Day 3 of Gumbo Saga-combining roux with stock

Day 3 of Gumbo Saga-combining roux with stock

gumbo potato saladgumbo final

Happy New Year!! I can’t believe 2015 is coming to a close. This year has been filled with so many beautiful memories for me—raising my daughter, the start of a new job, making lots of new friends—I feel so blessed! I am truly excited to have finished making my New Year’s gumbo, and to share the ending of the process with all of you. I can tell you, that now that I am finished with my gumbo, I feel accomplished, proud and ready for anything that 2016 can bring me! Also, seeing the smile on my husband’s face as he tastes my homemade gumbo is a little lagniappe that brings me joy!

So, for a quick recap…on day 1, we made our chicken stock, AKA “liquid gold”. I got lots of comments from friends that they had no idea how easy chicken stock was to make, and how they enjoyed making their own! I hope this was the same for you.

After the stock was made, we worked on perfecting our roux. As I mentioned in the blog, the roux is something that takes time, patience, skill, and heart! Several people approached me saying “my roux never comes out right!” But, after reviewing my blog, many of them have found they were adding the flour to the oil too quickly, dropping the temperature of the roux. In addition to the continual stirring, adding the flour, as well as the holy trinity, slowly to the roux is the most important thing when making a roux.

Lastly, it’s time to combine the roux with your stock. This, my friends, is where the magic happens!! I bring my stock to a boil, and add the Rotel. Many Cajuns may scoff at the idea of adding rotel to gumbo. However, as I will describe in further detail in future posts, I come from a unique background of Creole and Cajun influence. Creole cooking is considered more refined than Cajun cooking, often adding tomatoes, herbs, butter or garlic resulting in a more rich and luxurious sauce. My mom, being from New Orleans, has taught me many Creole cooking techniques, the main one being adding tomato to EVERYTHING! I always have a can of Rotel on hand, and I love the acidity and kick it adds to my gumbo. Honestly, once you are done with your gumbo, the Rotel will cook out and you won’t know it’s there. However, the flavor it adds is unparalleled!

Here we go!

Ingredients:

Your homemade chicken stock

Your homemade roux

½ can rotel

1 lb smoked sausage, cut in ½ in cubes OR sliced, depending on how you like it!

Reserved rotisserie chicken

Fresh green onion

Rice

Instructions:

Music pairing: Tab Benoit

Wine pairing: your favorite cab. I love Josh Cabernet

Cook rice

Bring your chicken stock to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat, and add half can of rotel (Make sure you get rotel juices in the pot). Let this boil, uncovered, about 20 minutes, until rotel softens.

Once the stock is boiling and the rotel is added, your stock may begin to reduce. Mine certainly did this time! This is why I suggested earlier on to have more chicken stock on hand, in the event you need to add more. Once your stock is boiling, you gradually add the roux. I add the roux with a large spoon (about 1/4 cup), one spoonful at a time. I add the spoonful, stir it, let it release into the stock, and see what happens from there. You will instantly begin seeing the color of your gumbo change. This part of making gumbo is unique to everyone! You may find that one scoop of roux might create gumbo the way YOU like it. For me, it took 3 scoops of roux to create the thickness I want in a gumbo, which is seen in the picture above. This is truly something you have to take time with. Add the roux, stir, and see where it takes you! If you find your liquid is reducing more than you like, cover it and lower the heat.

Once your gumbo has become your desired consistency, add your sausage to the pot. Cook covered over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Once uncovered, you might see that your gumbo has a greasy film at the top of the pan. Now it’s time to skim the fat! Get a spoon and gently skim the fat from the top of the pan, placing the fat in another bowl. Continue to skim the fat until the top of your gumbo looks like you’d want to eat it (Not too greasy). Once this happens, gradually add chicken to your pot. I say add it gradually because you might find that you don’t want to use all the chicken, depending on how meaty you like your gumbo. Once your chicken is added and warmed, add chopped, fresh green onion and stir. Put some rice in a bowl, top with gumbo. Fix a small plate of potato salad on the side, and plop some of that potato salad into your bowl. And guess what? You’re ready to eat!

Now, how fun was that?!

I really hope you all enjoyed my New Year’s Eve gumbo saga as much as I have enjoyed sharing it. I am a person who LOVES traditions, and carrying on this tradition from my dad, and sharing it with all of you, makes me feel warm and fuzzy!

