mac 'n' cheese with red gravy photo by carmen troesser

St. Louis chefs with Southern roots share family recipes

New holiday recipes abound every year, but some family favorites simply cannot be improved. That’s why La Patisserie Chouquette's Simone Faure swaps choux pastry for 7UP in her holiday baking, and why Companion's Josh Galliano always keeps a pot of gumbo simmering on Christmas Eve. We asked St. Louis chefs with Southern roots to share the dishes that make their family tables complete.

Eggplant and Crab Dip
Courtesy of Companion’s Josh Galliano
12 servings

“In Baton Rouge, we were always asked to do crab Mornay. I started doing a crab and eggplant one as a different option. We always had different dressings that are kind of casseroles and kind of dip.” – Josh Galliano

1 large eggplant
½ cup butter
¼ cup white onion, small diced
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup grated Parmesan, divided
1 lb. refrigerated lump or backfin crabmeat, picked over for shell pieces
¾ cup breadcrumbs
Benne wafers, water crackers or mini vol-au-vents, for serving

• Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for medium, direct heat.
• Pierce the eggplant with a fork in 8 to 10 places. Grill the eggplant over direct heat, turning every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Once the eggplant is soft all over, set in a bowl to cool.
• Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh and let drain in a fine-mesh sieve or colander until ready to use.
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and stir to incorporate, then stir in the milk and heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.
• Transfer the sauce to a blender and add the eggplant and ½ cup Parmesan. Puree the mixture.
• Stir in the crabmeat, then pour the dip into a 7-inch round casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the breadcrumbs and the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan.
• Bake 10 minutes. Serve with benne wafers, water crackers or inside mini vol-au-vents.

companion chef josh galliano and his son, emil // photo by carmen troesser

Mac 'n' Cheese with Red Gravy 
Courtesy of Companion’s Josh Galliano
8 to 12 servings

“It was from my dad’s side of the family, going over on Christmas Day to my Aunt Mary’s. They would always have [this], a classic staple of their Christmas spread.” – Josh Galliano

¾ cup butter, divided
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
1 lb. rigatoni or penne pasta
Olive oil, to prevent sticking
1 cup shredded Fontina
½ cup shredded cheddar
¼ cup shredded asiago
½ cup cubed Velveeta
Pinch of cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup breadcrumbs
Red Gravy, for serving (recipe follows)

• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
• In a medium pot, melt ½ cup butter over medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Whisk 2 minutes, then add the milk. Bring the bechamel to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and continue whisking about 10 minutes.
• Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Boil the pasta according to package directions until al dente, then drain and place in a large mixing bowl and stir with a drizzle of olive oil.
• Add the Fontina, cheddar, asiago and Velveeta to the bechamel and stir until the cheeses melt. Season to taste with cayenne, salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
• In a small skillet, melt the remaining ¼ cup butter over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, add the breadcrumbs. Stir the breadcrumbs until toasted, about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
• Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and mix until thoroughly coated, then pour into a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Evenly sprinkle the top with the breadcrumbs.
• Bake 10 minutes. Serve with Red Gravy.

Red Gravy 
Courtesy of Companion’s Josh Galliano
1 to 1½ gallons

Yes, this is an Italian tomato sauce – just don’t call it that. “Red gravy is what Sicilian Italians in New Orleans call it,” Galliano said.

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, small diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
4 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
4 cups water
3 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. whole anise seed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the onion and garlic and saute until they begin to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
• Add the tomato paste and reduce the heat to low. Stir and cook the tomato paste about 5 minutes.
• Add the tomato sauce and water and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer about 1 hour.
• Stir in the Italian seasoning, oregano, anise and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over mac ‘n’ cheese or other pasta.

Sauteed Collard Greens 
Courtesy of Gourmet Soul’s Lavina McCoy
3 to 5 servings

1½ lb. fresh collard greens
2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup finely diced onion
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
½ cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Remove and discard all but 1 inch of the collard stems. Strip the leaves from the remaining center stems. Cut the leaves into 2-by-2-inch squares and thinly slice the stems. Thoroughly wash the greens, making sure all dirt and grit are removed.
• Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Submerge the collard greens and boil 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
• In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then saute the onion with red pepper flakes to taste until the onions are tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
• Add the collard greens and chicken stock to the skillet and raise the heat to high. Wilt the greens, stirring occasionally until desired tenderness is reached, 5 to 7 minutes, adding more stock or water to prevent burning. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

la patisserie chouquette's simone faure // photo by greg rannells

New Orleans Rice Dressing
Courtesy of La Patisserie Chouquette’s Simone Faure
6 to 8 servings, enough to stuff 1 large turkey  

“For Christmas and Easter, we always have rice dressing or dirty rice. I feel like it is the core of Louisiana, the core of New Orleans. It’s always on the table.” – Simone Faure

½ lb. chicken gizzards
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, small diced
½ white onion, small diced
½ red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb. ground turkey
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. Tony’s Creole Seasoning
½ Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne
4½ cups beef broth
3 cups dried white Louisiana rice
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped

• Rinse the gizzards thoroughly, then add them to a stockpot. Cover with water and cook over low heat about 1½ hours, adding more water if needed, until the gizzards are fork tender. Drain the gizzards, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Set aside.
• Meanwhile, in a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the celery, bell pepper, white onion and red onion until tender, 6 to 10 minutes, then add the garlic and saute 1 minute more.
• Add the turkey, garlic powder, onion powder, Creole seasoning, pepper, paprika and cayenne and saute until the turkey is browned, 6 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
• Add the gizzards to a food processor and pulse to lightly chop, or lightly chop by hand.
• Return the skillet to medium heat, add the gizzards to the turkey mixture and stir well. Add the reserved gizzard cooking liquid. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer.
• Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring the beef broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the rice, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the rice steam 10 minutes.
• Add the turkey mixture to a large bowl. Add the rice 1 cup at a time so the mixture remains moist and the desired rice-to-meat ratio is reached. (You may not use all the rice.)
• Add the parsley and green onion and mix well. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with more parsley and green onion to serve as a side or use it to stuff a turkey.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo 
Courtesy of Companion’s Josh Galliano
6 to 8 servings

