Cook Like a Cajun

These four recipes will send your tastebuds to New Orleans.

Crabmeat and Artichoke Gratin

[SERVES 8]

1 pound lump crabmeat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced celery
2 fresh artichoke bottoms, sliced or cut in wedges
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons sherry
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
Salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, and lemon juice to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs mixed with olive oil, melted butter, and parsley
1/2 cup grated grana or reggiano cheese

1. Carefully pick over the crabmeat for shells; set aside.

2. In a medium sauté pan, heat oil and butter until bubbling; then add onion and celery. Cook for 2 minutes. Then add artichoke pieces and continue to cook; keep stirring for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir. Then sprinkle in flour, and mix. Pour in sherry, add milk, and whisk to mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil; then add cream and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add more cream if sauce is too thick. When sauce achieves a good consistency, add crabmeat and stir to incorporate. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in mustard and scallions, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

3. Pour into eight ramekins (or use gratin dishes). Top with crumb mixture and cheese. Then bake at 375ºF for about 10 minutes, or broil until brown and bubbly.

Bayona Crispy-Smoked-Quail Salad

[SERVES 4]

Quail
4 quail (boned)
Marinade (ingredients listed below)
Rice-flour batter (ingredients listed below)

Marinade
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (Indonesian Ketjap Manis)
1/2 cup peanut oil
1 tablespoon bourbon

Rice-flour batter
1 cup rice flour
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper

1. Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Then turn the quail in the mixture to coat completely. Marinate for at least 1 hour.

2. Drain the quail, and cold-smoke them for about 1/2 hour. (To cold-smoke quail, fill the pan inside a portable smoker with ice. Then, under the pan, make a small fire -- just enough so that the chamber fills with smoke. The ice cools the smoke, leaving the quail mostly raw.)

3. Whisk together batter ingredients.

4. Dip quail in batter and deep-fry at 350ºF for 3 to 4 minutes. Cool slightly, and cut each bird into quarters.

Dressing
1 pound quail or chicken bones
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut vinegar (or substitute cider vinegar)
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 cup olive oil
Salt, pepper
1-2 tablespoons bourbon

1. Brown bones in the oven at 375ºF for 10 to 15 minutes. Then place bones in a small pot, and cover with chicken stock. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and let simmer until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup and has a syrupy consistency.

2. Strain liquid into a bowl and whisk in molasses, vinegars, shallots, and oil. Season to taste, and stir in bourbon.

Spiced pecans
1/2 cup pecans
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Melt butter, add pecans and other ingredients, and toss, making sure that pecans are well coated.

2. Spread on a small baking sheet, and roast at 350ºF for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Salad
1/2 pound fresh spinach, cleaned and trimmed
1 ripe pear
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup celery hearts and leaves

To assemble: Combine salad ingredients (except pear), and toss with dressing. Top with quail, pear, and spiced pecans. Drizzle with more dressing.

Crayfish Curry

[SERVES 4]

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart crayfish or shrimp stock
3/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons curry paste
1 pound crayfish tails or raw shrimp
2 zucchini, diced
1 green apple, peeled and diced

1. In a 2-to-3-quart sauce pot, sauté onion, peppers, and garlic in oil over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, while stirring. Sprinkle with flour, stir, and let cook for 2 minutes. Then whisk in stock, pineapple juice, and curry paste.

2. Bring to a boil, whisking continuously. Then turn down heat, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (or a bit longer to get a thicker sauce).

3. Shortly before serving, sauté crayfish tails (or shrimp), apple, and zucchini in a large sauté pan, using a little peanut oil. Cook for about 5 minutes. Then add to curry base, and let simmer for about 5 minutes more.

4. Season with salt and red pepper, or add a bit more curry paste, if necessary. Serve hot with brown basmati rice and your choice of condiments, such as crispy fried onions, chopped nuts, chutney, chopped egg, or toasted coconut.

Coffee Pots de Crème

[SERVES 15]

1 quart heavy cream
1 quart half-and-half cream
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons instant-coffee granules
12 egg yolks, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Combine heavy cream, half-and-half, vanilla bean, and sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Heat over low heat until mixture reaches 180ºF. Add instant coffee, and stir until it dissolves.

2. Temper egg yolks by gradually adding the hot cream to them. Stir in vanilla, and adjust flavoring. Strain.

3. Ladle into ramekins (or custard cups). Cover ramekins and set them in a pan of hot water. Bake at 275ºF for about 40 minutes or until set. (Pots should be firm to the touch, except in the very center.*) Turn off oven, and let pots cool (in oven). Then refrigerate. Serve with whipped cream.

*Check after 30 minutes. Pots should not brown or simmer. If pots seem to be cooking too quickly, you may need to turn the temperature down to 250ºF for the last 10 minutes.

Coordinates: $120 per person (for a one-evening course). Spice Inc., New Orleans, 504-558-9992

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