Chicory coffee-rubbed New York strips and skillet haricots verts. Photos by Leigh Ann Chatagnier

Cajun goes contemporary in these unique recipes

One of my greatest pleasures in life is feeding people. Nothing satisfies me more than watching friends and family gathered around my table, eating the food I prepared, and knowing it was made with love. This is the reason I started developing recipes—I wanted to be able to reach more than just family and friends through food. Food is a universal language that can bring people of all races, cultures and beliefs together with no judgement … just the common love of experiencing something delicious together.

I discovered this after moving to Louisiana. I was the outsider. I grew up Southern, but had never eaten Cajun food, and it didn’t matter! I was welcomed with open arms and asked to join in on family traditions dating back years and years. The food brought us together; well, that and the fact that I ended up marrying a Cajun. The food is what drew me in and made me fall in love with a place, its cuisine and a culture that truly enjoys life.

By combining traditional Cajun cuisine with my own fresh, farm-to-table approach, my hope is that everyone will find something in my new cookbook, Modern Cajun Cooking: 85 Farm-Fresh Recipes with Classic Flavors. I want readers to get in their kitchens and make something delicious and nutritious for their families, feeling confident all the while. If just one person creates a memory with someone they love through cooking one of my dishes, I’ll be satisfied—that is what it’s all about to me.

Chicory Coffee-Rubbed New York Strips and Skillet Haricots Verts

Ingredients for Steaks
2 Tbsp. ground chicory coffee
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 (1 ½-in.-thick) New York strip steaks
Ingredients for Haricots Verts
1 lb. haricots verts (French green beans)
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup chicken stock
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
For steaks, combine coffee, brown sugar, chili powder, kosher salt, paprika, black pepper and dry mustard in a small bowl to make a spice rub. 
Bring steaks to room temperature, and rub them liberally with the coffee spice blend.
Heat grill to high heat, about 500 degrees. 
On the stove, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add green beans, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove beans, and immediately shock in ice-cold water. Drain thoroughly. 
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté shallot and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes until tender, being careful not to burn. Add blanched green beans, chicken stock, salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes or until chicken stock has reduced. 
Cook steaks on grill with lid open for 5 minutes per side. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes until ready to serve.
Makes 2 servings

Couche Couche with Berry Maple Syrup and Cream

Ingredients for Steaks
2 cups cornmeal
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups milk
2 pieces bacon
1 cup fresh berries (any variety)
1 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Add cornmeal, salt, baking powder and milk to a large bowl, and mix until combined. 
Sauté bacon in a cast-iron skillet until crispy; remove bacon, leaving the drippings behind. Heat bacon drippings at medium-high heat, and add cornmeal mixture, allowing a crust to form on bottom of skillet, similar to making regular cornmeal. Reduce heat to medium, and begin to scrape pan until large lumps form and cornmeal is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. 
Chop bacon and add back to pan. 
Heat berries, syrup and vanilla in a small saucepan until berries have softened and a syrup has formed. Purée berry maple syrup in a blender or food processor until smooth. To serve, drizzle berry maple syrup over couche couche along with a drizzle of cream. 
Makes 4 servings.

Leigh Ann Chatagnier blogs about food, life and love at Her cookbooks include The Unexpected Cajun Kitchen, Natural Baby and Toddler Treats, and the new Modern Cajun Cooking.