This morning I was watching CNBC and somewhat oddly, for a financial news channel, they were airing an interview with the Olympic Dutch speed skating coach. If you haven’t been following the controversy about the U.S. Olympic speed skating team, the quick story is that they are not winning medals and they are not happy about that. Some of the athletes have decided that the reason they aren’t winning is because of flaws in their new, aerodynamic speed skating suits designed by Under Amour. The folks at Under Armour have been trying to diplomatically defend their suits, while not insulting the preparedness or athleticism of their sponsored athletes, and it appeared that all was resolved when the team decided (with Olympic Committee approval) to revert to their old Under Armour speed suits. Except they still didn’t win any medals. Uh oh.
And now here comes the Dutch coach to explain it all. He thinks the U.S. isn’t winning speed skating medals because of our “stupid” national obsession with….. football! According to him, our best athletes are “wasted” on football, while the rest of the world passes us by in the really good sports like speed skating. I have to say, the whole story just strikes me as incredibly funny—we can all take a break from heavy political conversation and play around with the “are you a stupid football fan, or an enlightened speed skating fan?” or “do you blame the suits or the athletes for the U.S. failure to launch a speed-skating triumph in 2014?”
And speaking of fun conversation, it’s Mardi Gras time again…and in honor of the half of my family that hails from Louisiana, I offer this great recipe for a small crowd in case you’re thinking of entertaining anytime soon. This recipe is adapted from one that I begged my friend Donna to share—she is the casserole queen let me tell you! She is from Louisiana originally and when she cooks for company, it is always really good. She is an avowed “I just put in a little of this, and a little of that” type of fabulous home cook, and you can certainly take this basic recipe and do the same thing if you like. But if you like to follow directions, this version is a keeper. Thank you Donna, and Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Cajun Shrimp Casserole
Serves 8 to 10
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 pint half and half
3 pounds shrimp or other shellfish, shelled, rinsed and dried
1 pound jalapeno cheese, grated
¼ cup finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons Louisiana hot sauce
1 16-ounce bag wide egg noodles, cooked and drained
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium low heat and sauté the onions, celery and bell pepper until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring for two minutes. Add the half and half, the shrimp, the jalapeno cheese and the jalapeno peppers and stir until the cheese is melted and everything is well combined. Add the salt, black pepper and hot sauce. Stir the cooked pasta into the mixture, and taste to correct the seasoning.
Transfer the mixture to a large, lightly buttered baking dish or casserole and sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.