Peel and Suck (Don’t Forget to Dip)

Let’s get shakin’

Here we are y’all!! 

We have sprung forward, we are feeling the warmer days, and not so welcoming the mosquitos. We are right in the midst of crawfish season!!!

Big boils for fundraisers and crawfish festivals are getting geared up. 

Over the years of crawfish boils, I have seen almost everything thrown in a boil and honestly, that’s one of my favorite parts. Everything from your standards of corn, potatoes, onions, sausage, and mushrooms. But there’s so much more, maybe even some you haven’t tried. 

Here are a few of my favorites that aren’t as common in some places. Canned corn, marinated artichoke hearts, and green beans. That’s right just peel the paper label, poke a few holes in each end of the can (drain), and drop it in. When they are ready just open them up and pour them out, I like to add a little Pat of butter and some seasoning (but be careful they will already be hot depending on the crawfish boil mixture. Another favorite of mine is cabbage. That’s right cabbage. Take a pair of pantyhose (preferably new ones, but that’s my preference) throw that cabbage in and tie it up and drop it in. With everything you drop in that makes up the amazing side dishes/ companions for crawfish what do you like to dip them in?

This takes us to our next recipe, one of my go-to for crawfish dipping sauce but honestly, it’s also great on everything else that comes out of the pot, especially the sausage. 

Crawfish Dipping Sauce


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Benwood’s hot sauce 
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp mustard, whole grain or yellow (I use yellow) 
  • 4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp Benwood’s Surely Southern Seasoning 
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • Good pinch of sugar or some honey

Thoroughly mix ingredients and refrigerate for 2 hours.

‘Till next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee, get out there and enjoy them crawfish and everything that goes with them. 

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!!

Daylight Savings 

Let’s get shakin’

It’s Spring y’all and it’s time to clean up that grill, and maybe even look at an upgrade. 

Spring and Summer grilling in the South is about as southern and natural as a glass of good, sweet tea. I can remember as a kid when southern Winter jumped into Spring. We all know down here it’s usually a jump, one day it’s cold and then it’s not and you realize that cold day was the last one. It’s ‘bout to be HOT.  

Time changes and it gets dark later. I remember momma opening the windows and cutting on the attic fan, I remember the tea would brew in the sun on the back porch. Of all those memories what I remember the most was daddy grilling. He would grill on and off all year, I’ve seen him do it in the rain, and even a time or two with it sleeting but once Spring and Summer hit it was 2-3 nights a week and always on the weekend. To him, grilling was an art form and he (like most men) thought he was the Picasso of the flame. But that’s okay, let it be his domain, when everyone got to enjoy the food no one cared that he might have been a little territorial about it.

 I love to grill and like my love of all things food, I got it from him. I will admit I will never feel like I’m as good at it as he was, or maybe that’s just me wishing he had gotten to be here a little longer to teach me more OR judge my efforts. Nonetheless, male or female, if you enjoy it and everyone enjoys the outcome of your efforts then you ARE the pit master of your home. Now let’s talk Shish Kabobs. Surprisingly they aren’t southern at all, even though they have been cooked a time or two on every grill in the south they are actually Mediterranean. So, for this next healthy recipe let’s take them back to their roots and cook them as only a southerner can. Best of both worlds If I do say so myself. 

Mediterranean Chicken kabobs 


• 3-pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into large bite-sized pieces)
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 lemon juiced
• 8 garlic cloves minced
• 2 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 large red onions cut into thick slices
• 4 bell peppers cut into squares
• Vegetable oil for greasing the grill
• Chopped parsley for serving

In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the mixture and mix well to combine. Allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and grease the grill with vegetable oil.

When ready to grill, thread the chicken onto the skewers, with the vegetables in between the chicken kabobs. Pour any leftover marinade on top of the chicken kabobs. Makes 6-9 skewers.

Grill the chicken kabobs until fully cooked and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes, turning the skewers every couple minutes to allow for even cooking.

Remove the chicken from the grill and serve with Lebanese rice, jasmine rice, tabbouleh or add something with a southern flair to make it your own. 

Until next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!

