I cook only in cast iron. I used to keep a small non-stick pan around for omelets and such then Susan creeped me out with talk of non-stick coatings as carcinogens that will flake off into food and cause all manner of internal wreckage. Fearing a Teflon-coated brain tumor I disposed of the pan and now rely on an assortment of iron pots and pans for everything. Though well-seasoned cast iron is naturally non-stick, I still like to help things along with a spritz of non-stick cooking spray (Susan bemoans the horrors of that as well) but I like to live dangerously.
Dry-Brining is a salt rub method, a bit of a misnomer really, since true brining employs the use of a liquid salt solution.
I prefer the term dry-rub, but the semantics are really not important. What is important is that dry-brining produces a turkey that is incredibly moist and flavorful without the hassle of a five gallon bucket taking up half the refrigerator, as in a traditional brine.
Our friend James Cullen was classically trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York and for years cooked at some of New York’s most popular restaurants, including the renowned Pearl Oyster Bar. During this time he met his future wife, a New Orleans native, and the first time she took him home to New Orleans, he says, “it was all over.” He ditched his NYC gig and now happily raises his son, cooks Louisiana-style food, and travels often to and writes about the state he fell in love with at first sight. Through his popular blog, “The Accidental Cajun,” he brings a refreshing “outsider’s” perspective on and appreciation for Louisiana’s unique culinary culture and cuisine. James shared a recent post from his blog with us. Here he shares the secrets to the perfect bird
I took so many things for granted growing up in New Orleans, among them Southern Fried Shrimp or Stuffed Crabs and Brabant Potatoes for dinner on Fridays, beans or vegetables stewed with smoked or picked meats, leftovers magically reinvented as gumbo, and Pecan Pie on the Thanksgiving sideboard. I simply assumed everyone everywhere ate as we did in Louisiana.
I nag endlessly at my 14-year old daughter, Cecilia, to observe closely and learn to cook at least a handful of dishes native to Louisiana, lest she end up like my 32-year old niece, whose mother turned her out upon the world without so much as the ability to throw together a decent pot of red beans or a respectable gumbo.
I firmly believe everyone should have at least a handful of go-to recipes upon which to fall back when an impromptu dinner party emergency strikes. I’ll admit I fear being judged as I am judging my sister-in-law, judged as my mother would have been judged had my father not stepped in to take over my kitchen training.
With Susan no longer at Louisiana Cookin', it was clear that it was time for me to move on as well.
“Let’s focus on growing Kitchen and Culture (our new media,consultancy firm)!” we chirped at one another. We started K&C two summers ago with the intention of exploring, through various media platforms and outreach, the ties between the world’s cuisines and the cultures that birthed them. The obvious place to start was Louisiana. This is also the only place we can start: New businesses are slow going and they require gobs of money, a resource that’s in pitifully limited supply right about now. Europe and its tempting cultural environs will simply have to wait, but we'll get there.
There was a cult following for my father’s oyster dressing, the preparation for which was arduous and time consuming due in part to the number of people depending on that taste of Creole Nirvana to make their holiday meal complete as well as my perfectionist father’s refusal to use a food processor to aid in chopping the seasonings.
This morning I was standing in my kitchen admiring the gorgeous hutch my talented husband is in the process of building for our kitchen. (I will add a picture as soon as I figure out how to do it). It is constructed largely of cypress that's close to 200 years old that was salvaged from a church that burned earlier this year on Prytania Street in the Garden District. That no attempt was made (other than ours) to salvage that wood is a topic for another rant. What we did not cart away went into a landfill.
Last week I started cooking for all the daddies in my life. The only one missing from my list is my very dearly loved father, Andrew Benson. He died in 2006 so I went wild making tons of treats for everyone else in his honor. My list includes my husband, Andrew Fox; my ex-husband (The Baby Daddy), also named Andrew (I can't seem to get past the first letter of the alphabet) but people call him AJ; a whole bunch of my girlfriends' husbands - Kevin Eyer, Jim Capparell, Mark Stollsteimer, Chris Summa, and David Kelly ; Joseph Griffin, a sweet, wonderful man who manages the barn where we keep Cecilia's horse, SpyBoy, so he's kind of like SpyBoy's Daddy; Lawrence Adams, my next door neighbor, and father of Cecilia's best friend, Julia, whom all the world, including her parents, refer to as my second child because she pretty much lives with me.