A widower who lives in Bay Shore with his Rottweiler, he is a Calverton National Cemetery representative working with families.
How did you get introduced to cooking? I'm originally from New Orleans, where we do a lot of Creole cooking. I used to watch my mother make gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice. My mom did domestic work. My father left the family when I was 7 - I'm the fifth child out of seven - and she supported us. That's when my cooking was really born. My mother had a way with chicken. We never had it the same way in a month. She'd fry it, roast it, bake it, barbecue it.
Where did you get the idea to make smothered turkey necks? It's something my mother used to cook all the time. She got very large turkey necks from a shop that had live chickens and turkeys. She'd cook it on a Sunday for us. She'd cut it into sections and season it and serve it over rice and vegetables.
How did your cooking evolve as you grew up? I learned how to cook in the military. I served for 40 years. I worked as a food service specialist in hospitals. I loved, it so I got an associate degree as a food technologist and taught soldiers how to cook.
What lessons did you give the soldiers? First, make sure everything you use is clean. Sanitation before preparation. I still cook with plastic gloves on. Next, learn how to prepare from a recipe. If you leave something out, you're lost. We were feeding 1,000 soldiers sometimes. You have to follow that recipe, even if you're home.
What do you like to cook these days? I use a Nuwave oven. I make baked Louisiana catfish in a lemon butter sauce. With the oven I can put the fish on the bottom and the vegetables on top.
CAJUN SMOTHERED TURKEY NECKS
3 cups cooked rice
½ cup vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons powdered Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon powdered Cajun seasoning
2 bay leaves
2 (0.87-ounce) packages turkey gravy mix
2 pounds turkey necks
1. Set aside cooked rice.
2. Place rest of the ingredients into a 3-quart pot and cook on low heat for 30 minutes, until turkey necks are tender.
3. Add enough water to cover turkey necks. Cook over medium heat another half hour.
4. Remove and discard bay leaves.
Serve over rice. Makes 4 servings.