I've only been to New Orleans once, years ago to speak at a conference and naturally didn't get enough time to do much exploring. I did, however get hooked on the music and the food and have been meaning to go back ever since. Somehow I haven't done that yet, getting my fix of etouffe and jambalaya elsewhere (never nearly as good). So when I was asked to check out Ralph Brennan's latest cookbook - New Orleans Seafood Cookbook...seriously, how could I refuse!!!
What can I say...well...let me just list some of the amazing recipe choices ...all with beautiful photos that will definitely have you drooling. If you love New Orleans cuisine - Creole dishes like Crab Cakes with Ravigote Sauce, Fried Oyster Po' Boys, Crawfish Pie, Seafood & Okra Gumbo, Louisiana Seafood Boil, Seafood Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffe, Alligator Sauce Piquante...then you will love the opportunity to make the dishes right at home.
I do have a couple of caveats though...unless you live in Louisiana, you will have difficulty finding many of the ingredients. You can order some things on line (but I'm an immediate gratification person myself, so that's not really my option) and of course you can substitute some ingredients, but...as an example...here in Halifax, I can order crawfish tail meat...not whole crawfish, so forget using the head and shells for stock...but only one local shop will do even that through their supplier in Cape Breton who will order it from Louisiana and get it shipped in frozen and then sent on to Halifax (all this takes about a week)...so I'll be using shrimp, even though it won't taste quite the same. Not to worry, I promise. The moaning around the table when I served dinner was testament to deliciousness.
One other challenge for me, is that typically I like to make things that come together in a snap. Many of the Louisiana dishes I love, take time so they're great for long afternoon adventures in the kitchen. Although many of them like the unbelievably delicious ....
Shrimp Ravioli in Roasted Tomato Butter Sauce
(Ralph used crawfish which would have been awesome)
And if you think this is just a seafood cookbook...think again. Check out this absolutely fantastic
I made it for my son-in-law's birthday party and everyone devoured it. ( I had to use some maple syrup instead of Cane syrup, but it still was delicious.)
And there are lots of desserts, salads and sides that will definitely take you to New Orleans, if only in spirit.
Another thing I really like about this book are the sections dedicated to sauces, butters & dressings; seasonings, flours & breadcrumbs that are uniquely Louisiana...
...like this simple to make Creole Seasoning, or pecan flour, to name just two. An entire section is dedicated to stocks...everything from beef, to chicken, to crab & to vegetable stocks - 8 in total. And don't get me started on his Spirits section that ends with Cafe Brulot Diabolique and has Ralph's own blend...Nocello & Frangelico liqueurs added to freshly brewed coffee...add a little whipped cream, put on some New Orleans style music and you're in heaven.
Now I will absolutely have to get myself to New Orleans and visit one of Ralph's restaurants...Red Fish Grill, or Ralph's on the Park or BACCO, (some of the recipes are in the book and listed on the web sites) and check out his cookbook site for even more recipes and other interesting info. You'll be hooked!
And since I'll be hosting this week's Presto Pasta Night...I couldn't resist sharing this dish with the rest of you.