Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Boy it is hot outside.... How bout a salad?

UPDATE:  The day that I posted the original blog, John Mosca, owner of Mosca's, passed away at the age of 86 year old.

For those who know me, you will know that I am not a huge salad person.  My only use for a salad is as a carrier for good things like bacon, cheese, and salad dressing but it is very hot day in New Orleans and a crisp cool salad sounds really good right now.

There are 2 restaurants, one local in New Orleans named Mosca's and the other in Tampa named Columbia, who make my favorite type of salad.  First the lettuce must be cool, crispy... no wilty fancy greens or strong flavored lettuces here.  Both of these restaurants use Romaine or Iceberg.  They also have vinegar/oil based dressings with lots of garlic and spices.  They include basic salad vegetables (carrots, celery, tomato) and some pickle vegetables (olives, pepperocinis).  They also include meat. At Mosca's, fresh Louisiana lump crab meat is used; Columbia uses Ham, turkey or shrimp.  Cheese (Parmesan, Romano or Swiss) is also an important piece of the puzzle...

SO what is better than either of these salads then to COMBINE THEM and add a few of my own touches.

The dressing (very similar to Columbia)

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Olive Oil... use the fanciest that you have... 
1 clove garlic... you can add more if you like really garlicky.  I do not want the garlic to overpower the crabmeat.
1 tsp oregano or italian spice blend (if using one that include garlic and salt... make an adjustment to the salt and garlic)
2 tsp lemon juice
dash of worcestershire sauce...  

The Protein (touch of Mosca's)
1 lb.  Lump crab meat

The Salad (in whatever proportions you like... feel free to add subtract)
Romaine or Iceberg Lettuce
Black Olives
Artichoke Hearts
Cheese... I am using baby swiss julienned and parmesan.

To make the dressing... mix the ingredients...

To make the salad... Toss the vegetables then add the lump crab meat and the dressing then toss gently til the dressing is mixed into the salad.   Be careful not to break up the lumps of crab. 

Once mixed... add the cheese then toss again. 

Instead of crab... this would work in chicken, turkey, ham, shrimp as well... 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cooking for the Parents! Italian Chicken and Sausage Roast

First of all,  my apologies for the long lag in between posts... Have been getting ready for Mardi Gras and designing the Krewe of King Arthur's website and online store.  If you have ever thought about riding in Mardi Gras, check us out!

I am long overdue for a visit to the parents and instead of the normal "take the parents to dinner", I am preparing a dinner and bringing it over.  Tonight is Italian Night... 

I have decided to recreate a dish that my mother used to make for us.  It is extremeIy easy and perfect for a dinner party or get together.  I have seen the dish named many things but I am gonna call it Italian Chicken and Sausage Roast.   The basic ingredients are chicken, italian sausage, and potatoes.  These are roasted in spice/herb infused olive oil.  You can add any other item that roast well including carrots, onions, eggplant, artichokes etc.

You might ask why this recipe is posted in a New Orleans themed cooking blog.  New Orleans has a very large  populations of Italians (Sicilians) so Italian food is very much part of the New Orleans food scene.

1-2 lbs fingerling potatoes (could use small red potatoes)
6-8 cloves peeled garlic
2 medium yellow onions halved or quartered. 
4 chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks w/skin.  Dark meat works best... but you could use one whole cut up chicken.
1 lb. Fresh Italian sausage (i like spicy italian sausage but any type of italian sausage works)
tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning (or Rosemary, Basil and Thyme)
6 oz olive oil

Combine olive oil, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Coat potatoes, chicken, garlic, onions with oil mixture.  Add sausage and mix together, and pour the mixture in a roasting pan. 

Set the Oven on Roast @ 425 degrees and Roast for 30 minutes, then lower heat to 375 degree and cook for another 45 minutes.

Serve with bed for dipping and a drier red wine like a chianti. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Crab and Crawfish Mac and Cheese

MMMMMMmmmmm.... Tasty Good!

Not sure why but I was seriously craving something rich and creamy where I could use some  crabmeat and crawfish that I had in the fridge.  I have had lobster mac and cheese and crawfish mac and cheese at restaurants locally but knew that a little crabmeat could only improve the dish.

For those of you who are familiar with cream sauces, this recipe uses a variation on a cheesy B├ęchamel sauce.  I used to watch my mom make this type of sauce in her Tuna casserole before I knew what it was...

