Food for Thought

“Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast.”
-Norman Vincent Peale

I was planning on sharing some apple recipes this week but Mardi Gras has crept up on me. So I thought I'd share a few recipes that you might want to prepare for Fat Tuesday.

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)

Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

A time to party. Celebrations abound for Mardi Gras that include parades, dressing in costumes, and festive eating.

Celebrate Mardi Gras with these recipes.

Shrimp Creole

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs., peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. creole seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 c. fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 2 c. shrimp or chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp. tabasco
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 c. green onions
  • 1/8 c. flat leaf parsley, minced
  • Cooked rice

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan with the vegetable oil over medium high heat. When the butter begins to froth add 1/2 cup of the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown. Add the remaining onions, celery, and bell pepper, reduce the heat to medium and season with 1 Tbsp Creole Seasoning and a healthy pinch of salt. Sweat the vegetables until soft.

Add the tomato paste mixing well, and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste begins to brown. Add the fresh tomatoes and another healthy pinch of Kosher salt, this will help the tomatoes break down. Stir well.

When tomatoes start to break down into liquid add the white wine. Turn the heat to high until most of the alcohol burns off. Add the stock, remaining Creole seasoning, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper, cayenne, and thyme. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 30-45 minutes.

(If necessary at this point thicken the sauce with 1 Tbsp Cornstarch/ 2Tbsp water. Bring to a boil to maximize the thickening power of the cornstarch.)

Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire. Last chance to re-season your sauce, remember that good cooking is all about proper seasoning. Make your rice, season your shrimp with 1 tbsp. Kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add the shrimp. The key is to not overcook your shrimp. Let them slowly simmer in the sauce until just cooked through.

Serve with boiled rice and garnish with the remaining green onions and parsley.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

King Crab

Cooking King Crab Legs

First and foremost, prior to cooking or preparing king crab legs, you should allow for the crab to thaw in your refrigerator overnight. The majority of the processes below only require a re-heat time of 5-10 minutes because king crab has already been cooked by the commercial processor. King crab should be added to stews and soups around the last 5 minutes of the cooking process.

To make a delicious Alaskan king crab even tastier, you need to determine how you’re going to cook and prepare it. There are several different methods available for cooking King crab legs and the one you choose will mainly depend on the taste that you want to achieve.

Keep in mind that the majority of king crab legs that you buy from your local grocery store will be precooked. When you bring crab legs home from the store, you are essentially just heating them back up. Therefore, you should be careful not to overcook them or else they will taste dry and tough. Three drops of hot sauce in butter can really draw out the wonderful taste of fresh king crab.

King Crab Legs are a must for Mardi Gras

Below are a few simple ways to cook crab legs.

Cooking Frozen Crab Legs

Most frozen crab legs are already pre-cooked so they will just need to be heated. When cooking frozen crab legs, we have found the best way is to place them in a colander or steamer over rapidly boiling water. The pot should be about one-third of the way filled with water. You will need to cover the pot and steam your frozen crab legs for about ten minutes or until they are completely heated.

Steaming King Crab Legs

When steaming pre-cooked Alaskan king crab legs, simply place two cups of water and a tablespoon of salt in a pot and bring it to a boil. Place the crab legs in the pot on a rack over the boiling water. When the water starts to boil again, cover with a lid and cook for about six minutes or when they begin to omit a “cooked odor”, they should be ready to eat.

Boiled Crab Legs

To boil crab legs, simply fill a large saucepan half full of cold water and bring to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and the seasoning of your choice (I like to use Old Bay Seasoning>. When the water begins to boil add the crab legs and reduce the heat to medium. Allow them to simmer for about six minutes. Take the crab legs out of the water, rinse and they are ready to eat.

Grilled Crab Legs

To grill crab legs you need to brush olive oil on all sides of the crab legs to prevent them from sticking. Then place the crab legs on a hot grill of 300 degrees for about five minutes, turn over and cook for another five minutes until they are heated all the way through. Remove from the grill and serve with butter or sauce.

Baked Crab Legs

To bake crab legs, preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Place the crab legs in a shallow baking pan in single layers. Place hot water in the pan about 1/8 of an inch deep. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for eight to ten minutes. As you can see, cooking crab legs is not difficult and it only takes a few minutes to prepare. If you have been missing out on having king crab legs because you thought they were complicated to prepare, you can now consider them as being part of your regular diet.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz.) can yellow corn, drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can white corn, drained
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
  • 5 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

Stir the yellow and white corn, black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, green onion, red onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a large bowl. Gently mix in the lime juice and avocado. Drizzle with olive oil to serve.

Southern Style Greens

Southern greens recipe with smoked turkey or pork are a favorite for Mardi Gras.

Ingredients:

  • 5 to 6 pounds assorted greens (collards, kale, mustard, turnip, etc)
  • 1 c.chopped onion
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 jalapeno or serrano chile peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 smoked turkey leg, smoked pork chops, or ham hock
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

Tear the greens into large pieces. Wash the greens well in a sink full of cold water, lifting greens out and letting grit stay on bottom of sink. Drain sink, change water and wash again; repeat washings until there is no grit on the greens. Cut away tough stems; roll large leaves and cut in strips or chop.

In a large kettle, combine the chopped onions, 2 cups water, oil, and chile pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Gradually stir in the greens, allowing each batch to wilt before adding more geens. Put turkey leg or smoked meat in greens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, to your taste. Remove meat from bone; chop and return to pot. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the greens to a serving dish; serve hot.

Bourbon Pecan Pralines

Pecan pralines with bourbon and brown sugar, along with cream and butter are a delicious treat to serve for Mardi Gras.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 c. pecan halves, lightly toasted
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. bourbon
  • butter for baking sheet

Preparation:

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Stir in the granulated and brown sugars, dash salt, and heavy cream.

Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove the lid and boil until temperature reaches 242° on the candy thermometer, or almost firm ball stage. A small amount of the mixture, when added to cold water, will form a soft ball which will hold its shape and not flatten.

Stir in the toasted pecans. Remove from heat and beat in flavoring and bourbon. Continue beating until the candy loses its glossiness, becomes creamy in appearance, and begins to thicken. Have a buttered baking sheet or waxed paper lined baking sheet ready.

Quickly drop the candy mixture by tablespoons onto the greased cookie sheet. Wrap pralines individually in plastic wrap to store.

Classic Cajun Beignets

Beignets are easy to make at home. If you do not have a deep fryer, do it the old-fashioned way using oil in a heavy, deep pot. Add a dash of cinnamon to the confectioners' sugar dusting for a change of pace.

Ingredients:

  • 1 48 oz. bottle oil
  • 2 c. self-rising flour
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • Confectioners' sugar, as desired

Directions:

Heat oil in a deep pot to 375° F.

Blend flour and granulated sugar in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, blend egg and milk. Add to dry mixture. Beat to a thick batter.

Drop by tablespoon into oil. Deep-fry until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Yield: 4 to 5 dozen



For more recipes, click here.

Next week get ideas to use those delicious apples that are abundant in your local grocery.

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