"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." 
--Virginia Woolf 

Mind Caviar, Vol. I Premiere Issue, Winter 2000

A Dinner Named Desire
by Violet Skye

New Orleans is a city of costume balls, divine cuisine and is home to Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and every other decadent celebration you can think of. In the city, on warm summer night, you can stroll through the Garden District past Commander's Palace and smell in juxtaposition the enticing aroma of Creole cuisine, the heady fragrance of night-blooming jasmine, and the musty smell of decay from Lafayette cemetery-- all in the space of a block-- and all the while the damp air around you caresses your skin like a soft, wet kiss. Because it is such a sexy and indulgent city, New Orleans is the inspiration for this sensual dinner for two. 

Of all the provocative things I like to serve a lover, oysters are my favorite. Raw and on the half shell, I dare you to try not to think about sex as they slide down your throat. But, if you are trying to be little more subtle in your seduction, Oysters Bienville, which are baked on the half shell with a rich and spicy dressing of shrimp, mushrooms and bacon, are elegant, seductive, and definitely indulgent. 

Oysters Bienville 

1 ½ dozen oysters on the half-shell 
3 cups of rock salt 
2 oz. bacon 
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots 
1/4 cup clarified butter 
1 tablespoons flour 
1/4 cup half and half cream, heated 
1/2 pound boiled shrimp, finely chopped 
1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms 
1 oz. white wine 
2 egg yolks 
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs combined with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese 

  1. Prepare three pie plates with a layer of rock salt about 1-inch deep (enough so that the oyster shells will stay flat when you set them in the pie plate). 
  2. Shuck the oysters with a good oyster knife. To shuck oysters, insert the tip of the oyster knife between the two halves of the oyster near the tendon and twist the blade to open the shell. Run the knife along the edge of the shell to separate the oyster from the shell. Place the oysters in the pie plates on their half shell and bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to curl. Be careful not to overcook them. Remove them from the oven and set them aside. 
  3. Fry the bacon, drain and cut into small pieces. Set aside. 
  4. In a medium saucepan, sauté the shallots in the clarified butter until they are tender. As you take in their heavenly scent, whisk in the flour until smooth. Gradually add the half and half cream, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens. Add the bacon, the shrimp, mushrooms, and the white wine. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. 
  5. Remove the saucepan from heat and add the egg yolks. Blend well, and then allow the sauce to set for 10-15 minutes. 
  6. Spoon the sauce over each oyster and sprinkle them generously with the bread crumb mixture. Bake at 400 degrees until the tops of the oysters are brown, about 5 minutes. Serve hot, preferably with a cocktail. After all that work, you deserve it. 
  7. Sit back and watch the bliss in your lover's face as he or she samples your handiwork. Accept lavish praise of your cooking skills. Smile graciously, and ask your lover to fix you another drink. 
Such a divine appetizer must be followed by an equally flavorful entrée. To tantalize your lover, I suggest you introduce him or her to Barbecued Shrimp. 

Barbecued Shrimp 

This recipe serves 4, so you will have leftovers, which you will both be very happy for the next day. They are great cold right out of the refrigerator! 

2 pounds medium-large shrimp in their shells 
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning (preferably Tony Cachere's) 
16 turns freshly ground pepper 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
¼ cup chopped onions 
2 tablespoons minced garlic 
3 bay leaves 
3 lemons, peeled and sectioned 
2 cups water 
½ cup Worcestershire sauce 
¼ cup dry white wine 
¼ teaspoon salt 
2 cups heavy cream 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

  1. Peel the shrimp, leaving only the tails attached. Save the shells, which you will need to make the delightful sauce. Season the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the Creole seasoning and 8 turns of ground black pepper, using your hands to coat the shrimp with the seasonings. (Yes, get your hands in there and rub those seasonings in. Don't be shy.) Refrigerate the shrimp while you make the sauce. 
  2. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the reserved shrimp shells, the remaining 1 tablespoon of Creole seasoning, the bay leaves, lemons, water, Worcestershire, wine, salt, and the remaining 8 turns of black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. At this point, your kitchen will begin to smell fabulous. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, let it cool for about 15 minutes, and then strain into a small saucepan. There should be about 1 ½ cups. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook until thick, syrupy, and dark brown, about 15 minutes. You should end up with about 4 to 5 tablespoons of intensely concentrated barbecue sauce base. Set the sauce base aside until just before you are ready to serve dinner. 
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp and sauté them for about 2 minutes. 
  4. Add the cream and all of the barbecue sauce base. Stir and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a platter, and whisk the butter into the sauce. Remove from heat. 
  5. Serve the shrimp with the sauce along biscuits or French bread for dipping. This dish goes nicely with a simple salad of baby spinach in a Dijon vinaigrette dressing, but feel free to substitute your favorite salad or vegetable. 
  6. Swoon with delight as the flavors dance the mambo on your tongue. 
  7. Accept more lavish praise. Be gracious and let your lover kneel at your feet and worship you. And have another cocktail, you really earned it. 
  8. When your lover, emboldened by the passion of your cuisine, makes a bold proposition, say yes. 
Because this is a complicated meal to prepare, feel free to keep dessert simple. Pick up an assortment of miniature pastries from a local bakery, which you can feed to your lover in bed with your fingers. Or to really arouse your lover's sweet side, Godiva chocolate "open oysters" would be a great follow up to "A Dinner Named Desire", perhaps served with a sparkling glass of champagne. 

Recipe For the Perfect Cocktail: Bottoms Up!

Copyright © 2000 Violet Skye. All rights reserved.

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