Louisiana holds great memories for me. I was young, just married, totally in love (now married 30 years and counting) and hosting my own TV cooking show. Crawfish were always a popular topic, and I had more than a few stories to tell. I am not sure if everyone was laughing with me or at me, but it was a really fun time and I was too young to care which. Dave and I ate some of the best food on the planet in our neighbor’s homes. Seasoning food to perfection was an art my neighbors had grown up on. Two elderly sisters opened their home for reservations. We arrived at 7 pm and were directed to one of the three small tables set up in the living room. While this may sound a little unorthodox, they served some of the most exquisitely seasoned seafood ever. Here is my favorite crawfish etouffee recipe adapted from “taste tests” of my Louisiana neighbor’s best . I always prepare it in the microwave because it comes out perfectly. Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients. It goes together faster than fast (as in 15 minutes once I had all the ingredients out). In Louisiana some of the best ettouffee is just butter and seasonings meant to go over the rice. Omit the flour if you want and instead of a sauce, you will have a seasoned butter mixture to spoon over the rice. Both ways its amazingly simple and pure Louisiana.
- Crawfish Ettouffee
- ¼ cup butter
1 cups chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 6 ozs peeled crawfish
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp chicken base from a jar
½ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoons chopped green onions
- Cooked Rice
· In a 2-qt glass dish, Microwave (high) 2 tablespoons of the butter.
· Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and Microwave (high) 4 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
· Add the crawfish, garlic, and bay leaves and Microwave (high) 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining butter and stir until mostly melted.
· Dissolve the flour in the water. Add to the shrimp mixture. Stir in chicken base and Worcestershire sauce.
· Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cayenne. Microwave (high) 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once until mixture is thickened.
· Stir in the parsley and green onions.
· Serve warm along with Rice.
When I came home from Africa, I said that I was never going to go back to the way I was. I was going to dance like no one was watching, sing like no one could hear, love like I had never been hurt, work like I didn’t need the money, and cook all the kinds of foods they eat in Africa - whole grains, fresh produce and very little Americanized salty, high fat and low nutrient foods. I found the Malawi people were so joyous and loving even in the midst of horrible suffering from AIDS and famine. I learned from my Malawi friends, who had suffered so much, to love and live and be in Christ more fully, a little bit more living in the joy of the presence of God.
I taught AIDS Prevention, Health Awareness, and Nutrition Essentials to women in a rural village in Malawi. There were no amenities like running water, electricity or anything like that, but the village was filled with love. After my teaching, the women asked me what I do in the US. I told them I had a TV cooking show. They wanted me to cook for them, so we agreed that they would teach me to cook their foods the first day and I would cook the second day. They made me some wonderful local food and then told me they wanted me to make a cake for them. That was a tall order: There was no white flour, butter, sugar or vanilla in the village. I traveled a few hours by van to the nearest town with a little market to buy these things. I used pineapples grown in the village and eggs laid by the scrawny chickens that scratched for food. The only cooking method in the village was a wood fire in an open pit in the center of the village. I asked the native women to build a fire for me that was the same temperature as how they cooked their corn flour flatbreads the day before. There were only a couple of cooking pots in the village so they ran to bring one to me. I put a little butter and brown sugar in the bottom of the pan and let the heat from the fire melt the butter. I cut up a pineapple and placed slices in the butter mixture and topped it all with a batter. I did not have any recipes with me or any internet access so I just had to dream up a recipe. Once it was all in the pan, we put a lid on the pan and the ladies place a few hot coals on the lid so it would bake like a dutch oven. The pineapple pannekuchen turned out amazing. We all ate with our fingers right out of the pan. It was slightly sweet and full of pineapple custard goodness. The picture above shows our cooking “show”. This is my favorite cooking class of all time.
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 fresh pineapple rings
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt butter in a 12-inch round baking dish, stir in brown sugar. Arrange pineapple rings in brown sugar mixture. Combine milk, vanilla, eggs, flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl just until well mixed. Pour over pineapple. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until puffed around the edges and lightly browned.
I cannot imagine what the women on the plains felt like in a little cabin 100 years ago, but I promise it is a really different experience for me. Last week the high was 30 below and I stayed close to the cabin. It was cozy and fun and I had lots of time to play around with one of my favorite ingredients – sourdough. I had days to work out the kinks in my sourdough and perfect it. I found that it works best when it has lots of time to sit out on the counter and the more often I used it, the more vibrant it became. I am sure the plains women knew everything there was to know about their starter because it was a really precious commodity. There was no way to get more from a neighbor when a blizzard was raging and the miles between farmsteads probably made running over the neighbors to get a “bit” of starter an all-day process. What those pioneer women did have was plenty of time to allow the sourdough to ferment and proof. Here is a simple recipe that yields spectacular results on most days and, when your sourdough has been neglected and is sick, adequate loaves that shortened the hungering time that invariably was a part of the pioneer experience.
Combine the following and let stand covered for 8 to 12 hours or overnight:
2/3 cup starter
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups white flour
Add these ingredients to the starter mixture to make final dough:
1 1/2 cups water
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups white flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons salt
Combine all ingredients until a wet dough is formed. Knead by hand or mixer for 5 to 10 minutes or in the food processor for 90 seconds or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a covered bowl and allow to ferment for 2 1/2 hours at about 80 degrees. Deflate dough by gently pushing down center and pulling sides of dough in. Turn over and cover. Let it sit in a warm place (80 degrees) for 1/2 hour. Turn out on a floured area and knead 2 to 3 times. Shape and place in bread pans. Cover. Let rise in a warm place (80 degrees) for 1 1/2 hours. If area is a little cooler, let rise up to twice as long. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, Decrease heat to 425 degrees and bake for 20 minutes longer or until thermometer inserted in the loaf center reads 190 degrees. Let cool on a rack before slicing.
Makes l large loaf or two small loaves