Category Archives: CREOLE/CAJUN RECIPES

CREOLE MEATLOAF WITH MASHED BUTTERMILK POTATOES AND TRINITY GRAVY

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I love Creole food and I love meatloaf. So I decided that a recipe for Creole meatloaf would be next on my list of “how in the heck am I going to use up more of the ground beef in my freezer?!?!”

Having decided on the flavor theme, I went about looking for Creole recipes I could adapt. And one of the first recipes to pop up on my search was a recipe from Rachael Ray. But I couldn’t stop with just looking at one recipe, so I brought up a few more and the recipe below is the result of combining several recipes and my own ideas on the subject.

Now, unless you have done a lot of Creole cooking, you might be wondering about “trinity” gravy. If you are like me, my “trinity” in cooking is a combination of onion, carrot, and celery. I start almost every stew, soup, or red sauce with this combination of base ingredients. In French cooking it’s called mirepoix, and consists of 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, and 1 part celery. But the Creole and Cajun cuisine considers onion, celery, and green pepper to be the holy trinity of flavor. 3 parts onion, 2 parts celery, and 1 part green bell pepper. Cajun/Creole dishes such as étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya almost always start with this base. And since I love all three of these dishes, I decided maybe a trinity gravy was right up my alley too.

I am happy to report that both the meatloaf and the gravy are a wonderful combination of flavors, very simple to prepare, and economical to build. In fact, I would classify this dish as perfect for company. It does take time to prepare, but all can be made ahead of time, and then reheated just before serving. And although the ingredients aren’t expensive, the presentation looks like a million dollars.

Now I’ve heard, that half the enjoyment one gets from food is in the presentation. Frankly, I think that’s a load of rutabaga skins! I’ve tasted many a dish that looked terrific, but the flavor – less than satisfactory. But this delicious dish is not just beautiful on the outside. Remember – “external attractiveness has no relation to goodness or essential quality.” I know this maxim first stated by Sir Thomas Overbury in his poem “A Wife”, was meant to imply that beauty (in a wife) should not be just skin deep. But, as far as I’m concerned, his reflection speaks equally to culinary presentations! And if this dish doesn’t yell “good wife” I don’t know what dish does!! (And yes, I can make any quote or maxim have something to do with food. It’s a DNA abnormality handed down through my father’s side of the family!)  

For a small family or a senior couple like Mr. C and me, this wonderful meatloaf and gravy is a three meal delight. First night – eat until you can’t walk. Second night, eat until you remember how bad you felt after dinner the night before! Third day, argue over who’s going to get the last couple of slices of meatloaf for lunch! Enjoy, and no fighting kids!     

Meatloaf:

  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for smearing on meat loaves before baking
  • 1 lg. onion, finely chopped, divided
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced, divided
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 T. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 T. Creole Seasoning, divided (to make your own, see two very good recipes below)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. grainy Dijon mustard
  • ½ c. bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ c. milk
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4th of the onion to the skillet, and cook to soften, 5-6 minutes.  Add half of the minced garlic and cook for one minute. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cool.  To the cooled onion mixture add the paprika, thyme, 1 tablespoon of the Creole seasoning, ½ teaspoon of the salt, black pepper, mustard, bread crumbs, egg, and milk.  Mix to combine. Add the ground beef and the ground pork, stirring gently just until well combined. (I use my hands for this part.) Form into 2 loaves, each about 10 inches long and 4 inches wide.

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Place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Smear the entire surface lightly with olive oil. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

To serve: Slice the meat loaves. Arrange the slices over Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and pour the Trinity Gravy over both.  Garnish with sliced scallions and serve.

Trinity Gravy:

  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • small bay leaf
  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1½ c. beef stock (I use beef base and water)
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce or more to taste (I use Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • mashed sweet or russet potatoes (see recipe below)
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced on the bias, for garnish

Meanwhile, in the same skillet you used for the meatloaf mixture, melt the butter and add the remaining onion. Cook for about 7 minutes, then add the celery, bell pepper, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and white pepper.  Cook the mixture long enough to soften, about 30 minutes. (I usually cover the pan after about 10 minutes and let the veggies gently steam/fry.) The veggies should be kinda brown and kinda mushy. That’s what you want. None of this crisp tender for this recipe!

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Add the remaining garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the tomato paste and bay leaf; stir for 1 minute.  Sprinkle the flour and remaining Creole seasoning over the mixture and stir for another minute.  Whisk in the stock, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce; cook to thicken over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes. Adjust the seasoning. Turn the heat to the lowest setting to keep the gravy warm. Stir periodically.

If you are not going to be serving in the next little while, remove from heat and re-warm when ready. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes:

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ to 1 c. buttermilk

Cover the potatoes with water in a medium pot and bring to a boil, then season with salt, reduce heat, and cook for 12-15 minutes until tender.  When the potatoes are done, drain and return to the hot pot and mash with black pepper and buttermilk to desired consistency. Add salt if necessary.

