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Food for Taught

Locals Share Their Favorites from Mom’s Kitchen

(page 7 of 7)

Dwight Henry

Actor; Owner/Operator Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Cafe

“You wouldn’t believe the people who come through here,” says Dwight Henry of his Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Café in the 7th Ward. “A couple from New York came yesterday, came to New Orleans just to see me.”

That is because Henry, a local baker, became the overnight star of the award-winning movie Beasts of the Southern Wild. Now he’s opening another bakery in New York, acting in a new film and writing a cookbook. All because, he says, “I was raised in a way to believe in yourself.”

Edna Henry had a lot to do with that. Her influence on her 47-year-old son helped him pursue his dream of opening his own bakery and forever marked his love of good food.

“I was raised around good home cooking,” he says. “My mom cooked six days a week, and my grandma cooked six hot meals a week.” His family lifestyle, he says, was “old school” with his father, now deceased, working as a physician and his mother giving full-time to the household. His sister, Veronica Henry, today is a First City Court judge.

In the summer after 10th grade, he worked cleaning up in Sunrise Bakery in the Lower 9th Ward. “I would see the older guys baking bread and I said, ‘I wanna get over there one day.’” By the summer of 11th grade, he had a job baking and “fell in love with it.” From there, he worked for Binder’s Bakery, Whole Foods, Dorignac’s and a catering company. “Everywhere I went, I picked up something different. When McKenzie’s closed, I said, ‘This is the perfect time to go into business.’”
Although his career sights have expanded, he still gets to his bakery at 6 a.m. every morning and plans an expansion. Breakfast includes everything from bacon and eggs to pork chops, liver and catfish, and lunch follows with poor boys and plate lunches. Snowballs are sold on the opposite side of the building. Customers often stand in line for buttermilk drops, and the bakery was sold out by 10 a.m. on a recent visit.

There is no doubt in Henry’s mind of which of his mother’s dishes are his favorite, and he shakes his head just thinking about it. “Stuffed bell peppers. Every time she cooked it, it was my favorite dish – stuffed bell peppers with macaroni and cheese.”
Three months ago, Henry joined Michelle Obama at the White House, speaking to 50 children about believing in themselves. He told them about his life and the difficulties he faced starting a business. He is soon to open, with partners, Mr. Henry’s Bakery and Café in Harlem, N.Y., and has just returned from Germany where he worked on a Marvin Gay film titled Sexual Healing.

Edna Henry’s Stuffed Bell Peppers

12     bell peppers
2 1/2     pounds chuck roast, ground twice by butcher
3     pounds small Louisiana shrimp
1     pound lump crabmeat
1     large onion, chopped
2     bell peppers, chopped
1     bunch green onions, chopped
6     cloves garlic, minced
Vegetable oil
1/4    cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1     teaspoon Creole seasoning
1     teaspoon Italian seasoning
6     sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Low-sodium chicken broth
Reising’s stuffing mix
Progresso seasoned bread crumbs

Slice bell peppers in half and parboil in a pot of boiling water until they’re slightly cooked but not soft.

In a skillet, brown ground meat and discard fat.

Peel and devein shrimp, and check crabmeat for any shells.

In a heavy pot, sauté onion, chopped peppers, green onions and garlic in a little vegetable oil. Add shrimp and cook until they turn pink, and add ground beef and all other ingredients except bread crumbs with just enough chicken broth to moisten. Add stuffing mix to bind mixture, balancing broth and stuffing for a good consistency. Add crabmeat and toss gently so as not to break it up.

Stuff into bell pepper halves and sprinkle with Progresso bread crumbs. Line peppers closely together on a large baking pan, and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly on top.

Serves a crowd.

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