ReveillonDinnerSquare

3SmallSnowflakes

Josephine Estelle

Every year, restaurants new to the Reveillon appear, and engender interest just because of their newness. This year’s newie is Josephine Estelle, a unique new restaurant in a very old space in the old New Orleans furniture district. It has been one of the most popular new openings this year, with a menu that hold back about three minutes before you realize that it’s mostly Italian. (Funny. It didn’t look Italian.) The solution to this puzzle is that it’s not traditional New Orleans Italian, but more like what you’d find around Rome or Florence.

Dining room at Josephine Estelle

Dining room at Josephine Estelle

The price is a little on the high side: $70 for four courses. You get a free glass of wine, a practice in many of the Reveillon restaurants. Here’s the menu.

Josephine Estelle. CBD: 600 Carondelet, in the Ace Hotel. Reservations. 504-930-3070. Reveillon from $70.

JE Salad
Stracciatella, winter vegetables, bibb lettuce, panna gratta, and herbs

Gemelli Pasta with Duck Leg Confit
Arugula pesto, almonds, and ricotta salata cheese

Porchetta with White Beans
Roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, kale, and red onion reduction

Caramel Panache Budino (Pudding)
Graham crackers, pretzels, peanuts, and cream cheese whip

LAGNIAPPE: Glass of Wine

CBD: 600 Carondelet, in the Ace Hotel. Reservations. 504-930-3070: 600 Carondelet St. 504-930-3070.

FULL REVIEW

All the Reveillon menus can be perused here. We’ll feature one every day throughout the Reveillon season, which runs in most of the Reveillon restaurants until December 31.The snowflake ratings are for the Reveillon menu, not the restaurant in general.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, November 27, 2016.
I Get Lost Again. Then Fly Home.

The morning fails to deliver breakfast at the home of Jude, Jackson, and Suzanne. The little boy is having a rough time waking up. The Marys and I head out on our own, but not until I once again get lost trying to make my way from our room in the Garland Hotel–MA’s favorite affordable hotel–to the hotel’s entrance. All three of the buildings look the same to me, and the signs don’t always point in the direction they say they do. Or it might just be me.

Jean on Third, a combination coffee, breakfast, and light lunch café. I’ve been there a couple of times with Jude and Co. All we have are eggs and pastries, coffee and juice. Sixty-three dollars.

Jude and Mary Ann say that my plan to get to the airport by nine in the morning for a noon flight is ridiculous, but they go along with it. And sure enough, I barely make it in time to check in. Why is it that buffers are in such low repute?

I’m flying Spirit, the no-frills airline aboard which you pay for every little thing. Mary Ann says that even with the add-ons, it’s still a great deal. The airplane today has not been retrofitted with Spirit’s scheme of jamming the seats together more tightly than most. And for some reason, I get one of the big seats that formerly was used for first class. There is no extra service received nor charged for. But it’s nice to be able to stretch out a little. I like frills.

The nonstop to New Orleans arrives on time, even though the traffic leaving Los Angeles is so tight that at one point over two dozen planes are in line ahead of us. But what can one expect at the end of Thanksgiving weekend? I will not travel on major holidays ever again.

I find my car right where I left it, where it has accumulated a $92 parking bill. I’m hungry, but there’s really nothing to eat at this hour. I go straight home, and go right to bed at around tenm after first ascertaining that the cats and dogs are all accounted for.

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Drago’s Char-Broiled Oysters

Drago Cvitanovich has been the oyster king of New Orleans for four decades–and that’s saying something. Like most other people in the oyster business, he was a Croatian immigrant. When he opened his restaurant in the 1970s, he kept his ties with his countrymen down the river, and as a result always had the best oysters available.

Drago’s son Tommy, who now runs the restaurant, created this dish in the early 1990s. It became wildly popular, and restaurants all over town now copy the dish. It’s simple enough. The only tough part is obtaining oysters of Drago’s quality (sometimes you can get them directly from the restaurant), and then opening them. Don’t attempt this without freshly-shucked oysters and an outdoor grill.

This is the perfect dish for those who want to enjoy oysters in their unadorned form, but can’t or won’t eat raw. Once you start eating these, you won’t be able to stop. My personal best is four and a half dozen.

By the way, this recipe is the real McCoy. Tommy Cvitanovich has never kept it a secret, for this reason: “You can have the right recipe, but you can’t have my oysters.”

The famous oysters before they go for a walk across the grill.

The famous oysters before they go for a walk across the grill.

  • 2 lb. butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbs. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 6 dozen oysters on the half shell
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, mixed
  • 3 Tbs. chopped parsley

1. Mix butter with the garlic, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

2. Heat a gas or charcoal grill and put oysters on the half shell right over the hottest part. Spoon the seasoned butter over the oysters enough so that some of it will overflow into the fire and flame up a bit.

3. The oysters are ready when they puff up and get curly on the sides. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan and Romano and the parsley on top. Serve on the shells immediately with hot French bread.

Serves eight to twelve normal people, or two serious oyster fanatics.

