Whether you participate in the traditional Lenten fast or not, after Carnival we all tend to need a bit of a break from rich, heavy food. It’s a bit easier when you consider that the weather – unusually cold this year – is bound to warm up soon, meaning lighter fare is more seasonally appropriate, too.
Boiled crawfish are a classic, of course, and while they’re a bit expensive this year, I don’t think many New Orleanians are going to forego a boil over a few bucks. My favorite place to pick up the bugs is Bevi Seafood, which has locations in Metairie and Mid-City.
I am an adventurous home cook, but there are a few things I’m just not going to do myself, including boiling crawfish and frying a turkey. Could I do either of those things? Probably, but the result would almost certainly not be as good as what I could get from a professional (or from a friend or neighbor who does it regularly), and the cost to purchase the gear I’d need would mean I’d end up paying more for sub-par food. Also, while the risk I’d end up in the hospital if I tried to fry a large bird isn’t high, it’s high enough that the reward isn’t worth it.
I also don’t really fish. It’s not that I wouldn’t; it’s just that I haven’t taken advantage of the opportunities to fish that have been offered to me by friends because of the time commitment, and to be honest because friends sometimes give me fish that was professionally cleaned and filleted (particular thanks to David R.)
I am a lucky and grateful man.
Now and again I make salads, but following the freeze last month I have re-planted arugula in my garden and in a few weeks I anticipate having a bumper crop. I know arugula is pretty much ubiquitous in salads, but I love the stuff, and as good as the industry has gotten with packaging the stuff, there’s nothing like arugula (or any green) that you can eat within hours of taking it from the garden.
In terms of dressings, I prefer the minimal approach for the most part. A little oil, a little lemon juice and a bit of pepper are perfect. One exception is Caesar dressing, and the best example of that dish I know is at Boucherie, where they grill the Romaine before dressing it and then use a generous hand with the Parmesan. I buy Romaine to make a version of that dish which, while not as good as the original, is still pretty damn tasty.
I’d be delighted to know your Lenten traditions; do you make any inventive substitutions to traditional recipes so you can continue to enjoy them without guilt? Do you change your diet completely? What restaurants do you frequent more often during Lent? Let me know in the comments, if you would?