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Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 11:18 pm

Let the good times roll for Superbowl XLIV

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Except for 1985, when the Chicago Bears won Superbowl XX, and in 2006 when they lost Superbowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts, I’ve never much cared who was playing. For me, the Superbowl is usually just an excuse for a party.

Not this year. On Sunday, I’ll be on the edge of my seat, rooting for the New Orleans Saints. Partly that’s because the city of New Orleans, as well as the rest of Louisiana, is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina. It’s caused problems even in places that weren’t damaged by the storm, as thousands moved into outlying areas, with resulting unemployment, overcrowded schools, inadequate infrastructure, etc. And wherever Katrina did hit, the devastation is sadly still too easy to see. These folks need something to celebrate.

The other reason is that my husband, Peter, and I find ourselves returning to southern Louisiana again and again. Not just New Orleans, but also to Acadiana – Cajun country. We’re drawn there, as I’ve said before, because of the food, the music and the people who make them.
So if you’ll be cheering for the Saints on Sunday – or even if you’re not – here are some recipes to help bring some Big Easy spirit to your celebration. And if you’d like to try your hand at an authentic New Orleans-style gumbo, check out my recipe in my 11/5/08 column at IT’s Web site.

Laissez les bonne temps roulez!



RealCuisine Recipe
Spinach Salad with Oranges, Tasso Ham, and Spicy Caramelized Pecans

I found this salad dressing in an old cookbook of Louisiana plantations’ recipes. Blood oranges are in season and available locally; they make an especially attractive presentation. Any good Cajun spice mixture will work for the pecans, but for a locally made version, try Souileau’s. (For more about Souileau’s, see my 10/29/09 column at IT’s Web site.)

  • Baby spinach, 1 handful per person
  • 2 oranges, peel removed and cut into slices
  • 3/4 c. diced Tasso ham, or substitute pepperoni, or spicy salami
  • 3/4 c. spicy caramelized pecans – recipe follows
  • Creole dressing:
  • 1 c. olive oil
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 5 T. red wine vinegar   
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 T. sour cream
  • 1 T. chopped parsley, preferably flat-leaf
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard

Toss spinach with just enough Creole dressing to lightly coat the greens. Spread onto a large platter and garnish with oranges and ham. Sprinkle pecans over the top and serve. To serve 6





RealCuisine Recipe
Spicy Caramelized Pecans

  • 1 c. pecan halves
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 T. Cajun seasoning, such as Souileau’s, Emeril’s Essence, or Paul Prudhomme’s Magic
  • 2 T. dark brown sugar

 Beat egg white until it begins to froth. Add the seasoning and sugar and mix well. Stir in pecans. Turn onto a greased foil-lined pan. Bake in a 350 oven for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and stir well. Reduce oven heat to 300. Return pecans to oven, checking every 5 minutes, until the coating is dry and the nuts are toasted. Cool to room temperature.





RealCuisine Recipe
Barbequed Shrimp

  • 1 1/2 - 2 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 lb. unsalted butter PLUS 10 T. chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 1 T. fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp. dried leaves (do NOT use ground)
  • 1 T. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried leaves (do NOT use ground)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 c. beer, at room temperature
  • 1/4 c. catsup, preferably Heinz

Add the shrimp shells to the stock in a pan, cover and simmer for one hour. Strain out the shells. Measure 1 c. of the stock and set aside.

Melt the lb. butter in a very large skillet over low heat. If the skillet isn’t big enough to hold the shrimp in one layer, use 2 skillets. It’s important not to crowd the pan. Add the spices, herbs, Worcestershire, and garlic and stir to combine. This may be done ahead of time. Have the remaining ingredients in bowls at hand. Heat the butter/spice mixture over high heat. When hot, add the shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes (depending on the size of the shrimp), shaking the pan instead of stirring. Add the stock and cook another 2 minutes. Add the beer and catsup and cook a minute longer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the chilled butter a few cubes at a time.
Serves 4-8 as a main course, 12 or more as an appetizer.

Adapted from a recipe in Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen.





RealCuisine Recipe
Oysters Bingo

  • Oysters in the shell
  • Chopped cooked spinach, squeezed dry, approximately 1 - 2 tsp. per oyster
  • ioli, recipe follows, 1 tsp.-1 T. per oyster
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, approximately 1 tsp. per oyster

Preheat the broiler.

Shuck the oysters and discard the top shell. Place them on an ovenproof tray or cookie sheet, preferably lined with parchment paper and/or filled with rock salt. Cover each oyster with some of the chopped spinach, then cover the spinach completely with a thin layer of ioli. Sprinkle lightly with the cheese.

Broil until the aoli is set, and it and the cheese are lightly browned, 5-10 minutes. Rotate the tray if necessary to keep the browning even. Serve immediately.





RealCuisine Recipe
Aoli

  • 1 tsp. Dijon or stone grained mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 – 4 sliced garlic cloves or to taste
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. neutral flavored vegetable oil such as canola

Combine the egg, sugar, mustard, salt and garlic cloves in the container of an electric blender or food processor. Blend a couple of minutes or until the mixture us thoroughly pureéd. With the motor still running, very slowly pour the oils in a thin stream into the container. It’s essential to add it slowly in the beginning. Makes about 1 1/2 cups

If you have concerns about using uncooked eggs, or don’t have time to make aoli from scratch, a reasonable substitute can be made by adding the mustard, and garlic cloves that have been mashed to a paste to one cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellman’s.





RealCuisine Recipe
Red Grapes with Grand Marnier and Sour Cream

This is a light and refreshing dessert; something that’s easily made ahead of time, and can hang out on a buffet table for the duration of the game.

  • 4 c. stemmed seedless red grapes
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 2 T. Grand Marnier, or to taste
  • dark brown sugar

Combine grapes and crme friche or sour cream; stir in the Grand Marnier. Macerate for at least 1/2 hour in the refrigerator. Spoon into dessert compotes or other small dishes and top with a sprinkling of brown sugar.

Variation: Use strawberries, whole or sliced if large, instead of the grapes

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