500BestSquareChar-Broiled Oysters @ Drago’s

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It’s a simple dish, a fact that kept fancy restaurants from offering it until the dish became such a phenomenon that almost any restaurant with a local theme had to add it to the menu. Shucking oysters is the first step, and most chefs don’t want any part of that. So it fell to the city’s great oyster specialist to create and serve them, by the hundreds of sacks per week, to people willing to wait quite some time for them. Are they really as good as all that? Yes. Why? Because the oysters are so good. Which also explains why other restaurants never quite get it up to Drago’s standard.

In the unlikely case that you never had them before, Drago’s char-broiled oysters are shucked fresh, blasted by fire and steam on an open grill, basted with a lot of garlic-herb butter, dusted with Parmigiano cheese, and left on the grill till the juices bubble. Simple, yes. But so good that you can eat dozens of them and still want more.

Char-broiled oysters, "The best single bite of food in New Orleans."

Drago’s Char-broiled oysters,

There’s a reason we chose Drago’s today as the source of one of our 500 Best Restaurant Dishes, even though char-broiled oysters Drago’s style is so widely known that not much more can be said.

Yesterday, Drago’s in Metairie opened a new dining room, one that can hold about 150 more people and doubling the size of the place. What did they need that for? Anyone who has ever dined at Drago’s knows the answer to this: the wait for a table was so long as to become a deterrent. I have little doubt that the restaurant will remain busy, but the turnover should be much quicker, a very welcome improvement.

The restaurant’s slogan makes a big but true statement: “the best single bite of food in New Orleans.” Yup, I’d go along with that.

Drago’s. CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911.

||Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254. This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare December 2, 2015

Days Until. . .
Christmas 23.
New Year’s Eve: 30.
New Orleans Restaurant Milestones

Bacco opened today in 1991. With an Italian menu, it was a departure from the French-Creole restaurants the Brennans had always operated in the past. Siblings Ralph and Cindy Brennan noted that their mother was Italian. Besides, Ralph had been to Italy and few times and was turned on by the food of Tuscany in particular. One of the flavors that thrilled Ralph was white truffles. He began importing them every fall for a month-long festival that went on for years, until the price of the rare fungi shot off the charts. Bacco is currently in limbo. Ralph Brennan (now the sole owner) closed the French Quarter trattoria, with a promise to reopen it when he finds the right location. That’s probably on the back burner for now, what with Ralph’s running Brennan’s on Royal Street.

Today’s Flavor

It’s Beignets For Breakfast Day. “Beignet” is French for any kind of battered, fried finger food. But here in New Orleans it connotes the square, plump doughnut fried by the zillions in the French Market-style coffeehouses around town. They’re eaten by threes with cafe au lait, made with dense chicory coffee and hot milk. Their importance as a local culinary icon was best illustrated when the Cafe du Monde reopened for business seven weeks after Hurricane Katrina. That story made all the national news outlets.

Beignets with three sauces.

Beignets with three sauces.

Although most beignets are consumed late at night, after an evening spent in other entertainments, they are delightful for breakfast. The coffeehouses aren’t nearly as crowded, the service isn’t as rushed, and the feeling is to linger and watch the French Quarter come to life.

Like many dishes that have remained unchanged for over a century, beignets are intrinsically not that big a deal. Eating all three that come in an order is not a good idea (unless, of course, you’re a male in his late teens or early twenties, in which case–whoops! too late! they’re already gone), because that last one will bloat and leave you with a bad feeling about beignets. And you don’t want that.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

An order of beignets and a large cafe au lait at NOCoffee & Beignets.Although you can make beignets from scratch using the Cafe du Monde’s mix or a recipe, good beignets can be made much easier. Just buy a can of the cheapest biscuit dough in the refrigerator case. Pop it open, cut the biscuits into halves or even quarters (you can also punch a hole in the center and stretch them into traditional doughnuts), then fry them in clean 375-degree oil until they brown a little darker than your instincts tell you. Drain them on paper towels, dust them with powdered sugar, and you have beignets at least eighty-five percent as good as those at the coffee stand.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Berry is a former time point on the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, forty-three miles southwest of Orlando, Florida. It used to be farming, citrus, and sugar cane country, but it’s becoming the center of a community of large country homes, no doubt engendered by the expansion of Orlando. I hope they have big kitchens, because it’s an eleven mile drive to the nearest restaurant: Grandma’s Bakery and Sandwich Shop, in Clermont.

Edible Dictionary

Sassafrassassafras, n.–One of several species of tree that grows in the eastern half of the United States. Its leaves, when dried and ground, are the only ingredient of gumbo filé, an aromatic herb added to gumbo at the table. The leaves have a big-time nonconformity: they come in three shapes, all mixed together on every specimen of the tree. One of them is a standard point-oval leaf shape. The second looks like a mitten. The third has a large central lobe and a smaller lobe on each side of it. The roots were once used to make root beer, but were banned from that use in 1960 because of evidence it caused liver damage and cancer.

Deft Dining Rule #918:

Never take a bite from a beignet if there’s a possibility that one of the people you’re with is about to say something funny.

Physiology Of Eating

This would have fit better yesterday, when it was National Liver And Onions Day. George Minot–born today in 1885–shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1934, for developing an extract from liver to treat pernicious anemia. Later, it was found that the active ingredient was Vitamin B-12, which is what we now use. Myself, I’d prefer the veal liver Lyonnaise with bacon and onions at Clancy’s, with a side order of grits.

