Tag Archives: Paul Prudhomme

Chicken Big Mamou

http://dawnoffood.comI went to graduate school in New Orleans.  New Orleans blew my mind, food wise.   For one of our first food adventures, my mom and I ate at Paul Prudhomme’s K-Paul’s in the French Quarter.  All of the food was so lovely!  I looked at the menu and Chicken Big Mamou stood out as something I wanted to try, but I’m not a spicy food person.  The menu warned that it was a very spicy dish.  My mother scoffed and said that this is a restaurant, they’ll moderate it and make it so that everyone can eat it.

I fell for it and ordered it.  For me, it was inedible.    Beyond spicy.  Torture level hot.  I couldn’t tell you what it tasted like because it just felt like molten lava in my mouth.  My mom traded with me (thanks mom!) and ate it because she loves food spicy.  It was hot for her, but she loved it.  We bought the cookbook and made it at home.  Others had to appreciate how hot a dish can be!!

The men in the house ate it, but it looked like they were having a heart attack:  red faced, pouring sweat and clearly uncomfortable.

So, why make it?  Well, one it’s Mardi Gras season.  I didn’t want to do a shrimp creole or crawfish etouffee.   Two, my husband and son love spicy food.  They make their own hot sauce!  So, back to my enemy.  I looked at the recipe.  My goodness, what a fussy recipe!  Lots and lots of ingredients, and butter.  Lots of steps.  Ugh.  So, I googled it.  Prudhomme had changed the recipe!!   Wrap your head around that.  The recipe on his website is 1/10th the fussiness of the one in his fantastic cookbook.   But in reviewing it,  I was about to make it a lot less fussier.  This has now become an easy (and cheap!) weeknight meal that anyone can add into the rotation.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m going to say here, but while I love Prudhomme, his recipes are maddening.  Extra steps that don’t seem to add much turn homey recipes into complicated, time consuming affairs.  The  spice lists alone are daunting.  I never got the sense that people in the bayou would cook this way.  Maybe they did and I’m totally off base.  But, it just seemed like he was “fancying up” traditional recipes so that food critics would take Louisiana cooking seriously.

So, first he modified the recipe, then I “unfancied” it.  And it is really, really good and very true to the original.  Excellent entertaining dish as well!!

Chicken Big Mamou
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes (40 are low effort simmering)

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
6-8 chicken thighs or legs
2 1/2 tablespoons Paul Prudhomme’s chicken magic, divided (see below for a substitute)
1 cup very finely chopped onions
1 cup very finely chopped celery
3/4 cup very finely chopped bell peppers
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne, if you want it really hot!!)
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock or water
3/4 cup finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the poultry magic over the chicken pieces. Brown the chicken in the saute pan, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Saute the onions and peppers in the remaining oil, until the onions are translucent. Add oil or butter if needed to prevent the veggies from burning. Add the remaining chicken magic, bay leaf , minced garlic, and cayenne pepper (if you want it really hot!) and cook for about a minute. Add 2 cups of tomato sauce and 2 cups of stock. Return chicken to the pan and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve over cauliflower “rice”, rice or pasta. Top with the green onions and parsley.

From “Top Secret Recipes“, Paul Prudhomme’s Chicken Magic:
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
dash cumin

Combine spices.


Homemade Hot Sauce

Spicy hot sauce

Yes, we actually “canned” it!

I went to graduate school in New Orleans, Louisiana “pre-Katrina”. I love that city. New Orleans inspired my mom and I to cook. To go “all in” and “kick it up a notch”. Emeril’s Creole Christmas Cookbook changed our Christmas dinners forever. Our appetizers went from humdrum shrimp dip and crackers to Corn Cakes with Christmas Caviar Sauce. We learned how to make gumbo and jambalaya and all things étouffée. And the desserts. My goodness, bread pudding is simply amazing and so incredibly easy!

While in New Orleans, I met Emeril Lagasse, just as he was becoming the superstar. Yes, he actually cooked in his restaurant, and the food was amazing. My friends and I would try to get a seat at the tables overlooking the kitchen to watch him cook! Emeril wasn’t the only game in town, however. Paul Prudhomme’s restaurant was really hard to get into and the food was well worth the wait! Local dives that would likely fail health codes elsewhere were serving up traditional New Orleans favorites. And the crawfish. Being from Maryland, crawfish were way easier to pick than crabs!! A very refreshing change of pace.   Last, but not least, there are not enough nice things to say about Commander’s Palace.  Truly an amazing place.

