Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cajun Christmas Part 3: Smoked Ham, Cajun Coleslaw and Hush Puppies

And finally the conclusion of Cajun Christmas: The Entree Course. 
I learned to smoke meats when we were living with my parents in Illinois before we purchased our home in Wisconsin. My family has a long tradition of grilling in ridiculous winter weather. My Dad grew up in Minnesota where his father would shovel his way to the grill through feet of snow. My father kept up this tradition vowing to grill at least once a month during the winter and in turn my brother learned to shovel his way to the grill too. And now it is my turn. It was 2 degrees outside on Christmas Eve Day but it didn't actually feel that cold. It was a dry cold and not too windy that day.What was interesting was that when I shoveled my way to the grill I found a surprise! A sheet of ice underneath from our recent freezing rain before the snow storm. And at 2 degrees, nothing was melting that!

First you want to pile up a little bit of charcoal on one side of the grill. This is a cold smoke. The idea is not really to cook or heat the meat, but to get the smokey flavor "soaked" in.

Light the charcoal,  add some lighter fluid to make sure it catches,
cover the grill and wait about 1/2 hour or so 

While you wait soak some wood chips in water. I used Cherry this time.

My lovely 8 lb ham waiting for it's destiny

The coals should be about half lit like this

Add one of the pieces of wet wood and pile with a couple of new pieces of charcoal

Then put on the ham

And let the grill do it's magic.

Every half hour or so add a new piece of wet wood and
a couple more new pieces of charcoal and cook this way for about 4 hours. It helps to keep a squirt bottle near by to extinguish any flair ups, only red coals and smoke, no fire!

2 degrees outside, and I'm smoking ham.
If the neighbors didn't already think I was crazy, they must now!
(skidding on a sheet of ice out to the grill every half hour doesn't help matters)

Finished! After 4 hours I brought it in, covered it and put it in the fridge to wait for Christmas. Then Christmas day as soon as the oysters vacated the oven I put the ham in a covered clay baking dish with a bit of wine for moisture at 350 for 2-ish hours.

The Cajun Coleslaw is another masterpiece from the geniuses at Heaven on Seven. We decided this would be a good "vegetable" side for our entree course.

Cajun Coleslaw

1 head of cabbage (shredded)
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/4 cup shredded carrots

Honey Jalapeno Dressing:
2/3 cup mayo
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons honey
5 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon seeded, minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning (below)
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning:
3 tablespoons Hungarian Paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons Spanish Paprika (I used smoked)
5 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons thyme leaves
1  1/4 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Mix the Honey Jalapeno Dressing ingredients together in a bowl

Blend well

And add the chopped vegetables

Toss and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour for the flavors to meld together before serving.

Finally my brother made the Hush Puppies for a nice starchy side.
Like corn bread but better, so much better!

Hush Puppies
3 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons sugar
splash of milk

peanut oil to fry

First mix the dry ingredients

Then add the buttermilk

And the eggs

A splash of milk and mix well

Drop spoonfuls into hot oil

Fry til golden brown

Yum! The perfect main course to finish up our Cajun Christmas!

Cajun Christmas Part 2: The Oyster Trio

I started my Cajun Christmas posts out of order but since my Dad does the Famous Oyster Trio it took me a while to gather the photos and recipes from the various cooking locations so I posted the soup course first, but then I decided I wanted all of the Cajun Christmas posts to be together in 2013 so I am posting the last two today.

My Dad has been cooking oysters for as long as I can remember. The story goes that they used to be the appetizer for Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house may years ago but everyone always ate so many oysters that they didn't ever want any turkey so the tradition moved to the day after Thanksgiving as the main course for an oyster blow out dinner. This was long before I ate oysters. After we moved from the East coast to the Chicago area the tradition seemed to disappear for a while since only my parents were there to eat them and oysters were a little harder to come by in the Midwest. Then one year my Dad started planing an elaborate Christmas dinner with an Oysters Rockefeller appetizer and I ate them for the first time I remember. After that the Trio began making a comeback.

Bienville Filling- makes 2 dozen oysters
From: The New Orleans Cookbook by Rema and Richard Collin
1 stick butter
1 cup finely cut shallots
1/4 cup finely minced parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2/3 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 lb shrimp, boiled and diced

Parmesan Topping-
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Melt butter in a sauce pan and add the shallots, parsley and garlic and cook 10 minutes. Gradually stir in flour and mix well. Add the cream and milk slowly stiring constantly til the mixture is smooth, then add the egg yolks, sherry, salt, pepper, and cayenne, blend well and cook over low heat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in mushrooms, cook for 2 more minutes then add the shrimp and continue to cook on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon into a glass dish and refrigerate for at least an hour and a half before topping oysters. When ready top oysters with filling and sprinkle evenly with the parmesan topping.

Adding the cream and milk to the mix

And the egg yolks

And the sherry (which is in my opinion the secret ingredient)

And finally the shrimp

Rousseau Filling- makes 2 dozen oysters
From: Cajun-Creole Cooking by Terry Thompson
3 large tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dry savory
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1/2 bay leaf, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 slices of bacon
grated parmesan

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan and add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and herbs saute til onions transparent. Then add the tomatoes. Then add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black and red peppers, saute 15 minutes and set sauce aside. When ready to cook oysters divide the sauce evenly through out the oysters top with a piece of the bacon and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Sauteing the onion, garlic, and bell pepper

adding the tomatoes

and the Worchestershire

Rockefeller Filling- makes 2 dozen oysters
(This one my Dad modified quite a bit from The New Orleans Cookbook over the years)
1 bunch green onions
1 cup-ish flat leaf parsley stemmed and chopped
1 small bag frozen spinach thawed and drained
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks salted butter, softened
sprinkle of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon powdered Chinese Five Spice (this is the secret ingredient!)

