Eats: Winter soup: Youly’s spices it up with a Cajun twist

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“Not too spicy, but the sausage adds some heat,” says Dan Briggs, of the Cajun Andouille Shrimp Soup he is making. “This is a good wintertime soup.”

Briggs should know. For the last 18 years, he has co-owned Youly’s Restaurant in Turner with Donna Smith. For eighteen years, he has also been the restaurant’s executive chef. And if those credentials aren’t enough, consider this:

Youly’s chowders won big at the first Lewiston-Auburn Chili and Chowder Cook-Off in 2004. Briggs’s chowder earned him a gold Judge’s Award, while his sous chef Peter Despres took home a silver People’s Choice Award for his chowder. And Youly’s won more awards in the 2007 and 2009 competitions.

“I like making chowders and soups,” Briggs says, standing in the back of Youly’s large kitchen. And while the seafood chowder is among the most popular dishes on the menu — “Year-round, it flies,” he says — on the day we drop by he is making something a little different.

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“We run hash for winter,” he tells me, because it is simple, hot and hearty. He is using a basic hash to make two creative dishes: Cajun Skillet Scramble and the Cajun Andouille Shrimp Soup.

The hash is comprised of red, green and yellow peppers, onion, potato, Cajun spice and — what truly makes it Cajun — Andouille sausage, which is of French origins, generally smoked and spiced, and often associated with Cajun cooking.

“I was introduced to Andouille by a friend in the sausage business,” says Briggs. It’s made with cayenne peppers, he explains, which makes it spicy and complements the peppers and onions in the hash.

For the scramble, Briggs grills the hash in a skillet and then adds scrambled egg. For the soup, he heats the hash in a stew pot, adds shrimp (“or you could do chicken,” he says) and then lets it all simmer in chicken stock and tomato juice.

“It’s very colorful, which is a great part of this dish,” he says, plating the Cajun Skillet Scramble.

The Andouille does add a touch of spice, but it is not overwhelming. Briggs has also cut the peppers a little thicker than usual, he says, which causes their sweet flavor to come out strongly, balancing the heat of the sausage.

At about $6 each, the Cajun Skillet Scramble and the Cajun Andouille Shrimp Soup are good ways to stay warm this winter. But when the cold weather ends, these items will be off the menu, Briggs tells me. In other words, get to Youly’s before it’s too late.

Cajun Andouille Hash

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 medium onion

3 russet potatoes

1 pound Andouille sausage

1 tablespoon Cajun spice

1 teaspoon chopped parsley (optional)

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

For hash:

Dice peppers, onion and potatoes. Slice sausage into 1/4-inch pieces. In skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add peppers, potatoes, onion and sausage to skillet. Sprinkle on Cajun spice. Heat 5 to 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and serve. Optional: Sprinkle over parsley.

Serves: 2

For Cajun Skillet Scramble

In large mixing bowl, scramble two eggs with 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or pepper jack work best). Prepare hash as directed. After heating the hash for 5 minutes, add scrambled eggs to the skillet. Remove and serve when eggs are cooked to your liking.

Serves: 2

For Cajun Andouille Shrimp Soup

Make hash as directed, with three changes: 1) include 1 teaspoon of minced garlic; 2) include 1 pound of thawed, chopped shrimp; 3) instead of heating the ingredients in a skillet, use a large stew pot. After hash has been heating for 5 to 10 minutes, add 1 cup of chicken broth and 3 cups of tomato juice to the stew pot. Let simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Optional: Garnish with parsley.

Serves: 4

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