Learn to cook like a Cajun and develop your own style with help from south Louisiana cook and humorist, Jacques Gaspard, who's been cooking great Cajun foods for nearly 50 years. Learn how to prepare the best gumbos, seafood, jambalaya, stews, salads and deserts – the way they were originally prepared – pure and simple. Besides great original recipes you will discover a hodgepodge of stories, recordings, music, videos and humorous anecdotes to entertain. So enjoy! ... Ahheee!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Plastic Bottles and Light Bulbs

Did you know the U.S. trashes over 2 billion plastic bottles every year and that number is growing? And, did you know that less than 12 percent of all the plastic in North America is recycled?

This stuff has been around for a century (literally), and it is not biodegradable. So, that means it could stick around for many more centuries - we just don't know, yet?

Landfills are 'filling-up' and closing in record numbers. We are constantly looking for new places to dump our trash, yet we certainly do not want to live near those nasty dumps, do we?

Did you know that the energy saved by using recycled plastic to shape and manufacture another plastic bottle, instead of making a new one from scratch, can run a 60-watt light bulb for 6 hours. Imagine that!

And imagine how much more light you could harvest if you used those new-fangled compact fluorescent bulbs.

I accidentally stumbled on this informative website last night that I bookmarked for my own future reference which I want to share with you. It is chock-full of informative articles and practical advice about family living, whether it's managing a garden, raising kids, or going through a painstaking divorce, The Professor's House is definitely worth a visit.

You can also find out more information, as I did, about the environmental impact of plastics on our planet.

Hmmm? Let's see? One plastic bottle and a 60-watt light bulb for 6 hours, eh? There are 12 light sockets in my apartment so that means ... I would need? Wait a second! ... I would need? ... let me think. I think I would need around a truck-load to run all the lights in my apartment for about a month.

Catch ya later! Have a great weekend.

PS. Speaking of trash, I thought you might find the following video a little amusing.







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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hickory Smoke Brine Formula

Want to make your next barbecue a huge success? Here is a simple formula you can use to do just that. You will have your dinner guests complimenting you on the wonderful hickory taste of your meal and it is sooo easy to do ... (did I mention that we love 'pure and simple' ways to prepare foods?)

Brine Formula: (for beef, pork or chicken)

  • distilled water, tepid
  • sea salt, (or salt without iodine)
  • 1 lb. dark brown sugar
  • 4 oz. Colgin liquid smoke, (natural hickory)
  • 1 fresh uncooked egg, in shell 

You will want to combine all of the above ingredients in a non-reactive vessel (glass, plastic, porcelain or stainless steel). I've used the bottom pan of my refrigerator for this from time-to-time and it works well.

In whatever soaking vessel you choose, you will add your meats and enough water to cover it by a couple inches.

Next, remove the meat and set aside a few minutes until you have found out how much salt to add to the brining solution.

You do this by testing it with an uncooked egg. After stirring and dissolving enough salt into the tepid water the raw egg will float to the top. When that happens, remove the egg and put it back in its carton (its job is done), and dissolve the sugar and liquid smoke into solution and re-immerse the meats.

Remember, the longer you let meat soak in the brine solution, the saltier and more smoke-flavored it will become. My aqua-smoke formula, (that's what I like to call it),  was used recently to pre-flavor 2 hind-quarters of a feral hog which I slow roasted in an outdoor cooker. I soaked the meat (around 25 lbs.) for about 24 hours to get the required flavor and it came out great.

Be careful not to over do it by soaking the meats (especially chicken) for too long and with too much salt because you can ruin it. The first time I brined 10 lbs. of chicken quarters over night it turned out to be too salty and smoky and had to be tossed.

So,  use your own good judgment when it comes to brining your meats. The above formula will produce a taste similar to a smoked store-bought ham - without all the fuss.

Here is a guide which you can personally tweak to suit your own taste:

  • 5 - 10 1bs. of chicken quarters -  soak 1 hour
  • 5+  lbs. beef  -  soak overnight in the refrigerator
  • 5+  lbs. pork  -  soak 6 - 12 hours or more in the refrigerator

After removing the meat from the brine solution lightly rinse your cuts with regular tap water and pat dry with paper towels before placing them on the barbecue grill. You can proceed grilling your meat in the usual fashion knowing that you are going to enjoy a savory hickory-smoked meal when you are finished (saves you money on buying expensive and special charcoal, too).


