Whenever I have a really good meal somewhere, I like to try to recreate it at home. Eating out can get expensive, so sometimes it’s nice to be able to satisfy a craving for something you had out without having to spend the extra cash.
I especially like to try to recreate yummy dishes we have on vacation. This is a fun way to relive those moments when you were blissfully away, not ruled by the clock or responsibilities. If the recreation is successful, you just have to try not to book the next flight out at the dinner table.
If you remember, on the last night of our vacation a couple weeks ago, we ate at a restaurant called Saints & Sinners and I had this amazing shrimp and tasso pasta. Channing Tatum apparently owns the restaurant, and while I doubt he had much to do with the creation of this dish, I will give him a shout out for hiring the chef who did because it was one of my absolute favorite meals of the whole trip. I was so full but I couldn’t stop myself from eating it because it tasted so good. I didn’t want to waste a single bite. (PS I did my best, but my husband ended up finishing up the last few bites.) I knew as soon as I took my first bite, I was going to have to figure out how to make this at home.
When I got home, I started researching two components of this dish: 1. how to make the rosé sauce, and 2. Where to get tasso.
Tasso is a smoked ham found most specifically in south Louisiana cuisine. It’s actually made from the pork shoulder (ham is from the hind leg), which is cured and then covered in a spicy rub and smoked. It can be eaten alone, but it is usually used for the delicious flavor that it adds to other dishes, like pasta, seafood, and jambalaya.
Tasso is such a specialty item, I wasn’t even sure where I could get it. It wasn’t at the regular grocery store, but I figured a place like Bristol Farms or Whole Foods might have it. Nope. I looked on the website for a butcher called Huntington Meats at the LA Farmer’s Market. This place is really pretty amazing for all the different meats they have. They have it all from beef and chicken to pheasant and alligator. According to their website, they do in fact carry tasso ham. The only problem is that it really isn’t all that convenient for me to go there. It’s not that it’s far, but it is a bit out of my way. Maybe if I was making this dish for a dinner party with, say, Channing & Jenna Dewan Tatum, or something, I would take the extra step and head over there, but since it was just for us, I went a different, easier route and just got regular ham and added the spicy seasoning separate. Plus, if I want to make this more often, I’m definitely not going to Fairfax every time I want tasso.
I was actually really pleased with how this dish turned out. I’m going to tell you how I made it and then give you a few notes at the end for what I would different next time. And there will absolutely be a next time.
Copycat Shrimp and Tasso Ham Pasta
For the sauce:
Olive oil (just a couple tablespoons)
½ an onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tablespoon dried thyme
½ tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon Cajun/creole seasoning
Pinch of red pepper flakes
7 oz can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup white wine
¾ cup heavy cream
For the ham:
Olive oil (just for a light saute)
2 smoked ham steaks, diced small
For the shrimp:
Olive oil (just for a light saute)
Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
1 pound Rotini pasta, cooked to package directions
¼ to ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
In a large skillet, saute your ham in some olive oil until warmed through and slightly browned on the outside. Set aside on a paper towel to drain. I used these Farmer John smoked ham steaks from the store since I didn’t have tasso and I think it worked great.
In the same skillet, make the sauce. Add a little bit more olive oil if you feel like you need it. Add your onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, Cajun/creole seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onion and garlic are soft and fragrant.
Taste the pasta and add salt to your preference and finish with more Cajun seasoning if you want. I did both.
Here are a few notes for next time:
· I would either use chicken broth instead of the white wine or do half of each because I felt the wine was a bit of a stronger flavor in the dish than I wanted. It was still good, I just wish the flavor had stayed in the background more.
· Either double the amount of ham or make less pasta.
· I added Cajun seasoning 3 times: once at the beginning of the sauce, once at the end, and to the shrimp. I never thought it was enough as I was adding it, but then I ate it and it definitely had a kick! If you like things spicy, season away, but if you want it a bit milder, just add it at the beginning of the sauce and then taste it to see if you want more or not.
· I was looking at the picture I took at the restaurant and there is a lemon twist on top. I don’t know if that was strictly for garnish or if they somehow incorporated lemon in theirs. I didn’t taste it in theirs and I didn’t include it in mine.
· I think the salting at the end was a really good idea. There are so many flavors going on in this dish, I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. This allows you to salt to your preference.
· Let me explain why I didn’t mix the shrimp into the pasta: one, if I take this to work for leftovers, I do not want to be the person who reheats seafood in the microwave and make the whole office smell like seafood. Also, I thought I had more shrimp in my freezer than I actually did. I only ended up making about 12 shrimp. I would absolutely make more next time. Or, like I said before, make less rotini.