Friday, May 7, 2010


The difference between me and a chef is that I have to do my own dishes.
Miss Lucy

Miss Lucy is a Louisiana institution, like the powdered sugar on your shoes at Café du Monde and the century-simmered LSU/Ole Miss rivalry. She was raised in the good ole Cajun Cookin’ tradition, with homage paid to the Kitchen Trinity in every dish save that Strawberry Thing.

She’s a petite woman, looking much like a cross between Diane Keeton and Loretta Lynn, and quite attractive behind those 80’s glasses, which she pushes up almost as often as she stirs a pot. And stir, she does!!! I’m USED to Southern Cookin’ and all rich ingredients, and the only thing which perturbs me about her cooking is the way she shows off her wonderful non-stick cookware, then drowns out her dialogue with loud, metal-utensil skritches and scrapes of the pot through every recipe.

I used to watch her on RFD TV, somewhere between the cattle auctions and the HeeHaw re-runs, and stepping into her kitchen, across the counter from those pots and pans redolent of simmering peppers and onions and seafood and lots of seasonings, is a step into another kind of cuisine entirely. She is so welcoming and homey, you’re time-transported to childhood and feel as if you’re sitting there watching your favorite aunt cook supper for the family---you wanna get up and start setting the table and pouring the tea.

I cook with butter; my many recipes involving Philly caused me to be christened Goddess of Lily-Gilding on a very well-known cooking website, and Heaven help me---I’ve put a can of Campbell’s Cream Of into more casseroles and gravies than you can shake a spoon at, but Oh, My!!!

The constitution of those dishes on her dashing red stove must be that of wall-spackle; by the third ingredient, that big spoon just stands there upright until she returns with yet another richly-thick item to add.

I’ve looked up her Crawfish Etouffee recipe, and the one online is not QUITE the recipe I watched her make one cold evening several years ago (before we got this new-fangled TV system which looks DOWN on country matters like the folks in 5-7-9 look at me). That pot grew and grew, from the two sticks of melted oleo to saute the peppers and onions, and start the “light roux” with some flour, to the can of Campbell’s, the blocks of Philly (scritch becoming scrape as she tried to incorporate all that paste) and then the seasonings and a coupla pounds of picked-out crawfish tails.

And she’s no wilting lily, herself---she goes out to those big metal buildings on the ponds--- those gifts to the local economy and lots of rural families; she walks in where those ladies are picking that meat, puts on her own apron and hairnet, and sits right down. You can tell a cook who knows her ingredients---and knows where they come from. She’d no more quail at dressing game or gutting a fish than she would at putting on those waist-waders and manning the nets.

I like her; I wish I could still get her program---I’ve  shown her to the family and we’ve laughed at all the folderol, but good cookin’ comes out of that kitchen, and that’s what counts. And if you broke your leg, she’d be at your door with a 9x13 of Shrimp and Cornbread Dressin’ before the plaster cast had set.

I’d love to taste some of the food which comes from her cheery red kitchen; I know it would taste good. And rich. And spicy. I’ve just wondered if maybe instead of headin’ down there to try, it might save time to just throw some creamcheese, Campbell’s and a pound of butter in the blender, and just mainline the calories.

1 medium eggplant
2 eggs, beaten
2 c. flour
2 c. oil
1 stick oleo
1/12 c. each of chopped onions and bell pepper
1 c. chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. crawfish tail meat
3 T. white wine
¼ c, Chicken Broth
1 c. green onion tops, sliced
S&P to taste
1 lb. grated Cheddar
1 ½ c. grated Parm
1 9-inch pan of cornbread, crumbled,
OR 3 c. bread crumbs.

Peel eggplant and slice into thin rounds. Dip slices into eggs, then into flour. Fry slices until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Melt butter in large skillet and sauté onions, BP, celery and garlic. Add crawfish and wine and cook 10 minutes. Add broth, green onions and S&P to taste.

In a LARGE casserole dish layer: Half of eggplant, all the crawfish mixture, all of both cheeses and half the cornbread crumbs. Layer on remaining cornbread, then eggplant. Foil-wrap and bake 350 for 30. Uncover and bake for 10. Serves 6 to 8.

Recipe and picture from her website
That layering order was a bit odd---why separate the cornbread in the first place? I think I'd do Cornbread, eggplant, all of crawfish mixture, half the cheeses, then eggplant, cornbread, then rest of cheese. Just to keep the layers interesting. I LIKE making layers of stuff in casserole dishes, especially when sauteed onions and lots of cheese are involved (SIS---I'm craving your enchiladas). There's just something about the scent of it cooking and just the mere accomplishment of a perhaps complicated thing, then the kitchen is all neat and dinner's ready.

1 comment:

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I love this type of cooking, and I love crawfish so much that I can make it through mounds of them at one sitting! When my BIL was still alive and living in Louisiana, he and I would sit at the kitchen table at their home and go to town on a grocery sack of crawfish! Oh, this makes me long to visit Louisisana SO bad!

This woman sounds priceless. I wish I could watch her show right along with you. Sorry you can't get it anymore.

Thanks for this wonderful visit to a place I love very much...


Sheila :-)