At the 2015 FISH Food Banks Nourish Fundraiser, Donna Templin donated a Southern Dinner.
Donna is an excellent cook and she comes from Alabama, thus, Southern specialties. The dinner raised $1000 and ten people enjoyed themselves.
This year at the Nourish Banquet, people donated $1500 to FISH Food Banks of Pierce County so they could attend Donna's New Orleans Mardi Gras Dinner. Everyone wore costumes, masks and joyful clothes and enjoyed themselves.
There was more than we could eat, but not more than we could enjoy!
Appetizers were constantly making the rounds. My absolute favorite was the Tasso Ham biscuits with seeded mustard and peach jelly. I'm guessing there was also alcohol in the hamís specialty rub because it supposedly never goes bad. This didn't surprise me, because if I had the biscuits at home with the ham and the jelly, they wouldn't last long enough to go bad.
"Tasso ham is a specialty of south Louisiana cuisine. In this case "ham" is a misnomer since tasso is not made from the hind leg of a hog, but rather the hog's shoulder. This cut is typically fatty, and because the muscle is constantly used by the animal, has a great deal of flavor. The butt, which will weigh 7 to 8 pounds, is sliced across the grain into pieces about 3 in (7.5 cm) thick. These are dredged in a salt cure, which usually includes nitrites and sugar. The meat is left to cure briefly, only three or four hours, then rinsed, rubbed with a spice mixture containing cayenne pepper and garlic, and hot-smoked until cooked through. Though tasso may be eaten on its own, it is more often used as part of a flavor base for stews or braised vegetables. It is used in dishes ranging from pasta to crab cakes to soup and gravy. Appropriate to its roots, tasso is most often found in recipes of Creole origin, such as jambalaya."
The Tasso ham was a special order from Metropolitan Market on North Proctor. The biscuits themselves were perfect. They were two bite biscuits and had just the right amount of crunch in them.
Each guest was given a flute of a drink called a French 75, from New Orleansí Arnaudís the iconic iconic New Orleans Cocktail Bar. The drink consisted of cognac (the summer gin, the winter base is cognac), lemon juice, simple syrup, and a dark, sweet cherry. The mixture went down too easily!
As a child, when my parents gave a party, they served ice cubes with cherries in them. After the guests left, Iíd help by picking up the glasses and eating the cherries . . . perhaps it was the whiskey that let me go to sleep early those nights.
For our Mardi Gras celebration, several people gave me their dark cherries and probably more Champagne. I got tired early. Also accompanying the drink were Adult Cheesey Crackers and Candied Pecans. Wow, so wonderful.
To compete with the Champagne there were more appetizers. On this platter were Boudin and smoked eggs.
Boudin (boo-dahn) is a wonderful Cajun dish. It's sometimes made with crawfish or shrimp or even alligator meat. Normally it's a sausage made with some kind of meat and rice. Ours was pork and rice and wonderful.
For the smoked deviled eggs, after they were boiled and then smoked. After cooling they were cut crosswise and stuffed with a little sharp mustard and a little horseradish, salt, pepper and a dusting of smoked paprika. I loved them.
Once all the attendees arrived Donna called everyone together to share some of the history of New Orleans and Mardi Gras, she also explained about our drinks, the appetizers, and the courses she had prepared for our dinner.
Helping out were Sue and Sean Cabigting, known to everyone in the group. Sean and Sue were constantly working the crowd so we never wanted for anything. The only thing missing was Seanís ukelele music from Sean and Sueís fantastic voice; other than that, they were hardworking and so cute.
The men usually lead the charge for the food and the drinks . . . followed by the easy chairs and the couch.
Marinated, candied pecans - Who wouldn't love these?
Cheesy Adult Cookies - There were my favorites.
As each course was served by Sean and Sue, Donna would explain what we were to eat, where the recipe came from, where she found the ingredients, and why the choice was made. This really personalizes the dinner.
Donna had a collection of books she showed off, including this one by John Besh, one of her favorite New Orleans/Southern Chefs. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, people were scattered everywhere and many did not return to southern Louisiana.
Chef, author, and restaurant owner John Besh found out a number of his staff had moved to Austin, Texas. So, Besh opened a restaurant in Austin, where he hired back all of his staff that had moved. They lost their jobs because of the hurrican and the move, and so he gave them back their jobs, and their lives. That's an excellent recipe.
The crawfish and artichoke salad was excellent, but those crawfish are sooooooo small.
Iíd never had gumbo before served with an oyster in it. I love oysters. I'm guessing the small chunks of green were okra.
The main dish for the evening was Pork Grillades, with Speckled Grits (part white and part yellow grits) with mascarpone and Edam cheese along with sweetened mustard greens with bacon jam. Pork Grillades is Creole-seasoned pork smothered in a rich sauce of tomatoes, green pepper and onion.
Although we weren't in New Orleans, we were well on our way to heaven.
After the main course we were served traditional King Cake, purple, green and gold cake with a plastic baby inside. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras lasts 14 days and the person who finds the baby in their piece of cake is the host for the next nightís revelry. Actually, Donna arranged it so everyone found a plastic baby. The cake is served with milk and brandy punch, so of course we toasted our hostess.
Dessert involved flaming brandy and bananas. Donna told us that this dish originated near New Orleans in order to promote bananas as an import. (Sean may have gone overboard with the brandy.)
The brandy eventually flamed away and finished cooking the bananas.
Ice cream was added to the brandied bananas . . . just in case we needed a few more calories.
Everyone had a great time. We laughed and ate our way through a wonderful evening. Thank you, Donna. Whatís cooking for next year?