This month’s theme was Louisiana Creole and Cajun cooking, in honor of our host Shelley’s Louisiana roots. The muggy weather conspired to create an authentic Southern atmosphere and boost our collective consumption of Shelley’s excellent champagne punch! Fourteen cooks attended, including Shelley’s sister Connie, birthday girl Becky, and new members Christina and Darla, and we enjoyed twelve appetizing savory mains/side dishes, and four tempting desserts. The spicy spread included vegetarian, pescatarian and gluten-free options.
As always, each cook introduced their dish to the group and described any challenges presented. Although our standard directive is to follow recipes exactly, this month’s recipe sources (two cookbooks: Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen and the ubiquitous River Road Recipes, as well as the website louisianacookin.com) gave many of us a run for our money. Two recurring issues with these recipes were measurements – yielding much more dough or liquid than expected, for example – and the intensity of the seasoning. Several cooks needed a do-over at some stage of the game, reduced the amount of cayenne pepper significantly, or deliberately omitted an ingredient (we are all likely relieved that Connie’s red beans and rice did not include a ham hock on each plate).
Some of us also learned a new technique, like Christina’s roux debut, were schooled on the difference between Northern (sweet) and Southern (not so sweet) corn bread, and had our first encounters with tasso ham, hand pies, doberge (a.k.a. dobosh and dobos) cake, and andouille sausage. And there were a few barely-averted tragedies: Jen’s gluten-free roux scorched and Gabby’s fiancé brought home the wrong kind of ham. Nonetheless, everything was delicious.
Mary Lou circulated a menu listing the name of each dish, and invited us to provide feedback and rate each dish from 1 to 5. And the pies have it! The top-rated dish in the savory/main dish category was Jackie’s roasted beet & gorgonzola galette (with Mary’s spicy tasso & corn casserole a close second).
The dessert champion was Jaimie’s yam pecan pie (a 1958 Yambillee winner!), just edging out Darla’s New Orleans bread pudding with lemon sauce and Chantilly cream.
Once again, we came away from our feast with new friendships, an appreciation for a new cuisine and its flavors, lots of delicious leftovers, and inspiration for many meals to come.
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