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Classic Creole Dishes, on a Shoestring

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a meal at Commander's Palace.

It opened in 1880, and has been a longtime Big Easy institution, known for its Southern charm, awad-winning food, and famous alumni: Both Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse got their start there.

As part of "The Early Show on Saturday Morning"'s special commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the owner of Commander's Palace, Ti Martin, accepted our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge, agreeing to prepare some classic Creole dishes on a budget. And we gave him $60 to work with -- $20 more than our usual $40.

That meant Ti didn't become part of our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestring" chef whose ingredients cost the least will be invited back to whip up our year-end holiday feast.

Commander's cuisine reflects the best of Bayou Country, both Creole and American heritages, as well as dishes of Commander's own making. Seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables -- everything is as fresh as it possibly can be.

Special Coverage: Hurricane Katrina's Five-YearAnniversary

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Turtle Soup
Louisiana White Shrimp
Caribbean Shrimp Salad
Sticky Pork Belly and Oysters
Bananas Foster
Sazerac Cocktail

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!

FOOD FACTS

Turtle soup is a great delicacy in Louisiana. The flavor of the turtle meat is both delicate and intense; there are supposedly seven distinct flavors of meat within the turtle. Commander's Palace Restaurant, in New Orleans' Garden District, is famous for its turtle soup -- it's a dark, rich, thick, stew-type dish, filling enough to be a meal in itself. More often, though, it's the first bookend of a great meal that's finished by a fantastic dessert. Arnaud's Restaurant, in the French Quarter, also has great turtle soup, and the recipe is quite different. Commander's is thicker, and Arnaud's is a little lighter, using a white veal stock instead of a dark beef stock. (Source: Food Lover's Companion)

Pork belly is the meat derived from the belly of a pig. In the United States, bacon is made most often from pork bellies.
This cut of meat is enormously popular in Chinese cuisine and Korean cuisine. In Chinese cuisine, it is usually diced, browned then slowly braised with skin on, or sometimes marinated and cooked as a whole slab. (Source: Wikipedia)

RECIPES

Turtle Soup

This dish is usually mentioned in the same sentence as Commander's Palace. We are famous for it, but it can easily be made at home when you want a hearty soup to warm your bones.

Makes 5 quarts; serves 24 as a first course or 12 as a main course

INGREDIENTS:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2-1/2 pounds turtle meat, diced (beef or a combination of lean beef and veal stew meat may be substituted)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 medium onions, diced
6 celery stalks, diced
1 large head garlic, minced
3 bell peppers, diced
1 tablespoon ground dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground dried oregano
4 bay leaves
2 quarts veal stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 bottle dry sherry
1 tablespoon Tabasco or to taste
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes
10 ounces fresh spinach, chopped coarse
6 medium eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

METHOD:
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add meat, salt, and pepper and cook for 18 minutes, until liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in the onions, celery, garlic, bell peppers, thyme, oregano, and bay leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until vegetables are caramelized. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming away any fat that comes to the surface.
Meanwhile prepare roux by melting remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, and cook for 3 minutes, until nutty and pale with the consistency of wet sand.
Vigorously whisk the roux into the soup a little at a time to prevent lumps. Simmer soup, for 25 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add the sherry, Tabasco and Worcestershire and skim away any fat or foam that may rise to the surface while cooking. Lastly, add the lemon juice, tomatoes, spinach, and eggs, then bring back to a simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Soup can be made up to 3 days ahead and frozen up to 1 month.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.

Sticky Pork Belly and Oysters

INGREDIENTS: Brine
1/2 pound Pork Belly
3 quarts water
1 quart whisky
1/4 cup Kosher Salt
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar

METHOD:
Combine water, whiskey, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl and whisk until salt and sugar dissolve. Place pork belly in the brine and marinate for 48 hours. Pull belly out of brine and pat dry. Using a sharp knife, score the fat side of the belly a quarter inch deep in diagonal lines in one direction. Rotate belly and repeat across 1st lines creating "x" markings

Smoking
2 Cups Hickory chips (soaked in water and strained)
2 pounds charcoal

Light charcoal on far side of grill, once coals become ashed over, add 1 cup wood chips. Place belly on far opposite side of grill and close for 1 hour. After 1st hour add remaining chips to coals, rotate belly 180 degrees close and smoke or 1 more hour.

INGREDIENTS: Braising Liquid
1 onion chopped
1 carrot peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
8 garlic cloves peeled
8 cups pork stock or veal stock
2 cups whisky
2 cans Steen's cane syrup
1/2 pound smoked pork belly
Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:
In a deep baking dish mix all ingredients, making sure to submerge pork belly fully. Place in preheated oven at 300 degrees and cook for 2 hours or until fork tender. Remove and cool in braising liquid. Once chilled, remove pork belly and cut into four 2 ounce pieces and set aside on a roasting pan. Head braising liquid and reduce by half. Strain liquid and reserve for glazing sauce. Place portioned bellies in a 350 degree oven until hot throughout. Once hot, glaze with reduced braising liquid.

INGREDIENTS: Green Tomato Jam
2 Green tomatoes cored and chopped
1 shallot fine diced
2 cups Karo corn syrup
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

METHOD:
In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter and begin to sauté shallots until translucent. Add chopped green tomatoes and sauté until tender (2-3 min). Add karo and cane vinegar and reduce to jam consistency. Salt and black pepper to taste.

INGREDIENTS: Crispy Oysters
8 Louisiana P & J oysters
1 cup Masa flour
1 cup All purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup creole seasoning

METHOD:
Pass over oysters with fingers checking or any shells
In a mixing bowl, combine masa, all purpose flour, corn meal and creole seasoning mixing extremely well. Place oyster directly in flour mix, tossing around to ensure they are fully covered in flour. Then place them in a preheated fryer at 350 degrees for approximately 2 minutes. Pull and place on napkin to strain any excess grease and season with a pinch more creole seasoning.

Plating
Place hot pork belly on top of seasoned greens (your choice) glaze one more time. Then top with 2 crispy oysters; one on top one on side pork belly and finish with green tomato jam.

Bananas Foster

INGREDIENTS:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon banana liqueur
3 ounces light or dark rum
1 1/2 cups French Vanilla Ice Cream

METHOD:
Melt butter in a flat chafing dish or skillet. Add brown sugar and stir until sugar is melted. Add bananas and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Pour banana liqueur and rum over bananas, shake pan to distribute the liquid, and flame. Baste bananas with the flaming sauce until flames die out.

Serve immediately over the ice cream.

Sazerac Cocktail

In 1870, with Cognac harder to come by due to phylloxera in France, rye whiskey was substituted. Absinthe was banned in the United States in 1912, and hence Pernod or Herbsaint was substituted to coat the glass.
As young girls, we were mesmerized when Leroy, the Command¬er's Palace bartender, held up a glass and twirled it to coat the inside with Herbsaint, the first step in making this classic cocktail.

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon Herbsaint
1 ounce rye whiskey, preferably Old Overholt or Sazerac rye
1 teaspoon Simple Syrup
4 to 5 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lemon twist with the white pith removed, for garnish

METHOD:
Pour the Herbsaint into a rocks glass and swirl to coat the inside. Discard any excess Herbsaint. Fill the glass with ice to chill.
Combine the rye, simple syrup, and Peychaud's and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover and shake vigorously.
Discard the ice from the glass and strain the shaker mixture into the glass. Rub the rim of the glass with the lemon twist, add to the drink, and serve immediately.