On my recent visit to taste and tour Lafayette, Louisiana, I had the pleasure of dining at Jolie’s, a beautiful restaurant with an ode to George Rodrigue, world-renowned Blue Dog artist. The name from one of his paintings titled “Jolie Blonde” (Pretty Blonde) was originally painted in 1974, and depicts the artist’s vision of the fictional Cajun woman. According to the song written by a prisoner in Port Arthur, Texas in the 1920’s, the pretty blonde woman left her Cajun lover for someone else. 

Jolie’s offers an eclectic Creole menu featuring fresh, local, seasonal Louisiana ingredients harvested weekly by local farmers and food artisans. The menu also includes their take on several New Orleans Creole classics, such as Oysters Bienville & Rockefellar, BBQ Shrimp, Turtle Soup and Redfish Amandine, the latter of which I delightfully devoured. Also enjoyed was a Louisiana Artisan Cheese Assortment and a Charcuterie de Maison that highlighted local goat cheese from Belle Ecorce Farm in St. Martinville, along with Manny’s house made patés, terrines, cured meats, pickles and condiments. The specialty cocktails from the bar paired well with our dining selections.

With a culinary viewpoint shaped by his Sicilian heritage, childhood crabbing trips to Shell Beach, a dad who was also a chef, and a family of farmers, Chef Manny Augello is at the helm of the kitchen using fresh, local ingredients to craft each dish he prepares. Manny says, “I grew up in the restaurant business. My father was a chef his entire career. I learned to cook from him in our family restaurants. I think we’re really lucky to have such a wide variety of seafood on our shores, from fin fish, shellfish, crustaceans, basically everything you could possibly want.”

Manny believes that it is the muddy mighty Mississippi water that flows into the Gulf that just might make everything taste better, and says, “There’s nothing like it. The flavor… you can’t beat it!” His  favorite Louisiana seafood to cook with are Gulf oysters and snapper. Manny enjoys the briny, salty  taste of Louisiana oysters, and boasts Louisiana snapper is meaty and succulent. He does very little to his preparations of seafood letting the proteins shine on their own, saying, “The flavor is already there! Apply just enough heat and don’t mess with it, or it will be ruined!”

As the only certified gluten free chef in the Gulf region, Manny is eager to accommodate the dietary needs of guests with food allergies of any kind, and as a Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine “Chef to Watch for 2012”, he is a standout amongst Louisiana’s great Southern chefs and restaurants.

Makes 8 servings
Courtesy of Chef Manny Augello, Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro, Lafayette

  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground white grits
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Buttermilk Ice Cream, recipe follows
  • Bacon Caramel, recipe follows

In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast grits until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, sugar, and baking powder. Add flour in thirds to egg mixture, alternately with the buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. Whisk in the salt and toasted grits, and let mixture stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat Belgian waffle iron. Preheat oven to 250°; position oven rack to middle, and place a large metal cooling rack directly on oven rack.

Pour about 1/2 cup batter into each waffle mold*. Cook waffles according to manufacturer’s instructions until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm, keeping waffles in 1 layer so they stay crisp. Repeat process with remaining batter.

Cut waffles into quarters, and place one quarter on plate. Top with a scoop of Buttermilk Ice Cream. Place a second waffle quarter on ice cream, slightly off center. Drizzle with Bacon Caramel, and serve immediately.

Chef’s Note: In a regular waffle iron, use about 1/3 cup batter.

Buttermilk Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup heavy cream

In a double boiler over medium heat, whisk together eggs and sugar. When sugar is completely dissolved, scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and add them to egg mixture. Slowly whisk buttermilk and cream into egg mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Bacon Caramel

Makes about 1 quart

  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

In a large skillet over low heat, melt butter and brown sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon. Once sugar has melted, stop stirring. In a separate skillet, cook the bacon until crispy.

Once a dark amber caramel has formed, add bacon and drippings and heavy cream. The caramel will bubble rapidly; stir steadily until mixture emulsifies. Leave caramel at room temperature until ready to serve. Leftover sauce will keep about 2 weeks covered in refrigerator.

Waffle Photography by Sara Essex Bradley

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