Soup

Mrs. Saundra’s Mardi Gras Gumbo

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It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. People from all over are flying, driving and catching trains to this magical city. Locals are finalizing their costumes for each of their favorite parades and marking their spots to camp out for Fat Tuesday. It is so unfortunate that many tourists don’t get to see the variety of the parades. Many tourists think that Mardi Gras is getting plastered, flashing your ta ta’s and maneuvering your way down Bourbon street with the massive crowd. Mardi Gras is so much more! It is for families. It is a torchbearer of traditions for the Mardi Gras Indians. It is a time where we all come together to see our friends and family parade in a krewe or in a school band. It is one of my favorite times of the year.

Even if you can’t be here for Mardi Gras or if you have never been, you can have your own Mardi Gras parade at home with friends. In some cities, they actually do try to re-create the look and feel of Mardi Gras which I think is awesome. New Orleans is contagious and spreads good karma throughout the world!

So you can’t be here, but you can make a pot of gumbo for Fat Tuesday and listen to music from Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffin or oldies like Fats Domino’s. Dress up! Wear your tu tu with pride and laugh until it hurts. It will give the neighbors something to talk about. 🙂 As my favorite movie character said, “Life is a banquet and too many poor sucka’s are starving to death! Live. Live. Live.”- Auntie Mame

I am sharing with you a recipe that was passed down to me by the sweetest Creole woman named Mrs. Saundra. Mrs. Saundra was a cooking teacher at the New Orleans Cooking School in the French Quarter. Every day she would come to work and teach tourists and some locals about the culinary history of New Orleans. She would present live cooking demos and include some of New Orleans most famous dishes- Jambalaya, Bananas Foster, New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, Bread Pudding and of course Gumbo! Mrs. Saundra would greet everyone with a sweet smile and a “Hey my babbby”. She was a doll. Miss Saundra was a mentor to me. She wasn’t a trained chef but she was a Creole grandmother and that deserves huge respect! Mrs. Saundra gave me her gumbo recipe and I want to share it with you. I kept up with Mrs. Saundra for quite some time. Even after her bout with breast cancer. I lost contact with her. I pray she is fully recovered, with her grandbabies, cooking a pot of gumbo and sharing New Orleans culinary tales. So as Mrs. Saundra would say, “Enjoy my babyy!” Happy Mardi Gras 2014 y’all!

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

2 pound cooked chicken (Thighs if available, bite size)

2 tsp. of Cajun/ Creole Seasoning

1 cup of oil (I prefer peanut oil)                                                     

1/4 cup of salted butter

½ teaspoon of fresh thyme

1 cup of flour (all purpose)

1 bay leaf (optional)

2 cups of finely chopped yellow onions

1 cup of finely chopped celery

1 cup of finely chopped seeded green bell pepper,

1 ½ pounds of sliced smoked sausage (Andouille if possible)

2 pounds of medium sized raw peeled (head removed) shrimp (Gulf Coast Shrimp preferably. It is sweeter and local)

8 cups chicken stock, hot

5 green onion stalks, chopped finely

3 minced garlic cloves

3 tablespoons of chopped parsley

Gumbo Filé powder, add at table

Cooked rice

*Now, if you are a meat lover and can get access to other types of Louisiana sausages. Add Creole Chaurice, a spicy hot sausage. (1 lb. cooked and sliced) and 1 smoked turkey neck.

Preparation:

Season chicken pieces with Cajun-Creole seasoning. Add ¼ cup water in pan. Bake in 350 degree oven until cooked. About 40 to 45 minutes. Save juice in bottom of pan. Heat oil in a heavy cast iron skillet until hot. Stir in flour to make roux.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until roux is dark brown. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and butter. Cook until the onions are translucent or clear. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a large pot (Dutch Oven).

Add stock, thyme, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Slice sausage and brown in a pan with a little oil. Add a little stock or water to deglaze the pan. That means to stir the brown bites in the bottom with liquid. Add chicken and sausage to the large pot. Add the liquid in the bottom of pan that you cooked the chicken in. Simmer for 1 ½ hours.

Turn the heat off, add shrimp and cover. This will prevent you from overcooking the shrimp. Let it sit covered for about ten minutes. The shrimp should turn a nice pink. Adjust seasonings to taste and skim fat before serving. Serve over hot rice. Garnish with green onion and parsley.  Add filé powder and your favorite hot sauce at the table. (Crystal is my favorite)

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Entree

Chicago Puerto Rican Jibarito (Plantain) Sandwich with Grillades

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Growing up in Chicago I ate jibarito sandwiches in the Humboldt Park neighborhood almost every weekend when visiting family and friends. The crispy fried plantain steak sandwich served with Puerto Rican arroz con gandules and a side of mojo sauce (garlic, lime and olive oil marinade) stayed in my memory after I officially became a New Orleanian.

