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!!

Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples

Makes 6 cups

8 apples
8 sticks
toppings of your choice
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Wash and dry apples and insert stick into stem end

Line a baking pan.  Fill bowls with toppings.

Fit a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a candy thermometer.  Over high heat, cook 1 1/2 cups of the cream, corn syrup, butter and sugar to 280 degrees.  Remove from heat and carefully swirl in 1/2 cup of cream and vanilla extract.  Use caution as the mixture is very hot.

While the caramel is hot, dip and turn apples into the caramel to coat and let the excess drip off.  Dip the apples into the toppings of your choice.  Arrange the apples on the lined baking pan and allow to cool.

Severed Finger Cookies

Severed Finger Cookies

Makes 24 large finger cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup raspberry jam

In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy.   Mix in the sugar egg and vanilla, then mix in the flour baking powder and salt.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Using your hands and working quickly, roll a small handful of dough and roll into a finger shape.  Place the fingers about 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Stick a sliced almond on one end for the fingernails.  Using a butter knife make 3 crosswise knuckle marks in the middle of each cookie.

Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Transfer to rack to cool.  Meanwhile, in microwave, heat raspberry jam for 45 seconds.  Once liquified dip the severed end of each cookie into the sauce.

Place on cookie sheet and allow jam to set.

Sweet Barbacoa Pork

Sweet Barbacoa Pork

makes 4-5 servings

2 lbs boneless pork ribs
1 (12 oz) can coke-a-cola (mexican coke is better still uses real cain sugar) (not diet - can use caffeine free)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. garlic
1/4 cup water

Put the pork, coke-a-cola, brown sugar & garlic in a large bowl or ziplock bag to marinade.
Marinate overnight.

After pork is marinated pour pork and marinade into dutch oven and cook in oven for 3 hours on 300 degrees then 2 hours on 250 degrees or crockpot cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
Keep lid on to retain liquid.
Remove from oven and drain liquid. Put pork into a large bowl and shred using forks or tongs.

Barbacoa Sauce

2 cups coke-a-cola (mexican coke is better uses real cain sugar still) (not diet - can use caffeine free)
2 (7 oz cans) diced green chilies
1 (19 oz) can red enchilada sauce
1 cup brown sugar

In a food processor or blender, blend coke, chilies, enchilada sauce and brown sugar until desired consistence is reached.
Add Barbacoa Sauce to shredded pork and serve or cover in oven safe pot to heat or keep warm till you're ready to serve.

To add heat to these sweet burritos top with my homemade enchilada sauce or your favorite salsa.

Creamy Ranch Tomatillo Sauce, Black Beans, Cilantro-Lime Rice

Creamy Ranch Tomatillo Sauce

makes 6-8 servings
1 Cup uncooked Rice (long-grain, white rice)
1 tsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup chicken broth (better then bouillon)
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro

In a saucepan combine butter and garlic over medium-high heat.  Allow butter to melt and sauté garlic until fragrant, about 4 minutes.  Add rice and stir to combine.  Add lime juice, stock and water.  Bring to a boil and cover pot.  Turn heat to lowest setting and set timer for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes do not remove lid.  Turn off heat and keep covered for 5 minutes.

Remove lid and add lime juice, sugar and cilantro.  Stir to combine and serve.

Black Beans

makes 6-8 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 (15 oz cans) black beans, drained and rinsed
Approx 11 oz tomato juice
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cilantro, minced

In a saucepan over medium-high heat add olive oil.  Stir in garlic and cumin and sauté for 4 minutes.  Add beans, tomato juice, and salt.  Stir and cover for about 10 minutes.  Once the beans are heated through they are ready to serve.  You may remove the lid and continue to simmer for a drier consistency.

Creamy Ranch Tomatillo Sauce

makes 1 quart

1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch mix (NOT BUTTERMILK)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tomatillos, remove husks, diced
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeño

Mix all ingredients in a blender.  Process until well blended.

Homemade Tamales

Homemade Tamales

3 cups Masa for tamales
2 cups Cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup lard
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup enchilada sauce (see recipe on my blog at
24 corn husks
2 lbs Chipotle Shredded Pork (recipe on blog at or filling of your choice

Cover corn husks with hot water and let sit for 1 1/2-2 hours.

In a stand mixer combine masa and cornmeal.  Add lard and canola oil and mix until combined (it will look like course sand), scraping blade of mixer to help incorporate lard.  Add enchilada sauce and mix until incorporated.  Add cumin, cayenne, pepper and salt and mix again to combine.  Slowly pour in stock while mixer is running on low.  Process until dough forms and the dough is sticky.

Remove husks from water and pat dry.  Spread a 1/4 inch layer of masa mixture on the center of husk, leaving about 1 inch space around the edges.

Put about 1/4 cup of filling down the center of the masa and roll tamale onto itself trying to make the edges meet in the middle.  Fold husk around tamale and set on tray.

Once all tamales have been formed layer them in a steamer basket set over boiling water.  Cover and let steam for 30 minutes or until dough can easily pull away from husk.  Make sure to monitor water level so your pot does not boil dry.

