Category Archives: Yankee in a Southern Kitchen

Country-Style Shrimp Gumbo (Makes its own roux)!

Serve gumbo over white rice

Is it too soon for another gumbo recipe? I hope not because my freezer is full of cooked shrimp and the last of the post-Thanksgiving turkey gumbo is long gone. Sniff, sniff!

One of the most intimidating steps in the gumbo making process is the roux. Not only is it tricky if you haven’t done it before; the addition of extra flour and oil ups the calorie count. In my humble opinion, I have perfected an easier and healthier way to make gumbo.

I can’t take all the credit. Rumor has it the original chicken and sausage roux-less recipe, which was given to me by a co-worker when I lived in New Orleans, comes straight from the kitchen of Christian’s restaurant in Mid-City. I don’t know if that is actually true but I will put my version of gumbo up against any you can find in the Big Easy with confidence.

Despite the number of ingredients and the cook time (most of which is unattended), this is pretty much an easy and fool proof version of the original recipe (especially if you stick to frozen okra…see Kat’s Tip below).


  • 2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 quarts water (or chicken broth)
  • 1/4 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 to one pound andouille or smoked sausage, diced
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 bell pepper, any color
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen okra, chopped (see footnote)
  • 1 can small can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Zataran’s liquid shrimp/crab boil*
  • salt and black pepper to taste


Boil shrimp skins/tails to make stock

The day before (optional):

Peel the shells and tails off the shrimp. Place the shells in a large pot and cover with 3 quarts warm water. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer (don’t let them come to a boil) the shells for about 45 minutes. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Strain the stock through a fine strainer and then discard the shells.

This step is totally optional. You could easily substitute chicken or vegetable broth with ease.

The day of:

Chop the bacon and sauté in a non-stick pan over medium heat until the bacon is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Add the sausage to the bacon grease and sauté until slightly browned. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon, retaining the bacon grease.

Chop vegetables and sauté in the bacon grease until the onions are soft (about 5-10 minutes). Add okra and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly until slime is gone being careful not to let the mixture burn (about an hour for fresh okra or 10-15 minutes for frozen and then thawed okra)

This is the basis for the roux

Sprinkle flour evenly over vegetables and stir until flour disappears. Add tomato sauce (see above). Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Transfer the mixture to large stock pot and slowly add 6 cups of shrimp stock or water. Cook 30 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes, 8 cups of stock or water, the bacon, the sausage and the seasonings. Simmer on medium heat for one hour.

Add shrimp. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes over low heat until the shrimp turn pink. Stir often to avoid burning the bottom.

Garnish with parsley. Add salt, pepper and additional seasonings to taste. Serve over rice.

Serves 12

Kat’s tip:

Fresh okra can be quite messy and a pain to cook. I sometimes throw it in a food processor to chop it up. I’ve contemplated microwaving it to speed up the process and cut down on the mess. Frozen okra (just as good in my opinion) also works, takes less time to cook and is less sticky.

Kat’s second tip:

I recently bought a small bottle of Zataran’s Liquid Shrimp & Crab Boil at WalMart. If you can find it, this is a secret ingredient that will turn your shrimp gumbo from marvelous to out of this world. Up until now I had never seen it outside of the South.

Nutritional Value (not including rice):

Calories 215.7  Total Fat 8.5 g  Cholesterol 161.5 mg  Sodium 583.7 mg  Potassium 363.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 16.1 g  Protein 23.0 g


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No-Roux Turkey and Andouille Gumbo

Cajun style gumbo thickened with okra

It has been my tradition every year to make turkey broth from the frame and then use it to make turkey gumbo. Exactly one year ago I spent hours trolling the ‘net for other gumbo recipes. In the long run, I decided I like my recipe the best for ease of cooking and minimal cooking oil.

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I make my turkey broth the same way I do my chicken broth. I trim as much meat as I can off the frame, break it up to fit better in the pot and let it simmer for a few hours. Armed with boatloads of turkey broth and lots of dark meat from two turkey frames, I ought to be swimming in gumbo by tomorrow.

