For a Southern girl, there is not a quicker way to put stars in her eyes than through food, simmered low and slow, from the heart. And since Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day are a whopping 3 days apart this year… you guessed it… I’ve got to have some of that sweet Louisiana cooking to set the mood. So, I am thinking a date night in the kitchen will be just thing. I’ll cook a little; he’ll cook a little. I’ll eat a little; he’ll eat a little. .. ok, he’ll eat a lot, but that’s why I love to feed that man. I’m seeing peaches, gumbo, bread pudding, and blackberries followed with some chicory. Cue a little Harry Connick, Jr., and I think the mood will be just about right. I’m getting a little weak in the knees just think about it! Ahhh, I do love the magic of the kitchen! Food and love, love and food; it’s all the same.
Enough talk, though. Let’s get started with some Peppered Peaches and Brie, then move on to Blonde Gumbo (so easy you will be surprised), and finish with a Bread Pudding topped with a whiskey sauce and blackberries. Are you ready? I. can’t. wait.
Peppered Peaches and Brie
This is a great little fruit and cheese appetizer.
- 1/3 C peach preserves
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 7 oz wedge of brie
- whole grain crackers
Cut the rind from the brie. (Some people like the rind, but I am in that group who thinks the taste and texture of the rind is weird.) The easiest way to do this is to make sure the brie is good and cold, making it firm and easy to cut. Let the brie warm to room temperature to serve.
Mix the red pepper flakes and peach preserves together. Spoon a dollop or two of these preserves with a kick over the brie and put the rest into a pretty jar to serve.
Lastly, arrange crackers, brie, and the peppered peach preserves on a platter or cheese board. Cut 1-2 small bunches of grapes and add to the platter too.
Paula’s Blonde Gumbo with Green Chile Rice
This gumbo has a blonde, buttery roux. It only takes about 5 minutes to reach its golden brown color and nutty flavor. Gumbo purists may be cringing at the thought of an easy roux that doesn’t take all day, but I promise this you will love. It is one of my favorites.
- 1/2 C butter
- 2/3 C all purpose flour
- 1 3/4 C diced yellow onion (As with all jobs, having the right tools makes it easy. Good knives are invaluable.)
- 1 C diced celery
- 1 C diced green bell pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 TBSP minced garlic)
- 2- 32 oz. cartons chicken broth
- 2- 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes and green chilies (drained)
- 24 0z. smoked sausage, sliced
- 2 C cut okra (frozen or fresh, depending on if it’s in season- so for V-Day, frozen)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (Yes, I know it’s weird, but trust me.)
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2lbs large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (or if you live far from the Gulf like I do, then 2lbs 36/40 frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined)
- Green Chile Rice (recipe follows)
In a stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly until roux is a light golden brown and has a nutty aroma.
Add onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or until onion is translucent.
Add broth, tomatoes, sausage, okra, bay leaves, and all of the spices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 min.
Stir in shrimp. Cook for 4 min. until the shrimp are pink and firm.
Green Chile Rice (Get started on this while your gumbo simmers for 45 minutes.)
- 3 C chicken broth
- 2 C long grain white rice
- 3/4 C water
- 2- 4 oz. cans green chiles, divided (don’t drain)
- 1/4 tsp salt
In a large saucepan, combine broth, water, rice, 1 can chiles, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and add 2nd can of chiles. Fluff with a fork .
Perini’s Bread Pudding and Whiskey Sauce
- 2 eggs
- 2 TBSP butter, melted
- 2 TBSP vanilla
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 C heavy cream (or 1/2 & 1/2)
- 2 C sugar
- 2 C sour dough bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/3 C chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs and add cooled butter, vanilla, cream, and cinnamon.
Gradually add the sugar. Mix thoroughly until the sugar is dissolved.
Place bread cubes in the bottom of a 9in round baking dish. Pour liquid over the bread, making sure all of the pieces are saturated. You may have to pat some of the cubes down into the cream.
Sprinkle the pecans over the bread and push them down into the bread and cream.
Bake 50-60 minutes until golden brown.
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 C cream
- 1/4 C Jack Daniels
Combine the ingredients into a small saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until sauce reaches a low, rolling boil. Pour over individual servings of bread pudding. Garnish with a blackberry and sprig of mint.
In true, Louisiana style, you must drink a cup of chicory coffee with that decadent dessert. Since chicory can be a bit bracing, I like Community’s chicory & coffee blend. A perfect way to end a perfect meal.
If I had to pick 2 words for this menu, it would be rich and spicy– just like your relationship with the one you love. Even though I have changed them a little here and there, these recipes aren’t my own. All recipes have to come from somewhere, right? If you’d like to see the originals, check out the sources below.
Deen, Paula. “Sausage-and-Shrimp Gumbo with Green Chile Rice.” Paula Deen’s Christmas: Special Issue. Dec. 2011: 43. Print.