New Web Location

•January 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Please visit my new site for Mental Gumbo.



Blackened Snapper and Shrimp with Seafood Gratin Sauce

•January 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This weekend I experimented with a new dish.  After watching Paul Prudhomme make a few dishes on his show including creamy and cheesy sauces, I decided to try creating my own.  I knew I wanted the main dish to be fish, so I got some fresh red snapper from my local fish market.  While there, I picked up a pound of small peeled shrimp as a bonus, not sure what I would do with them.  At the grocery store, I decided to use fat-free half and half to save calories , with a little heavy whipping cream to add richness.  There is some cheese in the recipe too.  I decided to use monterey jack, along with some Parmesan for nuttiness.

Once home, I figured I’d lightly blacken the snapper and shrimp, and then put the sauce on top.  For color and acidity, I chopped some roma tomatos and green onions.  I salted them and added a little olive oil and a touch of red wine vinegar, and placed it aside after mixing.

I don’t really use a specific recipe or measure when I cook, but I know approximately how much I use.  So I’ve put some measurements below.  Of course, you should use it as a guideline.  If you want more spice add more, if you want more cream or cheese add more.  I forgot to take a picture, but I’m making it again tonight, so I’ll get one and add it.

This recipe turned out really, really good.  It didn’t really take as long as I thought it would, either.  Don’t walk away from the sauce between the time you add the flour to the time you add the stock.  You can easily burn the roux.  Also, go easy on the salt, because seafood stock is pretty salty already.

Blackened Snapper and Shrimp with Seafood Gratin Sauce

1/2 white onion

1/2 stalk celery

3 tbsps flour

2 tbsps butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup monterey jack cheese

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

3 cups seafood stock

1 cup fat-free half and half

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tbsp creole seasoning

salt and pepper

1/2 tsp tabasco

Dice the onion and celery while heating a non iron skillet.  Add butter and oil to pan, along with onion and celery.  Season with salt, pepper, and creole seasoning.  Cook this mixture until the onions are translucent.  Add the flour and stir to prevent from burning.  Cook until there is no more white flour present, probably about three minutes.  Add half the seafood stock and bring to boil.  Let this reduce a little, about eight minutes.  Add the rest of the stock.  Let this reduce again, about eight more minutes.  Add both creams and reduce to medium heat.  Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Lower heat and add the cheese just before serving, allowing it to melt completely in the sauce while stirring.  With the sauce simmering, heat another pan for the fish and shrimp.  Put as much seasoning on the fish and shrimp as you like.  Add just enough oil to the pan to keep the fish from sticking.  Cook fish about six minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the filets.  I also cooked the shrimp in the same pan.  They really cook fast.  Once they change color on both sides, they’re done.  I like to cook the shrimp just a little longer, to get some crusty bits on them from the seasoning.

To plate:  place a filet on a the plate, and spoon some shrimp over it.  Spoon about a 1/4 cup of sauce over the fish and shrimp.  Mix the tomato and green onions, and spoon some of this over the sauce and fish.  For decoration, and to let the eater add acidity if she wants, put a lemon wedge on the plate.

I find this recipe to be extremely versatile.  You could use chicken stock instead of seafood stock.  You can put the sauce over anything.  I think it’d be great over pasta with some blackened chicken meat and cut broccoli.


•January 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve to start something new.  This post is going to be a collection of new stories that have caught my eye today, and I may add to it during the week.  You may think I’m only doing this to increase my posting activity, and you’re right.  Well you’re partly right.  This is also a way to share some stories I like and hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

Crossing the heart of Africa for love

50 Best Websites 2010

New Orleans restaurants seem to have recovered after the BP oil spill

Utah’s $1.5 billion cyber-security center underway

Chicken & Dumplings

•November 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

If there is one dish that is comforts me, and many other people, when feeling under the weather, it has to be chicken and dumplings.  There is something about it that really soothes the soul.  I’m sure some of it has to do with the fact that Mom made great chicken and dumplings, usually when someone had a cold or felt bad.

Let’s address the dumplings for a moment.  There are apparently two types of dumplings.  I guess the big biscuit type dumplings are used primarily in the northern parts of the country.  In the south, there is only one kind.  It is similar to a large, flat noodle.  But it has more of an unleavened dough consistency.  When cooked slowly in the savory chicken broth, they act as a thickener and produce a creamy soup.

I attempted my first batch of chicken and dumplings last night.  I think it was a success.  They tasted great!  Better than I even expected on the first batch.  And I have to tell you, it was easier than I expected.  Of course, I cheated a little.  But only a little.  I think the key is to keep it simple.  Don’t try to add exotic spices.  Don’t try to make it complicated.

How did I cheat?  Well I purchased a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, and frozen dumplings.  There’s only one brand of dumplings endorsed by mom, so I felt safe using them.  It’s possible there are other brands that are good, but I havn’t used them, and won’t until they get the stamp of approval.  So for now, it’s Mary B’s Open Kettle Dumplings.

Here is my recipe for fast chicken and dumplings that you can make with minimal effort to remind you of home.  Let me know what you think.

1 rotisserie chicken

half cup diced onion

half cup diced celery

quarter cup chopped carrot

2 tblsps of oil

2 tblsps butter

salt and pepper

tspn garlic powder

9 cups chicken broth

half package of Mary B’s frozen dumplings

Heat oil and butter in a dutch oven or stock pot.  Add the veggies, season with salt and pepper, and saute until opaque.  While they are cooking, remove chicken meat from the bone.  Just before the veggies are done, add garlic.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  While at a rolling boil, drop in the frozen dumplings, breaking them in half.  Make sure you stir frequently while adding the dumplings to prevent sticking.  Lower to a simmer and cover.  Cook for about 40 minutes.  Add the chicken meat and cook for another twenty minutes.

