Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sauce Paradis - a recipe

Frequent readers know that Marilyn and I are avid collectors of old cookbooks. Here is a recipe I found in The New Orleans Cookbook by Rima and Richard Collin. Yes, I admit I was first attracted to the book because of one of the author’s first names and its connection with the great novel, Green Mansions, but the cookbook’s wonderful recipes go far beyond one of my favorite characters of all time.

The book is subtitled Creole, Cajun, and Louisiana French Recipes, Past and Present. It is an eighth printing from Alfred A. Knopf, published in 1980. Not only are the recipes good, the pictures and illustrations alone are worth the price of the book. I highly recommend it. If you can find a copy, buy it. Here is one of my favorite recipes from The New Orleans Cookbook.


The richest sauce in Creole cuisine, made with Madeira wine, currant jelly, green grapes, beef stock, and truffles. When green seedless grapes are in season, we buy them in quantity and freeze them, for this sauce and for Trout Veronique. The truffles are a grand touch but do not change the flavor of the sauce, so if you have none on hand, do not be deterred. We like Sauce Paradis on squab, quail, duck and chicken.

1/4 cup salt butter
1/8 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup green seedless grapes (drained if they have been frozen)
2 cups rich beef stock
1/2 cup Madeira wine
3 large truffles, sliced thin
3 tbsp red currant jelly

In a heavy 2 to 3 quart saucepan melt the butter over low heat then add the flour stirring to keep the mixture smooth. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, and then slowly add the beef stock, stirring as you pour.

Cook over low heat until sauce thickens slightly (about 6 minutes), then add the wine, currant jelly and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Cook until the jelly has melted and then add the grapes and truffles.

Continue cooking for about 3 minutes more, just long enough to heat the grapes and truffles through. Remove the pan from the heat. Right before serving stir gently to mix.

Eric's Web

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Winter Foxes

It’s late fall, the nights growing longer. Earlier, my barking dogs alerted me that something was at the front door. It was dark outside as I got out of my Lazy Boy to look, but the porch light was on. Through the glass door, I saw a large gray fox, and he did not seem to care that I was looking at him as he gobbled what was left of the food in my cat’s bowls.

I live near the east edge of Edmond and have seen every manner of wildlife in my front yard. My vet told me the animals live in the many creeks that crisscross the area. There is a nip in the air and I understood why the fox already has his winter coat as a chill wind blew through the open door, into the house.

I thought about the abundant wildlife in the area as I put on my robe and padded into the backyard to my hot tub. Once up to my neck in hot water, I closed my eyes, letting wisps of steam rise up around my ears and disappear into the darkness around me. The solitude reminded me of a chapter in my first published book Ghost of a Chance, that also has a bucolic setting.

Buck McDivit, ex-cop and petroleum landman, has inherited an island in a mysterious lake in east Texas. There, he encounters southern racists and the ghost of a girl that died a hundred years before. He also meets the beautiful Lila Richardson, local antiquities expert and heiress to the Richardson Plantation. Part of his own inheritance is the marina and lodge on the island. He and Wiley Johnson, the son of the caretakers, decide to take a late night swim following an interesting barbeque.


Wiley interrupted their conversation. "Anybody up for a swim? The lodge has a great indoor pool."

"Better pass," Brice said. "Sally will come after me if I don't join her." He waved and hurried up the stairs.

"What about you, Buck?" Wiley asked.

"Sure. Maybe it'll sober me up."

"Girls?" Wiley called. "Anyone for a swim?"

Wiley's toddies had caught up with Lila and Sara, and both giggled uncontrollably on the couch.

"Let's do it, Sara," Lila said. "You know you're dying to show off your new bikini."

"And we're dying to see it," Wiley said.

Sara continued to giggle but Lila stumbled to her feet, her face awash in a silly grin. When she squeezed Buck's hand an electrical surge raced up his arm, momentarily clearing the cobwebs from his head. Heat lightning flashed over the lake.
"You and Wiley go ahead," she said. "If Sara and I don't pass out before we get to our rooms, maybe we'll join you."

Lila grabbed Sara's hand, pulling her to her feet. Arm-in-arm they made their way upstairs, still giggling like two pre-teens on their way to a slumber party.

