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REDSKIN UTILITY BACK and return specialist Brian Mitchell was an
instant hit in Washington. The first time he touched the ball as
a rookie, on the opening kickoff of the Redskins' first
preseason game in 1990, he scored on a 92-yard return. But not
everything in Washington was an instant hit with Mitchell. "I
would go to these places in the D.C. area that served Cajun
food, but it just wasn't the same as home," says Mitchell, who
grew up in Plaquemine, La. "I had to start cooking my own stuff
if I wanted to eat right."

Mitchell cultivated a working knowledge of creole cooking long
before he put it to use in the kitchen. Mitchell's father,
Blanche, worked as a chef in several Baton Rouge restaurants,
and his mother, Sophonia, also loved to cook. "They would get
into these 'I cook this better than you' debates, and I would
just sit there and reap the benefits," Mitchell says.

In his six seasons in Washington, Mitchell has run six punts
back for touchdowns. Last year he set an NFL single- season
record with 1,930 return yards, and this year he's leading the
NFC with a 25.2-yard kickoff return average. But it's his
cooking that draws the biggest raves from his teammates. "You
have to try his fried turkey," gushes Washington guard Ray
Brown, who at 6'5", 312 pounds is at least minimally qualified
to be a food critic.

Mitchell's favorite recipe is shrimp etouffee, a stewlike dish
served over rice. Here's Brown's review: "It's real good, but
it's spicy as hell. I ended up drinking more beer just to wash
it down."

Nevertheless we offer you shrimp etouffee a la Mitchell:

Saute half an onion, half a bell pepper and two pounds of shrimp
in butter. Add to a pot with two cups of water, a few
tablespoons of flour (depending on desired thickness) and six
ounces of tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn
down to low. Add ground red pepper, Accent and Chachere's spices
(a Louisiana brand of blended spices) to taste, and cook for
35-40 minutes. Serve over rice.

--Julian Rubinstein

COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS USHER Mitchell adds spice to the Skins' special teams as well as to his cooking. [Brian Mitchell cooking]