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Arancini, a Sicilian Rice Ball, Cajun Style

  

Arancini are rice balls famous in Sicily. They are made from leftover rice and risotto. The center is traditionally filled with a bit of ham and cheese or a ragu of meat and vegetables. The large fist size balls are breaded and deep fried. It’s a fast food you can pick up at a take away or order at a restaurant . We tried the traditional and gourmet varieties in Sicily this past spring. The gourmet type can be filled with anything from shrimp to pistachio!

Arancini from Palermo filled with ham and melted soft cheese. Notice the saffron color of the rice.   

These Arancini are filled with a ground meat and vegetable rag√Ļ.  
 
 I made Cajun Dirty Rice this week and had a lot of leftovers, so my husband was inspired to make Arancini!

First he molded a snowball size ball of Dirty Rice by taking a handful of rice in one hand and then placing a tablespoon of chopped andouille sausage in the middle of it. Then he took another handful of rice to combine with the first to make a  ball. 

Rice balls ready for the bread coating

  

Arancini ready to bake instead of frying

Next he rolled them in 3 layers

1st: rolled in flour

2nd: rolled in beaten egg

3rd: rolled in Panko breadcrumbs 

Next he placed them on a baking sheet lined with a rack 

Finally he sprayed them with olive oil

Baked at 350 for 40 minutes

  

Voila!

Apple Celery Salad

  
A crisp, quick, sweet, and salty winter salad. Choose your favorite apple variety and serve it fresh. I found the recipe at Food52

  • In a medium bowl combine:

2 cups celery, sliced thin on an angle

1 large sweet apple, cut up into small pieces (like Pink Lady)

3 tablespoons golden raisins (I used dried cherries)

2 tablespoons capers

  • Drizzle in:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • Mix in:

2 tablespoons fresh mint or rosemary, chopped (if it has a strong flavor add less), optional

1/2 cup ricotta salta cheese, crumbled into small chunks

  • Serve right away or within 12 hours before the celery starts to get soggy

Bananas Foster

 
Perfect for Mardi Gras season! Bananas Foster is a dessert created in New Orleans in 1951 at Brennan’s Restaurant. It is named after Richard Foster, a friend of the restaurant owner. 

Here’s what you need, plus vanilla ice creamūüėČ

  
This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated.

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, melt:

1 stick butter

  • Whisk in:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar (7 ounces)

  • Stir in:

Lemon zest from 1 large lemon

2 cinnamon sticks

  • Simmer 1-2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Make sure the heat is not too high or the butter and sugar will separate and won’t form a sauce.
  • Add:

4 bananas peeled, cut in half crosswise and lengthwise.

  • Spoon some sauce over the bananas and cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned and glistening on the bottom. Flip bananas over and cook another 1 minute until soft on the outside, but not mushy. Bananas should keep their shape and not break or fall apart.

  

  • Remove pan from heat and Add:

1 cup dark rum

  • Tilt the pan to distribute the rum and allow to heat up a few seconds.
  • Ignite rum with a match. 
  • Swirl and shake the pan to distribute the flame.
  • Allow the flame to subside (about 15-30 seconds)

  

  • Divide the bananas onto 8 serving dishes
  • Add:

1 scoop ice cream to each dish

  • Pour sauce over ice cream and bananas
  • Serve with spoons

Classic Delish!

Butternut Squash Soup with Hot Honey

  
This soup has a sweet and spicy taste that’s a nice surprise. I found it at Food52. Here’s my adaption

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ground dried ginger or more

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds or so, peeled, seeded and cut in medium pieces

3 cups chicken broth or more

2 tablespoons honey

1-2 teaspoons crushed dried red pepper flakes and seeds

1/2 cup cream

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • In a medium saucepan heat oil. Add onion and Saute until tender.
  • Add garlic, ginger and cumin. Stir quickly for 30 seconds only
  • Add squash and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and then simmer until very tender.
  • Remove from heat.Puree with a stick blender.
  • Add honey and hot pepper flakes. Simmer covered 5 minutes.
  • Stir in cream. If it’s too thick, add more broth and cream.
  • Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Garnish with a drizzle of cream or a spoon of sour cream

This should be spicy! Add more red pepper flakes, ginger or honey as you like!

Cajun Spicy Baked Chicken

  
This is another of my Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun recipes that’s best served with Dirty Rice and Gingersnap Gravy. See my Recipes list for links to these. 

