Crawfish Quiche

June 26, 2017 – Since I hold dual citizenship (born Louisianian, raised Alaskan), I have had the advantage of enjoying some of the best the food world has to offer.

It’s hard to beat fresh king crab and wild-caught Alaska salmon.  Both are at their best when prepared simply.  Butter.  Maybe a little lemon juice on the salmon.

Louisiana’s shrimp, oysters and crawfish are delicious by themselves or in a variety of traditional dishes.  They’re amazingly versatile.  As for oysters, it’s not even necessary to cook them.  Just shuck’em, dip them in a little seafood sauce with a healthy infusion of horseradish, and go to it.  A cold beer on the side doesn’t hurt.

It wasn’t that long ago that crawfish were a wild-caught crop in the Atchafalaya River basin in South Louisiana.  At the same time, Louisiana was full of rice farmers with their well-maintained pools of water.  Crawfish figured out that the rice paddies offered safe homes with a built in food supply.  Farmers noticed an increasing number of crawfish in the rice.

Now add increasing foreign competition for the rice market and smart farmers began to consider crawfish in a different light.  The little, freshwater cousins to the lobster have a brief shelf life.  To accommodate customers hosting crawfish boils, they have to be sold live, usually in 40 pound bags kept as damp as possible.  I used to host the only Mardi Gras party in Anchorage.  Each year a dealer in New Orleans would ship a bag or two overnight.  They would arrive still waving their small claws in the wet, burlap bags.

If not sold live, they should be shelled, the tails cooked and frozen as close to the source as possible.  Like the pound of the little fellows I had in the freezer that I really wanted to taste.

There are so many wonderful ways to use crawfish.  Crawfish pie, etouffee, gumbo.  I’ve eaten and made them all.  I wanted something new.  How about a crawfish quiche?  Sounded good to me.

First, a few confessions.

I risked heresy by making a variation of the Trinity (onion, green pepper, celery).  I sautéed green onions, celery, and mushrooms in a mixture of butter and olive oil.  When they had softened and begun to brown, I added some roasted red pepper and the crawfish just long enough to let them heat through.

The second confession, and I really hate this one.

I didn’t make the pie shell.  I’m not bragging when I say I make great pie crust.  I’m ashamed to say I was just plain lazy this time.  I used a store-bought pie shell.  Even worse, two of them.

And I won’t ever do it again.

The good news is the quiche was just terrific.  The store-bought pie crust wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either.  It just was.

Crawfish Quiche

(Makes two nine inch quiche)

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 green onions, sliced

1 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1 pound crawfish tails

6 eggs, well beaten

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese plus more for topping (mozzarella would work as well)

2  9 inch pie shells

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter and heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.

Saute’ the green onions, celery, and mushrooms until they soften and begin to brown.  Add the roasted red pepper and crawfish.  Mix well with the onions, celery, and mushrooms.  Let the pepper and crawfish heat through.  Remove them from the heat

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly.  Add the cream and one cup of grated cheese.  Stir to mix.

Fold the crawfish mixture into the wet ingredients.

Pour the newly prepared filling equally into the pie shells.

Top with the remaining grated cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted carefully in the center comes out clean.

Bon temps!

 

 

 

Baked Eggs

June 1, 2017 – My first experience with baked eggs was many years ago in London.  Like most Americans, I had heard that British food wasn’t very good.  An unfair condemnation I discovered.  But that’s a discussion for another day.

On this trip I unexpectedly found that breakfast in the UK isn’t good.  It’s great!  And baked eggs became my favorite way to start the day.  In the restaurant of my hotel they were served on a stoneware dish with bacon and half a tomato, all cooked together in the oven.

Now let’s be clear.  I love eggs.  Fried.  Scrambled.  Boiled.  Omelets.  I especially like them basted as Dad used to make them.  To choose a favorite is like arguing that the Cyrillic alphabet is easier to decipher than English.  A waste of energy to consider.

Recently I recalled those baked eggs from my time in London.  I wanted to have them again but perhaps with a twist.