I posted my chicken gumbo recipe before so I’ve adapted it for the post-Thanksgiving tradition. Assuming you’ve made the turkey soup and picked out the leftover meat, this recipe may take a couple of hours to cook but it’s mostly unattended and the results are worth it.

I marked this as one-pot cooking because technically, you could cook it all in the same pot. You could brown the sausage first in a large stock pot, added the veggies to saute and then started stirring in the broth. I prefer to saute the veggies in a non-stick pan since I’m still scarred from my first attempts at this recipe when I used fresh okra and it burned. If you ask me, fresh okra is a pain in the pan to cook with; its slimy, takes forever to cook and burns in the blink of an eye. These days I’m pretty committed to using frozen okra. It cooks up quicker and is WAY less messy to work with. Just another little tip from Kat to keep your cooking easy 🙂


  • 3 1/2 quarts turkey broth
  • 2 to 4 cups leftover turkey (white and dark meat)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen okra, chopped (see footnote)
  • 1 can small can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 to one pound andouille or smoked sausage, diced
  • 1 tablespoon The Pampered Chef® Creole Rub, Old Bay Seasoning Mix or other Cajun spice medley
  • Parsley


  1. Chop vegetables and sauté in a non-stick pan over medium heat until onions are soft (about 5-10 minutes)
  2. Add okra and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly until slime is gone being careful not to let the mixture burn (about an hour for fresh okra or 10-15 minutes for frozen and then thawed okra)
  3. Sprinkle flour evenly over vegetables and stir until flour disappears
  4. Add tomato sauce. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Transfer mixture to large stock pot and slowly add 6 cups of turkey stock. Cook 30 minutes.
  6. Add 8 cups of stock, sausage and seasoning mix. Simmer on medium heat for one hour.
  7. Add turkey. Cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Stir often to avoid burning the bottom.
  8. Garnish with parsley. Add salt, pepper and season to taste.
  9. Serve over rice

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Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits

Grilled salmon with Parmesan Grits and Roasted Tomatoes

I ♥ grits. Funny thing is, even though I lived in New Orleans for six years, I don’t recall making grits for dinner. Ever. I’m a grits-for-dinner convert now, especially if there is cheese involved. A single serving version of this recipe with chicken was featured in the October 11 issue of Everyday Food. I knew as soon as I saw it, I was going to have to make it. And then in that way that the universe works for me I stumbled on another version of the recipe (with way too many steps for my taste) that used salmon in place of the chicken.

A little maneuvering and I was able to morph both recipes into a nice dinner for me and my BFF. I skipped step two since I already had a container of slow roasted tomatoes in the fridge. This explains why the tomatoes are mixed in with the grits in the photo instead of placed on top of the salmon which would have been prettier. I also used my George Forman Grill to do the salmon. Even if you’re doing the salmon and tomatoes in a skillet, this dish will still come together in no time flat. Bonus points for me for serving said dinner in the beautiful plates my BFF gave me for my birthday!


  • Two 4 to 6 ounce salmon fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup stone ground grits
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, optional
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan


  1. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Brush salmon with olive oil and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Place salmon in skillet and cook, flipping once, until it flakes through with a fork (about 15 minutes). Remove salmon and keep warm. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil.
  2. In same skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium and add tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Cook until tomatoes are softened and onion is tender, 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring broth or water to boil. Stir in grits, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until water is absorbed, about 7 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Spoon butter on top of grits to melt.
  4. To serve, top grits with salmon and vegetables.

