On Fat Tuesday, I thought it might be fun to cook up some New Orleans-styled goodies featuring duck, andouille sausage and Creole seasoning. These rich ingredients are typical of the fare from this town that knows how to party - an instinct that goes into overdrive during Mardi Gras.

And this recipe delivers big flavor without the usual complement of fat and calories.

We start with the star of this show, the breast of duck, a well-known fount of flavor that - depending on how you cook it - doesn't have to be terribly heavy. I do recommend that you saute the breast with the skin on; that's how to maximize its deliciousness and moistness.

But you can remove and discard the skin - along with most of the serious fat and calories - afterward. In fact, duck meat without the skin is leaner than white meat chicken. And duck fat is not bad fat. Yes, some of it is saturated, but a large percentage of it is mono- and poly-unsaturated, with the same properties, incredibly enough, as olive oil.

The duck and its sauce are brightened with homemade Creole seasoning, which has at least as much flavor, and significantly less salt, than many store-bought versions. The tomato-based sauce is flavored not only with my Creole spice mix, but with Louisiana's holy trinity of vegetables: onion, celery and bell pepper. Also, in a nod to the city's trademark richness, there's a soupcon of Andouille sausage. Imported by Louisiana's French settlers in the mid-1700s, andouille usually is made of smoked and coarsely ground pork. It's spicy, too, with the American version having picked up more heat than the French over the centuries. There's so little andouille called for here that you might consider using the full-fat version, but you're welcome to seek out leaner brands at the supermarket; they'll be made of chicken and turkey, not pork. In either case, this sauce, like the Creole seasoning, is widely useful. Try it with shrimp, chicken, beef or pork and see for yourself.

By the way, if duck always has struck you as gamey, you haven't tried Peking (also known as Long Island) duck breast, the kind employed in this recipe. I serve duck breast once a week at home and the family loves it. It's so quick and easy to prepare that I put it in the same category as steak. As a matter of fact, duck breasts pair nicely with any of the sauces you'd use with steak.

Meanwhile, back to Mardi Gras. Ladies and gents, let the good times roll!



Yield: Makes about 1/3 cup

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon hot paprika 1 tablespoon garlic powder 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 teaspoon kosher salt


In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to six months.