Q: Chef, I heard you were in Louisiana recently to open restaurants for a new casino. Did you find any interesting recipes while there that would be good for the chilly months coming up?
A: I had a great experience down there, working side-by-side so many talented chefs who created some of their more famous dishes like gumbo and etouffée. While getting ready for Hurricane Isaac to blow its way through late last month, I came across a wonderful recipe that reminded me of the creamed corn and bacon dish my mother would make on cold winter days. I found two talented chefs who make it two different ways: Chef Otis Dickerson with his soulful recipe, and Chef Troy Deano, with his modern, lighter succotash style, really put their hearts into their dishes that have been passed down through the generations. Below, I have a recipe that will work whether you like the richness of the butter and cream, or a healthier version with delicious flavor.
CREAMED CORN WITH TASSO HAM
4 oz tasso ham, diced
2 T butter
2 lb. corn, kerneled
1 c onion, diced ½ c celery, diced
¼ c red bell pepper, diced
¼ c green onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 T sugar
4 c chicken stock
½ c heavy cream
1 t thyme
1/8 t cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
DIRECTIONS: Render your tasso in butter until crispy. Add onion and celery, and cook until tender. Add red pepper and garlic. When vegetables are cooked, add corn and cook, moving the corn constantly to keep from browning. After about five or 10 minutes, add stock, cream and dry seasonings. Reduce to low heat, cover and let braise for 30 minutes. Sauce should begin to thicken. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add green onion and taste for flavor.
FOR A LIGHTER DISH, MAKE THE FOLLOWING SUBSTITUTIONS: Canola oil for butter
Low-fat ham for tasso (this also will reduce the spiciness of the dish). Use low-sodium chicken stock.
Chef John Johnson is River City Casino executive chef. Do you have a recipe request for Chef John? Email him at John.Johnson@rivercity.com.