Mike and Shellie Daniel use the word “passion” repeatedly when talking about cooking.
“We spend a lot of time cooking, both indoors and outdoors,” Mike said. “When crawfish are in season, it’s a rare weekend that we don’t have a boil.”
It’s a way of life, Shellie said.
“Since there are very few recreation options in Washington Parish, we use cooking as our form of entertainment,” she said. “Cooking is our passion.”
“It’s as much about family as it is about cooking,” Mike added. “Seafood is our favorite. We smoke a lot of meat, but the majority of our meals are seafood-based.”
Married 21 years, they live in Franklinton, Mike’s home town. His family has lived there many generations, and several streets in town are named after them.
Mike manages their two in-home health care businesses. Shellie, a native of Plainview, is a registered nurse in the businesses.
They converged on their passion for food by two different routes.
“When we met,” Mike said with unselfconscious grin, “I was living off chicken nuggets at McDonald’s. Although I came from a traditional southern family, I didn’t cook at all.”
“I taught him to love to eat,” Shellie said. “When we first started dating, I thought I wasn’t going to survive the relationship. I insisted that he take me out to eat.
“It was a chance to get him to stop long enough to eat. Now we can’t finish one meal without planning the next one.”
Shellie’s mother enjoyed southern cooking: greens, corn bread, red beans and rice, roast meat.
“I’ve always loved to eat,” Shellie said. “I always had it instilled in me that it was the female’s role to cook.”
But things were hectic when she was in nursing school and shortly thereafter. She claimed she used a lot of crock pots.
“I would have three going at one time.”
Mike began cooking while she was in nursing school.
“She studied a lot. I wanted to have things for her that she liked,” he said. “I started with borrowed recipes, and then started trying new things.”
He became a culinary autodidact — a self-taught man.
Mike isn’t bashful about his food passion.
“I like the adventure in cooking — trying new things, swapping ingredients,” he explained. “The way it works now on a typical evening, one of us cooks and the other helps our kids with their homework.”
Food doesn’t stop at home: It even figures into their vacations with their motor home.
As they travel, Shellie does research on the road on where to eat. Besides traveling, the family enjoys fishing in Louisiana’s inshore marshes for redfish and speckled trout.
Crawfish Boil Bisque
“This is our invention,” said Shellie about this recipe. “We boil crawfish so often, and always have leftovers. We decided that we needed a recipe for them — something different than étouffée.
“We like soups, and our children like soups. We use all the ingredients from a boil: sausage, corn, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, and garlic, as well as crawfish.
“It is a popular dish in our home. We boil crawfish every weekend and cook it every other weekend. It is really good to use during the offseason for crawfish.”
A few tips: The boiled onions and garlic are best used for the bisque soon after the boil. If stored in the refrigerator very long, they become slimy.
For added flavor, some of the liquid from the crawfish heads may be squeezed into the soup while cooking.
Also, Shellie noted that this soup freezes well and can be stored for the off season.
4 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 10 3/4–oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 10 oz. can RoTel diced tomatoes & green chiles
3 cups chicken broth
1 can cream style corn
8 ears of corn, from the boil (removed from cob)
5-6 potatoes, from the boil, cut in 1 inch cubes
Sausage, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes to taste, from the boil
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 lb. peeled crawfish tails from the boil
Cajun seasoning to taste
Melt the butter in a large pot. Add onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic, and sauté over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add mushroom soup, RoTel tomatoes, chicken broth and cream style corn. Fold in the corn, cubed potatoes, and sausage, mushrooms, onions, and garlic from the boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the heavy cream and simmer for an additional 6-7 minutes. Add crawfish and Cajun seasoning and simmer for 5 minutes. Serves 6-8.
Fried Crawfish Balls
“We use a rémoulade sauce from my Great Uncle George Brown,” said Mike. “He was a cook in the Navy and had a real passion for cooking.”
Shellie added that he told them he had a lot of down time, so his hobby became cooking.
Mike suggested that when making the balls, they be tossed from hand to hand to pack them and keep them from falling apart while working with them.
He also noted that the sauce is best made the day before and refrigerated overnight.
4 tbsp. prepared horseradish
4 tbsp. mustard
1 tsp. tarragon wine vinegar
2 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped green onions (use tops and bottoms)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 dashes Tabasco Sauce
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix well. Refrigerate until use.
1 lb. boudin (your favorite brand)
1 lb. chopped crawfish tails
3 eggs, divided
1 1/2 tbsp. milk
2 cups flour
2 tbsp. Cajun seasoning
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Remove the casing from the boudin and break it up in a bowl. Add the crawfish and 1 egg and mix well. In a separate bowl, make an egg wash by mixing 2 beaten eggs, milk and salt. Place flour in a shallow dish, add Cajun seasoning and mix well. Place bread crumbs in a separate shallow dish. Make balls the size of golf balls with the boudin and crawfish mixture. Roll the balls in the flour mixture to coat well. Dip the balls in the egg wash, then roll them in the bread crumbs. Fry at 350 degrees for 4 minutes. Serve with Remoulade dipping sauce. Serves 4-6.