1/23 and 1/24, 2023

The call of New Orleans in January comes from deep within. It’s a pilgrimage that started for me in the 5th grade when my parents scheduled an unrequested winter break to visit my cousins who lived a bohemian life down the street from a bayou canal near Lake Pontchartrain.

I was a rascal. Dad thought time at Steve and Moira’s with their 2 daughters and 3 sons might provide a needed break for my sisters getting me out of the house during the cold Chicago winter of 1969. This was perhaps one of my most important memories from that time.

Cousin Barry and I fished off the bridge every evening. On Saturday, “Uncle Chup” took  us fishing in an aluminum skiff on a warm afternoon in the marshlands. Once he cut the vibrating motor, we floated quietly for hours on the slow-moving tide, spotting the occasional redfish as they cruised the edges, tailing and rolling in flat, slick, muddy water. We learned that the fish were skittish, aggressive cast splashing the surface spooked every potential target. We caught nothing, but I was hooked.

This years January visit included a longtime friend, Michael Corrente, and the same guide I’d fished with the year before in January, Hudson McEntire.

We met on a dock about 30 minutes from Chauvin, south of New Orleans. His 16 foot skiff carried us deep into the canals and creeks of Louisiana’s bayou. We casted to redfish and black drum for 2 days. Again, like I’d learned as a young boy, redfish are aware of every splash and tap on the boat. I had several shots, casting to large redfish in thin water on day one, a perfect clear, cool day. Each time after 2 or 3 ignored presentations, I’d tap the deck with my foot, moving to set up a better cast and the fish would take off into deeper water and out of sight.

On day one Michael had the hot rod, catching 2 redfish, one 36 and the next 39 inches. Large, heavy fish using a silver jig set up 4 feet off a large red bobber. This technique was interesting as the tap tap of the bobber attracts the fish at a greater distance from the skiff than my fly could reach. I was able to target a 30 inch black drum with Hudson’s help. After 2 short casts I put one in the zone and the heavy fish rolled on Hudsons purple fly and sucked it in.

Day 2 was windy and overcast. Hudson started us on blue crabs in a channel as casting from the deck while polling his flats boat seemed near impossible, after an hour of no action the wind dropped just enough and we switched it up. I stood motionless with Michael reminding me to keep my feet quiet on the deck and 20 minutes later our guide spotted a redfish cruising in a small lake and again, 3 casts and I was hooked up.

Both Michael and I spent a good deal of time blind casting at points as we cruised the marsh, hoping to hook redfish from the mud. They sit quietly in the darkness waiting for unsuspecting prey to float by. It was our goal to catch a slot fish between 16 and 24 inches that we could take home for dinner. No luck this time, so I prepared a simple skillet of hens & rice.

See the recipe below.

Cornish red hen, hens and rice

Cornish game hens and rice

Cornish Game Hens and Rice recipe

Hens & Rice

Dinner for 2

– 2 Cornish Game Hens
– 2 carrots
– 1 small onion
– 3 cloves garlic
– 1 cup frozen peas
– 1 tomato
– 1 cup jasmine rice
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 1 teaspoon salt & pepper
– 1 teaspoon Dried oregano
– 1 quart water
– 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Rinse hens in cold water then set out to dry
Dice onions and peeled carrots
Mince garlic cloves
Chop tomato

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Set a 10-inch skillet on medium heat and add butter.
Add onions, carrot & garlic and stir, follow with rice, continue stirring.
Add water and tomato then season with salt, pepper & oregano.

Rub the hens with mustard, season with salt & pepper, place on the simmering rice.
Place the skillet in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven and stir the peas into the rice.
Place in the oven for 40 more minutes.

Serve when the legs shake loosely.