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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Recipes continue on after death of Mrs. Leah

On June 1st. New Orleans lost a culinary legend. Leah Chase, of Dooky Chase’s restaurant, passed away at 96 years young. Chase, known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, has continued cooking in the restaurant almost until the end.

Born on January 6th, the first night of the Carnival season, Miss. Leah, as everyone knew her, started waiting on tables in the French Quarter after she finished high school. In 1946, she married Edgar “Dooky Chase II, a local trumpet player. She started to work in the family restaurant. As she took on more responsibility, she drew on her earlier experiences in the French Quarter and began changing the neighborhood joint into a destination restaurant. It became a special place for important dinners, first dates and social gatherings in the black community.

By the 1950’s, the restaurant became a meeting place for civil-rights activists and civic leaders,

both black and white. While such gatherings defied segregation laws, the police didn’t intervene here.

In a 2018 interview, Miss Leah said, “Food builds big bridges. If you can eat with someone, you can learn from them, and when you learn from someone, you can make big changes. We changed the course of America in this restaurant over bowls of gumbo. We can talk to each other and relate to each other when we eat together.”

I have included 3 of Miss Leah’s recipes. These every day dishes, Red Beans and Rice, Creole Jambalaya & Fried Chicken, need no introduction. One note for the Jambalaya recipe; Chaurice sausage is a spicy pork sausage. You can substitute any hot sausage.

Classic Red Beans and Rice

1 pound Red Kidney Beans

2 quarts, plus 1 cup Water

1 large Onion, chopped

1/4 cup Vegetable Oil

1 pound smoked Ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 pound Smoked Sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 cup Water

1 tablespoon Garlic, chopped

1 Bay Leaf

1 tablespoon Black Pepper

2 tablespoons Parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon dried Thyme

2 tablespoons Salt

Pick through the beans, removing all unwanted particles. Wash beans and place beans in a 5-quart Dutch oven with 2 quarts & 1 cup of water. Set the Dutch oven over high heat. Add onions and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and let beans boil slowly for 1 hour. When the beans are soft, stir well, mashing some against the side of the pot.

Heat the oil in frying pan set over medium-high heat. Add the ham and sausage and sauté for 5 minutes or until the fat starts to render.

Add the sausage, ham and oil to beans. Deglaze the pan with the remaining cup of water, then pour the liquid into the beans. Add the garlic, bay leaf, pepper, parsley, thyme and salt. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Beans should be nice and creamy.

Creole Jambalaya

1 pound Smoked Ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 pound Chaurice Sausage, cut into pieces

1/2 pound Smoked Sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 cup Onions, chopped

3 cups uncooked Louisiana Long Grain Rice

1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped

1/2 teaspoon Paprika

1 tablespoon Parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon Ground Thyme

1 teaspoon Garlic, chopped

1/2 cup Green Bell Pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon Salt

1 Bay Leaf

1 pound (41-50 count) Louisiana Shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 cups Water

Place ham, sausages, and onions in a 3-quart Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium heat until onions are soft. Add the rice and stir well.

Add the green onions, paprika, parsley, thyme, garlic, green peppers, salt, bay leaf, shrimp, and water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Cover the pot tightly and let cook slowly for 35 minutes or until the rice is tender. Fluff with a fork and mix well before serving.

Fried Chicken

1 3-pound Fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1/4 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

2 large Eggs, beaten

1/2 cup Evaporated Milk

1/2 cup Water

2 cup All-Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon Paprika

1/4 teaspoon Ground Thyme

1/2 teaspoon Granulated Garlic

Oil for frying

Season chicken well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Mix eggs, milk and water. Pour mixture over chicken. Let sit for 5 minutes.

In a heavy paper bag, mix flour, paprika, ground thyme, and granulated garlic. Place chicken in bag with flour mixture. Shake until chicken is well coated.

Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven to 350℉. Place the chicken in hot oil and fry, turning as it browns. Heavy parts such as breast, thighs and legs will take 15 to 20 minutes, wings about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain chicken on paper towels then serve.

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