March 2021 Challenge - Cajun and Creole

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I kind of feel like this one is cheating, since I made it for the shellfish challenge a while back, and it is so simple and easy. But the "flavor out" versus "effort in" ratio is so favorable!

My favorite hangout in the Before Days was The Bayou, so you can guess what sort of food they served. Every once in a while they would offer mussels as an appetizer, which prompted me to give it a go and try my hand at making some. I really like them, here's today's version.

The Players



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Garlic, white wine, mussels, the Cajun seasoning from the dirty rice post, butter, the trinity.

The Process

Dice the trinity while the stick of butter is melting in the pan. Soak the mussels in some cold water to remove and sand and stuff. Mince the garlic.

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Sweat the trinity in the butter, toss in the garlic once the veggies are soft, add about a tablespoon of the seasoning mix. Add in about a cup or so of the white wine, bring to a boil. Add the mussels. Cover and cook for a few minutes, until the mussels start to open.


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Pull them out and put in a bowl, it took about three or four batches to get the them all open. Just had one dead one. Kind of odd - if they are open before you cook them toss them out. If they are not open after you cook them, toss them out.

Toast some sort of bread.

The Product

Oh man!

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I could chug a gallon of that broth! These are so good. And yes, I had to toast more bread.

I am happy.

mjb.
 
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I couldn't pass up this competition. I started learning to cook when I fell in love with Paul Prudhomme's style of Cajun/New Orleans food, and I've cooked this kind of food reasonably regularly ever since -- thirty years now. Now about twenty years back, my wife and I visited New Orleans. My late father-in-law was then cooking in somewhat dubious professional kitchens around the French Quarter and the Garden District, and while the three of us were eating (in the now-departed Uglesich's, if memory serves), I found myself wondering what an observant Jew would eat in the city, since everything has shrimp, crab, oysters, etc., or if it's meat it invariably has piles of butter. Then I had this strange notion: what if there had been a biggish Jewish settlement in the city right from the late 19th century, as there was with so many other groups? And it being close to Passover at the time, I thought, what would New Orleans gefilte fish look like?

A lot of people don't realize that "gefilte Fisch" is literally "stuffed fish." In the old days, you'd stuff a salmon with whitefish or pike or carp, herbs, and so on, and you'd serve this whole beautiful thing. What we now know as gefilte fish is essentially just the stuffing, poached in little aspic-y cakes or balls, and unless you get it from a very good delicatessen, it's generally pretty disgusting. You put a pile of fresh horseradish with it, largely to cover up the nastiness, but the fact is that the spicy thing goes quite well with the fish.

Maybe you can see where I'm going with this? But I'm doing it backwards: I'm not serving 20 people or something, so a whole salmon is out, and besides where the heck would I cook it? So the idea is to make a salmon stuffing and pack it into a white fish (in this case a haddock), but to season the stuffing in a full-blooded Prudhomme style. I can use all the butter I want, because under kashrut you can mix milch (dairy products) with fish but not fleisch (meat products).

Of course, it being Passover starting tonight, there can't be flour, bread, etc. I'm substituting in matzoh meal.

I did a sorta-okay version of this about 20 years ago, but I wasn't a good enough cook to pull it off properly. Now that my kids are old enough to eat spicy food and like it, and I happen to see that the ChefTalk monthly competition is Cajun/Creole in the same month as Passover starts... well, it's like fate.

Stuffing

A big old pile of trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper), caramelized a long time in a big skillet, with butter and Cajun seasoning mix (based on Prudhomme's standard: salt, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, garlic powder, white pepper).
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Once it's well browned, another pile of trinity goes in. Then fresh garlic, and some water to deglaze.
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Then in goes diced salmon.
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When it's starting to dry, in goes 1/2 cup of matzoh meal and some scallion. When it's on the verge of burning, half a stick of butter. Finally another half cup of matzoh meal. Stir, correct seasoning, and chill thoroughly.
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Fish
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This is a good-sized haddock. I find it infinitely easier to fillet fish than to bone them out whole, but despite that I did it. Cleaned, boned out, and ready to go.
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Then I sprinkled the cavity with just a little cajun seasoning mix and packed the thing well with stuffing. Then back in the fridge to chill well.
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Final Preparation

I blitzed some matzoh meal with more herbs -- the same mix, but no salt -- to get a fine texture more like flour (which, remember, I can't use).
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The whole fish got dusted, then dipped in a milk-egg wash, then more "flour." Shallow-fried for just a few minutes, to get a nice brown color and crispy surface, then into a hot oven for 20 minutes to cook through. (The frying did not work particularly well: as I'd predicted, the fish promptly opened up and the stuffing started coming out; if I do it again I'll have to come up with some way around this.)
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Then a simple plating and garnish, yielding...

New Orleans Gefilte Fish
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chrislehrer chrislehrer What an awesome take on this months challenge! Very very cool! I just wish you had describe what you thought of it.. after having attempted something in this line of thought 20 years ago.
 
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Sneaking in one last dish. I don't think I am going to get my blackened tofu po boy done in time.

The Players


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The gods may smite me for using Chinese crayfish instead of Louisiana, but out here in Salt Lake there isn't much choice. And I'll be adding tomatoes, a Creole touch.

The Process

First you got to make a roux.

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I'm doing a butter based roux, will be taking it to about the peanut color stage.

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That looks about right, add the trinity and about half the can of maters.

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Once the veggies get softened up a bit, add some chicken stock. I meant to try and find some cooked mud bugs at one of the local markets to make crawfish stock, didn't get around to doing that. But had some chicken stock I recently made. Added some of that and a healthy tablespoon of the Cajun spice mix I made earlier this month.

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Brought it up to a good simmer, let it go for a while, maybe 20 minutes or so. Took the crayfish tails out of the bag, rinsed them with some of the chicken stock, getting all the fat out of the bag. Dumped it all in the pot, let it come to a simmer. Had a pot of plain white rice going on the back burner.

The Product

Oh man, this is pretty tasty.

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I am pretty sure this is the first time I've made crawfish etouffee, and I am pretty sure this is not the last time I will make crawfish etouffee!

mjb.
 
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Sweet!
Sorry, didn't manage to use my celery for a sauce piquante....
Maybe tomorrow, but that's too late for this challenge
 
2,418
422
Joined Oct 9, 2008
chrislehrer chrislehrer What an awesome take on this months challenge! Very very cool! I just wish you had describe what you thought of it.. after having attempted something in this line of thought 20 years ago.
It was delicious, no question about that. The stuffing probably should have included an egg or two to bind it together for the frying. Maybe next year I'll give that a go -- definitely worthwhile!
 
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Joined Oct 23, 2008
Well.. like so many months anymore this one flew by. It's time to pick someone to carry the torch and get us moving on another challenge.

I was surprised to see a few dishes that were out of the box for sure! Butzy as always put up some great dishes and I love that you grew your own peanuts (ground nuts as you call them) and made Cajun boiled peanuts!

But it was obvious that one member really lived in this challenge week after week! Not just in the shear number of entries but with the depth of effort; even pickling pork and smoking tasso ham. So this month's winner is teamfat teamfat - thanks to all that participated in the March challenge. Look forward to seeing where we are headed for April.
 
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Joined Nov 5, 2007
Wow. thanks! It was some extra work to make the building blocks for my dishes, but I will say that home made tasso was well worth the effort.

As usual I have a few themes in mind, will post up the new challenge soon.

mjb.
 
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