New Year, New Me…On the Southern Timeline

Let’s get shakin’

New year new me, right? I honestly make fun of this year after year. But like a lot of you I “try” to hop on the bandwagon and like a lot of you that’s exactly what it is, “try” usually not very hard. Like a lot of things here in the south we are on our own schedule. See around here a lot of people put off that “New year new me” mess a little longer than January 2nd. Why, you ask? It’s simple Mardi Gras!!!!! Also, southerners don’t tend to diet or eat right when it’s still cold. We love our gumbo’s, stews, chili, and the like. But it’s that time, for some it’s lent, BUT for all of us Mardi Gras is over. It’s time for healthier eating, fresh vegetables from the garden, fresh fish and seafood. Although this is like a lot of things, we are a little behind and slower to get that kickstart the time has come. Over the next few months, you will see (as requested) some healthier dishes in my columns and healthier dishes on my show – Livin’ Large with Chef Hunter Lee on KSLA each Monday morning at 9:30. Healthy doesn’t have to be harder to cook or taste any less spectacularly southern and you are not alone. I’m right there on the journey with you. Time to get into spring and summer in the south and what better way to stay motivated than with some great southern dishes. I know the fish are biting and I’m seeing more and more of you head to the lake. Even if you aren’t a fisherman your local grocery store has some great alternatives to the next dish. It doesn’t have to be fresh caught by you BUT I will say even buying in the store I support farm raised fish BUT I only support US caught and will never suggest Tilapia. Buy local, support local, buy US sourced. 


  • 4 (6-8 oz.) fillets of bass, white perch, catfish.
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Benwood’s Surely Southern – Blackened seasoning
  • 5 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish 

    Step 1: Preheat oven to 400°. Season fillets with salt and pepper and place on a small baking sheet. 
    Step 2: Mix together butter, garlic, blackened seasoning, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and zest then pour over fillets. Place lemon rounds on top and around fillets.   
    Step 3: Bake fillets until fork-tender and flakey, 12 to 14 minutes depending on thickness 

Till next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself” 

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!

Lent or Crawfish Season

As most of you know it’s CRAWFISH SEASON, most southerner’s favorite season. When you think crawfish surely you think of corn, potatoes, maybe mushrooms, garlic, and lemons. I think of the drinks I’ll be having with them if you know what I mean…all jokes aside, I think of family and friends coming together peeling crawfish, laughing, and having a good time. 

I’m Catholic which means no meat on Fridays during Lent! What a coincidence that crawfish season is in full swing during the 40 days of lent! Growing up many Fridays during lent meant a crawfish boil. My parents would invite all our family and friends over and we would have a boil. 

When I was much younger, I would always jump at the first batch of crawfish that was ready! This was known as the kids’ crawfish, and I never understood why. Well as many of you probably know the first batch of crawfish is usually the least spicy. As the night would go on the crawfish would soak up all the spices and flavor and get hotter and hotter and then the adults would eat. Now, I only like the crawfish that stays with you after you eat it. Eyes watering, nose running spicy crawfish! 

Now, I could eat crawfish every day, but there is a lot of other great Louisiana food that is perfect for those meatless Fridays. Fried catfish is a popular Lent-in meal, but another favorite of mine is the crawfish pie, just like a meat pie but with crawfish inside. Shrimp, crab, oysters there are so many great kinds of seafood to explore, and Lent gives you the opportunity to play with recipes and wow your family and friends with your culinary creativity.

Until next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee, check out the Benwood’s Surely Southern Facebook page and let me know what you’re giving up for Lent!

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!

Falling into Spring!!!!

Falling into Spring!!!!

Let’s get shakin’

Well, we have now laid Mardi Gras and Carnival Season 2023 to rest. A lot of us are gearing up for lent! With Easter and Spring right here around the corner. 

Gardens are being tilled, diets are being altered to remove/work off some of that winter weight and everyone’s ready for Spring and Summer. 

My favorite time of year is the southern Spring (my allergies would disagree) but I live for the blooms, fresh planting, everything turning green again, and amazing vegetables and fruits beginning to sprout. No matter if you grow them yourselves or buy from friends, a roadside stand, or the market. There’s nothing like fresh vegetables.

