Stefanie Rogers lives with her husband Scotty in the rural Louisiana community of Pine — the same village where they grew up. Considering where they live, it would be easy to assume she would simply cook Southern style dishes, with little seafood other than fried catfish.
But you would be wrong — really wrong.
It started with her mother Jean, who Stefanie said cooked anything — Italian, Chinese, wild game, seafood, and of course, country style. But she didn’t learn from her mother — at first.
“I couldn’t cook when we got married; not a thing,” she admitted. “I thought he was eating my cooking. What he was doing was pushing the food aside and when I wasn’t looking, he would put it in his napkin to throw away.”
The young couple moved to Baton Rouge for a couple of years and that’s when Stefanie became serious about cooking. “I called my mother and grandmother Roena Seals a lot.
“Now cooking is my stress relief. Cooking is fun. I work full time as a nurse in Bogalusa and get home between 5 and 5:30 p.m. every day.
“I’m a fast cook,” she said. But she has to be. Some of her dishes are very elaborate tasting, and beginning to cook at 5:30 p.m. doesn’t allow much time.
“We eat mostly at home and only eat out once in a blue moon.” Their two children, Nikki (31) and Dusty (30) eat over often with their families, including every Sunday. Nikki, she noted proudly, “is actually a very good cook herself.”
The satin-skinned, brown-eyed blonde looks more like her children’s sister than their mother. But she was diagnosed with celiac disease, meaning her body can’t tolerate wheat flour.
That hasn’t stopped her, however, from creating epicurean meals. She grew up on seafood and calls her cooking “Cajun style.” She makes lots of rouxs (using Pillsbury Gluten-Free flour) and relies heavily on the holy trinity of onions, bell peppers and celery.
Scotty and Dusty operate the family food business, John Fortenberry’s Meat Plant, just across the Mississippi state line from the Louisiana settlement of State Line. They produce high quality cuts of meat for individuals from their own cattle and hogs, as well as process deer for hunters and are famous for the specialty pork sausages they make and sell.
Shrimp & Chicken Dressing
We’ve eaten all kinds of dressings: cornbread, bread and giblet, rice, oyster — but never shrimp. When Stefanie told us about her invention, we almost tore the wheels off our car to get there.
“This came out of my head” she laughed. “We were sitting around one day watching TV. I said I was in the mood for a dressing and for shrimp. Scotty said, ‘Try it.’”
They cook it often now. “It’s good as part of the fixin’s that go with turkey, ham or fried chicken. It doesn’t have to be a holiday.”
TIP: Use a tall pan for baking the dressing to keep it moist.
4 chicken leg quarters
2 cups Aunt Jemima Corn Meal (gluten-free)
1 cup Pillsbury Gluten-Free Flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup Parkay margarine, divided
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bunches green onions, coarsely chopped
1 bunch celery, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
6 boiled eggs, chopped fine
1 1/2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled
Slap Your Mama Cajun Seasoning
PREPARATION: (Serves 6 generously)
Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with enough water to cover the meat. Boil until very tender. Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool. Save the broth. When cooled, debone and shred the chicken, and set it aside. In a large bowl, mix the corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in 1 cup melted margarine and the milk and mix well. Stir in the eggs until blended. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pour olive oil into a cast iron frying pan (or oven proof dish) and place in the oven. When the oil starts to smoke, add the cornbread mixture and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pone from the pan and set aside. Put the green onions, celery and bell pepper in a food processor and chop fine. Season the shrimp generously with Slap Your Mama seasoning and sauté them in 1/2 cup melted butter until the shrimp turn pink. Add the green onion mixture and sauté until the liquid cooks out. Stir in the chopped boiled eggs. Crumble the corn pone into a large oven-safe pan and mix in the shrimp mixture. Add the shredded chicken and enough of the chicken broth to make the cornbread mixture very moist, but not soupy. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. If the dressing becomes too dry during cooking add a little more broth. If the dressing is too moist, bake an additional 15 minutes or until done.
Stefanie compares this invention of hers to Catfish Pontchartrain, or a similar but thinner-sauced dish served at Bino’s Seafood Restaurant in Bogalusa. “But mine,” she ventured both confidently and cautiously, “is better than theirs.”
She has been cooking this dish for 15 or 20 years and it’s a popular one for the family, finding its way onto their plates once or twice a month. “They all love it, even our four grandkids,” she warbled.
TIP: Stefanie uses the specific brand products listed in this recipe because they are gluten-free.
6 8-inch catfish fillets
Slap Your Mama Cajun Seasoning
2 cups Zatarain’s Southern Crispy Fish Fry
Canola oil for frying
1 stick Parkay margarine
1 bunch green onions, diced
5 medium mushrooms, diced
1 lb. crawfish tail meat
1/2 lb. crabmeat
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese
1 cup half & half
1/2 cup shredded Italian Five Cheese Blend
1 12-oz. package gluten free pasta, cooked according to package directions
PREPARATION: (Serves 6)
Generously season the fillets with Cajun seasoning. Dredge each fillet in the fish fry. Pour the oil 1 inch deep in the frying pan. When the oil has reached 350 degrees, fry the fish until it floats in the oil. Turn the fillets and fry an additional 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan and drain them on paper towels. Set the fillets aside. Melt the margarine in another frying pan. Add green onions and mushrooms and sauté until tender. Add the crawfish and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese and continue stirring until it is melted. Add half & half and cheese and simmer until the cheese has melted. Gently fold in the crabmeat. Place a serving of pasta on a plate. Put a fish fillet on the pasta, then top with the sauce.