Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crawfish and Andouille Pie

A yummy old fashioned Louisiana bayou entree!
     There are many great recipes for crawfish pie.  The filling can be made with a cream sauce, a red roux shrimp stock sauce or a creole tomato sauce.  Some crawfish pies are made with no sauce at all.  Fish, ham, mushrooms, sausage and fish are sometimes added to the recipe.  Crawfish pie basically is made with ingredients that are on hand.
     Many old traditional crawfish pie recipes are made with condensed milk or cream.  Canned condensed milk was a real commodity back in the days before refrigeration.  The canned milk or cream is turned into a heavy bechamel sauce as the filling is made.  A thick cream sauce makes for a very hearty, rich and savory crawfish pie!
     I added andouille sausage to the crawfish filling for this pie.  The smoky spicy flavor of andouille really compliments the flavor of crawfish nicely.  This is just one version of many crawfish pie recipes.  I do guarantee that you won't be disappointed with the flavor of this Louisiana bayou style pie!    
     Pate Brisee Recipe:  (Pie dough)
     Place about 1 cup of flour into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 3/4 tablespoon of sugar.
     Rice the flour by adding a few drops of ice water at a time while stirring with a whisk.  (The flour should look like grains of rice.)
     Cut 1 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter into pea size pieces and drop them in a bowl of ice water.
     Gently add a few small pieces of the chilled hard butter at a time to the riced flour.
     Work the dough lightly with your fingers and for a minimal period of time leaving exposed small pieces of butter.
     Chill the dough, till it becomes very firm.
     Roll the pate brisee into 2 thin sheets on a floured counter top, when it is time to assemble the pie.

     Crawfish and Andouille Pie Filling:
     This recipe makes enough filling for one individual pie.
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 5 or 6 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped celery.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1 small chopped seeded serrano pepper.
     Saute till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Add 3 to 4 ounces of sliced andouille sausage that is cut in half lengthwise first.
     Saute till the vegetables become tender.
     Add just enough flour while stirring to soak up the excess grease in the pan and to form a pan roux.
     Stir until the flour thoroughly combines.
     Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Stir the sauce to temper the roux as it heats.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens.
     Add 1/2 cup of shrimp stock.
     Stir till the sauce heats and thickens.
     The sauce should be a medium thin consistency at this point.
     Add 3 tablespoons of chopped tomato.
     Add 1 finely chopped green onion.
     Add the tail meat and fat from about 15 shelled poached crawfish.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of paprika.
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 pinches of finely chopped Italian parsley.
     Stir the sauce.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium heavy thick consistency.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the filling to cool to room temperature.
     Chill the filling in a refrigerator, till the temperature of the filling drops below room temperature.
     Crawfish and Andouille Pie:
     Brush a small pop ring mold or small pie tin with a little bit of melted unsalted butter.  (Use a small pop ring mold if you want a free standing pie, like the one in the pictures above.)
     Roll two small thin sheets of the pate brisee pie dough.
     Drape one sheet of dough over the pie tin.
     Tuck and press the dough lightly into the pie tin.
     Trim the dough, so it is slightly larger than the pie tin.
     Spoon the chilled filling into the pie.
     Brush the edges of the pie dough with egg wash.
     Drape the second sheet of pie dough over the top of the pie.
     Gently press the edges together.
     Trim off the excess pie dough.
     Use a for or a knife edge to press the edges together.
     Brush the top of the pie with egg wash.
     Cut some of the excess dough into decorative shapes.
     Decorate the top of the pie.
     Brush the decorations with egg wash.
     Poke a small hole in the middle of the top of the pie, so steam can escape.
     Bake the pie in a 425 degree oven, till the crust becomes fully cooked and golden brown.
     Allow the pie to cool for a couple minutes, so it becomes a safe serving temperature.
     Un-mold the pie from the pie tin or ring mold.  
     Use a large spatula to place the pie on a plate.
     Garnish with Italian parsley sprigs.