Over the next month on Tips and Tales, we will be working on lighter dishes, and dishes that work perfectly for some of these fresh goodies from the ground. We will also be doing something a little different…Each week I will be asking you guys for your input. That’s right email us and tell me what you would like to see, maybe a recipe, a trick or tip in the kitchen, or maybe just a general food question. I would love to hear from you. I will answer as many as I can and, help you, or post the recipe or idea you are looking for. Please put your name and where you live in the email along with your question.

*** I will not use your last name in any of the columns so no worries. 

I look forward to your questions, suggestions, and stories. Let’s have a great time and get to know each other a little better.

What I do is a passion, a love of food, and a desire to make people happy by sharing, teaching, and learning with you all. You can reach me at

Until next week, I’m Chef Hunter Lee and I look forward to rolling right into this magical time of spring in the south with all of you. 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!

Jazzing up Mardi Gras

Let’s get shakin’

Next to Mardi Gras one of the biggest festivals in the Big Easy is of course Jazz Fest. Personally, I’m not a fan of New Orleans Mardi Gras, it’s just too many people. Don’t get me wrong I love New Orleans! I even once owned and lived in the famous Octoroon Mansion on Royal St. next to the Cathedral (yes it was haunted.)  

The history, the nightlife, and of course THE FOOD. Arguably some of the best food you can find. If there’s anything I love more than food (and of course a good stiff cocktail) it would be music. Well, Jazz Fest got ya covered. From Jazz to Blues, Country, to Pop, and top 40, they’ve got it all.

One of the staple dishes and what some people live for during Jazz Fest is a famous not-so-secret signature dish the Crawfish Monica. It’s always a top food seller at festivals and for good reason, it’s just great, it’s classic New Orleans, classic Louisiana, in one simple-to-make dish. It’s perfect for Jazz Fest and has been a staple there as long as I can remember BUT it’s also quite popular during Mardi Gras season since Mardi Gras falls in the early part of Louisiana’s crawfish season. 

In this week’s Mardi Gras edition of Tips and Tales, I’m going to let y’all have it. I make this recipe at least 4-5 times a year but right now with fresh crawfish available you just can’t beat this one. I’ve used this recipe in multiple videos and the reactions I get are off the chart, once I made it, and seems like I had half the parish at home making it themselves the next night. Y’all gotta give this one a try. ** Oh, and just FYI it’s great from a Tupperware container on the side of the road waiting in the cold for a parade also!!!!

Crawfish Monica 


  • 1lb Crawfish Tails
  • 1lb Rotini Pasta
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter, unsalted
  • 3 Large Shallots, chopped
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Benwood’s Surely Southern seasoning

      (or Cajun seasoning of your choice 

  • ¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • ¼ Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 4 Green Onions, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Parsley, chopped
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated


  1. Peel the crawfish to get 1lb of tails. Set aside. (If you’re using frozen crawfish tails, make sure they’re thawed)
  2. Cook the pasta per the package instructions until Al Dente. Drain and set aside reserving a cup of the pasta water.
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed pan melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the chopped shallots and cook for a few minutes until translucent.
  5. Add the minced garlic and cook another 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in the Benwood’s or Cajun seasoning and Cayenne Pepper.
  7. Add the white wine and stir.
  8. Slowly mix in the heavy cream. Stirring. 
  9. Add the lemon juice and stir.
  10. Add the crawfish tails and stir them into the sauce. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until bubbling.
  11. Stir in the chopped parsley and green onions.
  12. Add the grated parmesan cheese and stir until melted.
  13. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. If you feel the sauce is too thick go ahead and add a little pasta water back to the mixture.

** even better topped with a little Benwood’s Louisiana Hot Sauce or Garlic Hot Sauce 

Till next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee, Happy Mardi Gras and Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, Surely the best!!!

Shortcut Creole Jambalaya!!!

Let’s get Shakin!!!

