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February 2010 COTM: Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen

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  1. Since I'm doing a few Prudhomme recipes but not until next weekend for a Louisiana/NOLA-themed Superbowl, I thought I'd post here in case anyone has any tips since these will all be first-time recipes to try on guests.

    I plan on making:
    Cajun Meat pies (empanada size), p. 128
    Shrimp with classic cocktail sauce and with Remoulade Sauce, p. 286
    Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, p 202 with Basic Rice (yep, using converted), p.224
    Coffee Cookies, p. 337

    (and Classic NOLA cocktails - Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz, and Old Fashioned - and ArizonaGirl is bringing muffuletta and King cake or beignets)

    I've only made one recipe from this book before (our favorite Cajun meat loaf), so I'd especially love any advance prep ideas, tips on gumbo for a first-timer, a rec for a favorite filling on the pies, etc. He also mentions that you can make the roux ahead of time (p. 27). Has anyone ever done this? Thanks!

    17 Replies
    1. re: Rubee

      I started making roux ahead when my kids were small. I got tired of throwing out the ones I burned. What a waste of time.
      You can find everything you ever wanted to know about French, Creole, and Cajun roux at John Folse's recipe site. He's got a clear patient explanation of the differences, especially the ingredients, and the techniques. You can make either "dry roux" or the make ahead one at the end of the piece if you want a head start. I like the dry one.
      http://www.jfolse.com/fr_rouxs.htm

      1. re: MakingSense

        I haven't gotten my hands on my copy of Prudhomme's book yet - does he not have a good explanation about how to properly make a roux?

        1. re: MMRuth

          He says in the book that his approach "derives from the tradition of Cajun cooks."
          Folse's site discusses all types including the Cajun, so that the cook can understand the Creole roux, as well as the classic French, which is used in some Haute Creole cuisine.

          I think that saying "high heat" is a problem since stoves vary so much. Also that's very hard for a beginner. I don't know many people who use above a med-high and roux can be successfully made at a medium heat, although it takes much longer. That's less stressful for most people when they're getting the hang of it.

          1. re: MakingSense

            A Big + 1 on medium heat (or less) ~~~ An even bigger + 1 on less stress ~~ More time for sippin Rye and Bourbon :))

      2. re: Rubee

        In my experience, his recipes are spot on and really don't need anything in the way of explication. If you follow them as written, you'll achieve the anticipated result. Once you know what he's aiming for, you may want to make adjustments in spiciness or sweetness--unless you know for sure that your audience really doesn't like spicy in which case you might want to cut back in that department right from the get-go.

        I did make the roux ahead of time, but only once, and that was a long time ago. Although you'll probably want to go slowly the first time you make it so you can get a feel (or see) for when and how quickly the color changes, it really takes so little time that I never again bothered. The only recommendation I'd make regarding the roux is, if you haven't done it before, it's much easier to see the color of the roux in an aluminum or stainless skillet than in a cast iron pan. He does recommend cast iron, and that's what I use now, but it's considerably more difficult to judge dark brown/black against a black background than against a light one.

        1. re: Rubee

          Only a word of caution. Do not allow hot roux to come into contact with your skin in any shape, form, or fashion...It is a burn you will not soon forget ~~ So be careful and...

          Have Fun and Enjoy!!

          1. re: Uncle Bob

            Isn't hot roux referred to a Cajun napalm?

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Ha! Yes it is!! ~~ It wants to stick to you like glue! Before you can get it off it will "eat you up" ~~ Very bad burn.

              1. re: Uncle Bob

                Thanks so much for all the helpful hints everyone! I was going to make the gumbo with a Le Creuset (enameled cast-iron) for the roux, do you think that would work?

                Yes, I noticed that that in the book he does call roux "Cajun napalm" and Prudhomme emphasizes "using a LONG-handled metal whisk or wooden spoon". I don't want to be sipping on rye cocktails and making roux, that's for sure!

                1. re: Rubee

                  Enameled cast iron is perfect!

                  1. re: Rubee

                    You're welcome....I have no experience making a roux in Le Creuset enameled cookware but I don't see it as being a problem...Maybe check further first...

                    I do have experience with Rye and Bourbon Whiskey however...And I do have a couple of long handled Roux spoons... Maybe one could stir while the other sipped!! LOL :))

                    1. re: Rubee

                      Spoon/whisk? Try a utensil with a flat edge. I use a wooden spatula, like my mother/grandmothers, etc. You get more contact with the surface of the pan and can keep the roux moving better. Gets in the corners too.
                      LC is just fine. Once you learn to make a good roux, you can make it in an old tin can.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Yes to wooden!!...Yes to flat edges!!...My Cypress "roux spoons" have flat edges!! Wouldn't trade em for love nor money!

