Cooking with the Robertsons feature
PHOTO COURTESY OF JON GIMBER: Jon Gimber, pictured here with Alex Robertson Mancuso, is general manager of Miss Kay’s Sweets & Eats in West Monroe.

Cooking Homemade Meals with Duck Dynasty’s Robertson Family

For the Duck Dynasty clan, big, homemade meals featuring freshly caught fish and meat they bagged themselves are a family tradition. 

Fans of Duck Dynasty, the reality TV series on A&E that focused on the rural Christian family values of Kay and Phil Robertson’s family, know that food and cooking are all-important to the West Monroe, Louisiana, clan. Indeed, the show often ended with the extended family gathered for fellowship around the table enjoying one of “Miss Kay’s” home-cooked meals.  

The Robertsons’ love of down-home cooking doesn’t start and end with Miss Kay, though. Instead, it can be traced back further to Phil’s late mother Merritt, known by the family as “Granny” or “Ma.” Merritt helped her husband James raise Phil and his six siblings in northwest Louisiana off vegetables they grew, fish they caught, and meat they harvested. Later, she and James lived next door to Phil and his family in West Monroe. “Growing up, I was basically a human trolling motor for my grandma,” recalls Jep Robertson, Phil and Miss Kay’s youngest son, who appeared on Duck Dynasty along with his brothers Willie, Alan, and Jase. “We’d go out fishing, and I’d paddle her around in the boat, bait her hook for her. I learned more on those little fishin’ trips … stuff she would tell me from growin’ up. It was good times.” 

“I was also at Granny’s house a bunch, helpin’ her make biscuits,” Jep goes on. “She always told me, and it’s so true to this day: ‘See this jar of bacon grease? If you go to somebody’s house and they don’t have this there, they don’t know what they’re doing!’ That’s just learnin’ to use a fat that’s left over from something else. They didn’t have a lot of money growin’ up, so of course you’re going to save that bacon grease.” 

Cooking with the Robertsons pic 1
PHOTO BY STEVEN PALOWSKY: Big, home-cooked family meals have long been important to Louisiana’s Robertson family.

Being smart and resourceful in the kitchen, it seems, has always been a core value for the Robertsons. “Growin’ up, that’s all I knew—just real good food, especially stuff we caught and hunted,” says Jep. “My dad always taught me: ‘There may not always be grocery stores around, so it’s a good idea to learn how to go catch your own stuff, and learn how to make it using simple ingredients.’” 

Jon Gimber, Jep’s cousin whose late mother, Judy, was Phil’s older sister, echoes Jep’s recollections. Jon grew up in LaPlace, in the greater New Orleans area, but often visited the Robertson family. “We spent every holiday there, and I would go up and spend at least a month each summer with Kay and Phil,” Jon says. “I hunted a lot with Willie and Jase and Phil and Al. We grew up as much like brothers as I guess you could possibly be, so we were always super-close. We cooked a lot of things with what was available to us, and we didn’t freeze a lot,” Jon continues. “We ate a lot of fish, we ate a lot of wild game during the seasons for it, we ate crawfish when you caught crawfish. That’s always been a part of who we are and how we did it.” 

Today both Jon, who’s 45, and Jep, 41, are carrying on the family tradition, although in different ways. Jep and his wife, Jessica, moved several years ago from Louisiana to Austin, Texas, where they ran a food-truck business for a while. Jon relocated to Texas for six months to help Jep establish the food truck, which offered such “Southern-Cajun” crossover fare as shrimp étouffée, buffalo-chicken po’boys, and jambalaya made with chipotle peppers. 

While the food truck is currently on hiatus—its demands put too much strain on his family, Jep says—Jep continues to practice the kitchen skills he learned from Granny Merritt as well as Phil and Miss Kay. “Granny and Phil were very into what something tasted like, almost obsessively so,” Jep says. “I’ve seen many times my dad cook something and then just throw it out in the yard. Like, ‘Nope, I screwed up on that one. Dogs gotta eat!’ He’s his own harshest critic.” These days, Jep is into “sous vide” cooking, using the vacuum-seal, water-bath method for preparing shrimp, crawfish, blackened catfish, and steak.  