And here is where I found Crystal Hot Sauce. I never cared for Tabasco (gasp!), but Crystal actually tasted like something other than “hot” and vinegar. My husband is the type that loves hot sauce and crazy spicy foods. Crystal doesn’t do it for him. He also LOVES to make things himself. So, on a day when I was a bit under the weather, my husband and my son made hot sauce. I asked him if he would do a guest blog, but he said he’d take “a few pictures, they won’t be great” and that I could write it. So, here we are. We went to the farmer’s market and gathered a bunch of peppers that were labeled “hot”.

Farmer's Market Peppers

See that little red one at the top?  That’s something the farmer called really, really hot.  She wouldn’t sell it to my son unless we were there and said it was ok.  Yeah, it’s hot.

Now, if you want a red sauce, you need to pretty much use red peppers.  Our sauce is a bit “muddy” because of all the green colored peppers.  You could use red food coloring to make it the color you want, if you have a lot of green peppers you want to add to the sauce.  Also, if you are expecting something crazy hot, we’ve come to the conclusion that people must be adding capsaicin directly for the super hot sauces.  We’ve made sauces from habaneros and as the seeds are all strained out, the sauce was good, but not super hot.  The “hot” part of the pepper is contained within the seeds and white parts, and those are generally strained out.  What you will get is a sauce that’s spicy and complex with several layers of amazing flavor.

Hot sauce first appears in the United States appeared in the early 1800s in New England. In the 1860s, Edmund McIlhenny invented Tabasco sauce on Avery Island in Louisiana as a way to spice up food after Reconstruction period left southern food decidedly bland. By the 1870s, the sauce was widely available and even shipped ot England. To this day, the sauce is still made on Avery Island, over 140 years later.

Hot Sauce
Makes 1 Quart, 1 Pint

3-4 pounds of various hot peppers (stemmed)
1.5 liters of white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon thyme
4 ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf

Roughly chop up peppers. Place peppers, vinegar, salt, and spices in a non-reactive sauce pan. Our 4 Quart stainless steel sauce pan was big enough. Simmer for 2 hours in a well ventilated area.

Remove peppers from vinegar and place in a food processor. Strain vinegar and set aside. Process the peppers until smooth, then press through a fine sieve.

Return processed pepper pulp to the sauce pan and add 1/2 of the vinegar mix, tomato paste, sugar and bay leaf. Adjust coloring and salt if desired. Simmer over low heat for an hour. Pour into sterilized jar or bottle and secure with an airtight lid. Let age at least two weeks before using. Maybe stored up to 6 months in the refrigerator.

Creole Seasoning


I was making a Creole-inspired dish last weekend.  Instead of measuring out the tons of ingredients I need for the spices, I figure I’ll stop by the spice aisle and buy a Creole Spice mix.  I know, crazy lazy. I’m looking over the few options I have, because I guess “Creole” and “Cajun” are 80s artifacts that are no longer reliably stocked, and instead I find spice mixes labeled either “southwest”, some type of “rub”,  or “steak” seasoning. I managed to spy about three “Creole” or “Cajun” seasoning options, but all were lackluster. In every case, salt was the number one ingredient followed by “spices” and in some brands “MSG”, an anti-caking agent, and soy proteins made appearances on the ingredient lists. Um, no thanks.  I’ll make my own.  I want my spices to be spices and not cost me $5 for salt with a pinch of herbs and unknowns.

So, I consulted my Louisiana chefs (via their various cookbooks), Emeril and Paul Prudhomme, and came up with a fairly standard Creole Seasoning Mix. Creole mixes are a deft combination of spicy and savory. The harmony of the different ground peppers is the key. Each ground pepper hits a different spicy note. Also, the white pepper should not be underestimated or omitted. You can make a quite spicy dish with white and black pepper.  The white pepper adds a great depth to the spicy flavor.

Besides being awesome in any Creole or Cajun dish, this spice mix is a great grilling rub. You don’t have to say it’s a “Creole” rub if that gives you day glow and rubber bracelet flashbacks, maybe something like “rustic”, “bayou” or “southeast” rub would work as well.

