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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Sharing recipes after 60 trips around the sun

It’s hard to believe that today is a milestone birthday for me. At 11:41pm, I will have made 60 trips around the sun. It’s also the last day of my wife and my birthday week. Like last week, I am sharing with you some of my favorite dishes to cook and eat.

Let’s start with Andouille Sausage Balls for an appetizer. For the entree is one of my all-time favorite creations, Creole Shrimp and Grits. I can’t think of a better way to end my birthday meal than with White Chocolate Creme Brûlée. My mouth is watering, so Let’s head to the kitchen!

Andouille Sausage Balls

This is a Cajun twist on sausage balls. The regular ones have always been a favorite of mine. Using andouille in place of regular pork sausage takes this to a new level of deliciousness.

1/2 pound andouille sausage, casings removed and ground or finely chopped

1/2 cup finely shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 1/2 cups biscuit mix

Preheat oven to 325℉.

Add sausage, cheese and biscuit mix to a bowl.

Form mixture into 1-inch balls and place them on an ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve warm and with a dipping sauce if you like.

Creole Shrimp & Grits

You know you have a great dish when you smile and dance after you taste it. That’s my reaction every time with this recipe. Featured in my cookbook, it’s often requested at family get togethers.

4 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 celery ribs, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 can (6 ounce) tomato paste

3 cups seafood stock

1 bay leaf

2 pounds medium-sized shrimp (26/30 count), peeled and deveined

Cheese Grits (recipe to follow)

Heat butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until flour is caramel colored (about 8 to 10 minutes). Add onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes or vegetables are tender. Stir in Creole seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. Add the tomato paste and stir until it evenly coats all of the vegetables. Slowly add the seafood stock, stirring constantly, to create a thick sauce. Add the bay leaf, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook 10 minutes, stirring in more stock to reach desired consistency. Serve over Cheese Grits.

Cheese Grits

¾ cup quick grits

3 cups water

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

In a medium saucepan, bring water to boil. Add the grits and salt. Stir well with a whisk. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover. Cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Keep covered until ready to serve.

White Chocolate Creme Brûlée

This is my go-to dessert when entertaining. It give me a reason to use my torch. It always leaves my guest asking when will we do this again.

4 ounces white chocolate (chips or chopped bar)

4 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Additional sugar for caramelizing

Preheat oven to 300℉.

In medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until smooth. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavy cream to a simmer. Add white chocolate to simmering heavy cream. Turn off heat and whisk until white chocolate is melted. Add white chocolate mixture to egg yolk mixture whisking continuously to prevent eggs from scrambling. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and whisk. Pour into 4 ramekins. Place cups in a 13″x9″ baking pan. add enough water so cups sit in 1″ to 1 1/2″ of water. Bake until set, about 45 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle additional sugar to top of brûlée. Broil for 4-5 minutes or until desired level of brownness (if you have one, it is fun to use a small torch to melt the sugar.) This can be served warm, at room temperature, or refrigerate overnight.

As always, you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to prepare any of these recipes. I believe that any time you cook for someone other than yourself, it’s a special occasion. It’s a great way to look at cooking. You present yourself on a plate for all to see.

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