Sticking to a diet is never easy in Baton Rouge. There are just too many good cooks — professional and amateur — whose dishes entice all but the most determined dieters. And I’m definitely not one of those dieters.
Case in point, at a recent Baton Rouge Art League meeting at the Louisiana State Archives, members filled a long table with lots of tasty treats. An especially attractive dish, a shrimp dip, was prepared by Sharon Keaton from a recipe she got from her daughter-in-law, Stacey Keaton.
The dip recipe has been used and modified by Keaton family members for years. Her mother-in-law thought Stacey Keaton had developed the easy-to-make recipe, but Stacey said she doesn’t remember when or where she got it. She just knows it’s a winning party dish.
The art league members certainly agree with her. They kept returning to the table to get another bite of the dip, and they urged new arrivals to be sure to try it. Here’s the recipe:
Shrimp or Crawfish Dip
Serves about 20. Recipe adapted by Sharon Keaton from a recipe from Stacey Keaton.
12 ozs. cream cheese
3 to 4 tbls. Blue Plate mayonnaise
1 bunch green onions, tops only, chopped
1/4 stick butter
1 to 11/2 lbs. very small, shelled shrimp or crawfish
About 1?3 of (8-oz.) bottle of Zatarain’s Remoulade Sauce
1/2 of (10-oz.) bottle of Drusilla Remoulade Sauce
Crackers for serving
1. Mix cream cheese and mayonnaise until of spreading consistency. Spread onto large plate or platter.
2. Sauté green onion tops in butter. Add shimp and continue sautéing until shrimp turn pink. Let cool and sprinkle on top of the cream cheese-mayonnaise mixture.
3. Mix the two remoulade sauces and drizzle on top of the shrimp. (Stacey Keaton says she sometimes combines the sauces with the shrimp before topping the cream cheese mixture.)
Serve with crackers or Melba rounds.
The next week I attended a wine dinner at Juban’s Restaurant that featured terrific August Briggs wines paired with a lovely menu by Jaime Hernandez, Juban’s creative young executive chef.
I was especially impressed with the pairing of an elegant 2009 August Briggs Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, with Hernandez’s Beef Wellington, which he filled with a foie duxelles, or mushroom mixture, and coppa di Calabria ham. It was served with a béarnaise sauce, Gruyère mashed potatoes and asparagus.
Winemaker Jesse Inman said the small, employee-owned California winery makes small quantities of 15 artisan wines with grapes sourced from vineyards in Napa and Somona counties.
Inman said his uncle August “Joe” Briggs, who is now winemaker for Castle Rock, started the winery that bears his name in 1995 and “taught me everything I know.” In 2011, Briggs and his wife handed the winery over to Inman and three longtime employees.
“He gave us the opportunity and we’re trying not to mess it up,” Inman said.
A favorite wine with the dinner’s attendees was the 2009 August Briggs Dijon Clones Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, which Inman described as a “consistent varietal which we’ve been making for 13 years.” It has a maximum production of 300 cases and retails for $47 a bottle.
The winery sells its products in only five states: California, Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia.
While I didn’t get a recipe from the wine dinner, I do have one from Hernandez. He was last week’s guest chef for the Fresh From the Market cooking demonstration, held each Saturday in Main Street Market downtown. For the program, guest chefs create seasonal dishes using ingredients from Red Stick Farmers Market vendors. Hernandez prepared a dish that included fresh fennel, which market staff said should be available at the Thursday market held from 8 a.m. until noon in the parking lot at 7248 Perkins Road across from The Baton Rouge Clinic.
Shaved Fennel & Potato Hash With Smoked Pork Belly (Slab Bacon)
Serves 6 to 8. Recipe is by Jaime Hernandez, executive chef of Juban’s Restaurant. This recipe works best in a well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet. Serve with two sunny-side-up eggs for a hearty meal.
8 ozs. bacon, cut into small cubes or strips
8 ozs. onions, shaved thin on mandolin
4 medium fennel bulbs, about 1 lb., shaved thin
1/2 oz. seasoned salt
1 lb. fresh potatoes, shredded (young potatoes work best)
1/2 oz. fresh herbs (rosemary and parsley are good)
1. Over medium heat, render bacon in the skillet, cooking until it is crisp and golden brown. Remove pan from the fire and drain bacon on a paper-towel lined plate.
2. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Put pan over medium heat and add the onions, fennel and seasoned salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring gently. Fold potatoes into mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring gently.
3. Add bacon and fresh herbs and fold together, then cook until potatoes are tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.