Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Apr 10, 2011
09:26 AM
Small Dishes

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Since I’ve been writing this blog—since June, 2008—I’ve received many requests for recipes for dishes I’ve written about or mentioned.  So, I thought now was a good time to share a few of them.


Overwhelmingly, the most requested recipe is for jambalaya. There really isn’t a “best” recipe since it can be made several ways and I do and love them all.  What follows is probably my day in, day out favorite. The original version served a church basement so I’ve scaled it down for home consumption.  To make really good jambalaya requires really good andouille—and in this case, tasso.  Both can be difficult to find in this neck of the woods.  Both can be ordered from the Cajun Grocer.


Seafood Jambalaya


Seasoning Mix:

2 whole bay leaves

1½ teaspoons salt

1½ teaspoons oregano

1¼ teaspoons white pepper

1 teaspoons black pepper

¼ teaspoons cayenne

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1teaspoon thyme

Pinch of ground cloves


Combine and set aside.


3 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/3 cups tasso (or substitute baked ham) , chopped

1 cup chopped andouille

3 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped celery

1 cups chopped green peppers

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 15-ounce cans diced canned tomatoes (drained reserving the juice)

2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce

4 cups seafood stock (including juice from tomatoes)

4 cups converted rice (Uncle Ben’s)

1 pounds shelled medium shrimp (reserved the shells to make the seafood stock)


Preheat oven 350 degrees.


Heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the tasso and andouille and sauté until crisp (about 5 to 8 minutes).  Add the onions, celery and green peppers and sauté until tender (about 5 minutes).  Reduce heat to medium.  Add the seasonings and garlic and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the tomatoes and cook another 6.  Add the tomato sauce and cook 7 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in the stock and bring to a boil.  Add the green onions and cook 2 minutes.


Add the rice and transfer to an ungreased baking pan with the shrimp.  Cover with foil and bake 60 minutes or until the rice is tender.


Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.  Remove bay leaves.  Cover and refrigerate.


Reheat covered with foil in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Uncover and continue to heat another 15 minutes. 


Serves 8 or more.


Another frequently asked for New Orleans-specialty is gumbo.  Gumbo can be made from just about anything, but always begins with a roux—flour browned in fat.  Roux in gumbo can vary in color from that of peanut butter to dark chocolate. It’s a normally time consuming procedure that must be executed with great care.  Burn the flour and the resulting dish will have an unpleasant bitter taste.  Some years ago I discovered an easy and faultless way to make roux—in the microwave!  This is my rendition of one of the signature dishes served at Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans.


Gumbo Ya-Ya 


Gumbo Ya Ya is a popular idiom heard in the Cajun bayou country that means “everybody talks at once”.


1/3 cup vegetable oil (preferably, grapeseed oil)

½ cup bread flour

1 red bell peppers, chopped

1 green bell peppers, chopped

1 medium onions, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

8 cups chicken stock

8 cups water

1 tablespoons Creole seasoning

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 bay leave

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 pound andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices

1 whole roasted chicken breast, skinned, boned and coarsely chopped

Tabasco to taste


Boiled rice



Chopped green onions


In a 1-quart microwave safe-measuring cup blend together the vegetable oil and bread flour.  Microwave uncovered at high power, stirring at 2-minute intervals for 8 minutes.  Continue to microwave at 1 minute intervals stirring well in between intervals until you have a dark mahogany roux.  Transfer to a stock pot set over low heat.


Add the bell peppers and stir constantly 30 seconds. Add the onions and celery and stir constantly for another 30 seconds. Slowly add the stock and water to the roux and vegetables, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add the Creole seasoning, black pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme, garlic, bay leaf, kosher salt and andouille and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer the gumbo, uncovered, for 45 minutes, skimming off any fat and stirring occasionally. Cool the gumbo to room temperature. The gumbo may be made several hours or the day before, but cover and refrigerate after two hours.


Right before serving, make the rice.  Add the chicken to the gumbo and reheat. Adjust seasoning with hot sauce. Serve over rice garnished with green onions.


Serves 10.


Something I’m continually asked to make is key lime pie.  I wrote a whole blog about it (found, here).  The recipe I included there was for an unconventional rendition.  Here is the traditional recipe that originally was topped with meringue but nowadays usually whipped cream. This a very large (and impressive) pie, but the ingredients can be cut in half to make an 8-inch pie.


