Real Men Eat Quiche

What is a quiche really, other than an omelet in a pie crust? What do you serve men holding a homeowners’ board meeting when “refreshments” are expected? Quiche.

How do you pull this together when working? I left a midday meeting and stopped at the grocery for two Pillsbury pie crusts, spinach, a small carton of mushrooms and green onions. I already had eggs, milk, cheese, red pepper and such at the house. I threw everything in the fridge and returned to work.Skillet with diced shallots, red pepper and green onions.

About an hour-and-half before anyone was expected, I did the following.

  • Prime pie crusts by thawing and pre-baking per package instructions for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven.
  • Dice one jumbo green onion, four shallots and one red bell pepper. Saute in skillet with 1-2 tablespoon of butter. Split into two bowls.
  • Saute a bag of spinach in a splash of avocado oil.
  • Return to cutting board and chop a big handful of cilantro.
  • Chop spinach with scissors and fold into one bowl with onion-shallot-pepper mixture. To that, add 1 cup milk, two eggs and your choose of shredded cheese (amount to taste. Try a couple of handfuls). Fold together and then roll into one of the pie crusts. Place in oven and set timer for 30 minutes.
  • Now, saute the mushrooms. Mix those into the other bowl of onion-shallot-pepper mixture with cilantro. Add chopped queso fresco (a quarter of a wheel). Roll into other pie crust and place in over.
  • The quiche should be done in about a half-hour, but you can add 15 minutes to make them extra golden.Leftovers of quiche

Saute mushrooms in skilletThese were a big hit. Oh, and the leftovers are a wonderful alternative to an omelet for breakfast.

–The Sage Leopard


Grits and Boudin Make Even Better Leftovers

Much is made of the comforts of Southern food and its has been enjoying praise in many non-Southern cities. My love of Southern food wasn’t really in my mind in college in Virginia, except for Carolina BBQ.

It wasn’t until I lived in Washington, D.C., that I tasted shrimp and grits at a fancy restaurant that my eyes were opened to broader possibilities. I only knew grits as a wonderful breakfast food.

Shrimp and grits have their origins in the Lowcountry and the Gullah people are credited with combining them. Now, it’s not a bad idea for people who have leftover shrimp from dinner to make grits in the morning to combine them. For us, it’s the other way around: we make a batch of stone-ground grits from Georgia and are delighted at how well they keep in the fridge.

Andouille sausage in a cast-iron skillet.
Browning sliced Andouille sausage in a cast-iron skillet.

What to do with the leftover grits? Well, if you live on the Texas Gulf Coast or near it, you can go to the supermarket and get wild-caught Gulf shrimp. Last time, though, there were only a handful of shrimp left and they were unusually expensive. I looked in the freezer aisle and shook my head. Side by side, there were imported shrimp and Gulf of Mexico shrimp packed in nearby by Galveston. The local frozen shrimp were cheaper too, probably on account that they didn’t have to be shipped as freight across the Pacific Ocean.

I grabbed a pack of Andouille sausage prepared in Texas (shhh, don’t tell Louisiana). At home, I sliced the sausage into relatively think pieces and browned them in a cast-iron skillet. Once nicely browned, I transferred those to paper towel.

Saute chopped bell pepper before adding shrimp and sausage.
Saute chopped bell pepper before adding shrimp and sausage.

Now, for the shrimp, we had the unusual situation of being in possessing of frozen cooked shrimp. Usually, we buy fresh shrimp and my boyfriend shells and cleans them. This time, I boiled water, squeezed in the juice of one big Meyer lemon and pour the shrimp in when the water had reached a roiling boil. I also starting cooking up chopped bell pepper and garlic.

Shrimp and grits in a green bowl.
Shrimp and grits are a wonderful comfort food.

Next, it was time to make the roux. I have yet to master the roux. Frankly, I’m not that good at it and should just listen to a friend from New Orleans who makes it with flour and oil. This time, I once again tried butter and flour. You put those in a pan and stir for 10 minutes until it turns brown. My roux was more like beige. Anyhoo, I combined everything: drained cooked shrimp, browned sausage, peppers and garlic and the roux. The leftover grits were heated in the microwave.

Boudin Balls

These are the best if you are at a good Cajun restaurant. To the uninitiated, let me take a step back: boudin is a Cajun pork sausage that includes rice. It has a soft consistency.

Boudin balls browning in a pan.
Browning the boudin balls in olive oil.

We have a tradition, inherited from my boyfriend’s uncle, of stopping at Boudin King in Jennings, Louisiana, when we are driving back to Texas from Georgia. We have a cooler with us just for this purpose. Their fried chicken is outstanding as well. We keep a few links in the freezer.

Ranch dressing with hot sauce.
Store-bought ranch dressing mixed with hot sauce.

We recently grilled some of the boudin and there was a link left over. Here is how I made the boudin balls. I sliced the link lengthwise and peeled off the casing. In a bowl, I smashed up the meat and rice with a fork, then added an egg and beat it all together. Now, I added shredded Parmesan and Italian style breadcrumbs until the consistency was tight enough to scoop into balls with a teaspoon and my hands. I then rolled the balls in breadcrumbs in a cereal bowl. Meanwhile, I had started heating olive oil in a sauté pan.

I browned them all around and while doing so added slices of red bell pepper and some leftover grilled asparagus. For the dipping sauce, I mixed a Greek yogurt Ranch dressing with Frank’s hot sauce. Voila, I liked my homemade boudin balls as much as great restaurant boudin balls. I love boudin balls more than I like boudin. They are the epitome of leftovers being better than the original meal. Just like shrimp and grits!

Always enjoy your leftovers!

The Sage Leopard

Sausage and spinach lasagna (psst, leftovers reincarnation)

Here’s my approach to cooking: I left a client meeting this afternoon and drove down the main road toward the house. The supermarket rose on the horizon, but if I stayed on the road, I would beat the rush hour traffic. My mind’s eye explored the fridge and I recalled the leftover jalapeno cheese sausage. My mind then scanned the pantry, where a half-package of no-boil lasagna sheets awaited. For the filling, I knew we had ricotta and parmesan cheese. The fridge also contained a half bag of spinach. Apparently, the fridge already held all the answers. Well, at least it told me what to make for dinner: lasagna.

Lasagna with sausage and spinach
Lasagna with sausage and spinach

For the tomato sauce, my from scratch recipe is really fast: sauté in olive oil a few cloves of freshly chopped garlic with about 1/3 of a cup diced sweet onion. Once golden, add a big can of plum tomatoes (28 oz.). Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, I diced the two links of leftover sausage. Then, I mixed 15 oz. of ricotta cheese in a bowl with one egg. To prepare the spinach, I put it on a microwave safe cooking plate and chopped it up with a chef’s knife. I covered it with a couple of wet paper towels and nuked it for three minutes. Now, it was assembly time. While the oven preheated to 375 degrees, I greased a casserole dish with canola spray. Here’s the order: ladle some tomato sauce on the bottom. Lay down lasagna sheets to cover the bottom. Use a spatula to spread a third of the ricotta mixture down. Sprinkle on diced sausage. Spread over that with spinach.  Ladle on more tomato sauce. Repeat that series once more. Finally, cover with lasagna sheets and ladle that top with tomato sauce. Sprinkle top with ample amounts of chopped fresh parsley. Lastly, grate parmesan cheese over as the finishing touch. Bake 25 minutes, then let rest for 15 minutes on the stovetop. How easy was that?

Bon Appetit.

The Sage Leopard