Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav heads toward New Orleans

Impending storm Gustav, a dangerous category 4 hurricane with maximum winds near 140 mph., is steaming it way toward New Orleans, or at least toward the region. I hope and pray it veers off and misses the city altogether. It is unknown if the city is ready for another Katrina-type storm. Although work has been ongoing with the levees in New Orleans and in the surrounding areas, there are still areas which might still be vulnerable.

I am supposed to fly to Houston and continue on to Galveston, to head right out into the gulf. I have no idea if I will still be going, and then returning to Mobile on Saturday. Everything is all up in the air.

As for New Orleans, I pray that all my friends and favorite places are safe, as well as the entire city of course, and we will be able to return to the beautiful Crescent City by the river. Stay safe and secure everyone, I hope to see you in October, all in one piece.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Steen's Pure Cane Syrup

I love Steen's Pure Cane Syrup.  I just recently discovered it in the last year, and I pick it up occaisionally and keep it on board.  I use it in my barbecue sauce recipe, on bread, biscuits, etc.  I even mixed a bit with some Creole Mustard to make a really tasty condiment.  

It is great to cook with, and not as dark as molasses.  Although I love molasses, they can be bitter sometimes.  Steen's is smooth, dark, and almost buttery.  You know, I don't make anything from these recommendations on this blog, I just want to pass these things along.  It is products like these that make New Orleans and Louisiana unique.  Enjoy Steen's and visit their WEBSITE.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My friends the Fergusons

One of my best friends anywhere is Doug Ferguson, born and raised in Metairie Louisiana, where he lived with his wife Barbara.  For at least 6 or 7 years, Doug would pick me up at the ship and we would have breakfast or lunch somewhere, (usually at Tiffin Inn).  I cherish all the times we would sit and talk about our shared passion, haunted houses and attractions.  Doug has worked for several of them in the New Orleans area, House of Shock for one.

Doug and his lovely wife Barb became my good friends over the years.  He introduced me to Commander's Palace.  We went there about 3 times, once when my wife was travelling with me.  Most times we'd cook at Doug's house, where I created my Metairie Crab and Shrimp Bisque.  We'd go by Whole Foods and buy seafood, or sometimes we'd fix steaks on his grill, and just relax and enjoy hanging around.

Upon the passing of Doug's Mother, a lovely woman and true Southern lady, Doug inherited his family home about a year or so before Katrina.  I remember worrying Doug might not evacuate before the storm.  He had mentioned before his resistance to leaving in previous storms, and would probably never leave for any, because the warnings were always dire and most times turned into nothing.  I called him on Friday before Katrina and spoke to Barb and she told me they were reluctantly leaving, travelling to Texas.

During the storm, Doug and Barb were in Fort Worth with some of her family.  After the storm, I had trouble reaching Doug and was a bit worried.  Finally after a few weeks I heard from him. They were OK and he was heading back to New Orleans soon to see the damage.  He later told me they were going to repair the damage and move.  They eventually sold their house and moved to Fort Worth where they have a beautiful new home.

Although Doug doesn't seem to miss New Orleans, I know I miss Doug when I am there.  I associate him with it so closely, it feels strange.  This post is just a note to tell you about my friends and how I miss them.  I know Halloween It'll be doubly so.  I can never thank Doug for all the hours he spent driving me around, not to mention the gas.  I do hope to see him again, either in Texas, or my home in Tennessee.  Fix something good to eat.

Doug and Barbara Ferguson - displaced by Katrina, but come out on top.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Farewell Ralph Fountain

My second time I ever went to New Orleans, I was on a tour with a show that included a clown (yawn), World class juggler, Tommy Curtin, and myself doing ventriloquism and magic.  We did shows all through Cajun country, New Iberia, Houma, Alexandria, Thibodeaux, Slidell, Baton Rouge, etc. and finally New Orleans.

While in New Orleans we stayed at Magician Ralph Fountain's house with his lovely wife Laura, and their banjo playing poodle, Frankie was his name I believe. If the name sounds familiar, he was the cousin of Pete Fountain the legendary New Orleans jazz clarinettist.  From what I gathered, they were raised as brothers by one of their mothers.  I am not sure of the exact relationship.  

Ralph was the consummate host, feeding us on crabs, crawfish, and shrimp, piled high on newspaper layered tables.  Ralph taught me about Cajun and Creole cooking.  Of my favorites, he made white beans in the same spirit as red beans.  His white beans were phenomenal.   I still make them from time to time.

I stayed in touch with Ralph over the years and saw him last about 10 yrs. ago when I first came to NOLA to work on a ship, the Celebration.  He picked me up at the airport and we went and had soft-shelled crabs, somewhere in Metairie.  He took me to his home in Arabi and gave me a huge bag of fresh figs from the trees in his back yard.  We sat for a few hours and talked about magic a passion we both shared.

After Katrina, I could not find where he had been moved to.  All the area magicians I asked knew nothing as to how to contact him.  I did read online that he was OK, but had been declining in health in years even before Katrina.  He and area magicians had a falling out years before and none of them had much to do with him anyway.  He had become a bit reclusive, all the while his health was failing.  I still loved him and missed him.  I even attempted to contact Pete Fountain to no avail.

