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Dec 15, 2017
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Posts Tagged ‘Creole’

First Look: PerJax Americana Kitchen in University City

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

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Tucked into a University City neighborhood, PerJax Americana Kitchen opened at 7401 Pershing Ave., in late May. Chef-owner Steve Cupp owned the Columbia, Missouri institution Glenn’s Café for decades before returning to his native St. Louis.

PerJax seats about 90 diners in the dining room and at the bar, and Cupp hopes to have room for an additional 30 on the outside patio pending permits. The eight beer taps are split evenly between local brews from Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., Ferguson Brewing Co., O’Fallon Brewery, Schlafly and Columbia, Missouri brewing company Logboat and national players like Goose Island, Elysian Brewing and their parent company, Anheuser-Busch.

Local wineries Chaumette and Augusta are included on the wine list from which guests can choose from nine white wines – three by the glass – or 12 reds, two of which are by the glass.

PerJax’s Cajun- and Creole-inspired menu offers starters, salads, entrees and sandwiches with nods to both the surf and the turf. Shrimp makes an appearance in the gumbo, Pastalaya (a pasta tossedw ith the flavors of jambalaya), shrimp Creole and atop the Blue Bayou steak. Grilled, marinated chicken joins a pork chop and a burger on the menu.

Currently serving lunch and dinner, PerJax hopes to expand its offerings in the coming months to include a ray oyster bar and Sunday brunch. Here’s a first look at one of U. City’s newest eateries:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Weekend Project: Creole Cassoulet

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

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The first time we made a cassoulet was for the reception at our twins’ baptism. They were our first children, and our family and godparents came over to celebrate. It was the perfect dish for a cold, wintery weekend, shared among family and celebrated with much wine. That was many years ago, when we were just getting our sea legs in the kitchen.

A dish rich in flavor and history, the cassoulet is a traditional Southern French dish where three separate villages, Castelnaudary, Carcassonne and Toulouse all make unique versions, and each profess to have the one true recipe. Each town argues whether mutton, pork, duck confit or partridge enter into this hearty white bean stew.

 

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A cassoulet always contains at least two different meats, and it slowly turns into a steaming, gelatinous casserole with a savory crust created thanks to the large surface area of the traditional ceramic cooking vessel. It was originally a peasant dish made using whatever meats were around (like sausages, confit duck legs or preserved pork), then adding stock, beans and aromatics. The cook would then tuck the dish on the cooler side of the bread oven and let it slowly simmer away.

For this Creole-inspired version, we opted for black-eyed peas, homemade chicken andouille, pork belly and confit chicken legs, but feel free to substitute any of your favorite meats, sausages, etc. The essence of a true cassoulet is a patient cook who knows how to let the subtle flavors of a well-prepared piece of meat and good stock imbibe the humble bean to create a dish to warm friends and lead to a memorable evening.

 

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The Gameplan
Day 1: Soak the black-eyed peas and season the pork belly.
Day 2: Cook beans and assemble and cook the cassoulet.

The Shopping List*
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
½ cup paprika
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried basil
2 tsp. cayenne
½ Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ lb. pork belly
4 skin-on chicken thighs
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 whole carrots, peeled
2 whole ribs celery
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 quart chicken or blond stock
½ lb. chicken andouille sausage, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and diced, for garnish

*This list assumes you have olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper at hand in your kitchen. If not, you will need to purchase those items, too.

 

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Creole Cassoulet
6 to 8 servings

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
½ cup paprika
6 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried basil
2 tsp. cayenne
½ Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ lb. pork belly
4 chicken thighs, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 whole carrots, peeled
2 whole celery ribs
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 quart chicken or blond stock
½ lb. chicken andouille sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch green onion, trimmed and diced, for garnish

• Day 1: Pour the black-eyed peas into a large pot, fill with water and cover. Let soak 12 hours in the refrigerator or a cool place.
• Make a creole spice mix by combining the paprika, 6 tablespoons salt, garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, thyme, oregano, basil, cayenne, sugar and red pepper flakes together in a non-reactive bowl. Reserve ¼ cup; store the remaining spice mix in an airtight container.
• Cut the pork belly into bite-sized pieces and place a mixing bowl. Cover with ¼ cup creole spice rub and toss to coat. Place the pork belly in a zip-top bag and refrigerate overnight.