Reminder: The number one rule for chicken is less salt and less soaking time. The flesh of chicken is less dense and more stringy (my words) than the flesh of beef or pork and is able to absorb the solution more quickly. Nothing is more embarrassing than having to tell your guests that you screwed-up their meal, right? (I humbly speak from personal experience.)


Enjoy! ... Couchon! Lache pas la pomme! ... Ahheee!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Cast Iron Blackened Catfish Filets

Ingredients

2 (7 - 12 oz) catfish fillets (8" - 10" in length)
1 measure of DIY Cajun Seasoning  
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
2 Tbs peanut oil
1/4 lb. butter
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Melt the butter, mix it with half of the dry ingredients and the lemon juice and pour it into a casserole dish. Coat the fillets on both sides well and set aside until you are ready to blacken them.

This recipe calls for a seasoned #10 cast-iron skillet. You can buy 'em for $15 - $20 at your nearest discount department store and they should last several life times if maintained correctly.

In fact, you can find out how to 'season' your own cast iron skillets and pots, similar to the way the Cajuns did it in the old days, by visiting a site I discovered recently called What's Cooking America. Here is an excerpt from one of their informative articles about cast iron cookware:
  
"The first most common mistake of why people do not like cast iron is that they say everything sticks. If food sticks to your cast iron pan, your pan is NOT seasoned right and you need to re-season it. Cast iron is a natural non-stick surface and if your pan is seasoned correctly it WILL NOT stick!" 

Now, I know that some folks will find that hard to believe, but they are telling you the truth. There are a few rules you may have to learn along the way when caring for your cast iron cookware, like not using harsh detergents or chemicals to clean them. Doing that can take the seasoning right off and start the iron to oxidizing and then you find yourself with a rusty pot.

Cast iron cookware users find different methods to keeping their irons in tip-top shape. I've used heat, ice and even salt on occasions to clean my cast iron pots and pans.

Enough of that. What you want to do is to spoon in the 2 Tbsp of peanut oil and let the metal pot get very hot. Peanut oil has a higher flash point than the other oils, like canola and seed oils, so it can take higher temperatures,  plus it coats the bottom of the hot skillet better than traditional oils to form a barrier between the iron and the fish.

You will notice when your cast iron skillet gets hot enough to add the fillets by watching for when the peanut oil begins to smoke. When that happens the buttered and seasoned fillets are ready for the pan.

With one hand remove a fillet from the buttered dish and, on both sides,  lightly sprinkle half of the remaining dry seasoning with the other hand. Gently lay the catfish fillets onto the hot skillet, leaving room enough for the second fillet and then repeat the process. It's a snap to do when you get the hang of it (kinda like poetry in motion).

Cook on both sides for about 3 to 4 minutes (you only get to flip them once). After that take the cast- iron skillet away from the heat source and allow it to cool for a couple minutes before moving the blackened fillets to the serving dishes.

This meal goes well with a chilled Gulf of Mexico (wild) shrimp salad with Italian croûtons and a light and creamy buttermilk dressing ... and, perhaps to top it off,  ... a bottle of fine Beaujolais just for contrast.

"Red wine with fish",  you ask?

Well, yes. I've always maintained that if we can blacken a perfectly normal fish,  then we can certainly drink red wine to toast the occasion.


Bon Appetit!  Ahheee!!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Homemade Habanero Flavored Potato Chips



Are you tired of paying high-prices for specialty potato chips? Here is a simple way to make you own, on the cheap, by transforming an ordinary russet potato (Fig. 1) into a batch of tasty homemade custom chips (Fig. 2)

This is what you will need:

  • 1 large russet potato, sliced into 1/8" slices
  • 8 ripe habanero peppers, finely chopped
  • 1/2 quart of water
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice, from concentrate
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • deep-fat fryer
  • peanut oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by dissolving the salt and lemon juice in the half-quart of water, add the chopped habanero peppers,  stir and mix thoroughly. Next, slice the potato and add the slices to the solution and soak for 30 minutes.