Creole Seasoning

1/2 cup paprika
4 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons granulated garlic (or powdered garlic)
1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons white pepper
1 tablespoon crushed, dried thyme
1 tablespoon crushed, dried oregano

Combine ingredients and store in an airtight container until ready to use.


My Shepherd’s Pie Disaster


Friends, family (Hi Mom!), I could have posted a wonderful recipe for Shepherd’s Pie with great pictures.  But, it would be lies.  LIES!  This Shepherd’s Pie was a disaster.  Actually, it wasn’t.  It wasn’t a disaster until I added Guinness Beer.  But, let me start from the beginning.

I love Shepherd’s Pie.  The first one I had was at a little restaurant called Galway Bay in Annapolis.  Long before carbs were evil, a dish consisting of ground meat and veggies in gravy covered with mashed potatoes was just awesome.  I could say it was better than pot pie because I wasn’t eating pastry.  Ha!

One of the first recipes my husband and I made together was Cajun Shepherd’s Pie by Paul Prudhomme in his fantastic Louisiana Kitchen.  That recipe was really long and had a ton of ingredients and took us hours to make (not a good call when starting at 6 pm!), but it was fantastic.  I introduced my husband to cajun spicy, which is a wicked combination of white, black and cayenne peppers.  Chicken Big Mamou remains a dish to this day that will live in infamy as the one spicy dish that was just too much for him.    Don’t get me wrong, he ate it, but he did it for “macho” reasons, not because he liked it.  He was sweating bullets and beet red.   My mom made the Chicken Big Mamou and was quick to say, “but I cut the cayenne in half!”.

So, I have a long and fond relationship with Shepherd’s Pie.  Until now.  For St. Patrick’s Day my dear son asked me to make Shepherd’s Pie.  Sounds great!!  Very Irish dish.  I got ground lamb, carrots, onions, celery and potatoes.   And, a bit of Guinness.  Lots of recipes on the internet called for that as the liquid to form the gravy part of the pie.  That was my fatal mistake.

The recipe was progressing so nicely.  The pictures were lovely.  The gravy bubbled up and was the correct consistency.  Then I tried it.  At first is was really good, then it hit you like a bad odor.  What was that awful taste?  I tried again, no surprise, it was still there.  Took it to my husband and before he could get the whole sentence out he sputtered, “honey this is gr…oh God, what’s wrong with it?”.  Exactly.  The Guinness.

So, I could have pretended all was well, changed the recipe from Guinness to “stock” or “water” and gone my merry way.  But no.  If Julia Child can drop a chicken on TV, rinse it off and keep going, so can I.  And that’s what I did.  I rinsed everything off.  Made a new roux, used beef stock and kept going.  Keep Calm and Carry On.  Stiff upper lip and all.  I will even include the pictures.  Fun!  Lesson learned.  Keep Guinness Beer away from the Shepherd’s Pie.
Shepherd’s Pie

3 lbs yellow or gold potatoes, peeled, diced and covered with water.
2 tablespoons cooking fat (lard, bacon drippings, canola oil, etc.)
2 lbs ground lamb
1 medium onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon thyme (dried)
1 teaspoon rosemary (dried)
2 1/2 Tablespoons of flour
2 cups beef stock (or water)
1/2 cup grated Irish Cheddar Cheese
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup milk (as needed to get mashed potatoes to desired consistency)


Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring potatoes to a boil and boil until fork tender.

While the potatoes are boiling, heat fat (I use lard) over medium high heat in sauté pan.  Sauté lamb until mostly done.


Remove from pan and sauté onions, carrots and celery.


Irish flag!!


Return lamb to pan, add spices.  Saute until flour is browned and lost its raw flavor.  Add stock slowly.  Stir between additions.  Add enough stock to bring the mixture to the thickness desired.


Lovely. Tasted awful. The offending ingredient looks on in rapt joy at the destruction wrought.

At this point, your Shepherd’s Pie will be lovely.  Mine needed to be rinsed off and started again.  You do not need to do this step!!  I promised a picture, so here it is.  Rinsed off Shepherd’s Pie :


Place your wonderful meat and veggies sauce in a suitable oven dish.  Remove potatoes, add butter and cheese and mash potatoes.  Add milk until you get the desired consistency.  Place on top of meat mixture.



In the end, it was awesome, despite the hiccup!

Place dish in oven and heat through, about 20-30 minutes.  If you want the potatoes browned on top, add additional butter to the top of the dish before baking.