My mom is well known for her exuberance and unwavering optimism, among her other wonderful attributes, but she is also famous for her cooking. Her knack for adding oomph to the most basic dish is no secret. A popular café uses her recipes for roast beef and barbecue shrimp po’ boys, friends often inquire about leftovers from family dinners and a cookbook is on the way (Only kidding about that last part...for now).
Because of her seemingly effortless ability to create a dish that the pickiest of eaters would devour, great food has always been a fixture in our house. Rather than relying on an alarm clock, I recall waking up to the enticing scents of grits and grillades, scrambled eggs or freshly baked home-made cinnamon rolls emanating from the kitchen. And for dinner, my mom would sample a new recipe from her impressive cookbook collection, using a unique twist. Even the simplest of dishes—something she “threw together”—burst with flavor.
From fried catfish on Friday night get-togethers, to crawfish étouffée for a birthday dinner, each family event includes delicious fare. But Christmas day is when my mom really showcases her culinary skills. After a simple salad with beets and baby corn, the shrimp remoulade arrives, followed by a feast of pork, seafood rice, oyster dressing and several varieties of stuffing. By the time I finish my bowl of steamy crawfish bisque, I feel as though I cannot possibly eat another bite of food. Then I set my eyes on dessert and immediately change my mind. I can never seem to ignore my nagging sweet tooth.
As for my own prowess in the kitchen, I probably should have learned a thing or two from my mom. Admittedly, I have not. At first I blamed this on my penchant for eating healthy. Instead of trying a new recipe, I’d resort to grilling chicken or scrambling highly-seasoned egg whites. It’s not because I disliked the act of cooking. I frankly didn’t feel a strong incentive to do so since my mom prepared an irresistible dish on a daily basis. And she made sure that I left the house with enough leftovers to stock my refrigerator.
When I lived in Mid-City, I’d sometimes stop by parents’ Lakeview home for dinner. But once I moved Uptown, car woes and a new work schedule made my commute to Lakeview less frequent. I began to miss my mom and her meals that always seemed to hit the spot (but mainly my mom and dad). I decided that it was a fine time to make another earnest attempt at cooking edible food. I’d search the Internet for recipes, read my favorite food blogs, rip pages from magazines and sift through a few of my cookbooks.
After settling on a recipe and acquiring the necessary ingredients, with much gusto, I’d roll up my sleeves and jump right in. I’d quickly end up on the phone with my mom, fretting about recipe roadblocks that even the most amateur cook could conquer. She would then offer her advice and encouragement, while reassuring me that finding the correct water-to-rice ratio can be tricky and some people (i.e., me) do indeed confuse corn starch with flour. Then I’d slap my forehead and curse my lack of common sense.
“Start with something simple,” my mom would say. A classic dish, which this exceptional lady makes for Christmas day, is shrimp remoulade. This recipe that was created by my dad’s grandfather, Papa George, is perfect for holiday fêtes. And it’s easy to follow (even for me). So, I have every bit of faith in you.
Servings for 10 People
- 2 pounds - fresh medium size shrimp
- 3 quarts of water
- 1 bayleaf
- 1 teaspoon of thyme
- 1 white onion
- ½ cup of salt
Boil 5 minutes and let stand 5 minutes.
Drop into colander to drain.
Peel and devein.
- ½ small can of tomato sauce
- 5 tablespoons for Creole mustard
- 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire
- 3 table spoons of tomato ketchup
- 1 table spoon of lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 3 squirts of Tobasco sauce
Put shrimp in china or glass bowl and pour over sauce. Let marinate for at least 2 hours.
- Put lettuce leaf in each container
- Divide shrimp equally with sauce
- Put 3 saltine crackers around each container