Set your deep fryer at 375 degrees F., allow to heat-up, then add your potato slices. Keep an eye on your chips closely. When they have floated to the top and turned into a golden-brown color they are done.

Remove them to a paper towel to soak-up any excess oil. Lightly sprinkle your chips with your choice of seasonings. I like to add finely ground onion powder and cayenne pepper to mine.

Peanut oil makes a much tastier chip, but you can fry them in other oils as well.

Note: You can substitute a less volatile kind of pepper, like jalapeños, if habaneros are too intimidating to the taste buds and palate.

À votre santé! ... (to your health!)  Ahheee!!


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Lemony Fried Catfish Nuggets

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. fresh catfish fillets
  • 1/2 gallon of distilled water
  • 1 pint of lemon juice, from concentrate
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • seasoning
  • peanut or canola oil


Instructions:

Dissolve the lemon juice and sea salt in the distilled water using a non-reactive container and soak the catfish fillets for no more than 1 hour.

Test the lemon flavor by using part of one fillet. Cut a few nuggets and dredge the wet morsels in your seasoned flour/cornbread mixture then deep fry at 350 degrees F. until golden brown. By testing the first few nuggets for tartness, you will be able to gauge the strength of the lemon flavor in your fish and make the necessary adjustments.

If the first 'test' batch is a little too tart for your particular taste, you can lightly rinse the rest of the fillets off in clear running tap water for a few seconds to further dilute the lemony flavor. (Don't over rinse.)

The amount of oil you use to cook your nuggets will depend on you. You will need at least enough oil to fry one side of the nuggets at the time -- which also means you will have to turn them over at the proper time to equally fry them on the other side (around 3 to 4 minutes per side).

I personally like the taste of peanut oil so I use it when I can. During a recent event I used an electric 2 gallon deep-fryer and cooked the catfish nuggets at the stated temperature until they floated to the top. That is when I know they are thoroughly cooked.

Last weekend my friends and I cooked up about 40 lbs. of fresh catfish fillets using a couple of different methods and techniques, including this one.

The lemon-flavored nuggets were the most popular. By preparing the nuggets this way I didn't have to use 'lemon-pepper' to season the fish -- just lemon flavor without the pepper. It is especially convenient for those folks who are spice intolerant. And those who do love spices can add their own after the nuggets are fried. Everyone at the dinner table becomes a winner.

You should try this simple way of preparing your next batch of fish. These Lemony Fried Catfish Nuggets will certainly become a big hit at your next party.

Bon Appetit! Ahheee!!


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Cajun Song from the Movie 'Southern Comfort'



Please Read this First

Southern Comfort, the movie, was released in 1981. It became a very popular movie among the Cajuns because it manage to capture and harness that mystical sense of cultural pride and the common bonds shared by the Acadians who live along the swamps and bayous of southern Louisiana. That centuries-old neighborliness does still flourish there today. The bad guys in the movie were eventually defeated in the end and that is something which plays well in my book.

This film clip shows a typical Cajun fais do-do, (pronounced FAY-DOE-DOE), which usually includes the serving of foods like gumbo, bar-b-que, pig roasts, beans, potato salad, ... cold beer ... the list gets larger ... and of course,  a boucherie where fresh pork sausage and boudin is made right there on the spot.

In the old days fais do-do celebrations marked special occasions, like anniversaries, milestone birthdays, and extended family reunions. It is not unusual for hundreds of people to attend such events -- all from one common family tree.

The places which were selected for the events usually included a dance hall of some sort ... possibly an old barn or vacant cabin, ... or under large tents ... and often times near water channels like bayous and edges of the swamp, many of 'em could be similar to the backdrop seen through the eyes of Corporal Harding as he gazes out from inside the dance barn.

In my search for decent Cajun themes in modern movies, I found that this one may have presented a slight overkill about the way Cajuns take care of things, but it didn't lack for good scenery. It was as close to the real thing that I could find, except maybe for this one low-budget film called "Little Chenier" written, produced and directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf and released in 2006.

In my mind it's kind of a toss-up between the two, as far as natural landscape scenery goes, and probably deserves more side-by-side comparisons before a final determination is made.