                        1. re: Uncle Bob

                          Now a cypress roux spoon is a kitchen gadget I would love to have! How cool:)

                          1. re: Uncle Bob

                            I bought four of those a few years ago at a little market in Florida. I had used them before and worn out several (that's a lie, I still use them). I'm using two of the "new" ones and storing the other two - there is *nothing* like them and their flat edges - made for stirring a roux!

                2. re: Rubee

                  At least half the time I make a roux, I double it for later use. I turn the kitchen tv on, get a bottle of water, and just know I'm gonna be stirring that roux for a good half hour. And the phone. Keep the phone nearby. I don't cook mine on ultra-low heat like some people do. The heat is usually med-high to high - if it starts to cook too fast, I remove it from the burner and turn it down. Haven't burnt one in many years. The gumbo will be even better the day(s) after you make it. A personal preference, but I always add okra to mine - we love it that way. Let us know how it turns out!

                  1. re: Rubee

                    Yes, lots of people make roux ahead of time. And if it separates, as it sometimes does, you can simply spoon off the oil that rises to the top.
                    As you can see, everyone has his/her method. I think the most important thing, especially for the beginner, is to use a heavy-bottomed pot. I always use my favorite well-seasoned cast iron, but LC should be fine. I use a long, wooden-handled whisk. Whatever utensil you use, you have to keep it moving, especially if you are working with high heat. I use the high-heat method--the oil heats five minutes on a high flame, and then I add the flour and whisk madly for another three to five minutes--but I will say that this is very stressful, especially the first few times. You can achieve the same results over lower heat, but it will take longer.
                    I've found the color photos in LK to be very helpful. I always aim for the reddish-brown. (Note that after the vegetables are added, the roux continues to darken.)
                    Another suggestion: cut the amount of red pepper initially, and add more later if you want it. The dishes tend to be very spicy, and the spice may be too much for some of your guests.

                  2. This thread keeps coming up at the bottom, so I thought I'd just post a link for it here:

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/310755 - What are your favorite Prudhomme recipes and why.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Thanks for that link, MMRuth.

                      Here's a link to some recommendations (from nomadchowwoman) from the "announcement" thread for quick and easy recipes from LK http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6821...

                      And here's a link to the nomination thread for some of bayoucook's LK favs:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6792...
                      Another link to bayoucook's LK favs from an old COTM discussion:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6251...
                      And, JoanN's hearty endorsement for LK's Cajun seafood gumbo:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6251...

                      Links to online sources for some ingredients from smtucker and UncleBob:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6821...
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6821...

                      Link to the book's index from MMRuth: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6821...

                      Link to some online recipes from Gio: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6821...

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        TDQ - I did re-read the book and there are SO many more recipes I want to make.
                        I cooked so much out of this one b/c I only had two cookbooks back then - I also had Joy Of Cooking. I am craving the meatloaf or the Shepherd's pie with the hot sauce.
                        Just got back from a trip; got to get to the grocery store. This is going to be fun!
                        -Paula

                    2. my roux didn't turn red at all. went from grayish brown to dark brown before I stopped it. There were definitely some "bits" scraped from the bottom of my pan but I don't know if that explains it. Should a roux be reddish colored at some point?

                      ps this was for the chicken etouffee, not that it matters.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: luniz

                        red like a new copper penny - yes, that's normal -
                        are the scraped up bits black?

                        1. re: bayoucook

                          Descriptions of color are subjective. His red-brown may not be the same as yours.
                          There is a set of color plates in the book that show four different colors of roux.
                          He calls it "Dark Red - brown Roux," but I might describe the color in that photo as "deep mahogany."
                          How would you describe that color?

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            Dark brown. It's pic 2b that *i* call red-brown or copper penny. Yes, color is very objective.I use something between b and c for my shrimp creole, and d for my gumbos. I guess it's largely a matter of taste - DH was raised on foods with the darker roux. I can't tell you how many black roux I had to throw away when I was learning!

                            1. re: bayoucook

                              I'll have to look at the pictures again. The roux never really had any redness at all, that I can remember anyway. Went from beige-gray to brown-gray to black-brown. The scrapings off my pan were actually reddish black before I added the flour.

                              1. re: luniz

                                Did it turn out okay? I have many recipes that call for "copper penny" as a roux color - look at those pix and you'll see it.

                                1. re: bayoucook

                                  It tastes good. It's too thick, I probably added more flour than the recipe called for because it was thin and I didn't realize how much I'd cook it down. I also didn't add nearly as much butter as he calls for. Just not the right color. I've had redder etouffee at restaurants.

                        2. re: luniz

                          I've made roux before and *still* I'm finding all this information/discussion somewhat intimidating.

                          also ... rye mixed with bourbon? That is a new one on me. I'm thinking: why not just straight bourbon?

