Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs

Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs is a quick, easy and festive appetizer that is perfect any holiday party. The salad can be made ahead of time and the pastry puffs can be baked ahead of time so you can assemble them just before serving. This will keep them from getting soggy.

Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Louisiana Cookin’, November/December 2016)

Makes 24

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced leek
1/4 cup minced celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. cooked crawfish tails
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp Creole seasoning
Kosher salt
1/2 cup minced red onion, rinsed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
4 (10-ounce) packages puff pastry shells, baked and hollowed

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add leek, celery, and garlic; cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add crawfish, bell pepper, Creole seasoning, and a pinch of salt; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, paprika, and another pinch of salt. Add crawfish mixture and chopped cilantro.

Place about 2 tablespoons crawfish salad in each prepared pastry shell. Garnish with cilantro.

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Standing Rib Roast with Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction

Standing Rib Roast with Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction uses a reverse browning technique that I learned from BonAppetit.com.

Standing Rib Roast with Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 10-12

For the Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction:
18 oz. fresh blackberries
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 Tbsp tomato paste
6 cups beef broth
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
8 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 6-bone standing rib beef roasts (dry aged for at least one week, fat cap trimmed to 1/4″ thick
12 large garlic cloves, finely grated
12 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 cup rosemary leaves
6 Tbsp fennel seeds, finely ground
4 Tbsp dried minced onions
3 Tbsp Seasoned salt
2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
4-6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To prepare Reduction: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the blackberries and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the berries soften and release their juice. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the tomato paste and cook stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, vinegar, bay leaves, rosemary, and fresh black pepper. Mix well. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a medium saucepan pressing down on the solid with a wooden spoon. Continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half, about 45 minutes. The sauce can be made to this point and refrigerated for up to 3 days ahead of time. To finish the sauce, over low heat, whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Reseason with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Working in batches, scatter rosemary over a paper towel-lined microwave safe plate. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Check rosemary and continue to microwave for 20 second intervals, until dry and crisp. Grind the rosemary in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Add fennel seeds and dried minced onions and grind until powdered. Mix in seasoned salt and black pepper.

Trim the roasts to remove any moldy of spoiled surface meat and all but 1/4-inch of the fat caps. Score the fat caps in a crosshatch pattern spacing cuts about 1-inch apart. Rub the roasts all over with the garlic paste. Coat the roasts with the rosemary-fennel mixture. Place on a rack in a large roasting pan fat cap-side up uncovered in the refrigerator over night, up to one day. Let roasts sit a room temperature for at least 2 hours before roasting.

To cook the roasts: Preheat oven to 225F and place a rack on the lower third of the oven. Place the roasts on a rack in shallow roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss onion, carrots, garlic cloves, and celery in oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the vegetables around the base of the roasts along with the thyme sprigs. Roast the meat, rotating the pan once until an instant read thermometer reads 125F. Remove from the oven and tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. To finish: Move a rack to the top third of the oven and increase the temperature to 500F. Roast until deep brown and exterior is crisp, 8-10 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

To serve: Drizzle slices of beef with generous amounts of the Blackberry-Cabernet Reduction.

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Eggplant Parmesan Casserole

Eggplant Parmesan Casserole is gooey, cheesy version of this classic Italian dish. It takes some time to prepare but it is worth every minute.

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Eggplant Parmesan Casserole
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of BonAppetit.com, 2016)

Makes 12 servings

For the Marinara:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves crushed
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine at room temperature
2 28-oz. whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt

For the Eggplant and Assembly:
4 medium to large eggplants, peeled, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
Kosher salt
3 cups Panko
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, beaten until just blended
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped basil and parsley, plus more basil for serving
6 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

To prepare the Marinara: Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring often until golden, about 4 minutes. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook stirring often, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil then cook until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, and their juices; add basil and oregano and stir to combine. Swirl 1 1/2 cups water in one of the tomato cans and then the other and add to the pot. Season with salt. Transfer the pot to the oven, roast the sauce uncovered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until thick and the tomatoes are browned on top and around the edges. Allow the sauce to cool and process in a food processor until smooth. Taste and season with salt, as needed.

For the Eggplant and Assembly:
Lightly season eggplant slices all over with salt; place in a single layer on several layers of paper towel inside a rimmed baking sheet. Continue adding layers of paper towel and eggplant topping the last layer with paper towels. Place another baking sheet on top and weigh down with a heavy pot. Let the eggplant sit until it has released excess liquid, 45-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse panko, oregano, pepper, and 3/4 cup of parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl for dredging.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working one at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat in breadcrumb mixture, shake off any excess, Place on wire racks.

Heat 2/3 cup oil in large skillet or Dutch oven, over medium heat. Cook as many slices as will comfortably fit, turning once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and immediately press with more paper towel to absorb oil. Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices, adding remaining oil and wiping out skillet, as needed. Let cool. Taste and season with more salt.

Toss chopped herbs, grated mozzarella, and remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan in a medium bowl. Spread 1 cup sauce over the bottom of a 13X9 baking pan; top with a layer of eggplant (trim as needed). Drizzle 1 cup sauce over and sprinkle with one-third of cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, followed by 1 cup sauce and half of the remaining cheese mixture. repeat with the remaining slices sauce and cheese mixture. Cover with foil and bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and arrange fresh mozzarella over the casserole. Increase oven temperature to 425F and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving. Top with basil leaves just before slicing to serve.

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