Music To Eat Biscuits By

Ole Buttermilk Sky, by the Kay Kyser Orchestra, with vocals by Mike Douglas (who would later become a talk show host), was a Number One hit today in 1946. A buttermilk sky is like a mackerel sky, covered with bigger, rounder little clouds.

Food Namesakes

Britney Spears, from Kentwood, Louisiana, was born today in 1981. I wonder if she even likes asparagus. . . Chris Wedge, the animator who did Ice Age and other movies, animated himself for the first time today in 1968. I wonder if he likes blue cheese.

Words To Eat By

“They found that the eclair contains everything my system lacks. So I take three a day and I feel like a new woman.”–Ruth Draper, British humorist and speaker, born today in 1884.

Words To Drink By

“Beer is not a good cocktail party drink, especially in a home where you don’t know where the bathroom is.”–Billy Carter.

FoodFunniesSquare

A New Way To Get Better Service.

Constant surveillance ofthe dining room, performed by an automaton.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Saturday, November 26, 2016.
Lunch At Spago.

Spago was the talk of the American restaurant world in the late 1970s. Chef Wolfgang Puck. Had already made a name for himself as chef and chief of Ma Maison in Los Angeles. He used a simple trick to gain attention from the budding food-writer cadre of those times: he took all the starch out of restaurants. Pizza in a gourmet restaurant? It was unthinkable, until Puck thought about it. Now it seems a natural, normal part of dining out. So do hamburgers, which Puck also installed on his menu.

It should not surprise readers of our Diary that my wife Mary Ann has lunch at Spago almost every time she’s in L.A. Which she is often, now that she has a grandson to make a fuss over there. Those who heard Mary Ann when she sits in for me on the radio show would also guess that she gets a hamburger almost every time she’s in Spago.

Including this time. Jude also went for the hamburger, which I must admit did look good. Mary Leigh had a steak salad. Suzanne (Jackson’s mother, Jude’s spouse) had salmon. An order of agnolotti pasta (sort of small ravioli in a cream sauce) came for the table. I had a creamy soup and veal liver with the onions, bacon, and horseradish made into sauces with the thickness of mashed potatoes. (“You were the only one who got that, of course,” MA reminds me.)

And so there we were, all four members of my nuclear family, together for a rare meal, along with the two people who come closest to being nuclear without fitting the description perfectly. Jude is the only full-fledged member of both nuclear families fully represented at Spago.

If Jackson could talk, he’d have gossip to tell. (It wouldn’t be Spago without gossip and who’s who.) The first high chair the waiter brought forward for Jackson had a mechanical flaw. The waiter instantly swapped it out for another one, on which a wet spot was found. Then a long pause, and the captain came forth. “We have several parties in private rooms today for people with one-year-old babies,” he said. What were the chances of that? Apparently not that formidable, we learned. In Beverly Hills, mothers of small children clearly believe that there is a place for their children at Spago’s tables. Spago concurs with this. Our lunch commenced in full tilt.

This was the most expansive meal we had in L.A. on this trip, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be–just a shade over $250 for the six of us. (And, boy–that Jackson can eat!)

An odd thought crossed my mind, and I got a laugh out of MA with it. “What do these restaurants have in common?” I ask. “Fury’s, the Peppermill, Pascal’s Manale, and Spago?” Nobody has a clue. “All four are running specials of liver and onions today,” I tell them. As usual, most people don’t want even to think about veal liver, let alone eat it.

Spago Beverly Hills: 176 North Canon Dr. 310-385-0880.

ReveillonDinnerSquare

4SmallSnowflakes

Tujague’s

Serving a Reveillon dinner in the way it was a century ago is no stretch for Tujague’s. It was already on the scene when the original Reveillon became part of the New Orleans Christmas traditions in the 1800s. Since Mark Latter took over ownership from his late father, Tujague’s has made tremendous progress in reinventing the traditions with some brilliant new dishes. Those blend with the older dishes to make a fascinating new array of eats. Mark also performed a bright renovation of the old restaurant,

Four courses, from $48.

Marinated Crab Claws Salad
~or~
Oyster en Brochette
Crispy bacon-wrapped Louisiana oyster on garlic croustade topped with Creole meunière sauce
~or~
Crawfish and Goat Cheese Crepes
Chardonnay Creole cream sauce
~~~~~
Turtle Soup
~~~~~
*6 oz. Filet Mignon
Yukon gold mashed potatoes and broccoli
~or~
*Chicken Pontalba
Brabant potatoes, ham, green onions, and mushrooms, topped with béarnaise sauce
~or~
*Grilled Center-Cut Double Pork Chop
Steen’s cane apple glaze served with mashed sweet potatoes and Swiss chard
~or~
Pan-Sautéed Puppy Drum
Louisiana jumbo lump crab and beurre blanc
~~~~~
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Bourbon caramel sauce
~~~~~
Madagascar Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676.
FULL REVIEW

All the Reveillon menus can be perused here. We’ll feature one every day throughout the Reveillon season, which runs in most of the Reveillon restaurants until December 31.The snowflake ratings are for the Reveillon menu, not the restaurant in general. Dishes marked with the snowflake symbol ✽ are my recommendations.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Stuffed Veal Pocket (Breast)

A veal pocket is what you have left after you perform the arduous task of trimming the veal breast. That’s an active muscle at the top of a veal calf’s foreleg, and is known to butchers as a veal breast. Almost every recipe you see for this says to get the butcher to trim it out for you. This is understandable: doing it yourself may result in a singularly unattractive, scrappy mess. The problem is that even if you can find a butcher in a supermarket anymore, the job of trimming a veal breast is not one he relishes. Especially considering that this is a very inexpensive cut of meat.

