I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

It's Party Time!

If you're looking for something a little different but still yet quick and easy to prepare as an appetizer during this holiday season, try this crawfish dip from the February 2012 edition of Southern Living.

I prepared this for Boy Toy's Halloween party but feared that it wouldn't go over very well if people had never eaten crawfish.  You just never know what people are afraid of when it comes to food.   I advertised it as "seafood dip" and all those who tasted and enjoyed probed further for what was in it so I gave up my secret ingredient.   Hopefully I've spread the love and joy about the deliciousness of crawfish - it really can be likened to lobster meat, in my opinion, because it's equally as buttery and rich tasting. 

I made this on the stove and then held it in a small crockpot during the party. It worked out well for an hour or so but if you leave the crockpot turned on too long, it will eventually get too hot and become a bit too liquidy which makes for a messy dip (but as a side note, it makes for a tasty and quick dinner when tossed with pasta!)  

Hot Crawfish Dip
from Southern Living, February 2012

1/2 cup butter
1 bunch green onions, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 (1-lb.) package frozen cooked, peeled crawfish tails, thawed and undrained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimiento, drained
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning (add more to taste)
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
French bread baguette slices
Garnishes: sliced green onion, chopped flat-leaf parsley

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add green onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until bell pepper is tender. Stir in crawfish and next 3 ingredients; cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream cheese until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Serve with toasted French bread slices.

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Dogs, Goats and Crawfish...Oh My!

Just before the weather turned blistering cold cool, Boy Toy and I headed out for another one of our NC winery excursions.  With a loaded picnic backpack and a freshly printed Groupon in hand, we set out for one particular winery but found that it didn't quite have the ambiance or types of wines that we were looking for.  There were two other wineries listed close by and since we had the day to kill, we plugged the address into the (sometimes) trusty TomTom and headed toward the second one.  We didn't even pull the car over for this one because it was more of a storefront than a winery so fearing that we'd go home early and empty handed, we decided to at least check out the other listing. 

And aren't we glad we did!

Morgan Ridge Vineyards was truly a great place to spend one of the last lovely warm afternoons - we stayed much longer than we intended simply because it was so nice.  We were greeted at the door by two of these friendly and lovely creatures and they kept a watchful eye on us while we enjoyed our picnic on the patio just in case we wanted to share a bite of our food or indulge them in a back scratch or belly rub. 

Photo courtesy of Morgan Ridge Vineyards Facebook page

Morgan Ridge's wines are not muscadine wines which thrilled the Boy Toy because he doesn't much care for the sweet stuff and they serve food from their on-site kitchen.  On this particular day they had a nice lunch buffet and they also do wine and dinner pairings on occasions but we didn't partake in the food because we had taken the picnic backpack.  After the wine tasting, Boy Toy and I spilled out onto the patio and enjoyed our munchies almost as much as we enjoyed watching these nosey and comical guys. As were the dogs, they were quick to run over hoping for a scrap of food anytime someone approached the fence. 

We ordered up a second glass of wine and meandered down to the pavilion for a closer look at the pond when we noticed a man sitting alone in one of the rockers.  We struck up a conversation with him and soon realized he was the husband portion of the husband and wife owners of the winery.

Tommy was kind enough to let us invade his quiet time and the three of us talked quite a bit about wine and food.  Being from New Orleans, Tommy told us about some of his favorite Cajun recipes, one of them being crawfish etouffee.  As he talked I remembered that I too had a recipe that was very similar to what he was describing.  Since that day I've craved the Cajun specialty until I couldn't hold out any longer.

If you've never tried crawfish meat, don't be afraid.  It is very similar to lobster meat - rich and buttery tasting.  You can find it in the frozen seafood section of Walmart and maybe even your grocery store.  I do occasionally find it at some Harris Teeter stores here in Charlotte.  I season this with just a bit of the Creole seasoning while I'm preparing it and then pass the seasoning around the table and let everyone continue to season to their taste. 

If you find yourself with a day to kill, I suggest making a trip to Morgan Ridge Vineyards for a relaxing day of sipping wine and enjoying the fresh air.

Crawfish Etouffee
Serves 4

1 pound crawfish tail meat, thawed
2 large onions, diced
1 cup green onions, sliced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 stick butter
Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooked white rice

Place butter in medium saucepan and melt until starting to boil.  Saute onions and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add bell peppers and crawfish.  Cook and stir occasionally until crawfish curls or is heated through, about 5 minutes.  Season to taste with creole seasoning and salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and stir in green onion.  Serve over cooked rice and garnish generously with parsley. 

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