Sunday, February 26, 2012

Louisiana “Truck Stop” Chicken

Hey there kids, here’s one of those Kitchen Improv recipes.  This recipe gets its name because, well, most of the ingredients were, in fact, purchased at a truck stop in Louisiana. 

As you know, I have a tendency to smuggle my favorite Louisiana products back to Missouri with me when I visit down South.  During my last adventure, I stopped at a truck stop near Franklin, Louisiana, on my way from Lafayette to New Orleans, and I picked up a bag of Zapp’s “Voodoo” Chips and some pork rinds.

The Voodoo chips are my favorite Zapp’s blend—the story goes, someone in the Zapp’s kitchen accidentally knocked several spices off a shelf, and when they tasted what had spilled, it was pretty darn tasty!  And they recreated the happy accident & started selling them.  It’s sort of a blend of salt & vinegar, BBQ, dill, and….well, probably everything else.  It’s delicious, that’s what it is!

I could easily nom down a bag of these chips in one sitting by myself, but the pork rinds were purchased more for my husband.  We ate about half the bag, and then I had an apostrophe.

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“Lightin’ has just struck my brain.” “Well, that must hurt.”


I know back during the Atkins phase, using pork rinds as an alternative for breading on chicken was pretty popular.  And I’ve seen potato chips used as breading before as well… so why not mix them together?


2 oz bag of your favorite potato chips (The more flavor, the better)

2 oz bag of pork rinds

1 tsp Cajun seasoning

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 egg



Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pulverize the pork rinds & chips using your favorite method (we used a food processor, but a blender would also work, or if you prefer a non-mechanize method, you can put them in a large freezer bag & smash with a rolling pin.)  Add Cajun seasoning & mix well & place in a large bowl or lipped plate.

Crack egg into a bowl & beat until well blended.

Create a work station to keep things organized & cut down on messes:


Dip the chicken in the egg wash until well coated—then let excess drip off.  Drop chicken into the chip/pork rind breading mixture & toss to coat fully.  Then transfer chicken to a roasting pan with a wire rack.


Bake for 30 minutes or until no pink remains.

Serve with your favorite non-truck stop side dish (we went with steamable pasta & broccoli).


Makes 4 servings.


Calories 234.8

Total Fat 11.1 g

Saturated Fat 3.6 g

Polyunsaturated Fat 2.8 g

Monounsaturated Fat 1.3 g

Cholesterol 75.3 mg

Sodium 421.2 mg

Potassium 386.2 mg

Total Carbohydrate 7.3 g

Dietary Fiber 0.7 g

Sugars 0.0 g

Protein 25.1 g

Shared on The Sweet Spot

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras, Y’all!!!

And how do we celebrate Mardi Gras in the blogosphere?

Well, first, I hand you a virtual drive-thru daiquiri (because yes, they’re open this early):

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…because you’re going to need to take it with you to the parade!

(Clicky-clicky below for LIVE FEED of the parades!)


After that, you’ll want some king cake, right?  Where do your loyalties lie?  With Haydel’s?


Or Gambino’s?


Or maybe Meche’s, if you’re near Lafayette?


Me, I’m partial to Southside Bakery in Lafayette:



What’s your favorite type of king cake?  So many of them are just jammed full of cream cheese…and while I like a LEETLE cream cheese, I prefer the fruit fillings—cherry being my fave.  However, I’m also a sucker for a good slice of traditional cinnamon & pecan.


Alas, I have never been brave enough to attempt my own king cake, but someday…someday.  (I’d say, “later this week”, but it’s a crazy week around the FeauxCajun household.  I’ve got a two day out-of-town work conference, and a pirate-themed murder mystery party later this week, for which my husband & I still need to make our costumes. SO EXCITED!)

However, if you’re looking for a fun recipe, I recently came across this recipe for a King Cake Bread Pudding with Whisky Sauce on the Raised On A Roux blog, and I am ITCHING to try it.  Because it combines two of my favorite things—king cake, and bread pudding!  So if you’ve got a random king cake on hand & want to try something new & fun with it, give that recipe a whirl & let me know how it comes out!

(I’d try it myself, but I found it after I’d already made my New Year’s Resolution of “no new recipes”.  Sad face.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy President's Day!

No recipe today--just a little shout out to Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States, and the only President to have ever lived in Louisiana.

Although born in Virginia, he was stationed in Natchitoches, LA during his military career and within a few years, bought a plantation & made Baton Rouge his new home.