     The pie I made was decorated with a rustic wagon wheel shape.  Unfortunately, the steam hole got clogged up and the pie ballooned out!  This pie almost exploded!  As you know, I only cook a recipe once in this blog with no retakes.  This pie was okay looking, even though is got a little bit out of shape.
     Yes, a pie looks pretty as a picture as it sits there.  When the crawfish and andouille pie is cut open and the aroma is noticed, it won't take long for that pie to disappear!  The aroma of this crawfish and andouille pie is mouth watering!  The flavor is rich, savory and slightly spicy.  This is a yummy crawfish and andouille pie!  Mardi Gras!  ...  Shawna

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cajun Pig In A Blanket with Yellow Remoulade

Pastry wrapped Cajun andouille sausage with Louisiana yellow remoulade!  Mardi Gras!

     Pig in a blanket hot dogs are an old favorite.  The basic recipe is a hot dog that is wrapped with biscuit dough and then baked.  Many chefs prefer to use puff pastry dough, rather than biscuit dough for a pig in a blanket.  I used puff pastry dough for this recipe.  Pe-made frozen pastry dough sheets are best for recipes like pig in a blanket.  Frozen puff pastry sheets can be found in nearly any grocery store.
     Andouille sausage is a spicy Cajun style smoked sausage.  Andouille can be a large sausage that is two to three inches in diameter.  I happened to see some "large hot dog size" andouille sausages at the market the other day.  For some reason, I instantly thought of making a Mardi Gras style pig in a blanket snack with one of the sausages.  I posted a French pig in a blanket recipe a few months ago that became very popular.  Making a Cajun pig in a blanket turned out to be a good idea and this recipe could very well become a fun Mardi Gras street vendor style snack!
     Remoulade is taken very seriously in Louisiana.  There are several varieties of remoulade in Louisiana.  The southern Louisiana style reddish pink colored remoulade is the most popular and I have posted a few recipe variations for that style of remoulade.  Standard white remoulade is popular in Louisiana and it sometimes accompanies delicate flavored meats and crab.
     Louisiana yellow remoulade is seasoned with curry spices and a generous amount of Louisiana creole mustard.  Louisiana yellow remoulade is a variation of an old classic French remoulade that is seasoned with curry powder.  Yellow remoulade is nice and zesty!
     Orange remoulade is made by adding catsup to a yellow remoulade.  The result is a remoulade that is a little bit zestier than the southern Louisiana remoulade.  I'll be posting a recipe for orange remoulade in my next recipe blog entry.
     With all these Louisiana remoulade versions to chose from, I chose the yellow remoulade for this Cajun pig in a blanket.  I figured that the zesty creole mustard flavor of the remoulade would be nice with the smokey spicy flavor of andouille sausage.  I was right!  Hoooo Dawgy!

     Louisiana Yellow Remoulade Recipe:
     Place 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of Louisiana creole mustard.
     Add 10 to 12 minced capers.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped dill baby gherkin pickle or cornichon pickle.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 small pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 4 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Add 3 pinches of turmeric.
     Add 2 pinches of Thai yellow curry powder.
     Add 1 generous squeeze of lemon juice.
     Stir the ingredients together.  The remoulade should be a bright yellow color.  Adjust the color with more or less turmeric and curry powder.  The main flavor in the yellow remoulade should be the zesty creole mustard.
     Refrigerate the remoulade for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Cajun Pig In A Blanket:   
     Try to select an andouille sausage that is about the same size as a large 4 to 6 ounce hot dog.  Anything larger would turn this into a knife and fork meal, rather than a snack.  That not a bad thing either!  A 5" to 6" long portion can also be cut from a long andouille sausage.  
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tiny splash of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 andouille sausage that weighs 4 to 6 ounces.
     Lightly brown and heat the sausage.
     Remove the sausage from the pan and keep it warm.
     Cut a rectangular shaped piece of puff pastry from a sheet of puff pastry dough, that is big enough to cover the sausage from end to end and so it is wide enough to wrap around the sausage.
     Place the puff pastry on a lightly floured counter top.
     Place the sausage on the puff pastry.
     Brush one edge of the puff pastry with egg wash.
     Roll the sausage and pastry together, so the pastry dough is snug against the sausage and be sure that the egg washed edge seam is sealed tight.
     Place the pig in a blanket on a piece of parchment paper on a baking pan.  Be sure that the seam of the pastry is facing down.
     Score the top of the pastry with even spaced knife slashes.
     Brush the pastry dough with egg wash.
     Place the pan in a 425 degree oven.
     Bake until the pastry puffs and till it turns a golden brown color.
     Remove the pan from the oven and allow the pig in the blanket to cool to a safe serving temperature.  (About 140 to 160 degrees.)
     Place the Cajun pig in a blanket on a plate.
     Place some of the Louisiana yellow remoulade in a ramekin and set it on the plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles and an Italian parsley sprig.

