Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday - Then and Now

So, evidently today is Fat Tuesday.  I didn't even know this until I was walking back to my desk from a meeting and noticed 20 of my co-workers crowded around the "food table" in our area, arguing about how to ice a king cake.  My suggestion is that you should ice it with as much icing as you have.  That's probably not what they meant, but its my only contribution nonetheless.

Got me thinking about Mardi Gras and how the whole thing just doesn't feel very exciting unless you're actually THERE.  And then once you are there, you realize that its not exactly exciting, its actually quite terrifying.

When I was 20 and a junior in college, Mardi Gras happened to occur during our Spring Break.  This may SEEM like a lucky coincidence and an indication that going to Mardi Gras is a good idea, but that would be 100%  incorrect.  This fact, however, was lost on a bunch of 20-year-olds, so the decision was made to drive from Virginia to Louisiana in a 1992 Taurus and a 1981 Oldsmobile to attend the festivities.  For some reason the fact that we were underage and had nowhere to stay wasn't a concern in the least.

Now, its been 11 years since this experience, and I know I'm old and kind of lame now.  I no longer think big street parties are very much fun because I don't like when strangers get anywhere close to my personal space, breathe on me, or even talk to me.   And I find drunken college kids to be extraordinarily obnoxious.  Back when I was 20, I THOUGHT I liked these things (like street parties and drunken college kids, and the personal space thing wasn't such a big deal), until I found myself on Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday.

Oh.  Holy.  Heck.  There are no words to describe the complete pandemonium of this place.  Personal space be gone...there were so many people that folks were actually piled on top of each other, and if you wanted to see where you were going, sitting on someones shoulders was a necessity.  I saw more....well, interesting....stuff....than I could ever imagine wanting to see.  I was ASTOUNDED at the entire scene.  I actually had to discard everything I was wearing on Fat Tuesday after I got home because my clothes and shoes were so dirty with Bourbon Street filth that they were completely insalvagable.  Now, I love a good party as much as the next person, but I was completely terrified.  Like, scarred for life kind of terrified.

New Orleans is a beautiful city, though, and I would totally go back at any other time of the year.  However, I also have much more expensive clothes and shoes than I did when I was 20, so I'll be staying away from Bourbon Street because I'd be real put out if I had to throw away a whole outfit because I stepped in something questionable.

This Fat Tuesday is sure to be a lot tamer.  I'll be on the couch with my husband, a glass of red, and The Bachelor on DVR.  Maybe I'll sit on his shoulders and scream at the neighbors to give me beads for old time's sake.  Or maybe not.

Now, let's talk about food, shall we?  I didn't plan anything remotely Mardi-Gras related this week (but now I really want a shrimp Po' Boy darn it), so we're going to make a 180 and talk about tuna steaks with Asian couscous salad instead.  I thought the tuna was super delicious and flavorful, and the salad was also quite good, but I think next time I'll do less "stuff" in there. I'll probably tweak a bit more and probably just do the couscous with a little bit of sesame oil and then garnish with peanuts and scallions.

Maple Soy Grilled (Sauteed?) Tuna
Source: Recipe Girl

¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs prepared horseradish
1 tbsp. minced garlic (I added this)
Four ¾-inch-thick tuna steaks (about 1½ lbs.)
Combine first 4 ingredients in a heavy-duty ziptop plastic bag; add tuna. Seal and chill 1 hour, turning occasionally. Remove tuna from plastic bag; discard marinade.
Grill tuna, covered with grill lid, over high heat (400° to 500°) 2 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.  (It was gross out so I seared them in a pan for 4-5 minutes each side for medium rare)

Asian Couscous Salad

1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous
1 1/4 cup water (I used chicken stock for extra flavor)
3/4 of 16 oz bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix
2 carrots, shredded (I left this out and used coleslaw mix with carrots in there)
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced and toasted almonds (I used honey roasted peanuts)
1/3 cup crunchy chow mein noodles
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil (I used sesame oil)
1 TB hoisin sauce
1 TB honey
1-2 cloves minced or pressed garlic
salt and pepper to taste

In small bowl, whisk together rice wine vinegar, oil, hoisin, honey, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring 1 1/4 cups water to boil. Add 1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous. Take off heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Once couscous has absorbed water, fluff with a fork and let cool.

In large bowl combine shredded coleslaw mix, carrots, green onion and almonds (and crunchy noodles if adding). Add cooled couscous to mixture and gently combine. Add dressing to salad and toss. Taste for additional salt and pepper. Can be served immediately at room temperature or refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

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