Thanks for your service, "Old Rough & Ready". :)


In other news, I'm making some good ol' white beans with ham & sausage and cornbread. Recipe later this week!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kitchen Improv: Chicken Chili Bake

I was craving some Tex-Mex the other night so I threw this recipe together after work.  I originally wanted to make it with ground beef & a cornbread crust; however, I came home to discover that we had neither beef nor cornbread in our stockpile.  So…I improvised, and the result was this quick, delicious, and rather healthy two-pan dish:

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3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 tablespoon cajun seasoning

1/2 tablespoon Pampered Chef Chipotle Rub

1/2 cup dark beer (for steaming)

(1) 8oz can Zesty Rotel Tomato Sauce

(1) 8oz can mushroom pieces, drained

(1) 14 oz can Mexican style chili beans

(1) 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes & onions, partially drained

(1) 14oz can creamed corn (you can use regular canned corn if you prefer or don’t have creamed corn)

1/2 tablespoon dried onions

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded & diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Seasonings to taste: chili powder, cayenne, cumin

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 package refrigerator biscuits

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro



Season the chicken with the cajun seasoning & chipotle rub, then place into a skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the chicken is browned on each side, cut a few slices into each breast, and then pour the beer into the skillet & cover with a lid, to allow the chicken to steam.  This will help the chicken to cook through thoroughly without drying out.  We used Leinenkugel’s Fireside Nut Brown Ale:

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Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan & chop.  Add the canned ingredients, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, and garlic to the skillet.  Re-add the chicken & stir thoroughly.  Cover & simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

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While that’s going, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Once your peppers start to soften, taste test the chili to determine if you need to add any additional seasonings.  Then transfer the mixture to a glass 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with the shredded cheese and drop the biscuits evenly across the top.  Bake for 10 minutes.

When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the top with cilantro and serve!


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NutriFacts: (Makes about 8 servings)

Calories 453.8

  Total Fat 13.2 g

  Saturated Fat 4.3 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 0.3 g

  Cholesterol 64.4 mg

  Sodium 1,535.4 mg

  Potassium 402.9 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 47.5 g

  Dietary Fiber 5.5 g

  Sugars 5.8 g

  Protein 35.4 g

Shared on 33 Shades of Green's Tasty Tuesday and The Sweet Spot.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mardi Gras Parades Across Louisiana.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Mardi Gras isn’t just an extra paid holiday in Louisiana (oh yes, you heard me right.  PAID HOLIDAY—and not just for government jobs.  Man, I miss that…)—it’s a season.  Mardi Gras parades and preparations start weeks before Fat Tuesday comes ambling across the calendar (falling on Februrary 21 this year).  The New Orleans Metro area (NOLA, Metairie, Slidell, Mandeville, Westbank, Covington, etc.) hosts over 50 parades in the three weeks prior to Mardi Gras Day, and on Mardi Gras Day, another 7 parades will roll in the Uptown/French Quarter and Metairie districts, for a grand total of 60 parades. 

And this isn’t even getting into the OTHER parades held across the state.  The Terrebonne Parish seat of Houma, about 45 minutes northwest of NOLA (where I lived for a spell), hosts the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the state with another 16 parades scattered across the two week period before Mardi Gras.  Drive further up Highway 90 & you land in the great city of Lafayette,  which hosts 10 parades in the days leading up to Mardi Gras and gives NOLA a run for her money with another 7 parades on Mardi Gras Day across the area. 

The Capital city of Baton Rouge is no slouch either, starting their festivities earlier than all the rest with a dog parade (aptly named “The Mystic Krewe of Mutts”) January 29th this year and hosting a total of 15 parades throughout February.

Having lived in New Orleans, Thibodaux, Houma, and Lafayette, with 5 Mardi Gras (2005-2009) under my belt, I consider myself something of a Mardi Gras veteran.  I know where the good parking is, where the least crowded spots to watch are, where my friends will be watching from, and have managed to collect a fair assortment of “good” beads—without ever raising my shirt, thank-you-very-much.  But my husband has only been to NOLA once, and it was during Spring Break.  So this was his first “Mardi Gras”. (As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m not much of a fan of how touristy & crowded the city gets during “actual” Mardi Gras, so we opted to visit Louisiana the weekend before the onslaught of bead-bedecked sightseers arrived.)

