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10. Happy January!

Dear Fans,
      Poor January ... December is a hard act to follow.  When you think of it, the parties, the celebrations, the presents, the national spirit of sharing good wishes, it is really amazing.  Then it ends with a blazing  New Year's explosion of merrymaking, with cheers and toasts, promises and resolutions.    And then, January rolls in like a lamb, the lights have dimmed, the curtains have come down, and we are back to basics, again ... alas and alack it is really, really quiet.  So I thought, to brighten the month, it would be so nice to cook a banquet, invite friends over and celebrate friendship. 
      This is a very economical menu, because December  was a splurge.  But it is so delicious, and so appealing, and  tastes so extravagant, it will be a celebration and make January proud.


Oysters Royale with Garlic, Herbs & Cheese
New Orleans Spicy Hot Fried Chicken
New Orleans Corn & Red Pepper Sauté
Cajun Tomato Rice
Cajun Orange Date Nut Muffins
New Orleans Bread Pudding with Apricots & Pecans &
Bourbon Street Sauce


Oysters Royale with Garlic, Herbs & Cheese Crumbs

If you are serving this as a casserole, it is best served as a small entree with hors d'oeuvres and drinks. Simply have a large serving spoon and a few small plates close by. To serve as a first course at dinner, I suggest you make individual servings. This can be prepared in individual ramekins. Simply layer crumb mixture, oysters, crumb mixture and a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese on top. Heat for about 20 minutes at 350° until heated through. Casserole, or individual ramekins, can be prepared earlier in the day, stored in the refrigerator and heated before serving.

6 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, finely chopped
6 shallots, minced
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/4  cup dry white wine
1/2  teaspoon paprika
1/2  teaspoon thyme flakes
1/4  teaspoon sage
       salt and pepper to taste

6    cups fresh egg bread crumbs, about 12 slices of 
        bread, crusts removed and made into crumbs in 
        food processor
3/4  cup grated Parmesan cheese
       pinch of cayenne pepper
1    can (8 ounces) whole oysters packed in water, 
         drained.   Reserve juice.
3    tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven casserole, sauté garlic, onion and shallots in butter until onion is soft, but not browned. Add the next 6 ingredients and simmer mixture until wine is almost evaporated. Toss in the crumbs, cheese and cayenne pepper until blended. Now add enough of the drained oyster juice until crumbs hold together.

In a 9-inch round porcelain baker, layer half the crumb mixture, the drained oysters and then the remaining crumbs on top. Sprinkle top with the 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Bake in a 350° oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until piping hot. Spoondirectly from the porcelain baker onto individual small plates. Serves 8.

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New Orleans Spicy-Hot Fried Chicken

As you probably know, I do not have a special fondness for peppery dishes that make your eyes tear and your breath come short. This chicken is "hot" but your palate will not get overpowered.

2  fryer chickens (about 2 1/2 pounds, each). Ask the
         butcher to cut each chicken into 10 pieces, (2 legs,  2 thighs, 2 wings, and
4 breast pieces.) Save the backs andnecks for another use.

Seasoned Coatinging Mixture:
             1/2          cup flour
            1/2          cup grated Parmesan cheese
         1 1/2          teaspoon garlic powder
            1            teaspoon onion powder
            1            tablespoon paprika
        1/4            teaspoon cayenne pepper
                        salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon.)
In a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the ingredients and shake to blend. Unused coating mix can be store in the freezer.

Egg Mixture:
  2  eggs
  2  tablespoons water
Bet together eggs and water until blended

Roll the chicken pieces in the Seasoned Coating until they are nicely coated. Roll the coated chicken pieces in the egg mixture and sauté them in a little hot oil until they are golden brown on all sides. Place chicken pieces in a 12x16-inch roasting pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. Serves 8.


New Orleans Corn & Red Pepper Sauté
(Maque Choux)

Corn, combined with red pepper, green onions and tomatoes is one of the most beautiful dishes to serve. The colors excite the palate. It promises and delivers good taste and enjoyment.