Nevertheless, every year at holiday time I get a lot of calls and e-mail from readers who want to know how their grandmothers made a stuffed veal pocket. Of the few who actually do it, most cooks say it was delicious and tender, but so much work they’ll never do it again. Because this is a strong muscle, it needs long, slow, moist cooking. The stuffing helps, if you have enough vegetables in there. Good luck!

Stuffed veal pocket

Stuffed veal pocket

  • 1 veal breast, 4-6 lbs.
  • Stuffing:
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped (about 1/2 cup
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 20 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/4 lb. capicola or prosciutto, sliced thin and chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups finely grated bread crumbs

1. Unless you are very lucky and you’ve bought a fully-trimmed veal pocket from the butcher, trim the veal breast of the excess fat and connective tissue. Keep in mind that you want to make a pocket in there, so as you cut away the gristly parts, be gentle with the lean, meaty parts. Take your time and you’ll get it. Season the pocket with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the fennel and onions until the fennel is tender. Remove the pan from the heat and add all the other ingredients, stirring to blend completely. Remove from the pan.

3. Return the pan to the burner and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When it shimmers, put the veal breast in and brown it on each side. Remove from the pan to a cutting board.

4. When the veal has cooled enough to handle, stuff the stuffing into the pocket, as much as will fit. It’s a good think to really pack it in there. Close the pocket to the extent possible with toothpicks or string.

5. Put the veal pocket on a broiler rack above a pan of water, and into the oven at 350 degrees. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 175 degrees–about an hour and fifteen minutes.

6. Move the veal pocket to a clean cutting board and allow to rest for ten minutes. Slice and serve.

Serves four to six.

500BestSquareShrimp And Grits @ Atchafalaya

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Shrimp and grits (that’s the name of the dish, not two separate things) came out of the Carolinas, but when the dish arrived here it immediately achieved heights never before seen in the Low Country. Most of the distinction came through the sauce, which in New Orleans had a way of moving in the direction of barbecue shrimp. better yet, many restaurants have become accustomed to using firmer, tastier stone-ground grits for all grits dishes. The pinnacle achieved by all this climbing is Atchafalaya’s rendering of the shrimp and grits, the best in town. It’s as good as an appetizer as it is an entree.

Atchafalaya, home of the city's best shrimp and grits.

Atchafalaya, home of the city’s best shrimp and grits.

Atchafalaya. Uptown: 901 Louisiana Ave. 504-891-9626.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare December 1, 2015

Days Until. . .
Christmas–24
New Year’s–31
Food Through History

HotDogBirthdayThe Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis ended today in 1904. It’s the event that made hits of the hot dog, the hamburger, and the ice cream cone. The latter was actually invented at the Fair, when ice cream was served in a folded waffle by an ice cream man who ran out of dishes. It was also the where and when Dr Pepper became a national hit. Speaking of. . .

Annals Of Soft Drinks

SoftDrinkBottleCoincidentally, this is Dr Pepper’s birthday. The oldest fizzy soft drink in America–even older than Coca-Cola–was sold for the first time on this date in 1885 in Morrison’s Old Country Store in Waco, Texas. There never was prune juice in it, despite rumors to the contrary. My first memory of Dr Pepper was a big sign painted on the side of a building at the corner of N. Galvez and (I think) Dumaine, depicting a cartoon St. Bernard dog, smiling and giving Dr Pepper’s slogan of the time: “Frosty, man, frosty.” Still playing in my mind is the Dr Pepper jingle from a few years later, to the tune of “Glowworm”:

Good times begin with Dr Pepper
Distinctively different, Dr Pepper
Not a cola or a root beer
But an exciting taste that you’ll cheer
Relax, refresh, the flavor’s fine
It’s Dr Pepper time!

That time, of course, is either 10 a.m., 2 p.m., or 4 p.m. I drank it even more often than that in my teens and twenties, but have since shifted to other beverages.

Today’s Flavors

FruitcakeChimneyWe begin National Fruitcake Month and National Egg Nog Month today. Today, however, is Veal Liver And Onions Day. It had to come sooner or later. I recall a cartoon that showed a group of terror-stricken kids running down a street. Behind them was a gaily-decorated truck playing a tune. On its side was painted the words, “The Good Old Liver And Onions Man.”

Those who despise liver probably picked up their dislike when they were forced to eat it as kids. Many parents of my generation felt that liver was something that one must eat to be healthy. In fact, this is true only for those suffering from pernicious anemia. And even for them other remedies now exist. For that matter, liver is high in fat and cholesterol, and the healthy approach to it would be to east it only occasionally.

