of it and after measuring it, that was almost 1/2 cup of oil! My husband also pointed out that a roux is usually 1:1, which is essentially what you are making in the end to thicken the filling. So, next time, I’m using 1/2 cup of oil in the recipe!

Crawfish Pies
Adapted from John Folse

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound crawfish tails
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tasso ham, diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • salt and cracked pepper to taste
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 packs of refrigerated pie dough sheets

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a 10-inch saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and tasso ham. Saute 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted.
  3. Add crawfish and saute an additional 5 minutes. Sprinkle in flour and using a wire whisk, stir constantly until white roux is achieved. Add tomato sauce and slowly add broth, a little at a time, until sauce consistency is achieved. (NOTE: You may not use all of the broth.)
  4. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook 30 minutes. Season to taste using salt, pepper and Tabasco. Remove from heat and allow to cool, preferably overnight.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, combine egg, milk and water. Using a wire whisk, stir until all ingredients are well blended.
  6. Using the rim of a cup, cut the pie dough into circles. Place about 1 tsp. of filling center of each circle.
  7. Brush the edges of pastry with eggwash and fold over in a crescent shape. Crimp the edges closed with a fork and pierce the top of the pie to create vents for steam to escape during cooking. Brush eggwash over pies and bake until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.

Crawfish Cheesecake

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I remember when my husband took me out to this fine Italian restaurant, and we sampled some crab cheesecake as an appetizer. We were hesitant at first, but our waiter insisted that we’d love it. And, boy did we! It was so flavorful and delicious. :)

So, when I saw this recipe on Elizabeth’s Edible Experience, I knew I had to try it for myself!

This was a very rich dish. It would be great for an appetizer at a potluck or something similar to that. We spread the cheesecake on crackers and it was very yummy! I loved the flavor, and I hope to have the opportunity to make this again sometime soon!

Crawfish Cheesecake
Source: Chef John Folse (found on Elizabeth’s Edible Experience)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound crawfish tails, chopped
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 tbsps cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Tony Chachere’s seasoning
  • 2 tbsps minced onions
  • 2 tbsps minced celery
  • 2 tbsps minced red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup sliced chives
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tbsps melted butter
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups crushed butter crackers (like Ritz)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, egg white and crackers. Press mixture into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes to crisp.
  2. Remove from oven and cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F.
  3. In a mixing bowl, blend cream cheese, sour cream, cornstarch, salt, seasoning, onions, celery, bell pepper and chives. Blend well, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Add eggs and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl again. Fold in the chopped crawfish tails. Pour the batter over the cooled crust.
  5. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for another hour without opening the door. Cool on a rack for at least 4 hours. Carefully unmold. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Louisiana Saturday Night Celebration

You know the band Alabama? I always found it funny that they sang a song about Louisiana Saturday nights since their name is, well, Alabama. Guess my rivalry between Bama and LSU will never die, eh?

This is my very first time doing a 24, 24, 24 event for Foodbuzz, and I could not be more excited. It was PERFECT timing to throw a party for family! Thanks so much to Foodbuzz for sponsoring this!

There are so many great things going on in Louisiana lately. Between the New Orleans Saints clinching a Superbowl win  and Mardi Gras, I just thought it would be great to celebrate with family the traditional Louisiana way: CRAWFISH!

Oh yes, that silly crustacean that is also referred to as a crayfish or mudbug. We have been anxiously awaiting crawfish season, and we lucked out with a sack (roughly about 40 lbs.) from a local crawfish farmer for some crawfish foodie fun! I say lucked out, because it’s VERY early in the season and well, like the rest of the country, our winter isn’t exactly mild. Since it’s so cold, the crawfish basically go dormant. So, the crawfish are in short supply (and sadly, pricey). However, we just had to have some of this. It’s been far too long for us, and let’s just say we weren’t disappointed.

I’m sure some of you are insanely jealous and then there are some of you who are thinking, why crawfish?

Crawfish are insanely abundant in the swamps/marshes of Louisiana (when they are in season), and have been around since the native Americans and European settlers. Because of their abundance out here, they have remained popular for centuries and have sort of become tradition for family gatherings. In the Spring/early Summer, you can literally smell crawfish boil in the air in most neighborhoods. So many families do boils and LOVE it. It’s crazy that Louisiana supplies 90% of all domestic crawfish in the nation, yielding 75-105 MILLION pounds of crawfish. (fun facts via www.crawfish.org)

So, now that you can understand our state’s small addiction to this little creature, here’s what we enjoyed at the party!

Mini Crawfish Pies*
Crawfish Cheesecake*
Crawfish Boudin
Crawfish Boil (of course)
Decorated Crawfish Sugar Cookies*

* There will be separate blog posts about these items off the menu.

Since the pies and cheesecake had to be assembled the night before and the crawfish for the boil wouldn’t be caught until the next morning , we purchased some Louisiana crawfish conveniently peeled into 1 lb. bags. Let me tell you, if you have to choose between Louisiana crawfish and foreign crawfish, you should strongly consider Louisiana crawfish. It might be a few more bucks than foreign crawfish, but I will say, they are TOTALLY not the same. Louisiana crawfish has so much more flavor and the tails are usually much larger too, so if you are thinking of buying crawfish in stores, seriously consider splurging a few extra bucks and getting domestic crawfish.

These crawfish pies were so yummy! The tray of these were gobbled up, and just came together so easily. I will admit, I used pre-made pie dough, but hey, the filling made up for it BIG time!  I was a little happy to have some leftover filling to freeze and make these again sometime soon!

