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Cook Book Wishlist – Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana

Cook Book Wishlist – Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana

I must have this book! Here is an excerpt from a review of Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana.

“If bacon does not immediately come to mind as an essential ingredient of Cajun cooking, then clearly you have been missing Link, the chef-owner of two New Orleans restaurants, Herbsaint and Cochon. He not only begins his premiere cookbook with instructions on making four pounds of homemade bacon, he includes such tempting items as a fried oyster and bacon sandwich, tomato and bacon pie, and catfish fried in bacon fat. Even in his vegetarian twice-baked potatoes, he cannot help mentioning, Normally I like crisp bits of bacon in stuffed potatoes.”

I think I’m in love!

Bacon, Eggs, and Strawberries Tonight

Bacon, Eggs, and Strawberries Tonight

I did not have the time or, more importantly, the inspiration to really cook tonight (yes, even I sometimes feel uninspired about food). Rather than resort to thawing out leftovers that sound less than appetizing at the moment, I decided that we would have bacon, fried eggs, and fresh strawberries.

It feels decadent, fulfilling, and almost exotic. Yet, it is so easy and requires no forethought. The eggs are very nice locally raised eggs, and the strawberries are frighteningly flavorful for this time of year.

It has that special occasion meal kind of feeling about it. Just more proof that no time of day is the wrong time of day for breakfast food. Give it a try!

New Year’s Black Eyed Peas and Greens

New Year’s Black Eyed Peas and Greens

Black eyed peas are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck throughout the year. This was a tradition in my family, but I didn’t like black eyed peas so I would eat just one. Greens and pork are also traditional New Year’s food eaten for good luck. They were not a part of my family’s tradition, but it’s never too late to start. Bacon, ham, and sausage are the only types of pork that I cook.

I thought about cooking some other type of pork for New Year’s, but bacon was such a natural choice with greens, and kept the meal pretty light, which is exactly what I was going for. The plan was to eat this shortly after midnight, so for dinner we had fried chicken tenders with no sides. I was going for easy finger foods that wouldn’t be too filling, but would keep us from going hungry all night waiting for our special meal.

1 pound bacon
1 bunch red chard (or any greens)
3 or 4 large cloves garlic
Black eyed peas

I cooked the black eyed peas from scratch. To do this soak for at least eight hours, drain, rinse, and simmer for a couple of hours until soft. For this dish I did not season my black eyed peas. You could use canned.

Cook the bacon and save the grease. I use a broiler pan and cook mine in the oven at about 400 degrees. You can cook the bacon in the skillet you plan to use for the greens.

Pour the bacon grease in an iron skillet and heat on med-high. Slice garlic and add to grease. Rinse and cut up greens. I just lay them down and chop all the way across in one to two inch sections. Some stem is OK. Put the greens in the skillet. Cut up the bacon into bite sized pieces. I hold the whole bunch of bacon in my hand and cut it up with kitchen scissors. Add bacon to the greens and toss to coat the greens in the grease and garlic. Cover and reduce heat or turn off and let the greens wilt to your desired consistence. I like mine a little on the crisp side. Remove to a large bowl and toss with drained black eyed peas.

Tips and substitutions:

This dish can be served immediately or reheated in the skillet. If you want to reheat it, I recommend putting the black eyed peas in at the last minute so they don’t overwhelm the other flavors. They can be added just before reheating or added cold after the rest is heated. I did not want to cook this late at night during our celebration, so I cooked it ahead of time.

I used all the grease from the bacon. You don’t have to do that if it freaks you out. You can use less grease or you can substitute with butter or olive oil. If you substitute the grease it will drastically change the flavor, though. You might try using a little bacon grease and mostly some other kind of oil to help maintain the flavor.

I used “hardwood smoked” bacon this time and it was very delicious. The flavor was in the grease and influenced the flavor of the entire dish. I did not realize I had picked up flavored bacon until I smelled it cooking and looked at the box again. It was the brand I normally buy, and I hadn’t noticed (I was in a hurry at the store). The ingredients for the flavoring are pretty questionable, but it is so yummy that I am going to have to search for some with natural flavorings.

Monterey Chicken and Bacon Sandwiches

Monterey Chicken and Bacon Sandwiches

These sandwiches are made mostly from leftovers. The other day I made black-eyed pea patties and way too much hummus.

Roasted chicken breast
Monterey jack
Multi grain bread

To make two sandwiches place slices of cheese on two slices of bread and leave the other two untopped. Toast all four slices in the oven melting the cheese. Spread the hummus over the cheese, the mayonnaise on the untopped slices, and the chicken bacon and sprouts in between. If you are not using bacon, you will need to salt the chicken.

Bacon Roasted Apple Bites – A Breakfast Treat

Bacon Roasted Apple Bites – A Breakfast Treat

Wow! I just discovered this wonderful, very easy breakfast delight!

In the evening:

Slice an apple or two into wedges
Wrap each wedge in a piece of bacon (I used about 1/3 slice of bacon for each wedge, my wedges were fairly small)
Secure ends with toothpicks

In the morning:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place apple slices on a cookie sheet and bake about 15 minutes (or until bacon is done to your liking)

This was great alone, and would perfectly compliment eggs. Next time I am going to try it with a little cream cheese and drizzled with maple syrup. It’s great if you want something for breakfast without trying to cook first thing in the morning, and would make a great snack any time of day!

What I’m Cooking This Weekend

What I’m Cooking This Weekend

I like to cook several things at once, when I can. It just makes things so much easier for me later on. Yesterday I made stuffed green chilies, salsa, refried beans, and jasmine rice.

I also started to different kinds of beans soaking to make two different kinds of bean soup today – black bean and split pea. The soups will cook all day in crockpots. I will freeze one and we’ll eat the other. For making soups and things I like to buy bacon ends and pieces. It’s much cheaper than regular strips and works just as well.

The soups can be served with just about anything. One night we’ll have soup with baked sweet potatoes. I also have some cheesy garlic cornbread muffins in the freezer that I made last week.

Bacon “Wrapped” Shrimp

Bacon “Wrapped” Shrimp

Bacon “Wrapped” Shrimp, by Sandra Yvonne Duke

This was inspired by a dish served at Viva Vallarta, in Canon City, Colorado. Theirs is different in a few ways and, as in most restaurants, to me the portion size is just a tease. They actually wrap their shrimp with the bacon. I don’t. That takes a lot of time and work out of this recipe.

1 pound bacon
1 pound cooked and peeled shrimp (tails are OK)
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced w/green parts
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 green chili, seeded and sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 small handful dried chili pequin
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon cumin

Cut bacon strips into quarters and cook on medium high in a large iron skillet (kitchen scissors work great for this and you do not have to cut the slices individually). DO NOT drain grease (the mushrooms will soak up most of it). When bacon is done or almost done reduce heat to medium and add green onions, garlic, green chili, and jalapeno. Cook for one or two minutes. Add mushrooms. Cook for one or two minutes. Add chili pequin, cayenne, and cumin. Cook for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Shake salt and liberally shake paprika over the top, allow to cook for 5 to 10 minutes without stirring. Stir, remove from heat, and serve.

Makes 2-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are!
Today, I served this with a pasta salad (recipe coming soon!). It would also go well with refried beans and Spanish rice or over fettuccini.