Cookbook review: Taste of Treme
'Taste of Tremé: Creole, Cajun, and Soul Food from New Orleans’s Famous Neighborhood of Jazz' by Todd-Michael St. Pierre is stuffed with doable recipes, from breakfast to dessert.
New Orleans is one of our favorite cities for food. Everything tastes of history, blended cultures and spices. Lots of spices. Some of them hot, of course, but more often just big flavored. And from the diviest dives to the fanciest white tablecloth spots, you have to work hard to find a bad meal.Skip to next paragraph
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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It’s been too long since we’ve been back to New Orleans. Fortunately, "Taste of Tremé: Creole, Cajun, and Soul Food from New Orleans’s Famous Neighborhood of Jazz" by Todd-Michael St. Pierre delivers. Published in October 2012, it is stuffed with doable recipes, from breakfast right on through to dinner, dessert, and cocktails.
"Taste of Tremé" is also packed with the flavor and soul of the city. Author Todd-Michael St. Pierre shares some history of Tremé, his favorite NOLA neighborhood and the oldest African-American community in the nation. St. Pierre says of the area “music is always in the air and something wonderful is always simmering on the stove.”
This recipe for shrimp with cheddar grits had me at "grits." I grew up in St. Louis, about as far north as grits reliably get on breakfast joint menus. And I have a lot of family in the South. So the creamy texture and buttery, salty taste of grits (to those of you who put sugar or syrup on grits, stop it) is a road trip welcome home sign for my mouth.
It helps to think of grits as kind of polenta (they’re both ground corn) or even risotto, filtered through Southern kitchens. All are slow cooked to a creamy finish that, unlike rice or pasta, doesn’t need a sauce or gravy. In fact, they often serve as the slightly saucy base for other foods.
St. Pierre warns that a “true grits connoisseur will scold you if you suggest that they use instant grits or what are commonly called ‘quick grits.’ ” On the day I had for shopping, quick grits were all I could find – Chicago may be too far north for the real thing. If you can find old-fashioned, slow-cooking grits, do so. Otherwise, the quick grits are pretty good. However, don’t use the instant grits – even I wouldn’t do that.
Spicy Shrimp with Tomatoes and Cheddar Grits
For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper (or other pepper—see Kitchen Notes), finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
3/4 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon Creole/Cajun spice (see Kitchen Notes)
2 to 3 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
For the grits:
3 cups water
a generous 1/4 teaspoon salt