Mama’s Sweet Stuffed Peppers with Ground Meat

The infatuation of my soul with Cajun food continues. I love getting books that include not only recipes, but stories of people’s lives and their connection to food. “In a Cajun Kitchen” does just that: a multi-generational history of a family living off the land in Louisiana. The crawfish in the bayou, the corn in the field, the chickens plucking at the ground–it’s like a very elongated version of my own short visit to Cajun Country; a place in which I have longed to return.

Stuffed Peppers 1

In reading through the book, there were certain recipes that just had to be made. Whether it was something that I had tried a different version of before, or a page that made your mouth water just by reading it, it had to be done. That was the case with Mama’s Sweet Stuffed Peppers on Page 101.

As I mentioned, much of what the family in the book ate, came from what they grew and raised. I love a roasted bell pepper and the chance to have that be a big part of a Cajun meal was tantalizing. You slice the peppers in two, cut out the seeds and ribs, and boil for a few minutes to soften them up. While the peppers are cooking, you make the rice, ground beef, tomato and onion mixture.

The book is mouth-watering just to read, but after a couple of recipes, you realize that some of the food is dry. That is what they did back then. There were no sauces that they added to the dishes. It was whatever fresh ingredients were included that provided the flavor.

As I made the rice, onion and ground beef mixture, I could tell that it was a little dry. Rachel is rolling her eyes here as I often try to add something to the food; I can’t just leave it alone. For better or for worse, this is a lot of fun. In this case, I felt that some seasoned tomato sauce to the rice mixture. This worked out beautifully. We also melted some cheese on top when we stuffed the peppers with the mixture.

The word “stuffed” in the recipes, just doesn’t refer to the peppers, it refers to how you will feel when you have finished one. It is a blissful full however as you have found a new kind of peace in your life.

Stuffed Peppers 2

Wow, the freshness and the simplicity here are wonderful. Much of Cajun cooking is a one-pot stew–a loose term. They added the ingredients and let them flavor each other. Nothing really fancy here–no hard to pronounce sauces or special cooking methods; just tried and true country food.

In our current busy lives, many dishes are meant to be eaten quick and soon forgotten about; it’s a utility to get you on with your day. Some however, like this dish, are a near romantic transformation to another time and another place–one which I could happily return to, early and often–sitting on the back porch of Bayou Cabins in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. It’s on the banks of Bayou Teche. Somehow sitting there, time stands still and all your worries melt away. Cajun food isn’t just a utility, it’s a social way of life.

Happy Eating

Cajun Smothered Pork Roast with Onions

They say that if you try to do 6 things at once, you will do them all poorly. It’s interesting when we set New Year’s goals, that we do it in so many areas that by January 17th, we are overwhelmed, exhausted and go back to where we were the year before.

I sure have loved learning  to cook these past 6 years; especially the fundamentals. What I realized lately is that in the past couple of years, I did exactly what I mentioned above–trying to do everything. You can’t get good at one thing if you focus on them all. I have to look for the recurring themes in my cooking–what I loved the most. That came down to BBQ and Cajun. I write about my reason for BBQ here. Why Cajun in addition to BBQ? Because I’m weird I guess. And because I love the history and culture of Louisiana.

So delicious

So delicious

I picked up two books on Cajun Cooking: Donald’s Link’s “Real Cajun,” and Terri Pischoff’s “In a Cajun Kitchen.” Each night after our two kids have gone to bed, I eagerly cook books with the excitement of a grade schooler and his comic books.

My New Year’s resolution is to cook a new recipe each week; rotating between BBQ and Cajun food. This week it was one of Donald’s Link’s dishes, Smothered Pork Roast over Rice (Page 35).

It was weird to purchase a pork shoulder and not put it on the smoker. With the winter weather staying cold, I enjoyed not having to go outside. The pork roast was underway. Basically you sear the roast on all sides, make a roux with butter and flour, mix in onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary, put the roast back in with some stock and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours.

