Ah, here I am, enveloped in the sight and aroma of a luscious, mouthwatering, steaming pot of chicken, sausage, duck and okra gumbo simmering on the stove and, shoot, I just woke up! Nice dream, though. Coincidentally, this is the perfect time to bring Cajun food dreams to life: Fat Tuesday is upon us. Don’t be a shoemaker and let this sacred Feb. 13 holiday take a backseat to the other big deal: St. Valentine’s Day.
I promised myself that this year I wouldn’t pander to the Hallmark card crowd and write another Valentine’s Day column. How many times do I have to tell you not to go to a restaurant on this or Mother’s Day unless you enjoy being treated like an unwanted number and paying unjustifiably inflated prices for a mediocre meal?! Instead, I’m going to have fun and write about Fat Tuesday. I’m in favor of any celebration that includes the word ‘fat.’
Duck fat, bacon fat, butter, chicken fat and lard are all examples of fat, which is just another way of saying delicious. Why is this word so maligned in our culture? I blame it on Californians and their flavorless, boorish, vacuous lifestyle. Fat is flavor!
Some see Fat Tuesday as another excuse to get lit, and they couldn’t be more wrong. The food is way more important than the drinking.
Happily, Cajun cuisine is very simple to prepare and many ingredients in the larder are similar to our own low country, such as shrimp, oysters, crab and fin fish. When preparing this cuisine style, never discount the importance of a few specific flavor profiles. The first is … fat. All types of game are put to good use in Cajun cooking; the rendered fat from animals such as duck and pig lends extra richness. Roux, a mixture of fat and flour cooked to varying stages of darkness, adds the characteristic nutty flavor to many sauces and stews, like gumbos and étouffées. Equally important is the holy trinity. The triad of bell pepper, green onion and celery adds a distinctive base for most dishes.
I crave these flavors year ’round and I don’t limit myself to gumbos, jambalayas and étouffées. My reach extends to niche items like seafood cheesecakes and classic Creole dishes such as this shrimp rémoulade. Nothing exemplifies my New Year: More Food motto quite like Fat Tuesday. Laissez les bons temps rouler, bébé!
Chef Bill’s Shrimp Rémoulade
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
- 6 oz. vegetable oil
- 1/2 lemon, zested
- 3/4 oz. capers, drained, brunoised
- 3/4 oz. cornichons, brunoised
- 1 tbsp. scallions, sliced
- 1 tbsp. parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp. Creole mustard
- 1/2 anchovy, minced
- 1/2 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp. red onion, brunoised
- 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco, Creole seasoning, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. bacon fat
- 1 lb. Mayport shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Creole seasoning as needed
- Place the egg, lemon juice, mustard and vinegar in a Cuisinart bowl, pulse until smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil, with the motor running, until thick.
- Pulse in the remaining ingredients to combine. Adjust seasoning.
- Sauté shrimp in bacon fat, then combine the rémoulade.
- This can be served over lettuce as a salad or as a killer po’ boy.
Until we cook again,
Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina Beach’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at firstname.lastname@example.org, for inspiration and get Cheffed-Up!