Happy New Year Everybody.
For the first post of the year I am going to post our traditional New Year's Menu. For many years growing up we would have meatball stew with coleslaw and black eye peas. As far as food goes, when I was younger, it wasn't always my favorite. There are so very many other foods in our culinary culture living in South Louisiana that this one just didn't stand out among my top of the list. Now that I am older, and away from home, I miss the opportunity to eat the foods that are a staple at home that may have seemed ordinary fair growing up. We still make some of them living here in Mississippi, but it just isn't the same when you can't find the traditional ingredients, and it really does make a big difference.
One of the biggest things that I have learned over the years is how to make a roux. A roux is the basis of so many Cajun and Creole dishes, but it can be really tricky. It is relatively easy to create any of the lighter rouxs, but when you try to get to the deeper darker roux it takes a bit of time and effort to get it right without going overboard and bringing it to the point of burned and ruined. It is a talent that has been handed down through the generations. My grandparents(probably getting it from their parents before them) passed it along to my parents, eventually my parents taught me how to make it, and as my children grow up they will each get a chance to learn and pass along the information to their children so that they can keep their cultural heritage alive...here's to hoping that it is important to at least one of them, especially since we aren't living in South Louisiana right now. I will post a recipe/tutorial soon on roux.
But back to Meatball Stew. The base gravy of a Meatball Stew requires a roux and the Cajun Trinity. It is very similar to the French Mirepoix(onions, carrots, and celery). I assume that it probably has it's beginning from this mixture and it evolved to the onions, bell peppers, and celery that are a staple in our meals. Like so many other dishes, the meals are very simple in their ingredients, yet complex in flavor.
2 pounds of ground meat mainly beef, but a mixture of beef and pork and/or deer can be used.
10 crackers crushed(or three slices of bread crumbled)
1/2 finely chopped onion
1/2 finely chopped bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all these ingredients together well and form into meatballs and brown until cooked. Some people brown in the oven others swear that it is better to brown in the pot you are using to add more layers of flavor to the meal(I tend to agree with this).
8 oz. roux
1 bell pepper
3-4 stalks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
When meatballs are done remove and set aside. Sauté the onions, bell peppers, and celery in the pot that the meatballs were cooked in. After about 5 minutes, add garlic and roux(I make my own, but you can use a jar bought from the store if you can find it in your area.) and stir to heat it up with the vegetables. Either add water or a stock that you would like to use. Slowly add the stock and stir. your gravy will thicken as it cooks. After the stock is added let it cook for about an hour. Check for seasoning.
Serve stew hot over rice. Add your favorite vegetables and a slice of buttered crusty French bread and a glass of red wine to complete your meal.
Our supper was served with the traditional coleslaw for prosperity and black eyed peas for good luck in the New Year.