Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cookbook Thursday: Chef John Folse's massive tome to vegetables a treat for the eyes and tastebuds

It’s a magnificent holiday season when John Folse publishes another cookbook and we were lucky in 2015 to be blessed with one. The giant tomes (several pounds and almost 1000 pages!) of Louisiana culinary history — with recipes of course — offer hours of great reading and cooking. Folse’s past books that double as doorstops were “The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine,” “Hooks, Lies and Alibis” dedicated to seafood and fishing and “After the Hunt: Louisiana's Authoritative Collection of Wild Game and Game Fish Cookery.”
Now, Folse takes on the side dishes in “Can You Dig It: Louisiana’s Authoritative Collection of Vegetable Cookery.” You can well imagine that sides in Louisiana, particularly from the kitchen of Folse and company, are elevated to an art form. There’s wild mushroom fricassee, sweet potato puffs, cassava fries with Peruvian cheese sauce, quinoa- and spinach-stuffed tomatoes, polenta tamale pie and eggplant Belle Rose, a tower of fried eggplant and crawfish tails and sauce. I could go on and on. Like I said, it’ll take you hours to peruse this book and every time you turn a page, you’ll spot some new outstanding dish, such as the corn soup with farm country “chow-chow.” See, I can’t stop!
The shear size of this book requires a team to publish, which is why the first few pages are dedicated to those who helped create it. Michaela D. York serves as co-author and several chefs from Folse’s restaurants worked out the dishes. Like Folse’s past books, there are several chapters of history, this time spotlighting vegetables and gardening, from antiquity to today and the rise of the farm-to-table movement. In addition, there’s a list of notable gardens and markets around the world, how to start your own garden with a list of appropriate vegetables and planting dates for Louisiana and a “Swamp Floor Pantry” for foragers. Fried lotus roots, who knew? (For that lotus recipe, see below.)
Recipes from "Can You Dig It" include every vegetable you can imagine with desserts, stocks, breads and other goodies in the back. If you get lost, there’s a handy index in the back. And as always, Chef Folse graces the cover posing, as he has done in past books, in the same stance as old photographs.
Here’s a simple recipe for fava beans in time for St. Joseph’s Day Feasts.

Fava Beans with Chorizo
1 pound fresh fava beans
1 link chorizo
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 dried red chilies
1/2  cup white wine
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 sprig rosemary
Directions: In a large saucepot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add beans and chorizo, then cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Using a colander, carefully drain beans and chorizo. Shell beans and set aside. Slice chorizo then set aside. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and cook 3-5 minutes or until browned, stirring often. Add minced garlic, chiles, wine, stock and rosemary. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, stirring often. Return beans to saucepan and cook until heated through. Discard red chiles and rosemary, then serve hot.

Fried Lotus and Taro Chips
1 pound lotus roots, peeled and rinsed
1 pound taro, peeled and rinsed
1 quart cold water
Juice of 1 lemon
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Salt and black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Granulated garlic to taste
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
            Directions: In a large bowl, combine cold water and lemon juice then set aside. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside. Using a mandoline, slice lotus and taro into very thin rounds and place into lemon water to prevent discoloration. Set aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 3–4 inches oil to 350 degrees. Drain lotus and taro completely and pat dry with paper towels. Working in batches, add rounds to hot oil and fry approximately 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally. Do not overcrowd pot. Using a slotted spoon, remove chips and place on prepared baking sheet to drain. Season to taste using salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Continue until all chips are done. Set aside and allow chips to cool to room temperature. NOTE: Chips will crisp as they cool. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with oregano and thyme and serve.