Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Crawfish Pasta Renaldo

Hoop-dee-doo!  This is the time of the year when the sweet smell of the basil growing in my garden begins to linger in the backyard and overpower my senses. When the scent becomes unrelenting, I literally dash out to the garden with some shears in hand, hack away a big ol' bunch of basil & then run back into the kitchen to cook up a batch of this zesty pesto based dish. Instead of pine nuts, which is the type of nut traditionally used in italian pesto, I decided to go with roast pecans. I created this dish back in 1995 at Big Daddy's, a Southern style restaurant I owned years ago in a Long Island town by the name of Massapequa.

Oddly enough, years later, I was asked to contribute this recipe to a nationally known cookbook, The Everything Pasta Cookbook (1997, Adams Media, edited by Jane Resnick). Ah, it's all about the basil, eh?


1 pound penne pasta

1 cup fresh Basil, chopped coarse

1/4 cup fresh Italian Parsley, chopped coarse

1 tsp White Sugar

1/2 cup Roasted Pecans, chopped coarse

Note: For my recipe on how-to-roast-pecans, go HERE

1/4 cup roasted Garlic

Note: For my roasted garlic recipe, go HERE

1/4 cup canned diced Green Chiles

2 large fresh Jalapeno Peppers, stems removed & chopped coarse

1/4 cup Maderia Wine

2 cups freshly grated Romano Cheese

1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 cup unsalted Butter

1/4 cup Celery, chopped small

1/4 cup Spanish Onion, chopped coarse

1 lb Crawfish Tails

Dry Seasoning Mix:

1 TBS Basil

1/2 tsp Thyme

1/2 tsp Cilantro flakes

1/4 tsp Kosher Salt

Cooking Procedure:

Combine all of the dry  spice mix ingredients in a bowl & mix well

Mix well & set aside

To Make the Pesto:

Place the following ingredients in a food processor
roasted pecans
roasted garlic
green chiles
jalapeno peppers
Maderia wine

Process for 30 seconds

Add the romano cheese

With the processor running...
gradually add the olive oil in a thin steady stream

Continue processing for 1 minute more

Set this aside

Cook the pasta:

In a large pot, place 4 quarts water along with 1 TBS salt

Bring this to a rolling boil

Add the pasta & stir to separate

Cook until pasta is al dente & drain through a colander

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce:

In a large skillet, melt the butter over high heat

Add the celery & onion & saute until the onions begin to turn clear; about 3 minutes

Add the crawfish tails, reduce heat to medium & cook for 2 minutes

Add the spice mix, stir well & cook for 2 minutes more

Reduce heat to low & add the pesto

Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well

When the pasta is cooked & drained, add it to the skillet

Stir well, making sure that all the pasta is coated with the pesto

Raise heat to medium

Cook for 2 minutes more

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Saga of the Drunken Hobo Beans

Ah, Drunken Hobo Beans and a Tall Tale are on the menu today! "Drunken Hobo Beans? A Tall Tale?!" Yes, exactly that. Years ago when I was the Chef at a joint called Big Daddy's, there was a customer who had enjoyed his meal of New Orleans Red Beans & Rice so much that he demanded that I come out of the kitchen to meet him.

The customer was a short, heavyset fella who sported a pompadour of wiry steel grey hair, cool blue eyes and a a big bulbous nose that indicated that this gentleman had probably made an acquaintance with more than one cognac bottle over the years. He stretched out a hand to greet me and introduced himself in a basso profundo voice as Professor Edwin Birchbach, the world's foremost authority on dried beans. He told me I could call him Professor Eddie and suddenly jumped up from his chair and began raving about beans. "Beans, bean, beans! Chef, I am in love with beans of all kinds!" He smacked his big lips together, sighed heavily and continued, "These beans you served today were outstanding!" "Well Professor, they were just simple red beans & rice..." "Nonsense! These were the keys to the gates of heaven, my young friend!" Then he quickly looked around from side to side as if he feared he'd be overheard. He waved his hands and urged me to come closer as his voice dropped to a hoarse whisper, "As a matter of fact, I have a secret recipe for red beans that was given to me personally by The King of American Hobos in 1995 when I was giving a lecture on the future of fava beans at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. You know, I just might be persuaded to part with it should you wish to supply me with an after dinner cordial or two..." His blue orbs held a touch of glee just then as a tiny grin began to form at the edge of his fat lips. Prof. Eddie rolled his eyes from side to side, waiting for my response. That did it. I cleared my throat, "Professor, what's it gonna take to get that recipe?" He twiddled his thumbs and looked around the room several times before giving me a hard look. "I will require the following items: a felt tip pen, a sheet of clean paper and two snifters of Remy Martin." "Remy Martin? Professor, you've got good taste..." "Yes, it's absolutely essential! I need to jog the old grey matter, you see." He sighed heavily once more, "Why, it's been years since I've thought about this recipe. It may take some time and several snankerings of cognac to retrieve it from my memory." I motioned to the bartender and called out, "Dennis, could you send over two snifters of Remy Martin please."

