Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bringing the Mardi Gras to the Burbs of Pittsbugh

Last year, the crappy weather around Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras was much earlier last year) prevented DB~ and I from going out and enjoying all of the great food and fun that Pittsburgh offers up to one in this city really celebrates Mardi Gras? Were we really going to go to Hofbrahaus, a German beer hall, for a French-themed holiday? I think the Aspinwall Grille was offering an all-you-can-eat Cajun buffet starting at 10 pm. That's convenient on a Tuesday.

So we stayed in that night and I made a quick version of some Cajun food plus some hurricanes to drink. It was OK, but a pale substitute. I resolved that this year would be different. My love of New Orleans would not be stopped.

DB~ and I decided that if we're going to throw a party, we're going to go big. DB~ is in charge of "ambiance" (Evite invitation, decorations, music, making sure all guests having good time), while I'm the "food and beverage coordinator" (food and beverage). The guest list was 18 people so I went with full-size recipes of some solid Cajun favorites of Seafood Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Corn Fritters. But I wasn't going to toss some kielbasa into some rice and call it a day, so I bought some andouille sausage. For the seafood gumbo, I wanted do something different so I bought crawfish to add into the shrimp. I've never worked with crawfish before, so I Googled how to twist the tail segment off from the head and then yank the 0.0002 ounces of meat out of the tail. Luckily I bought 40 of these so I had plenty of opportunities to practice.

No Mardi Gras party is complete without a King Cake, so if you want a French speciality cake...find a French baker. That's what I always say. Transplanted Frenchman, Jean-Marc Chatellier, is a renowned baker with a storefront in Millvale. The tradition with the King Cake is that a) it tastes awesome and b) you get to surprise one of the people eating it by inserting a plastic baby into one piece at random. Note: make sure you tell the people about the baby, because nothing brings a party down by having to do the Heimlich maneuver. If you get the baby in your piece of cake, you get great luck for the next year and the privledge of buying the cake next year at a Mardi Gras party.

But even with the Shrimp/Crawfish gumbo, Chicken/Sausage Jambalaya, Corn Fritters, and King Cake....something seemed missing. It needed a piece de resistance that would have people talking. And then it hit me. Or maybe more accurately...bit me. Not literally.


After we found it being sold at Market District Shadyside, we bought a 1 lb steak. I browned it in the skillet, then diced it into small chunks. I mixed it with a melted cream cheese, shredded cheese, onion, pepper, and Tabasco sauce and then put this into a puff pastry shell and baked it.

Of course I didn't tell anybody it was actually gator until they ate it. There were some twisted faces, semi-gags, but overall everyone agreed they thought they were eating chicken.

And in case you would like to make your own Hurricanes for the upcoming Fat Tuesday, here's the recipe that brought so many drunken smiles to our guests on Saturday night:
1-1/2 oz light rum
1-1/2 oz dark rum
2 oz orange juice
2 oz limeade
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz grenadine

The grenadine is strictly for a touch more alcohol and the red tinge to the drink. You pour this mix over some crushed ice. One hurricane and you'll be feeling fine. Two and you can't operate heavy machinery. Three and you won't remember your name.

Laissez les bon temps rouler! (Let the good times roll for all of you that took Spanish in high school).

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