The traditional recipe for this classic Mexican stew starts with slowly stewing fresh tomatillos, but I cut corners by using salsa verde from a jar. Because when you’re rushing to cook dinner after a long workday, there’s no time for tradition, just time for tasty good.
- 2 lbs pork or chicken
- 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 large clove garlic
- 12 oz jar of salsa verde
- 12 oz water or chicken broth
- 1/2 Tablespoon Creole seasoning
During Louisiana’s Carnival season, no party is considered complete without a King Cake, a sweet bread sprinkled with sugar with a bean hidden inside. The lucky party-goer who was served the slice of cake with the bean was tasked with throwing the next Carnival party.
For decades I’ve toyed with the idea of baking my own King Cake, but the traditional recipes sounded like too much work and the easy recipes using place-and-bake cinnamon rolls sounded too sweet. This year I tried again, googling “easy king cake” and behold! An easy recipe with a cream cheese filling and a touch of lemon that looked promising. Start to finish, including rising, was about 90 minutes. It turned out so well I’m sure Momma would approve.
- Frozen bread dough
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar (for filling)
- 2 tsp lemon, vanilla or other extract
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar (for icing)
- 1-2 tsp milk
- colored sugars for decorating top of cake
Unlike most Louisiana food traditions, the King Cake was more a part of my work and social life than family life. When I was a student working on the LSU campus, our boss brought a King Cake the Friday after Epiphany, then whoever got the baby brought the cake the next Friday and so on until Mardi Gras. So it made perfect sense that I bring my King Cake to work and share the tradition out here in California, even if that meant carrying it on my bike.
On my trip back home to Louisiana this Christmas I found out Momma’s grandmother taught her more in the kitchen than how to make pralines. Grandma Bush’s egg nog is a boiled custard that can be served warm or cold, with or without the traditional bourbon or rum. It’s lighter and fresher than store-bought egg nog and unlike pralines, it’s not tricky to make.
- 4 cups whole milk
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Sprinkle of ground or grated nutmeg
- Bourbon or rum to taste (optional)
Separate the eggs and beat the yolks in a large measuring cup or bowl. Heat milk in a double boiler over medium-high heat until simmering. Blend 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup sugar and sprinkle slowly into the milk. Add hot milk into the beaten egg yolks gradually, stirring as you go. Return the egg and milk mixture back to the double boiler.
Simmer stirring regularly until thickened. When it coats a spoon so that your finger can drag a channel it’s ready. Add a teaspoon of vanilla, bourbon or rum for flavor and remove from heat. Serve in tea cups with a dash of nutmeg. Bourbon or rum may be stirred in to make an alcoholic egg nog. You can also beat the egg whites to soft peaks and spoon on top (not shown).
Praline candy is a favorite in the deep South, but no one makes them like my mother, who learned from her grandmother in rural South Louisiana. The ingredients are simple: sugar, pecans, butter, milk, vanilla, but the trick is the timing. That’s where I needed Momma.
Here’s Momma’s family recipe, divided in half to fit my 9 inch iron skillet. The smaller recipe also cooks in half the time and is easier to spoon out before the candy starts to harden in the pan. You can see Momma in action in the video at the end.
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 cup granulated sugar (white, brown or raw)
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1 oz butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
In a heavy 9 inch skillet, heat 1 cup pecans, 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to medium high heat. Stir until syrup reaches a soft ball stage or “leaves the pot” as my mom says, about 5 minutes after it starts to boil.
Remove from heat, add 1 oz butter and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Stir until the mixture cools and “sets up” or stiffens somewhat, about 1 minute. The spoon will feel heavier as you stir.
Spoon onto wax paper layered over newspaper and let the pralines cool until hard, about 10 minutes. If they don’t harden, then you didn’t cook it long enough. Scoop back into the pan, cook it a couple of minutes more and then try spooning it out again. If it’s crumbly, then you cooked it too long. Consider using it as an ice cream topping.
If you have trouble with the timing, then you’re not alone. It took me three tries to get it right the first time and I still sometimes mess it up sometimes. Note that you don’t need to clean the pan between batches. The leftover praline crumbs will melt into the next batch.
Watch our video to learn the finer points, including what “leaving the pan” looks like.