EMERIL’S ESSENCE CREOLE SEASONING

  • 2½ T. paprika
  • 2 T. salt
  • 2 T. garlic powder or granulated garlic
  • 1 T. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. cayenne
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. dried thyme

Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

CREOLE SEASONING MIX (my recipe) 

  • 1½ tsp. onion powder
  • 1½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ½-1½ tsp. cayenne (depends on how much heat you like or can tolerate)
  • ½ tsp. gumbo file

Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

 

GRILLADES (CAJUN MEAT STEW) AND CHEESE GRITS

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Until I read the latest issue of Southern Living, I had never heard of Grillades. (Remember, I live in the Northwest corner of the US, so dishes like Grillades are not indigenous to our area.) But through the years I have learned to absolutely adore many of the dishes that have their roots in the South. (Thus my subscription to Southern Living!) So when I read the ingredients in the Grillades recipe, I was hooked immediately.

Grillades (pronounced ɡree-yahds) is a kind of meat stew typical of French regional and Cajun cooking. And at least in Cajun country, Grillades is most often served with grits. And since I am a true believer in the merits of grits, you can bet your best Squirrel Perlo recipe that if grits are even mentioned in conjunction with any given dish, I will be fixing them too!

So yesterday I decided it was the perfect day to tackle Grillades. But as some of you know, I almost never try a recipe until I have researched other recipes for the same dish. Especially if the dish is one that I have not previously tasted. I simply like to read what other cooks have included or excluded in their recipes so that I can better judge what might work best for our tastes. As a result, I didn’t change a thing in the Southern Living seasoning mix recipe. (Well that’s not entirely true. I did reduce the amount of cayenne from 1½ teaspoons to ½ teaspoon because I thought the original amount might be just too spicy for me. And I’m glad I did. The amount of cayenne I used was perfect for both of us.)

I did however change a couple of amounts and cooking methods from the magazine recipe based on other recipes I perused. For example, I changed thinly sliced pork to pork cubes. (Much easier to deal with.) But all in all, the recipe is basically as reported in the September 2015 edition of Southern Living.

Now comes the best part. When we sat down to dinner last evening, and each of us took our first bite, almost simultaneously we looked at each other and uttered the same three little words. OMG! We both exclaimed that this dish was one of the best things we had ever tasted.

So if you too are fans of Cajun cuisine, you have simply got to try this recipe. It is an all time winner at Chez Carr.

  • 7 tsp. Creole Seasoning Mix for Grillades, divided (see recipe below)
  • 2 lbs. boneless pork roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 7 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 med. yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1 lg. green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 lg. garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 c. beef or chicken broth
  • ½ c. dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • hot cooked Cheese Grits (see recipe below)

Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mix on all sides of the pork cubes in a large bowl. In a gallon size freezer bag combine ½ cup of the flour and another 1 teaspoon of the seasoning mix together. Add pork to bag (don’t wash the bowl) and shake until all the cubes are coated.

Heat oil in a large heavy covered Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pork, and fry for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. (You will probably need to fry the pork in 2 batches.) Using a pair of tongs, transfer the browned pork back to the bowl where you coated the meat originally and reserve the drippings in the Dutch oven.

Sprinkle remaining ½ cup flour over drippings. Cook over high heat, whisking constantly, about 4 minutes or until mixture is medium brown. Immediately add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add bay leaves and the remaining 4 teaspoons of seasoning mix. Reduce heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.

Add the broth to vegetable mixture, stirring until well incorporated. Add wine, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt, and browned pork; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring often, about 90 minutes or until the meat is tender. Midway through, taste to check seasoning. Add additional salt and/or seasoning mix to taste. (I had to add more salt to mine.) Just before serving, remove bay leaves.

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To serve, ladle a large serving of Grillades into a shallow bowl. Add a heaping spoonful of Cheese Grits on top and to the side. Serve immediately. (At our home, this is a meal unto itself. Nothing else to eat required. Of course a nice glass of wine to go with the Grillades is always welcome. Mr. C. recommends a hearty Cabernet-Sauvignon.)

CREOLE SEASONING MIX FOR GRILLADES

  • 1½ tsp. onion powder
  • 1½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ½-1½ tsp. cayenne (depends on how much heat you like or can tolerate)
  • ½ tsp. gumbo file

Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

CHEESE GRITS

  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 5 c. water
  • 1 c. hominy grits (I use Quaker brand Quick cooking grits)
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 T. cream cheese
  • ¼ c. grated Gruyère, Swiss, or Edam cheese

In a large saucepan over high heat, bring salt and water to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits. Reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the grits don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. (Grits are done when they have the consistency of smooth cream of wheat.) Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, cream cheese, and grated Gruyère. Season with salt to taste and serve warm.