Now, the only reason to eat liver is because you like it. Those of us who do are enough of a minority that a few restaurants make liver a specialty. Around New Orleans those include Clancy’s, Pascal’s Manale, the Flaming Torch, Fury’s (where it’s the Tuesday special) and the Upperline (served occasionally, a l’orange).

Since only connoisseurs eat it, the liver you find in restaurants is almost always good quality veal liver. Veal liver has no hard little bumps in it, and a more delicate flavor. It’s easily cooked: dust it with seasoned flour, heat a little oil in a skillet, and brown it over high heat on both sides. The classic bacon-and-onion garnish is also easy: fry the bacon, pour off excess fat, then cook chopped or sliced onions in the bacon fat until it browns and becomes sweet. A dash of sherry or port over the onions, a minute more in the pan, and it’s ready to make the liver fabulous.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pepper Mountain towers 2137 feet two miles south of the Columbia River, thirty miles east of downtown Portland, Oregon. It’s in Mount Hood National Forest, and is a much liked as a hiking and camping area. You can catch highly edible fish in a number of streams in the area. If you didn’t bring tackle, the nearest restaurant is The Last Detail, seven miles southwest of the peak of Pepper Mountain.

Edible Dictionary

pepperoni, n.–The most popular meat topping for pizzas in America, pepperoni sausage is familiar to everyone. But what exactly is it? It’s a variation on salami, a blend of pork can beef with about 20 percent fat. Garlic, salt, black pepper and red pepper flavor pepperoni. The resulting sausage–which can be as much as three inches in diameter–is air-dried until it gets hard. It’s always sliced very thin, the better to release the fat when it’s baked. It’s also very common on antipasto assortments, eaten as is.

Deft Dining Rule #493:

A restaurant that serves liver irregularly is more likely to make it well than one that runs it as a special on the same day every week, or every day.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Veal liver is perfect when sliced about a quarter-inch thick, and showing a thin line of pink in the center.

Gourmets On Radio

Rex Stout, who created the detective Nero Wolfe, was born today in 1886. Nero Wolfe was a fantastically fat and phlegmatic man who liked to eat and drink too much. Despite that, he brilliantly unraveled the mysteries in the novels Stout wrote about him. Wolfe’s assistant Archie did all the legwork.

Food Inventions

Hydroponics–the technique of growing plants in nutrient-stoked water instead of soil–was patented today in 1936. That system involved the use of gravel to hold the plants in place. We eat quite a bit of hydroponically-grown food. Certain kinds of lettuce in particular are grown that way. Lately, we’ve even seen heads of lettuce with the roots still attached and hanging in a hydroponic solution right there on the produce rack.

Food Namesakes

Actor Treat Williams was born today in 1951. . . 1940s All-Star baseball player Cookie Lavagetto joined the world today in 1911. . . Creamy-voiced singer Sam Cooke debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show on this day in 1957.

Words To Eat By

“I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead. Not sick, not wounded. Dead.”–Woody Allen, born today in 1935.

Words To Drink By

“Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls and sloth;
Or the Gout will seize you and plague you both.”–Benjamin Franklin.

FoodFunniesSquare

Theoretical Culinary Exercise #670485.

All the kernels pop. Every single one. And the seasoning is applied equally. And an heirloom strain of corn is used. But. . .

Click here for the cartoon.
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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, November 25, 2016.
A Fete For The Little Ones. What A Birthday Cake!

Nobody asked me to cook during my visit to Los Angeles these recent days, but I pay my dues today. Mary Ann has a friend in the wholesale seafood business, and she offered to give us a substantial larder of shrimp, crabmeat, and–until we realized how logistically difficult it would be–a sack of unshucked oysters.

The pretense for the party today is to celebrate Jackson’s first birthday. He, of course, has no sense of the moment, except that a good time is being had by other babies his age and other, older ones. Those kids had a ball with all of Jackson’s newly-accepted toy gifts.

Thanks to the food and conversation among the adults, the party went on for hours. I turned big heads-on shrimp into what I think is among the best three or four dishes in all of Creole cookery: barbecue shrimp. The shrimp we have are exactly the right size, and we had about ten pounds of them.

Barbecue shrimp.

I usually follow the recipe Chef Gerard Maras created for Mr B’s in the 1980s. But that involves a pan on top of the stove, and we have far too many shrimp for that. My alternate approach is to line the shrimp up about a shrimp and a half deep in a baking pan. The two versions come out differently, but I wouldn’t say that one’s better than the other. The baking-pan recipe also requires three pounds of butter, a little olive oil, lemon juice, worcestershire, a little salt, and an immense amount of ground black pepper.

It also requires explaining how to eat the messy dish. About half of the people got right into it. About a quarter begged either an allergy to shellfish or a religious observance. The shrimp did look very primitive, but those who let themselves go started spreading the word, and we consumed more barbecue shrimp than I’ve ever cooked at one time in my life.

We also have three pounds of white crabmeat. Not jumbo lump, but it does the job we have in mind: a kind of garlic-and-bread crumbs, Parmesan gratin. I have it ready to go into the oven when Mary Ann adds about a cup of water from the crabmeat containers. So much for my crisp bread-crumbs crust. Nevertheless, this becomes one of the most popular dishes on the table.