For my cookbook, New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking I made a jibarito sandwich with New Orleans Creole grillades. I wanted to combine my love for my two favorite cuisines; Latino and New Orleans cuisine. It is delicioso!!! If you have never tried a jibarito sandwich you need to!

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Soup

I love Gumbo Z’Herbes!!

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I first had Gumbo Z’Herbes at the famous Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans made by the culinary legend Leah Chase. I had the pleasure of working with Mrs. Chase when I curated an exhibit about her life, faith, family and career for the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. Mrs. Chase is now 91 years old and she is still a force to reckon with. If you are ever in New Orleans you must go to the Treme and try this mouthwatering Creole gumbo that is served on Holy Thursday before Good Friday. But of course you have to go to Mass first to confess all of your sins before Lent season! 😉

Now this is a very hearty gumbo filled with yummy greens. The recipe calls for 9 different greens to celebrate the 9 different churches visited during Jesus’ walk when he was crucified. Also, as many greens go in the gumbo so does the meat. Most Creoles use chaurice (creole sausage) and other pork meats to flavor the gumbo but for this recipe I substituted pork with smoked turkey tails. I love pork! But today I wanted something a little bit nicer to my waistline. I also put some Latino Who Dat Nation in the gumbo by adding culantro (stronger cilantro herb) and Navy beans based on my love for Cuban Caldo Gallego……Tomaaa!!!!

Ingredients:

1 bunch of collard greens
1 bunch of mustard greens
1bunch of turnip greens
1 bunch of culantro
1 bunch of kale
2 cups of chopped cabbage
1 bunch of Swiss chard
Top leafs of beets
6 stalks of green onions
2 lbs of smoked turkey tails
1 finely diced onion
1 finely diced bell pepper
1 finely diced celery stalk
1 stick of salted butter
1 cup of flour
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 cans of Navy beans (rinse canned liquid from the beans and drain)
Gumbo File for thickening

Preparation:

In a stock pot cover your smoked turkey tails with enough water to cover until tender. Boil on a medium low heat until tender. Once they are tender reserve the liquid and remove the turkey tails from the pot. Chop into small pieces and remove any bones. Put the chopped smoked turkey tails back into the pot.

Wash, drain and finely chop all greens and green onions. Add the greens to the pot and boil at a medium-low heat for 40 minutes.

Make a roux. Finely mince your onion, bell pepper and celery. Sauté in a small pan with a stick of salted butter until translucent. Add bouillon cube and fresh ground black pepper. Add flour and stir to make a blond roux. Add the roux to the gumbo and stir well. Add Navy beans and your bouillon cube. Cook for another 20 minutes. Serve with toasted baguettes and Gumbo File to thicken. Le Bon Temps Rouler a lo Latino!

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News

My First Cookbook Review in Spanish! Muchisimas Gracias El Tiempo New Orleans!

My cookbook, New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking launched on November 1, 2013. I am so grateful for the reception it is receiving. My goal for 2014 is for my cookbook to be part of everyone’s kitchen library from the East Coast to the South. So far I know the book is in Puerto Rico and Germany! Hopefully, the book will be translated in Spanish for Spanish speaking readers. The culinary history of Latinos in New Orleans needs to be shared! Le Bon Temps Rouler a lo Latino!

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Thanks Louisiana Kitchen & Culture!!

Check out my recipe for Cuban Crawfish Croquettes with Creamy Salsa Verde in Louisiana Kitchen & Culture Magazine!!
http://louisiana.kitchenandculture.com/recipes/shrimp-and-crawfish-croquette-creamy-salsa-verde

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Support Local Bookstores! Signed copies available at Octavia Books

Octavia Books in New Orleans has been so awesome to me! I really appreciate their support. To order a signed copy of New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking visit Octavia Books, New Orleans a own online. Great Xmas present and most of the chefs including me signed copies. http://www.octaviabooks.com/event/zella-palmer-cuadra-new-orleans-con-sabor-latino

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It’s official my cookbook is now part of the University of Toronto library!!!

My beloved University of Toronto Museum Studies professor Cheryl Meszaros I hope is smiling from heaven! I dedicated my book New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking to her. She died of cancer during my second year of graduate school. She encouraged me to write this book and do my internship at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. It was so painful to return to campus after our summer internship and to lose her before we graduated. Thank you University of Toronto Faculty of Information Studies for sending me a picture of you all holding the book before my book is officially part of the library! Muchas Gracias Adriani y Alfredo!! R.I.P. Cheryl Meszaros!!!

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