Comfort Food and Easy Entertaining

As a private chef, caterer and cooking instructor I am often asked "What do you enjoy cooking when you're at home on a weeknight or entertaining guests at your table?" I started this blog to answer that question. Here I will share with all of you the recipes that I find delicious and comforting. Many of the recipes are my own versions of classic dishes, some are contemporary twists on old ideas, and some are discoveries I made while perusing my grandmother’s vast collection of cookbooks dating back to the early 1900’s. Please enjoy these videos. I have also included links to some of the published articles I have written recently. Please feel free to comment here or email me directly with any questions, comments or general thoughts. My email address and information on my catering, private chef and private cooking classes can be found on my website:

Duck and Sausage Gumbo

Duck and Sausage Gumbo

Makes approx. 8 quarts

5 onions (approx. 8-10 cups), medium dice
3 green bell peppers (approx. 2 cups), medium dice
7 stalks celery (approx. 2 cups), medium dice
10-12 cloves garlic (approx. 1/4 cup), minced
5-6 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups green onions, finely minced
1 lb okra, sliced
3 1/2 - 4 lb Andouille sausage (or substitute a good quality smoked pork sausage), cubed
2 cooked duck, meat shredded from bone
1/2 cup Bacon fat
1/2 cup butter (or 1 full cup butter if not using bacon fat)
1 1/2 cups flour
6-8 cups of duck stock (or substitute chicken stock)
3 (14 oz) cans, diced tomatoes
3 1/2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
20 dashes of Tabasco
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
3-4 Tbsp gumbo File

In a large pot, add a few tablespoons of canola oil and sauté okra until it looses its stringiness.  Remove okra from pot and wipe pot clean.

In same pot, heat a few tablespoons of canola oil over high heat and and sauté sausage along with 1 1/2 Tbsp cayenne pepper until well browned.  Remove sausage from pot leaving any rendered fat.

Add bacon fat and butter to hot pot and allow to melt.  Stirring up any browned bits remaining from sausage.  Add flour and reduce heat to medium.  Stir flour into fat.  Continue to stir constantly until roux becomes dark brown.  (This will take about 20-30 minutes)  Add onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves and 2 tsp salt to pot and sauté over high heat about 10 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping up all browned bits from bottom of pot.

Add okra, green onions and tomatoes to pot along with 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper and 2 tsp black pepper and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.  At this point add stock (if using) and stir well.  Leave pot uncovered and reduce heat to medium.  Allow to simmer for about 1 hour.

Add 1 Tbsp cayenne, worcestershire sauce and Tabasco along with duck meat.  Simmer about 1 hour, covered.  Finally, sprinkle top with file powder and cover pot and allow to simmer about 30 minutes.  After gumbo has simmered stir well and it is ready to serve.

Serve over white rice.

Southern Fried Chicken

Southern Fried Chicken

2 chickens, cut up (16 pieces of chicken)

Wash and dry chicken.  Lay chicken in an even layer onto a sheet pan.  Sprinkle 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and 1-2 tsp cayenne pepper over chicken.  Turn chicken over.  Sprinkle other side with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and 1-2 tsp cayenne pepper.  Turn chicken around in seasoning to coat well.  Spread about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of flour over chicken and turn chicken over.  Sprinkle with another cup of flour.using hands coat chicken well with flour.  Place pan in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, uncovered.

Fill heavy-bottomed pot to 1/ capacity with oil (vegetable, canola or peanut) and heat to 350 degrees.  Remove chicken from refrigerator and sprinkle with another cup of flour.  Coat chicken with flour and shake off excess.  Fry a few pieces of chicken at a time, do not overcrowd pot.  Fry dark meat (thighs, legs, and wings) for 14 minutes and white meat (breasts) for 12 minutes.  Maintain oil temperature between 325 - 350 degrees.  Turn chicken over half way through cooking time to cook both sides evenly.

When chicken is done verify correct internal temperature of 165 degrees.  Remove from oil and place on a wire rack until all chicken is fried.  Chicken may be kept warm in a 200 degree oven.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

3 1/2 - 4 lb Butternut Squash
5-6 cups chicken stock
6-8 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups diced white onion
4 Tbsp flour
2 tsp hot curry powder
1 cup half and half
lime juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Peel, seed and cut the squash into 1-2 inch cubes.  Heat butter over medium-high heat until melted.  Add onion and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Stir in curry and continue to cook for about 5-6 minutes.  Add cubed squash, salt and pepper and sauté for another 5 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over mixture and incorporate well.  Pour chicken stock into mixture and take care to make sure all the flour is incorporate.  Allow mixture to come up to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and cover.  Let soup cook for approximately 20-25 minutes, until squash is tender enough to allow a folk to pierce it with little resistance.  At this point the soup can be pureed with an emersion blender, or you can remove the solids and place them in a blender along with 2 cups of the broth, and puree mixture until smooth (if using a blender return puree to pot).  Stir in the half and half.  At this point you will not want to let the soup boil again.  The soup can be held over low heat until ready to serve.  Once ladled into bowls you can garnish each with about 1-2 tsp of fresh lime juice.  Serve and enjoy!!