“She’s a foodie,” said Tony Landry admiringly. “Everything she does revolves around food. When we go on trips, the first thing she does is go to an app on her phone for local foods—to find interesting and intriguing things to eat.”
“I like to eat,” admitted his wife Patricia, almost shyly. “It does help that he eats everything. Cooking is almost a hobby. I kind of enjoy it.”
Tony and Patricia, residents of Donaldsonville, live a busy lifestyle. Patricia works 50 hours a week as a chemical engineer in Convent, and Tony averages 60 hours a week as a production supervisor for a chemical plant in Plaquemine.
On top of that, Tony devotes 25 to 30 hours a week to his fishing lure business, T & J Lures, makers of the Humdinger spinnerbaits so well known in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Patricia is the executive chef of the family, while Tony commands the outdoor Pitman Fryer, the smoker, the seafood boiler and the barbecue grill.
He grew up in a Cajun-Italian family. His mother’s parents, Tony and Shirley Falsetta, ran Tony’s Pizza in Donaldsonville. He credits his grandparents and his parents, Debra and Hank, for his cooking skills.
Patricia credits Ruby and Mike Conti, her grandparents who reared her, with the foundation of her skills. “Style-wise, my grandmother cooked everything: roux dishes, spaghettis, meat and potatoes — everything. My grandfather ran Cuti’s Café in Amite.”
“What we are cooking next is always the topic,” laughed Tony. “As soon as we finish breakfast, the topic is, ‘What are we having for dinner?’”
Cajun Shrimp and Grits
This is Patricia’s recipe. It is unusual because it uses 5-minute grits. Most South Carolinians, where the original dish was invented, insist that stone ground grits are the only usable grits for the dish.
To that, Tony has a good answer. “If you make a good gravy, it’s good on any kind of grits.”
And indeed, Patricia, using her magic, got her grits to “stand up” like stone ground grits, rather than run all over the plate.
“I’ve been to Charleston, South Carolina four or five times, my favorite city. Tony and I go to Big Rock Sports Outdoor Distributor to sell Humdingers. We started eating shrimp and grits there and the three times we have been to Raleigh, North Carolina. I enjoy shrimp and grits every time I eat them.”
Tony asked her if she could put a Cajun flair on the dish. She added sausage, explaining that her husband wants her to put sausage in everything. And she decided to use cheesy grits.
“I was raised on grits,” she said. “My grandmother cooked grits every single morning of my life.”
TIP: If you can’t find smoked Gouda cheese, Patricia recommends using Havarti instead.
TIP: If the grits get too thick, use heavy cream to thin them without making the dish too watery.
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed
2 1/4 tbsp. Cajun seasoning, divided
1 lb. smoked pork sausage, bias cut 1/4-inch thick
3 cups water
3/4 cup Quaker Quick 5-Minute Grits
3 tsp. chicken bouillon
3 tbsp. butter, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Kitchen Bouquet, as needed
PREPARATION: Serves 6-8.
Sprinkle 1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning over the shrimp and set them aside for 30 minutes. Brown the sausage in a large frying pan. In a separate pan, bring water to a boil. Add the grits and 1/4 tsp. Cajun seasoning and cook for five minutes. Add bouillon, 2 tbsp. butter and the Gouda and extra-sharp cheese. Stir to mix well. Add 1/4 cup heavy cream and salt to taste. When sausage has browned, remove it from the pan and add the shrimp to the pan. Sauté until most of the water has cooked out of the shrimp and they have turned pink, then remove them from the pan. Add the olive oil, 1 tbsp. butter and the garlic to the pan and sauté over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning and Worcestershire sauce and sauté for 7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the shrimp and sausage to the sauce. Stir Kitchen Bouquet into the sauce as needed to obtain a light brown color. Remove from heat. Serve the shrimp and sausage sauce over the grits.
Tony’s dish is the essence of simplicity, but he knocks it out of the park.
“These are the same thing as chargrilled oysters in the shell, except that I use cupcake tins” he said modestly, but not quite accurately. The herby blend of green onions, oregano, thyme and red pepper gives the dish an entirely different (and great) flavor.
“It’s cooked in the oven, but not being on a grill doesn’t affect the taste. A big advantage is that I can use pre-shucked oysters. Oysters in the shell are hard to find some places.
“Another advantage is that you don’t lose any of the juices. My wife and I, and my kids’ favorite thing, is dipping bread in the juice.”
“Bread is fattening and I don’t want to eat it,” admitted Patricia. “But this is so good that it forces me to eat bread.”
“Someone gave me the idea at our duck camp,” said Tony, by way of explanation for the dish. “We cooked it and we all enjoyed it. Now I cook it four or five times a year.”
“Especially when we have company,” added Patricia. “It’s very good.”
2 sticks butter
1/4 cup chopped green
1/2 cup minced garlic
1 tbsp. red pepper
3 tbsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. dried oregano
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 pint oysters
Grated Parmesan & Romano cheese to taste
PREPARATION: Serves 4 as an appetizer.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it is heating, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the green onion tops, garlic, red pepper, thyme, oregano, lemon juice and Worcestershire Sauce. Stir to mix well and sauté for 2 minutes to blend the flavors of the ingredients. Remove from heat and set aside. Spoon the oysters into the cups of a 12-hole cupcake pan. Fill each cup about 2/3 full. Add enough oyster liquor to just cover the oysters. Pour the butter mixture over the oysters, filling the cups to about 90 percent full, making sure each cup has an equal amount of the seasonings. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove the pan from oven and add a tablespoon of Parmesan & Romano cheese on top of each cup. Return the pan to oven and bake until the cheese has melted. Serve with plenty of French bread for dipping the juice.