Chef Isaac Toups shares some of his signature recipes

The Dish: Chef Isaac Toups

Isaac Toups was born in Cajun country to a food-loving family that's lived in Louisiana for more than 300 years. From barbecues and fish frys to shrimp and crawfish boils, his early years were filled with flavor.

After starting out as professional chef, he worked for Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans, where he and his wife Amanda opened their own venue called Toups' Meatery featuring house cured meats.

Here are some of Toups' signature recipes:

Fried bone-in pork chops with espresso aioli & squash pickles (Serves 4)

Pork chops:

Ingredients

4 half inch cut bone-in heritage pork chops

Peanut oil for frying

Buttermilk Marinade:

1 qt buttermilk

1/8 cup of salt

1/8 cup of Toups smokey green hot sauce

1 TBSP black pepper

Pork Bread Crumbs:    

2 qt plain bread crumbs

1/4 cup salt

1 TBSP black pepper

1 TBSP cayenne

Method:

1.    Soak the chops in the buttermilk-Tabasco brine for 24 hours.

2.    Remove pork chops from marinade removing excess marinade then place into bread crumbs, making sure to cover pork chops well with crumbs.

3.    Fry at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes each until golden brown and reach an internal temp of 165°F. Serve immediately and ENJOY!!!!!

At Toups South, they're served four to an order, held together with a big knife, and plated on a cutting board with espresso aioli (inspired by David Chang), white bread, squash pickles, and lettuce.

Squash pickles:

Ingredients

4 cups of 1/8-inch-thick rounds of yellow squash

1¼ cups white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)

1 cup water

¼ cup sugar

1 TSP kosher salt

½ TSP curry powder

½ TSP crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Method

1.    Pack the sliced squash in a food-safe container, like a 1-quart Mason jar.

2.    In a saucepan set over high heat, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, curry powder, and pepper flakes (if using). Stir one good time when you put everything in the pot, and then leave it alone as the liquid comes to a boil. After it has boiled, pour the hot liquid over the squash. Let it cool down to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. These will keep refrigerated and tightly covered for up to 2 weeks.

Espresso aioli

Ingredients

4 egg yolks

2 TBSP Dijon mustard

2 TBSP apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP espresso powder

2 TBSP brown sugar

2 TSP kosher salt

2 cups neutral vegetable oil, like canola

Method

1.       In a food processor, combine the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, espresso powder, brown sugar and salt. Pulse several times until all ingredients are mixed together. With motor running, very slowly drizzle in the first ½ cup of oil; once the oil has emulsified, you can pour in the rest. The whole process should take about 30 seconds.

2.       A lot of people go too slowly when making mayo, and the oil warms up and the mayo can break on you. Some cooks do this in a mixer with a whisk attachment, but I think that adds too much air. I like a thick mayo, not a light fluffy mayo.

*Keep refrigerated and use within 4 days.

[NOTE: trouble uploading pics after the first one, do it later]

Dirty rice (Serves 4-6) 

Ingredients

Meat:

1 block (1 lb.) lean ground sirloin

2 TSP kosher salt

1 TBSP grapeseed oil

½ TSP ground black pepper

½ TSP toasted ground cumin

¼ TSP cayenne pepper

1/3 cup amber beer

Gravy:

¼ cup grapeseed oil

¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup finely chopped white onion

½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1⁄3 cup finely chopped celery

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1⁄3 cup amber beer

1 cup chicken stock, plus more as needed

2 cups Jasmine rice or any medium grain white rice

2 TBSP unsalted butter

½ bunch green onions (green tops only), chopped

Kosher salt

Method

1.       Season the block of sirloin—no fancy shaping needed, just use it how it comes out of the tray from the grocery store—with 1 teaspoon of salt on each side.

2.        In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it starts to smoke. Place the sirloin block in the skillet in one piece and let it sear until it really browns and caramelizes, 3 to 5 minutes. Then flip it and repeat, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Let it do its thing.

3.       Once the block of sirloin is well seared, chop it up in the pan with a metal spatula to sear the inside bits. Add the black pepper, cumin, and cayenne and stir well. Cook for a minute. Add the beer to deglaze the pan, and cook 1 minute longer, scraping up any browned bits. Remove from the heat and set aside. At this point, you could freeze the meat.

4.       In a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, make a dark roux using the oil and flour, about 45 minutes. Once it's the color of milk chocolate, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and stir together. Cook for a minute. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the beer and mix well. In 1/3-cup increments, add the stock, stirring well between each addition. Stir frequently, but not continuously, until you have a well emulsified gravy, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

5.       Once the gravy is done, add the cooked beef. Add a splash of stock to the meat pan to deglaze to get the remaining "junk" out—the delicious extra bits that stick to the pan—and add to the gravy and meat. Bring the meat and gravy mixture back to a bare simmer. Cover and cook for 1 ½ hours, or until the raw flour has all cooked out and the sauce has no chalky or floury flavor.

6.       Add the cooked rice, butter, and green onions to the meat gravy in the pot. Stir it all together over low heat, just to warm it all through. Add salt to taste and serve. 