I also made a topping of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese to go on top... before baking.

 The Recipe:
  • 3-4 slices thick smoky bacon (cut across into strips)... you could use sliced smoked sausage with a little bit of olive oil
  • 1/2 medium white onion (chopped)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
  • 5 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Cups of Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp pepper, white pepper (or if you like a lil spicy substitute with 1/2 tsp of cayenne instead)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg... goes really well in cheese sauce
  • 12 oz of shredded mild cheeses ... cheddar, gruyere, fontina, mozzarella, monterey jack or any combination
  • 1/2 lb of lump crabmeat (picked over for cartilage, shells)
  • 1lb of crawfish... if you do not have crawfish, you can use lobster.
  • 1 lb of shell or macaroni shaped pasta (cooked al dente)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Topping of plain breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese (optional)
In a large saute pan,  lightly brown the bacon over medium heat (do not overcook).  Then add the onions and garlic and cook until soft.  Next, mix in the flour to the bacon, onion, garlic mixture  (if you add the flour to the rendered fat, it will not clump up.  Most bechamel sauce uses butter but we are using the rendered fat from the bacon instead) Once the flour is mixed, begin to wisk in the milk and cook until the sauce is smooth... When you see that the sauce is thickening, you can lower the heat to low and add the shredded cheeses, crawfish, crabmeat, pepper and nutmeg.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine the cheese and seafood sauce with the cooked pasta.  Pour the combined mixture into a buttered casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 or so minutes or until the casserole is bubbly.   Let sit 5 minutes prior to serving.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quick and Easy Shrimp Creole.... and the Saints Opener

It is 5PM on the NFL Season Opening Night with my New Orleans Saints playing the Minnesota Vikings.  The city is electric so want to get out into the middle of it as fast as I can but do not want to eat out so I had to ask...

"What do you cook when you need something quick, easy, and healthy when you only have a short time to prepare?"  

Shrimp Creole.  Shrimp Creole is Shrimp served in a spicy and kind of chunky tomato sauce served over rice.  It cooks in about 30 minutes) and requires minimal prep.  If you do not have shrimp on hand, you can use chicken or crawfish but be sure to adjust the cooking time to ensure your protein gets cooked all the way through without overcooking.  

2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium yellow onion chopped
1 medium green pepper chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized can of chopped or crushed tomato
1 lb raw, medium to large size, shelled Shrimp
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce (optional)
2 tsp of creole seasoning blend or season to taste

BIG EASY TIP: if you do not have Creole Seasoning in your grocery,  you can make it and keep it handy.  It is just salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, oregano and thyme. 2 tsps of the first 3 and 1 tsp of the second 3) The store bought ones also include other items like onion powder, garlic powder but since I am using those in this recipe, no need to add them in powder form)

 Heat the Olive Oil in a medium sized saute pan til hot,  add the celery, onion, garlic and green pepper and cook on medium heat until vegetables are soft.  Stir in the tomato and add the creole seasoning blend and bay leaves... once cooked down or about 10-15 minutes,  you can add the raw shrimp.  Cover and simmer until the Shrimp are opaque. 

If you start your rice about the same time as you start the Shrimp Creole, they finish right about the same time 

Serve over Rice.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mmmmmm... Cajun Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Nothing is better on a rainy evening than a nice big bowl of Gumbo.  Gumbo is "quintessential Louisiana" and depending on where you are in the state, it can be very different.   In New Orleans, the most common gumbo is made with tomatos, seafood and okra.  In Cajun Country,  gumbo is "roux" based and made with assorted meats and sausage.  This past Saturday,  I invited the gang over to enjoy a big pot of "love".  In honor of my cajun friends, I just made a cajun style Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.

