It's finally December in South Louisiana- a season of 80-degree Mondays and 40-degree Tuesdays, bonfires on the levees to light the way for Papa Noel, and ALL THE FOOD. The holiday season in Louisiana can sometimes seem like a marathon for the metabolism. A culture known for gastronomic generosity certainly isn't gong to take it easy on you in a season of back-to-back celebrations. You see, for us Thanksgiving is merely the banner holder at the beginning of a parade that marches through this calendar into the next. While we may step in time with the rest of the country through Christmas and the New Year, we keep on two-stepping through King's Day and Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's Day, French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest... you get the point. And you can probably imagine there's going to be more than once during all this frivolity that I'll need to lean on some good ol' standby recipes for when I'm told to 'bring whatever' to someone's party. This crispy and savory take on traditionally labor-intensive cheese straws chills in the fridge while I'm changing my outfit for the third time and bakes while I make up a dipping sauce. This version is jazzed up for Christmas with a cranberry pepper jelly, but like the Rebirth Brass Band will remind you, you should always do whatcha wanna.
To watch what it's really like in my kitchen, even when the cameras are rolling, click here.
Happy eating, y'all!
Cheese Straw Sammies 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded 2 sticks butter, softened 1 egg 2 T milk 1 t black pepper 1 T Worcestershire 1 t dried mustard
1 t onion powder
1/2 t paprika Cayenne or Crystal sauce to taste 1/2 t salt (if using unsalted butter) 1 loaf firm white bread (I used Pepperidge Farms), crusts removed 1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter two sheet pans. 2. Blend all ingredients except bread in a food processor until smooth. 3. Spread a generous tablespoon of cheese mix onto each slice of bread. Stack one slice on top of another, cheese side up. Repeat with remaining slices. 4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 5. Using a long knife, cut each sandwich into 4 squares. 6. Place squares 1" apart on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Finish under a low broiler if necessary.
Cranberry Pepper Jelly
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 or 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced (hold on to the seeds in case you want a little more heat later)
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 t salt and a few grinds off black peppe
1. In a 1 quart pot combine cranberries, water, sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper, and half of the jalapenos. Bring to a simmer. over medium high heat. Keep a lid handy because the berries will pop as they heat. Wait for the berries to stop foaming and popping, then drop the heat to medium low (you want it to bubble, not boil).
2. Continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes. Stir in remaining jalapeno. Allow to cool before serving. The more this cools, the more jelly-like it'll be.