Cooking Up a Storm

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cookingupastorm_bookJudy Walker is the food editor of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.  She is the co-author of Cooking Up A Storm with Marcelle Bienvenu, a columnist for The Times-Picayune.  After Katrina, the newspaper became the central point for collecting recipes washed away in the storm.  Judy and Marcelle compiled 250 of them in their book. 

Many New Orleanians eat Red Beans & Rice on Monday, what was once called "wash day."  According to tradition, many people eat a large family meal on Sundays, usually one that includes a ham.  The ham bone is then simmered with the rice all day Monday while the laundry is being done.



Red Beans & Rice

1 lb dried red kidney beans (New Orleanians use Camellia beans)
1/2 lb fatty ham or another seasoning meat, such as salt meat, pickle meat, or smoked ham hock
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 or 2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large bay leaf
1 to 2 tsps Creole seasoning
Black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped green onions (green part only)
Hot cooked rice for serving
Hot sauce for serving

Pick over the beans to remove and stones or broken beans.  Soak overnight in a large bowl with about 3 inches of water to cover.  Drain the water, rinse the beans, drain again, and set aside.

Render the ham or seasoning meat in a Dutch oven over medium heat to obtain the fat, then remove the meat and set aside.  Saute the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in the rendered fat, adding a little oil if needed, until softened.  Add the beans, return the meat to the pan, and pour in 8 to 10 cups water, or enough to cover everything by at least a couple of inches.  Bring to a boil.  Add the bay leaf and Creole seasoning to the beans, then reduce to a simmer and gently cook, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours, until the beans are tender.  Add more water while cooking, if necessary.

Toward the end of the cooking time, mash some beans with a spoon against the side of the pot to make the mixture creamier, if desired, and add the salt and pepper to taste, the parsley, and the green onions. If you prefer, use the parsley and green onions as a garnish.  Discard the bay leaf and serve in bowls over white rice.  Pass the hot sauce.

Crawfish Pie

4 Tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1 lb peeled crawfish tails
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons chopped green onions (green part only)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and golden, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add the salt, cayenne and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the crawfish tails and cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until they give off some liquid.

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water then add to the pan.  Stir for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens.  Add the green onions and parsley and stir to mix.  Remove from the heat and let cool for about 30 minutes.

Pour the crawfish mixture into the pie shell.  Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the edges of the pie shell are golden.  Cool for several minutes before cutting into wedges to serve.

Music break: Wheels by Cake