• Day 2: Liberally season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Let rest 20 minutes.
• Meanwhile, in a large ovenproof saucepan or enameled cast-iron pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pork belly and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
• Raise the heat to high and add the chicken thighs skin-side down. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, until the chicken is browned and the skin is crispy. Flip and brown the other side, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove and set aside.
• Add the onion and 1 tablespoon salt and stir, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Saute 3 to 5 minutes, then add the garlic and stir 1 minute, until the garlic takes on a pale color.
• Drain the black-eyed peas. Pour them into the pan, stirring to scrape up any remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the bay leaf, carrots, celery and thyme. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 40 to 45 minutes, until just tender.
• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• Remove the bay leaf, carrots, celery and thyme and discard. Add the pork belly, chicken thighs and andouille to the pan. Bake 1 hour, until a gelatinous brown crust forms on top.
• Garnish with green onion before serving.
-photo by Michelle Volansky

Make This: Cajun Pasta

Monday, February 8th, 2016

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St. Louisans find their inner Cajun each year at Mardi Gras, but we also have a strong Italian heritage. Combining these two culinary juggernauts is as simple as this dish. To a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, then saute 1 small chopped onion, 1 sliced green bell pepper, 1 sliced red bell pepper, 2 cloves minced garlic, 12 ounces thinly sliced andouille sausage and 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning* until the onions become translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup white wine and 2 tablespoons tomato paste, then cook until the sauce reduces by half, about 3 minutes. Add 1 pint heavy cream, bring to a low boil then turn down the heat to low and let the sauce reduce about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 1 pound farfalle or campanelle pasta according to package directions. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if needed, then remove from heat. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

*To create your own version of Cajun seasoning “Bam!” combine ¼ cup smoked paprika, ¼ cup kosher salt, 2 tablespoons each freshly ground black pepper, ground white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, 1 tablespoon each thyme, cayenne, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon each turmeric, cumin, mace and celery salt.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Extra Sauce: Your top 4 Cajun and Creole restaurants

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Mardi Gras weekend is upon us, which means we’re diving into po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya and all our favorite NOLA-inspired dishes. Last year, you voted for your favorite Cajun and Creole restaurants during our 2014 Readers Choice Awards. Here, your top 4 spots to let the good times roll:

 

 

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First Look: Zydeco Blues

Friday, December 5th, 2014

If you’ve been gasping for New Orleans cuisine in West County, drink deep at the new oasis at 1090 Old Des Peres Road in Des Peres. Zydeco Blues, which tapped former 1111 Mississippi executive chef Wade Waller and sous chef Ian Martin to skipper its kitchen, opened the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, boasting a menu rife with New Orleans and Cajun standbys.

Savory, hush puppy-like beignets served with honey butter welcome guests to their tables and make for fine finger food while perusing the selection of Big Easy standards like etouffee, po’boys, red beans and rice, jambalaya and others. Soups, salads and whimsical starters, like the Asian-inspired crawfish potstickers, also make an appearance. Six house-made desserts are available, including sweet beignets with raspberry dipping sauce and creme brulee laid over with bananas Foster.

At the bar, look for eight draft beers (including several local offering), 14 wines by the glass and more by the bottle, and a selection of NOLA beverages, including bottled Abita beer and house-made hurricanes. All of it’s served behind a gargantuan reclaimed wooden bar from the late 19th century, the top newly resurfaced with gleaming copper.

At the moment, much of the decor is in progress while owner Ron Gordon select artwork for the walls, but expect more Big Easy than Mardi Gras, Gordon said. He is opting for an aesthetic that honors New Orleans’ musical roots – indeed, on Friday and Saturday evenings the dining room will host live blues, rock and other music (presumably zydeco, at least once).

Zydeco Blues is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

By the Book: Elizabeth Sims and Brian Sonoskus’ Gumbo Bell Peppers with Corn, Peas, Spinach and Okra

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

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The story goes like this: a Jersey chef with a Johnson and Wales pedigree decides to relocate South and winds up running the kitchen at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina – that melting pot of melting pots where folk revivalists, coffee pundits, mountain romantics and outdoorsy types rule the roost. Chef Brian Sonoskus teamed up with “Garden & Gun” writer Elizabeth Sims to stitch together an eponymous collection of his recipes, and while they don’t always hold together, there’s plenty in this book to try, and cheerful bits of commentary and nostalgia to tide you over while you read.

 

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I went with Sonoskus’ bell peppers stuffed with summery vegetables swimming in a curious tomato curry broth. But first, I had to hunt down the quintessentially Southern ingredients. Once, while traveling in eastern Kentucky, I remarked on how the only vegetable available in the groceries was iceberg lettuce. This was before noticing that most families, at least the ones with means, grow their own in well-appointed gardens in the backyard. That’s tough to replicate in the middle of the city, so frozen okra and black-eyed peas will do in a pinch.

