Eat like you’re in New Orleans for the big game
To master the cuisine of New Orleans, you must first accept the holy trinity: onions, celery and green bell peppers. No need to cross yourself.
The trinity is the regional version of French mirepoix -- onions, celery and carrots. Chopped and sautéed, it is the base of many French dishes.
The New Orleans trinity may be layered with garlic, tomatoes, hot sauce and/or a variety of spices to form the basis of everything from Remoulade dressing to gumbos.
It's not that hard to pull off, but then you must learn to smother. And that's another thing.
Smothered dishes are those made with a roux -- that's a blend of equal parts butter and flour, cooked to desired tone: blond for seafood; brown for chicken dishes; dark for gumbos and hearty meat dishes.
"You smell up the whole place to the point where, if you're not used to the smell, you think something's burning," says Elmer Guzman, who spent three years cooking with Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans.
And you can burn it. Guzman did that a lot in his early days. "Once you burn it, that taste is in there. In New Orleans I learned to mask the burned taste with sugar."
His first dish in Lagasse's kitchen was gumbo, which he now serves at his Waipahu take-out eatery, the Poke Stop. He makes his with huli-huli-style chicken or sometimes with kalua pork and mushrooms.
That's the beauty of gumbo: While traditionally it's made with chicken or shrimp, anything really goes, as long as you've got your trinity and you smother correctly.
Country Gumbo -- "everything you can find" -- is a staple on many menus, Guzman says, especially when it comes time to use up the weekend leftovers. He remembers Lagasse coming into the kitchen and asking, "What kind of gumbo today?'
" 'It's a Monday, Country Gumbo, chef.' He'd say, 'Good, good, save money.' "
For your Sugar Bowl party, Guzman offers his recipe for jambalaya, a stew that's easier to make than gumbo. You'll see the trinity in there, but no roux.
Another easy dish to try is blackened snapper, which Guzman learned from legendary New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme:
Simply take a 3/4-inch thick fillet and coat it well in a spice mix (Prudhomme and Lagasse's mixes are widely available in supermarkets). Place it skin side down in a dry pan over medium heat and sear it three to four minutes per side. This is calls "bronzing." The fat from the skin guards against burning or sticking.
But if you'd rather someone else do the work, the Poke Stop is offering a New Orleans Party Pack for game day that includes Chicken Gumbo, Portuguese Sausage Jambalaya, Shrimp or Fried Oyster Po' Boy and Blackened Fish -- with soy beans and poke thrown in for good measure. It's $100 to serve 10. Call 676-8100 or order online at www.poke-stop.com.
Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya
4 ounces butter
6 ounces diced Portuguese sausage
1-1/2 cups diced yellow onions
1-1/2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1-1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoon New Orleans-style spice mix (such as Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning Blend or Emeril's Original Essence)
2 cups instant rice
4 cups shrimp or chicken stock
4 bay leaves
4 ounces 31/40-count black tiger shrimp, peeled
Sliced green onions, for garnish
In a heavy skillet, melt butter over high heat. Add sausage and cook 5 minutes. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic and spice. Stir well and continue cooking 8 to 10 minutes, until browned.
Stir in rice and cook 5 minutes, scraping bottom of pan occasionally. Add stock, stirring well. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Add shrimp and simmer 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Fold in green onions.
Nutritional information unavailable.