In short order, I found myself watching the old codger quickly gulp down his first Remy Martin and then immediately begin quaffing the second glass of amber liquid as he began to scratch away at the paper in an animated fashion. As expected, Professor Eddie maintained a lively commentary as he scribbled away, "Beans! I love beans! Yes Chef, this is indeed a rare and secret recipe for beans. It was given to me by Steam Train Murray, the reigning King of Hobos. Ah, he was a good fellow who really knew how to spin a yarn around the old stewpot." Prof. Eddie stopped speaking and quickly drained the last of the cognac in his glass. He burped softly and stared up at me with them big blue eyes of his. "Oh dear, I seem to have run dry...." I turned and motioned towards the bar, "Dennis, more cognac please!" When the drinks arrived, I was informed by the waitress that I was urgently needed in the kitchen. While I was hesitant to leave the Professor before getting that recipe, I had no choice but to bade the old fellow goodnight. I told Prof. Eddie to enjoy his last drink of the night, finish the recipe and then leave it with the bartender on his way out. "Most assuredly, my good Chef!" We shook hands and I was gone.

An hour later dinner service was over and the restaurant had emptied out. Dennis the bartender was wiping down his bar when I strolled over. "Say, did that crazy old guy leave me a piece of paper?" Dennis, who had obviously perused Prof. Eddie's secret recipe, said nothing. He rolled his eyes and handed me the recipe. I stared at the piece of paper. Prof. Eddie had only scribbled six short lines:

Open a quart of bourbon whiskey & set it aside

Place your beans in a pot

Cover the beans with water

Bring to a boil

Start drinking the whiskey

When you finish the whiskey, the beans will be done

Dennis and I started laughing at the same time. We laughed and laughed for probably what seemed like an eternity. Tears were rolling down our cheeks. The very next day, I placed Prof. Eddie's recipe in a glass picture frame & hung it on the wall of my restaurant kitchen. It hung there for quite some time and always provided a measure of solace in moments of stress during my years in the restaurant business. I never had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Eddie again but every time I think of beans, I laugh softly to myself. Amen.


2 lb dried Red Kidney Beans

1 1/2 TBS unsalted Butter

1/4 cup Spanish Onion, chopped coarse

1/4 cup Celery, chopped coarse

1 large Carrot; stem removed, peeled & chopped coarse

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Dark Chili Powder

1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 TBS Kosher Salt

1 TBS Worcestershire Sauce

2 large smoked Pork Hocks

1 can Whole Peeled Tomatoes in juice (16 oz)


1/4 cup Bourbon Whiskey (use the cheap stuff-- the King of the Hobos would want it that way...)


Place your beans in a bowl & sort thru them, discarding any pebbles or stones you may find

Set the beans aside for the moment

In a medium large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat

Add the onions, celery & carrot

Cook the vegetables down until the onions have wilted a bit

Add the cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper & salt

Stir well

Add the Worcestershire Sauce, pork hocks & red beans

Let this cook down for 2 minutes

Empty the canned tomatoes into a small bowl & crush them up with our hands

Add the crushed tomatoes & enough water to come up 1/2 above the beans to the pot

Turn the heat up to high & bring the beans to a boil

Once the beans are boiling away, Add the bourbon whiskey

Let the beans boil away for another 5 minutes

Reduce the heat under the pot to low

Let the beans simmer away for an hour

Using a pair of tongs, pull out the pork hocks

Let the hocks cool to room temperature & then strip them of all of their meat

Discard the hock bones & chop the hock meat & fat finely & return the meat & fat to the pot

Let the beans simmer away for another hour

The beans will be done when they have softened a bit & the broth in the pot has a rich sting to it

NOTE: During the cooking process, the liquid in the pot may reduce too much & you may have to add more water or stock. Try to maintain a liquid level about 1/2 above the beans. This will prevent the beans from drying out as well as provide you with ample broth when you serve.
  • To Serve:

    Ladle some of the beans & broth into a bowl

    Open a quart of bourbon whiskey and....

Friday, July 1, 2016

Fresh Basil Oil for Salad Dressings

From our backyard garden to our dinner table..
today I'm making fresh basil oil to use in my summer salad dressings