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            Can't answer the rye/bourbon question. Am relieved to say I still enjoy those separately.
                            But don't let all these different techniques/methods intimidate you, especially if you've made roux before. I make my dark roux quickly simply because it's quick, and I've mastered it. But you can get the same results with lower heat and less stress about potential burning. (My mother makes roux over a bare simmer in a pot I find less than ideal, but it takes forever.)
                            While I generally am looking for (dark) reddish-brown color before adding the "holy trinity" (because I know that at the high temperatures, the roux will continue to darken), I find most people stop before the roux is dark enough. Although this is not particularly helpful in general, esp. not to the accomplished books on these boards, I told my girlfriend to let it go until she thought it was going to burn. She claims that was excellent advice (but of course, I gave it knowing well her cooking personality, which is reticent). If you are cooking over low heat, you can go very dark. But a true black roux is very tricky, and I wouldn't advise trying that until you're very comfortable making dark roux.

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              Laughing at your answer re: bourbon and rye!! And thank you so much for the thoughtful response.

                            2. re: LulusMom

                              There are as many different methods of making roux as there are cooks. I vary it depending on whether I'm making Creole, Cajun, or French food.
                              Think of it as using the same skill that you use when making a simple white sauce for a bechamel, but you're using differing proportions of different fats to flour, at higher heat, and cooking it longer to get the correct color for whatever you are using it for.
                              Roux adds flavor. That's what Prudhomme mentions often in the book. The darker the roux, the less thickening power. "Black" roux is used almost solely for flavor, while the lighter ones will also thicken.

                              Telling someone how to make a roux and especially how to do it exactly for a specific dish is damned near impossible. The language is subjective, everyone's cooking style and utensils are different, and taste is not the same.
                              Can you tell somebody how to ride a bike? No. The only way to learn is by doing it, and falling off a few times.
                              You will burn a few roux, not get them to the proper stage, etc., before you get the hang of it. Sooner or later, it will become second nature.
                              I don't even think about it any more. But then I grew up sitting on a tall kitchen stool next to my grandmother's stove every day. I don't even remember anyone ever telling me how to make a roux.
                              You'll get there. Remember that a good roux is an exercise in patience.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                Making roux is incredibly simple. Heat, flour, and oil, stirred until it reaches your desired color. I frankly think that having beginners make roux w/ low-medium heat is a bad idea, because the color change is so slow that you begin to second guess yourself. When you use high heat, not only is it a much more efficient process, but the color changes are much more perceptible to the eye. And even at the highest heat (which I recommend), it still is a 5-10 minute job, so it isn't as if in an instant the roux burns. As long as you keep the liquid moving, you're fine.

                                This, by the way, is a good read for roux making:
                                http://www.southerngumbotrail.com/rou...

                                1. re: fame da lupo

                                  thank you so much for the info and pep talk, fame.

                            3. I appreciate the great tips from the more experienced roux-masters, and I'm sure my guinea pigs....er...guests will too. I'm definitely going to make the roux ahead in case I burn it and have to start over, and I'm going to use the slower, lower heat method for my first time.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Rubee

                                Going slow at first is a great idea. I've been making roux for 30+ years and I still don't rush them, even tho' I could (probably). I know it'll be great!

                              2. Any opinions about omitting evaporated milk in a recipe? Specifically, the cajun meatloaf recipe? I don't feel like buying a bag/jar of the stuff, since I've never needed it before.

                                My gut feeling is that the meatloaf will still be fine because I've never used it in meatloaf in the past.

                                Lastly, is evaporated milk the same as dry milk?

                                18 Replies
                                1. re: beetlebug

                                  Warning: I have NO experience with this book yet. But no, evaporated milk isn't the dried stuff - it is the gooey stuff that comes in a can. Extra sweet. I'd say just go with normal milk and you'll be fine, but again, I have no experienc with the book. But c'mon, meatloaf is meatloaf. I'm sort of grossed out by the concept of evaporated milk in meatloaf, myself.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Eww. It's sweet? Is it the same as condensed milk?

                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                      They must not be exactly the same, but they sure look the same - at least to me. I have a can in my pantry (for baking) and here is what it says in the ingredients list: milk (I should hope so!), dipotassium phosphate, carrageenan and vitamin D3.

                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        Evaporated milk is very different from sweetened condensed milk. It's not sweet and just a bit thicker than milk; I've always understood it to just be milk that's been sterilized, with water removed or "evaporated", to make it shelf stable. It has a different flavor and is a little richer and smoother than milk, so maybe you could just use light cream or buttermilk, or milk. Although I think it's just easier to pick up a can of the evaporated milk. As bayoucook mentions, it comes in small cans so you don't have to buy a big container of it. I've always used it for the Cajun meatloaf recipe because I always have a can or two in the pantry. I have to add that I've made the meatloaf maybe 10-15 times, exactly as is with the evaporated milk, and it's delicious. E won't eat any other kind of meatloaf anymore.

