Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mardi Gras in Chattanooga. Yawn.

Rockin'Dopsie Jr. & The Zydeco Twisters--"Party Down" (mp3)
Rockin'Dopsie Jr. & The Zydeco Twisters--"Listen To The Music" (mp3)

So what have I done today? Well, ever since I've finished working for "the man" (I thought I was the man), I've been in the kitchen. You see, here in Chattanooga, Mardi Gras doesn't have much of a meaning. You can find a King Cake in the Publix. I have a couple of friends who use it as their indication that it's time to do penance and give up the eating of chocolate for the next 6 weeks.

But there isn't a whole lot more going on. Tuesday night, when I thought I might bring a bunch of people over here, there's actually a faculty development event at school. Last year, there was an admissions thing I had to go to. Don't people realize there's a holiday, a celebration going on?

Mardi Gras, I guess, doesn't travel north all that well. And, maybe it shouldn't. I guess it's one of those regional holidays that feels kind of silly if you don't have an entire city celebrating it with you.

But I'm at least going to get the food aspect of the holiday into my life. I started this afternoon at what was once a great restaurant and is now owned by Greek alums of the school, and I tried their "Shrimp Hash," thinking maybe they had been able to capture the glory of the old Southside Grill and how it brought New Southern cooking to Chattanooga.

I was wrong.

The dish came swimming in a couple of competing sauces--the Creole Hollandaise and whatever the other one was. The crispy grit cakes were soggy. The shrimp in the shrimp hash were small, few, and far between. The poached eggs, though, were perfect. But whether it's Creole or Cajun, New Orleans cooking is about concentrating flavors, often creating layers of flavors. These flavors were diffuse.

So, taking matters into my own hands, I went to Publix, spent about $100 bucks and started cooking some of my New Orleans favorites. I've declared it "NewOrleansFest" over here, since I plan to eat nothing but New Orleans food for the next three days. After the better part of the last 7 hours in the kitchen, here's what I've got:

1. Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo--I got the roux to the color of mahogany and made the chicken stock myself

2. Roast Beef Po-Boys--the beef slow-cooks in a basting liquid of onions, garlic, carrots, celery, red wine, beef broth, and various spices for several hours, then you shred the meat and boil the gravy down to about half

3. A King Cake with a cream cheese center (Emeril's recipe) that's about to go in the oven--I suspect we will never buy a King Cake again

4. Homemade remoulade to go with the (as yet unfried) green tomatoes and (as yet uncooked) shrimp--in honor of the beloved, defunct Uglesich's

5. A "Vegan" gumbo on the stove, since my wife has gone back in that direction--It's better than I thought it would be

Ya'll drop by. And laissez les bon temps rouler! Billy and I will be taking Bottom of the Glass on a roadtrip to New Orleans in less than a month!

One of the other things that I don't think travels well outside of New Orleans is zydeco music. Nevertheless, when you are in the city, you get seduced, and so you find yourself back at home with a cd or two, wondering when the hell you are ever going to play this stuff. Rockin' Dopsie's CD, Zydeco Man, is available locally in New Orleans.

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