Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Little Touch Of NOLA At Almost Heaven South

Sunday, we had our annual dock closing party and 12 friends and family (and 6 dogs) came to help us do it. We usually have this event earlier in the month, but we were in Florida so we put it off until the last moment. Fortunately, we were blessed with a beautiful fall day – sunny and 70* - and the lake was still nearly at full pool – TVA generally begins the 6 foot draw down to winter pool on Nov 1.  Here's a shot of most of the group.

We decided to use some of the items we brought back from NOLA and even though it’s not exactly Gulf Coast ambiance, we had a Cajunfest. Our menu included an appetizer of cream cheese with pepper jelly and crackers, a soup course of shrimp and andouille gumbo, then for the main course, it was crappie and shrimp po boys and red beans and rice with grilled alligator sausage. We topped it off with several desserts furnished by the guests.

The recipes for the gumbo and red beans and rice came from Mary at Deep South Dish - check out Mary’s blog for the recipes and more pictures.

I made a double gumbo recipe and I also used her recipe for dark oven roux and used four cups for the double gumbo – using the oven made good sense as we were running the furnace anyway and I could prep the other items while it cooked.  To the gumbo recipe, I added about a tbsp of Essence and a quart of pulled BBQ chicken I had in the freezer. I also got to use some of the 3 gallons of shrimp stock I’d made back in September.

I made a triple red beans recipe and added a tsp. or so of our kicked up Emeril’s Essence for a little more flavor. I made the gumbo and red beans the day before the party and we made the rice on party day – Bev used this as an excuse to buy a rice cooker.  Here's a shot of the beans before adding the sausage.

For the shrimp and crappie, we used our standard beer batter then Panko breading. I made the batter up a couple of hours before using, then, we breaded both meats and stuck in the fridge about an hour before cook time. We cooked everything at the lake using the turkey fryer burner, then kept them warm in the grill. Here they are just prior to cooking - we had 2 pans of each.

We're off and cooking.  I often use the grill side burner, but this big burner is the way to go has it puts out enough heat to maintain temp even when adding cold fish and to quickly recover if it does get a little low.  This is my deep fry burner from now on.

The fish fried up and ready to go.

We served the gumbo as guests arrived and planned to have rice with it, but it wasn’t quite done. The red beans and rice were served as a side to the Po boys and I grilled and sliced some alligator sausage to add to it just before serving. During our NOLA trip I’d had red beans and rice at The Rivershack Tavern and they’d served it topped with a piece of grilled gator sausage - I was able to bring back the same brand.

For the sandwiches, we used newly-available-at-Krogers Cuban bread, which, at 20", is about the same length as French bread, but not as wide or as thick. We sliced them not quite clear thru and removed some of the bread to create a little pocket (makes it easier for the goodies to stay on). We then made full-loaf sandwiches and let the guests slice off  the amount they wanted and dress them with a choice of shredded lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, mayo and tarter sauce ala Cathy from Wives With Knives.  Bev brought the bread to the grill so I could keep the fish warm.

I received no complaints of not enough fish on the bread - not sure I could have added another piece.

For desserts, we had coconut cream pie, berry cobbler, brownies, and pineapple trifle.

Everything turned out really well except the rice – I think we need to read the rice cooker manual some more then practice on it. Both of Mary’s recipes were hits and how can you go wrong with shrimp and crappie. One non-fish eater even had seconds on the crappie - it's about as mild as a fish can be.  I ended up using 4# of shrimp (in the gumbo), a package of andouille, and a package of gator sausage that we brought back from NOLA – I think I'm down to crawfish and boudin so something with one or both will be up next.  This is Cajun food two days in a row.

Since it was 70*, sunny, and I was cooking around a hot fire, I took the opportunity to wear shorts, sandals and a tank top T-shirt for the likely last time, while others showed up with jackets on. I was perfect until the sun went behind the hill and by 6pm, I was getting downright cool. The temp sure plummets this time of year when the sun goes down.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.



  1. Myword! What a feast. That dock closed it's doors in style! I love that Cream Cheese Peppery Jelly combo. Always good. Our Denver version of Kroegers is King Soopers, I'll have to look there for that Cuban Bread. Isn't panko just great for breading...love it. Great party Larry. When you come over to arrange the freezer and install that new door, can you bring some shrimp poboys? :-)

  2. LA - Pretty soon your list will be long enough I'll have to make the trip - that's what my kids used to do to me.

  3. Wow, I wish I could have come to that party, Larry. I would have done serious damage to one of your po boy sandwiches. I love panko crusted fried fish...one of my serious weaknesses.

    I'm so happy you like my tartar sauce recipe. Many thanks for the link back to my blog.

  4. Beautiful spread, Larry! I get pretty excited about a good fish fry and crappie and shrimp are about as good as it gets, don't you think? Wonderful food, a gorgeous fall day, the lake, a fire, friends ... looks like my kind of party. I'll bet everybody went home with a smile!

  5. Looks like a wonderful Nawlins Party, Larry.. Your dinner looked marvelous!!!! I'm sure that your guests enjoyed every minute of it...

  6. Thor says dogs are what make a party great! Glad you had a nice sunny day.

  7. Looks like fun! The food looks amazing too!!

  8. Oh My... what a great post, and party idea... love everything, you all know how to entertain!

  9. What a feast, Larry. I haven't seen that cuban bread at our Kroger's yet but I'll be looking for it.

  10. Wow, that is a fine feast you have there Larry. I could close my eyes and be in southern Louisiana enjoying all that wonderful Creole food. Wish I could have been there.

    I hate to see the TVA draw down lakes. They do it where we live too. It makes me sad, but I get so excited again in the spring, I guess it makes it up.

  11. Dang, I missed it!! Wow, I sure have loved to have been there for this dock closing party. What a feast! Thanks for the shout outs Larry - what a spread you had!


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