Texas swagger and Cajun fire - Kelly Plantation cook dazzles taste buds

LAURA HALL | Under the Radar
Chef Ken Harrison hard at work in the kitchen.

I wonder sometimes if you’re born in New Orleans if they inject you with a cooking gene before you leave the hospital?

Ken Harrison was born in New Orleans and spent 20 years in Texas before moving into Kelly Plantation in Destin. Cooking has been his forte and hobby for many years. Recently, he and his wife, Darla, hosted the Kelly Plantation Home and Garden Club at their house for a delicious night of “Cooking with Ken” — a cooking class with a touch of Cajun fire.

The menu for 20 people includes Margarita punch, homemade salsa bursting with fresh ground tomatoes and guacamole made from just peeled avocados with a taste of cool freshness to die for. The guacamole has the usual avocados, lime, garlic, olive oil and fresh salsa. Surprising to me was the addition of several swirls of Tupelo honey, fresh seeded jalapeno and a splash of tequila for those who dare. Don’t forget, Kelly Plantation Home and Garden members don’t have far to drive home.

The black beans had more ingredients than I have room to list. Included was chorizo and andouille sausage, smoked ham, several minced garlic toes (Cajun lingo for garlic cloves), celery, cumin and of course, tomatoes with chilies and hot sauce.

The expertly prepared enchiladas came out of the oven, piping hot, stuffed with shredded chicken thighs, poblano peppers, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. The gently browned tops were generously covered with a melted, mouth watering, Mexican cheese blend. The last step was covering the enchiladas with freshly made and warmed, enchilada sauce. The chili powder zing got your attention right away.

As the night sparkles on, the Margarita punch seems to become a bit bolder. Perhaps the tequila and triple sec have found a home in the bottom of the punch bowl, hiding under the orange and lime slices.

The Margarita punch started the party with a bang and what better soft and soothing finish could there be than individual servings of Ken’s flan. These custards floated down from the realm of the gods and are covered with Ken’s caramel sauce. This delicate elixir consist of one stick of butter, one cup of brown sugar, one teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of half and half and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. As a final touch, a dollop of white puffy cream and a glorious light sprinkle of cinnamon is added. Ole’, my taste buds are waltzing around in my mouth begging for more.

 Kelly Plantation Home and Garden Club holds their once a month meetings at night and is open to anyone interesting in joining. For more information call Jane Carron, President, at 269-1562.

Laura Hall is a long time Destin resident.  She explores local topics, sometimes with her cavalier spaniel Annie in tow.  If you have a good topic, contact Laura at llhall4386@gamil.com.