Southern Food: The Best Recipes from the Popeyes Founder

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Popeyes founder Al Copeland has a new cookbook out and it’s full of useful history and tasty dishes. Turns out, the late Louisiana-style chicken chain creator was quite the chef.

Now, as much as we’d like to divulge just how Popeyes pulls off its perfect chicken sandwich, it’s not in the cards. Fear not, Copeland was a skilled culinary figure, able to create dishes that celebrated his southern roots and embraced everything from seafood and catfish to pasta, game, holiday fare, and much, much more.

Al Copeland and Popeye having fun.
Sam Hanna

The cookbook is a great mashup of many influences, namely southern food and cajun fare.  That’s to be expected from somebody from New Orleans. But even if you’re not a huge fan of gumbo or grits, there’s a lot to latch onto and satisfy your palate with in this book. Plus, it tells a good story as well, about Copeland’s rise to ascension in the restaurant industry. He was a larger-than-life kind of person, known not just for his franchise (he owned other restaurants as well), but a huge personality that loved everything from powerboat racing teams to putting on colossal Christmas light shows at his mansion every year.

The book is a fascinating read as well as a handy collection of recipes to have on hand, whether you’re cooking for yourself or hosting a gathering. Here are a few of the best recipes from the book, Secrets of a Tastemaker.

Fettuccine Lamborghini

This hearty pasta dish borrows its name from the Italian sports cars Copeland liked to drive. It’s rich and hit with the perfect amount of saltiness thanks to parmesan and tasso ham.

A plate of Fettucinne Lamborghini.
Sam Hanna

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Alfredeaux Sauce

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 ounces shredded parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fettuccine

  • *3/4 cup saute butter
  • 1 cup julienned tasso ham
  • 1 1/2 cups Alfredeaux Sauce
  • 1 pound fresh Fettuccine
  • 2 cups heavy cream

*Saute Butter: Let 1 1/2 pounds of butter soften. Melt an additional 1/4 cup of butter in a skillet, adding 2 tablespoons of green onions and house seasoning (essentially onion, sea salt, garlic, black pepper, basil, oregano, thyme), and saute for 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate until cool. Add remaining butter to the bowl and mix. Scrape the butter into an airtight container and wrap in plastic. Butter keeps for 1 week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

Method

Alfredeaux Sauce

  1. Pour heavy cream into a small saucepan set over medium heat and heat to simmer.
  2. When the cream reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the pan from heat.
  3. Place immersion blender in cream and run, gradually adding cheese and butter. Continue mixing until cheese is melted.
  4. Scrape the side of the pan with a rubber spatula to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly blended. Set aside.
  5. Place egg yolk in a medium bowl and whip. Add 1/4 cup of parmesan cream mixture to temper the yolk. Add remaining cream mixture and blend.
  6. Scrape the mixture into another clean saucepan. Insert an immersion blender and turn heat to medium. Bring to simmer.
  7. Remove from heat just as simmer is achieved and add salt and pepper to taste.

Fettucine

  1. Melt the saute butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add tasso and saute until the fat has rendered out and begun to foam, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups Alfredeaux Sauce.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta. Generously salt the boiling water and drain pastas when done.
  5. Bring Alfredeaux Sauce to a simmer. Add heavy cream and cooked pasta and bring the mixture back to simmer, tossing the pasta in the sauce.
  6. Reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer until just slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Cajun Duckanoff

Legend has it, Copeland freaked out when he found out they weren’t flash frying the duck in this recipe for a spell in one of his kitchens. That’s the signature move for this unique and tasty dish, which takes a bit longer but is worth the wait.

A pan full of cajun duckanoff.
Sam Hanna

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Duck

  • 1 duck (5-6 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons house seasoning (see above)

Burgundy Mushroom Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (cremini or white button)
  • 2/3 cup sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon house seasoning
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kitchen buoquet
  • 1/4 cup Burgundy wine (Pinot Noir)

Duckanoff

  • 3/4 cup saute butter (see above)
  • 2 cups quartered cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound fettucine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Shredded duck meat
  • House seasoning
  • Minced parsley for garnish

Method

Roast Duck

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove neck and giblets and cut the tail off the duck. Trim excess fat (reserve these parts).
  2. Pat the duck dry then dust with house seasoning. Place in roasting pan and roast until 150 F in the thickest part of breasts and thighs and the juices run clear, about 2 hours.
  3. Remove from oven and let duck cool.
  4. Remove skin and meat from duck, reserving bones. Coarsely shred meat.

Burgundy Mushroom Sauce

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over very low heat.
  2. Sift in 1/4 cup flour, stirring constantly. Cook the roux until the color of peanut butter, about 20 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high, add 1 cup of mushrooms, onion, and house seasoning and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.
  4. Whisk in beef stock, chicken stock, and kitchen bouquet. Bring to boil, stirring, then reduce heat to simmer, about 20 minutes.

Duckanoff

  1. Melt saute butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add mushrooms and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in heavy cream and 2 cups of Burgundy Mushroom sauce and remove from heat.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta. Salt the water and cook al dente. Drain.
  5. Bring Duckanoff sauce to boil, add hot pasta, and cook, tossing until well combined.
  6. In another skillet, heat oil over high heat until it begins to smoke.
  7. Add duck and flash fry, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Dust with house seasoning.
  8. Serve the pasta and duck together.

Crawfish Bread

This comes off as a snack but can serve as a full-blown meal, especially if you make it in large batches like the below recipe. Try it with a dry white wine or refreshing hazy IPA.

Crawfish bread on a cutting board.
Sam Hanna

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 20 servings

Ingredients

Alfredeaux Sauce (see above)

Crawfish Bread

  • 1 loaf sturdy white bread
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 pound cooked crawfish tail meat
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups creamed spinach
  • 1 1/4 cups Monterrey Jack cheese

Method

Alfredeaux Sauce (see above)

Crawfish Bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Carefully shave crust off the bread. Cut loaf into five long slabs, about 3/4″ thick, and spread both sides with butter.
  3. Place slabs on a baking sheet and bake, turning once, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove toasts from oven and keep them on sheet.
  5. Melt salted butter in a pan over medium heat. Add crawfish, green onions, and Old Bay seasoning, and saute, about 4 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle flour over crawfish and fold it into crawfish until absorbed, set aside.
  7. Place 1/4 cup of creamed spinach on each toast and spread to coat. Divide crawfish among toasts. Spoon 1/4 cup of Alfredeaux sauce over crawfish and sprinkle evenly with Monterrey Jack cheese.
  8. Bake toasts until bubbly, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Garnish with parmesan and parsley if desired.

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