Celebrating the Gulf Through It’s Food
I was lucky enough to be selected by Foodbuzz to participate in the July 24X24 which is a fund raiser for Gulf recovery. For those not familiar with 24X24 it is a monthly global dinner party featuring 24 meals by 24 bloggers in 24 hours. This month’s party hasn’t gone unnoticed as the major news wires have picked up on it. MSNBC said, “Foodbuzz, the largest online food community, is calling on food bloggers across the country to cook up a Gulf Coast-inspired meal on July 24th — and blog about it — all in support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF).” So I gathered a few friends together, most Gulf Coast natives, and we celebrated by eating the foods we’ve all come to love.
This has special importance to me because I live in South Alabama right on the Gulf of Mexico and I have seen first hand the economic devastation in the area. Just a few months back I took in the annual Blessing of the Fleet in Bayou La Batre and it was evident to the people in that small fishing village that life would never be the same again. Recently I released a new cookbook, Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico and it is from that work that I draw the recipes for tonight’s menu: filé gumbo, Cuban pressed sandwiches and Key lime tartelettes.
Gumbo is as continuous an argument around these parts as politics, money or religion but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the one thing that cannot be omitted from gumbo is okra. The word gumbo is an African for okra. It is a dish that has been adopted by the people of the Gulf Coast as our official soup. There are some people who just can’t handle okra so I am stealing an idea from Chef Bobby Flay and using fried okra as a garnish so it remains an official gumbo.
- 1 cup rice
- 1 lb shrimp
- 1 lb crab meat
- 1 pint oysters
- 1 med onion, diced
- 1 bunch celery stalks, rough chopped
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 lb okra (optional), sliced
- 1/2 bottle Louisiana Hot Sauce- a whole bottle if you like it HOT!
- 4 tablespoons flour4 tablespoons butter
- Salt, cayenne pepper, File’, white pepper, & black pepper to taste
- Bay leaves
- 1 quart fish stock or shrimp stock
Boil rice in plain water and set aside. In a large stockpot melt butter and add flour to make a roux cook until chocolate brown, roughly 20 minutes. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, and a little water if needed and simmer a few minutes then add hot sauce, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, both peppers and fish stock. Simmer for about half an hour. Add okra (if using) and seafood and simmer about another twenty minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve hot over rice, and garnish with a sprinkle of file’ and fried okra.
The influence of our Latin American neighbors can be seen all over the Gulf of Mexico, especially in Texas and Florida and it is in the latter that our next course has become an institution. And no wonder with two kinds of pork.
- 4 loaves French bread
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 pound smoked ham, sliced thin
- 1 – 1½ pounds slow roasted pork
- 1/2 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
- Hamburger dills
Finally my dessert also hails from the Sunshine State. I am including my recipe for Key lime pie although for the dinner I poured my custard into graham cracker tartelettes rather than a single large crust. Despite the name, Key limes are no longer grown commercially in the Florida Keys, you can thank the hurricane of 1935 for that. Today most Key limes come from an area of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico that has identical soil and climate to the Keys where this small lime is indigenous thus making it a true Gulf of Mexico delicacy. You can make this same pie using regular limes but don’t call it a Key lime pie because there is a noticeable difference in flavor.
- 1¼ cups graham crackers, crushed
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed Key lime juice (roughly 12 limes)
- Whipped cream
- Dash of fresh grated nutmeg
- 3 – 4 Key limes
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In medium bowl, mix together sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Melt the butter and blend well with sugar and graham crackers. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake 6 to 8 minutes. In another medium bowl, combine the milk and egg yolks with an electric mixer on low speed. Add key the lime juice. Mix until thick. Pour into prepared crust and put in refrigerator overnight. Top with whipped cream, nutmeg and garnish with key lime slices (optional).
NOTE: Real Key Lime Pie is never green.
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2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
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