First, baked eggs require ramekins, small porcelain or glass oven-proof bowls.  The filled ramekins must be placed in a shallow, heavy pan of boiling water.  We used a braising pan.  The water bath will allow them to cook gently.  Direct heat would result in something resembling a hockey puck.

For a little something extra, I sautéed green onion, chopped jalapeno and thinly sliced pieces of ham.  This made a nice base on which to rest the eggs.

The ingredients listed in the following recipe are for two ramekins of eggs.  To increase the number of ramekins, just increase the amount of the vegetable and ham base.  Or even better, toss in any of your own favorite ingredients.

Baked Eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

 1 green onion, sliced

1/2 jalapeno, sliced

2 pieces thinly sliced ham, chopped

4 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 tablespoon butter, broken into two pieces

4 eggs

2 oven-proof ramekins

Preheat the oven to 375.

Saute the green onion, jalapeno, and ham in the olive oil over moderate heat until the vegetables are soft and the ham is beginning to become crisp.  Turn them out onto a plate covered with a paper towel and let them set until the oil has mostly drained off.

Fill the pan with about half an inch of water.  Bring to a boil.

Divide the vegetables and ham in the bottom of the ramekins.  Add a tablespoon of heavy cream to each.

Break two eggs into each ramekin, being careful to avoid breaking the yolk.  Top each ramekin with another tablespoon of heavy cream and one small piece of butter.

Set the ramekins in the hot water.  Place the pan in the middle rack of the oven.

Bake for about ten minutes, until the whites are set.  You can adjust the timing for cooking the yolk to your liking.  Keep in mind that the eggs will continue cooking after you remove them from the oven.  Be careful not to overcook.

Let the ramekins cool for up to ten minutes.  Serve the eggs still in the ramekins.  Garnish with a little chopped parsley.

Bon temps!

 

 

Hearty Cabbage Soup with Tasso

May 25, 2017 – Tasso is ham.  But it’s much more than that.  It’s a heavily spiced ham found in Louisiana.  It’s most often used as an ingredient in something rather than a stand alone meat.  With the inclusion of Tasso a pot of beans or a hearty soup transcends the space between good and great.

For me, it’s aspirational to have Tasso on hand at all times.  Or since I’m not often in Louisiana these days, whenever I can get it.  Fortunately it can be ordered online for delivery within a couple of days.

I decided to use one package of the precious ham in a hearty cabbage soup.  I was ready for transcendence.

To introduce even more personality into the soup, my wife sautéed green onions and mushrooms to add to the pot.  Seasoned with a little crushed red pepper, the sautéed vegetables were just the ticket.  It’s important to cook them down before adding them to the soup.  The cooking process releases juices from the vegetables that wouldn’t come out definitively by simmering alone.

The ground cloves provide a “Wow!” factor.  A taste that’s subtle but distinctive.  And close to impossible to pinpoint.

Turnips would also be good in this soup.  I would have used them if I’d had them.

Also you can use dried beans.  But beans from a can are just as good and a lot less trouble.  The older I get the more I look for “…a lot less trouble.”  And it doesn’t matter what kind of beans.  Whatever you have in the pantry will be fine.

“Low and slow” is important with this soup.  Don’t try to rush it.  Simmering on low heat for a long time is key.  We simmered ours for an hour and 45 minutes.

 

Hearty Cabbage Soup with Tasso

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 green onions, sliced

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

Salt, pepper & crushed red pepper to taste

3 quarts water

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces

1 head cabbage

8 ounces Tasso

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon thyme

5 cloves minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 can beans, drained

Saute green onions and mushrooms in olive oil.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper,

Place the potatoes, cabbage, and Tasso in the water.  Add the parsley, thyme, garlic, and ground cloves.

Bring the liquid to a boil.  Add the mushrooms and green onions.

Reduce the heat to low.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Add the drained beans about 15 minutes before the soup is done.

Remove the Tasso and shred it.  It should just fall apart.  Return it to the pot.

Adjust seasonings to taste.

Bon temps!