I now wish you the most special, beautiful, incredible New Year’s Eve ever, as well as a memorable 2016. We all have our New Year’s resolutions….but, let’s all promise, together, to keep learning, exploring, and savoring this beautiful life we are so blessed to have.

Deal?

-Mandy B “Cajun Queen”

 

LAGNIAPPE: POTATO SALAD!

Ok. One more thing. While I am the cook (and the boss) in my house, my sweet husband contributes. He helps me with measurements (not my strong suit), he cooks rice (I can’t cook rice), and he makes the potato salad! He uses his mom’s recipe, which is simple, and perfect for gumbo. Here’s his GUEST BLOG!

*The following words come from Terrent Broussard*

1 egg per potato for medium sized potatoes (about the size of my fist). I usually use 6 of each which lasts Mandy and me 2 days (because we eat gumbo for breakfast, lunch and dinner)

6 potatoes (peeled and diced in 1 inch cubes)

6 large eggs

Mayonnaise

Mustard

Salt, pepper, red pepper, horseradish

Johnny Jam dressing

  • Bring medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil
  • Carefully drop in cubed potatoes and eggs into boiling water. (I use a slotted spoon for the eggs to carefully place items into water to prevent splashing). Partially cover pot.
  • Once water returns to a boil, look at the clock. Add 15 minutes to that time. Once that time arrives, pour all contents into large colander into the sink. Once drained, place potatoes and peeled eggs into large bowl,
  • Using a potato masher (some call it a bean masher, although mine has never seen a bean of any sort), marry the potatoes and eggs and add mayonnaise, mustard, Johnny Jam Dressing, cayenne, black pepper, salt, and horseradish to taste.
  • Once done, find the biggest spoon in your kitchen your mouth can handle, fill half of that spoon with potato salad, and the other half of that spoon with gumbo….enjoy!!!!

 

 

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ROUX

ROUX

roux 6

Repeat after me: I MAKE MY OWN ROUX.

Feels good, don’t it?!

I’ve hear so many people say, “I can’t make that recipe because I can’t make a roux”. That makes me so sad. However, I get it! Because I, too, was beyond intimidated by making a roux. I’d heard so many horror stories, and I just made the assumption that I wasn’t capable. Well, one day, my mom sat me down and said “it’s time. I’m going to teach you to make a roux”. That’s right, my mom taught me! My dad was not always the best instructor for beginners. My mom, however, possesses great patience and is a great teacher for someone just starting out. That day, she told me the idea behind a roux, the process involved with making a roux, and she even told me that she, one of the most seasoned chefs I know, has had to throw roux in the trash because she ruined it. This let me know that it happens, and it’s ok. However, it also made me want to face the challenge. I wanted to learn.

Since that day, I, too, have had to throw roux in the trash. I made the mistake once of adding the holy trinity to the roux right in the beginning of cooking the roux, as opposed to mixing it in towards the end, once the roux had darkened. This made for a white, lumpy, disgusting pot of mush. After throwing away that roux, I ordered pizza and went about my life. But, I tried again soon after.

What is a roux? Well, a roux is a thickening agent used in cooking. The French use butter as their form of fat for the roux. However, it is typically custom in Cajun culture to use vegetable oil as the fat for the roux, especially when making a dark roux, which is what is used for gumbo. It is customary to Cajun dishes to use a dark roux for dishes because of the intense flavor it adds to the dish. When making a roux, it is known to use equal parts flour and oil. It is important to use all-purpose flour, as well as a wooden spoon. There are many places today where you can buy a “roux spoon”. I recently purchased one at the Tabasco plant. A roux spoon has a flat edge, allowing you to stir the roux, and to scrape the pan evenly, preventing sticking.

There are several stages of color when cooking a roux. For this recipe, we want a rich, dark roux, a little darker than caramel, but not quite the color of chocolate. Below, I attached pictures of the color progression of my roux.

I used a large cast iron pot for this roux, so I decided to make a large amount of roux. I used 4 cups of oil, and 4 cups of flour. I like to make a large amount of roux, because I am always afraid to run out of roux when I am combining it with my stock for my gumbo. Also, it’s great to have extra because you can store it in your freezer for next time!

Here we go!

Music Pairing: Jazz music

Wine pairing: Bad news. Don’t drink and roux! You must stay focused! But have a cold Michelob Ultra ready to drink once you’re done!

