One pot wonderful: New Orleans Traditions
During this bitterly cold month, we need stick-to-your-bones meals that will warm us through. January is a perfect month to hunker down over a bowl of soup, stew, or other one pot meals.The beauty of one pot wonders is that you don’t really need a recipe, you just need a concept. Take gumbo for instance. There are several different recipes for gumbo – which one is right? They’re all correct. Gumbo should be a thickened stew served over rice. It can be thickened with okra, roux, filé (ground sassafras leaves). It can have seafood, duck, rabbit, quail, sausage—the possibilities are endless and once you’ve got the base, the rest is all open for interpretation. It’s similar to the evolution of Brunswick stew, which varies upon location. The Brunswick Stew from Virginia is different from the Brunswick Stew of Georgia or Stokes County, NC, but they’re all Brunswick Stew. By the same notion, chicken stew or chili can have beans or no beans, potatoes or no potatoes.
With gumbo, the story goes that it’s a result of the melding of the working class fisherman’s bouillabaisse of the south of France. It’s like bouillabaisse in that it’s made with ingredients indigenous to south Louisiana. In New Orleans, you’re not going to come across too many gumbos with chicken and seafood in the same dish. You usually find chicken and sausage or seafood and sausage. At Lucky’s, our goal is to make a gumbo that truthfully represents the city of New Orleans, which is why we call it “Big Easy Gumbo.” We combine two classic gumbos to make a third, which has chicken and sausage and shrimp in a crab stock-based broth. We’ve created our own tradition instead of appropriating someone else’s.
Big Easy Gumbo
- 3 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
- 1 pound Andouille sausage
- 2 pounds boneless chicken
- 2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 ½ pounds onions, ¼” dice
- 1 ½ pounds celery, ¼” dice
- 1 ½ pounds green pepper, ¼” dice
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tsp garlic, minced
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp shrimp base (can be found in the soup aisle of most supermarkets)
- 3 1/3 quarts crab stock
- 1 pound shrimp, 71/90, tail off, peeled and deveined
- 3 ½ cups okra, sliced
Cut Andouille sausage in half lengthwise and then cut ½ inch half moons. Cut chicken into ½ inch dice. Add 3 tablespoons oil to a skillet and heat. Add sausage and chicken and cook until done. Set aside. Heat 2/3 cup of oil in large stock pot and then stir in flour. Continue to stir until dark roux is achieved. Immediately add Worcestershire, followed by onions, celery, green pepper, spices and shrimp base. Sauté until vegetables are soft, scraping the bottom of the pot as you cook. While whisking, add the crab stock to the pot. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp, cooked sausage and chicken and the okra to the pot. Cook until the shrimp is just cooked through. Remove from heat and cool down quickly so shrimp does not overcook. Reheat to serve. Makes – 2 gallons.
Red Beans & Rice
One of the things we like is when you hew to some sort of tradition and cook within the parameters of your family or your memories, the dish you cook repeatedly is always familiar. One of these often repeated dishes is red beans and rice. We like the history of this dish. Essentially red kidney beans and cured pork pieces, it’s a humble dish but it radiates with big flavors. The mythology associated with it is the beans were made on Mondays, which was laundry day. They were put on while the laundry was being done, because you can leave them alone while they cook all day, and it’ll be perfect for dinner when you come home. The old Creole way for making rice is boiling rice in water and pouring off the water, as opposed to the steamed rice method or “pilaf” method which is more Charleston-oriented. We don’t have any proof but I suspect the starchy water from rice was used to starch clothes. I can’t prove it but I just know it in my bones.
Red beans and rice isn’t always served with Andouille sausage, like it is at Lucky’s. Some people opt for a smoked sausage, like Polska Kielbasa. Andouille is more of a recent innovation in that vein and it’s like a “kick me” Cajun sausage from southwest Louisiana. It didn’t really make its way to the city until the 80s, when chef Paul Prudhomme changed the world with it at K-Paul’s restaurant. Now, we’re glad to make our red beans and rice with it.