Serve immediately, or reheat for service later.

Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada Sauce

1/4 cup Canola Oil
1 large Mexican Sweet Onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
12-14 dried New Mexico chilis
2 cups water
3-4 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
2 fresh tomatoes, stem removed

Makes 1 1/2 quarts

Remove stems and seeds from chiles.  Put chiles in simmering water for 20 minutes.  Remove chiles from water (reserve poaching water) and place in blender.  Process in blender with 2 cups water until completely pureed.

In a saucepan, heat oil until hot.  Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5-6 minutes over medium/high heat.  Add flour and stir for 3 minutes.

Pour onion mixture along with 2 tomatoes into blender and process.

Pour chili/onion mixture into saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Spicy Italian Sausage Red Sauce

Spicy Italian Sausage Red Sauce

Serves 8

3-4 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 lbs Hot Italian Sausage
2 (28 oz) cans Whole peeled tomatoes, or 28 oz fresh peeled tomatoes
2 large onions, diced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried Basil
1 1/2 tsp dried Oregano
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups stock (chicken, vegetable or beef)

Heat a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add 3-4 Tbsp Olive Oil and heat for approximately 45 seconds (or until you see it begin to shimmer).  Add sausage and let sit for about 3 minutes, do not stir.  Once the sausage begins to brown slightly, stir.  Allow to caramelize on all sides, then add garlic and onions.  Sauté mixture until onions begin to soften and brown slightly.  Add dried spices and salt and pepper.  Stir mixture together then add tomatoes and stock.

Allow sauce to simmer on medium/low for approximately 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes.  If mixture becomes too dry add 1/2 cup water at a time until it loosens to your desired consistency.

Serve sauce with your favorite pasta and enjoy!!

How to peel fresh tomatoes "Concasse"

How To Peel Fresh Tomatoes

1 quart boiling water
Bowl filled with ice water
slotted spoon

Remove the core for the tomato.  Cut an "X" in the bottom of the tomato using a pairing knife.  Place tomato in boiling water for 1 - 2 minutes.  Remove tomato from boiling water and place into ice water bath for about 30 seconds.  Remove tomato from ice water and remove skin.  Squeeze out seeds and juice from center of tomato.

For a complete "Concasse" rough chop the tomato.  The whole peeled tomatoes can be used in sauces, soups and stews or canned for use in the future.

Chipotle Shredded Pork

Chipotle Shredded Pork

Serves 12

6 lbs boneless pork shoulder
2 large sweet onions, large dice
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 7 oz can chipotles in Adobo sauce
1/2 cup water
3-4 Tbsp canola oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a large cast iron dutch oven over high heat add 3-4 Tbsp canola oil  Heat oil and add onions and sauté until lightly browned.  Season pork with salt and garlic powder and mix to coat pork evenly.  Once onions have caramelized add diced chipotles to pot then add pork.  Continue to heat over high heat to brown pork.  Pour in 1/2 cup water.  Place tight fitting lid on pot and place in a 300 degree oven.  Set timer for 4 hours.

When done, remove pot from oven and shred pork with tongs.  If the sauce is to thin, place on stove and heat to reduce.

Serve with your favorite tortillas as tacos or in burritos or with rice and beans.

Southern Pimento Cheese

Southern Pimento Cheese

Makes 4 portions

1 3 oz package Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 cup sharp cheddar, finely grated
1 cup Monterey Jack, finely grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1 8 oz jar pimentos, diced
1 tsp grated onion, white or red (or substitute 1 green onion, finely minced)

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add all of the remaining ingredients and beat until well combined.

Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise Sauce

Makes 2-3 portions

12 Tbsp butter
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Melt butter in microwave.  Skim off white foam from top of butter.

Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne in the blender.  Blend for 15 seconds.

With the blender running, remove center of cover and slowly pour in hot butter, leaving the settled milk solids in the bottom of the cup, blend for 30 seconds or until the sauce is thick.  Serve immediately.

Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffee

Creole Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffee

Serves 6-8 portions

1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup flour
2 lb onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, medium dice
2 ribs celery, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Cayenne pepper
2 lbs Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb Crawfish tail meat
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, minced
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp dried Thyme
juice of 2 lemons
7 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Louisiana hot sauce

Melt butter. Add flour, stir until dark tan. Quickly add onions, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt, cayenne pepper. Stir over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Add crawfish and shrimp and stir together. Add chicken stock. Stir together to fully incorporate roux mixture with stock. Add green onions and parsley. Cover and geat to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and cook 12-15 minutes. Add lemon juice. Let stand 15 minutes and serve over white rice.

White Rice
Ratio = 1 cup rice : 1 3/4 cup water

2 Tbsp butter
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt

Bring water to a boil. Add butter, bay leaves and salt. Stir in rice. Return to boil and cover. Immediately reduce heat to lowest setting and set timer for 20 minutes. Do no remove the lid. When 20 minutes expires turn off heat and keep covered for an additional 5 minuites. Remove lid and fluff rice with a fork.