     This has got to be the greatest pig in the blanket of all pig in the blankets!  The combination of crisp flaky puff pastry, spicy Cajun andouille sausage and the zesty creole mustard flavored Louisiana yellow remoulade tastes too good to describe!  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Crevettes a la Creole

Shrimp creole!

     Shrimp creole is a Louisiana favorite!  Shrimp creole can be found on nearly every menu in New Orleans.  This is a great recipe for Mardi Gras!
     I worked with a few good Cajun and New Orleans chefs early in my cooking career.  I learned a lot about Louisiana cuisine, while working with those chefs.  Louisiana chef Justin Wilson had a great cooking show about twenty years ago.  I watched Justin's cooking show one day and I really liked the way that Justin Wilson made creole sauce.  Justin Wilson prepared the creole sauce like it was made fresh to order.  He used all fresh ingredients and he emphasized that a creole sauce should be a very zesty fresh tasting sauce.
     Creole sauce can be made ahead of time, but it is best if it is reheated to order and not kept warm in a pot or steam table.  Many second rate restaurants offer creole sauce that has been kept hot in a steam table all day.  Creole sauce that has been kept warm for a long period of time will become flat, acidic and not fresh tasting.
     Fresh ingredients are the key to making a great creole sauce.  If you live in Mississippi delta country, then Creole Tomatoes are the choice tomato for shrimp creole.  Outside of delta country, red ripe Roma tomatoes or plum tomatoes are good to make creole sauce with.
     The amount of cayenne pepper that is added to a creole sauce is a personal choice.  Creole sauce should be spicy, but it should not be spicy enough to remove the chrome from a bumper!

     Creole Sauce Recipe:
     You can make creole sauce with chicken stock or shrimp stock, depending on what the sauce will be served with.  For shrimp creole, shrimp stock is used.  This recipe make enough for 2 medium size portions or 1 large portion.
     Heat a large sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil or blended olive oil.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of small diced onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of small diced celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Add 1 finely chopped seeded green serrano pepper.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Saute the vegetables, till they start to become tender.
     Add 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 chopped fresh ripe Roma tomatoes.
     Saute till the tomatoes start to become soft.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 minced large fresh basil leaves.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 3/4 tablespoon of paprika.
     Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper.  (Make the sauce as spicy as your personal taste will allow!)
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the sauce.
     Add 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 2 cups of shrimp stock.
     Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the sauce to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce for 5 minutes.
     Add 2 thin sliced green onions.
     Add 4 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
     Continue to simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium tomato sauce consistency.  Stir the sauce occasionally.  The sauce should not look watery.
     Set the creole sauce aside.

     Crevettes a la Creole Recipe:
     Cook a portion of plain white long grain rice ahead of time.
     Peel and devein 1/2 pound of medium size shrimp.
     Remove the tails from the shrimp.
     Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add the peeled shrimp.
     Saute till the shrimp become a little bit more than halfway cooked.
     Add enough creole sauce to smother the shrimp.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.

     Remove the bay leaf from the sauce.
     Form a ring of the plain white rice on a plate.
     Spoon and mound the shrimp creole in the center of the rice ring.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     Hooooo Dawgy!  This is shrimp creole the way that shrimp creole is supposed to be!  The flavors are fresh and delicious.  The complex seasoning mixture has a true Louisiana flavor.  The trinity of onion, peppers and celery is what gives creole sauce its signature flavor.  The shrimp are tender and plump, because they are cooked to order with the sauce!  The crevettes a la creole in the pictures had enough cayenne pepper to give a nice comfortable after burn!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The 2012 Sysco Food Show at Cashman Center, Las Vegas!