As such, I wanted to make sure he got a well-rounded exposure.  So we watched two parades in New Orleans (one day parade, and one evening parade) and then we actually rode in one of the Lafayette area parades!

The day parade was “Krewe of Pontchartrain”, which rolled in the Uptown area & then ended on Canal Street in the Quarter.  These floats might be considered “extravagant” in comparison to your average everyday local parade:

IMG_20120211_150558 (The U.S. Navy recruiting office float—designed to look like a ship)

But down here, they’re nothing compared to the amazing craftsmanship of the night parade floats.  For an evening parade, we moseyed over to Metairie to catch the Krewe of Caesar:


(Caesar’s signature float, the Hydra…yes, those heads move.)

The following day, we rode in the Scott Mardi Gras parade (a suburb town of Lafayette).  This is what is usually referred to as a “truck parade”, where the floats are less elaborate & usually consist of a decorated trailer (sometimes double-decker) or converted school bus.

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Floats are often sponsored by a business or existing organization (my best friend & her husband own a karate school, so we were representing their school and had coupons for free trial lessons attached to the beads we threw).


7640b 003 (Waiting for the parade to start—my friends on the left, & my husband & I on the right.)


If you’ve never had the experience of riding in a Mardi Gras parade in Louisiana, and someone gives you the opportunity, whether it’s in New Orleans or elsewhere—DO IT.  If you thought going to a Mardi Gras parade was something---just try being on the other end of it.   In the middle of it.  Surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people screaming “THROW ME SUMTHIN MISTER!” (Would a “PLEASE” kill you?  Sheesh.)

7640b 020(The view from the float as we got started down the route.  That’s a giant inflatable karate kicker at the head of our float, for the record.)

It’s hard to believe people go so crazy for cheap plastic beads made in China, but they do.  At one point I looked at my husband & said, “this must be what it feels like to be a missionary arriving in a desert community when you’re hauling food & bottled water”.


Despite what you may have heard, in New Orleans and the surrounding cities (essentially anywhere outside of the French Quarter), Mardi Gras season is for the kids.  Sure, it’s a fun excuse to get together with friends & family & raise your hands for some shiny plastic trinkets, but if you’re 10 & under, Mardi Gras is all about YOU.  (The Grand Marshalls for the Krewe of Caesar parade this year were Elmo & Cookie Monster, to hammer home my point.)

imageJust smile real big, wave your hands around, and if your REALLY little, maybe have an adult hoist you up on their shoulders, or have your parents build one of those sweet ladder stands:


You, my dear sweet kid, will get teddy bears, stuffed animals, balls, Frisbees, Moon Pies, light up necklaces, candy, and beads, beads, beads.



As an adult, MY personal favorite throws are cups & doubloons.  These items are usually stamped with the theme/logo for the parade, the year, and the name of the parade.  I could pretty well care less about beads anymore unless they’re out-of-the-ordinary.  I like cups because, well, unlike beads, they can actually serve a purpose AFTER the parade, and doubloons because they’re an easy small token to remember what parades you’ve been to.

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(A portion of my person collection of doubloons & cups—the cup collection got whittled down a lot when I got married.  We just had WAY too many cups.)


Q & A Session:

My husband, being new the the Carnival scene, had a number of questions.  And given that some of you readers might be equally green, I’ve decided to share them here:

Q: What is a “Krewe"?

A: A Krewe is a group that organizes a Mardi Gras parade.  In the past, membership into a krewe was hereditary, passed down through generations.  Now, many krewes allow year-round application to join.  In order for a group to call themselves a Krewe, they must: (a) holds a parade which, (b) utilizes floats and/or bands, (c) have the celebration of Carnival as its main purpose, and (d) hold a ball. 


Q: What’s the difference between a “krewe” and a “mystic krewe”?

A:  Mystic krewes are made up entirely by members of a particularly “mystic society club”.  Membership to these clubs are typically secret.  Mystic krewe members must wear masks while riding in the parade to shield their identity from the public.  Some non-mystic Krewes still wear masks, but it’s not necessarily a requirement.


Q: What’s with all the beads on the ground?  Why isn’t anyone picking them up?