                                        http://i4.peapod.com/c/9H/9HTXO.jpg

                                      2. re: LulusMom

                                        LulusMom - you don't have it confused with sweetened condensed milk do you?
                                        Evap. milk is not sweet. I guy it in small cans here (8 oz. I think) for use in recipes.

                                        1. re: bayoucook

                                          Maybe it isn't sweet, maybe I confused it. It still grosses me out - the thickness of it. Why use it, when regular milk is available?

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            Maybe it originated for use in rural areas (far from stores, without cows) to be used in place of regular milk. It lasts so long in the pantry, I guess, along with dry milk. Hmmm.

                                            1. re: bayoucook

                                              They have a similar product in a carton in Italy that a friend of mine loves - called something like Parmamilk? I do think if you can't get to the store often these things can come in handy, but for me they have a large yuck factor. Basically I was telling Beetlebug that milk should be a fine sub. No offense to Evap. milk fans out there.

                                              1. re: bayoucook

                                                Evaporated milk was heavily used because electricity was uncommon in rural areas, especially the South, until after the Rural Electrification Administration was founded in 1935, and it still took years before people could afford refrigerators since war-time manufacturing was devoted to the war effort, not consumer goods.
                                                It's usually a pretty good clue to an old recipe when you see evaporated milk.
                                                Sometimes it makes a big difference such as in the icing for classic caramel cake.
                                                Other times? You can fudge and use something else.
                                                In this meatloaf, it probably wouldn't make any difference if you used regular whole milk for that small amount of liquid - or left it out altogether.

                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                  I knew it must've had that kind of history. I must have many of those old-time recipes because evaporated milk is a staple in my kitchen, altho' I've subbed milk or half-n-half for small amounts. My cajun MIL made her dressing using cans of evaporated milk poured over the breadcrumbs along with the beaten eggs (and the rest of it). I regularly keep two small and two regular sizes in the pantry; it's easy enough. Thanks for the info!

                                                  1. re: bayoucook

                                                    History, geography, and heritage pretty much determined how and what people ate until the past few decades when transportation and refrigeration changed everything.
                                                    Food became more culturally homogenized.
                                                    The swing back to local, regional, seasonal, and "authentic" foods will be interesting.

                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                      Thanks for the interesting (and non-hitting me over the head!) discussion of EM. I have always wondered what the reasoning for it in a recipe was. I have only ever used it for baked goods, and now that I think about it, they were almost always old family recipes.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        EM is nice to have in the pantry because my kiddos are always going thru the reg. milk pretty quickly. I live way out in the country and when I'm out of reg. milk it comes in handy. I make all kinds of things with it and enjoy the richer taste. My husband says it makes the chowders, etc. a little sweeter and prefers the reg. milk, but I don't necessarily agree. It's a matter of convenience for me. I like to use the fat free EM when possible.

                                              2. re: LulusMom

                                                Evaporated milk is milk reduced by 50%. It has a cooked taste but is no thicker than heavy cream.

                                            2. re: LulusMom

                                              Evaporated milk (called for in the recipe) is not the same as Condensed Milk...
                                              Evaporated is just regular milk with 50+ % of the water "evaporated" out....
                                              Condensed Milk is the thick, rich, very sweet product used in pies, candies, etc.

                                              If you don't want to use Evaporated milk...then just use regular milk...I doubt you will notice any appreciable difference in the finished meatloaf...

                                              Have Fun!!

                                              1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                I think technically evaporated milk and condensed milk are the same thing. But what we think of as condensed milk is really labeled *sweetened* condensed milk. It is unsweetened condensed milk with sugar added. A huge amount of sugar. About 40% of a can of sweetened condensed milk is sugar, supposedly. No wonder it tastes so sugary!

                                            3. re: beetlebug

                                              As UB points out, evaporated milk is just milk with some of the water content evaporated. He says 50%, I had always thought it was 60%--but I'm not quibbling. Close enough. There are a number of options here.(1) Buttermilk will give you the texture and richness, but will be somewhat more tart. (2) You can reconstitute non-fat dry milk with just a bit less than half the amount of water; that will give you the texture, but just because it's non-fat it will be somewhat less rich. Or, (3) you can take whole milk and evaporate it yourself: bring whole milk to the very barest simmer and continue to simmer until it's cooked down by half. But be sure not to let it boil or it will curdle.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                Thanks everyone. I may have some milk in the fridge. I definitely have buttermilk. I'm sure soy milk would not be an acceptable substitution. ;-)

                                                Since evaporated milk is about half the water content, I'm just going to halve the amount of whatever unspoiled milk product that's in the fridge. I'm really excited for this recipe.