After a visit to Austin, Texas for the Texas Book Festival, I had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans for the Chefs Collaborative National Summit. Lordy mercy, NOLA is a continual bacchanal. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to everyone in whole neighborhoods walking around with cocktails. Party as they may, they are mighty serious about good eats and preserving foodways.
Chefs Collaborative is pretty serious business, too. It’s an amazing alliance chefs and the greater food community to celebrate local foods and foster a more sustainable food supply. Chefs Collaborative is the leading nonprofit network of chefs that’s changing the sustainable food landscape using the power of connections, education, and responsible buying decisions. Through these actions, members embrace seasonality, preserve diversity and traditional practices, and support local economies.
Want to talk local? At the opening event for the National Summit we had an amazing array of oysters provided by P & J Oysters from the entire Gulf. It was spectacular. There were folks there that could tell what “bed” the oyster was from and how it differed in taste and texture from an oyster from an adjacent “bed.”
More than 300 chefs, farmers, and members of the culinary community embraced the conference theme of “Hands on New Orleans – Sustainability in Action” with four butchery workshops and demos, charcuterie and classic cocktail workshops, and numerous conversations and practical workshops on timely topics including grassfed beef, Gulf seafood, dead zones, farm worker justice, and climate change.
I attended a charcuterie class at Delmonico’s. The photo above is of house-cured boudin, the spicy cajun sausage made of pork and ground red pepper. (And, yes, I asked. It’s a cow bung casing.)
We also heard Dana Cowin of Food and Wine, John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and restaurant chefs Donald Link, Sean Brock, and Andrea Reusling, as well as producers and farmers such as my friend, Will Harris from White Oak Pastures and rice farmer Kurt Unkel of Cajun Grains.
were given to Chef Sam Hayward of Fore Street in Portland, Maine. Hayward was honored with the “Sustainer of The Year” award, which recognizes a chef who has been both a great mentor and a model to the culinary community through his purchases of seasonal, sustainable ingredients and the transformation of these ingredients into delicious food.
Fedele Bauccio, founder and CEO of Bon Appétit Management Company received the “Pathfinder Award,” which recognizes a visionary working in the greater food community who has been a catalyst for positive change within the food system through efforts that go beyond the kitchen. (BTW I checked out their work last year – one of their accounts is Google. Ahem. This is a BIG company doing very, very good work. No one – no one – is too big or too small to make a difference. )
Sal and Al Sunseri of P & J Oysters received the “Foodshed Champion Award,” which recognizes a food producer (farmer, fisher or artisanal producer) committed to working with chefs who also exemplifies the following principle: Good food begins with unpolluted air, land, and water, environmentally sustainable farming and fishing, and humane animal husbandry.
Pioneer Awards were given to my former chef, Chef Nora Pouillon, Restaurant Nora, Chef Mary Sue Miliken, Chef Jody Adams, Chef Deborah Madison, Chef Jasper White, Amy Bodiker, Food Systems Consultant, Columbus, Ohio, Robin Schempp, Right Stuff enterprises, Waterbury, VT, Chef Greg Higgins, and Gary Nabhan, author, food activist, and professor.
It was a passionate, intense few days. I left encouraged, invigorated, and full of intent to share the word.
The experience fed my mind, my heart, and my belly.
This is the future — this has to be the future of food. We can’t continue on this hugely self-destructive path. We’re eating the fish out of the ocen like it’s some endless Las Vegas buffet, we’re polluting our land and rivers with pesticides, and our children are increasingly allergic to foods, ill, and obese.
The members of Chefs Collaborative are doing something about it.
Click here to become a member – or give the gift of membership – to someone you know would appreciate the great work that Chefs Collaborative does. I know you’ll be glad you did.
Mama’s Reading List
Lot’s going on with my book tour. It’s been fantastic. I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people. Here are some of the recent pieces in the news….
Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Magazine interviews me about a novice tackling the Brilliant versions of the recipes. (My answer? Of course you can!)
El Paso Times reports on the continued strong presence of Southern food across the US and also features Hugh Acheson’s new book as well as Nathalie Dupree.
Jeananderson.com gave me some pretty high praise. Called me a “first rate writer”. Coming from such an esteemed journalist and writer, I was very humbled and proud.
Fetch Magazine for Taigan by Julia Reed! features a whole Thanksgiving menu with Turkey, Meme’s Rolls, Winter Greens and Butternut Squash Gratin, and Caramel Cake for dessert. YUM.
The Charlotte Observer blog is about my Mustardy Mashed Potatoes — check it out, maybe you’ll want to mix, or mash things up for your Thanksgiving Day Potatoes!
You can always check out the Events page on my website. I have a few more cooking classes around the Atlanta area in the next few weeks. I am very excited about the Newnan Carnegie Library Event on Monday 11/28.
I’m looking for some reviews on amazon if you have (and hopefully, like!) my book! I’d appreciate it! Those things count and I appreciate your support.
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Mama’s Shrimp Gumbo
Serves 6 to 8
To quote the regional cookbook Louisiana Entertains, “Good gumbos are like good sunsets: no two are exactly alike, and their delight lies in their variety.” All gumbos use a roux. However, in addition to a roux, some gumbos flavor and thicken with okra and others call for filé powder. Integral to Creole and Cajun cooking, filé powder is made from the dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It is used not only to thicken gumbo but also to impart its mild, lemon flavor. Filé powder should be stirred into gumbo toward the end of cooking or it will become tough and stringy.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
4 cups water or shrimp stock (see below)
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined
Hot sauce, for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon filé powder (optional)
In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, stirring slowly and constantly, and cook to a medium-brown roux, about 30 minutes.
Add the onion and bell pepper and stir to combine. Cook until the vegetables have wilted and are lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the water and tomato paste and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavorful and thickened, 11/2 to 2 hours.
Add the shrimp and stir to combine. Continue cooking over very low heat until the shrimp are cooked through, an additional 10 minutes. Season with hot sauce and stir in the filé powder, if using. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with rice pilaf.
Shrimp Stock and Fish Stock
Seafood soup, stew, and gumbo all taste better when prepared with homemade stock as opposed to bottled clam juice, the favorite stand-in to freshly made stock. When you peel the shrimp, save the shells (heads also, if you are fortunate enough to have them), and rinse with cold running water. Place the shells in a pot and add enough water to cover. Add a few fresh bay leaves, sprigs of parsley and thyme, a quartered onion, chopped carrot, and chopped celery, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until fragrant and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Strain the stock in a strainer layered with cheesecloth, discarding the solids. If I don’t need to make shrimp stock every time I peel shrimp, I save the shells for later in a sealable plastic bag in the freezer. For fish stock, it’s the same principle, but use bones instead of shells. Do not use oily or heavy fish such as mackerel, skate, mullet, or salmon; their flavor is too strong and heavy. Use approximately 4 pounds of fish bones to 10 cups of water to make 8 cups of stock.
(Shrimp photo by Helen Dujardin. And, yes, I know it’s SC shrimp -but it is local and sustainable, too. Oyster and Boudin snaps by me.)
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