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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Something not so traditional for the table

The holiday season is upon us. While there’s always request for traditional dishes, I always like to find something new for the table. I’m very careful with what I choose, since it usually means leaving a tried and true mainstay off the menu. These new dishes always gets compared to what we always have.

Today’s recipes are variations of recipes that are often found on my menu. The first is Spinach Madeline. It’s a variation of the spinach dip that is often requested of me to make. The second is Cornbread and Oyster Dressing. Since oysters are starting to hit their peak in late November, I wanted to showcase them. So, grab your ingredients, and Let’s head to the kitchen!

Spinach Madeline

Thee original Spinach Madeline was created in St Francisville Louisiana by Madeline Wright. She was deciding what to prepare when she spotted some jalapeño cheese that she picked up at the store. She thought it would make a great addition to creamed spinach. Everyone agreed. Here’s my interpretation.

2 packages of frozen, chopped spinach

4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons chopped onion

½ cup evaporated milk

½ cup reserved spinach liquid

6 ounces of pepper jack cheese

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon celery salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Salt to taste

½ cup breadcrumbs

¼ cup melted butter

Cook your spinach according to the package directions. Drain the cooking liquid off the spinach, and save it.

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt your butter, and add the flour. Stir the mixture until it is blended and smooth without being brown. Stir in the onions, and cook them just until they are soft. Pour in the evaporated milk and spinach liquid. Stir the liquid constantly as you add it to avoid lumps. Continue cooking and stirring the mixture until it is smooth and thick.

Add the cheese, Worcestershire sauce and all the seasonings to the mix. Continue stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Pour the mixture into a prepared baking dish. At this point, you can put the mixture into the refrigerator if you make it ahead of time. When you’re ready to cook it, bring the casserole to room temperature before baking. Combine the breadcrumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Pop the dish into heated oven just long enough to make it bubbly and golden brown.

Cornbread and Oyster Dressing

Oyster dressing is a mainstay on South Louisiana holiday tables. Every year, I always make a chicken cornbread dressing for my wife. Here’s a twist on that recipe using oysters.

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cup onions, chopped

3/4 cup celery, chopped

3/4 cup bell pepper, chopped

2 boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix, prepared to package directions and cooled

2 cups raw oysters, chopped

2 eggs, beaten

Creole seasoning, to taste

12 ounces chicken stock

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery and bell pepper; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Scrape the vegetables into a large mixing bowl and crumble the cornbread on top. Add the oysters, eggs, Creole seasoning, stock, and parsley. Mix until thoroughly blended. Pour into a buttered casserole dish and bake until hot and golden, about 30 minutes.

I know that whatever is on the table this Thanksgiving, I will be thankful, not just for the food. I’m thankful for my wonderful wife Peggy and our two fur babies, Hope and Alfredeaux. I thankful for my family and friends who are as close as family. I am thankful for the Daily Citizen, which allows me to share my thoughts with you. I am very thankful that I’m able to share my love of cooking with the wonderful people who read my columns. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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