Many confuse Cajun with spiciness. That is not the case and came about in the 1970’s with “blackening.” Cajun cuisine actually gets it’s flavor from what each ingredient brings, not a lot of extra spices.

The smell of onions, garlic, rosemary and thyme is the aroma of Love!

The smell of onions, garlic, rosemary and thyme is the aroma of Love!

The aroma of this dish permeated the house. It was beautiful. When I first pulled the pork out at around 3 hours, it was tender but not fall off the bone tender. Another hour and it fell apart when pressed.

Shred the pork, spoon the onion mixture on top, drizzle sauce, serve with some of Chef Link’s “Perfect Steamed Rice” and it was delicious. Sous Chefs Sam & Jesse ate more than their fair share; they always do and I conditionally love them anyways.

I love Cajun because it is a little different than BBQ–you pretty much throw it all in and let it cook together. You don’t need to tend it as much. It’s hearty, it’s comforting and it’s delicious (not sure if I can say it’s healthy).

She is just so beautiful

She is just so beautiful

Here’s to many more dishes.

Happy Eating.

Bucket O’ Crawfish

Bucket O' Crawfish FoodMy Aunt is part of a little gang of lunch foodies. They are always excited to find new restaurants and she happily passes some suggestions on to me. One that she had heard about but had not been to was Bucket O’ Crawfish in West Valley. Just the name alone makes you crave some Cajun seasoning. I put this stuff on cereal; there is nothing like spicy cocoa puffs.

If you have ever heard of a Crab Boil or Crab Bake, it’s where they cook the crab, crawfish, sausage, potatoes, corn and other culinary delectables in a big pot, then dump it on the picnic table. You eat with your hands. It’s messy, it’s plentiful, it’s delicious. One of the reasons that I traveled to Louisiana last year was to experience the food. Would Bucket O’ Crawfish be a similar experience?

Their menu breaks it out into steps. The first being, “WHATCHA HAVN” with choices including shrimp, clams, mussels, snow crab, dungeness crab and crawfish. Step 2 is “CHOOSE YA’ FLAVOR:” Cajun, garlic butter, lemon pepper or crazy mix (all of the above). Step 3 is “SOME LIKE IT HOT:” mild, medium, hot and crazy hot. From here you can pick some sides: corn, potatoes, bread, Cajun fries, sweet potato fries, steamed rice, sausages and you can even order some extra sauce.

They bring the food out in bags and you dump it on your picnic table which is covered in plastic. We ordered shrimp, clams, mussels, snow crab and crawfish in the crazy mix flavor, spiced medium with corn, potatoes, bread, steamed rice and sausages for our sides. It sounded like a lot of food but would it be enough for 8 people?

Who is more creepy?

Who is more creepy?

The first bag of food they brought out was the crawfish. We actually passed the bag around just to inhale the aroma. It was sweet, spicy and opened up senses that you never knew you had. The mussels, shrimp, clams and snow crab arrived with the sides. It was time to throw caution to the wind and enjoy.

The food really was amazing. It had the perfect level of spice. We had fun pulling apart the crawfish and finding the meat. Everything really had a great taste to it. My absolute favorite was the sausage. It was made with alligator. Straight from the bayou, it was moist, tender and a bit sweet.

Given that this is high quality food that is mostly imported, it can be a little pricey. The other downside is that the food goes fast, and you still have room for more. Most restaurants serve a good helping of starch of carbs to help fill you up. When you spend $18 per person with tip, you hope to be a little more full. Other than that, it really was a great experience and they know how to make delicious food.

The crawfish bag still had about 2 cups of sauce in the bottom. I was thinking of what I could make with that. Yes, I probably looked weird carrying a bag of Cajun sauce out of a restaurant but that weekend, we made a delicious Gumbo.

Bucket O’ Crawfish
1980 West 3500 South
West Valley City, Utah, 84119

Happy Eating
Bucket O Crawfish on Urbanspoon

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