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil

All-purpose flour (remember equal parts oil and flour. Make as much as you want. I used 4 cups of each)

1 onion

1 large bell pepper

3 celery stalks (I like using 1 celery stalk with the leafy greens)

Instructions:

    • Chop all produce. Set aside, together, in a bowl.
    • Pour oil into a large pot (I use either cast iron or Magnalite). Put heat up to medium high.
    • Once oil has been on medium high for about 5-7 minutes, test the oil by sprinkling a bit of flour into oil. If the oil is ready, the flour will sizzle, and you know you’re ready to add the rest of your flour.
    • Gradually add flour! Do not dump all the flour in at once. I keep the bag of flour next to me, and gradually sprinkle in the flour, using a 1 cup measuring spoon. As you add flour, continuously stir. DON’T STOP STIRRING! That’s the key to making sure you don’t burn your roux.
    • As you stir, be sure to break up clumps of flour.
    • Once all flour is added, continue to stir. This is when you will see the roux in all its beautiful color stages.
    • Your roux will go from light, to medium, to dark. Keep stirring until it becomes a dark caramel color.
    • Once roux is a dark caramel color, add produce. Like the flour, DON’T ADD ALL PRODUCE AT ONCE! The produce will drop the temperature of the roux, and it’s important to make sure your roux stays hot. So, gradually add produce, while continually stirring. This is when your roux will become fragrant. It’s my favorite smell in the universe.
    • Your roux will sizzle when you add the produce. Keep stirring!
    • You’ll know your roux is done once the produce is soft, and the roux is darker, not quite the color of chocolate. At this point, you can turn off the heat. But, continue to stir! The pot is still hot.
    • Set roux aside and let it cool. Once cooled, transfer to a food storage container and put it in the fridge.
  • Throughout the entire roux process, please note:
  •  If your roux starts to steam a little too much, turn the fire down a tad.
  • Don’t stop stirring!
  • If you feel your roux is too soupy, gradually add in sprinkles of flour and stir.

Below I added pictures of the color progression of my roux.

Good luck! Put on some music, and stand over that pot and stir. Making your own roux is so rewarding!

Most importantly HAVE FUN!

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. All our hard work will pay off!

See you then!

roux 1

roux 2

roux 3

roux 4

roux 5

roux 6

 

Homemade chicken stock: AKA LIQUID GOLD

Homemade chicken stock: AKA LIQUID GOLD

chicken stock final

Ahhh homemade chicken stock. There is nothing like it! Johnny Jam called homemade chicken stock “liquid gold”. And when you cook your own chicken stock, you will know why! When comparing the richness and the color of the stock to store bought stock, you instantly see the value in making your own. The beauty of chicken stock is the ability to make it YOURS! Whatever you have on hand can be used to add flavor and richness to your chicken stock. For example, if you have some colored bell peppers left over from cooking Mardi Gras Pasta, throw those in your stock! All types of onion will work as well. Below is my go-to ingredient list for homemade chicken stock. Feel free to add any lagniappe into yours that you think might add extra flavor.

If you feel the need to ask “Can’t I just buy chicken stock?”…STOP! I truly recommend trying to make your own. It is so easy! Not to mention, you will be empowered to choose what goes into your stock. For example, I like to control the amount of salt added to my food. I also like to add extra cayenne pepper. The most time consuming part of this process is deboning the rotisserie chicken, which only takes a few minutes!

I really hope you enjoy making “liquid gold”. Please let me know how it goes and if you add anything special that makes it out of this world!

Chicken stock

Music pairing: Dr. John- Gumbo Album

Wine pairing: Ménage Trois Midnight. Any red blend is a festive choice when cooking a stock

Ingredients:

1 rotisserie chicken

2 onion

4 celery stalks

1 bell pepper

2 carrot

1 bay leaf

Salt

Pepper

Red pepper

Instructions:

Debone rotisserie chicken.

  • Reserve all chicken in a separate bowl.
  • Save all parts of chicken other than meat- this is what you boil for stock
  • Why do I use rotisserie chicken? I have used a raw chicken before. Throughout my journey, I have, hands down, preferred using a rotisserie chicken. I buy them fresh from my local grocery store. I use traditional as well as lemon pepper. Rotisserie chickens are cooked with the intention of browning the outside and keeping tender, juiciness on the inside. This not only creates tender, juicy meat for your gumbo, but also rich, self-basted bones and skin for a satisfying chicken stock.