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SHRIMP GUMBO

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I think many people shy away from Creole and Cajun food because they think it’s going to be too spicy. They hear words like gumbo filé and Creole seasoning and they automatically shy away. And it’s true, some Creole and Cajun dishes can be very spicy, but they don’t have to be. And this recipe, based on a recipe from Marcela’s Creole Cookery in Seattle, contains a bit of heat but only enough to compliment the other ingredients. And that’s good. The last thing you want is a sauce that is so spicy hot that the wonderful taste of your expensive shrimp is completely obliterated. (Along with your taste buds, I might add!)

So figuratively speaking, this sauce is the perfect foil for shrimp. Then all you need is a big old ball or two of cooked rice, and you have a simple and delicious one course meal.

Now like any other stew like dish, there are about as many recipes for gumbo as there are Louisiana residents. And many of them are fabulous. (The stews that is; I don’t know about all the residents!) But we especially like this gumbo recipe because it is fairly mild. (Did I mention that both Mr. C and I are both kind of wusses when it comes to really spicy food?)

So if you are a person unfamiliar with Creole or Cajun food, but consider yourself in possession of a sophisticated and educated uraniscus (palate), step on out of your comfort zone and travel “culinarily speaking” down to the land of Marti Gras, hush puppies, and bread pudding. Make yourself up a batch of this gumbo honey and there will be no turning back.

  • ¼ c. canola oil
  • ¼ c. flour
  • 4 c. chicken stock, heated to almost boiling
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • 4 chopped green onions
  • 2 lg. stalks celery, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. gumbo filé powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. commercial Creole seasoning or see recipe for homemade Creole Seasoning below
  • 1 lb. uncooked large shrimp
  • cooked rice

In a large covered saucepan, cook the oil and flour over medium heat until it is chocolate colored, about 25 minutes, stirring continuously. (If it burns, throw it away and start over!) Carefully whisk in the hot chicken stock, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Add the onion, green onions, celery, garlic, thyme, gumbo filé powder, bay leaves, pepper, cayenne, and Creole seasoning. Cover the pan and gently simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. (Add additional chicken stock if needed.) Adjust seasoning (probably will need salt), remove bay leaves, add the shrimp, and simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through.

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Serve with cooked rice.

Creole Seasoning:

  • 1/3 c. paprika
  • 3 T. dried oregano
  • 3 T. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. dried basil
  • 2 T. kosher salt
  • 1 T. cayenne pepper
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 tsp. granulated garlic

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Makes about 1 cup.

 

CREAMY CREOLE SHRIMP WITH CHEESE GRITS

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If there is anything better than cheesy grits covered with a savory sauce and perfectly cooked shrimp, will someone please tell me what it is? I mean really! I truly believe grits are manna from heaven.  And then when you doctor them with some butter and a wee bit of sharp cheddar cheese, well who in their right mind can resist? And Creole seasoning? Whoever invented this combination of herbs and spices should be canonized. And I’m not even catholic! But I would vote to make this person a saint in the time it takes roux to go from caramel colored to burnt! And believe me, that’s only a matter of seconds!

I have actually been trying to perfect a saucy, semi-spicy shrimp over grits dish for quite some time now. I have pages of recipes copied off the internet and have made several attempts to make the perfect sauce (poor Mr. C.).  Some sauces call for the addition of andouille sausage, which by itself I love. But I don’t particularly care for the combination, so I checked that duo off my list. Finally, last evening, I prepared a sauce I can truly say is delicious. It includes simple ingredients, but I must confess it will never be featured on 30 Minute Meals. It does take time to prepare, but I am telling you, it is worth the time and effort. Actually next time I make it, I am going to double the recipe and put half in the freezer. And I know, it looks like there will be a lot of sauce, but not the case. The amount of sauce is perfect for 3 healthy adult servings.

So if you like Cajun or Creole food, give this recipe a try. And in case you are worried about the spice level, don’t. The sauce is not overly spicy nor does the flavor overwhelm the delicate flavor of the shrimp. And for those who like their food spicier, there is always hot sauce!

  • 1 lb. unpeeled, medium-size raw shrimp (26/30 count)
  • 3 c. water
  • 5 T. vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery plus leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 T. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. lobster base – Better Than Bouillon or Knorr (more expensive, but worth it)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T. Creole seasoning, divided (I use Emeril’s Essence – see recipe below)
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, opt.
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley, opt.
  • hot sauce, opt.

