Cooking Louisiana - Newsletter - December 2003

Bonjour and Happy Holidays my fellow home chefs! 

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The Christmas Holiday in South Louisiana brings family together to midnight mass on Christmas Eve with "Le Reveillon" (the awakening)
Here's a short article about this long time tradition. [Click Here]

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Soup season is upon us with the arrival of the Old Man Winter. Soups are light and heartwarming, and, can be very healthy. Different regions of the globe have their different varieties of soup and I would think there are thousands of different recipes for soup. Most soups naturally take the flavors of the region from which they come.

We take soups for granted today because they are so easy to purchase at the grocery. Heck, you can even whip up a homemade soup in less than 2 hours! If we look back in time several hundred years ago and we'll certainly see a different story. 

The word "soup" comes from the word "sop", you know like "sop the gravy", in which a piece of bread is dipped in a pot of remaining juices in a dish. The first soup reportedly dates back to 6000 B.C. More currently (1500's or so) the New World travelers made soups, but, not for the reasons we do. Back then the soup was the final exercise in using every morsel of food available (available food and hunger was an everyday concern). Animal bones (seafood and livestock) were used, and, with a twofold purpose; residual pieces of meat were extracted, and, the bone marrow was extracted as the bones were normally broken before going into the pot. You could call this little process the making of a classic stock. Vegetables were thrown in and there you had it, a soup.

The soup was a good way to keep foods from spoiling. Historically the big kettle was hung over a fire and would be kept hot for extended periods of time, sometimes days or more. The early folks would just keep adding water and when another ingredient was acquired it could go into the soup. As you can imagine creativity was not the objective, this was survival. Through this simple survival technique came a dish that was considered "fit for the King" in many settings.   

You ever heard of "Portable Soup"? No, it wasn't a can of soup, try again [we're talking about the years gone by here]. Soup would be cooked down until it was extremely thick. At the proper point the soup was removed from the fire and cooled.  The final result was a dense cake of condensed soup that could be wrapped and brought on long trips by land and sea. When it was time to eat, a pot of water was heated and the "Portable Soup" was tossed in.

Today we still enjoy soup but the variations are almost unlimited. You ever cooked a soup for the holidays? Why not? Our holiday meals are usually very heavy, you know, meat and potatoes type heavy. Consider this... Cook a soup two days before Christmas, then, save some on the side [freeze the rest] for a light go-between. It's a refreshing, simple and small taste of good food that just "hits the spot" on a cold day.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Vegetable Beef Soup
Vegetable Chicken Soup
Oyster Soup 
Potato Soup

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Onions, Celery and Bell Pepper, The Trinity as they are known, are the beginning of many a fine dish here in South Louisiana. In my 30 years of cooking (I'm 48) I've always cooked these vegetables down until they were almost mush. Why, because that's the way I learned to do it from the old folks. I see so many recipes that instruct to sauté the vegetables until they are wilted. Some people take that as just  becoming translucent, not so. Wilted is wilted, and that's almost mush. Translucence is achieved quickly and can leave the vegetables somewhat al dente.  Even my recipes indicate cooking the veggies in 30 minutes or so. In actuality (depending upon the amount) this process can take up to a few hours. 

My point is that  you can take this additional step to make your dish even better. I'm sure you've heard or read stories about all day cookouts us Cajuns do. I'll tell you this... it's not surprising for a big pot of jambalaya to be started at 6:00 in the morning to be eaten for lunch. Much of the time is taken up cooking the vegetables!

One more thing... garlic... If you're browning onions, or even the trinity, don't put the garlic in until the other veggies are almost done. If you burn garlic you've ruined it. Garlic is best very lightly browned.

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Contrary to popular belief cooking a duck you missed
 is no harder than cooking a redfish that got off the line!

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If you haven't heard Teflon® pan coatings can be dangerous if not treated properly. The big danger comes from overheating (over 500ºF) as fumes from the coating could begin to appear. If you have a pan whose Teflon® coating is chipping you needn't worry according to Dupont® and the FDA. The particles are not dangerous at normal temperatures.  Read more from Dupont here. I will continue to use my non-stick pots and pans.

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If you haven't purchased that special gift for your "Man Chef" you may want to read this.

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Louisiana Cookin' is a fun-filled magazine with stories and recipes from the people who make Louisiana’s cuisine so famous. Each of the 6 issues during the year includes articles on food-related topics from the home cook to famous restaurants; Cajun, Creole and all in between … all with simple recipes. Also, articles on traveling throughout Louisiana and beyond brings our readers ideas on the best places to stay, dine and festivals to attend, with recipes included. Along with the tasty articles and recipes appearing in each issue, regular features included in this unique magazine are a calendar of food-related events, Gumbo Crossword Puzzle, quick and easy and low fat recipes.

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Be sure to visit the "What's New" page to see all of the site's new additions.
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Holiday recipes.....
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Duck and Andouille Gumbo

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Elois's Cornbread Dressing
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Grandma Crochet's Bread Pudding
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Barbecue Bonanza
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Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Amour à faire cuire, aimer manger (Love to cook, love to eat!)

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Cooking is sharing and sharing is love, Cajuns just love to share! Cook often and keep the tradition!

 
 

 

 

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