Joy is a new recipe…or three…

posted in: Activity, Daily Doses of Joy, Recipe | 0

My husband and I love food and we love sharing good food with good friends. Throw in some good wine and the rest is history. Some people would never have friends over and make a recipe that was 100% new let alone three recipes. However, we have friends with whom we have an understanding…if the recipe sucks we order pizza. In ten years we have never ordered pizza!

These are the friends with whom we have the Cubs-White Sox bet. Other in between get togethers are usually a simple meal at one of our homes…lots of wine and lots of laughter and good food. A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Southern Cast Iron magazine. Flipping through it, I came across a recipe for Pork and Tasso Gumbo. I was intrigued by a non-fish based gumbo and the idea of a Cajun styled ham.

In this recipe, the pork butt is rubbed with Cajun seasonings (which I got from the Geneva Spice House) and then slow roasted for a total of six hours. While the pork was roasting, I was able to get everything else prepped and ready to combine before our guests arrived.

I did not have time to locate traditional Tasso, so I bought a nice hunk of smoked ham and coated it in the Cajun seasonings for the afternoon. When the pork came out of the oven, everything else went in the Dutch oven and I can only describe the smell as heavenly.


Roasted pork and tasso gumbo

Serves 6


1 (4-pound) boneless Boston butt, untrimmed

3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, divided

2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided

2 tablespoons ground black pepper, divided

3 tablespoons olive oil

10 ounces tasso ham, chopped

1 cup brown roux, recipe follows (any roux recipe will be fine)

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 cup chopped green onion

1 cup chopped poblano pepper

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup chopped celery

¼ cup chopped jalapeño (I used 1 without the seeds)

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 (15-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes

¼ cup prepared mole sauce, such as Doña Maria

4 cups chicken broth

3 bay leaves

2 dried chile peppers

Cooked brown jasmine rice, such as Cajun Grain

Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat oven to 400°. Rub pork butt with 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Place in a roasting pan, fat side up; cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake 45 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°, and cook 5 hours more. Remove from oven, and cool completely. Using a fork, shred meat, and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, add olive oil, and heat over medium heat. Add tasso and cook, stirring often, until browned. Drain and set aside. In the same pan, add roux, and warm over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Once simmering, add onions, peppers, celery, jalapeño, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, mole, broth, bay leaves, dried peppers, and remaining 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 30 minutes. Serve over cooked rice. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, if desired.


If you are going to have a bow of hearty stick to your ribs gumbo, then you certainly need a chunk of corn bread with it. My girlfriend at work always talks about making homemade cornbread, so I knew I had to try it. The recipe called for an 8, 10 or 12 inch skillet. I measured ours and saw that it was 12 inches. That is because I am a dork and didn’t measure the bottom, which was actually 10 inches. So I poured enough batter for a 12 inch pan into our 10 inch pan and said, we’ll see what happens. The result was stupid delicious gigantic pieces of cornbread! I felt like we had enough to walk door to door and hand it out to everyone we know.


Classic Southern Cornbread

For a 10-inch skillet


2 tablespoons oil

2 cups cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

6 tbsp butter

2 large eggs


Preheat over to 425. Pour oil into skilled and place in oven until hot (approx 8 minutes).

In a large bowl mix the cornmeal, flour and baking powder. In another bowl mix the buttermilk, melted butter and eggs. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the milk mixture. Stir until combined. Carefully pour batter into hot oil.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden pix comes out clean. 25 minutes.


After dinner, we retired to the living room with full bellies and smiles on our faces. An hour or so later, I was ready to present the final course… Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding. I was very nervous about this one, because there had been some snaffoos in the process. I was overwhelmed by the compliments from everyone about this dessert. It was ridiculously easy and was incredibly delicious.



Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Sauce

Serves: 8 servings


  • 1 loaf of day old French bread cut into large bite size cubes (about 8 cups)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (I used organic)
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ¾ cup Tate+Lyle® Organic Pure Cane Sugar (I used regular cane sugar)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Vanilla Bean Sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray with cooking spray a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. This is where things went very wrong with my recipe. Perhaps I had not left the bread soak long enough to absorb most of the liquid. When I poured everything into my springform, liquid just leaked out. I ended up baking it in a 9×13 pan and there were no problems.
  2. In a large bowl toss cubed bread, cranberries and nuts.
  3. In another large bowl mix milk, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. In a small bowl whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla until blended then stir into milk mixture.
  5. Add bread, cranberries and pecans and gently stir until it has almost absorbed all of the milk mixture.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes until top is golden brown and center of pudding comes out clean with a tester.
  7. Place pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes.

Vanilla Bean Sauce

  1. While pudding is cooling, add sugar, butter, cream, vanilla beans and pod to a small saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, discard vanilla bean pod and allow to cool slightly. I made the sauce earlier in the day. Once it cooled, I put it in the fridge with the vanilla bean still in it. About 20 minutes before we were going to have dessert, I took it out of the fridge to let it slowly come to room temperature. Before serving, I popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds and took out the bean.
  4. Pour over bread pudding or serve on the side.

Stay tuned for part two with the tasting notes from the wines we enjoyed.


I am really excited about how everything turned out, but more excited to have shared this awesome meal with awesome friends.

A good friend told me recently about how in her beliefs you take your experiences with you when you die. If I were to get to choose what experiences to tug along, last night would be one of them.


May your Sunday bring you joy!



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