25 Jul Special of the day: Celebrity Chef: Emeril Lagasse
Much milder mannered than we had expected, Emeril Lagasse played the role of soulful sage more than BAM! BAM! Kick-it-up-a-notch man during his Sizzling Skillet cooking demonstration at the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen in June. But what a pleasure it was to be invited into his kitchen to watch him prepare a few of his favorite dishes.
Lagasse is the chef/proprietor of 12 restaurants, a national television personality and food correspondent for Good Morning America. His three shows Emeril Live, Fresh Food Fast and The Originals with Emeril appear on the Cooking Channel. He is also the best-selling author of 16 cookbooks.
Staying close to home, Lagasse stressed the importance of getting back to your roots and “sharing that love”, in his case, of Classic Louisiana cuisine.
Kicking off his demonstration with a rainbow of roux, he walked us through the spectrum ranging from blond to light brown to dark. “If you can understand roux, you can go out and make an above average or excellent gumbo,” he said.
50% fat (oil or butter) and 50% flour, roux is made by cooking it slowly and stirring it often. The color of the roux depends on how long and how hot you cook it.
“How long does it take to make a dark roux?” Lagasse asked, and without missing a beat, replied, “About as long as it takes to drink two beers or a good glass of wine.”
He then made a trinity with onion, bell pepper and celery which he cooked on medium high to high to make the base of the gumbo.
“But the beginning of perfect gumbo,” he explained is homemade stock made from Gulf seafood (fish, white shrimp or oysters). Whenever you have shrimp, he suggested, cover the shells with water, season with salt and pper and boil for 20-25 minutes to make a stock. If you don’t have time right then, freeze the shrimp shells in a large Zipploc pag and make it later.
After adding the vegetables to the dark roux, Lagasse added a beer and some shrimp stock followed by gumbo crabs, salt and bay leaves. If it’s too thick, continue to add shrimp stock a little at a time, Lagasse said. The gumbo has to simmer for an hour or so before adding fish and shrimp which has been seasoned. Oysters are the last in the pot, cooking for the last five minutes.
“Season and come back and re-season,” Lagasse recommended when making gumbo. “It’s like building a house with a strong foundation.”
Tasting the gumbo at the end will give you clues to what it needs, he stressed. If it’s floury, the roux has not been cooked out and it needs more time. Next check for salt and spice, adjusting as needed.
The second classic Louisiana technique he taught us was remoulade sauce, explaining the difference between the classic white remoulade and the New Orleans remoulade. While both start with an egg yolk and oil emulsion in the mixer, classic white remoulade adds parsley, chives, lemon, shallots, Dijon mustard, capers, chopped cornichons, garlic, tarragon , anchovy and cayenne while the New Orleans remoulade has finely chopped celery, green onions, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, whole grain mustard, red wine vinegar, horseradish, cayenne, paprika, black pepper and garlic, Lagasse said.
To make better shrimp, Lagasse recommends seasoning them, both in the water you cook them in and also in the ice bath you cool them in.
The beauty of shrimp is that they come with a built-in thermometer, he said. They change from white to pink and they are done. “They are talking to you,” he said checking the shrimp, “I’m close, but I’m not quite done yet,” as he watched them lose their translucence in the pot. It’s a quick process, so be careful not to overcook them.
Lagasse recommended tossing cooked seasoned shrimp in the remoulade sauce and wrapping them in lettuce leaves as a fantastic and simple appetizer you can make ahead for a party.
Get your party started with some classic Southern hospitality and this week’s Special of the day: Emeril Lagasse and recipe for Louisiana Lettuce Wraps with Shrimp in Remoulade . Enjoy!
Recipes and food photography by Sydne George
Louisiana Lettuce Wraps with Shrimp in Remoulade Sauce
Inspired by Emeril Lagasse
(makes 12 appetizers)
3 cups water
3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
24 large shrimp, thawed, shelled and deveined
4 cups water
2 cups ice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoons liquid crab boil
1 teaspoon salt
Bring 3 cups water and Cajun seasoning to a boil in a medium pot over medium heat.
Add shrimp and cook just until pink.
Do not overcook.
While shrimp are cooking, prepare ice bath by combining water, ice, lemon juice, crab boil and salt in a large bowl.
Stir to dissolve salt.
When shrimp are cooked, remove to ice bath to cool.
New Orleans-Style Remoulade Sauce
Inspired by Emeril Lagasse
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon green onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon whole grain mustard
¼ teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon ketchup
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Dash of salt
Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks until thick and pale yellow.
Slowly drizzle in oils, beating to emulsify.
Fold in remaining ingredients.
Toss cooked shrimp in remoulade.
Place two shrimp in remoulade in butter lettuce leaf, roll and skewer with a toothpick.
Repeat to make 12 appetizers.
Garnish with additional parsley leaves, if desired.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.