Here we are in the middle of Mardi Gras season and like every year I’m getting the same questions and comments. I wanna make something traditional, and I wanna make something good, but it just takes too long to make, I am not an expert in the kitchen. Well, that’s okay, a lot of what I cook or present in my articles and even my shows are recipes that might not fit every box. Some are time-consuming, but no worries. There are a lot of great “shortcut” recipes out there that taste great, are easy to make, and don’t take too much time, and anyone can make them. The next recipe in our Mardi Gras series is just that. It’s a Creole Jambalaya that will come out perfect every time. No worries about mushy rice (or even worse crunchy rice); you don’t have a destroyed kitchen and a lot of clean-up when you are done. If fact my favorite is to even, make this dish in a disposable pan, and then you have almost no cleanup at all 

Oven Creole Jambalaya (yes, I said oven)


  • 2 small mixed yellow, orange, and/or red bell peppers, cut into thin slices and slices halved crosswise
  • 1 (12-oz.) pkg. andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, thinly sliced (3 cups)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Benwood’s Surely Southern Seasoning (or Cajun or Creole seasoning of your choice), divided
  • 3 large scallions
  • 12 ounces jumbo peeled, deveined raw shrimp
  • 1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chiles (such as Rotel), drained
  • 2 (8.8-oz.) pkg. precooked microwavable white rice


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss together bell peppers, sausage, onion, thyme, oil, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of the Benwood’s on a 13- x 18-inch rimmed baking sheet; spread mixture in an even layer. Bake until mixture is almost tender-crisp, 15 to 17 minutes, stirring the mixture once halfway through cook time.
  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice dark green parts of the scallions; set aside. Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the scallions and transfer them to a large bowl. Add shrimp, drained tomatoes, green chiles, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of Benwood’s seasoning. Using your hands, crumble rice into shrimp mixture to separate any clumps; stir to combine. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Stir shrimp mixture into bell pepper on the baking sheet; return to the oven. Bake at 425°F until shrimp are pink and opaque throughout and rice is warm and tender about 9 minutes. Sprinkle with dark green parts of scallions.

Until next week, I’m Chef Hunter Lee wishing you all a festive and joyous Mardi Gras season. Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!

Mixin’ It Up

Let’s get Shakin’

Hope everyone is enjoying those Grand Bal’s, and parades. That’s right it’s Mardi Gras Season here in the south. So far, I have gotten to enjoy the Krewe of Demeter Grad Bal in Mansfield, Louisiana and I’m looking forward to February 4th and attending the Krewe of Hebe Grand Bal in Jefferson, Texas for my first time. Over the last few weeks since the twelfth night I have been sharing some of my favorite Mardi Gras Season recipes and this week is a treat for sure.

Love cornbread, of course, you do. Love crab cakes, who doesn’t? Stick with me here and let’s “mix it up” we are going to do them together for an awesome twist on the traditional crab cakes. 

Cornbread Crab Cakes 


  • 1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeños
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (prefer Dukes)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon Benwood’s Hot Sauce (or Louisiana hot sauce of your choice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Benwood’s seasoning (hot or original- or Cajun seasoning of your choice)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups Light Cornbread crumbs (or cornbread stuffing) 
  • 1-pound fresh lump crabmeat
  • Vegetable cooking spray


  1. Stir together the first 3 ingredients. Cover and chill for up to 3 days.
  2. Sauté bell pepper and onions in hot oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute; add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat; cool for 15 minutes.
  3. Combine bell pepper mixture, mayonnaise, and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Fold in cornbread and crab meat. Shape mixture into 16 (2 1/2-inch) cakes (about 1/4 cup each); place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  4. Lightly coat cakes with cooking spray. Cook crab cakes, in batches, in a large nonstick skillet, or griddle over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Serve immediately with cilantro-jalapeño sour cream.

Until next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee wishing you all a memorable Carnival Season. Remember, “Treat your kitchen, Treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!

The Mini Muffuletta

Let’s get Shakin’

We started last week with Easy King Cakes to kick off the Mardi Gras season. As promised, we will keep it rollin’ every week like a float headed down Main Street from now until Fat Tuesday. 

This week’s Tips and Tales includes one of my absolute favorites and let me tell you party goers this one is easy AND packs well to take to a parade, load on a float for snacks or even take to a grand bal to set out on your table. I have made these throughout my career, especially the years I spent catering.

