Last week, Roger LeBlanc showed up at the newspaper office with a pan of still-warm bread pudding, complete with vanilla sauce. “How are you going to write about my food if you don’t taste it?” he reasoned. He was right. That afternoon, strange yummy noises emanated from each office. By 5 o’clock, not much of the bread pudding remained. That was some seriously yummy bread pudding.
But, as Roger will tell you, bread pudding is only the tip of the culinary iceberg for him. “I like to cook. I’m curious about recipes. I find one or two, sometimes as many as three or four different recipes and pick and choose ingredients, and taste until I think it tastes good,” he says. “I add more seasoning if it needs it, I cook it by different methods to see what changes, until I’m happy with it.”
“I’m not a chef,” he says, “But I know what tastes good, and I like to make people happy with my cooking.” He started by cooking for his parents and in-laws. “My mother-in-law and father-in-law used to have these big family dinners. Now that they are older and can’t handle that any more, I figure, I can cook for them. Unfortunately, my mother died before I really started cooking, but my father, who since has passed as well, would love to eat meals I’d cooked and brought to him.”
Roger is an adventurous cook — he’ll try anything. “I definitely cook Cajun, but I also like to cook Chinese food, Japanese food, I love to bake sweets,” he said. “My gingerbread is my own recipe, and my bread pudding. I do banana nut bread a lot, or blueberry bread. I almost have the Piccadilly’s pecan delight pie down, but it’s not quite where I want it to be yet.” His other dishes include a shrimp and grits casserole, homemade chili, stuffed peppers, even keto dishes with riced cauliflower, which he promises doesn’t even taste like cauliflower. “I bake it in a casserole, I add bacon and cheese, I even put it in my cabbage casserole, stuffed peppers and rice dressing. There’s enough of the other flavors, you don't even notice the cauliflower,” he said.
Roger definitely brings joy to family and friends with his cooking, and sometimes more than that. “When my daughter, Kelley, (Kelley LeBlanc Moore, now 32) was in high school, she liked to have my breakfast pizza for breakfast most days,” he said. “It had sausage, potatoes and all kinds of hearty stuff on it. After a while, I noticed she was taking more pizza to school than usual. I said to her, ‘Kelley, are you eating all that pizza?’ She said, ‘no, Dad, my friends are.’ I said, you’re giving your friends breakfast pizza? She said she was selling it to them for gas money. I said, ‘Okay, I don’t have to give you gas money then.’”
Roger acknowledges his wife’s cooking skills; “My wife’s a good cook, but she likes to cook traditional recipes she’s learned from her mother. I, on the other hand, like to experiment with flavors, and I taste everything I’m cooking. Kelley is following in my footsteps. She’ll take a recipe and tweak it until she’s satisfied with it, like me. She does awesome carrot cake, gentilly cake, and she’ll come to me to taste and give advice,” he said. “She always says,’I know Dad’s not a chef, but I listen to him, because his food tastes good, he must know something.’”
With all his experimenting in the kitchen, there are very few things Roger does not like to cook. One, however, is yeast bread. “I don’t bake yeast bread,” he said. “I can’t get it the way I’d like it, my attempts have not satisfied me.”
Yeast bread notwithstanding, Roger LeBlanc is an awesome, giving cook, and to prove it, here are a few of his recipes for you to enjoy, one savory, and one sweet.
Shrimp and Grits Dressing
1 pound peeled, medium size raw shrimp
3 cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup uncooked regular grits
½ cup butter
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
1 cup chopped green onions
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Devein shrimp if desired.
Bring broth and next two ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in grits, return to a boil; reduce heat to low and stir in butter. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.
Stir together eggs and next four ingredients in a large bowl. Gradually stir about one-fourth of hot grits mixture into egg mixture. Add egg mixture to remaining hot grits mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in shrimp until well blended. Pour into well-greased 11” x 7” baking dish.
Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until mixture is set. Let stand 10 minutes
ROGER’S NOTE: He added garlic powder, onion powder and celery salt, and increased the red pepper to one Tablespoon.
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
1 ½ cups white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
6 Tablespoons butter
½ cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter in pot, add evaporated milk, white sugar, and brown sugar, mix well. Add pecans and vanilla, mix well. Raise heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Heat to 240 degrees. Let sit 6 minutes, spoon onto wax paper until set. (about 10 minutes.)