Swamp Cooking

Thanksgiving in the Atchafalaya Basin is celebrated with longstanding traditions and authentic dishes passed down from generation to generation. Put some bayou cuisine on your own table this year with the new Swamp People e-cookbook, released to accompany the show’s Swampsgiving episode. It features video clips from the series, recipes and cooking tips from renowned Cajun chef John Folse. Check out the three recipes below for a taste of what’s in store.

CRABMEAT-AND-SHRIMP-STUFFED MIRLITON

Start to finish: 2 hours
Servings: 6

Mirliton, which originated in Mexico, is known by many Americans as “chayote squash” or “vegetable pear” and by the French as “christophene.” The vegetable was brought to Bayou Country by the Canary Islanders, or “Isleños,” who relocated to Louisiana when Spain took ownership of New Orleans from France. This South Louisiana delicacy is wonderful when stuffed with shrimp and crabmeat.

6 mirlitons, sliced lengthwise
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
1 pound (70–90 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 pound butter
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red bell peppers
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped basil
salt and black pepper to taste
Louisiana hot sauce to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
12 pats butter

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Boil the sliced mirlitons in lightly salted water for 30 to 40 minutes or until meat is tender enough to scoop from shells. Once tender, remove from water and cool. Using a teaspoon, remove seeds and gently scoop all meat out of the shell, being careful not to tear shell. Discard excess liquid accumulated while scooping meat. Reserve meat and save shells for stuffing.

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic and basil for 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted. Blend in shrimp and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until pink and curled. Mix in reserved meat from mirlitons and chop large pieces while cooking. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, stirring until flavors develop. After most of the liquid has evaporated, remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, hot sauce and parsley. Fold in crabmeat, being careful to not break lumps. Sprinkle in approximately 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs to absorb any excess liquid and to hold stuffing intact.

Divide mixture into 12 equal portions and stuff into hollowed-out shells. Place stuffed mirlitons on baking pan and sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs. Top each mirliton with 1 pat of butter. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve 1 mirliton half as a vegetable or 2 halves as an entrée.

DEER AND BEER POT ROAST

Start to finish: 3 1/2 hours
Servings: 8

To make this hearty and comforting meal, a browning bag serves as a cooking receptacle for the deer roast. It’s important to pre-season and brown the roast in olive oil beforehand to guarantee that “caramelized” flavor. Surrounding the pre-browned roast with a multitude of flavors and vegetables will only further enhance the dish.

1 (4 1/2-pound) boneless venison chuck roast
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
granulated garlic to taste
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
6 cloves garlic, smashed
3 carrots, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 (2-inch) sprig rosemary
1 (12-ounce) can Abita® or other local beer
1 quart venison or beef stock

Position rack in lower half of oven and preheat oven to 350 F.

Using a paring knife, cut 8 to 10 1-inch slits in the meat. Measure out approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons each of salt, pepper and granulated garlic and blend together well. Place an even amount of this mixture into each slit and rub any remaining seasoning over the roast. Depending on the size of the roast, additional salt, pepper and garlic may be needed. Dust venison lightly with flour, shake off excess and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and brown roast thoroughly on all sides. Remove from pot and allow to cool slightly. Place roast in a large browning bag and surround with the remaining ingredients. Place browning bag in a large roasting pan and roast in oven for 2 to 3 hours or until fork tender.

Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice roast and serve with vegetables and juices from the cooking bag.

FELICIANA SWEET POTATO PIE

Start to finish: 2 hours
Servings: 6–8

The Beauregard yam is one of the sweetest yams in Louisiana. This unique variety was originally produced at Louisiana State University in the late 1980s. Small Beauregard sweet potatoes, which work best for this pie, are normally 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 4 to 6 inches in length. If only the larger sweet potato varieties are available, use 3 to 4 of that type instead of 6. Use only fresh sweet potatoes in this recipe for best results.

6 Beauregard sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 pound butter
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place potatoes in a 4-quart stockpot with lightly salted water. The water should almost cover the potatoes but not completely. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender and about 90 percent of water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Discard any remaining liquid.

Using a fork, mash potatoes and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Blend in lemon juice and 1/4 pound of butter. Add the sugar, vanilla, flour, allspice and nutmeg, blending well. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, blend cream cheese and remaining butter. Sprinkle in 1 cup flour and mix thoroughly. Place dough on a floured board and knead 3 to 4 times. Roll pie crust 1/8 inch thick. Place crust in a 9-inch pie pan and fill with sweet potato mixture.

Bake approximately 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight prior to serving.