Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Cookin' Up a Storm" & "Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking" - Cheese Coins (crackers) and Creole Corn and Crab Bisque - Hurricane Katrina Anniversary

Date I made these recipes:  August 29, 2015 – Hurricane Katrina's 10 year anniversary

Cookin' Up A Storm – The Life and Recipes of Annie Johnson – Updated 2nd Edition by Jane Lee Rankin
Published by:  Grace Publishers
ISBN:  0-9657387-2-8
Recipe:  Cheese Coins – p. 70

Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking by Emeril LaGasse & Jessie Tirsch
Published by:  William Morrow and Company, Inc.
ISBN: 0-688-11284-6  
Purchased at Hopkins Library Used Book Sale
Recipe:  Creole Corn and Crab Bisque – p. 59

Today – August 29 – marks Hurricane Katrina's 10th anniversary when a good portion of New Orleans as well as other places along the Gulf Coast went underwater after a massive storm surge.  Some of those images are forever engrained in my brain and likely yours as well.  I cannot imagine the horror but am cheered that New Orleans is slowly rebuilding – not fast enough - but it's getting there.

Now the title of Cookin' Up a Storm is somewhat misleading as it has nothing to do with Katrina and nothing to do with New Orleans but I liked the title so much that I had to include it in this post.  This cookbook is subtitled "The Life and Recipes of Annie Johnson," domestic help to the Rankin household of Louisville, KY.  As with many southern African-American women, Annie Johnson was a fabulous cook and her recipes here are all basic, delicious, (mostly) southern specialties like the cheese coins I made. 

I love books like this that are half memoir, half cooking and could have easily cooked up my own storm by making all the recipes in this book.  I chose Cheese Coins because they are a southern specialty (I hardly know a southern cookbook that doesn't contain this recipe or one for cheese straws) and I was intrigued by the use of the puffed rice cereal – not to be confused with Rice Krispies.  I know this because I Googled "puffed rice cereal" and saw that it was as I remembered i.e. a lot bigger than Rice Krispies and made by Quaker Oats.  But alas, folks, finding this cereal was like looking for the unicorn.  Four stores later (I am not kidding), we found what we wanted at Lunds & Byerlys.  This is sad because I'm thinking that today's preferences for sugary cereals is why the basics are disappearing off the shelf.  So thank you, L&B!

And wouldn't you know, we both loved these very easy cheese coins and are placing the recipe into our "consideration" pile for our annual holiday party, especially since we know now where to find the rice cereal.  It's the littlest things that please us.

At the same time I was cooking up a storm with the cheese coins,  I started Emeril's bisque recipe.  Our elusive ingredient for this recipe was the seafood broth.  I knew, with certainty, that Swanson made this broth and yet our grocery store no longer carried it so that was another thing to add to the list of treasure-hunt items.  We found that, and the puffed rice cereal at Lunds & Byerlys. Coastal Seafoods, where I stopped to inquire about crabmeat, also sold homemade fish broth but it was more expensive and I would have had to freeze it.  Coastal Seafoods also had lump crab (frozen) but it was more than what I needed and very expensive so I ultimately went with canned crabmeat. All was not lost at Coastal though as they carried the small bottle of liquid shrimp and crab boil I needed so I bought that. 

After rounding up all the usual ingredients, I set to work and the first order of business was to make a proper roux for the bisque.  Epic fail.  While making the first one, I spooned too much flour into the butter and it turned into pie dough.  Dammit!  So I tried again and it was better but still not like the pictures.  This Yankee doesn't get much practice making a roux so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Roux is a thickener made with flour and butter (fat) and it thickened my bisque all right to the point that I ended up with chowder.  And folks, I didn't even add all the roux required!  Luckily, this mattered not as the dish was delicious, even if we settled for canned crab meat.

All in all, this was just a lovely repast showcasing the best of southern cooking.  Hurricane Katrina was a very sad event but the resilience of people in New Orleans and other coastal areas is inspiring.  Cooks and chefs of all kinds have rebuilt New Orleans, considered by many to be the culinary capital of America.  May they all continue to cook up a storm.

Cheese Coins – Yield:  4 dozen
 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 pound (4 cups) cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups puffed rice cereal (Ann's Note:  NOT Rice Krispies.  Quaker makes this cereal.)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

With an electric mixer or by hand, mix the butter and cheese together.  Sift the flour, salt and cayenne pepper together.  Add to the butter and cheese, mixing until a soft dough is formed.  Add the puffed rice by hand or with a spoon, mixing well.

Form 1-inch balls and flatten to make coins.  Place on lightly greased baking sheets 1 inch apart.

Bake in a 375 oven for 15 minutes, or until coins start to turn golden brown.  (Ann's Note:  About 13 minutes seemed right.)

Creole Corn and Crab Bisque – Makes 7 cups, 6 first-course servings
3 tablespoons Roux (see below or see page 5 if you have the cookbook)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup minced onions
1 cup uncooked corn, scraped from about 2 ears
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 cup Crab Stock (page 11) or Fish Stock (page 9) (Ann's Note:  or store-bought.  Swanson's makes a fish broth but not all stores will carry it.)
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
3 bay leaves
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon liquid crab boil (Ann's Note:  Zatarain's makes this product.)
½ pound (about 1 cup) lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage (Ann's Note:  Coastal Seafoods in St. Paul had it frozen but way more than I needed so I used – gasp – canned lump crabmeat.)
¼ cup chopped green onions
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
For the roux:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 cup flour

Prepare the roux, set aside 3 tablespoons, and refrigerate the rest for future use.  (Ann's Note:  See instructions below on how to make the roux.)

Heat oil in a large pot over high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and corn and sauté for 1 minute.  Stir in the garlic and celery and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add the stock, salt, pepper, and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

Stir in the milk, cream, and crab boil.  Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisky in the roux 1 tablespoon at a time until thoroughly incorporated into the soup.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, whisking until the mixture thickens.

Stir in crabmeat, green onions and Worcestershire and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes.

To serve, ladle 1 generous cup of the bisque into each of 6 soup plates.

To make the roux (makes about ¾ cup)
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour 1 tablespoon at a time and cook, whisking constantly, until the roux is thick and forms a ball, for about 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat or incorporate some immediately into a dish you're preparing.  If you prefer, allow the roux to come to room temperature and refrigerate it, covered, for a week or two.

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