Good as all that was, the culinary highlight of the party was the cake Mary Leigh built. Making everything from scratch, she created a cake so perfect that everybody kept watching her as she kept on building. The theme was the sea, with cartoons–all made by hand–of octopi, submarines, sharks, and other denizens of the deep. She spent hours last night and more hours today to assemble this masterwork. She could be a pastry chef in the best restaurants in town. (In fact, she did, for a while, at La Provence.)

I never took a picture of it. What’s the matter with me?

Even though the little kids and babies were the focus of the festivities, the adults are fun to talk with. More than I would have guessed had Louisiana connections that did not flow through me, Mary Ann or Jude. One guy was from Abita Springs, even.

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Dry-Aged Beef

You can dry-age your own beef if you have an extra refrigerator. I am hesitant about recommending the process otherwise, because of the temperature changes, the aromas from other foods, and other potential problems.

We are talking about a very large piece of beef, as well. I recommend a 10-15 pound whole, bone-in sirloin strip roast. Place it bone side down on a pan covered (the pan, not the beef) with plastic wrap. Put it on a shelf in the refrigerator and leave it alone for a week to three weeks. Keep the temperature at about 35 degrees, and avoid opening the refrigerator more than once or twice a day.

SteakKnife-PorterhouseAfter a week or so, the exterior will get dry and a bit hard. After longer than that, the beef may actually become moldy. When you’re ready to cook, trim off ALL the exterior, to about 1/4 inch deep. (You can leave the bones on, however. At that point, I like to roast the whole thing in one piece to medium rare (about 140 degrees internal temperature). After roasting, I cut the entire rack of bones off, then bring it to the table and carve it into steaks there.

I’ve had good luck with this, but I must warn you that you are taking a chance on spoilage. So be careful. If in doubt, throw it out.

500BestSquare31-Day Dry-Aged Sirloin Strip @ Doris Metropolitan

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In a time when dry-aging of steaks is practiced by fewer and fewer steakhouses, Doris Metropolitan makes bold statements in its glass-walled aging room. It’s right inside the entrance filled with rib roasts, short loins, and strip sirloins covered with a thin, dried-out, perhaps even moldy coating that is the hallmark of dry-aged beef. The flavors that gives the beef are the ultimate for many steak connoisseurs, but it’s not for everybody. (Those who don’t care for it will find an non-aged filet.) Also here are some steak cuts so unusual that the place had to invent its own names for them. For those who like adventure, this is the best steakhouse in town.

Bone-in, 31-day aged sirloin strip.

Bone-in, 31-day aged sirloin strip.

Doris Metropolitan. French Quarter: 620 Chartres St. 504-267-3500.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare November 30, 2016

Days Until

Christmas 26.
New Year’s Eve: 33.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Dove is a small rural community in the middle of dairy farming country, in south central Missouri. There’s some uncertainty as to where it got the name, but the most credible story is that a lot of doves live around there. And die, too. There are 33,000 licensed dove hunters in the Show-Me State, and this is prime country for it. Got to take it home, dress it and cook it yourself to eat it, however. Otherwise, go to Gary’s Italian Place, three miles south.

Edible Dictionary

An entree in the modern style.

An entree in the modern style.

entree, French, n.–Now, the main course of a meal. But it didn’t start out meaning that. The way the meaning of the word entree has changed tells us something about the evolution of formal dining. The word means “entry”–the beginning of something. When large banquets became de rigueur among the aristocracy in the reign of Louis XIV in France, dishes we would now describe as large appetizers were called entrees. They were artfully composed. The bulk of the meal was simpler: large roasts of meats, as well as game birds, carved up and eaten au naturel. Over the centuries, these meats began to be sauced and garnished, and moved into the entree category, while the lighter dishes originally called entrees became even more creatively worked up with rare, delicate ingredients. These evolved into hors d’oeuvres, served before the guests sat down at the table. But they eventually returned to the table, making the word “entree” a misnomer. It hardly matters: almost nobody ever eats a dinner with enough courses that an entree and a main course are both present.

Gourmets Through History

winstonchurchillToday is the birthday, in 1874, of Winston Churchill. The celebrated British prime minister was a dedicated and knowledgeable gourmet and oenophile. A few years after the end of World War II, he contacted Pol Roger Champagne house to request some of his favorite vintages from the 1930s. The firm sent an apologetic note saying that the Nazis had cleaned out the caves of those vintages. In lieu of those, the winery sent a case of the 1945 vintage, the only one Pol Roger had produced since V-E Day. Churchill sent back this message: “Best postwar vintage I’ve had!”

Non-Gourmets Through History

marktwainMark Twain was born today in 1835, as Samuel Clemens. We all know his books; I suspect those of us who live on the river, in New Orleans or elsewhere, understand them better than most. Twain was much feted in the latter part of his career, when lavish eating reached a peak in America. He did not especially like it, as a quotation below attests. An unlikely restaurant here–a pizza parlor–is named for him. The owner had a statue of Twain and a window to put it in, so he thought, “Why not?” Mark Twain’s Pizza Landing makes several pizzas named for Twain’s books.

