leslie muir, my cajun queen

#14 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.

Who dat? My beb Leslie Muir!

Choooh, she cute, no?

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Leave it to Leslie, one of my favorite picture book authors, to two-step into our little shindig and kick it up three, four, ten thousand notches. No surprise, dis hot mama peppery poet is always cookin’. When she’s not baking her famous bread or assembling yet another doughnut cake, she’s tossing together a bunch of tasty, chewy, spicy words and making new stories. We don’t call her “Bakery Babe” for nothing.

Cafe du Monde beignets via chuckyeager

Remember when she had those mice baking a birthday cake in the middle of the night? What about that grumpy hedgehog sucking down his celery soup and shaking his maracas with his neighbor Paprika? Maybe you prefer sinking your fangs into something juicy or chomping on crispy beetles? Whatever your pleasure, Leslie knows how to serve it up!

Today — *brace yourselves* — Leslie is keeping her rice clean, but getting down and dirty Cajun style. She’s stirring it up real good with a poem so spicy it’ll leave your laptop smokin’. So kick off your shoes and put on your oven mitts. Dis one’s fun to read aloud; betcha can’t sit still! (If you need me, I’ll be on the accordion.)

Leslie: This is an unpublished poem, so when Jama asked me to participate in her Poetry Potluck, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share it. I wrote it years ago, very early in my career, while a member of an online group of talented children’s poets. I don’t recall the specific inspiration, only that I’d had fun toying with the Cajun rhythm. However, when I dug out the recipe below, it became clear that a little family history had slipped into my subconscious.

Witch’s Jambalaya
by Leslie Muir

Witch’s Jambalaya,
cookin’ in da pot,
cacklin’ and a bubblin’,
growlin’, grrr’n hot!

Frighten in a crawdad,
dat would be s’nice,
a fire-breathin’ dragon
for a heapin’ a dee spice.

Toss a pinch o’ pepper,
a Cajun toe or two.
Spook a mess a froggies
till dey hoppin’ in da brew.

Add a pair o’ gators,
be sure dey in a fight —
tails’ll be a stirrin’
when ya slam dee lid on tight!

Don’t forget da shrimpies,
a strand o’ possum hair,
twenty lizard gizzards
and a vial of voodoo scare. Boo!

Witch’s Jambalaya,
cookin’ in da pot,
cacklin’ and a bubblin’,
growlin’, grrr’n hot!

Simmer till it’s squirmin’ —
dat would be s’nice.
But don’t cha fill your tummy
till you’ve scattered in dee rice!

Copyright © 2012 Leslie Muir. All rights reserved.

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Witch’s Jambalaya

This recipe was inspired by my grandaunt Marguerite, a great cook, pianist and teller of chilling ghost stories. Though not a native of Louisiana, Marguerite lived there for many years and adopted a Cajun flair to her cooking. This Bayou touch was passed on to me by way of my grandmother, Mimi, and many cherished family recipes. I’ve officially renamed the recipe after the poem — Marguerite would’ve liked that.

2 links Linguica or other spicy sausage, cut into ⅓” rounds
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
½ medium red pepper, finely chopped
½ medium green pepper, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. Italian herb
¼ tsp dried red pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Shot or two or four of Tabasco sauce
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
½ tsp smoked paprika
3 cups rice
7 cups chicken broth
1-2 Tb olive oil, as needed.
1 TB butter
1 plump boneless chicken breast, uncooked, cubed
8-10 medium scallops
12 shrimpies, peeled and deveined
2 scallions, chopped (set aside a bit for garnish)
2 Tb. minced parsley (set aside a bit for garnish)
Juice of one lime
*Possum hair and Cajun toes, optional.

In a large Dutch oven, saute sausage rounds in olive oil until browned, remove and set aside.

Saute onion, green pepper, red pepper, and celery in the pan renderings. Cook veggies until tender.

Add garlic, bay leaves, Italian herb, dried red pepper, cayenne, Tabasco, black pepper and 1 tsp of the salt. Saute 2-3 minutes more.

Add chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil.

Lower to a simmer and add sausage.

Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until rice is tender.

Season chicken, shrimp and scallops in remaining 1 tsp salt, Cajun seasoning and smoked paprika.

Saute chicken and scallops in olive oil and butter until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Add shrimp, saute 2-3 minutes more.

When rice is done, fluff. Stir in scallions and parsley. Let mixture sit in the pot with the lid slightly ajar for 10 minutes.

Incorporate chicken, scallops and shrimp. Squeeze in lime juice.Toss gently until warmed through.

Garnish with a sprinkling of the remaining chopped green onion and parsley.

Serve with crusty bread and a wicked wine or chilled brew. Cackle as you eat.

Serves 8.