1    large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup chopped green onions
2    tablespoons butter or margarine

2    tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2    packages (10 ounces, each) frozen corn
1/3 cup chicken broth

1/3 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon each, sweet basil and thyme flakes
      salt and pepper to taste
      pinch of cayenne pepper

In an uncovered saucepan, sauté together first 3 ingredients until pepper is softened. Add the next 3 ingredients and simmer mixture until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer mixture for an additional 10 minutes or until thickened. Serves 8.


Cajun Tomato Rice

Rice with tomato, pepper, onion and garlic is a great accompaniment to the etouffée. The cayenne pepper adds a little bite. You can add a little more pepper if you like it hotter.

2     shallots, minced
2     cloves garlic, minced
1/2  medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1     tomato, seeded and finely chopped
2     tablespoons butter
       salt and pepper to taste
       pinch of cayenne pepper

2     cups rice
4     cups chicken broth

1/3  cup chopped chives

In a saucepan, sauté together first group of ingredients until vegetables are soft. Stir in the rice and broth. Lower heat, cover pan and simmer mixture until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir in the chopped chives before serving. Serves 8.


Cajun Orange Date Nut Muffins

When you serve one of the hot peppery Cajun dishes, this is a nice accompaniment to consider. It is a perfect taste balance. It is deeply flavored with orange and sparkled with raisins, dates and walnuts.

            1            egg
            1            cup buttermilk
            1/3          cup melted butter
            3/4          cup sugar
            1            medium orange, grated (about 6 tablespoons)

            1 1/4      cups flour
            1            cup whole wheat flour
            2            teaspoons baking powder
            1            teaspoon baking soda
            1            teaspoon cinnamon
            1            cup chopped, pitted dates
            1/2          cup yellow raisins
            3/4          cup chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, beat together first 5 ingredients until blended. In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add them, all at once, to the buttermilk mixture. Stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not overmix.

Divide batter between 12 paper-lined muffin cups and bake in a 400° oven for 22 to 25 minutes, or until muffins are lightly browned and a cake tester, inserted in center, comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, and then remove from pan and continue cooling on a rack. Serve these warm with whipped creamy butter. Yields 12 generous muffins.


New Orleans Bread Pudding with
Apricots & Pecans & Bourbon St. Sauce

            3       eggs
      1 1/2       cups sugar
            4       teaspoons vanilla
            4       tablespoons melted butter
            3       cups milk

            12  slices 2-day old raisin bread, crusts removed and cubed, about 6 cups
            4    ounces chopped dried apricots (1 cup)
         1/2    cup chopped pecans
            1    tablespoon cinnamon sugar

In a large bowl, beat together first 5 ingredients until blended. Toss in bread and allow to stand until bread is evenly absorbed. Stir in apricots. 

Place mixture into a buttered 9x13-inch baking pan and sprinkle top with pecans and cinnamon sugar. Press pecans gently into the top to avoid burning. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour or until pudding is set and golden brown. To serve, cut into squares and serve with a spoonful of Bourbon Street Sauce on top. Whipped Creme Fraiche Vanilla is also delicious. Serve 10.

Bourbon Street Sauce:
            1            cup sugar
            1/2         cup butter
            2            tablespoons water

            1            egg, well beaten
            1/4         cup Bourbon whiskey

In the top of a double boiler, over hot water, beat together first 3 ingredients until sugar is melted. Stir in beaten egg and Bourbon and cook and stir until sauce is slightly thickened and mixture reaches 170° on a candy thermometer. Do not overcook. Yields about 1 1/4 cups sauce.

Whipped Creme Fraiche Vanilla:
            3/4         cup cream, whipped
            1            tablespoon sugar
            1            teaspoon vanilla
            1/4         cup sour cream
            2            teaspoons Bourbon

Beat cream with sugar and vanilla until stiff. Beat in sour cream and Bourbon until blended.


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