Not all dishes go as planned. Patrick DePula of Salvatore’s Tomato Pies told us about a cooking attempt that turned into a hot mess.
“Spring break, 1994. I took a spur-of-the-moment road trip to New Orleans. I called out of work at the Hotel Ruby Marie from the French Quarter. I’m sure it was a ridiculous excuse.
Anyway — New Orleans. It opened my eyes to so many other delicious things besides the Italian-American staples I grew up with. Shrimp étouffée, jambalaya, oysters Rockefeller, pompano en papillote, oysters en brochette — all of these beautiful things that I didn’t know existed. I basically fell in love with ‘foreign’ flavors on that trip.
So when I returned to New Jersey, my roommates and I were desperate to recreate the dishes we had in New Orleans, but we didn’t have cookbooks or the luxury of widely available internet recipes. So I tried to make shrimp étouffée simply by thinking about what ingredients I thought might be in it.
Shrimp? Check. Étouffée? What the [expletive] is that? Tomatoes? Why not? Frank’s Red Hot? Tabasco? Aren’t those from New Orleans? Onions? Onions and garlic? That goes in everything because I’m a damn Italian-American. And cayenne peppers because Paul Prudhomme loves that [expletive] on TV. Then cook it for a really long time. Add wine, because fancy food needs wine. Then drink wine. Add more hot peppers because, hello, ’Nawlins. And then it was done. Overcooked shrimp and face-melting heat.
I convinced myself it was delicious, but it was [expletive] terrible. Basically just molten-hot fire
with rubbery, tough shrimp.”