Dinner:  February 24, 2009

Every year, Jen and I like to plan a special meal for Mardi Gras, I think mostly because we both just love New Orleans–even though we’ve never been there together. A couple of years ago, for example, Jen fried up some catfish fillets and served them with red beans and rice.

This year, though, I took on dinner. I remembered a delicious dish served up at Palace Cafe in New Orleans. I had this dish as part of a buffet dinner, served at a Beefeater Gin reception during last year’s Tales of the Cocktail. The dish was a Creole/Italian hybrid of shrimp, sausage, and pasta in a rich, creamy sauce. Or, as Palace Cafe describes it, “Pasta St. Charles: Louisiana shrimp and smoked andouille sausage tossed in a Creole mustard cream with penne pasta and Pecorino Romano cheese.”

Anita, from Married…with Dinner, sleuthed out the recipe and was kind enough to pass it along. I started by bringing cream to a boil and reducing it down. I took it off the heat and stirred in creole mustard. Or at least, a fascimile of same. I couldn’t actually locate creole mustard in any of our local stores, so I improvised by mixing Worcestershire and Tobasco with Dijon mustard. This was a shortcut that Jen found on the Web, and I have no idea how accurate it is, but I tried it anyway.

The next step involved sauteeing sausage in butter. Mm. Sausage and butter. The recipe calls for andouille, which of course makes sense for NOLA. Good andouille, however, is hard to find here, and at any rate, probably won’t be from local sources. We instead used kielbasa from Stoney Hill Cattle, which we bought at the farmer’s market on Saturday.

Creole seasoning

I lightly browned the sausage and then added minced garlic and creole seasoning. Again, creole seasoning is unobtainable here, so I again improvised. In this case, though, I had a source I knew to be reliable: Chuck Taggart’s Gumbo Pages.*

I used small Maine shrimp for this dish, and because they’re so wee and delicate, they don’t require long cooking. So rather than sauteeing them with the sausage, as the recipe instructs, I instead lightly tossed them through the cream-mustard sauce. I folded the saucy shrimp in with the sausage and then folded in half a pound of chunky pasta.

I found that the recipe, as given, was way under-salted. I suspect this is because packaged creole seasonings include salt. Chuck’s recipe does not, and he even says he’d rather control the salt as an independent ingredient. I agree, so I salted the cream-mustard sauce before adding it to the pan with the sausage and pasta. I salted the sauce, whisked, tasted, and repeated as necessary until it was just right.

*It says something about Chuck that his recipe is the first hit in Google when you search for “creole seasoning.” Chuck, by the way, was nearly the third member of our dining party last night, since I relied on GP to provide recipes for Last Night’s Drinks–the Vieux Carré and the Cocktail à la Louisiane.

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