Today’s Flavor

It is National Mousse Day. The most popular mousse, of course, is chocolate. When I make that for my wife and daughter, they almost like me. A mousse is essentially a foam in a semi-liquid with enough density that it doesn’t collapse. Not all are sweet; I’ve always found seafood mousses particularly interesting.

Deft Dining Rule #148:

If you want to impress someone with your eating skills, order a bowl of mussels. After you eat the first one with a fork, use half the shell to dislodge the next one, and eat it off the shell. Nest the empty shells into one another, and continue eating them with the shells as the only utensil. This will even get the attention of a Frenchman.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When making chocolate mousse, add a tablespoon or so of strong coffee to the mixture of chocolate and eggs, but before the whipped cream goes in. Nobody will notice the coffee flavor, but they will note an added depth of flavor they can’t quite explain.

Food In Science

Nils Dalén won the Nobel Price in Physics in 1912 for inventing a valve that turns gaslights on and off in response to sunlight. He also created the Amalgamated Gas Accumulator stove, devised in an effort to keep his wife from working so hard stoking their wood-burning stove. His new stove used fuel much more efficiently, and also radiated warmth into the kitchen. A big deal in cold Sweden, where Dalén lived starting this date in 1869.

Food Inventions

Today in 1858, John Landis Mason received a patent for the food-canning jar that still bears his name. His innovation was the threaded neck on the jar, and its tightly-sealed threaded cap. . . Two food-related patents came out on this day in 1875. One was for a machine used to crush oats into meal. It went to A.J. Errichson of Akron, Ohio. The other was a biscuit cutter, invented by African-American Alexander P. Ashbourne.

Food Namesakes

Actress Virginia Mayo was born today in 1920. . . Rob Grill, the lead singer for the 1967 rock group The Grass Roots, was born today in 1944. He sang Let’s Live For Today, a hit on my junior prom night. . . On this date in 1776, Captain Cook began his final voyage to the South Pacific. . . Folk singer Brownie McGhee was born today in 1915. That’s a rare double food name. Ghee is what they call clarified butter in India. . . John, Duke of Berry, was born today in 1340. . . British explorer Alexander Berry headed out into the world today in 1781.

Words To Eat By

“A banquet is probably the most fatiguing thing in the world except ditch digging. It is the insanest of all recreations. The inventor of it overlooked no detail that could furnish weariness, distress, harassment, and acute and long-sustained misery of mind and body.”–Mark Twain, born today in 1835. Here are a couple more of his utterances on the subject of food:

“A man accustomed to American food and American domestic cookery would not starve to death suddenly in Europe, but I think he would gradually waste away, and eventually die.”

“I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter’s evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream. . . I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people’s tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting.”

Words To Drink By

“My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.”–Winston Churchill, born today in 1874. He, too, has many quotable words on food and (especially) drink. Here are some more:

“I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”

“My wife and I tried two or three times in the last 40 years to have breakfast together, but it was so disagreeable we had to stop.”
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FoodFunniesSquare

The Life Span Of An Edible Avocado.

However, the guacamole depicted is strictly for use in dried and frozen packets.

Click here for the cartoon.

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, November 23, 2016.
A Happy One.

I can hardly imagine two houses with less in common than the two in which son Jude lived in for most of his life. Where he lives now (somewhere in Los Angeles; I am not liberty to specify where) is sleek enough to be on a home design magazine cover. The Cool Water Ranch, on the other hand, has stuff piled everywhere. Their two dogs are little and yapping. All his boyhood dogs were monsters (in size, not personality).

And Jude’s kitchen can accommodate major cooking while at the same time turning out the day’s supply of baby food.

He has a signature dish. I’ve never seen anyone make a finer omelette. Not a speck of scorching. The texture of the eggs is unvarying from this side to that. And, most impressive of all, Jackson eats it up as quickly as Jude can pass the eggs over to him.

It’s Jackson’s birthday: one year old. I can’t imagine a happier little guy. Or happier big guys and big girls.

The day passes quickly in continuous conversation. Not much politics, for which I am thankful.

Thursday, November 24, 2016.
Thanksgiving Before, During, Then After

I hold the franchise for midday broadcasting on WWL Radio, having anchored those two hours for over twenty years. It’s really too late to solve major cooking problems at nine a.m., but a lot of people call me every year to tell me how their dinners are going. I have a gizmo that allows me to sound exactly as I would if I were in the New Orleans studios, when in fact I am in Los Angeles. This requires the purchase of a telephone calling card for ten dollars. Only a couple of brief problems. If I do this show again next year, it will probably be by way of new technology.

Jude’s mother-in-law likes to throw dinner parties, and she is very good at it. About thirty people are on hand for her big Thanksgiving feast, which begins late in the afternoon. Nobody asks me to cook anything. They don’t ask for my opinions, either. Not much to say: the food is top-class. The most interesting item was the turkey, which is more or less stewed, with a lot of light gravy. I’ve done this with chicken more than a few times, but never before a turkey. I think they’re really onto something with that idea.

I eat much more than I should have, and then proceed into the many desserts. No dislikes there, either. The only oddity is that only two bottles of wine are consumed. No, this isn’t New Orleans.

Jude’s father-in-law and I have something in common aside from our common relation to Jackson. He likes cats, as do I. His premier feline Penny looks a lot like my deceased Twinnery, but a lot bigger. Twinnery was an athlete all his fourteen years.