 

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Note: No-salt Creole seasoning is tough to find in the store, so the low-sodium kind will do (look in the seafood section). Still, plan to season more than the recipe lets on. Most of this dish’s components wanted for salt by the end.

 

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Be sure to stir the Arborio rice mixture constantly to ensure the correct texture. Owing either to my extra-hot stove element, or the recipe overshooting the time, my rice took closer to 12 minutes than 25.

 

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The tomato curry broth is the dark horse of this recipe. Aromatic and slightly spicy, mix up an extra-large batch of this to use in other cooking projects. It’s worth it.

What was troublesome about the finished product was a dissonance of flavor. The red bell peppers were too powerful for their otherwise tasty innards. (Green or yellow would have worked better.) And for all its individual gifts, the tomato curry broth just doesn’t jive with this catalog of vegetables. The “whiff of Punjab” advertised by the authors accentuated the pepper and eclipsed what should have been the showpiece (and only Appalachian representative) of this dish: the filling.

 

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Gumbo bell peppers with corn, peas, spinach and okra
6 servings

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
¾ cup sliced celery
1 cup sliced fresh or frozen okra
¾ cup fresh or frozen corn
½ cup fresh or frozen black-eyed, crowder or field peas
1½ tsp. gumbo file
¾ tsp. no-salt Creole seasoning
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup Arborio rice
1½ cups water
1 cup vegetable broth
½ cup V8 juice
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
6 large red bell peppers
½ cup tomato curry broth (Recipe follows.)

• To a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, then the onion and celery and saute for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add the okra, corn, peas, file powder, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and add the water, broth and V8 juice. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is al dente and the mixture is creamy, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Stir in the spinach, remove from the heat and let cool.
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the stem ends off the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes. Fill the peppers with the risotto mixture. Stand the peppers up in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Spoon the Curry Tomato Broth around the peppers. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Place each pepper in a shallow bowl and spoon the juices and broth over the pepper. Serve immediately.

Tomato curry broth
Makes 1¾ cups

1 cup V8 juice
½ cup vegetable broth
¼ cup coconut milk
¼ tsp. no-salt Creole seasoning
¾ to 1 tsp. curry powder

• Combine the V8 juice, vegetable broth, coconut milk, Creole seasoning and curry powder. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

What’s the most unusual yet successful fusion of cuisines that you’ve made? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of “Tupelo Honey Cafe.” We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, congratulations to Joe, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of “Coi.” Joe, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

7 Fat Tuesday indulgences around town

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Need one final gluttonous fling before Lenten fasting kicks in? We’ve got a slew of Fat Tuesday treats from joints across the city serving up Mardi Gras-inspired fare. From king cake cupcakes to Creole meatloaf, you’ll plenty of deacdent treats that will have you loosening your belt a few notches. You may be full, but it isn’t called Fat Tuesday for nothing.

 

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1. Head to the Hill for a Jambalaya Mardi Dog from Steve’s Hot Dogs. This twist on the hot dog features a spicy andouille link on a jambalaya-smeared roll. Finally, jambalaya you can eat with your fingers without getting messy. (well, not too messy).

2. After polishing off your spicy dog, cool down with a Lil’ French King Cake from Pint Size Bakery. These four-inch cakes are made with homemade puff pastry, raspberry jam, house-brandied cherries and a smooth vanilla glaze.

3. Beat that afternoon slump with a cup of coffee from Café Ventana in Midtown, and enjoy a free beignet to boot. Not a coffee drinker? Not to worry. Any purchase you make comes with a complimentary beignet today.

 

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4. For a slimmer take on Fat Tuesday, head to Hiro Asian Kitchen for its Mardi Gras special salad. The Mardi Gras color combination of green kale, purple cabbage, spicy golden walnuts and cranberries prove that even the health-conscious can celebrate Fat Tuesday.

5. To be truly decadent, head to Juniper’s Fat Tuesday Feast. For $20, enjoy a traditional crawfish boil with house-made andouille, potatoes, corn on the cob and cornbread washed down with Dixie beer.

 

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6. Dash to Lubeley’s Bakery for a Jumbo Hurricane Cupcake. We know, we know – you may think you’re too full, but consider these rum-soaked cupcakes a post-meal cocktail.

7. Power through your food coma for a late-night Creole Mardi Gras pizza from Epic Pizza in Soulard. This finger-licking pizza with Creole sauce, mozzarella, andouille sausage, blackened chicken, green peppers and red onions is an ideal end to a truly Fat Tuesday.

Will you still be feeling the Mardi Gras mood tomorrow? For more creative Cajun dishes year-round, try out Riverbend Restaurant and Bar’s Creole Meatloaf, or The Kitchen Sink’s Cajun Gyro. While it may no longer be Fat Tuesday, you can still eat like it is.