Prep produce. Roughly chop produce, only to fit in pot.

produce final

  • With chicken stock, you don’t have to prep produce as you do all other dishes. I simply rinse the celery, bell pepper, carrots…and cut all produce in half. It’s mainly to make them fit in the pot.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. I use an 8 ½ quart pot and fill it up with about 2/3 water. You want enough water to create a large pot of gumbo, but make sure it won’t overflow with all the contents for stock (chicken, vegetables).

Once water is boiling, add chicken remnants, produce, bay leaf, salt, black and red pepper.

Boil on high for 1 hour, uncovered.

  • Stock doesn’t have a tendency to quickly boil over (on my stove) even on high heat. With that being said, keep an eye on it. However, if you have to walk to your outside fridge to grab a second bottle of wine (it happens), put a wooden spoon over your pot. That is a trick to helping your pot not to boil over.

Once your stock has boiled for 1 hour, or until your stock has a rich, golden color, lower heat to medium low and cover. Let stock cook on a low boil for about 1-2 hours, stirring frequently. I turn my fire off once vegetables have softened and stock is a rich golden brown color.

Once you turn off the fire, put a crack in the lid on the pot, and let it cool for an hour or so. Then, drain the stock into a large bowl. I use a colander over a large mixing bowl. (if anyone has a more sophisticated way to separate the stock from the carnage, please share!)

Store chicken stock in food storage containers in the fridge. Stock can also be stored in the freezer for future use!

Lagniappe: when I make stock for gumbo, I typically double this recipe in order to have extra stock on hand for next time, or to make twice the gumbo. Extra gumbo in the freezer aint’ never hurt nobody. If a few extra family members decide to show up at your door, you can feed everyone!

Lagniappe: I always have store bought chicken stock in my fridge to add to recipes on the fly. If you don’t, I recommend buying some. Sometimes, your stock may reduce more than expected and not having enough stock for your gumbo could be catastrophic. If you don’t have stock, adding more water could work, but won’t add as much flavor as the stock.

Now that you’ve made your stock and stored it away, start mentally preparing for the best part of our gumbo journey: THE ROUX!!

 

GUMBO

GUMBO

 

Hi guys! I hope everyone had a great Christmas. My Christmas was filled with beautiful memories with family. It was also my baby, Shelby’s first Christmas AND her first birthday on 12/26! It’s been a hectic, but fun weekend and I am looking forward to a great New Years!

It is a tradition of mine to make a New Years Eve gumbo. I absolutely love making gumbo. Once upon a time, many years ago, I was completely intimidated at the thought of making a gumbo. The only people I knew who cooked gumbo were very seasoned chefs who had been cooking for a long time. Well, about 7 years ago, I decided to try to learn. Ever since that day, I have continued to practice making gumbo and I believe that now, it truly something that will never be “perfected”. Every time I make gumbo, it turns out a little different. I believe the kind of music I’m playing, the kind of mood I’m in, and the kind of wine I’m drinking (hehe) are all factors of how my gumbo comes out. If you put your heart and soul into the gumbo, you can’t go wrong. I learn something new every time I make it, but one thing remains the same: it’s therapeutic and good for my Cajun soul.

Lots of people have asked how I make my gumbo. Well, with some help from both my mom and dad, I have worked the last 7 years to make my own gumbo. I make gumbo in a 3 day process. Day 1 involves making the homemade chicken stock, or as my dad called it “liquid gold”. Making chicken stock is not complicated, but it does need to simmer for hours. I use rotisserie chicken for my stock. It’s easy, and gives you delicious, tender chicken for your gumbo.

After the chicken stock is done, I make my roux. I absolutely love to make a roux! I believe this is something we, as Cajuns MUST know how to do! There is something magical about a roux and the way it becomes so fragrant and has such a distinct smell, and it only has 2 ingredients! I add produce to my roux, and I think it’s what dreams are made of.

On the last day, I mix my roux with my stock. This part is really something that everyone does differently depending on how thick/thin you like your gumbo. I like mine somewhere in between. You also mix the sausage in with the gumbo, skimming the fat off the top of the pot. Lastly, you add your chicken and some green onion, if you wish.

Lagniappe: many people need potato salad with gumbo! My dad taught me to mix potato salad in with my gumbo. I usually make this on the last day.

So, the next 3 days I will be posting, in detail, the 3 different steps of making a gumbo, my way! Please join me. Invite some friends over, open some champagne, and ring in the new year in the best way: with a beautiful pot of homemade gumbo. I can promise you, you will feel happy, proud, and have a full belly. I can’t think of a better way to spend my New Years Eve!