Gumbo is one of those items that can take a long time to make but with a couple of shortcuts,  you can whip up a pot quickly.   The first trick is to make the roux in the microwave... yes the microwave.  Mix equal parts of flour and any high heat oil (vegetable, canola) in a microwave safe bowl cover and cook it on high for 6-7 minutes   Take the bowl out (it will be very very hot so be careful removing it from the microwave) and stir.  Put the bowl back in the microwave and continue to cook in 2-3 minute intervals until the "roux" darkens to your desired color.  Between each 2-3 minute interval, stir the roux.  Once the roux is nice and browned (not burnt) you can transfer the roux into the heavy bottom pot and keep it nice and hot.   The second trick is buy prepared rotisserie chickens in place of cooking the chicken.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

  • 1 large rotisserie chicken (4-5 lb) deboned and chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (for roux)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (for roux)
  • 2 cups chopped onions (I like yellow onions)
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery (optional... real cajuns do not cook with celery but I like it)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 - 1.5 lbs of sausage.  (Any smoked sausage with do... I like andouille and hot smoked)... cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp of cayenne
  • 2 tsp of Salt
  • 2 tsp of BlackPepper
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

First you make a roux.  Use the Flour and the Oil to make the roux (see microwave instructions or you can cook the oil and flour in a heavy pot til the roux reaches the color of a dark chocolate)  This is important because the color of your roux will be the color of your gumbo.

Making sure the roux is sizzling hot... add the onions, green peppers, celery, garlic and cook until tender.  The hot roux caramelizes the vegetables.  Once the vegetables are cooked,  you can add the sausage and brown the sausage for a couple of minutes.  Next we slowly add the chicken stock and stir until the roux dissolves.  This is the base of the gumbo.  Next you will add the chicken and season with the salt, peppers, and worcestershire sauce and stir.  Let cook for at least an hour to allow all the flavors to develop.  The longer the better...  sampling and seasoning along the way...  Right before serving, add the green onions and parsley and stir.

This recipe comes out pretty thick so if you would like to thin it out, add more stock during the cooking process.

To serve,  ladle a hefty portion over a bed of cooked white rice.  Real cajuns also serve gumbo with mustardy potato salad.  Mmmmmmm...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Those Damn Hubig pies!!!

For those of you who have never had a Hubig's fruit filled fried pie, I feel sorry. Sure, they are probably one of the most unhealthful bakery items you can eat but damn are they tasty.

Hubig's Pies are a New Orleans' institution (not as famous as our beignets but equally loved). They have several bakeries around the local area including 2 blocks from my home. The smell of fresh baked Hubig's goodness permeates the neighborhood. The Hubig's mascot is a baker named Simon. His likeness has been used in everything from t-shirts to fine art. 

I bring this topic up because I noticed that my favorite flavor, blueberry, is now available. Hubig's only offers the blueberry a couple of times a year so when I see them, I become a Hubig's Pie Hoarder. I buy them in the grocery, I buy them in the corner store, I buy them anywhere I see them and hide them neatly away in my freezer.   Luckily they are available for very limited time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome to BigEasyBites

Hello fellow food fans! This is the first of many posts.

The mission of is to introduce the world to Big and Easy cooking.  I am not a trained chef but am a lover in all things food, wine, cooking.

We live in New Orleans (one of the world's best food cities) so lots of our recipes and cooking demonstrations will focus on local cuisine and events.   We will also feature discussions of the local restaurant scene.

To start off...  I hosted my family yesterday for my mom's birthday brunch and served one of my standards: Grillades (gr-ee-odds) and grits.  For those of you who have never had grillades,  it is a creole style beef gravy, usually served over cheesy grits.   For those who are not fans of grits, it could be served over mashed potatoes or even rice.

This recipe is from ""Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times Picayune of New Orleans""

Grillades and Grits
Serving Size : 10
4 pounds boneless beef or veal round steak -- about 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 medium-size yellow onions -- chopped
2 medium-size green bell peppers -- chopped
3 ribs celery -- chopped
3 cups whole canned tomatoes -- crushed with their juice
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Remove any fat from the beef or veal. Cut into 2-inch squares. Combine the salt, cayenne, black pepper and garlic in a small bowl. Have the flour at hand.

Lay several pieces of the meat on a cutting board and sprinkle with the seasoning mix and a little of the flour. With a meat mallet, pound each piece of meat until slightly flattened. Flip the pieces over and repeat the process. Do this with the rest of the meat. In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the meat, several pieces at a time and brown evenly on both sides. As the meat cooks, transfer it to a platter. When all the meat is browned, return it to the pot. Add the onions, bell peppers and celery and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and golden, eight to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their liquid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the broth, wine, bay leaves, tarragon and basil. Stir to mix and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cook until the meat is very tender, about 1 ½ hours. If the mixture becomes dry, add a little water or more broth. When ready to serve, add the green onions and parsley. Serve with grits