Jon, meantime, is actively involved in the professional cooking world. Since 2018 he’s been part owner and general manager of Miss Kay’s Sweets & Eats, a cafe in West Monroe that’s majority-owned by Miss Kay. (She refers to him as her “fifth son,” Jon says.) Located in downtown Monroe’s Antique Alley district, the eatery features coffee and espresso as well as dishes including chicken pot pie and Wagyu beef burgers and desserts like cinnamon roll cake using Miss Kay’s recipes. The popular spot boasts 10 employees, seats about 100, and offers a catering services for churches, hospitals, and birthday groups. “The main thing is, it’s been a ton of fun,” Jon says about the three-year-old restaurant. “We try to use the best skill sets we have, and we do what’s really good. Miss Kay is a phenomenal chef. For years she cooked a huge dinner for the family every day, and she still does that today.”  

Jon says he’s not a “classically trained chef”—his college degree is in accounting, in fact—but he learned to cook in a common-sense way: by cooking what he liked to eat. And he agrees with Jep  about Phil’s exacting culinary standards. Miss Kay’s Sweets & Eats, for example, serves Phil’s Small-Batch Pralines, crisp candies that have to be prepared “just like Phil does,” Jon says—“11 at a time.” Why so few? “Because it’s not a scaleable-type deal, to provide the same type of integrity that we want in the recipe,” he explains. “Before anybody makes ’em, they have to [show] they can make ’em just like Phil does. Because if not, he’s not gonna approve. He’ll hear about it.”

Jon’s Recipes from the Swamp

Crawfish Au Gratin Recipe 

This is a staple in our family for special events such as birthdays and wedding-rehearsal dinners. While not a staple of a regular supper, it is a wonderful dish that isn’t that difficult and has hosts of flavor. This is best with fresh-caught crawfish; that seems to just make the dish worth it a little more because of the effort. 

  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 1 bell pepper, diced  
  • 3 stalks celery, diced 
  • 2 sticks butter 
  • ½ cup all purpose flour  
  • 1 qt. heavy cream 
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend 
  • 2 lbs. crawfish 
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned Panko bread crumbs   
  • 1 bunch green onions, finely chopped 

On medium to medium/high heat, melt butter in a pot and add the “Holy Trinity” (onions, bell pepper, and celery). Cook until they are all clear and wilted. Add the flour and work into a blonde roux, cooking the flour but being careful not to burn it. Add the cream and work into the mixture. Season to taste with salt, cayenne, and Phil Robertson’s Zesty Seasoning. Add the cheese and, when all is melted, add the crawfish tails and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes (until tails are done). Serve in small, not too deep, cups. Top with the panko and green onions.

This is also phenomenal atop a baked potato, tortellini pasta, bread, or an omelette.  

Catfish Courtbouillon (pronounced Ku-bee-yon) Recipe 

Catfish can have a naturally strong flavor, but putting it in this dish curbs the strong flavor because of the sauce. I love this, especially when it’s cold out. It screams of Louisiana: a plentiful fish, cooked in a dish that starts with the Acadian trinity and finishes with creole tomatoes. I sometimes like to serve this with a grilled cheese sandwich! 

