I love holidays that conjure up food memories. Food memories for me are often associated with many laughs with friends and families and great experiences I've been fortunate enough to enjoy. One of my food memories revolves around Mardi Gras. I've never been to New Orleans for Fat Tuesday or Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, but I imagine the bright colors, spirited people, and lively atmosphere would be seared into memories with crawfish, jambalaya, pastels, and feijoda. While I have never authentically celebrated Mardi Gras, I do love watching the parades and remembering my one experience with King Cake. During my senior year at Miami University, one of my cohort members enjoyed baking and made a colorful king cake (complete with baby Jesus inside) for a group outing. This king cake was decorated with white, green, and purple and from my memory seemed full of glitter and pizzazz. While the cake's appearance is one I won't forget, it was the evening spent outside at a picnic table with the members of my graduating class that I most remember. Many laughs about serious faculty members, smelly high school students, and undecided future plans ensued. Mardi Gras, for me, has meant laughter and fun people.
This recipe is an easy one that I associate with New Orleans and can be enjoyed for a party, dinner for two, or a solo meal.
- Soft hoagie buns
- 1 pound lean ground pork
- Paprika (1Tb), garlic salt(1Tb), cayenne (1/2 tsp.), and your favorite dried herbs
- Iceberg lettuce, shredded
- Tomato, sliced
- Dijon Mustard
- Hot sauce
- Cornichons (gerkins or dill pickles are great substitutes)
In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork and the paprika, garlic salt, cayenne, and dried herbs. Roll the ground pork into patties -- 1 pound should make about six or seven patties. In a skillet or griddle, heat olive oil until the pan is very hot and place the patties inside. The patties will take about five minutes a side. A nice crust will develop on the outside of the patties to add extra flavor and bite.
As the pork is cooking, you can work on your toppings. After slicing the tomato and shredding the lettuce, it's time to work on the sauce. This sauce really makes the sandwich. I love sauces and this is a variation on one I made for my shrimp po'boys recipe. Mince one shallot, one clove of garlic and roughly chop a handful of cornichons. Add to the bowl a big scoop of mayo, a rounded spoonful of dijon mustard, and a few spoonfuls of hotsauce. Mix together. The sauce is creamy with a decent splash of heat from the hot sauce and salty briny-ness (Did I make up a word??) from the cornichons.
I love this sandwich because it's quick to make, but full of flavor from the assortment of spices in the pork and the components of the sauce. The tomato and lettuce are a nice, cool complement to the subtle heat.
Happy Mardi Gras! Enjoy!