Creole Cream Cheese

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Makes 10-12 cups. Recipe from Chef John Folse’s Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine (2004).

This is one of those historical recipes created of necessity. In Louisiana before refrigeration, almost everyone who had a cow made cream cheese with cream that was ready to spoil. My mom remembers making cream cheese by hanging fresh cream in cheesecloth on the sink faucet and simply letting it drain overnight, the way Creole cream cheese was made before rennet was widely used. In Old New Orleans, the Creole cream cheese lady would peddle her wares in the streets every morning, and her customers would typically eat the creamy breakfast treat with sugar, cream, and strawberries.

 

2 gallons skim milk

½ quart buttermilk

½ rennet tablet (available at cheese specialty stores)*

Half-and-half (optional)

 

1. In a stainless steel pot, combine skim milk, buttermilk and rennet, stirring constantly. Carefully monitor temperature with a thermometer until milk reaches 80 degrees F.

2. Continuing to stir, hold milk at 80 degrees F for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover tightly and let sit 3 hours.

3. Drain off whey (liquid remaining after curds are formed) and discard. Pack solids (curds) in 8-ounce portions. Top each portion with equal parts half-and-half, if desired. Chill and serve with sugar or fruit.

 

*Or substitute ½ teaspoon liquid rennet.

 

Testing Notes: Recipe is easily halved. To drain, line a colander or large sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and spoon the curds into the cheesecloth. (Try not to break up the chunks of curds.) Drain one hour, or until cheese has formed one solid piece. Do not squeeze the moisture out of the cheese while in the cheesecloth; the final product will end up too dry.

Bubba 75

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Makes 1 drink. Recipe is by Cynthia LeJeune Nobles. This is a down-home take on the French 75, a potent cocktail created in 1915 by Parisian bartender Harry MacElhone, whose gin and champagne libation was said to have the kick of a French 75mm field gun.

 

2 tbls. blackberry moonshine (Ole Smoky brand 40 proof blackberry moonshine was used for testing)

1 tbl. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbl. creme de cassis

Chilled champagne

Twist of lemon for garnish

 

Combine moonshine, lemon juice, and creme de cassis in a pint jar half-filled with ice. Cover, shake well, and strain into a champagne flute. Fill flute with champagne and garnish with lemon twist.

Mint Juleps

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Makes 10 drinks. Recipe is from Don Verdicanno of Denham Springs, Louisiana, who learned how to make this spirited concoction over 30 years ago from the owners of Montaigne Plantation in Natchez.

Churchill Downs started serving the iconic drink in  1875, but it didn’t become the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby until 1938. Today, the Derby sells about 120,000 mint juleps on the weekend of the big horse race.

 

3 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 bunches fresh mint, plus additional for garnish

4 cups bourbon

Crushed ice

 

1. Make a mint syrup by dissolving sugar in water in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 bunches mint leaves and tender tops. Simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Strain into a jar and refrigerate until cold.

2. For each drink, pack a julep cup or old fashioned glass with crushed ice. Pour 1 tablespoon mint syrup over ice. Add 2 ounces (1/4 cup) bourbon. Beat with a teaspoon until ice forms on the outside of the cup. Stir in 1 more tablespoon mint syrup. Garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy!

Tabbouleh

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Makes 4 servings. Recipe is by Sammy Kobrossi of Serop’s Restaurant, 7474 Corporate Blvd., Baton Rouge. This classic Middle Eastern salad is thought to have originated in Lebanon. It’s important to dry the parsley and mint well to avoid sogginess. Although it’s traditional to eat tabbouleh rolled in or scooped up with romaine leaves, Kobrossi says it’s also good with cabbage or grape leaves.

 

1/2 cup fine bulgar (cracked wheat)

1 cup boiling water

3/4 tsp. salt

2 cups fresh parsley leaves, washed, dried well and chopped

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, washed, dried well and chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped white onion

1 firm medium tomato, seeded and diced

2 tbls. fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 tsp. cayenne

Romaine lettuce leaves for serving

 

1. Rinse bulgar well. In a heatproof bowl, stir together bulgar and boiling water. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Drain well.

2. In a large bowl, mix softened bulgar, salt, parsley, mint, onion and tomato. In a separate bowl, stir together lemon juice, olive oil and cayenne. Mix well into salad.

