Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Turn to "Roux Memories" for authentic Cajun and Creole recipes

Food writer Belinda Hulin grew up in Cajun country where her relatives whipped up memorable meals. When Hurricane Katrina hit, destroying or seriously damaging those families' homes, she realized a lot more than property was at risk. The blueprints for an entire way of life - recipes - were about to be lost.

Finding a box of her mother's recipes atop a newel post in the inundated house was a blessing and an impetus to collect those and many more for future generations and for many families who weren't as fortunate.

The result, Roux Memories, A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes, is the kind of cookbook you read cover to cover. Part memoir, part reference book for Louisianans, it is filled with love and mouth-watering recipes.

Most of us have cookbooks we never use, but try to make room on the shelf for this one. Bet you can't resist trying a recipe or three.

Belinda graciously said "Yes," when I asked to share a recipe or two with you. Having scarfed down more than my share of her red beans and rice on numerous occasions, I've chosen it and included Belinda's introduction from the book to give you a sample of her infectious style of story-telling.

Before that, though, here's the info you will need to get your own copy of  Roux Memories, A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes: Lyons Press, $19.95 USA/$21.95 Canadian; available online at Amazon.com and local bookstores.

The Fraziers lived next door to my parents in an apartment building at the corner of Eagle and Palm Streets, back when my father was getting his master's degree at Tulane. At that time the area was populated by young families and working-class folks, who could catch a bus downtown with only a short stroll. Mrs. Frazier was the first real New Orleanian I knew, and unlike the gentile Uptown types I met at Dad's graduate assistant job, she was loud, brash, and funny, and she had a heart the size of Lake Pontchartrain. Whenever I told her about my plans for the future (to have a horse farm, become famous, marry a prince), she'd laugh and say, "You have a lot of red beans and rice to eat yet." Since Mrs. Frazier followed the old New Orleans custom of cooking red beans on washday Mondays, I had plenty of opportunities to start my march toward life's realities while sitting at her table.

Red Beans and Rice
8 servings

2 lbs. dried red kidney beans
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
2 onions, diced
1 bell pepper, cored and diced
1 rib celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. thyme leaves
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 cups pf ham or chicken broth, or water
1 tsp. lemon juice or wine vinegar
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and black pepper
steamed rice

Rinse beans very well and discard any discolored or damaged beans. Put beans in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover by several inches. Let soak 8 hours or overnight, adding more water if needed.

Drain the beans in a colander. Place the oil in a heay Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook 3 minutes.

Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Saute mixture 5 minutes. Add bay leaves, thyme, Tabasco and cayenne. Stir the beans into the pot, along with broth or water. Bring mixture to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer beans for 2 1/2 hours, stirring often and adding more water or broth as needed. Stir in lemon juice or wine vinegar, green onions and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over steamed rice and pass the Tabasco.

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