Laissez les bons temps rouler, things of that nature
The Friday Newsletter's getting a head start on Fat Tuesday
Any Tuesday can be Fat Tuesday if you believe in yourself.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a pretender when it comes to this time of year. I was not raised Catholic, nor did we actively participate in any sort of Lenten asceticism. I’m also not from a place known for being especially festive; I am what you might generously describe as “culturally Ohioan”.
That said, I’m a big fan of Mardi Gras as a concept.
This time of year can be pretty bleak, and we can all benefit from a little bit of revelry to hold us over until spring arrives, some color and flair amidst all the grey. Valentine’s Day? It’s fine, I guess: a bit fraught for some, but it’s also an aesthetic nightmare—all those endless shades of red and pink. Groundhog Day? Good movie, but not much of a holiday. Presidents’ Day? Get the hell out of here with that nonsense.
But Mardi Gras? The whole point is excess. There’s parades and parties and purple and green and gold. It’s a holiday with style, one that’s good enough to stretch over a few weeks before disappearing abruptly just before it wears its welcome out. It’s perfect.
Also, I just really like the idea of eating a big meal on a Tuesday night.
Tuesday is—objectively, scientifically, incontrovertibly—the worst day of the week. (I mean, I don’t even publish a newsletter on Tuesdays!) Anything we can do to make it better is a worthwhile effort in my book.
Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Today’s not Tuesday; it’s not even Sunday. It’s Friday, and Friday is the day on The Action Cookbook Newsletter when we gear up for the weekend.
Today, I’m going to do my best to put an appropriately festive spin on the proceedings.
This week’s loaded slate includes:
A classic Cajun dish that’s well within your reach!
A cocktail that’s worth doing several preliminary projects for!
Things to read, watch, listen to and talk about this weekend!
Pets, and more!
Let’s get them bon temps roullin’, friends.
7) Crawfish Politics
My long-held affinity for Cajun food got a major boost this past fall when I trekked down to Louisiana to help my friend Zach Rau cook at his LSU football tailgate. The star of that particular show was the from-scratch gumbo, the recipe for which I featured in a subsequent newsletter. I learned how to make another essential Cajun dish that day, though—one that’s every bit as delicious, but without the all-day commitment of a proper gumbo: Crawfish Étouffée.
Zach and I were discussing the hang-ups people have about Cajun food recently, and I think he summed it up quite well when he noted that “people act like it’s alchemy, but it’s pretty straightforward and having a feel for the techniques”.
Étouffée is a great encapsulation of this dynamic—it sounds daunting, the kind of thing best left to the professionals, but it’s really not hard at all; a roux, some trinity, crawfish tails and a few other easily-found ingredients coming together in about an hour.
wait a second, you expect me to find crawfish?
Right, about that.
Now, if—like me—you don’t come from a crawfish-eating part of the country, you might think it difficult to procure. If you truly can’t find it, you could swap it out for shrimp in this recipe. It won’t be the same dish, of course, but it’ll be delicious in its own right. That said, with just a tiny bit of due diligence online, I was able to turn up frozen crawfish tails right here in Kentuckiana at a Walmart on the southern Indiana side of the river—same day, mere miles from my home.
If I can find crawfish in [Forrest Gump saying “Alabama” to Jenny at the protest voice] Indiana, then there’s a good chance you can probably find it where you are.
It’ll be worth the effort!