3. Mound salad onto the middle of a platter and arrange romaine leaves like a spoke around the tabbouleh. Can be refrigerated up to 1 day ahead. Best if served at room temperature.

Fried Meat Pies

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Makes 26 fried pies. This is the Natchitoches meat pie, which was created over 300 years ago when Louisiana was under Spanish rule and the residents of Natchitoches came up with their own version of the Spanish empanada. Recipe is by Mary Olive Pierson. For proper texture, make and chill pastry one day ahead, and make and chill filling at least 4 hours in advance of cooking time.

 

Meat Pie Filling:

2 lbs. lean ground pork or beef

2 cups finely chopped white onion

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/4 bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Cayenne pepper

Crystal hot sauce, salt, and black pepper to taste

1 recipe Pastry for Fried Pies (recipe follows)

vegetable oil for frying

 

1. In a large skillet, saute pork, onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, parsley, and seasonings, stirring often, until meat is brown and vegetables are wilted, about 10-12 minutes. Drain well and chill at least 4 hours.

2. Place 1 prepared pastry circle on a floured board. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of chilled filling on one side of dough circle. Fold dough over in half, popover fashion, and seal edges with a floured fork.

3. Heat 1-2 inches oil in a fryer or deep skillet to 350F. Fry pies one side at a time (preferred method) or deep-fry.

 

Pastry for Fried Pies:

8 cups all-purpose flour

2½ tsp. salt

2 cups vegetable shortening (Crisco)

2 1/4 cups ice water

 

1. In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening until fine. Add ice water and mix well, forming a large ball.

2. Make individual pie circles by breaking off dough and rolling into 1 1/2-inch diameter balls. On a floured board, roll dough out into 6-inch circles about 1/8-inch thick.

3. Refrigerate individual pastries between layers of wax paper overnight. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before stuffing. To freeze: Wrap uncooked pies in the wax paper you used to separate the dough and place in Ziploc bags. Remove from freezer 30 minutes prior to frying.

Gumbo Z’Herbes (Green Vegetable Gumbo)

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In colonial Catholic Louisiana, gumbo z’herbes, green vegetable gumbo, was often prepared meatless (maigre) and served on Fridays in Lent. To make this gumbo vegetarian, leave out the sausage, ham, chaurice, and brisket.

 

Makes 10-12 servings. Recipe is from Poppy Tooker, Host of “Louisiana Eats” on radio WRKF, adapted from a recipe by Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans.

 

1 bunch mustard greens

1 bunch collard greens

1 bunch turnips

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch beet tops

1 bunch carrot tops

½ head lettuce

½ head cabbage

1 bunch spinach

2 medium onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

Water

1 lb. smoked sausage

1 lb. smoked ham

1 lb. chaurice

1 lb. boneless brisket

5 tbls. oil

¼ cup flour

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 tbl. salt

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

3 tbls. file powder

 

1. Clean all greens thoroughly. Coarsely chop all vegetables. In a 12 quart stock pot, cover all vegetables with water. Boil together for 30 minutes.

2. While greens cook, cut all meats into bite sized pieces. Heat oil in a heavy skillet and brown all meats in batches.

3. Add the flour to the oil and meat drippings and cook until flour is lightly browned. Drain the vegetables and reserve all cooking liquid. Add browned meats and roux to the stock pot.

4. In a food processor, puree all greens together. Add to the stock pot with thyme, salt, and cayenne pepper. Add 2 quarts of the reserved liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until brisket is tender, at least 40 minutes.

5. Adjust seasonings. Remove from heat and whisk in the file powder. Serve at once over rice.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s Almond-Vanilla Cake

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While they were courting, Mary Todd baked this cake for her suitor Abe Lincoln, who promptly declared it “the best cake I ever ate.” The recipe followed her to the White House, where Mary often served her husband’s favorite cake to guests.

 

Makes 12 servings. Adapted by Cynthia Nobles from Lincoln’s Table: a president’s culinary journey from cabin to cosmopolitan, by Donna D. McCreary (2008).

 

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 cup blanched almonds

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup milk

6 egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously grease and flour a bundt cake pan.

2. Combine flour and baking powder and sift 3 times. Set aside. Using a food processor or spice grinder, pulverize almonds until they resemble coarse flour. Set aside.

