Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mardi Gras Part Two...Dinner!

Good morning!  This is the first time in a while that I have gotten up off my ass and posted in the morning!  Yeah me!  Maybe it is because I am so excited about the recipes I am going to show you today……

Like we talked about on Tuesday, this Tuesday (the 21st) is Fat Tuesday….the biggest day during Mardi Gras.  I think it’s as good of a reason as any to celebrate.  Why not?;)  At least you can get some good food out of it, and Cajun/Creole cuisine is some of the best in the world.  Today I am going to show you a main dish that you can make, pretty easily, to eat this Tuesday.  I will also show you a yummy dessert that is crazy easy, but also crazy delicious.  Let’s start with the main dish…..

I am going to show you how to make Chicken Etouffee….or rather, my version of it.  Etouffee just means that whatever you are cooking, whether it is chicken, shrimp, crawfish, etc. is smothered in gravy.  The gravy is made of a roux.  I think we have discussed this before, but in case you mentally blocked it….a roux is a mixture of fat and flour that is cooked together.  This mixture will thicken a sauce, and give it a nutty flavor.  I have a cool trick for making a roux that I will show you in a bit.  My other cool trick is that I cook my etouffee in my slow cooker.  Hello easy!

Another yummy thing about etouffee is that it is heavily spiced with hot sauce, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, etc.  You can adjust the seasoning and spice to your liking.  I went pretty mild since my kids were eating this and sometimes they are complete babies about spice.  Or actually, I am.  But it is easier to blame it on them.

Normally I would show you a picture of all the ingredients that I will be using.  There are too many in this recipe so I will list them instead.  Don’t be intimidated….there are a few steps to this recipe, but it is still easy!  You could just wake up a few minutes early this Tuesday and get it all in the slow cooker so you come home to a feast!

·         Butter

·         Vegetable Oil

·         Flour

·         Chicken half breasts on the bone

·         Creole Seasoning

·         Salt

·         Pepper

·         Onion, diced

·         Bell Pepper, diced

·         Celery, diced

·         Bay Leaves

·         Garlic, minced

·         Concentrated Chicken Stock

·         Worcestershire Sauce

·         Hot sauce

·         Beer

·         Crush Tomatoes

Whew…I think that’s it.

Let’s start with the roux.  I used a combination of butter and oil.  The oil will keep the butter from burning since this roux cooks for a long time.  For etouffee, the roux is normally cooked till it is chocolate brown….which takes a long time.  I only cook mine till it is the color of peanut butter.  The darker a roux gets, the less thickening power it has.  Since this all cooks in the slow cooker, which can cause whatever you are cooking to get soupy, I wanted my roux to thicken.

On the stovetop, I melted the butter with the oil.  Then, I whisked in the flour. 

Here is the cool trick….Once the roux looks like this….I popped it in the oven at 350 degrees.  I cooked it for about 20 minutes.  I never stirred it or opened the oven.  After 20 minutes…it looked like this:

Hello beautiful roux that was super easy to make!  I didn’t have to spend 45 minutes stirring this while standing at the stove.  I sat and read a magazine while mine cooked.

As for the chicken, I sprinkled each breast with creole seasoning, salt and pepper.  I browned each breast in hot oil on the stove top.  This will give it great flavor, but you can totally skip this step if you are short on time.  Or lazy.

I chose chicken breasts still on the bone, with skin, because I think this will stay moister in the slow cooker.  I detest plain chicken breasts in the slow cooker.  I think they end up tasting like dry erasers.  I always use chicken on a bone, or chicken thighs.  You do what you want, but if you use plain boneless breasts and they end up dry….don’t come crying to me;)

While the chicken browned, I tossed the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaves, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and concentrated chicken stock into the slow cooker.

That blob you see at the top is the concentrated chicken stock.  Like I said above, I don’t want this too soupy, so I chose the concentrated chicken stock.  All flavor, no liquid,

I also added the crushed tomatoes and chicken to the pot.  Then, I poured in the beer and roux.  I popped the lid and let this go for about 4 and ½ hours on low.  My house smelled amazing!!

Before serving, take chicken out of the slow cooker.  Once it cools enough to touch it, remove the skin and bones and shred the chicken.  Add it back into the slow cooker.

I served my etouffee over rice, which is pretty typical.  This chicken ends up so moist, and almost has a nutty flavor from the roux.  The sauce is thick and delicious too.  I served mine with bread to sop up the extra sauce.  I also licked the plate but you don’t have to do that.

So yea, this takes a few steps, but none of them are hard.  And it is so worth it…..especially if you want to celebrate Mardi Gras like a New Orleanian.  New Orleaner?  New Orleanite?  Whatever.  Party like you are from Louisiana.

To top off this yummy dinner….I have a really quick dessert.  I will show you how to make an easy version of Bananas Foster.  Not that Bananas Foster is hard, but my version doesn’t involve open flames.

Bananas Foster is a dessert that was invented in New Orleans.  It is bananas, cooked in a brown sugar and butter sauce….then lit on fire with banana liquor and rum.  The fire cooks off the alcohol and leaves a rich sauce.  It is usually served over vanilla ice cream.

All I used was 3 bananas, butter, rum extract, cinnamon and brown sugar.  I chose rum extract to avoid ignition.  I don’t like fire.

I melted my butter on the stove top, and then stirred in the brown sugar, cinnamon and rum extract.  I let this cook for a bit while the sugar melted and the sauce thickened.

Then, I added in my sliced bananas and let it cook till the bananas softened a bit.  The sauce will turn into a caramel like texture and coat the bananas in deliciousness.

Yum!  All the deliciousness of real bananas foster with no need for a fire extinguisher. 

This is also amazing over French toast, pancakes, waffles, etc.  Pretty much anything. 

I hope you try these recipes!  Even if you don’t make them on Fat Tuesday…..I’ll be Ok with it if you try them another day.  You won’t regret it!!

Chicken Etouffee

4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil, divided

½ cup flour

2 Chicken “Half Breasts” with skin and bones

2 Tablespoons Creole Seasoning (Tony Cachere’s)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 small onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

¾ cup celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pouch concentrated chicken stock

3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Hot sauce to taste

12 ounces beer

1 cup crushed tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an oven proof pan, melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil.  Whisk in flour.  Stir until smooth.  Place pan in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Roux will be the color of peanut butter.  Set aside.

In a large pot, heat remaining oil over medium high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with creole seasoning, salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.

Place chicken in slow cooker with remaining ingredients.  Add roux and stir.  Cook on low heat for about 4 to 6 hours.

Remove chicken from pot.  Remove skin and bones and shred chicken.  Return shredded chicken to slow cooker.

Serve over rice.

Serves 4 to 6 people.

Bananas Foster

3 bananas, still firm

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons rum extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon and rum extract.  Cook until brown sugar is melted and mixture has thickened.  Add bananas, stirring to coat.  Cook over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes to let bananas soften slightly.

Serve over vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4

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