July 25th, 2010


New Orleans Theme Party

Despite the heat, that was a lovely dinner party.

We had a total of ten people joining us for our "what we learned at the New Orleans School of Cooking" party. We had eight guests, for a total of ten diners. The conversation seemed vigorous all night. We didn't get to participate in as many of the conversations as we might have liked, but we still score host points for good conversations in our house, even if we aren't participating.

Our planned menu:
Shrimp and artichoke soup
Mock-crab étouffée (cancelled; see below)
Bread pudding

We were much more on time with the dinner than we often have been, because we planned very aggressively; Lori did the pralines and the bread pudding in the afternoon, and started the jambalaya at 5pm, though we were serving at 7:30. This was an advantage - the jambalaya needed to cook much longer than the recipe called for to get the rice cooked.
This also demonstrated that the New Orleans School of Cooking recipe was very generous with its idea of serving sizes. The recipe claimed that the jambalaya would serve twelve, but it filled a six-quart saucepan, and our diners didn't eat a pint apiece. We saw the vast size of the jambalaya and decided to cancel the étouffée.

The shrimp and artichoke soup ended up being equally generously-portioned. It said that it served 6-8; the ten of us ate about 70% of it. Everyone agreed that it was delicious - no doubt in part because of the quart of heavy cream it used.

The jambalaya didn't work out quite the way I'd planned. I made a roux because the recipe said to do so for a brown jambalaya - but the recipe didn't say how much to make, so I made far too little and the jambalaya was fairly pale. I also had trouble with the rice not getting thoroughly cooked for quite some time, so I kept adding water and leaving it on low heat (which also made it possible to keep the jambalaya on the stove while making and eating the soup, instead of trying to put it in the refrigerator).

The bread pudding was excellent. Lori added fresh cherries, raisins, and chopped fresh pear to the bread pudding, and it was delicious.

The pralines tasted just right, but weren't as flat as the pralines we'd had in New Orleans. My guess is that they would be flatter if we'd started pouring them more quickly.

All in all, a great party. But for today, it is very important that we do something lazy and air-conditioned.