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Louisiana Saturday Night

July 25, 2010

Well, we didn’t get down the fiddle.  We didn’t get down the bow.  We didn’t have a single-shot rifle or a one-eyed dog.  And we definitely didn’t have a possum in a sack.

BUT.

We did have a Louisiana Saturday night!

To raise money for the oil spill in the Gulf, Foodbuzz asked its bloggers to create a gulf-themed meal tonight, July 24th.  For each gulf-themed meal created, Foodbuzz is donating $25 to the Greater New Orleans Foundation, who are giving 100% of the donations to the fishermen and their families who have been affected by the spill.

As a Louisiana girl, this event hit especially close to my heart.  I was eager to put my Louisiana cooking chops to the test to raise money for gulf relief!

Our Louisiana cooking adventure began yesterday, when I decided, against all common sense, to make pralines on a hot July day.  There’s nothing like standing over a pot of boiling sugar in 90 degree temps to really make you proud of your Louisiana heritage. 

The pralines were a challenge, to be sure, but in the end, they came out great!  Via Facebook, my cousin Elizabeth has also informed me that my grandmother’s original recipe for pralines is quite simple, and much easier than the recipes found in most cookbooks.  Good to know for next time.

Today, we got started on step two of our Louisiana feast.  For dessert, I was inspired by a recipe for Peach and Praline ice cream in the Creole Cajun Bible Encyclopedia, by John Folse.

I have fond memories of summer ice cream cranked in an old-fashioned machine.  For our ice cream, we took the simple way out and used our Cuisinart ice cream maker.

Our ice cream had simple ingredients: fresh peach puree, sugar, milk, cream, and Frangelico liqueur, plus freshly-crumbled praline pieces.  Here are some pics of the process:

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For our main course tonight, I relied on a little help from a Louisiana friend.  Back in the spring, I won a Louisiana giveaway by fellow Louisiana blogger, Lauren at Louisiana Grown.  She included some vegetarian (!) jambalaya mix in the package, so I figured tonight was the perfect night to give it a whirl! 

Jambalaya is a quintessential Louisiana dish, but it’s actually derived from a few different cultures (as many great dishes are).  The Spanish settlers brought paella to New Orleans in the early 1700’s, and the dish was quickly adapted to indigenous South Louisiana ingredients like andouille sausage and shrimp.  The Africans named the dish Jambon a la yaya (yaya being the African word for rice),  and thus Jambalaya was born!    

We put our own homemade spin on it, sauteeing up some onion, celery, and red bell pepper (known in Louisiana as the “trinity”), along with some soy sausage.  To that, we added stewed tomatoes, our jambalaya mix, a little Creole seasoning, and water.  Voila! Jambalaya!

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Lauren, I’m happy to let you know that this mix was a hit!

Along with the jambalaya, I tackled another Louisiana favorite of my own: fried okra.

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I have great memories of my mom frying okra when I was a little girl (and a big girl, ha), but I’ve never attempted it on my own.  As a pretty healthy eater, frying is never really something that appeals to me…but, to be honest, it also intimidates the hell out of me—all that hot oil, things flying everywhere…there’s too much of a chance that a night involving fried food could land me in the hospital with a third degree burn!

Still, there’s no time like the present to tackle a kitchen fear, right?

So, I rolled up my sleeves (Actually, that’s not true.  It’s way too hot here right now to be wearing sleeves.  We’re all hanging around in the nude—that’s how hot it is…), and prepared to get my fry on.

Are you picturing me frying okra naked?

Good.

In a cast-iron pan, I heated about 4 cups of canola oil.  Gulp.

While the oil was heating, I chopped the okra into 1/2 inch pieces, tossed it in an egg mix and then a fry mix.

Getting dirty:

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Finally…I let it drop:

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The verdict?

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Frying okra is pretty easy!! I was careful not to crowd the pan, and very careful not to let the oil splatter up on me.  It took a while, because I was working in small batches, but the okra all turned out excellent!  I almost wish it had been more difficult, because now I totally want to fry some more stuff! This could be dangerous…

In honor of the Gulf-themed meal, we put together a tablescape that Sandra Lee would be proud of (God help me…God help us all):

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The meal was a hit:

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fried okra

I think the Zydeco music that I listened to as I cooked made everything taste even better:

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We wrapped up with our Peach Praline ice cream:

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It was kind of melty…but oh, SO tasty! Even this guy wanted in on the action:

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So good! 

