I had a dish similar to this at Commander's Palace in New Orleans, and nearly levitated. It was fantastic. So I went home, puttered around in the kitchen and came up with this. It's similar, but not the same. I'm working on it, and I'll be periodically changing and adapting this recipe. If you want to experiment and get exotic, try using wild mushrooms, like shiitakes, chanterelles, morels, or a blend.

The serving size may be increased to make a fine main course as well.

Put the liquid smoke into the bottom a large Dutch oven. Put a wire rack in the bottom of the Dutch oven and put the mushrooms on top of it. Cover and turn the heat to high for 5 minutes. Turn it off and let the mushrooms stay in the covered pot for about 20 minutes. Remove and slice.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan, add the olive oil and mix. Saute the garlic over extremely low heat for about 10 minutes. Do not brown or burn the garlic; this is to let the flavor saturate the butter/oil mixture. Add the green onions and saute over low-medium heat for a few minutes. Add the tasso and Creole seasoning and saute for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking over low-medium heat until the mushrooms are cooked. Add parsley and adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve over freshly cooked pasta. I like angel hair, but penne, fusilli or radiattore would work well.

If you want to make this slightly better for you, omit the butter and add a little more olive oil, but the butter gives it a great flavor. The original dish was all butter, but this is a little better for you.

Chef Emeril Lagasse makes a similar dish that I had at his New Orleans restaurant recently, and I levitated again. I offer his recipe here, but I strongly urge you to buy his book, Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking, published by William Morrow. In fact, if you want to order it right now, go to Amazon Books, a great online bookstore.

Chef Emeril Lagasse's
Wild Mushrooms, Tasso and Angel Hair

Place the mushrooms in a large bowl and toss with the oil and 3 tablespoons of the Creole seasoning.

Heat a large heavy dry skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the mushrooms, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover and cook, shaking and tossing the skillet, for 2 minutes. Add the tasso, green onions, shallots and garlic and toss well. Stir in the cream (or half-and-half) and simmer for 5 minutes.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain. Fold in the pasta and the remaining 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning and heat for 2 minutes. Makes about 7 cups.

To serve, mound 1-3/4 cups of angel hair, mushrooms and tasso into each of 4 shallow bowls. Top with Parmagiano Reggiano.

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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)