I think you’ll be very pleased with this.  I only added about 3/4 of the meat I pulled from the chicken.  I don’t think Mom puts carrots in hers, so you can decide if you want them or not.


I liked these so much that I made another pot-full.  One thing I’d like to mention is how to treat the extra.  When reheating, I noticed the first time that there was far less broth than when I put them in the plastic containers.  The second time I fixed this by placing several ice cubes in the plastic container before filling it with the leftover chicken and dumplings.  When I reheated the dumplings, ( in a glass bowl, please never heat anything in plastic!!!) they had just the right consistency.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Pho Bo: A Love Affair

•May 27, 2010 • 1 Comment

Sometimes I get cravings for things that I can’t understand.  For instance, I have been craving a bowl of Pho for the past month, and I don’t think I’ve eaten it in years.  But the craving was so strong it seemed I could imagine holding a warm bowl of it and could taste the delicious broth.  However the craving arrived, it came with strength, and I’m glad it did.

For those who don’t know, Pho is a Vietnamese soup.  Pho Bo is with beef.  The basic parts of the soup are as follows:  pieces of thinly sliced beef, rice noodles, a broth that was sent down from heaven, and the extras.  The broth is made on its own, the rice noodles cooked seperately, and the beef is raw when put in the bowl – cooked by the broth poured over it.  This may not sound like much, but it is a magical combination. 

In order to make a pot of pho, I had to take a trip to my local Asian grocery.  I have a pretty good one nearby that I visit often.  I found fresh rice noodles in the refrigerated section, instead of the dehydrated ones.  For beef, I used a sirloin steak cut very thin and on a bias, marinated in a mixture of diced fresh ginger, lime juice, and soy sauce.  I did cheat a little on the broth, as the Super Saigon supermarket had a good package of dry mix to make pho broth.  I don’t really have the time or patience to boil bones and cartilage to make a delicious soup base.

So once the broth was made I dipped the noodles in boiling water for about 30 seconds, and placed them in the bottom of the bowl.  Then I slipped several slices of the beef in the bowl and poured steaming hot broth over it.  I topped it with chopped cilantro and a nice chili garlic paste.  It was just as good as any restaurant version I’ve ever had.  I haven’t flown all over Southeast Asia like Tony Bourdain, so maybe there is a standard that I didn’t reach.  For now, however, this is the best bowl of Pho I’ve ever tasted.  The beef was so tender and flavorful, and the rice noodles were perfectly cooked.

I snapped a phone picture of the result, so the focus isn’t perfect.  Do yourself a favor.  If this photo makes you crave it in the same way I did, visit your local Asian market and pick up a few ingredients.  I even splurged and bought the matching bowl and soup spoon! 

New Orleans Saints Are World Champions

•March 9, 2010 • 3 Comments

I think it took a long time for this to really sink in for me.  The Saints won the SuperBowl.  The New Orleans Saints…. won the SuperBowl.  I’ve waited many years to have those words spill from my lips.  It’s been a long time coming.  From the first kickoff in Saints history being run back for a touchdown, to the tragic season played mostly in Baton Rouge and San Antonio following hurricane Katrina.  This season has been magical.  Each game was a thrill ride.  I had a feeling this was the year, as soon as Greg Williams was hired.  I believed enough to make a bet in Vegas last spring, and I won. 

I know much has been said about the team healing the city and the gulf coast region, but not enough has been said about the region uniting the team.  This football team played for more than personal gain, more than just a winning season, more than a championship.  They didn’t just use their athleticism.  The coaches and staff didn’t just use their own ideas and determination to guide this football team.  The 2009 New Orleans Saints had help.  They had the hearts of every fan in the Gulf Coast region who needed a victory, needed to feel proud, needed to know that hard work pays off.  Thank you, Saints.  And you’re welcome.

The Golden Triangle

•January 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Almost every culture has some sort of fried, stuffed dough that is loved by all.  In Latin America it is the empanada.   In Jamaica it is the meat patty.  In China it’s the wonton or the dumplings.  In middle Eastern cultures, especially India, it’s the much underrated samosa.  These are beautiful golden pockets of goodness.  Usually they come in two varieties, vegetarian or meat.  The meat is usually ground lamb or beef.  In addition there is a mixture of boiled potatoes and green peas, and some of the most delicious spices ever assembled.  These might include fresh cilantro (an herb, not a spice, I know), a curry powder of some type, garam masala ( an Indian spice blend), and some type of chilis.  Somosas always seem to have the perfect amount of heat from the spices. 

I’ve had both the meat and the potato versions, and I can’t say one is better than the other.  I like them both.  Here is the problem:  you can’t find them unless you are in an area with a good Indian/middle Eastern restaurant, or unless you know of a convenience store owned by someone from that part of the world who happens to make them in the store.  I was reminded of these beauties on a recent trip to the Crescent City.  After a night of drinking, I was wandering around the area of Canal and Decateur, looking for a used record store nearby.  I stumbled upon this Pakistani restaraunt and looked inside as I was walking by the door.  Suddenly, I thought to myself, “samosas!!”.  I went inside and inquired.  They had them, and I ordered them.  These were the vegetarian variety, filled with potatoes and peas, and were fried perfectly.  After the first one was half gone, I remembered how good these are for a hangover. 

I had also forgotten about the beautiful sauce that accompanies the samosa.  It is a bright green sauce made of fresh coriander and parsley, and some other things.  I wish I knew what was in it.  Maybe some garlic and olive oil?  I need to find out soon.  If anybody knows, please leave a comment.  Anyway, I hope you can get your hands on some of these amazing fried pillows of golden deliciousness.  You won’t be disappointed.