I heard recently Ralph had passed away while living in Florida.  I was very saddened, not so much about his passing, he was after all in his late 80's and I have a feeling he went somewhere glorious. What made me sad was the fact I had never located nor spoke to him again.  Ralph would always get all teary-eyed whenever you'd be leaving after staying at his home.  He was a sweet man who I really miss.  I will try to contact Laura, and send my condolences.  For now though, here's a little goodbye to Ralphie-Boy.

He was a magician, entertainer, great cook, and good friend.  I will miss him and think about him whenever I cook white beans or eat crawfish over a newspaper draped table.  Farewell and adieu old pal.

Click here for his obituary.

If you want to know about his career, click here!

Ralph Fountain - In Memorium - September 14, 1924 - March 02, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Jambalaya King!!!

Emile Stiffle is the Jambalaya King. Now he didn't just coronate himself the King, he earned it by winning many competitions and cook-offs, most notably beating Chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network show "Throwdown." Emile is a caterer and chef, his son Laurent (pictured on left) is an upcoming but accomplished chef in his own right.

I recently had lunch with Emile and Laurent and we had a great time. He is a wealth of information and a heck of a nice guy. You can visit his website with LOADS of Cajun recipes on it just click HERE! Chef Stiffle's recipes were a valuable study when I was preparing to cook on my ship for the staff. Although I had my own recipes, his recipes were a valuable study in proportions. That was a lot of gumbo and jambalaya to make, and his recipes helped me immensely.

Here's to the Jambalaya King, long live the King!

Lodge Cast Iron

If you are serious about cooking Cajun or Creole Food, you need some serious cookware.  Serious doesn't mean expensive necessarily, I mean well made cast iron is what I recommend for your cooking.  Lodge, I understand, is the only American made cast iron you can buy now.  I own their 7 qt. Dutch Oven and it is marvelous.  Nothing makes a roux like cast iron.

I use it for everything I cook nearly, gumbos, jambalayas, red beans, etouffée, and it's great for deep frying.  Lodge skillets and kettles come pre-seasoned and are ready to go, right out of the box.  The have factory outlet stores here and there, I found the best bargain, if you'd like the dutch oven, is buy it on-line from Walmart, pick it up at the store and pay no shipping.

WalMart Lodge Dutch Oven

Lodge Manufactruring

Their chicken fryer is a great product as well.  It's like an extra deep skillet with a lid.  They still make corn bread molds and all sorts of skillets and griddles.  This cast iron will last you a lifetime and can be passed on to your children or other family when you kick off.



Well, I had to make some Jambalaya today for the band.  We played the Highlands Festival in Abingdon Virginia, and I took it up for us to snack on.  I love Cajun brown Jambalaya about as good as anything.  I use a sausage called Conecuh since I really do have a source for Andouille close-by.  It is great sausage.

I was telling my friend Robin Cross about my Jambalaya recipe, and ended giving her the rest of my batch.  If you're getting hungry, you can download the recipe HERE.  Enjoy this wonderful dish.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New Orleans Closed to Traffic

Well we, the MS Fantasy,  missed New Orleans again on this port day because of the additional clean-up where they moved the barge still containing oil.  They had to close the river again around Algiers' Point across from where the ship docks.  So we are heading into Mobile Alabama again tomorrow.  I don't mind Moblie, as a matter of fact it is quite nice, but I did hope to go by Cookin' Cajun in Riverwalk on their last day.  I think they said they have to move tomorrow.  (I am writing this on 2:00 am Thursday morning)

I was hoping to buy some rice before they move.  I know you can buy rice anywhere, but they had some nice pecan rice as well as the popcorn rice, which is my favorite.  This rice is so tasty on its own.  I find plain rice boring usually, but  the speciality rices they carry, are nutty and mellow tasting.  I believe most of these rices they sell come from Louisiana.  

An enormous amount of rice comes out of Louisiana, 520,000 acres, generating about 200 million dollars.  The rice is grown in some areas in cooperation with growing crawfish.  The crawfish are raised in the same rice fields, or patties, along with the rice, but at different times of the year.  Part of the year rice is grown, then in June the fields are drained for the rice harvest.  While the fields are drained, the "mudbugs" burrow down into the mud and grow fat and happy eating the bits of rice the harvesters miss.

The crawfish reproduce in the spring, then the crawfish season is around February I believe.  Y'see, grains and crustaceans working hand in claw for a better world.  Now wasn't that informative!  I just hope I got it all right.  That's about all I know about it, except the part when it comes to eating them, which I really enjoy any time of year.  My dear wife, who loves lobster and shrimp, considers crawfish to be insects.  For some reason she will not eat one at all.  I think it is the "mudbug" reference.  Oh well, more left over for me.

Well, I got off topic there, but any conversation you can steer toward crawfish logically, is worth having.  Let's hope they get the river open and the oil is cleaned up soon.  New Orleans has had more than her share of misfortune, and as I said in a post a few days back, it needs to properly recover from Katrina first, and the only way that will happen is when the tourist come back and their numbers are back at pre-Katrina levels.  Let's hope that day is soon.

Here is a news story

See you later!