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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Cooking a meal for dad

Today is a very important day for me. It’s my Dad’s birthday. I only had 11 years with him as he died way too soon. He was a loving, caring man that took care of his large family. Looking back, I’m amazed how much this Yankee (he was born in Boston) adapted to his new hometown, especially when it came to food

He never really had the chance for me to cook a meal for him. Today on his birthday, here is a menu that I would be excited to make for him. I have fond memories of him shucking oysters and eating crawfish. With that in mind, here’s what I would serve him for his birthday: Oysters Centola, Crawfish Pastalaya and Peanut Butter Mousse. Let’s head to the kitchen!

I’ll start the meal off with an original creation. This is my take on Oysters Mosca, a baked Italian-style dish. I hope my dad would be proud to have this dish associated with his name. I know I am.

Oysters Centola

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped

1½ teaspoons Sriracha

1/3 cup tasso, diced

1 pint oysters

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 400 ℉.

Combine butter and olive oil in a 9x9-inch baking pan. Stir in garlic, Sriracha and Tasso. Layer oysters in the pan. In a separate bowl, combine parsley, basil, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the oysters making sure they are totally covered. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve immediately. You can also put these into individual dishes for ease of serving.

Although crawfish aren’t currently in season, this is a great dish to make with frozen crawfish tails. What makes this different from most pasta dishes is the way the pasta is cooked. You are cooking the pasta in the sauce and not precooking it before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. This allows the pasta to absorb more of the flavors.

Crawfish Pastalaya

2 pounds crawfish tails

12 ounces uncooked bowtie pasta

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup onions diced

¼ cup red bell pepper diced

¼ cup yellow bell pepper diced

¼ cup garlic minced

½ cup tomato sauce

2 tablespoons flour

1 quart seafood stock

1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped

2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped

¼ cup green onions chopped

Creole seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Sauté for 3-5 minutes or until the vegetables are wilted. Sprinkle in flour and, using a wire whisk, stir constantly until a white roux is achieved. Add stock, one ladle at a time until all has been incorporated. Add tomato sauce, thyme, basil and season to taste with Creole seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Gently blend in crawfish into the simmering liquid. Add green onions and then fold in pasta. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook pastalaya for 20-25 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and the liquid has been absorbed. Serve.

When searching for a dessert to complete this meal, I naturally reached for a family favorite ingredient. Peanut butter never lasted long in the house when growing up. Most of it was eaten from a spoon directly from the container. Here is a more refined way to eat this crowd-pleasing spread.

Peanut Butter Mousse

1 18oz jar creamy peanut butter

2 8oz packages cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 cups chilled whipping cream

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature. Using an electric mixer, beat peanut butter and cream cheese in a large bowl to blend. Add powdered sugar and beat until well blended. Using cold beaters, beat whipping cream in a cold medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold (do not stir) into peanut butter mixture. Put into serving dishes and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Often times you see posted on social media, if you could have one meal with anyone in history, who would it be. For me, that question is easy. It would be my dad. It would be more than just a meal though. It would be my opportunity to cook for him just once.

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