Wiley smiled and said, "That's the last we'll see of them tonight.”

Buck nodded. "Just as well.”

"Suit up and I'll meet you in the solarium," Wiley said. "It's on the other side of the dining room."

After changing into his bathing suit, Buck joined Wiley in what turned out to be a magnificent solarium. Shadows danced on the walls of the dimly lit room as he eased down the short flight of stairs to the Mexican tiles. Two beams of light glimmered up from the bottom of the turquoise pool, melding with lightning flashing through the skylights. Amid massive palms, hanging baskets and aromatic tropical flowers, Buck felt as if he'd suddenly entered the Garden of Eden. Wiley waited by the pool, his feet dangling in the water.

"Wow," Buck said, gawking around. "Why didn't you tell me about this place sooner?"

When Buck joined him by the pool Wiley handed him a tall glass of ice water. "Guess I forgot.”

Aunt Emma's solarium was like an indoor tropical rain forest. Dreamy music, piped in from hidden speakers, blended effortlessly with the delicate scents of orchid, hibiscus and magnolia. Several slow moving ceiling fans generated a gentle breeze that dimpled the pool. It created the tropical feel of a south sea island.

Wiley grinned. "Miss Emma used to call this her own private Eden."

"I see why," Buck said, glancing at the redwood hot tub beside the pool.

Light from the submerged beam in the pool danced up through the water and gentle ripples further distorted the beam. Water trickled from a fountain at the far end of the pool, and soft light, lush vegetation and moving water slowly began to work on Buck's nerves. Diving into the pool, he leisurely stroked to the opposite end.

"The pool is a dream. Let's swim a few laps, then sit in the hot tub and talk."

"Help yourself with the laps," Wiley said, dipping his fingers into the steaming water of the hot tub. "You can join me when you finish."

"How is it?"


Wiley gingerly submerged his toe, then his whole foot into the tub. He slipped into the hot water up to his neck, lounging in silence, a relaxed smile on his face. After completing ten fast laps, Buck joined him. Steam, leaving him limp and relaxed, welled up in moist clouds from the surface of the water.

"This is really the ticket," he said.

Wiley's attention suddenly turned to the door and he held up his palm for silence.

Someone's in the dining room. Maybe the cross burners are back for more mischief."

Wiley slipped out of the hot tub and followed the shadows toward the front door of the solarium, grabbing a loose brick from the fountain. Buck held his breath and watched. The handle turned and the door slowly opened. When the first head appeared through the crack, Wiley raised the brick to strike. The resultant female scream came from neither Humpback nor Deacon John. It was Lila and Sara, scantily clad in their bathing suits, and still giggling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Green Tomato Relish - a recipe

Caddo Lake is the largest natural lake in Texas. The lake’s history is as diverse as pearls and steamboats, and Caddo remains one of the most beautiful and mysterious lakes in the entire United States.

My Dad was born in Trees City, once a boomtown a few miles from Vivian. Jeems Bayou separates Vivian and Trees. During heavy rains in the area, it will result in water rising over the highway, leaving a boat the only way to get to Trees City from Vivian.

I remember, as a kid, fishing from the side of the road. My parents, Grandmother and I were not the only ones, hundreds of others joining in to reap the harvest of fish from the fabled lake.

There were always fishing camps both on the Texas and Louisiana sides of the lake. These camps would have a ramp for launching boats, and would rent boats, and sell bait, fishing gear and pop. Each camp usually had a restaurant where the locals went for catfish, hushpuppies and Cole slaw.

Kool Point, near Oil City, no longer has a restaurant but Pelican Lodge, not far from Trees City is still open. I always love eating at Pelican Lodge when I visit Vivian. It is far off the beaten path and only the locals really know where it is. One condiment all of these restaurants served is green tomato relish. It is probably best prepared in large batches, and then canned (bottled) but here is a recipe for a single batch, suitable for one dinner.

3 large rough chopped green tomatoes,
1 large rough chopped onion
1 hot green pepper, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp salt
1-cup vinegar

In a small pot, bring the sugar, salt and vinegar to a boil, and then add vegetables. Return contents of the pot to a boil for two minutes. Chill and enjoy.

Eric's Web