  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 1 bell pepper, diced  
  • 3 stalks celery, diced 
  • ¼ cup olive oil 
  • ½ cup all purpose flour  
  • 1 1/2 qts. Seafood Stock (you can also use chicken or vegetable stock) 
  • 4 cans fire-roasted tomatoes, seasoned how you like ’em  
  • 6 basil leaves, finely chopped 
  • 2 stalks oregano, finely chopped  
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 12+ catfish filets (I prefer Opelousas catfish, but channel or blues work well, too)  
  • ½ stick butter 
  • ¼ cup more olive oil 

Cook the trinity in the olive oil until clear and wilted. Add the flour to make a roux. Cook until it just darkens 1 level—not quite peanut butter colored, but not truly blonde either. Add the stock; I like the seafood stock the best! Add the fire-roasted tomatoes (you can use Rotel here if you want it a little spicier). Bring to a simmer and allow flavors to meld together. Season with salt and cayenne and a little Cajun-blended seasoning. You want it full of flavor and heat! Let simmer. 

Season the fish with Phil’s Zesty Seasoning, and brown the outsides in 50/50 butter/olive oil, cooking until medium rare. Place in oven-safe dish, cover with sauce, and cook in oven on 400° for 15 minutes. Serve on a bed of rice. White rice preserves the flavor of the dish, but serving atop dirty rice or jambalaya will add some more great Cajun flavor. 

Frog Legs Cooking with the Robertsons pic 3

Fried Frog Legs Recipe  

This is my son Garrett’s favorite! He started eating frog legs at the camp, thinking it was chicken. Now he asks for them each time we go. We love ’em fresh, but be careful. I have literally seen them jump out of the frying pot because of fresh nerves in the legs!   

  • 20 fresh frog legs (probably will need more because they are so good, so adjust for volume) 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • 5 eggs 
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • Cajun seasoning (we use Phil’s Zesty) 
  • 2” oil in big pot at 325° 

Soak frog legs in buttermilk at least an hour. Pull 4 sets of legs and place in dish. Coat with 1 lightly scrambled egg. Cover with flour, making sure the legs are coated fully. Fry for 6 to 7 minutes, until fully cooked and crispy. Let them drain and immediately season LIBERALLY with seasoning while they are still very hot. Allow to cool for a minute or so, then gobble ‘em up. Repeat until you are done cooking all of them.   

For a twist, set the legs all aside after cooking and make a milk gravy from some of the leftover fry oil, flour, and milk–seasoned well. Plate with a scoop of rice, a few legs, and cover with gravy. This is one that you will remember and go back to when you can. 

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PHOTO COURTESY OF JEP ’S SOUTHERN R OOTS: Jep and Jessica Robertson pose in front of their Austin based food truck.

Jep’s Secret Shrimp Dish

Though this dish is certainly less “swampy” than the others, with the addition of shrimp, it’s my kids favorite. It’s called Yummy Pasta (at least that’s what my kids call it, anyway) and it a great recipe for those that may be “less adventurous”.

Yummy Pasta Recipe 

  • 24 small shrimp or 12 large shrimp 
  • 1 package pasta (spaghetti or fettuccine) 
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda 
  • 2 Tbsp. blackening seasoning 
  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 1 bell pepper, diced  
  • 3 stalks celery, diced 
  • Blackening seasoning 
  • Green onions 
  • 2 sticks butter 
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. flour 
  • 1 oz. white wine 
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice 
  • ½ cup chicken stock 
  • Heavy cream 
  • American cheese 

Peel and de-vein the shrimp (If you prefer, you can substitute catfish or crawfish for the shrimp). Mix in baking soda and blackening seasoning. Season for about an hour before you want to blacken and serve them. It won’t hurt for them to be seasoned that long. 

For the pasta, cook in salted, boiling water for about 11 minutes. Make sure the water is heavily salted; it should taste like seawater.  

For the sauce, sauté the trinity (onions, bell pepper, and celery) in butter. Add minced garlic. Add two more tablespoons of butter and the flour. Cook until a small amount of blonde roux is made. Add white wine and lemon juice. Add chicken stock and let it reduce. Add heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper, parsley, and hot sauce. At the end, blend in some American cheese (I use Kraft deluxe American slices). 

Once the sauce is finished, blacken the shrimp. Combine pasta, sauce, and shrimp. Garnish with green onions. 

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