Mix the greens, and spices in with the butter then knead thoroughly and shape into 24 patties and set on a wax paper covered pan and place in the fridge til ready to put on the oysters. Place one patty on each oyster.

The greens

Adding the spices

And the butter

Mix well

Shaping into patties

All of the filings were pre- made the night before at my parent's house. Then the oysters were shucked and assembled at my house as the first course of our Cajun Christmas Dinner. All of the oyster types can be combined on the same pans and cook at 425 for about 20-25 minutes. The oysters that will be Rockefeller style should be in flat bottomed oysters that stay fairly level in the pan due to the amount of melted butter they will produce while cooking.

My Dad shucking the oysters. 
(Glad he does this part, I'd worry about stabbing myself in the hand!)

The fillings awaiting their destiny!

And the first oyster is bienville. My favorite!

The bienville topping

All ready for the oven!

And they are done after 20 long minutes. 
Wait a couple more minute to remove from the pan, those oyster shells are pretty toasty.

Finally the famous oyster trio! The perfect start to our Cajun Christmas.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Cajun Christmas Part 1- Gumbo

I grew up in a family that loves to cook, as you might have guessed based on previous family recipe posts. Christmas dinner has always my Dad's specialty. He usually pulls out all the stops: appetizer, soup, entree and dessert courses all with matched wines. Last year we moved to Wisconsin and had the stomach flu over Christmas so we postponed dinner and just went simple the following weekend. This year since a multi course meal takes a while, we decided Bubba would be more entertained in his own house with all his toys, so my family came up to Wisconsin. When we talked about a Christmas dinner theme this year we decided to go Cajun with an oyster trio that my Dad is famous for, gumbo, and a smoked ham served with cajun coleslow and hush puppies. I decided to do a three part series of our Cajun Christmas Dinner beginning with the gumbo.

Back when I worked in Chicago I always went to this awesome Cajun place called Heaven on Seven. Their gumbo is amazing! I used to buy a half gallon to-go and bring it home with me on the train whenever my husband had a cold (so much better than chicken noodle soup). One day I bought their cookbook so I could try to make the gumbo. I have had the book for years but have yet to attempt it. It is a little intimidating looking at the ingredients list alone. There is a bit of prep work involved including making a signature Cajun spice, roasted garlic puree, chicken stock, and a dark roux. All of these can be done the day before and if you break the recipe down the gumbo is not quite as time consuming and totally worth it.

2 lbs chicken breast cut into 3/4 inch cubes,
tossed with 4 teaspoons Angel Dust Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb andouille sausage cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup diced yellow onion
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2 cup red onion
2 cups seeded, diced green bell pepper
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 tablespoon seeded, minced jalapeno
1 tablespoon Roasted Garlic Puree
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
6 1/3 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Dark Roux

White Rice

I started with the garlic puree in my prep work.

Roasted Garlic Puree:
8 cloves of garlic
enough olive oil to cover the cloves

Cover with tin foil and bake at 300 for about an hour

Puree with a little of the olive oil

Place in a covered container and refrigerate

Then I made the chicken stock. Kind of a cheater chicken stock because I was supposed to use chicken bones instead of bullion cubes, but I didn't have any chicken bones. Turns out it tastes pretty much the same.

Chicken stock:
9 cups water
7 chicken bullion cubes
1 cup carrots
1 cup celery
1/2 cup onion
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon parsley
1  bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Simmer all of the ingredients in a covered pot for 3 hours

Let cool then strain all the vegetables out

Cover and store in the fridge

Next the Cajun Seasoning.

Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning:
3 tablespoons Hungarian Paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons Spanish Paprika (I used smoked)
5 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons thyme leaves
1  1/4 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder

And last of all the hardest part. The dark roux.

Dark Roux:
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Heat oil over high heat, about 3 minutes.

Carefully whisk in a little flour at a time until incorporated.
(Watch out the oil spits a little and is HOT! I got two nasty oil burns the size of a pin point)

Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 22 to 25 minutes,
until the roux is dark brown.

Ivor decided to help me make the roux.
By biting my feet at the point where I could not leave the stove.

Carefully pour into a heat proof bowl and cool for 45 minutes.
Drain off and oil that separates from the roux. Store in a covered container in the fridge.

Once I spent the day before making all of the special recipes and pre chopped my veggies the actual assembly of the gumbo itself was fairly quick.
Here are all of my ingredients ready to go in the gumbo pot: 

First heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat then add the andouille sausage 
and saute 6 minutes and stirring occasionally.

Then add the cajun spice covered chicken and cook anther 4 minutes.

Then the onions for 2 minutes

And the peppers, celery, and roasted garlic puree, then cook another 2 minutes

Add the remaining spices, cook 2 more minutes

Then add the chicken stock and bring to a boil

Whisk in the roux, a little at a time, then stir continuously for 5 minutes.

Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.

Remove the bay leaf and at this point it is ready to serve with white rice,

But my gumbo was cooled and added to the crock pot to wait for
Christmas morning.

Where it sat happily letting all the flavors blend all day.

It was fabulous! Just like the original Heaven on Seven's. If you happen to be in Chicago, go and try the gumbo in person and the rest of the food on the menu is also amazing as well! Now having made their wonderful gumbo I can fully appreciate all of the hard work they put into perfecting it.