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Fricasseein' Off the Bayou

Posted Oct 24 2009 10:00pm

M ost good things must come to an end, don’t they? Unfortunately, my job is hitting rock bottom so I’m sending out my resume, yet again. Apparently I’ve adapted this hobby of getting a job, working off my tail, then getting laid off. Luckily, Phillip is getting full time so we can depend on him for the while until I, myself, get a steady job. I’m hoping to start my business next year, but, if the finances aren’t right, I won’t push it. At some point next year, it will begin.

Speaking of good things coming to an end, I was utterly disappointed when I saw the bottom of my bowl after consuming the last decadent morsel of oyster fricassee and last spoonful of creamy cush-cush. I was supposed to be making polenta biscuits but the desire to consume creamy polenta was so overwhelming, I opted for the later. And, yes, I was being lazy. It, however, was for a good reason. I had just been to the doctor’s yesterday, again, and had more blood drawn to run tests for vitamin deficiency and/or anemia. If I hadn’t had anemia before, after having all that blood taken out, I’d certainly drop some hemoglobins. Okay, not really, but I’ve been really getting drained. The reason they’re taking so much is to test my thyroid and if I may be facing malabsorption, too, with several nutrients. If everything comes out clear, I’ll be tested for minerals and metals next. I’m just hoping this is a case of popping a pill and feeling better. The reason why this all started in the first place is that I’ve been getting lightheaded, dizzy, exhausted and faint – a lot. It’s beginning to affect my driving abilities so I’m really hoping this gets fixed, fast. It’s not really fun waking up, doing a few things, then feel like you’re ready for bed again. So, here’s hopin’.

On days as such, there’s nothing more comforting than low country food, in my opinion; but, to each his/her own. I find comfort in either southern food or Italian food, so, since I had Italian the night before, I opted for the later, Oyster Fricassee. A fricassee is one of those technical terms for something we do more often than not, stew. We stew all the time, no? The broth formed afterwards is usually thickened into gravy and, presto, you have just been fricasseeing. Whoa, that’s actually a word. Well, when you apply fricasseeing to New Orleans , you go backwards in some degree. A dark roux is made first which is then added to the sautéed trinity and whatever ingredients you choose, which, in turn is then poured over rice. My stomach wasn’t in the rice digesting mood so I went for the easy creamy cheesy polenta or cush cush in NOLA lingo. It was beautiful. There are some times when the sleeping artist really emerges and this was one of them. The hue was absolutely perfect, the consistency of the polenta was perfect, and the whole flavor marriage was absolutely ideal. I also now have an affinity for oysters. Oh the possibilities – oyster gumbo, oyster jambalaya, oyster Rockefeller, oyster po boy’s baby!

One aspect of the recipe I have to make clear – buy fresh oysters; do not use canned. By fresh, I mean get the
little containers of oystersfrom your fish monger. Mine was some king oyster brand. The ones on the shelves are disgusting. Don’t even bother – trust me. That statement applies to most canned seafood, save for anchovies. Yes, that’s about it. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased anything else seafood wise off the grocery shelves. Canned tuna is just gross. I have yet to find a brand that I like.

The texture of an oyster is similar to a clam and mussel, but, the flavor is much different and pleasant in my opinion. I couldn’t really tell if it was the quality that was far superior to my shellfish experience in the past, or, that I just prefer the oyster over the other two. Clams are okay if properly prepared, but, mussels seem to have that distinctive sea taste. I think I now know why oysters are the molluscs of choice. Now I’m really tempted to try an oyster bar. I’ll just let them do the shucking.

Oyster Fricassee
With cheddar cush cush/polenta
3 oz fresh packed oysters
1 stalk of celery, diced
¼ of a large bell pepper, diced
¼ of a large onion diced
1 scallion, chopped
4 medium baby bell mushrooms, diced
1/6th of soyrizo, optional (Or use real sausage)
2 cups chopped spinach (optional)
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp crystal’s hot sauce
¼ tsp smoked paprika or liquid smoke
1 tbsp white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp rice flour
½ tbsp nondairy margarine
¼ cup nondairy milk

Fresh parsley to garnish

Cheddar Cush Cush
1 oz almond cheddar or your favorite alternative cheese
¼ cup fine cornmeal
Salt to taste
1 ½ cups water

In a small pan, whisk together the cornmeal and 1 cup of water. When it begins to thicken, add the salt, cheese, and the remaining water. Turn the heat on low and continually stir the polenta until the water begins to evaporate and you achieve a thick paste-like consistency. Remove from the heat. It will thicken as it cools.

For the main course:

In a small sauce pan, toast the flour until a nutty aroma is achieved. Once the flour turns a golden hue, add the margarine and let that coat the flour. Once the flour becomes collected by the nondairy butter, gradually whisk in the milk. Put that on the back burner on a very low simmer, whisking on occasion.

In a nonstick frying pan or one sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, sauté the trinity – celery, peppers, and onions until just soft. Add the soyrizo and garlic, cooking until it begins to brown. Add water if it sticks. Add the scallion and mushrooms, letting them cook down. Deglaze with the wine and let that cook off.

Add the spinach, Cajun seasonings, salt, and pepper. When the spinach wilts, add the roux and finally the oysters, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat after 3 minutes and spoon the ‘stew’ into a bowl. The cush-cush should be thick enough to stand on its own, so, either place that on top and to the side in the bowl as I did, or, just pile it in the center with the stew spooned on top.

Garnish with fresh parsley and even some thyme if you have it.
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