Red Beans and Rice
- 1 cup red beans (see recipe)
- ¾ cup white rice (prepared from package instructions)
Serve beans over rice. Makes – 1 serving.
- 1 pound dried red kidney beans
- ¼ pound diced Tasso ham
- ¾ pound ham hocks
- ¾ cup yellow onions, diced ¼”
- 1/3 cup green bell peppers, diced ¼”
- 1/3 cup celery, diced ¼”
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp Tabasco Sauce
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sliced jalapeño pepper
- 1 ½ tsp jalapeño pepper juice (from the jar or can)
- 1 tsp ham base (can be found in the soup aisle of most supermarkets)
Place dried beans in a container, cover beans with water and soak overnight. Discard water after soaking. Add beans to a pot and cover with water, add ham hocks. Simmer beans for 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until beans are cooked. Season to taste. Makes – 5 ½ cups.
Grillades & Grits
Another New Orleans specialty we love is grillades and grits, which is an old school Creole specialty. It’s the one dish in this restaurant we’ve probably taken the most liberties with. Traditional recipes for this dish feature thin slices of veal or beef that are breaded and pan-fried and braised in a rich gravy until they’re meltingly soft, and then they’re served with grits. The grillades and grits that we serve at Lucky’s evolved out of our whole animal program. We were buying whole pigs and trying to determine the best way to use the shanks which are full of flavor but are a bit problematic to serve and eat in a restaurant. They look like something Fred Flintstone would order. So we decided to take those shanks and braise them in a traditional grillades gravy recipe, then shred the meat so the end result looks like a New Orleans staple. We didn’t follow a recipe to begin with, rather we conjure that nostalgic sense of memory or place, by closing our eyes, tasting the flavors and letting them transport us.
Grillades & Grits
- 1 serving Grillades (see recipe)
- 5 fl oz Creamy Yellow Grits (see recipe)
- 1 tbsp chopped green onions
- 2 tbsp sliced jalapeños, pan fried until crispy
Place creamy yellow grits in a bowl. Top with hot Grillades. Garnish with chopped onions and a side of crispy fried jalapeños. Serves 1.
- 6 pork shanks
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¾ cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 cups yellow onion, small dice
- ¾ cup green bell pepper, small dice
- 1 ½ tsp garlic, minced
- 6 stalks celery, small dice
- 4 bay leaves
- ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
- 4 cups pork stock
- 3 cups tomato purée
- salt and pepper to taste
Season each shank with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Shake off excess flour, reserving the excess. Heat oil in a wide heavy-bottomed pot. Brown shanks on all sides in oil over medium heat. When shanks are browned well, remove to a tray. Add remaining flour to the pot and stir well to make a brown roux. When desired color is achieved, add onion, peppers, garlic and celery to roux to stop its cooking. Continue stirring; add bay leaves, thyme and pork stock. Continue stirring; add tomato puree. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer. Return shanks to the pot and partially cover pot while allowing to simmer for two hours. After two hours, taste and correct seasoning. When meat is tender, remove from pot and pull meat from bone, shredding. Discard bones and tendons. Add shredded meat back to the pot. Makes – 6 servings.
Recipe: Creamy Yellow Grits
- 12 fl oz heavy whipping cream
- 3 cups water
- ¾ stick butter
- ¾ tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/8 tsp cracked black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 cup yellow grits
- ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Add cream, water, butter, salt and pepper to sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in the grits. Stir with wire whisk continuously to keep grits from clumping up. Once all the grits are blended, continue to stir for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat and cook for about 15- 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Makes: 1 quart.
Winter Carnival Menu
These three dishes are all available on our Winter Carnival menu. They’ve become an annual rite of passage here in the Piedmont, as Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen turns its gaze to the Crescent City for inspiration during the colder time of the year when local bounty is a bit more sparse. Come and break bread and partake in the traditions of these jazzed up one pot wonders. And, stay tuned for part two of this post where we dig into traditional Piedmont one-pot wonders.