Serves Two

Kat’s tip: Even though I’ve never cooked grits for dinner, I have eaten them for dinner. Here’s my tip for you. If you’re ever in New Orleans, make sure you get over to Zea’s for their roasted corn grits. You’ll thank me but your waist line won’t. Zea’s recipe is chock full of butter and cream but the grits are oh-so-wonderful! If I ever find a skinny version of this recipe I’ll be sure to post it. If anyone has one, I’d be interested in it 🙂

Nutritional value (assumes 4 oz salmon and butter because you gotta live a little)

Calories 547.3  Total Fat 25.3 g  Cholesterol 103.6 mg  Sodium 292.2 mg  Potassium 840.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 40.9 g  Protein 36.9 g


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French Quarter Olive Salad

A great gift idea for olive lovers

The universe certainly does work in mysterious ways. Not more than two or three days prior to, I was trolling the internet for a recipe to try my hand at (what should be) the world famous olive salad from Central Grocery in the French Quarter. The olive salad is legendary in New Orleans as it graces the most famous sandwich to come out of the Big Easy, the muffaletta.

Olive lover and Crescent City expat that I am, the heavens opened for me when I spied jars of olive salad straight from Gambinos at my local grocery store. All of which would be fine and dandy except that the damn stuff is $5 for a 16 oz jar at Fry’s.

Back to the universe, that weekend I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I inherited what remained of a bushel of mixed olives from a booth at our local Oktoberfest. Turns out there was exactly one gallon of green olives and slightly more than a pound of Kalamata olives in said bushel. Precisely the amounts I needed for the olive salad recipe I had intended to make. Hallelujah!

Leftover marinated olive mixture - note the 2 liter bottle of olive oil I put in the photo for scale

I made a few modifications to the recipe based on ingredients I could purchase at the lone grocery store I went to. Had I tried a few more stores, I may have actually found the pickled cauliflower the recipe called for. Instead I decided on Mezzeta’s California Hot Mix. Its basically a giardiniera (carrots, cauliflower, celery, pickles, onions and peppers) with jalapenos mixed in. Armed with 3 jars of this, I had roughly the equivalent I needed to omit the celery, carrots and pepperoncini called for in the original recipe. Its not perfect, but a girl (who no longer lives in the South) has to make do.


  • 1 gallon large pimento stuffed green olives
  • 3 16 oz jars gardiniera (or hot mix)
  • 2 small jars capers, drained
  • 1 small jar celery seeds
  • 1 small jar oregano
  • 1 large head fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Omit if using hot mix – 1 jar pepperoncini, drained (small salad peppers)
  • 1 pound large Greek black olives, pitted
  • 1 jar cocktail onions, drained


  1. In small batches, loosely chop everything in a food processor. This mixture should be chunky.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pot and mix well.
  3. Place in a large jar and cover with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 vegetable oil.
  4. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.
  5. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.

Living in Phoenix, I may be muffaletta-deprived but at least now I’ll have delicious olive salad at the ready. You can always get the essence of the famous sandwich by trying my Mini Muffaletta appetizers. They passed muster amongst the other New Orleans natives I met at a Mardi Gras party earlier this year so you know they gotta be good!

Kat’s tip: The recipe above yields 1.5 gallons. Portioned in small mason jars, this would make a wonderful hostess gift or present. If you really want to get fancy, you add some cold cuts and crackers to a little gift bag. I know that I would swoon with delight!

Inspiration: Many thanks to Chuck Taggart at for this and countless other recipes; and for many hours of other delightful reading. Oh, and of course, to Central Grocery. Lord knows how I miss thee!


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Shrimp Fettuccine

Creamy shrimp pasta with a Southern flair

Don’t tell anyone, but I occasionally cook with Velveeta. Being somewhat of a food purist and all, processed cheese is not in my typical repertoire. However, there are some recipes for which only Velveeta will do.

Case in point, my brother’s Cajun-themed birthday bash eons ago. It was right after I moved to Arizona from New Orleans. My brother and his friends used to visit me when I lived in the Big Easy. I only lived about 6 miles from the French Quarter. Wouldn’t you visit every chance you got if your cool older sister had a house with plenty of couch/floor space to crash!!??

Anyway, with some advance planning I brought back pouches of Pat O’Brien’s hurricane mix. The ginormous Igloo container of deadly punch was going to need some big food to soak it up. My brother whipped up a double batch of my jambalaya. This was no time for any low fat or healthy food so I contributed a faux (and more hearty) version of Shrimp Monica. As I mentioned in the Shrimp Monica post, I doubled this recipe and the frat boys gobbled it all up.