Traditional Key Lime Pie



1 10-inch graham cracker crumb shell, baked and chilled



8 large egg yolks

1 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons grated lime zest

2 14-ounce can sweetened and condensed milk



Meringue (optional)

Whipped Cream (optional)


Preheat oven 325 degrees


Combine the egg yolks, lime juice and zest and beat together for several minutes until well combined.   Beat in the condensed milk.  Pour into the baked, cooled crumb crust.  Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven.


If topping with meringue make mounds of meringue around the outside circumference of the warm pie, making sure that the filling is completely covered.  Fill the center of the pie with the meringue and shape with a rubber spatula. Return the pie to the oven for 20 minutes Cool on a rack; then refrigerate until cold.  Serve at once.


If topping with whipped cream, remove to a rack, cool completely then chill before serving with whipped cream.



1¼ cup superfine granulated sugar

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

8 large egg whites at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine the sugar and cream of tartar in a small bowl.  Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites until frothy.  Beat in the sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time until combined and soft peaks are formed.  Beat in the vanilla and continue beat until stiff peaks are formed.


Serves 8


I get all sorts of inquiries barbecue related, but since most of the recipes are so complicated and time consuming and require a smoker, I won’t include them here.  However, here is one of my favorite barbecue sauces.  It’s goon on almost anything!



Grapefruit and Chipotle Mopping Sauce


7-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup peeled and minced onion

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 cup fresh red grapefruit juice

1 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup Steen’s Syrup, refiner’s syrup or molasses

1½ cups light brown sugar

3 cups ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup water

1 tablespoon sea salt


Remove the seeds and stems from the chipotles, and puree the peppers with their reserved sauce in the blender. (Use a small paring knife to slit the peppers and scrape away the seeds, and be sure to wash your hands right away).


In a large heavy casserole placed over medium heat, heat  the oil and sauté the onion for five minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until both onions and garlic are softened. Add the chipotle pepper puree, grapefruit juice, vinegar, syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire, water and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust salt if desired. Can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.


Makes about 2 quarts.


Anyone who knows me knows that I make a lot of pies—I even have an album of pies on Facebook.  So, it’s no surprise that I’m asked how I make many of them.  Probably the most popular is strawberry rhubarb, and though I’ve shared this recipe before, since the season is upon us, here it is again.


Deep-dish Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


Rich pie pastry for a double crust 9-inch pie


4 tablespoons instant tapioca

1½ tablespoons flour

¼ teaspoon salt

3 cups rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces

3 cups hulled strawberries, sliced

1½ cups granulated sugar

1 egg, separated (refrigerate the yolk)

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter cut in small bits

1 tablespoon cream or milk


Roll out half of the pastry, line a deep dish 9-inch pie plate and chill for 1 hour or more.


Process the tapioca, flour and salt in a spice grinder or small food processor until fine.  Combine with the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar.  Let stand 15 minutes.


Beat the egg white until frothy.  Brush the bottom of the chilled pie shell with the beaten egg white.  Add the filling, top with the butter and chill while rolling out the rest of the pastry.


Roll out the rest of the pastry and cut into 1-inch strips.  Use the strips to top the filled pie with a lattice crust and then chill the pie for 1 hour.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Beat the egg yolk with the cream or milk. Brush the top of the pie (not the edge) with the beaten egg mixture.  Bake in the center of the preheated 400-degree oven for 25 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes longer.  Best eaten the same day as it’s made.


Serves 8.


Finally, I’ll end where I began.  In my very first blog, I wrote about Provincetown (blog is here) and a drink I call the P-Towner. There’s nothing complicated about it—and like Provincetown—

 for me it never seems to loose it’s charm.




2 ounces orange vodka

4 ounces cranberry juice

1 ounce grapefruit juice

Lime wedge


Fill an old fashioned glass with ice and add the orange vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice.  Stir and serve with the lime wedge.


Makes 1 drink.

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About This Blog

Dan CurdI found my interest in writing by accident. My training and first job was as a graphic designer. Unemployed, the only employment I could find in advertising at that time was as a copywriter. Somehow, I convinced Richard Newman & Associates to hire me. Later I learned they were desperate. Madison has been my home off and on since 1957 (nonstop for the past 31 years). I write about food, which I love. – Dan Curd

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