“When we always had my immediate family around, we would celebrate Christmas Eve – open up whatever presents – and then snack on gumbo, because it was easy, and it would be in the background. We went to vigil Mass and come back, and that point you’d be hungry because they kept you too long and the gumbo was easy to get back into.” – Josh Galliano

For the Stock
3 to 4 Tbsp. canola oil
1 3-lb. chicken, cut into pieces
2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning
15 cups water
1 yellow onion, cut in half
1 large carrot, cut into 3 pieces
1 stalk celery, cut in half
1 bay leaf

For the Gumbo
½ cup canola oil
½ cup flour
1 cup small diced onion
½ cup small diced celery
½ cup small diced green pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
10 to 12 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. Crystal hot sauce, plus more for serving
1 bay leaf
Pinch of chili flakes
Pinch of cayenne
½ lb. andouille, cut into half moons*
Steamed white rice, for serving
Chopped green onion, for serving

• Begin the chicken stock by preheating the canola oil in a Dutch oven over high heat.
• Meanwhile, dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel, then season all over with the Creole seasoning.
• Sear the chicken pieces in the Dutch oven until browned on all sides, working in batches if needed.
• Add the water, onion, celery, carrot and bay leaf. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 45 minutes.
• Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Strain the stock into a clean pot; discard the solids.
• Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat and set aside in a small pot with some stock to keep warm. Discard the skin and bones.
• Clean the Dutch oven, add the oil and return to medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, whisk in the flour and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue whisking the roux until it is the color of dark peanut butter or a Hershey milk chocolate bar, about 45 minutes.
• Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic and cook 5 minutes. Then add the stock, Worcestershire, hot sauce, bay leaf, chili flakes and cayenne. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer about 10 minutes.
• Add the chicken pieces and sausage, then simmer another 30 minutes. Skim any foam or impurities that rise to the top.
• Taste and adjust the seasonings. The gumbo should be the consistency of a slightly thickened broth. Serve over steamed rice, garnished with green onions and served with hot sauce.

*Galliano orders andouille from Jacob’s in LaPlace, Louisana at It is also available at Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions in Maplewood and Truffles Butchery in Ladue.

simone faure's 7up cake // photo by carmen troesser

Southern 7UP Cake
Courtesy of La Patisserie Chouquette’s Simone Faure
10 to 12 servings

“Every black family in New Orleans does 7UP cake for the holidays. My mother was an avid baker, and she would always have 7UP cake. I had friends in college who would request it if they came home for the holidays.” – Simone Faure

3 cups granulated sugar
¾ lb. (3 sticks) butter, softened
5 eggs
3 cups self-rising flour
4 Tbsp. lemon juice, divided
¾ cup 7UP
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. milk

• Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 12-cup bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.
• In a stand mixer on medium speed, cream the granulated sugar and butter until light and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
• On low speed, add the flour and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
• Use a rubber spatula to fold in the 7UP, then pour the batter into the bundt pan.
• Bake 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
• Let cool on a wire rack completely before removing the cake from the pan.
• Meanwhile, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk and remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice to make a glaze. Drizzle atop the cooled cake before serving.

Key Lime Pie
Courtesy of Yolklore’s Mary Bogaki
1 9-inch pie

“Generally, citrus is in season in the wintertime, so the lime and Key lime are actually in season. It’s something different and fun, and after heavy eating, Key lime pie is so light and refreshing. I like that a whole lot more than heavy pumpkin custard pie.” – Mary Bogaki

3 cups (about 10 oz.) graham cracker crumbs
6 Tbsp. (about 3 oz.) butter
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
10 egg yolks
½ cup plus 1½ Tbsp. (about 5 oz.) lime juice
⅓ cup vodka
⅓ cup (about 2 oz.) sugar
1 cup heavy cream
⅓ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for serving

• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• In a mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan.
• In another mixing bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice and vodka until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan.
• Bake until the filling is just set, 15 minutes. Let cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.
• Before serving, make the whipped cream by beating the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a stand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
• Serve the pie with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

lavina mccoy's caramel cake // photo by carmen troesser

Quick Caramel Cake 
Courtesy of Gourmet Soul’s Lavinia McCoy
8 to 10 servings

“For whatever the reason, every time I make that damn cake, [my family] thinks I’ve been laboring in the kitchen all day.” – Lavinia McCoy

1 box Duncan Hines Signature Golden Butter Recipe Cake Mix
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. salted butter, room temperature, cut into 6 pieces
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted, plus more if needed

• Prepare the cake in 2 9-inch round cake pans according to package directions. Let cool completely.
• In a medium saucepan over medium heat, constantly stir the sugar with a heat-resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The sugar will clump and melt into a thick, amber-colored syrup.
• Immediately add the butter and whisk until it is completely melted, 2 to 3 minutes. The sugar will bubble rapidly when the butter is added.
• Very slowly drizzle in the heavy cream while whisking. The mixture will bubble rapidly and/or splatter when added. Boil 1 minute, then remove from heat and stir in the salt. Let cool.
• Slowly whisk in 2 cups powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached, adding more sugar as needed.
• Use an offset spatula to frost the cake.

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

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