This savory cheesecake was pretty darn easy to put together too. We ended up using this as a spread for crackers, and it was just so flavorful. We didn’t really eat it as a cheesecake though, since it was a very rich appetizer and we had to save room for the crawfish boil!

This is crawfish boudin. We like to buy this from a local cajun meat shop. I love this shop because they just know how to put a twist on the most basic things to taste perfectly Louisianian. If we had a long day at work and no time to cook (or just feeling lazy), it’s easy to pop something from there in the oven and enjoy it within an hour!

Back to boudin. Boudin is basically a rice dressing stuffed in a casing. The main ingredient is usually pork, but this meat shop makes fun types like red beans and crawfish! While it looks like sausage, most people find the casing to be unappetizing. So you just end up eating it out of the casing, which easily peels away.

We enjoyed our boudin spread on crackers. It was delicious!

We timed it to where we enjoyed appetizers while boiling these little fellas.

They went from this:

To this:

After they were done, we did not hesitate to fork out the newspaper and dig in! Crawfish boils aren’t usually strictly crawfish. Personally, we boil ours with lemons, onions, garlic, corn, potatoes, mushrooms and sausage. It’s fun to have a little variety in there!

And of course, for spice wimps like me, since these bad boys are boiled in a LOT of cayenne pepper and spices, there was plenty of french bread to calm down the burning taste buds! We purchased this bread at a produce stand that is known for selling great local foods. I love supporting local businesses, especially when it’s dealing with food, because it’s much fresher, flavorful and sometimes, even CHEAPER than buying at just your typical supermarket.

This boil was definitely enjoyed by all. We had a little bit leftover, which we’ll be peeling and freezing to use in another cajun dish sometime soon, but out of the sack of about 40 lbs., it was mostly gone! I guess we were hungry!

After the clean-up outside, we all went inside to hang out, let our tummies digest and enjoy a platter full of decorated crawfish cookies! Or, at least offer it out to those who saved some room for some! Stay tuned for how I made these. I am pretty happy with how these turned out, since I didn’t have a crawfish cookie cutter!

Thanks again to Foodbuzz for sponsoring this party. My family had a wonderful time catching up and enjoying this fabulous Louisiana staple! I hope this boil is first of many for this crawfish season! YUM! :)

Gumbeaux

Now, if you are from New Orleans, you probably get the gist of what I’m saying…we like to end our words normally ending with an “o” with an “eaux” instead. Why? Because we are special…

Other weird things (at least that I know of) that we like to say….

Neutral ground = street median

If I’m going to a Mardi Gras parade, trying to find someone, you either stand on the neutral ground side or the shoulder side of the street.

Brake tag = inspection sticker
Every year, you get a sticker to check your brake lights, blinkers, etc. This, to people from the NOLA area, is a brake tag folks.

Sha = term for friend/child/whatever…people can call you sha (a pronounced like a in apple)
You’ll sometimes hear someone greet another person…whatcha doin’ der sha? Seriously..don’t judge us.

Geaux = Go
If you ever find yourself in the lucky 92,000 people who are able to squeeze into Tiger Stadium (LSU) on a Saturday night, we don’t scream “GO TIGERS!”, rather it’s “GEAUX TIGERS!” Pronounced just the same, but it feels special. :)

Now, don’t let our vocabulary deter you from trying a bowl of this amazingness. Gumbo (yes, I’ll be normal for the rest of this blog entry) isn’t too crazy. It’s basically a smokey stew of chicken/sausage or seafood on rice. If you want to be adventurous, you can add frog legs or alligator, but folks, I’ll keep this simple.

The base of most cajun dishes is a good, dark roux. I will admit, this being my first time, I was very intimidated of burning the roux. Burnt roux isn’t good in gumbo. So, after watching my favorite Food Network chef, Alton Brown, try to master gumbo, I decided to use some parts of his recipe to help me out.

His method? Oven baked roux….perfection, right? It worked out really really well for us. Oh yeah and my hubs gave a HUGE helping hand during this. There is a lot going on at once, and since I’m new to cooking, I don’t think I could have done it alone.

However, in the recipe, it only makes 5 qts. of gumbo.

I would like to say that in Louisiana, just making a 5 qt. pot of gumbo is not only shameful, it’s downright rude…hehe. :) When making gumbo, you invite people over and 5 qts. just won’t make the cajun appetite very happy at all. So, we doubled the recipe and made HEAVY changes to it.

I present to you – chicken, andouille, sausage and crab gumbo.

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Chicken, Andouille, Sausage and Crab Gumbo
Inspired by: Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 lbs. of pre-boiled crabs, cleaned but meat still in shell (we split up the body and claws and just threw them in the pot)
  • 1 gallon water
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1  diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced green peppers
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 pound andouille sausage
  • 1 pound pork sausage
  • 2 lbs. chicken boneless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon file powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours (or until dark brown/brick colored), whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process.
  3. After the roux bakes for 30 minutes, cut up the chicken breasts into small chunks. Place the chicken in a pot (at least 12 qts.) with a gallon of water and the bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat a little to simmer for 1 hour.
  4. Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat. Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook, moving constantly for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the salt, black pepper, thyme, basil, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine.  Place the mixture in the 12 qt. pot with the chicken, stirring to avoid clumps of roux in the gumbo. Add sausage and andouille. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 25-35 minutes, until the sausage looks done and the chicken shreds easily. Turn off the heat, add the crabs to combine. Add the file powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice.