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Yes indeed…let the good times roll. If you are in New Orleans or anywhere in Louisiana this week, you are bound to hear that or this, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!,” the same exclamation in Cajun French. It expresses the local people’s “joie de vivre” or “joy of living” approach to Mardi Gras.

Having lived in Baton Rouge twice – once in the late ‘70s with my husband and three daughters and again in 1999 as empty nesters with my husband – we indeed embraced the “joie de vivre” approach to Mardi Gras and everything Louisianan. I was working in Baton Rouge and spending one day a week in New Orleans and one or two days a month in Shreveport for business. My work in Louisiana educated me in the cuisine of all regions of the state. Blessed with neighbors from New Orleans and Morgan City as my local cooking instructors, as well as executive chefs training me in the clubs where I worked, my Cajun cooking skills improved greatly. By 1999, two of our daughters were out of college and married with children. Our youngest, Karie Lynn, was in school in Columbia, Mo. and anxious to bring friends from college home for a visit.

We were delighted to hear she was coming home for a visit and bringing three of her sorority sisters from Stephen’s College with her. It seems they were completely naïve when it came to Mardi Gras, Louisiana or anything Gulf-Coast related. In fact, they had never been out of Missouri. Our daughter took it upon herself to be their tour guide (semi-local expert) and share the Mardi Gras experience with them. Living in Missouri, she was in serious withdrawal, missing crawfish, shrimp, oysters, gumbo, etouffee, fried alligator, etc. You get the picture. She claimed the only seafood she could get in Columbia was at a local Red Lobster, not quite the Gulf Coast Cajun delights she had learned to eat and enjoy. She actually ate her first crawfish at age 1, after that … she was hooked! 

We set the girls up in a New Orleans waterfront apartment in which our friend Susan Ballard lived. Susan conveniently left town every Mardi Gras and let friends use her loft. The girls partied and ate their way through the parades, bars and restaurants. A few days later they arrived back at our home in Baton Rouge, tired, excited and covered in beads. Did they enjoy New Orleans? You bet! And the food? They couldn’t get enough of the great Louisiana cuisine. I couldn’t let them go back to Missouri without trying a few of my dishes as well. Yes, they were hooked! I hope you get hooked too. “Please Join My Table” as I share a few easy recipes I hope you will try! (If you want the long gourmet versions, send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Crawfish Etouffee

(I created this recipe after Phil and I enjoyed Steamboat Bills version in Lake Charles, La.)

1 and 3/4 sticks unsalted  butter (or 1 stick butter  and 1/4 cup crawfish fat)

1 and 1/2 cups onion, chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped green onion (include tops)

1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 cup condensed cream of mushroom soup (do not dilute)

2 cans Rotel tomatoes with green chilies, pureed with juices

1/2 cup beer, any variety

1 pound peeled crawfish tails  (you can find them cleaned 

   and peeled in the freezer  section of H-E-B)  or shrimp, headed, peeled and cleaned 

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice of 1/2 of a lemon

DIRECTIONS: In a large sauté pan, melt butter. Add onion, green pepper, celery and garlic. Sauté for 10 minutes then add the flour, green onion, parsley and seasonings. Sauté 5 more minutes. Add Rotel tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, cream of mushroom soup, beer and crawfish (or shrimp) and simmer for 5 minutes. Just before serving, squeeze lemon into the dish. Serve with steamed white rice and top with more minced parsley if desired. Pass Tabasco Sauce if additional heat is desired.

Note: Since Phil likes his a bit thinner, he adds V-8 juice to thin it to a soupier consistency.

Cheesy Shrimp and Grits 

1 and 1/2 pounds peeled  raw shrimp 15-22 count (or you can use crawfish)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 and 1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 cups rich-as-you-can-get chicken stock

3 cups half and half

1 and 1/2 cups quick-cooking grits

2/3 cup FRESHLY grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1-2 tablespoons finely chopped chives for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Mix the shrimp with the salt and cayenne in a medium-size bowl. Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large (3-quart) pan. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent (2-3 minutes). Add shrimp and garlic, cook 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and half and half. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and SIMMER 2 minutes. Add the grits and stir constantly until they are creamy and tender (10 minutes). Add the cheese, stirring gently as it melts, then sprinkle top with chopped chives and serve it warm.