Feb 21 2010

Belated Mardi Gras Tribute

Published by at 3:27 pm under Dessert,Dinner,Entertaining

I have a special place in my heart for Mardi Gras celebrations, having grown up just a three-hour drive away from New Orleans. It’s something, I’ve learned, that is not shared by most people I’ve met in the Bay Area — the dismayed looks on my co-workers’ faces when I brought a King Cake into the office this time last year was enough to prove that.

But when my assistant and I were making dinner for a couple of friends, I figured it would be a special treat for them (and me) to prepare a Louisiana favorite that maybe they weren’t all too familiar with: Shrimp Etouffée. I grew up eating my mother’s Crawfish Etouffée regularly, but I’ve learned my lesson about trying to buy crawfish in San Francisco. See also: Christmas Tea Revamp.

I’d never made anything similar to etouffée before, so I studied a few recipes before I came up with something that sounded good to me. Lesson: The veggies don’t vary much, but the herbs and spices do, so feel free to be creative.

Since the Shrimp Etouffée is such a heavy dish, I decided to forgo a side, throw together a yummy salad and put my energy into the dessert, also a southern staple: Banana Pudding.

Shrimp Etouffée with Andouille Sausage

Ingredients (Serves 4):

1/2 pound Andouille sausage, sliced into thin discs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 white onion, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup chopped celery (about 3 large stalks)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy!)

1/2 tsp Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 can diced tomatoes

1 Bay leaf

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper to taste

1.5 cups long grain white rice (uncooked)

3 tbsp butter

First, you must make a roux. I’d never done it before, and my first attempt had to be thrown out because it was way too chunky; my flour to oil ratio was much too high. Also, it burned, so be careful to keep the heat low to medium while making the roux.

Cook sausage first in large skillet, and set aside on a plate, preserving the oil from the sausage in the pan. Add vegetable oil to skillet and turn heat to medium. Add flour slowly, incorporating it as you go. Stir continuously until it turns a caramel brown color, around 15 minutes. Add onion, bell peppers, celery and garlic, and saute for a couple of minutes. Add cayenne pepper, Cavender’s, chicken broth, tomatoes (with some of the juice from the can), and Bay leaf. Simmer on low heat for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add butter toward the end for a rich flavor.

While the sauce simmers, prepare rice according to package instructions.

Add shrimp to sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until shrimp is fully cooked. Combine sausage back into shrimp sauce. Serve sauce poured over rice.

Pomegranate and Red Onion Salad with Blue Cheese

Ingredients:

6 cups baby spinach

Seeds of 1 medium-sized pomegranate

1/2 red onion, julienned

4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper in small bowl. In large bowl, combine spinach, pomegranate, onion and cheese. Pour dressing over spinach mixture and toss well.

Please forgive the photo; it was taken after a couple of glasses of wine.

Now, for the fun part: Dessert. I’d never made Banana Pudding before, even though I’d easily count it among my three favorite foods — seriously. I used this Paula Deen recipe for the pudding itself, but skipped out on the usual meringue to try out my own twist.

Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafer Crumble and Brown Sugar Crisp

For the pudding, from Paula Deen:

Ingredients (Fills one 9-inch pie dish):

3/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp corn starch

3 cups milk

4 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 stick butter

3 medium bananas, sliced

1 box Nilla Wafers

Mix together sugar and cornstarch and slowly add milk. This should be cooked in the top of a double boiler, but you can cook it over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens — do not leave it unattended. Slightly beat egg yolks and temper with a small amount of the hot custard; stir well. Add egg mixture to custard pot and cook 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter. Let cool. In a 9 by 9-inch oven proof baking dish, alternate pudding, bananas, and wafers, beginning with pudding and ending with pudding.

For Crumble:

1 cup Nilla Wafers (you’ll have some leftover after making the pudding)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1.5 tbsp butter, melted

Crush wafers by hand or in food processor. Add brown sugar and butter and mix well.

For Brown Sugar Crisp:

3 tbsp butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

Melt butter in skillet, then add sugar. Keep it hot.

My sister gave me some adorable margarita glasses last year, so I decided to serve the pudding in them. Just spoon pudding into individual serving dish of your choice, top with 1/4 of the crumble, and while butter and brown sugar are still bubbling, drizzle a spoonful on top of the crumble. It will harden immediately, making a delicious garnish.

One response so far

One Response to “Belated Mardi Gras Tribute”

  1. SHon 22 Feb 2010 at 8:21 am

    I love to see the glasses put to good use!