Lacquered collards (Serves 6-8)

Ingredients

1 TBSP neutral vegetable oil, like canola or grapeseed

1 large onion, thinly sliced

10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

½ pound bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice

½ pound brisket (cooked), cut into ¼-inch dice

1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer, porter or stout

2 cups chicken stock (page 000 or store-bought)

¼ cup cane syrup

2 TSP kosher salt

½ TSP ground black pepper

½ TSP cayenne

2 (1-pound) bunches collard greens, stemmed and torn into pieces about the size of a dollar bill, then cut in half lengthwise

Methods

1.    Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium- high heat for a couple of minutes.  Add the oil and heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Add the onion and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown. You want good caramelization on the onion. Add the crushed garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the bacon and brisket and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally, until the fat begins to render.

2.    Add the beer, stock, cane syrup, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Give it a good stir. Reduce the heat to medium and bring mixture up to a simmer. Add one-third of collard greens and stir. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.

3.    Add another third of the collards, stir, cover, and cook for 10 more minutes. Add the last third of collards, stir, and cover. Cook for 45 minutes over medium heat. (We're intentionally cooking pretty hot because there's a lot of liquid in the pot and you're ultimately steaming the collards to break them down.)

4.    Uncover the pot and give it a good stir. Reduce the heat to medium-low, keeping at a low simmer, and cook uncovered for 1½ hours, stirring every 10 minutes. Stir them often because you want the syrup and stock to really adhere to all of the greens—really lacquer them. There won't be a lot of water left at the bottom of the pot when these are done, only about a cup of liquid total. They'll be sticky and meaty and incredible.

Isaac's cornbread (Serves 8)

Ingredients 

Dry:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup corn meal

½ cup sugar

½ TBSP baking powder

½ TBSP kosher salt

Wet:

2 whole eggs, well beaten

1 stick butter melted, plus one TB

5 oz whole milk

2 TBSP honey

Method

1.    Mix all dry ingredients in medium mixing bowl until fully incorporated. In separate bowl whisk eggs, milk, and honey together. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir vigorously for 5 seconds. Then add butter except the last TBSP and stir for another 5 seconds. Mixture should just come together, do not over mix.

2.    Add last TBSP of butter to baking pan and heat in oven for 5 min. Remove pan from oven and swirl to coat. Add mixture to pan and spread out evenly. Cook for 20 min at 350°F or until cake tester comes out clean. Rest for 10 min. Cut into 8 portions and serve.

Cane syrup hand pies (Makes about 24) 

Ingredients 

Filling:

2 cups granulated sugar, divided

½ cup water

6 TBSP (¾ stick) unsalted butter

½ cup heavy cream

2 TSP vanilla extract, divided

2 dashes fine sea salt, divided

2 cups cane syrup

6 large eggs, beaten

Hand pie dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 TBSP kosher salt

2 TSP granulated sugar

4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, frozen and cut into ½-inch pieces

¾ cups ice water (make a large glass of ice water to measure from)

Assembly:

egg wash of 1 large egg and 2 TBSP heavy cream beaten together

pure cane sugar, to garnish

Methods:

1.    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with butter. In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and the water and bring to boil, stirring regularly until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and then the cream. Mix well and add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and a dash of sea salt. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and let cool.

2.    Add the remaining 1 cup sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla, the cane syrup, beaten eggs, and dash of sea salt. Stir until well blended. Pour into the buttered casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes, turning the casserole dish halfway through to ensure the filling cooks evenly. Let cool.

3.    Pour the mixture into a bowl and remix the filling. Cover and store in the refrigerator for several hours (overnight is better), until the filling is completely cold and set.

4.    Combine the flour, kosher salt, and granulated sugar in a food processor and pulse until blended. Add one-third of the frozen butter pieces at a time and pulse. Open the processor and fluff with a fork as needed. The mixture should look crumbly, but not creamed.

5.    Turn on the food processor and quickly drizzle in the ice water. As soon as the water is incorporated (this will happen very quickly), stop the processor.

6.    Empty the mixture out onto a floured silicone baking mat. I use a baking mat that has crust sizes printed on it. This comes in handy when you are rolling out lots of 6-inch pie crusts. Press the dough mixture into a ball, very quickly so the heat from your hands doesn't melt the butter. Once you have a ball of dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a ziplock bag. Put it in the refrigerator for several hours (overnight is better) until the dough it completely cold and set.

7.    Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

8.    Remove the dough and filling from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, slice off a chunk of the dough, enough to roll into a 1½-inch ball. Flatten the dough on the floured silicone baking mat and roll into a 6-inch circle with the floured rolling pin.

9.    With your pastry brush, brush the outer edges of the dough circle with egg wash. Using the cookie dough scoop, put two scoops (about two heaping tablespoons) filling into the center of the dough. Fold the dough over in half and seal by crimping the edges with a fork.

10.  Place the pie on a lined baking sheet. Repeat rolling and filling until the baking sheet is filled, being careful not to crowd the hand pies. Place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

11.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the pies from refrigerator and, using a sharp knife, cut 3 slits into the top of each pie. Brush each pie with the egg wash and sprinkle cane sugar on top.

12.  Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving warm; they're also good at room temp the next day.

Trinidad Trader

Ingredients

1.5 oz angostura

1 oz pineapple juice

ginger beer

Methods

1.    Shake and strain into Collins glass with ice, top with ginger beer.