It’s no secret I love Mardi Gras season, from the years in south Louisiana to the years I have been home in north Louisiana. I’ve been a member of 3 krewe’s across the state, most recently the Krewe of Demeter right here in DeSoto parish where I was the captain for over 3 years. 

As I write this, I’m still repacking my tuxedo from Demeter’s Grand Bal Vll last night. Let me tell you it might not be south Louisiana, but it was still one outstanding party and a packed house. Captain Linda Carter and Co-Captain Deborah Stewart put on a great event and Queen Denise Brown wowed the crowd. With my busy schedule I don’t get to go to as many events as I would like but I sure enjoy the few I attend. 

Speaking of busy schedule this one is for all of you that wanna wow the crowd without spending the day in the kitchen. Enjoy! 


  • 2 cups Italian olive salad (such as Boscoli Family Italian Olive Salad; from 1 [32-oz.] jar)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil 
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar 
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more if desired)
  • 8 sesame seed hamburger buns
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced capocollo 
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese 
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced deli ham 
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced dry salami 
  • Wooden picks 
  • 16 pimiento-stuffed olives, cut in half crosswise


  1. Place olive salad, basil, vinegar, and crushed red pepper in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse just until chopped (you do not want it finely chopped), 4 to 5 times.
  2. Top the bottom half of each hamburger bun with 2 tablespoons olive salad mixture. Top each bun with 1-ounce capocollo, 1 ounce provolone, 1 ounce ham, 1 ounce mozzarella, and 1 ounce salami. Top each with 2 tablespoons olive salad mixture and bun tops. Cut each sandwich into quarters. Secure each quarter with a wooden pick topped with an olive half.

Till next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee wishing you all a fabulous Mardi Gras Season. 

Remember, “Treat your kitchen, treat yourself” Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, Surely the Best!

The Easy King Cake

Let’s get Shakin!!!!

Happy Carnival y’all, starting with our Mardi Gras season what’s better than a great king cake? Well for starters a homemade one by someone who likes to bake and is good at it. That person isn’t me, for those of you that know me and for those of you that read my cookbooks you know. I hate to bake, I do very little of it, and frankly I don’t enjoy it and don’t feel I’m very good at it. I’ve had a hand full of things/specialties throughout my career that I baked, I baked a lot, and got great at. But other than those “I don’t bake”. Well, if you are like me, you can still find those perfect recipes for guest to enjoy that are quick, easy, and delicious. This next recipe is one I’ve used for years; I even used it in south Louisiana, and everyone still enjoyed them, so they have been tested and approved on unsuspecting guest. Let’s face it king cakes are Mardi Gras; they are as much a part of the tradition as the beads themselves and it doesn’t get much easier than this next one.


• 2 cans store-bought cinnamon rolls I used Pillsbury Flaky Cinnamon Rolls with Butter Cream Icing
• Yellow, green, and purple sugar 
• 1 plastic toy baby if desired 


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Place cinnamon rolls sideways on a large cookie sheet that has been greased or lined with a silicone mat. Arrange cinnamon rolls in a circular pattern touching. It should look like a flower when you’re done. Press down on cinnamon rolls with your hand to flatten them slightly.
  3. Bake according to package instructions. Let cool.
  4. Frost with the buttercream that comes with the cinnamon rolls. Add yellow, green and purple sugar. Serve immediately or store covered for up to 24 hours at room temperature. It is best when eaten the first day.

Until next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee wishing you all a Happy Carnival Season and Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself” 

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!!

Who is  Benwoods?

Benwood’s spice was the original creation of Hunter Lee’s father Benny during the oil and gas boom in the 1980’s. Inspired by his love for cooking, catering and the unique flavors of Louisiana, the spice was a big hit with chefs and home cooks alike.

Meet  Chef Hunter Lee

For over 15 years, Chef Hunter Lee has sought to bring Louisiana cookin’ to the world as a chef/kitchen personality, food expert, restaurant consultant, and private chef!

Our  Locations

Find Benwood’s line of products at a retailer near you. We’re constantly adding additional stores to our local retailers list.