Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"LEAH CHASE: Listen, I Say Like This" - Chicken (and shrimp) Creole - Mardis Gras 2012

Date I made this recipe: February 21, 2012 – Mardi Gras

LEAH CHASE: Listen, I Say Like This by Carol Allen
Published by: Pelican Publishing Company
ISBN: 1-58980-048-6
Recipe: Chicken Creole – p. 62

Well, today is Fat Tuesday and that means it is Mardi Gras time again – time to let the good times roll! And it wouldn’t be Mardis Gras without a Creole recipe, right? And who better to advise on such matters than Leah Chase?

So who is Leah Chase, you ask? Well this fine New Orleans native, 89 years young, is now synonymous with New Orleans’ dining and Creole food. Leah’s husband’s family ran a small, family restaurant in New Orleans – Dooky Chase Restaurant – and after Leah married Edgar (Dooky) Chase II she started lending a hand (and her family recipes) to the business. Pretty soon, the restaurant earned a reputation as being one of the nation’s (and New Orleans’s) finest and most popular Creole restaurants. “Miss Chase” also had an affinity for African-American artists and their artwork now adorns the walls of her restaurant.

And then in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, roared through the Gulf Coast and life in the infamous 5th Ward where the restaurant is located would never be the same. Leah and her family spent over a year trying to get back into the restaurant and when she finally reopened, there was much rejoicing – seriously. There are sadly places in New Orleans that never recovered but happily Dooky Chase Restaurant is not one of them.

Leah’s book, which is more biography than cookbook, was published in 2002. I bought the book while in New York at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks (book store) in 2005 and I’m racking my brain to figure out if that was before or after Katrina. Either way, it’s a spooky coincidence. I do know that I keep a notebook filled with the names of older cookbooks that I want to find and purchase and Leah’s book was on my list a long time before Hurricane Katrina hit. It’s an interesting read so don’t be put off by the fact that there are very few recipes. I’d like to believe she culled the best ones just for us!

This Chicken Creole (and shrimp) recipe yields six servings and I’d say that was six generous servings. But it was mighty tasty so what do I care if I’m eating it for a month? Fat Tuesday is only the start of Mardi Gras and I intend to enjoy it and this recipe to the fullest!

Chicken Creole (with shrimp) – serves 6

6 5-oz boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup onions, chopped
½ cup green peppers, chopped
2 cups whole tomatoes with liquid
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped
½ tsp ground thyme (or 2 sprigs fresh)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
12 small whole okra
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp parsley, chopped

Season chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and the white pepper. In large skillet or chicken fryer, heat the vegetable oil. Place seasoned chicken in hot oil, turning as it cooks (about 6 minutes). Lower heat. Remove chicken and set aside.

Saute onions in skillet until they are clear. Add the green peppers; stir and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add whole tomatoes, mashing them as you stir them into the onion mixture. Add water, garlic, thyme, cayenne pepper and remaining salt. Let sauce cook on high heat for 4 minutes.

Lower heat; return chicken to sauce. Add okra and cook for 10 minutes until okra are just tender. Add shrimp; let cook until shrimp turn pink (about 5 minutes). Add parsley. Serve over buttered rice.

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