 Gumbo grocery list:

gumbo groceries

1 rotisserie chicken

1 bunch celery

3 onions

1 lb smoked sausage

2 bell peppers

1 bunch of carrots

Green onion

Flour

Vegetable oil

Black pepper

Red pepper

Salt

Bay leaves

Rotel

Dried parsley flakes

 

Mardi Gras Pasta

Mardi Gras Pasta

pastaHey guys! I am so excited for my very first post on Soul in yo Bowl! I’ve been gathering my thoughts, practicing new things in the kitchen, and learning new techniques and I must say, it’s been fun. I am really looking forward to this journey! I am a working mom, and while I love to cook real, authentic food for my family, it can be difficult! While I absolutely LOVE cooking authentic Cajun food without shortcuts, sometimes that is just not feasible for me. So, I’ve spent time through the years working on Cajun dishes that are quick and easy!

Today I have decided to share my recipe for Mardi Gras Pasta! This is one of my go-to meals for any time of the week. It is quick enough to fix during the week, but it is also satisfying and fancy enough for a weekend date-night-in! I call it Mardi Gras pasta because of the colorful bell peppers I use. Also, I think it would be a great, easy and inexpensive dish to make for a big crowd during Mardi Gras! Shrimp could be substituted with chicken, however, I LOVE the variety of flavor when you combine fresh Louisiana seafood with the smoky flavor of andouille sausage!

Side note: since it is Christmas week, I also thought I’d say I think this would be an impressive looking, yet easy dish for Christmas time. Red and green bell peppers would be so festive! It is also something good to throw together to have in your fridge and have once Christmas leftovers are gone and you don’t feel like cooking. I’m always thinking about backup!

The ingredient list contains a special ingredient that will be used in most of my recipes: Johnny Jambalaya Herb Dressing and Marinade! Many of you know and love this product. For those of you who don’t, I suggest trying it! It can be purchased at Rouses, Calandro’s, Leblancs and Butcher Boy in Plaquemine. If you have a hard time finding it, please reach out to me!

Music pairing: Van Morrison, particularly Moondance album

Wine pairing: Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay

Ingredients:

1 lb andouille sausage

1 lb shrimp

Johnny Jambalaya’s Herb Dressing and Marinade (Enough to coat raw shrimp for marinade, as well as cooked pasta)

1 12 oz bag of pasta. I use penne

1 medium sized onion- diced

¼ green bell pepper-diced

¼ red bell pepper-diced

¼ yellow bell pepper-diced

2 stalks of celery-diced (I love to use 1 regular stalk, and 1 stalk with leafy greens)

4 garlic cloves (just know that I cook with more garlic than most in all of my recipes. Use as much as you like!)

Cajun seasoning (whatever you like to use. Tony’s is a good go-to)

Also, dice your vegetables however small or big you want them. I like mine fairly chunky.

¼ cup dry white wine (Rule of thumb, only cook with wine you’d want to drink)

¼ cup heavy cream

 

Instructions:

Marinate fresh, Louisiana shrimp in Johnny Jambalaya’s Herb Dressing and Marinade.

Cook pasta. Bring a medium pan of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, cook until al dente. Drain pasta. TIP: coat pasta in Johnny Jambalaya’s Herb Dressing and Marinade to warm pasta to keep from sticking. This also adds an added source of flavor to this and all pasta dishes.

Cut andouille into small, ½ inch cubes

Cook andouille over medium high heat in a large pot. Cook until brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Once cooked, take sausage from pan with a slotted spoon, reserving as much grease in the pan as possible.

Add holy trinity (onion, bell pepper, and celery) to the pan, stirring over medium high heat. Sautee’ a few minutes, seasoning with whatever seasoning mix you like. (I use a combination of salt, black and red pepper, and dry parsley flakes).

TIP: once that has been sautéed about 3-5 minutes, add garlic. However, add the garlic onto the bed of onions, bell peppers and celery, not directly on hot pan. This will allow the heat to warm the garlic prior to garlic hitting the hot pan, thus preventing burning the garlic.

After 2-3 minutes, stir garlic in with holy trinity. Continue stirring, and cook until garlic becomes aromatic, about 2-4 minutes.

Add ¼ cup dry white wine to deglaze the pan.

Pour yourself glass of white wine!!

