Jeff Davis
Thursday, October 18, 2012   

Welcome to Louisiana Recipes

I am always honored when asked to judge a culinary competition; I know my way around the kitchen and have a well-developed palate and an open mind. But judging competitions can have drawbacks. The most obvious is that some people simply cannot cook. The second most obvious is that some simply do not care. During one competition I witnessed a group of grinning, drunk men stirring giant bags of frozen vegetables and a five pound bag of flour into a vat of boiling water seasoned with crab boil. They called this mess "gumbo" and later admitted to having joined in the competition so they could hang and drink with their buddies all day long. When the drunken cooks' creation came up for sampling at the judges' table we still had to rank it. It was enough to gag a maggot, but they were having fun.

Yet another judges' woe comes when the grub is too good and there are a zillion entries and you end up feeling as though you need your stomach pumped from eating too much. I learned to stop after the smallest taste after sampling 23 chicken and sausage gumbos last autumn for a competition in Henderson. I laid in the back seat groaning in misery while my friends drove me back to New Orleans.

I will approach with caution and an empty stomach on Friday when my buddy Cynthia Collier and I head to the Chalmette Refinery to serve as judges for the 3rd Annual Chalmette Refining United Way Jambalaya Cook-off aka, the Battle for the Paddle. Nineteen cooking teams are expected to make jambalaya for more than 500 attendees and we will sample every last one of their efforts before the winner in each category is announced. First-place winners will participate in the first ever United Way Parish-wide cook-off that will be held on November 10, 2012 at the Seafood & Farmer’s Market in Arabi.

While I recover, another panel of judges will determine the outcome of Saturday's Southern Soul Food Showdown in Jeanerette. Sponsored by the Grand Marais Mardi Gras Association, the second  annual competition is open to the public and will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Mon Ami in Grand Marais, 7304 E. Hwy. 90, Jeanerette, LA.

If you will, please, take a few minutes to fill out our reader survey; three will win a cool pan from Lodge Cast Iron. Winners announced November 7.

"Many Iberia Parish residents have their own interpretation of the true meaning of soul food," said organizer Angela Broussard. "Most agree it is a comfort food that nourishes the body and soul. It is a food that evokes memories of a table piled with good home cooking and family and friends gathered round."

Broussard explained that soul food is believed to have originated during slavery. Slave owners fed their captive workers as cheaply as possible, often with leftover and waste foods from the plantation, forcing them to get creative with the ingredients they had at hand. In slave households, common vegetables were turnip tops, beets, dandelions, collards, mustard, and pokeweed. Cooks added onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf as flavor enhancers. They also developed recipes with lard, cornmeal and discarded cuts of meat, such as pig's feet, ham hocks, tripe and small intestines.

For the competition, pots start simmering at 6 a.m. and the judging begins at 11 a.m. The public can savor a variety of dishes that will be for sale, including fried chicken and catfish, turkey necks, mustard greens, okra, pig tails, and desserts. At 3 p.m. awards will be distributed for Best Overall Fried, Best Overall Greens, Best Overall Meat, Rice & Gravy, Best Pork Delicacy and Open Dish.

Geno Delafose performs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by DJ Domino from 2 to 5 p.m. "It will be a fabulous day for everyone to enjoy," Broussard said. "It's all about good food, good music, good people and good times." Call 337-380-3424 for more information.


Jyl Benson, Executive Vice President

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Ohh la la! Chef Justin Ferguson's Nice Rack

Saying Yes to Mammy

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How did Jambalaya Get Its Name?


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  Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts  
Tarragon Chicken


Chicken breasts get a bad rap as being boring and devoid of flavor. In their defense, they are also relatively inexpensive, low in fat, and versatile. Here, Chef Susan Spicer sets off  the work-a-day cook's fallback protein in a manner that is impressive enough for company while still being quick and easy. Chef Spicer advises if you can’t find fresh tarragon, you can use tarragon vinegar instead and finish the dish with chives, but fresh tarragon really is best. With the holidays fast approaching, fans of Chef Spicer should know that signed copies of her excellent cookbook, Crescent City Cooking, can be ordered from her website


  Stuffed Mirlitons with Shrimp and Crabmeat  
Stuffed Mirliton


Mark your calendars for the 23rd Annual Mirliton Festival, November 3. Presented by The Bywater Neighborhood Association, the festival moves this year to The Brickyard from its customary hone in Markey Park in New Orleans. For more information (such as "Where on earth The Brickyard?" )visit

Stuffed Mirliton Recipe Here

  Pecan and Cane Syrup Cake  
Pecan and Cane Syrup Cake

For one weekend each year, the sleepy little town of Colfax in Grant Parish becomes the center of the pecan universe. Held this year from November 2 through 4, the Louisiana Pecan Festival celebrates the state's most famous nut with offering of everything from salads to pecan pies.  Here's Louisiana KItchen & Culture associate editor Poppy Tooker makes the best of both can syrup and pecans, two of our state's most treasured ingredients.

Pecan and Cane Syrup Cake Recipe Here

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Oct 17, 2012 to Oct 20, 2012

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Oct 18, 2012 to Oct 21, 2012

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Oct 20, 2012

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Oct 20, 2012 to Oct 21, 2012

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