"Little Chenier" was slightly predictable. The creators of that film used a mildly retarded character, skillfully portrayed by actor Frederick Koehler, as a focal point for their good vs. evil story plot. It was done simply and on the cheap, yet it simply managed to invoke a bit of nostalgia in me which I enjoyed.

The photographers in that piece did an exceptional job with what they had on hand  --  a cornucopia of natural swamp scenes which painted the landscape in the area of their filming and to which no artist, if it were a canvas, other than God Himself, could re-create.

It's such a pity there aren't more movies made in Cajun country. Good ones!

All of the graphics and scenes grow freely and naturally in full glory. Everything a movie producer would need is already there like an open book -- just fill in the blanks with good script, actors and cameras and voila! ...  you've got another movie. Don't forget the mosquito repellent, tho.

The clip shown here marks a turning point in the movie for the characters of its top billing actors, Keith Caradine and Powers Booth.

After certain members of their squad played a childish prank on the locals it caused all hell to break loose in the Louisiana swamps.

Commanded by a paranoid Corporal Hardin, played by Booth, (and in this scene with a devil-may-care Pfc. Simms), portrayed by Caradine, the military guys suddenly find themselves in the middle of a Cajun hoedown, in hot pursuit by angry men who want to kill them, and the question eventually comes down to how can they escape the threat of immediate danger by pushing forward and forging through an equally dangerous swamp -- will they make it?

As the guards try to find a way out of their unexpected predicament, the story pits a fierce clan of deep-swamp Cajun men against an entire dispatch of weekend warriors carrying only blank cartridges in their weapons. I'll let you guess who wins?

But, it's the ambiance, especially during this particular scene, which I wanted to share with you anyway, because it correctly depicts the festive get-together which were so typical of the ones I grew-up around when I was a kid, and not so much the story's content. I hope you enjoy the fais do-do part and the Cajun French song (please don't ask me what the words mean).

A WORD OF CAUTION: For those of you with queasy stomachs, you may want to look away during the final seconds of the clip when a hog is put down for the boucherie.

Written and directed by Michael Kane, David Giler and Walter Hill, along with a cast of talented actors, (Autry, Ward, Coyote, Seales, Smith),  this movie strongly accents the message that one should not mess around with Cajuns and their way of life.

Although a bit presumptuous, the movie's timing was alright as it created wonderful fodder for the locals to talk about for generations to come. It evolved into a true Cajun cult classic.

I can almost hear a typical conversation now,  ... "there was a movie that was made 'bout us. Yep, it's true! ... just a couple miles south of here ... look over there ... from here you can see that part of the bayou where they did the filming. See the bend by that crooked oak tree over there ... look to the left ...".

But, in the overall grand scheme of things,  this film managed to create an image of Acadiana which became a little more noticeable and a tiny bit larger on the world scene than she had prior to its release. So, that was a plus.

At the same time it gave us yet another rare peek into the everyday lives of Cajuns living along the bayous and swamps of south Louisiana. (Did I mention the mosquito spray?)

CYL (catch you later)  Ahheee!!

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cacklin Cracklins

In a microwavable bowl add the following:

  • chicken skin of 1 med. fryer
  • salt and pepper to taste

On high, microwave the chicken skin until most of the oil is rendered out.

I usually cook mine for about 10 minutes, drain off the fat,  and continue on for another 3 to 5 minutes. Use you own judgment because each oven is different. If you cook the skin for too long it will burn. If you don't cook it long enough it will remain pliable and not crispy as cracklings should be.

If you are preparing a gumbo using powdered gumbo roux you may add the chicken oil (fat) to the gumbo for flavoring and cook it along with the other meats and vegetables, stirring occasionally.

When the gumbo is finished, the oil from the chicken skin will rise to the top. Take a few clean paper towels and soak-up the oil and discard the towels. The roux in the gumbo will have absorbed the wonderful chicken flavor and you can still get rid of the fat.

If you have rendered the chicken skin correctly, without burning it,  it will turn into delicious craklings for you and your guests to snack on while your gumbo is brewing. Break it apart and pass it around. It goes great with a couple cold brewskeys. Try it! I bet you will like it.

(I like to add a little cayenne pepper to my cacklin' cracklins.)

Ahheee!!  C'est bonne!

KT
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