     This article was edited on 9-1-2014.  A slide show was added!

The Sysco Food Show!

     Sysco is one of the largest food purveyors and distributers in America.  Sysco does food shows in nearly every major city from coast to coast.  Las Vegas is the convention capitol of the world and this city is the number one food destination in the world, so the Las Vegas Sysco Food Show at Cashman Center was a major culinary event!

     Because the Sysco marketing and demo staff usually have no Las Vegas health cards for food handling, Sysco subcontracted the food handling positions to local companies.  One of the companies was a catering service that employs chef school students for events.  I signed on with the catering company as a certified food handler.  Several other students did the same and we all made a little bit of extra cash.

     At a food show like the Sysco event, all that is required of food handlers is some very basic cooking and food safety knowledge.  A clean presentable uniform, a smiling face and the ability to "meet and greet" is all that is needed.
     Helping the Sysco product marketers to get potential customers interested in the new food items was easy for me to do, because Sysco had some nice new products.  I have been working in the restaurant industry for a long time and I have knack for getting people interested in food.  While cooking the demo food, using honest descriptive phrases that describe the quality of the product seemed to work best.  When an interested customer started inquiring asking about serious matters concerning prices, sales potential or availability, I directed the customer to the Sysco representative that I was working with.  Working as a demo food preparer at a Sysco convention is a fun "piece of cake job!"

     The photos above only show a small portion of the food products that were on display ay the Sysco Food Show.  Cashman Center is a very large convention facility that is easy to navigate, but I could not wander too far away from my demo cooking duties while on break.  I chose to just take pictures of the food that was nearby in the convention hall.

     There was an Angus Beef display area at the far end of the convention hall that I would have liked to have seen while at the Sysco Food Show.  The delicatessen meat section was nearby.  Those are two items that are fun to taste and sample.
     Sampling is the key to a good food show.  Every item at the Sysco food show was free to taste.  "See food, eat food" is an old expression.  "Let them get interested in new food products and let them buy food" is a better food convention expression!
     It is impossible to sample every food item at a grand scale food product convention.  Most shop by sight alone.  When they see a food item that presents quality or a pre-prepared food product that could potentially create customer interest, then the sampling begins.  The people that tasted the food products were impressed.  Many purchased the food products for their businesses on the spot and delivery was arranged.  Since modern communications technology was used to log every sale, the entire process only took a few minutes and the food products actually could be delivered the same day or whatever date the customer chose.

     I must admit that many of the potential customers grazed the food at the Sysco Food Show just like the event was an endless buffet!  That is okay, because later, those same customers remember the items that they liked and they inquire about those items through their own establishment's Sysco sales reps.  Sysco sales reps that cover a region or route are very easy to work with.  Busy chefs often lag behind, when trying to keep up with the latest food purveyor products.

     The regional Sysco sales reps often present new food items that can effectively create solutions, especially when efficiency is the operational goal.  For example, a restaurant that only has access to an unskilled workforce or a restaurant that a high customer flow ratio and the kitchen facility is too small, are candidates for purchasing pre-prepared food products that require no prep work or raw food inventory.  When kitchen space or food quality control is a factor, the pre-preared food items that Sysco offers are a viable solution.

     A food show is an enterprising venture, both for the marketers and potential customers.  Food shows are fun to attend and attendance is usually by invitation or registration.  Because the group of us students were hired to safely handle the food, we got to attend the Sysco Food Show for free.  We actually got paid to attend this fun event!
     As a chef, manager or restaurateur, attending food show conventions is a necessity.  Shaking hands and promoting business is part of the deal, while attending a food show like the Sysco Convention.  Good publicity never hurts in the restaurant business!  Seeking new food products is a great way to keep a restaurant's customers happy and it good way to stay ahead of the competition.
     If presented with the opportunity to attend a regional Sysco Food Show, then by all means do so.  Bringing a few promising restaurant employees along will certainly help to expand their knowledge.  Food expo events are educational and there are always plenty of new items to check out.  Yum!