Friday, February 23, 2007

Home Cooking in Houston by Jay and Victoria

Jay Wehnert's "shrimp in muddy waters sauce," is at left. His wife Victoria Harrison's "okra and tomato" recipe is at right. Jay says that he adapted his shrimp recipe from Uglesich's Restaurant in New Orleans. Victoria adapted her okra recipe from River Road Recipes II, the Baton Rouge Junior League cookbook. Jay and Victoria served these dishes to Mrs. Yi and me for Valentine's night dinner at their home in Houston's Heights district. Their house is as much a private museum of primitive folk art as it is a house. Having had extensive experience with Louisiana's numerous and varied cuisines, I found Jay and Victoria's preparations to be as good as any of them get. In fact, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a shrimp dish or an okra dish more.
After dinner, more guests came over for chocolate and champagne. A frequent dining companion of author and Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh was among them. Coincidentally, Mr. Walsh's Are You Really Going to Eat It: Reflections of a Culinary Adventure seeker was one of but three books that my busy schedule had freed up the time for me to read cover to cover last year. Serendipitously, within an hour, this wonderful lady had made arrangements for me to join Robb for lunch the next day at a restaurant he was reviewing. The review should be published soon. Shortly thereafter, Unique Culinary Adventures will be doing a post regarding some of the wisdom Robb shared with me over lunch and later on a trip to Houston's Chinatown.
But for now, here are the recipes for Jay's shrimp and Victoria's okra and tomatoes.
For sauce:
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. flour
1 tube anchovy paste
1 can chicken broth
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced thin.
Combine canola oil and flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly to make a roux the color of peanut butter. Remove from heat and add anchovy paste, stirring to make a gravy. Return pan to low heat and slowly add stock, stirring frequently. When combined, add garlic and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Then add jalapenos and cook for another 5 minutes.
For shrimp
2 pounds large shrimp---15 count
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. parsley flakes
salt and pepper
olive oil
French Bread
Peel shrimp leaving tails on. Then toss them in olive oil, coating well. Next, combine dry ingredients in a plastic bag. Add shrimp to bag and toss until well coated, remove, then fry in olive oil over medium heat until properly done (about 3 minutes per side). To serve, surround a mound of rice with eight shrimp, generously spoon sauce over shrimp, and serve with French bread.
Adapted by Jay from a recipe used at Uglesich's Restaurant in New Orleans
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
1 pound fresh okra, stems removed and cut in 1/4 inch rounds
1 handful grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half if larger ones
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
Tabasco sauce (optional)
Heat olive oil over low to medium heat. Then throw in the chopped onion and saute until tender. It's ok if the onion caramelizes slightly. Then add the okra and stir regularly over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the okra has reached a point of being a bit crunchy, but not soft. Add the tomatoes, mix, and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Squeeze lemon juice over the okra and tomatoes and add the zest. Stir quickly and serve immediately with Tabasco if you wish.
Adapted by Victoria from River Road Recipes II, the Baton Rouge Junior League Cookbook