TIP: I only use wine I can drink. I enjoy dry, but buttery chardonnay for this dish. I used Chateau St. Michelle. If you don’t have wine (buy some) and if you don’t want to buy wine (weird) chicken stock will suffice.

Lower the heat to medium, and sautee’ the holy trinity in the white wine until vegetables are translucent.

Put heat to medium low and add ½ cup heavy cream to the pan. Stir to combine.

Add shrimp, and cook until pink and no longer translucent.

Add cooked andouille sausage back to the pan. Stir to combine.

Add cooked pasta to the pan slowly, until reaching you desired level of sauciness! TIP: don’t ever add all pasta to a sauce at once. You may find that your sauce has cooked down a little more than expected, leaving your pasta to be dry.

Garnish with parmesan cheese. Sip your chardonnay. Life is good!

 

 

Introduction

Introduction

me and dad“Our culture has such a rich history as it relates to food and music. It’s only natural that the two should be fused together. When you think about the happiest times in your life, the main elements are families eating good food and listening to music.” –Johnny Jambalaya Percle

 

To many, Johnny Jambalaya Percle, also known as Johnny Jam, was a talented chef, lover of Louisiana food and culture, President of the Lafourche Parish Tourism Commission, a radio show host, caterer to the stars, world traveler, entrepreneur, to name a few. But, to me, he was my dad.  His infectious laughter, larger than life personality, and never ending loyalty made him a man that many people loved, respected, and wanted to be around. His unexpected death in 2013 came as a huge shock to all of us. After my dad’s death, many people told my family and me, “I can’t picture a world without Johnny Jam in it”.

My dad taught me at an early age to embrace the beautiful place in which we live. The plantation homes, the swamps, the history, the food, the way family and friends gather…it all adds up to who we are as Cajuns. This idea is the premise behind his famous catchphrase, “Soul in yo Bowl”. He hosted a radio show on KTIB in Thibodaux, appropriately named “Soul in yo Bowl”, where he interviewed what he called “local treasures”. He spent time with these people he called local treasures, interviewing them, learning their cooking techniques, listening to their stories, and thanking them for their contribution to Cajun culture. “Food fuels the soul, and the soul fuels the sounds of the land of dreams”. Johnny Jam saw cooking, family time, and music as the way to fuel the soul to live the best life.

My dad’s career was very successful, as many may know. He was Executive Chef at Nottoway Plantation, appeared on the Food Network with Bobby Flay, cooked for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffet, and Pope John Paul II. However, it must be said that his success also accompanied many challenges. Suffering with depression and anxiety, my dad worried greatly about his identity; who he was as a chef, a family man and a friend. My dad is a true testimony of Cajun resiliency. Even though he was faced with trials and tribulations, and would get knocked down, he never, EVER, stayed down. He always found a way to bounce back up with dignity and pride. For that, my dad is my hero.

I’m inspired to write this blog for many reasons. I love to cook, and I want to share my favorite recipes. I love Louisiana and want to start an open forum about all the beautiful places to visit, eat, listen to music, and spend time with family. However, the main reason I am starting this blog is for my dad. Johnny Jam saw every day as a journey. A simple trip to Rouses for 1 onion was an opportunity to run into old friends, talk about the good old days, and possibly go meet up afterwards for a root beer float. He enjoyed driving to various “hole in the walls” all over Louisiana to enjoy the best roast beef po-boy, and meet the genuine and authentic individuals who owned those family businesses. My dad truly valued each day, and soaked in every second. In my new role as a hospice representative, I have been fortunate to travel beautiful parts of Acadiana that I had never seen before. As I drive through these wide open spaces, surrounded by old, country homes, as well as beautiful Acadiana style homes, I feel so inspired, and I find myself falling more in love with Louisiana. I turn the corner to see a small boudin shop with a line out the door. I pull into a Cajun café, where I order my dad’s favorite…fried pork chop. Every mile I travel, while listening to Van Morrison or Dr. John, I feel my dad in the passenger seat. I sense his excitement, as every day I get in my car is a new journey. New people to meet, new food to eat, and most importantly, a beautiful, culture-rich life to live. So, dad, let’s continue your journey together. Let’s explore Louisiana. Let’s laugh. Let’s cook. Let’s eat. Let’s meet new friends. Let’s learn new things. Let’s do all the things we couldn’t do, because your life was cut too short. Let’s make memories. Here’s to you, Johnny Jam.