Dr. John Tribute: A Multi-sensory Experience Including Raccoon Stew, Lotsa Tunes, a Second Line Parade and More…
- Eats: Dr John’s favorite Raccoon Stew (adapted for available ingredients), Pralines, Sazerac
- Tunes: Spotify Playlist here, and some videos below
- Bonus Tunes: Iko Iko hack: get your guests jammin’ along via these easy ways to play Iko Iko on piano (chords & melody), guitar, electric bass, shaker and of course voice.
- Activity: Design your own second line umbrella, and make your own second line in Dr. John’s honor.
Dr. John we miss you already but what a legacy you have left for us! I’m gonna have to agree with Swag over Swagland (your everything you wanted to know – and more – about New Orleans Jazz Fest guide), the NY Times obit for Dr John. was my favorite as well. There are lots of other places to read about Dr. John if you aren’t familiar with his story, so I won’t repeat that here.
Instead, we’re offering you a way to immerse yourself in his legacy using all of your senses. Listen to recordings and watch live versions of him playing, cook and enjoy his favorite stew, try your hand at playing one of his iconic songs, and maybe even design a second line umbrella and have a little second line to complete the tribute?
I’d read about Dr. John’s affinity for raccoon meat, and thankfully WWOZ had published his recipe for Raccoon Stew. Mercifully, our local butcher who (supposedly) typically carries raccoon meat didn’t have it. Knowing Sarah Lohman’s affinity for trying all sorts off food (and the fact that much of the content of her archived Four Pounds Flour blog was in the Brooklyn area), I consulted her site. She had in fact roasted raccoon, in 2012 and offered resources for procuring “exotic game” such as raccoon, but unfortunately the suggestions were no longer valid in June 2019.
There was varying advice for substitutions across the internet, so we went to Staubitz and asked for help. They recommended venison stew meat as an alternative. Typically venison is easily overcooked, but knowing that it was going into a stew, she gave me frozen medallions of stew-meat venison ($19.99/lb if you were wondering). I happened to leave it in the fridge overnight to cook the next morning, but it thawed in slightly warm water in a matter of 15-20 mins.
Raccoon was not the only hard-to-find items in this recipe!
- “Veggie” – We used V8 Vegetable Juice and it was great.
- Mirlitons – The unofficial squash of New Orleans, so I’m told. We used skinned zucchini instead.
- “Arizona-brand sweet peppers” – this one we unfortunately had to skip. I did find an Arizona-brand pepper company online but the only product I could find was hot sauce. Not knowing if the intention was some acid from pickled peppers or sweetness in some roasted peppers, I at first left it off entirely, expecting to first taste the stew and determine what flavor was needed. My super-taster daughter and I decided it needed acid so instead we just added twice the lemon juice and it was fab. Next time maybe I’d do pickled sweet peppers
I couldn’t find any guidance on what he would have eaten it with. I figured rice was likely but we are on an Ale Bread kick from our local bakery so we went with that. We also added some roasted okra because it’s a fam fav, it fit the New Orleans theme, and I wasn’t sure how keen the kiddos would be on the stew.
Dr John's (approximated) Raccoon Stew, w Venison
- Dutch Oven or Pressure cooker pot preferred
- 4 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1.5 cups chopped red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 lbs venison medallions (stew meat)
- 2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
- 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper
- 1 cup finely chopped orange bell pepper
- 3/4 cup green onions, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 leek, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1.5 - 2 cups (mostly) skinned and chopped zucchini
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp freshly grated black pepper
- 6 green onions, chopped
- hot sauce! preferably, Louisiana style Crystal
- Crusty Bread
- Prep: set venison in water to thaw (if needed), and wash/chop all vegetables, keeping the garlic and onions separate, but the rest can all go in one bowl.
- Heat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium heat.. Using 1 tsp of salt, salt the meat and keep aside. When hot, add grapeseed oil, add the onions. Stir to coat and cook until beginning to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant. Then add the medallion pieces, initially stirring to coat. but then allowing all sides of the meat to brown.
- Once browned on all sides, add enough vegetable juice to cover the meat and continue to cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes. Note: adjust the heat per your stove and pot: the aim is to keep it between a simmer and boiling.
- Then add all the chopped veggies, lemon juice and enough water to submerge everything. cook for an additional 30 minutes until veggies begin to get soft and/or dissolve, and meat is very tender. Add salt, and taste, adding salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.
- Serve garnished with chopped green onions and hot sauce, and some good crusty bread on the side.
One of my fav memories about Dr John memories involves my son, just s of two years old, in 2015. It was just him and I one rainy weekday while his sister was in preschool. We had on Curious George, and he pointed out to ME that the theme song sounded like Dr. John. I had never noticed nevermind told him, but I looked it up, and holy cow, he was right!!! We had recently seen Dr. John at JazzFest that year, and also the Central Park Summerstage. Needless to say Dr John had left an impression on our little guy. Once again schooled by the kiddos.
This playlist tries to capture our faves across his prolific recordings, starting with a bit of a durge feel, meandering thru favs, and ending with “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” cuz I couldn’t find a version of him doing “I’ll Fly Away” on Spotify.
A tribute of Dr. John needs also to celebrate his showmanship so you must take a spin through the Dr John YouTube channel for lots of gems of his live shows.
And of course – get a flavor of the second-line in his honor, which began outside of c 2 days after Dr. John’s passing.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say you should also do your homework and listen to the original version of Iko Iko by the Dixie Cups, and maybe point you to this the history in case it comes up in the next trivia night you attend…. but yea Dr. John’s version is swingin’.
Here you can download our free cheat sheet for jammin’ to Iko Iko at home. Totally simplified, and sure the melody could shift keys, but it’s easiest this way. Have fun and share any vids of your jam session!! #cutlurescapsules.
This free download includes:
- Voice: Lyrics Alone
- Piano: simple melody
- Piano: Simple chords
- Bass: simple open string
- Drums: simple beat
[check back here for a link to the free download – just working out some technical difficulties involving spilled chai masala on a laptop keyboard…]
One of New Orleans’ best gifts to the world is second lines, the parade tribute that customarily follows a cemetery burial, and represents a celebration of the deceased person’s life. Second line umbrellas help make these parades festive, so you can really get into the spirit of New Orleans by making your own. To honor Dr. John’s legacy, make sure you get the Voodoo and Mardi Gras Indian flair by using lots of feathers, and, beads and colors, and streamers and ….. use your imagination.
- glue gun + glue cartridges
- markers (sharpies recommended for best color)
- Prep: Clear a spot on a table or floor, and consider covering the area with newspaper or cut up trashbags, especially if you are using permanent markers.
- Decorate: First step is coloring the parasol w/ permanent markers to make a base, then glue lots of bits on as you see fit!
- Embelish: stringing beads to hang off the edges because the more they sway when you dance, the more fun your second line umbrella will be.
… jacamo feenai nay…
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