Peel shrimp, reserving shells; devein shrimp. Set aside. Bring shells and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes. Pour shrimp broth through a colander over a large bowl, pressing shells with back of a spoon; discard shells. Reserve the shrimp broth.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; stir in flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until flour is caramel colored (about 15 minutes). Add onion, celery, green pepper and cook, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and thyme; cook until you can smell the garlic, about 1 minute. Stir in the shrimp broth, tomato paste, bay leaf, 2 teaspoons of the Creole seasoning, salt, couple grinds of pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Meanwhile pour the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium size fry pan. Season the shrimp lightly with salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of Creole seasoning. Add shrimp to hot oil and cook only until done. Do not over-cook. Set aside. After the sauce has burbled away for 45 minutes or so, stir in the heavy cream. If sauce is too thick add a bit of water. Add the cooked shrimp and adjust seasoning. When ready to serve, spoon Cheese Grits (see recipe below) into the bottom of a shallow soup bowl. Ladle the shrimp and sauce on top. Serve with green onions, chopped parsley, and hot sauce available on the table. Cornbread and a nice hearty beer or merlot are great accompaniments.

Cheese Grits:

  • 1½ c. milk
  • 1½ c. water
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¾ c. quick-cooking grits
  • 1 T. butter
  • ¾ c. sharp cheddar, grated

Bring milk, water, and salt to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Adjust seasoning. If you like thinner grits, add a little more milk before adding the butter and cheese.

Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning:

  • 2½ T. paprika
  • 2 T. salt
  • 2 T. garlic powder or granulated garlic
  • 1 T. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. cayenne
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. dried thyme

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

 

BREAD PUDDING WITH SPICED RUM SAUCE

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There are few desserts as delicious as bread pudding. But it has to be good bread pudding. For decades I shied away from this incredible dessert because of my grandmother. Please allow me to explain. I think I’ve already told you that both my mother and maternal grandmother were not good cooks. My grandmother however, was excellent at homemade bread and pies. So you would think, since bread pudding is made from bread, she should have been able to make at least a passable bread pudding. Absolutely not the case. And since I never watched her put one together, I actually don’t know how hers was prepared. (Even from the ripe old age of 4 or so, I knew instinctively when to say no thank you to food that I had once tasted and knew was of poor quality. Why then would I even want to know how it was prepared? I was no dummy, even as a kid!) But, to the best of my recollection, grandma’s bread pudding starred plain old bread, soaked in a combination of milk, eggs, and a pinch of cinnamon and liberally laced with raisins. Now I like raisins, but not when they are burnt. And that was my grandmother’s forte. She could burn a raisin better than anyone I have ever known. And even if there had been some kind of warm sauce to serve with the pudding, it sure as heck didn’t contain liquor. (Not that I would have even known about cooking with liquor when I was a child. My parents weren’t teetotalers, but by any stretch of the imagination, they weren’t drinkers either. So spring forward several decades to when I left my bad memories behind and became a true devotee of bread saturated with milk, cream, and eggs and studded with little golden jewels of flavor. New Orleans. Marti Gras. Good friends (Dick, Eloise, son John and daughter-in-law Carol), fun parades, great music, and amazing food. So you know the old saying, when in Rome, well when in New Orleans you eat anything placed in front of you because it is bound to be delicious. So in order not to appear a prig (yes, I spelled it right) I went along with the crowd and ordered bread pudding for dessert one evening. Any resemblance to what I had experienced as a child was merely coincidental!  I had discovered heaven in a bowl. As soon as we got home after our 10 day adventure in Louisiana, I went to work finding the perfect recipe for bread pudding. I finally ended up with the recipe below, an amalgam of several recipes I found in cookbooks. I hope you enjoy this lovely dessert as much as we do. This bread pudding has actually made believers of others like me who, until they tried really good bread pudding, just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. But I get it now. This recipe could make a bread pudding believer out of you too. Give it a try.

Bread Pudding Ingredients:

  • ¼ c. spiced rum
  • 1 c. golden raisins
  • 8 lg. eggs, room temperature
  • 3 ½ c. whole milk
  • 1 ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 (1-lb.) loaf Challah or other dense egg bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Spiced Rum Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • ½ c. butter
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 T. spiced rum
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon

Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. spiced rum

Bread Pudding: Combine spiced rum and golden raisins in a small heavy pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until all liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and cool. Meanwhile combine eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Gently stir in bread cubes and cooled raisins. Pour mixture into a buttered 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 75 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. (Watch carefully the last 30 minutes or so. If the pudding starts to get too brown before it is set, gently tent with aluminum foil.) Serve warm with Spiced Rum Sauce and a dollop of Whipped Cream Topping.

Spiced Rum Sauce: Combine brown sugar and butter in a medium sized heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until butter completely melted and mixture is smooth. Add heavy cream, spiced rum, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and is reduced to about 1 ½ cups. Serve warm over pudding. Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to a simmer again before serving.

Whipped Cream Topping:  Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks; add powdered sugar and spiced rum. Serve dolloped over top of Spiced Rum Sauce.