No politics brought up at this gathering, either. It was a lovely, chilly day. And tomorrow, we all gather again for an even better party, made so by the presence of many, many little people just learning to walk.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Watercress And Spinach Salad With Pecans

I love salads like this, with few ingredients but a great deal of contrast in flavors and textures. If the watercress isn’t available (or very fresh), use arugula.

Watercress

  • 1 bag spinach, picked and washed
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced white mushrooms
  • Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup walnut oil
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 grinds fresh pepper
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1. Tear the larger spinach leaves into pieces. Toss all the spinach with the watercress and mushrooms.

2. The best way to mix the dressing ingredients is in a food processor or blender. After mixing, toss it with the salad ingredients immediately before serving. Top with the crumbed feta

Serves four.

500BestSquareRedfish With Pecans, Crabmeat, And Satsuma Meuniere @ Nuvolari’s

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This is the latest incarnation of a dish that appeared in this Mandeville Italian restaurant not long after Katrina. The menu had taken a Creole turn, and this became one of the two or three best dishes on it. It still is. In satsuma season (autumn), this usually turns up to please palates. It proves that fish is good with all kinds of citrus, not just lemon.

Nuvolari-Redfish

Nuvolari’s. Mandeville: 246 Girod St. 985-626-5619.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

AlmanacSquare November 29, 2016

Days Until

Christmas 27.
New Year’s Eve: 34.

Today’s Flavor

shrimpbisqueIt’s National Shrimp Bisque Day. Shrimp bisque doesn’t get its due, I say, because its lives in the shadow of crawfish bisque, which is actually dissimilar. I like a creamy shrimp bisque with all the shrimp pureed, and a nice pink color not from tomato but very ripe bell peppers. There’s another good version–Antoine’s make it, among other places–in which the soup base is a dark roux. Shrimp bisque has lately been thickened and turned into a sauce. The fantastic Cane River Country shrimp at Upperline is essentially that. Drago’s also has an appetizer that’s shrimp bisque atop bread with cheese melted over it.

Edible Dictionary

brittle, n.–A candy of hard, crystallized sugar and peanuts. It’s made by heating sugar and corn syrup until it thickens, adding the peanuts, then bringing the temperature to the hard crack stage (around 300 degrees). Then a bit of butter and baking soda go into the mixture, and it’s poured on a marble slab and allowed to cool. In New Orleans, pralines largely occupy the spot that brittle does elsewhere. Brittle has many similarities with pralines except for its glassy texture and translucence.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Two places in New York State are named Clove. One is fifteen miles east of Poughkeepsie, in a deep valley cut through the mountains by the Fishkill River. The Clove Mountains tower five hundred feet above the valley. The word “clove” is an archaic form of “cleft,” which this place certainly is. The Clove Valley Cafe is three miles south. It’s a 109-mile northwest drive from this Clove to that Clove, which is 52 miles west of Albany. This Clove has the same story as the first. It’s in a river valley with mountains rising over 500 feet from the West Creek. It’s more of a town, with about ninety people living nearby and tending to rather larger fields than in its namesake. The Crow’s Nest Diner is the place to go for breakfast.

Music To Eat Foie Gras By

barberofsevilleToday in 1825, the first Italian opera ever performed in the United States went on stage in New York. “The Barber Of Seville” was written by Gioacchino Rossini, who in addition to being a prolific composer of opera was also a serious gourmet. Tournedos Rossini–topped with foie gras–is not merely named for him. He created the dish.

Annals Of Liquor Stores

If you think that we have weird laws regarding the sale of liquor, check out some other places around the country. Pennsylvania, for instance. On this date in 1933, it opened the first state-owned liquor store. Pennsylvania still has a monopoly on the sales of spirits in that state.

Science Of Service

Christian Doppler was born today in 1803. He’s the guy for whom the Doppler effect is named. That’s the phenomenon you notice when a waiter whose attention you’re trying to get rushes right past you. As he says, “I’ll be back in a minute,” his voice seems to rise in pitch as he approaches and then fall in pitch as he speeds away.

Food Namesakes

Lord Horatio Kitchener took over as supreme commander in South Africa today in 1900. . . Georges Poulet, a writer and critic in Belgium and France, came into the world today in 1902. . . Horace Lamb, a mathematician who specialized in the math of waves, was born today in 1849. . . Julius Raab, onetime Chancellor of Austria, was born today in 1881. (Raab, also known as broccoli di rape, is a bitter but tasty vegetable, mostly used in Italian cookery). . . Benjamin Chew, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Revolutionary times, was born today in 1722. . . Henry Rice, Governor of and Senator from Minnesota, was elected to life today in 1816.

Words To Eat By

“He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it, hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart.”–C. S. Lewis, British philosopher and writer, born today in 1898.

Words To Drink By

“At the beginning of the world God created wine for man’s health, since it is more precious than any other drink and more natural to him.”–Francesc Eiximenis, Catalan monk of the 1300s.

FoodFunniesSquare

More Reasons Why Restaurants Are Dark And Noisy.

It’s the only way some people can feel young in public anymore.

Click here for the cartoon.