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Tim Sizer takes Mardi Gras, that gastronomic New Orleans holiday, seriously. His first cooking job after graduating from Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts in Rhode Island, was at a Florida restaurant with a Cajun/Creole menu.

“It was right at the beginning of the Cajun craze,” says Sizer who was busy making batches of a richly seasoned sauce for the Louisiana Cajun Gumbo which is one of the dishes on his special Mardi Gras which runs until Feb. 11. “I really enjoyed the food and its flavors.”

Now as owner of Timothy’s Restaurant on Red Arrow Highway in Union Pier, Michigan just a few miles north of Michigan City, he likes to kick it up a notch each Mardi Gras season.

First let’s start with crawfish—those tender morsels that are an important ingredient in so many Louisiana recipes. They’re not only used in the Crawfish Dip served with Cajun Toast Points, Crawfish Boil with red potatoes and corn, Crawfish Etouffee and the Fried Green Tomatoes with Crawfish Remoulade but he’s also taken the cooked crawfish, boiled to a deep red and still in their shell and used them as an adornment not only on plates of food but also draped over the side of such specially created Mardi Gras cocktails as the Cajun Crawfish Bloody Mary…ish. That drink, poured over a horseradish Bloody Mary king cube (to keep the ice from diluting the flavor of the drink you put the ingredients in the ice) consists of pepper spiced vodka mixed with celery bitters and Louisiana seasonings and served with a cayenne salted rim.

For those who might think that much of the Cajun cuisine is alike, Sizer is quick to point out that though all have what he calls the Holy Trinity (as compared to the classic French mirepoix which is onions, celery and carrots and, at times pancetta and garlic) is used in both, there are differences too.

“The Holy Trinity or Cajun mirepoix is onions, garlic and green peppers,” he says, noting for their gumbo they make a dark roux which takes about an hour of almost constant stirring until it reaches a deep chocolate-like color. “The blonde roux in the etouffee, which means smothered, just takes a few minutes. The dark roux is what gives gumbo it’s richness. Another difference is etouffees don’t have tomatoes.”

Cajun ingredients, including the King Cake served with house made praline ice cream and caramel (please don’t ask how many calories—you just don’t want to know), the red drum and the crayfish are shipped from Louisiana (for some obscure reason the crayfish can only go so far as northern Indiana). Other fish, one of Timothy’s specialties, is from Hawaii via Fortune Fish in Chicago.

“I call Hawaii and it’s on my doorstep in 12 hours,” says Sizer. “I don’t know how they do it.”

Sizer, who grew up in St. Joseph, Michigan, says that his parents were at the end of their rope after he had attended several colleges seemingly directionless. When he wanted to go to culinary school, they said okay but this is it.

“They were very nice about it,” he says about his parents, Pat Sizer, the late Steve Sizer and his stepmother, Carol Sizer. Luckily it all clicked. Since graduating from culinary school in the late 1980s, he’s worked in restaurants in Florida before returning home.

When asked what’s the best thing about owning a restaurant, he responds quickly.

“I really enjoy when people say, hey I was just at your restaurant and I had a great time,” says Sizer. “That means the most to me. Eating is one of the greatest pleasures in life and if I can help people enjoy that, then I’m successful.”

The following recipes are courtesy of Timothy’s Restaurant.

Chicken Jambalaya

Serves 4

2 pounds chicken boneless thighs

2 ounces olive oil

2 ounces garlic, minced

8 ounces green pepper, diced

8 ounces, yellow pepper, diced

8 ounces celery, diced

24 ounces canned diced tomatoes in juice

4 ounces tomato paste

1 ounce cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon basil leaves

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

1 tablespoon paprika

1 cup Chablis

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups cooked white rice

Sauté garlic in olive oil. Then add the Holy Trinity (garlic, green pepper and onion) and sauté until tender. Add remaining ingredients except rice.

Bring to a simmer, lower heat. When chicken is cooked thoroughly remove from sauce and shred into ships and add back to the pot.

Cook on low for additional 15 minutes.

Cook rice and divide into four bowls. Spoon jambalaya on top of rice.

Shrimp Etouffee

Serves 4

2 pounds raw shrimp, 31/40, peeled and deveined

2 ounces olive oil

2 ounces minced garlic

8 ounces green pepper, diced

8 ounces, yellow pepper, diced

8 ounces celery, diced

2 cups seafood stock, can substitute chicken stock

1 ounce cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon paprika

6 ounces blonde roux (recipe below)

2 cups white rice

Sauté garlic in olive oil, add Holy Trinity (garlic, green pepper, onion). Add stock and seasonings, bring to a simmer. Add shrimp, cook on low until tender.

Add roux to thicken.

Cook rice. Divide into four bowls and divide etouffee around the rice.

Blonde Roux

1 cup butter

1 cup flour

Heat a cast iron skillet or pot over medium heat for about 2 minutes.

Add butter and heat for another 2 minutes. Add flour and whisk or stir constantly to combine to a smooth consistency. Continue to whisk or stir constantly until roux reaches a light blond color, about 8 minutes.

For more information, visit timothysrestaurant.com.

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