Living up here in Pennsylvania, 20 hours away from my home and family, I sometimes forget how much I miss Louisiana, and how lucky I feel to be able to call such an amazing place my home.  Louisiana truly is a wonder.  It’s taken some heavy hits lately, but I have faith that it will bounce back, stronger than ever and just as beautiful, unique and crazy as it’s always been.

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Thanks, Foodbuzz, for giving me the chance to raise a little money for this amazing cause. 

You can learn more about the Greater New Orleans Foundation here!

What’s your food heritage?  What foods do you have a strong tie to?

35 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2010 2:27 am

    oh my gosh, i am tearing up! i grew up on food like you had tonight and i just can’t imagine how one could NOT have stuff like that! i would say that growing up in texas offered so many different takes on so many different foods…i loved (still love) it!

  2. Kristi permalink
    July 25, 2010 3:00 am

    Fried okra is one fried food that remains on my menu. We can’t grow okra here, so I’m one of the Southerners who stands in line EARLY at Saturday market to get it as they unload the truck from the Yakima valley.

    Good job! That should definitely earn points with your FIL.

  3. July 25, 2010 3:17 am

    What an amazing meal! And for such a great cause! Good job!
    My meals growing up were not at all like that. I never tried okra until college and I’ve still never had jambalaya! I’ve made my way east, now I just need to go south 🙂

  4. Ali permalink
    July 25, 2010 3:34 am

    Nitty Gritty Dirt Band… Awesome. As a native Texas girl I must say brisket…. Yummmmy.

    • Ali permalink
      July 27, 2010 8:05 pm

      Doh, I totally had the singer wrong … all my country favorites were running around in my head after reading the title of your post 🙂 I do apologize!

      • July 28, 2010 12:44 am

        Haha, I just figured there was a cover of it that I didn’t know about! 🙂

  5. actorsdiet permalink
    July 25, 2010 5:47 am

    great job with the foodbuzz dinner – jambalaya is delish and love your veggie version.

  6. July 25, 2010 11:06 am

    What an incredible meal! I’m very impressed! I grew up in York, PA…very meat and potatoes kind of meals. My Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother made everything with lots and lots of butter. Definitely not the healthiest, but delicious for sure!

  7. July 25, 2010 12:11 pm

    Wow! Awesome job on your Foodbuzz meal. The fried okra looks perfect. I get a little nervous frying things too. I think it’s the splattering that gets to me. Being a southern girl I grew up on fried everything and butter butter butter. I have the best memories of my grandma’s baked macaroni and cheese. Awesome stuff.

  8. July 25, 2010 1:08 pm

    Amazing! Love the ice cream flavor. Yum 🙂

  9. Amory permalink
    July 25, 2010 1:15 pm

    Jesus Lord that fried okra looks good

  10. July 25, 2010 1:42 pm

    What a great Gulf meal– everything looks delicious!:)

  11. July 25, 2010 2:18 pm

    Nicely done! Wow. You went all out. My dad’s family is Italian, my mom’s….a mix. I pretty much don’t miss anything about fried Southern cooking. But I sometimes miss not eating my dads unbelievable spaghetti and meatballs (the size of softballs of course).

  12. July 25, 2010 2:20 pm

    You did such a good job on presentation, everything looks great!

  13. July 25, 2010 2:35 pm

    You did a great job! Everything looks wonderful! I’m a Gulf Coast girl myself and I feel a longing for the area right now. 🙂

  14. July 25, 2010 2:47 pm

    I’m a Georgian with parents from south Florida. I love fried okra, blackened grouper and frijoles negroes, cuban style. Those things always make me think of home! I live out West now and let me tell you, okra is impossible to find.

    Your meal looks delicious!

  15. greensandjeans permalink
    July 25, 2010 2:53 pm

    I’ve been doing my fare share of naked cooking these days too… Gotta love the summer time and dodging hot oil! This meal looks incredible and I think you did Louisiana proud!

  16. louisianagrown permalink
    July 25, 2010 3:23 pm

    Sooo excited!!! What a great way to raise money and channel your Louisiana roots all at the same time. Everything looks delicious and would make any Cajun chef proud. I’m so glad that you like the “vegelaya” mix and got a chance to use it!