 

In This Issue: A chat with Anthony Ellerson Jr.

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

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After a year in business, The Kitchen Sink’s Anthony Ellerson Jr. feels more like a mayor than a cook. Now he’s running for a second term as he prepares to relocate his tiny diner adjacent to the Forest Park MetroLink station to a 150-seat space at 255 Union Blvd., in the Central West End. Here, he discusses his career, his campaign staff and the struggles of keeping his constituents happy.

Why’d you decide to open a restaurant?
I was running a kitchen, but I lost my desire to work there. I sat at home, and I told my mom I wasn’t going to work for anybody else. We put our money together and started The Kitchen Sink.

Does she work at the restaurant?
She likes to come in and sit down and order food.

Does your dad help?
He does my bookkeeping. It’s mom and pop all the way.

What have you learned during your first year of owning a restaurant?
I was not prepared for the spotlight. I enjoy talking to my customers, but I feel like a politician because everybody shakes your hand. I’m just cooking food. I didn’t do anything special.

You started as a busser at Rigazzi’s. What’d you learn there?
Work ethic. At the old Rigazzi’s, you had to bust your butt. It was one of the busiest restaurants I worked at besides Blueberry Hill.

What’s your favorite dish there?
I like the nachos. The cheese sauce they make is pretty good.

It’s an Italian place.
Yeah, they make good cheese sauce. I’m a simple guy. My favorite places to eat are Steak ‘n Shake, Chris’ Pancake, Blues City Deli and Olympia. When I go to those places, I get the same thing every time.

What’s in your fridge?
There’s nothing in there that’s good. It’s filled with sodas or milk. My dog eats good. He’s lovin’ the restaurant.

What’s the most popular dish on Kitchen Sink’s menu?
Crab Cake Benie, The Kitchen Sink – a very different spin on shrimp and grits – the burgers, the wings … pretty much everything.

Pretty much everything is less than $10.
I have two items over $10. I’m not in it to be a millionaire.

How would you define the menu?
St. Louis-style Creole. None of us is from New Orleans. I went to New Orleans and stayed at my friend’s. I didn’t eat the food ‘cuz we spent all the money drinkin’. I don’t know what Cajun food in New Orleans tastes like.

Would you call The Kitchen Sink a diner?
We’re a five-star diner without the five-star ambiance.

Will that change when you move?
We won’t have canned sodas, and we’ll have alcohol. One of the problems I have with moving to another place: I want to change my menu, but there’s not one thing I can take off without pissing somebody off.

Why are you going into a bigger space?
I think we do a good job now, but I’d like to see what we can do when we’re on equal ground as other restaurants. On my arm, I have the seven deadly sins tattooed. I commit a lot of these [sins] thinking about other places. I’m envious of other restaurants all the time.

Why do you think you’ll succeed?
I have a good team of people around me. Murph [Patrick Norton], who’s moving to the front of the house to be my GM, grew up in the restaurant business. Aurthur [Brooks], the kitchen manager, has a newborn baby. Everybody has their reason, what they’re busting their ass for.

What sets your restaurant apart?
Customer service. We have to go the extra mile to make people want to come back. People always ask me, “Are you the owner?” I tell them the honest truth: “No, I’m the manager. You’re the owner. Because if you don’t come back, I don’t have a business.”

The Kitchen Sink, 280 DeBaliviere Ave., St. Louis, 314.261.4455, letseat.at/thekitchensink

-Photo by Ashley Gieseking

 

 

 

 

The Scoop: Completely Sauced on Wheels food truck to roll onto streets soon

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Bob Komanetsky, owner of small-scale catering company Completely Sauced, will soon be launching a food truck segment to his business. The truck, Completely Sauced on Wheels, is slated to hit the streets of St. Louis city and county within the next three to five weeks.

The menu will include traditional Cajun and Creole fare such as chicken-and-sausage jambalaya, red beans and rice, étouffée, and gumbo. Look also for less common takes on old favorites. For example, Komanetsky explained that he won’t be deep-frying any proteins for his po’ boy sandwiches; he will instead feature grilled shrimp on his seafood version. Another to watch for will be a cochon de lait po’ boy featuring slow-roasted suckling pig.

Komanetsky told The Scoop that the food truck project is a year in the making but that he has operated his catering company for two and a half years. “The name [of the business],” said Komanetsky, “is something my wife came up with when I was in culinary school. It’s a play on getting sauced, getting half-baked. It’s a playful name.”

The Completely Sauced website is currently under construction. However, you can track the progress of the truck via Twitter or Facebook.

 

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