River Road Recipes - The textbook of Louisiana Cuisine

270 pages; No photographs or sketches.  Spiral Bound

The Junior League of Baton Rouge, Inc. 72nd Edition April, 2000

Reviewed for Good Cooking by Ruby Lam 12/02

If you just want to buy one book about southern cooking to complete your cookbook collection, this is the book you want to get. The River Road Recipes is a comprehensive collection of southern style cooking, from seafood gumbo to southern style barbeque steak. The book is very well organized based on ingredient types so you can easily find whatever you would like to try. In addition, it covers many recipes that utilize non-traditional southern ingredients, for example, lobster meat and chicken breast, prepared in southern style, so no matter which part of the country you are from, you would be able to find some ingredients available in your neighborhood to prepare a southern dish using a recipe from this book. 

I tried the Lobster Rara Avis. I chose this recipe because lobsters are readily available in the Boston area, where I live. I have had lobsters all my life, cooked in many different ways, for example, steamed, baked, sautéed, curried, etc. However, I have never tried lobster with Worcestershire sauce. By reading the recipe, I thought the Worcestershire sauce would be too overwhelming for the lobster. Yet, the dish turned out fabulous. The lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce work together miraculously to create a slightly sour, yet refreshing taste. Be careful not to overload the Worcestershire sauce though. An overdose of Worcestershire sauce would take away the natural flavor from the lobster meat. If I were to make this dish again, I would probably try adding some aromatic herbs, such as rosemary or thyme to spice up the lobster and perhaps try using some other types of mushrooms, such as oyster and porcini, to make this dish more exotic.

The last section of the book, "How Men Cook", deserves a special mention. The recipes found in this section are dishes that are traditionally very complicated to make, yet presented and rearranged in a straight forward and simple fashion. Any man can take a recipe in this section and make a "complicated" dish very easily to impress their friends and family.

Lobster Rara Avis

1 pound rock lobster tails
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or enough to give tart flavor)
1/2 stick butter 
1/4 cup chopped onion 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced 
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Remove raw lobster tails from shells, cut into 1-inch square pieces. Melt butter in skillet. Sauté chopped onion and sliced mushrooms over medium heat until onion is soft but not brown. Add lobster meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is opaque. Do not overcook. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Serve over crisp toast strips. Serves 2 or 3. Shrimp may he substituted for lobster. Canned mushrooms may be used, although flavor is not as good. Do not spare lemon juice and Worcestershire. Red pepper may be added if you like.

Mrs. W. G. Reymond

The Junior League of Baton Rouge, Inc. sent Good Cooking the following recipe and picture to include in this review.  Following the Red Velvet Cake recipe is a shrimp and crab dish from the book called Shrimp St. Jacques.  Good Cooking's comments---delicious! 

Red Velvet Cake---A Holiday Tradition. If you’re looking for an impressive dessert to celebrate this year’s traditional holiday dinner, brunch or dessert party, try this special Red Velvet Cake from River Road Recipes II, A Second Helping.
This pretty Red Velvet Cake with white vanilla icing is a favorite tried and true recipe that has been the center of many southern celebrations. The cake’s red filling is moist and delicious, and combined with the fluffy white icing, it makes a beautiful holiday dessert.
First published in 1959, by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, Inc., the popularity of the River Road Recipes cookbook series is a well-known success story. The series includes three volumes: River Road Recipes, River Road Recipes II, A Second Helping and River Road Recipes III, A Healthy Collection. The River Road Recipes cookbook series holds a place of honor in community cookbook history as the #1 all-time best selling community cookbook series in the nation.

Red Velvet Cake

2 ounces red food coloring
2 teaspoons cocoa, heaping
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar

Make a paste of red food coloring and cocoa. Cream shortening and sugar thoroughly. Add eggs and mix well, then add the paste. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour and salt. Beat well after each addition and then add vanilla. Put soda into the vinegar and fold into the batter. Pour batter into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and split each layer in half, making 4 layers. Frost layers with icing.

Icing:
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cook flour and milk until thick. Then cool. Be sure it is cool. Cream together margarine and sugar. Add vanilla. Beat the two mixtures together until the consistency is that of whipped cream.

Shrimp St. Jacques 

Yield: 8 servings

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined 
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil 
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup evaporated skim milk OR low fat OR skim milk 
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce 
2 tablespoons white wine
1 cup grated cheese (2 ounces each Havarti and reduced fat sharp cheddar)
1 teaspoon grated onion 
1 /4 cup chopped parsley 
1 /8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound lump crabmeat

Boil shrimp in water seasoned with chopped onion until tender. Make a white sauce with oil, flour, and milk. Add mustard, Tabasco sauce, wine, cheese, onion, and parsley. Add salt and pepper. Fold in crabmeat and shrimp. Pour into a greased casserole. If desired, sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake until brown.

Carolyn B. Landry Jon L. Bienvenu