3. At medium-high speed with an electric beater or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy and light yellow, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat an additional minute.

4. Fold flour into butter, alternating with milk, until well blended. Stir in almonds and beat well.

5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula gently fold egg whites into batter. Stir in vanilla.

6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

7. Cool 20 minutes in pan. Remove from pan onto a wire rack and cool completely. Sift confectioners’ sugar on top.

Republican Pudding with Common Wine Sauce

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Puddings were extremely important to eighteenth-century England and, therefore, to American colonists. In addition to sweets, all sorts of savory ingredients, including oysters, roast beef, and suet, found their way into puddings. During the Civil War, batter was still typically cooked the old traditional English way, wrapped in a buttered and floured “pudding cloth,” similar to a kitchen towel, and boiled for hours. Also, in this time of political upheaval, new dishes were often named for politicians and political parties, hence, “Republican Pudding,” named after the party of Lincoln.

 

Makes 4 servings. Recipe is adapted by Cynthia Nobles.

 

1 cup cooked rice

2 cups whole milk, divided

1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, beaten

2 tbls. butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Common Wine Sauce (recipe follows)

 

1. In a medium saucepan, combine rice, 1½ cups milk, sugar, and salt. Simmer briskly over medium-low heat until thick and creamy, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

2. Whisk remaining ½ cup milk into eggs. Slowly pour into hot rice mixture and cook over low heat until thick, about 3 minutes, whisking constantly.

3. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm or cold and topped with Common Wine Sauce.

 

Common Wine Sauce

Makes 1 cup. Recipe is adapted from Godey’s Lady’s Book (1862) by Cynthia Nobles.

 

3 tbls. butter

¼ cup sugar

1 cup sherry

½ cup brandy

½ tsp. grated lemon peel

¼ tsp. grated nutmeg

1 tbl. water

2 tsp. cornstarch

 

1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add sherry, brandy, lemon peel, and nutmeg and boil over medium-high heat until mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes.

2. Mix water and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk into sauce. Boil briskly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Cool slightly before serving.

Johnny Cakes

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Most Civil War-era cooks made Johnny cakes with only cornmeal, salt, and water. When this same batter was baked on the blade of a hoe, the resulting bread was called a hoe cake. When wrapped in leaves and cooked directly on coals, it was called ash cake.

 

Makes 6 cakes. Recipe is by Cynthia Nobles.

 

1 cup cornmeal

½ tsp. salt

1 cup boiling water

1 egg

¼ cup whole milk

1 tbl. unsalted butter, melted

Butter and maple syrup or molasses for serving

 

1. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal and salt. Stir in boiling water.

2. In a small bowl, beat egg and milk together and add to cornmeal. Stir in butter.

3. Place a large, heavy greased frying pan over medium heat. For each cake, spoon ¼ cup batter onto the hot pan and cook 5-6 minutes on each side. Serve topped with butter and maple syrup or molasses.

Oysters Stewed in Cream

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Makes 4-6 servings. Recipe is from Katy Casbarian, Arnaud’s Restaurant, New Orleans.

Creamy oyster stew/soup was extremely popular from before the Civil War through the early 1900s. Some historians believe Native Americans created the dish, while others believe it came to the New World with Irish immigrants.

 

3½ cups water

2 dozen oysters, drained

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped green onions

1 tbl. plus ¼ cup unsalted butter

½ tsp. finely chopped garlic

1/8 tsp. dried thyme

1/8 tsp. ground red pepper

1 bay leaf

¾ cup heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. Kosher or sea salt

¼ tsp. ground white pepper

 

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add oysters and cook 3 minutes. Remove oysters with a slotted spoon and reserve 3 cups of liquid. Set both aside.

2. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, cook celery, green onions and onions in 1 tablespoon butter, stirring constantly until tender. Stir in 2½ cups of the reserved liquid, garlic, thyme, red pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Stir in the cream, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk and return to a simmer.

3. Melt the remaining ¼ cup butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the flour,stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, then cook gently for about 3 minutes more or until smooth (mixture will be very thick).

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to milk mixture, stirring with a wire whisk until blended. Add oysters, salt, and white pepper. Cook until thoroughly heated. Remove from the heat, discard bay leaf and serve immediately.