Eat This Cook’s Book


Our family copy of The New Orleans Cookbook, written by Richard and Rima Collin, and published originally in 1975, opens, of its own seeming volition, to page 77. The recipe there—Shrimp Sauce Piquante (also known as Shrimp Creole)—is splattered, pencil-annotated, and beloved.

The book doesn’t want for other enticing recipes. Thumbing through, I’m drawn to Baked Oysters and Eggplant, Smothered Cabbage, Daube Glace, and Frog’s Legs Meuniere. But every time my wife or I pick up the book, what soon comes off our stovetop is Shrimp Sauce Piquante. That’s what we had for dinner last night. With any luck, I’ll eat leftovers tonight.

The sauce, developed by the husband-and-wife team during Richard’s reign as restaurant critic for the now-defunct States-Item newspaper, is a grab-bag of nearly two dozen ingredients, including mace—the fey spawn of nutmeg. It’s a sauce that’s at once smoky and sweet, spicy and somehow smoothing.

You’re probably expecting me to paste in the recipe right about here. Or at least link to a page where it’s posted. But I want you to buy the book.

Specifically, I want you to buy a used hardback copy, printed in the late 1970s, a copy like the one we own, boasting a cordovan-colored dust jacket, embellished with purple type. An edition from the 1970s with black-and-white illustrations that call to mind a Crescent City take on the Encyclopedia Britannica. A book that, owing to its age, smells a bit musty. A book that, owing to its constant use, is pleasantly tattooed with the remnants of kitchen sessions past.

To follow my lead, go to, a used book site that allows you to search by binding. For $15 to $30, you’ll score a nice hardback.

Two more things: When you make the recipe, take care with the roux. Cook it slow. Cook it peanut butter brown. Done right, the broth will shade toward smoky and the sweet shrimp will shine. And you really don’t need that 8-ounce can of tomato sauce.

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