If you look at his cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, this recipe is called Boneless Half Chicken. Each serving is one boneless chicken thigh and drumstick wrapped around a boneless chicken breast and tucked in an oval shape. The skin is left on both the breast and leg. My recipe serving size is one or two chicken thighs. The Dirty Rice is very meaty, so if it’s served with this chicken, I think one thigh is plenty!

  • Combine this seasoning mix in a small bowl:

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

  

  • Remove fat, rinse and dry well:

10-12 pieces of skinless boneless chicken thighs

  • Sprinkle and rub seasoning on both sides of chicken as evenly as you can 
  • Form each piece into a rounded oval by turning the two thin sides under
  • Place in a baking pan

 
 

  • Sprinkle with:

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

  

  • Refrigerate at least 2 hours
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Bake chicken 20 minutes and test internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. Increase baking time if needed. When it reaches 165 degrees, remove from the oven
  • Serve immediately, with or without the Dirty Rice and Gingersnap Gravy

Gingersnap Gravy

   

  
 

Gingersnap
Gravy is a spicy sauce seasoned with Cajun spices and is thickened with Gingersnap cookies. It’s a Paul Prudhomme Cajun recipe from Louisianna. I serve it with Dirty Rice and Spicy Cajun Chicken. See my Recipes list for these links.

  • In a small bowl combine the seasoning mix:

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

  • In a large skillet over medium heat melt:

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, your choice. The Cajun style is butter, as is the French.

  • Add and Saute:

3/4 cup finely chopped onions

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

  

  • Saute 5 minutes
  • Stir in the seasoning mix and cook 5 minutes, stirring

  

  • Add:

8 cups chicken stock

  • Bring to a boil and then simmer with the lid slightly ajar for 25 minutes
  • Whisk into the broth until dissolved:

12 Gingersnap cookies, broken in pieces

  

  • Continue cooking 10 minutes, whisking often.
  • Add:

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground ginger

  

  • Continue whisking and simmering a few minutes. Taste and add more gingersnaps, brown sugar or ginger if you prefer. Simmer after your additions a few minutes.
  • Strain the gravy through a fine mesh strainer. Line it with cheesecloth too if you have it. You’ll have to press the gravy through the strainer with a spoon. 
  • Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. Serve with Cajun food or any plain style chicken or rice.

  

  

Dirty Rice

  

This is Dirty Rice, Baked Spicy Cajun Chicken and Gingersnap Gravy.

Dirty Rice is a Cajun recipe that Paul Prudhomme made famous with his spicy style of cooking!

The Cajun people originated in southern France, emigrated to Nova Scotia in the early 1600’s, and settled in a colony that became known as Acadia. In the 1700’s the British drove them out and many migrated to Louisiana where they were well received by the French population there. Many settled along waterways and became farmers, trappers and fishermen.

Chef Prudhomme developed his skills and shared his love of Cajun food with the world.

So what’s the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking? Both cuisines were based on the use of local fresh products. 

Creole originated in New Orleans and is a mixture of the traditions of French, Spanish, Italian, American Indian, African and other ethnic groups.

Cajun is very old French country cooking which began in France, moved to Nova Scotia and then came to Louisiana. Creole is more sophisticated and complex than Cajun. It’s city cooking.

Creole cooking was prepared by the cooks and servants for the changing aristocracy of New Orleans. Cajun was prepared by country folks for their own families.

Here’s the ingredients

  
Paul Prudhommes recipes usually have a seasoning mix. My recipe is 1/3 the salt, cayenne and black pepper he uses. I like hot spicy food, but Paul’s heat is too much for me. Our Louisiana friends tell us the Cajun food does not have as much heat as Prudhommes. 

  • Combine these seasonings in a small bowl:

1 and 1/3 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/3 teaspoons black pepper

2 and 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • In a large saucepan combine over high heat:

1 pound chicken gizzards and hearts, ground

1 pound ground fresh pork

4 bay leaves

  

  • Cook and stir until meat in thoroughly browned and broken up into tiny pieces with your spoon, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the seasoning mix and stir well
  • Add:

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

4 teaspoon minced garlic

  

  • Reduce to medium heat. Cook and stir 10 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups chicken stock and simmer with the lid partly on, about 10 minutes.

   
 

  • Add 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked rice.

  

  • Stir, cover and reduce to the lowest heat possible. Cook 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and keep covered 10 minutes or until rice is done. 
  • Serve immediately alone, as a side dish or with  Gingersnap Gravy and Spicy Baked Chicken

  
This rice a very meaty. Yummy as a main dish or a side. Traditionally the rice is served in a rounded form. I spooned some in a small cup and then inverted it on the plate. Gingersnap Gravy is a surprising addition, but not essential

What do you think?

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