A: One of the (albeit slightly silly) “rules” of Mardi Gras is to not pick up anything off the ground that isn’t a doubloon.  I’m sure part of this is out of cleanliless—I mean, do you know where that street’s BEEN???   But mainly it’s to avoid getting trampled.  If you bend over at a parade & it’s crowded, you could get bumped & lose your balance & topple forward into other parade goers or get stepped on yourself.  Just let it go—there will be plenty more to come.  (But if you’re in an uncrowded area and the trample-risk is really low, go ahead & go for it, I say. I’ve broken this rule many a time because hey, I’m klutzy & can’t catch worth a crap. )

When it comes to doubloons, be careful not to get trampled.  Many people will scramble for doubloons and it’s an easy way to get hurt (sometimes mob mentality kicks in, especially after a few cocktails).  Rule of thumb is when you see one land, stomp on it & then wait for the crowd to clear—then squat down & pick it up.

Q: What’s with the funny outfits?

A: Mardi Gras is seen as an “anything goes” holiday. Pre-dating the Mardi Gras parades, peasants would dress up in ridiculous outfits, usually imitating their “superiors” (royalty, clergy, etc.)  In Cajun country, the more traditional Mardi Gras reveler costume is a ghilly suit in flamboyant colors, made with strips of fabric attached to pants & a long sleeve top, with cone-shaped hats or clergy-style cabochon headwear.

7640b 013 (Our new friend, Mr. Chris, one of the members of Renaissance Cadienne, a traditional Cajun folk dance troupe, and one of the original members of Silver Dollar City’s Cajun Connection)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Restaurant Review: Le Bayou (French Quarter)

Say you’re in the Quarter, looking for a good meal for under $20 a plate.  You want a variety of choices with plenty of local flair. You want atmosphere, ambience, & perhaps a pint of something local.

Say you’re also on Bourbon Street near Canal.  You hear the raucous noise of 50 circuses, all ongoing at the same time, the sidewalk barkers trying to coersce everyone and anyone into their doors.  You hesitate—do I REALLY want to venture down that path?  Of course you do.  Because you need to get to Le Bayou Restaurant.

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It’s just a couple blocks off Canal Street, at 208 Bourbon.  Is this fine dining?  No.  For that you’d have to go across the street to the famous Galatoire’s or GW Fins.  (Both of which are AMAZING, FYI.)  But you’d also have to shell out $20-35 per entree.  At Le Bayou, you can get a nice variety of local fare in the $10-20 dollar range.


The restaurant is set up a bit like your favorite sports bar; plenty of small tables, a few TVs broadcasting whatever game is on, and plenty of local kitsch on the walls and ceiling.  But it feels comfortable and homey, and you know they won’t judge you for wearing jeans (and perhaps a couple beads around your neck).  The service staff is top-notch—cheery, jovial, full of stories (true or not) and helpful advice for navigating the menu.  Our server Doc gave us his “60-second dissertation” discussing the ‘biggest sellers’ vs. his personal faves.  We decided to go with his recommendations; I got the shrimp & grits, & my husband ordered the Blackened Redfish.  We also sampled a variety of regional brews & settled on Tin Roof’s Brown Ale to accompany our meals.

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Neither of us were disappointed.  The redfish came with crab-boiled vegetables (carrots, zucchini, onions, and ever-so-amazing new potatoes) and the fish was grilled/seasoned to perfection.  The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the grits…well…I usually am not a huge fan of grits (I know, I know, my Yankee is shining through—it’s a texture thing. I don’t like Cream of Wheat either), but these were fantastic.  Very creamy and flavorful and not gritty at all.  The grits were portioned in a stack between oh-so-delicious fried green tomatoes…it really is a heavenly & beautiful dish.  SUPER rich though—I couldn’t finish it.  I’d recommend boxing half of it to savor the next day or sharing with a friend.

The meal is served with soft, fresh French bread and delicious unsalted butter.  As every good meal should be.

As we enjoyed our meal, we chatted with relative ease—the clamor and barrage of music from the rest of Bourbon Street is partially filtered out by some miracle of acoustics and muted to a respectful level where one can sit back & watch the passersby, or completely tune them out, at his or her own discretion.

Food is served with what Doc referred to as a “Level 2” amount of spice (aka relatively mild) which can be dialed up or down based on the diner’s preference.

