"A low-fat chicken gravy that tastes as good as the real thing? Give me a break!" I exclaimed in response to the request of my Louisiana-born father and his friends from the deep South.
"Why is that so tough?" they countered. "After all, you've always said foods don't need fat to taste good."
With the choice between discrediting myself as the Recipe Re-inventor" (the title of a newspaper column I wrote for years), and accepting a difficult challenge, I hesitantly chose the challenge.
Thus inspired, I decided to "re-invent" both chicken gravy and bread pudding to be lower in fat and calories--with the stipulation that unless they turned out as good as the "real thing," I wasn't going to pass the recipes on to anyone.
The basis of many Cajun dishes is roux, made by slowly heating flour and oil together until the flour is golden brown and the mixture developes a rich flavor.
Since oil doesn't improve in taste with long, slow heating, its the change in the flour that gives roux the characteristic richness it imparts to Southern dishes.
By slowly heating flour to a rich, golden color, then adding a mixture of simmering broth, low-fat milk, minced onion and pepper, I whisked together an absolutely wonderful chicken gravy.
A generous 1/4 cup contains just 40.5 calories with only 16 percent calories from fat, a real savings from the standard gravy at 125 calories per 1/4 cup with 82 percent calories from fat.
For the bread pudding, I used canned evaporated lowfat milk (common in Cajun cookery) and only one egg and one egg white to hold it together rather that 3-4 eggs. Only 1 tablespoon of butter dots the top--still giving a golden, buttery look and taste.
I even top it with cream! Using 1/4 cup whipping cream, which doubles when whipped, each serving gets 1 generous tablespoon of whipped cream.
As a result of this re-invented menu, there is now a small group of Southerners who thinks low-fat gravy tastes best, and "light" Cajun cooking is just as good as the real thing.
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