  17. July 25, 2010 3:24 pm

    Oh wow, what an amazing post! Everything looks wonderful and takes me back to Florida and having dinner with my in-laws from Louisiana. It’s been too long since I’ve had okra and need to try this!

  18. July 25, 2010 5:29 pm

    this is an amazing post anna!

    the ice cream looks amazing and those candy chunks creations i could eat a pound of those that you have topped on the ice cream…omg those look so good!

    love the tribute to your roots. i feel a connection to very little food just b/c the food of my childhood was polish and russian food my grandma and sometimes mom made, but trust me, that’s not “my kind of food” and so am laying down new traditions w/ skylar…that we can embrace plants as our culture!

    oh and your comment to me about doing a raw challlenge…keep me posted on that!

  19. July 25, 2010 5:50 pm

    How neat to be able to cook such a great, nostalgic meal for a cause. It looks wonderful. I’ve lived in GA my entire life and couldn’t imagine living up north. I know I would miss it.

  20. July 25, 2010 5:55 pm

    This really makes me miss growing up in Biloxi! Even though I was only there for 8 years I remember driving into Nawleans for the weekend quite frequently. I seriously miss beignets from Cafe Du Monde!

    I always ate Italian on Sundays with my grandparents after we moved close to them – now Italina + football = Sunday afternoons in my book!

  21. July 25, 2010 5:59 pm

    What a lovely peach picture 🙂

  22. Ginger permalink
    July 25, 2010 9:05 pm

    Great job on the meal!! It all looks delicious, and I just loved the beautiful pictures of Lake Bistineau. And, it was for such a good cause – I’m proud of you!!

  23. July 25, 2010 11:00 pm

    Can you believe I’ve never had ANY of the foods in this post?! Everything still looks amazing though…I keep seeing so much okra, I’m dying to try it! Growing up we ate a lot of French-inspired foods, heavy on the meat and sauces. I don’t eat French food much anymore, but I still love their desserts!

  24. Emo permalink
    July 26, 2010 2:27 am

    Food really can mean home, can’t it? I love how proud you are to be a Louisiana girl! I feel such a fierce pride for South Carolina, even when it’s the only topic on the Daily Show!
    My family’s cuisine has really changed since I was a kid — for the healthier and more adventurous! — but I have a strong tie to my mom’s fudge and santa’s whisker’s cookies!

  25. July 26, 2010 2:49 am

    What a fabulous dinner Anna! I am seriously so impressed with not only everything you made but the reason you did it. I have never had any Louisiana favorites but I will definitely try to make something one of these days, now that I am so inspired by you.

    And Sandra Lee would be SO proud. 🙂

  26. July 26, 2010 3:30 am

    What an amazing meal – and such a great cause. I have to try frying okra!

  27. July 26, 2010 11:39 am

    Oh, Sandra & her tablescapes.. she most certainly would be proud. Everything looks great! Themed dinners are fun!

  28. July 26, 2010 11:48 am

    DANG! You took that assignment seriously. Very seriously! What a treat.

    I’m Italian through and through…if only I could eat like one all the time but bread, pasta, and a lot of wine just don’t sit well on this Fitness & Spice girl! 😉

  29. July 26, 2010 12:24 pm

    That food looks amazing! It makes me want to head down to Nola =) And peach ice cream!? Peaches are soooo good right now!!

  30. July 26, 2010 1:38 pm

    I don’t think I even knew you were from Louisiana! Maybe I did, but I forgot…?? Anyway, this feast looks AMAZING and I am drooling over here, big time. I love Cajun style foods, and I would love to take a trip to New Orleans one day, just to eat all the amazing foods!

    I like what you did with the peach ice cream. It’s gourmet! I can’t eat peaches because of my fructose malabsorption issue, BUT I think I still want to try it in ice cream!!!

  31. thehungryscholar permalink
    July 26, 2010 2:08 pm

    Frying okra is a great idea. I like the decorations!

  32. July 26, 2010 2:44 pm

    What a fabulous meal! Anna…you are amazing!

  33. July 26, 2010 3:38 pm

    What?? You don’t always do the Sandra Lee themed table (and dress)? Hmmm, I don’t think Sandra would take the time to fry up that okra. Looks delicious! And it makes me want to recreate a cooking class I used to do in Charleston: Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie (with whole crawfish crawling out of the pie vents) and File Gumbo. Give me some tasso and andouille and I’m in heaven–or New Orleans.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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