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Thanksgiving in Acadiana features the main event,
but the side dishes can dazzle the imagination

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Marcelle Bienvenu

“Thanksgiving in our family is often a movable feast. The place and approx-
imate time of the meal depend on how large a group is expected and the
schedule of arrivals and departures for out-of-town family members.
If the entire family is in attendance, there will be more than 30, including
adults of all ages, babes in arms, toddlers in highchairs as well as teenagers
and collegians and sometimes guests.
No one's house is large enough to seat everyone at a formal table, so if the
weather cooperates, there is informal dining on patios or in the huge garage-
like buildings that accommodate large party barges or recreational vehicles.
There is little or no regret that we eat on paper plates or on  lap trays.
And although I've tried to introduce creative menus (stuffed Cornish hens,
roasted pork loin with apple glaze, or prime rib), the menu remains, more
or less, the same -- baked turkey, stuffed pork roast, baked ham with pine-
apple glaze, rice dressing, spinach Madeline, some kind of sweet potato dish,
two to three vegetable casseroles, French bread, dinner rolls and an assort-
ment of pies and cakes.
The only variations might include the addition of oysters or eggplant to
the rice dressing
, small chicken patties, and corn Creole (my favorite). Our
rituals are not unlike the rest of Acadiana. The men, usually my brothers
Henri Clay and Baby Brother Bruce, do the honors of carving the bird,
roast and ham. (We still use the same meat platters Mama used years ago.)
Then, once all the sides are put out, someone always exclaims that there is
not nearly enough room to put everything on one plate. Groan! Better take
two plates or make two rounds at the buffet.
Of course, there are usually two or three children who want PLAIN rice
with butter - no rice dressing with "things" in it. And it's times like this
when I wish turkeys came with more than two drumsticks and two wings
because every small child wants one or the other. And we all know that
my sister sneaks away with the turkey neck and giblets -- her favorites.

. . . . . . .

Brother Henri will not sit down to Thanksgiving dinner unless there's a
large casserole of this on the buffet table. It's from 'River Road Recipes,'
first published in 1959 by the Junior League of Baton Rouge. I must
mention that the original recipe called for a 6-ounce roll of jalapeno
cheese, which has been discontinued. I have been substituting a 6-ounce
roll of garlic cheese. However, you can try using 6 to 8 ounces of pro-
cessed cheese, plus one seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper, or an 8-
ounce jar of jalapeno cheese.” [Oops! 6-ounce. roll of garlic cheese no
longer available! See Note below.]

Spinach Madeline

Makes about 8 servings

2 packages frozen chopped spinach
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped onions
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup vegetable liquid
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon celery salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Salt to taste
One 6-ounce roll garlic cheese,
cut into small pieces *
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Cayenne to taste
Buttered bread crumbs (optional)

Coat a casserole dish with nonstick spray, and preheat oven to 350
degrees F.
Cook the spinach according to package directions. Drain and reserve
the liquid from the pot. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
Add the flour, stirring until blended and smooth, but not brown. Add
the onions and cook until soft but not brown. Add the milk and one-
half cup of the reserved liquid from the spinach pot. Stir constantly
to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring, until smooth and thick. Add the
seasonings and cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted.
Pour into the casserole dish and top with buttered bread crumbs.
Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

* Note: Can you believe it? Kraft no longer makes rolls of garlic cheese! Egad!
What were they thinking?!?!? This decision caused a minor revolution in the
Deep South several years ago! Thanks to Kraft and Deep South Dish (and
many others via Google) there is no longer a need for panic!

Garlic Cheese Rolls (substitute for Kraft)

1 1/2 pounds sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound Velveeta cheese
3 ounces cream cheese
1 seasoned salt
Garlic powder to taste

Bring cheeses to room temperature and place them in large mixing
bowl. Add salt and garlic powder, then mix all ingredients together
well. Shape into four rolls and wrap well in foil or plastic wrap. 

. . . . . . .

"Mama and I favored this cabbage dish, which we served not
only for Thanksgiving, but also for Christmas and New Year's."

Glorified Cabbage

Makes about 8 servings

1 medium-size head green cabbage,
cut in half
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium-size yellow
onions, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium-size green bell
pepper, chopped
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 stick butter
4 slices white bread, toasted and trimmed,
moistened with 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
Salt and cayenne to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound American or cheddar
cheese, grated
3/4 cup dried fine bread crumbs

Cook the cabbage in boiling salted water until just tender. Remove
from the heat and drain. When slightly cooled, finely chop.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions,
celery and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until soft and golden,
five to six minutes. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring often, until
soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the cream, butter, and the toasted bread crumbs and stir until
the butter is completely melted. Season with salt and cayenne. Add
the parsley and garlic. Mix well. Pour the mixture into a large casse-
role. Combine the cheese and bread crumbs and sprinkle evenly over
the top. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through, about 30 minutes.


Cauliflower Casserole

Makes 8 servings

1 large head of cauliflower
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons chopped pimento

Break the cauliflower into flowerets. Cook in boiling salted water just
until slightly tender, about eight minutes. Drain and set aside.
Cook the bell peppers in the butter until tender. Blend in the flour and gradually stir in the milk. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat
until the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the salt, cheese and pimento.
Place half of the cauliflower in a lightly buttered casserole. Cover with
half of the sauce. Add the remaining cauliflower and top with the
remaining sauce. Bake for 15 minutes at 325 degrees.

. . . . . . .

"Tired of the same old, same old candied yams? This recipe can be
doubled, but not tripled. If you have to make a large amount, make
two batches of a double recipe."

Sweet Potato Pone

Makes about 6 servings

1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
2 cups grated raw sweet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Beat the egg with the sugar and softened butter until the mixture is
slightly fluffy. Add the sweet potatoes, salt and milk and mix well.
Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole and bake for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the top with the chopped pecans and return to the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes longer, or until the mixture sets. Serve warm.

. . . . . . .

"My sister and I fight over the last crumbs in the baking dish."

Corn Creole

Makes about 6 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon drippings
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cups cream-style corn
1 large egg, beaten
2 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
Salt and cayenne to taste
Fine dried bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil or bacon drippings in a
large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and bell peppers,
and cook, stirring, for about four minutes, or until soft and lightly golden.
Add the corn, the egg and the milk. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Add the cornmeal and stir until the mixture thickens. Season
with salt and cayenne and pour into a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle
the top with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake for about 30
minutes, or until bubbly and hot.

Lagniappe... Marcelle's Ambrosia Cake!

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