David Jacobs prepares Christmas dinner for his family in New Orleans.

Boeuf Gras, or “Fat Bull,” passes along the Mardi Gras parade route.

Nobody was home when the package of Penzeys Spices was delivered to the house on General Pershing Street in New Orleans. The Jacobs family—David, his wife Rennie and the couple’s 6-week-old twin daughters—had left hurriedly at 10:30 that morning. It was Saturday, August 27, 2005, and Hurricane Katrina was steaming toward Louisiana’s vulnerable coastline. “We live here, so hurricanes are part of our lives,” says David, a New Orleans native. “In the last 10 years I think we evacuated 6 times.”

But this evacuation was like no other. The trip from New Orleans to stay with relatives in Baton Rouge just 80 miles away took 6 hours. “We were lucky,” recalls David. “It took people who left in the afternoon 12 hours to go that far.”

An IT project manager, David had completed his workweek Friday aware of but not preoccupied by Katrina, which had crossed South Florida on Thursday evening as a Category 1 hurricane and was projected to make landfall somewhere along the Gulf Coast. David had spent Thursday evening preparing sausages for a colleague’s weekend luau. His interest in sausage making was born years ago with the discovery of some 100-year-old Creole recipes. “I make about 15 different sausages and cured meats using Penzeys herbs and spices,” he says.

With Katrina still churning far out in the gulf, David delivered his sausages at work Friday. Even after watching the evening storm update he decided there was no cause for alarm. But by the next morning, Katrina had strengthened into a monster Category 5 hurricane and was threatening New Orleans. David and

Rennie quickly packed “important records and a couple days' worth of clothes” and departed with the twins, Camille and Lily (which coincidentally are the names of two hurricanes that devastated the U.S. in 1969 and 2002).

The package left on the family’s front porch Saturday—the last day mail would be delivered in the city for months—contained a variety of spices, all key ingredients in David’s sausage making.

Then Katrina struck. The Jacobs family viewed the devastation and chaotic aftermath from the relative security of Baton Rouge. A week later, weary and full of anxiety, they returned to their neighborhood to find their home—located on “relatively high ground”—partially flooded but otherwise intact. Water damage, however, soon took its toll.

“We lived with family for 9 months while we rebuilt,” says David. “It took 3 months just to get power restored. We were the first to move back in our neighborhood, and today the neighborhood is largely back to normal.”

And the package of spices? “When we returned home I found the soggy box on my front porch. I called Penzeys to reorder and your Customer Service replaced the original order free of charge.”

With Mardi Gras approaching, we asked David to share some favorite recipes. For Fat Tuesday— the last day of feasting before the fasting of Lent—he prepares New Orleans-Style Ribeye Steaks and roasted potatoes tossed with Cajun Seasoning. A bleu cheese sauce complements the meal. Enjoy!

As told to Jim Smith

The Jacobs house on General Pershing Street suffered major flood damage from Hurricane Katrina. It
would be nine months before repairs were completed and the family could move back in.

Click to see another recipe from David Jacobs

Cajun Potatoes

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New Orleans-style Ribeyes
with Bleu Cheese Sauce

According to David, “To New Orleanians, Mardi Gras is much different than what is portrayed on late night commercials. The tourists in the French Quarter never see the pageantry of parades on St. Charles Avenue. Families of New Orleans gather along parade routes night after night to see the Krewes put on their parades. Local favorites include Muses, Hermes, Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus, Zulu, and Rex. It has become a tradition in many households to go see Rex (the King of Carnival) on Mardi Gras day. After the parade passes with Boeuf Gras, signifying the last meat consumed before the fast begins, they go home to have a steak dinner. In our house, that means the following:”

  • 1 6-12 oz. ribeye steak per person (David uses 1-11/2-inch thick steaks)
  • 1-2 TB. CRACKED BLACK PEPPER (David starts with WHOLE SPECIAL EXTRA BOLD BLACK PEPPERCORNS and cracks them himself-see below)
  • 1-2 tsp. KOSHER FLAKE SALT, to taste
    Bleu Cheese Sauce
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 6-8 oz. bleu cheese (Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, etc.), crumbled
  • 8 oz. sour cream

Wash the steaks and pat dry. Spread the PEPPERCORNS on a clean, flat surface. Gently place a skillet on top of them. Use your palm to rock the skillet back and forth to crack the peppercorns. Press as much cracked pepper as you desire onto the steaks and sprinkle with KOSHER SALT to taste. Preheat your grill to the highest temperature possible. Place the steaks on the grill and cook to your desired level of doneness, turning once. If your grill is snowed in, preheat your oven to 400°. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat and brown the steaks for 2 minutes per side. Place in the preheated oven and cook to your desired doneness. A meat thermometer is the best bet when cooking pricy steaks—just remember the internal temperature of the steak will rise 5° after it is out of the oven. While the steaks are cooking, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the bleu cheese. When the cheese is softened but still lumpy, reduce the heat to low then stir in the sour cream. Do not boil the sauce as the sour cream will separate. Serve the steaks with a generous spoonful of sauce and David’s Cajun Potatoes on the side.

Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10-30 minutes depending on desired doneness
Yield: 1 steak per person, the sauce serves 6-8

Nutritional Information: Servings 1;
Serving Size 1 steak, 2 TB. sauce (372g); Calories 640; Calories from fat 330; Total fat 36g; Cholesterol 220mg; Sodium 590mg; Carbohydrate 1g; Dietary Fiber 0g.

Order the Spices for this Recipe:

Description Price Quantity
Cracked Black Pepper 2.3 oz. 1/2 cup jar $5.95
Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black Peppercorns 2.1 oz. 1/2 cup jar $6.29
Kosher Style Flake Salt 1 lb. bag $2.29

The colorful Krewe of Hermes parade kicks off the annual festivities.