While I usually eye any book on Cajun or Creole cuisine with a healthy dose of skepticism, I was pleasantly surprised by Taste of Treme, by Todd-Michael St. Pierre.
It helps that St. Pierre is a native of New Orleans, but that’s not always enough to carry a book on its own. The writing is fun and fresh, the recipes uncomplicated, and the little bits of history and culture St. Pierre intersperses make me more than a little homesick for Louisiana.
Tremé, a New Orleans neighborhood, is the setting for an HBO series of the same name, following the lives of residents picking themselves up after Hurricane Katrina. If you’ve seen the show, the book will act as a companion to many of the characters and situations you’ve become fond of. But if you’ve never seen the series (as I haven’t), it doesn’t take away anything from your enjoyment of the book.
The real test, of course, is in the recipes. While I flagged many more in my first pass through the book, I fit 4 into a recent week’s menu and it was quite the feast!
First up was Quinn’s Quaint Crab Quiche.
My only quibble with this dish is that it’s supposed to serve 4 from an entire pie, and that’s an awful heavy serving. I’d suggest you serve 6-8 people with this savory, rich quiche and add a nice salad for color and texture contrast. While it’s tough to admit it, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Being a coastal city, it’s no surprise that fish and shellfish feature quite prominently in the cuisine of Tremé. Still, there were a handful of each beef, pork, and chicken recipes to be tried, and we went with Kaki’s Cajun Lemon Stir Fry.
You might wonder what stir-fry has to do with Louisiana cuisine but (and I was surprised to learn this, too) apparently there’s a sizable Vietnamese population that immigrated after the Viet Nam war. Between the ports and the strong Catholic ties, it made sense for them. So, yes, stir-fry in a Tremé cookbook. And one of the tastier stir-fries I’ve made at home, too.
Soups and stews are fabulous fare, no matter what part of the country you’re cooking from. I considered trying one of St. Pierre’s gumbos but then I came across Davis McAlary’s Crab and Corn Soup and I new it had to go on the menu.
This soup could easily work without the crab, if the cost is prohibitive or you just don’t feel like picking through the crab meat (a tedious part of every crab recipe, but better to do it than not). I served it with my own Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits though a loaf of French bread would do easily as nice. Servings are generous on this recipe, too, as the stated 4 could easily stretch to 6 or even 8.
Finally we rounded out the week with Everette’s New Orleans-Style Barbecued Shrimp.
I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve never had the New Orleans take on BBQ Shrimp and it’s nothing like what you would expect, if you hadn’t had it before. These shrimp go nowhere near skewers, grills, or any sort of traditional BBQ sauce. Instead, they marinate for a time in a flavorful butter sauce, get cooked on the stove until done, and the resulting sauce is then bolstered by beer and more butter and poured over the shrimp.
All that’s left is to roll up your sleeves, grab a big stack of napkins (or a roll of paper towels) and some thick slices of French bread (to sop up the wonderful sauce). The shrimp are marinated and cooked with the shell on, so eating is a messy proposition, but all kinds of tasty. It’s not something we’d ever eat on the regular, but for a Friday night treat it was amazing.
There are so many other recipes caught my attention but there’s only so much decadence we can take in a week–the other’s will keep. Taste of Tremé has taken the top spot of my favorite New Orleans cookbooks, and the next time I head to the Big Easy, I’ll make sure to venture a little farther afield than the French Quarter proper.
I was provided a copy of Taste of Tremé for review. All opinions expressed are my own.