They also have a raw oyster bar (and offer some really tasty chargrilled options for those who prefer their mollusks cooked) and about seven different regional beers on tap, from brewers like Abita, Covington, Tin Roof, Lazy Magnolia, and NOLA.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Crescent City Brewhouse

New Orleans has been a regional beer capital of the U.S. since the 1900’s, home to such names as Falstaff, Jax, Regal, & Dixie.  Prior to Katrina, Dixie was the only remaining major brewer in the city.  However, Dixie flooded during Katrina and after the floodwaters receded, the facility was heavily looted, with much of the machinery being stolen.  After a brief hiatus, Dixie contracted a brewer in Wisconsin to brew & bottle their well known beverages (original Dixie lager &  Blackened Voodoo).  There was much talk for a long time of bringing the operations back to the city; however, the city recently purchased the blighted building and has plans of restoring portions of the original structure (and demolition of the less well-constructed add-ons) to use as a VA hospital.


However, there’s no shortage of other craft brews in the area. Abita on the Northshore, Tin Roof in Baton Rouge, NOLA Brewing in the Irish Channel, Covington Brewing in, well…Covington, duh… LA-31 out in the Bayou Teche area….  But we’ll discuss each of those at another time.  Today, we’re talking about the Crescent City Brewhouse, in the French Quarter.


Established in 1991, the brewery celebrated their 20th anniversary of brewing last year.  It’s easy to find, right on Decatur Street near the riverfront in the Quarter.  The bar & restaurant is situated in a classically gorgeous old building, constructed in the late 1700’s (after the original residence was destroyed in the fire of 1794).  It was used as a residence until 1916, when it housed a fur processing facility.  The property has been beautifully maintained & gleams with the rich woods and bright copper brewing kettles nestled behind the bar.


The bar & restaurant areas have plenty of seating, and the cheerful hostess seated us right away.  Our equally cheerful server discussed each of the microbrews with us & was very patient as we tried to decide what appetizer to munch on. (We settled on the Cajun Meat Pies, and were not disappointed.)

We ordered the 5-brew sampler, which provides a roughly 5-oz portion of each of their regular brews and their seasonal (right now, it’s their Cajun Alt Ale).  The beers are German in style, created by the brewery’s founder & German Brewmaster Wolfram Koehler:

PILSNER: A light, crisp and traditionally hoppy beer with a soft palate and flowery bouquet. Light, both in color and taste. "Classic" Old World beer that will be most familiar to the individual who prefers domestic beers.

RED STALLION: A malty, aromatic and hoppy mixture. Copper colored, this beer is medium bodied and full of flavor. Vienna Style.

BLACK FOREST: A full-bodied dark mahogany beer, with a rich malty texture. It is sparsely hopped, in the traditional Munich style.

WEISS BEER: Golden unfiltered "wheat" beer. Smooth quality with hints of banana and cloves with a spicy finish.

You can’t get a tour here, because there’s not much to tour.  The brewing vats are there behind the bar and the inner workings are upstairs.  They don’t bottle their beers—everything is brewed & sold in-house.  But the little placemat that comes with the beer sampler ($8.50 to sample all 5 beers) gives a description of each brew and a run-down of the brewing process.



(Our sampler: starting at the top & going clockwise—Black Forest, Cajun Alt, Weiss, Red Stallion, Pilsner)

Now, if you’re an IPA-head hop fiend, you are likely to be somewhat disappointed at this establishment.  Brews here are very traditional and on the mild side.  But they are all wonderfully drinkable.  The pilsner has “big” flavor (for a pilsner, mind you) and they’re not joking about the “flowery bouquet”.  It’s there.  I taste the flowers.  And I can’t say I normally want to drink flowers—but with this beer, I’d drink them all day.

The Cajun Alt was supposed to be a bit smoky with chocolate undertones…and left me wanting.  I gets no chocolate.

I also gets no “banana” from the Weiss, but I’m happy about that, as I really don’t care for bananas nor do I want them anywhere near my beer (sorry to all those fans of Well’s Banana Bread Beer).  I’m a big fan of unfiltered wheats and while this one doesn’t top my list of faves, it’s still very pleasant & easy to drink.

The Red Stallion…meh.  Abita makes a Red Ale that I love, and this one just can’t compete.

The Black Forest is a rather tasty dark beer—but it’s not a stout, so you have to know that going in.  Anticipate a porter style, and you’ll be better prepared.  

I’ve eaten at this establishment many a time, so while we weren’t eating much this go-round, I can recommend their tuna steak salad, the steamed mussels (steamed in some of the in-house brews), the raw oysters, or the gumbo.  I’ve also heard great things about the savory seafood cheesecake.  If weather permits, ask for a table upstairs to enjoy a view of the Mighty Mississippi from their patio.