  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 pound light pasteurized processed cheese spread, cut into cubes
  • 2 pounds boiled shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Cook fettuccine according to directions on package omitting salt and oil. Drain and set aside. In large pot, melt margarine and sauté vegetables until tender. Add flour, stirring until mixed. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Add cheese, stirring until melted. Add seafood and remaining seasoning. Toss with pasta. Transfer into casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Serves ten

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate:

Calories 404.5 Total Fat 11.8 g  Cholesterol 201.5 mg Sodium 607.4 mg Potassium 400.4 mg Total Carbohydrate 44.3 g Protein 30.4 g

Photo Credit: hermitsmoores on Flickr. CC Licensed. A much better picture than I could ever take!

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Posted by on April 30, 2011 in Yankee in a Southern Kitchen


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Shrimp Monica – a low fat version of a Jazz Fest fave

Authentic Crawfish Monica at the Jazz Fest

The annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicks off this weekend in New Orleans. Aside from the great music, Jazz Fest also features a number of traditional food dishes which have become synonymous with the event. People wait in long lines for small (and pricey) bowls of Crawfish Monica.

Much as I would love to be sampling Crawfish Monica right about now, I no longer live in the Big Easy. Never one to let that stand in my way, I would consider cooking my own, but getting crawfish in Arizona means purchasing frozen meat which was undoubtedly harvested in China. It seems a bit of a betrayal to my Southern culinary roots, not to mention all those bayou fisherman, to buy foreign crawfish. I’m sure my buds in New Orleans don’t care that my choices are limited now that I live in the desert. So, I pass on the idea of crawfish and decide to morph the dish with shrimp…which is easier to get and hopefully wasn’t flown in from overseas.

I originally made a similar dish for my brother and his frat-buddy friends when I first moved to Arizona (and he was still single and fraternizing). Don’t let my Southern friends know, but I’m pretty sure that Velveeta factored into that version. I recall making two huge trays…all of which was gone the next morning.

Natives will likely argue that this recipe is not really that authentic. I am taking a bit of license here since the actual recipe is a trade marked secret; I added some vegetables for color and some smoked sausage. I compared my recipe with one posted by The Times Picayune.  Even with the addition of sausage, my version still comes in at half the calories and half the fat. I swear you won’t miss them one bit. Regardless, here is a thinned down version of the Jazz Fest favorite that anyone can enjoy. So, laissez les bon temps roullez!


  • 4 cups cooked rotini pasta
  • 3 tbls butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked sausage or Andouille
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped basil
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice


  1. In a large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium high heat.
  2. Add garlic, green onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell pepper and sausage. Sauté three to five minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  3. Sprinkle in flour and blend until it disappears.
  4. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about five minutes.
  5. Add parsley, basil, and shrimp.
  6. Gently fold in cooked pasta and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve hot or chill for a cold pasta salad.

Serves six

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate:

Calories 373.9 Total Fat 13.2g  Cholesterol 179.3mg  Sodium 540.8mg  Potassium 433.2mg  Total Carbohydrate 35.5g   Protein 26.6g

Image Credit: Wally Gobetz on Flickr. CC Licensed.

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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Yankee in a Southern Kitchen


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Boiled shrimp – perfect for summer salads

Shrimp boils up quick

Having lived in New Orleans, I am VERY picky about my shrimp and how its cooked. Of course, now that I live in the desert I learn to make do since fresh shrimp is very hard to come by. Its my experience that most people (including restaurants) have a tendency to overcook shrimp. Raw shrimp is translucent; when cooked, it turns a nice pink color. Overcook it and it will become mealy.

To cook a bag of shrimp, add 3 cups of water and a wedge of lemon to a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add thawed shrimp and cook for 3 minutes. Drain but don’t rinse.

If you really want to get fancy and mimic southern-style shrimp, add a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning or Old Bay Seasoning mix to the water while its boiling. Then you really don’t want to rinse it or you’ll wash away all the yummy goodness.