Marguerite (right), with her sister, Louise, and my great grandmother, Mama Sculley.

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Leslie Muir is a writer, artist and poet. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, two spirited sons and a big German shepherd who dreams at her feet while she writes. Leslie is the author of four recently released picture books:  BARRY B. WARY(Disney-Hyperion), GIBBUS MOONY WANTS TO BITE YOU! (Atheneum), THE LITTLE BITTY BAKERY (Disney-Hyperion) and C.R.MUDGEON (Atheneum).

You can visit Leslie at her website:  www.lesliemuir.com

Feel free to “like” her on Facebook at Leslie Muir Books for Kids.

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Previously: Menu/Giveaway/Door PrizesApril Pulley SayreMary QuattlebaumHelen FrostLinda AshmanGail Gerwin, Martha Calderaro, Kathi Appelt, Robyn Hood Black, Charles Waters, Adele Kenny, Linda Baie, Lesa Medley.

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

41 thoughts on “leslie muir, my cajun queen

  1. You had me at the beignets! What this NJ girl wouldn’t give for a confectioner’s sugar moustache and some strong chicory-touched coffee. The poem is delightful; I love the added ‘Boo!” Another super potluck day. Thank you, Leslie. Thank you, Jama.

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  2. I hear you on the beignets, Gail! I’ve only had them once in New Orleans, and they were unforgettable. I loved seeing the powdered sugar all over the tables and chairs🙂.

    I love the “Boo!” too — this is such a fun poem — Leslie did a great job of capturing that Cajun rhythm and spirit.

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  3. I’m always interested when writers tackle different forms. C.R. MUDGEON is such an amusing and obstreperous fellow that that I imagine a witch’s jambalaya sprung from the same pen will have the same twisty, unique personality.

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    1. Leslie keeps surprising and amazing me with her talents. Dialects are definitely a tricky challenge, but she proves she’s up to the task with this one.🙂

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  4. “Boo!” to Gail and Jama. Thanks for the kind words. Beignets all around!
    And tadmack: What a lovely comment about C.R. You just made my week, maybe the next one too. : )

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  5. I love it! Cant decide now which one’s my favorite. Can we have Poetry Potluck every month, pretty please? Leslie’s poem and Jama’s mention of beignets reminded me of my time in New Orleans November of last year. Naturally we had to visit Cafe du Monde and taste those heavenly beignets. And the dishes, oh lordylord, sinfully tasty. I read the poem aloud to my husband and daughter, can feel and taste the rhythm in each line – the read aloud was accompanied by rhythmic clapping of the hands and foot-tapping.🙂 Thanks for another fantabulous post!

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    1. Sounds like you’ve got your own Cajun party going on! Glad you read it aloud — this poem begs for it. Now I’m reeeeeeallly craving some of that good Louisiana cookin’.

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  6. It’s Leslie! YAY! We are quite proud of her down here in SCBWI Southern Breeze. Love this spicy way to start the day. (And, Leslie, I’m honored we were on the same witchy wavelength with poetry for Jama this month.) ;0) Hard to pick a favorite line, but I sure do like dem gators: “Add a pair o’ gators,
    be sure dey in a fight –”

    And, Jama, maybe add a little audio to your blog so we can hear you on that accordian?? xx

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    1. Hee! You mean you can’t hear me playing??!! Take out your ear plugs🙂.

      Now I know why you call yourselves “Southern Breeze” down there. You need some big winds to cool things off with the two of you heating things up all the time. Hot babes!

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  7. Robyn–Yes, like minds. I thought that immediately after reading your fantastically witchy poem. We’ll need to grab a “real” brew at our next conference.

    And thanks s’much, Mary! Loved your poem as well.

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  8. Love, love, love! You know I love all your work and this is no exception. My eyes glazed over only once–when looking at the recipe. Why? Because (sadly) I am a terrible cook and have NO patience for the subtle art. Now, where is there take out for those beignets?

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  9. Just a terrific and “HOT” poem along with the recipe. I love “Toss a pinch o’ pepper,/a Cajun toe or two.” It tickles me a lot. And, I love that photo, so typial of the times-those fancy dresses. Thank you Leslie, and Jama, too.

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    1. Yes, that photo’s great, isn’t it? I was telling Leslie when I first saw Marguerite I was surprised that she looked exactly as I had pictured her. I think she was transmitting her hot foodie vibes my way.🙂

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  10. Wow! I LOVE that poem! Such a distinctive and fun voice. Not sure my kids would be up for jambalaya yet, but it sure does look delicious!

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    1. It’s definitely a poem to love and read aloud over and over again. They might be tempted to eat the jambalaya if you tell them they can cackle all they want while eating it, and help you catch the froggies and gators to put in it🙂.

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