DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, February 16, 2018. Soup, Salad, Sandwich. Mary Ann is preparing for a two-week visit with our son Jude and his family in Los Angeles. She’s leaving in a few days, which means that our farewell meals have to be both uncomplicated and at lunchtime. Today she requests that we go to Lola in Covington, which lately has become her favorite daytime eatery. We begin as we always do, with the house soups. Today’s more appealing choice (they always make two soupes du jour) is a lightly creamy potage of mushrooms and some other vegetables. I get the large, she gets the small.

Entrees at Lola tend to be either salads or sandwiches. MA gets the same sandwich one all the time, made with grilled wild-caught (she’s a stickler about that) salmon. What I order sounds somewhat exotic. Something about smoked pig. What it proves to be in reality is more or less a ham-and-cheese sandwich with some advanced salad greens in between. Not enough to hold my interest long, but not bad. And certainly enough to get me through the remainder of the day.

On the musical front, I attend a rehearsal for the Date Night event tomorrow night. NPAS will mount this at the Abita Quail Farm. Conductor Alissa suggests that I move around among the audience while singing my song (“If I Loved You,” by my favorite composer, Richard Rodgers). I’m glad she told me that, because it gets a good response. It also allows me to hit an alarm if I forget the lyrics, which I almost always do. I start making up lines to sing. That usually gets some laughter. Through some miracle, I always find another entrance to the real words later in the song.

I am also supposed to solo a few strictly straight lines in the middle of “The Way You Look Tonight.” I missed my cue–a common problem for me. “Are you okay?” asks our helpful conductor. I will have to find a better signpost in the song so that doesn’t happen again. Some singers handle moves like that with no trouble, not only when to start and stop singing, but also what note to start on. I am not one of those luckily talented people.

Saturday, February 17, 2018. MA and I have breakfast at Mattina Bella. It’s such a beautiful day–temps have been in the eighties for day, and they are likely to continue doing so–that it was actually pleasant to break fast at one of the outdoor tables. The usual fantastic dish for me: the Blue Crab Benedict. When did the word “Benedict” has shifted from proper adjective to generic noun. As in “Chili Avocado Benedict.” At least it hasn’t become a verb. “Hey chef! Benedict this for me!”

I spend a lot of the day writing notes about the music I will sing tonight. I can’t whip out cards as a crutch, but when I write something with pen and paper, it becomes more Benedicted in the memory.

The evening gets off to a slow start because a few days ago a lightning strike put the Quail Farm’s most prominent signs hard to see. I drive all the way back home (about ten minutes away) to get better instructions.

It’s at this point that all the other members of our family routinely tell me what a backward person I am for not getting directions from my smart phone. Even Mary Ann knows how to do this. When did my former adeptitude in using new technology disappear? Getting old is for the birds.

The Date Night is a good idea that could use some polish. The Quail Farm is a good place for it. The attendees take up the entire main ballroom in the place, not counting the chairs that neither MA nor I could find for us to sit down. The food was standard reception fare: finger sandwiches, boiled shrimp, deviled eggs, and the like. I think I can bring an event like this to a more interesting level, even at the $55 price.

The performances were widely varied in their musical selections. The good ones were very good indeed. When it was my turn, I went off script about halfway through. The walking-among-the-audience shtick got a lot of laughs. I got back on the script for the last third, and walked away feeling I’d done my duty, whatever that may be.

Lola. Covington: 517 N New Hampshire. 985-892-4992.

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Brabant Potatoes

In most restaurants, these are nothing more than cube-shaped French fries. But if you take the extra step outlined below–drizzling them with garlic butter and then running them through the oven for a few minutes–you’ll have a side dish so incredible that you’d better make a lot of them.

Brabant potatoes served with poached eggs and hollandaise.

  • 4 large white potatoes, very starchy (no green)
  • 2-3 cups vegetable oil (preferably canola or peanut oil)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced very fine
  • 1 sprig parsley, minced very fine
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Creole seasoning

1. Scrub the outsides of the potatoes under cold running water, or peel if you don’t like potato skins. Cut into large dice about 1/2 inch on a side, wash again, and drain well. Allow 5-10 minutes for the potatoes to dry.

2. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan or deep skillet to 375 degrees. Put the potatoes in and fry until they’re a very light brown. Remove them from the oil with a skimmer and drain on paper towels.

3. Arrange potatoes in one layer on a baking pan or dish. In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. When butter is hot, add the garlic and parsley and cook just until the garlic is fragrant.

4. Remove butter from heat and spoon over the potatoes. Put the pan of potatoes into the oven and bake for five to seven minutes–until edges becomes a crisp, medium-dark brown. Sprinkle with Creole seasoning and serve with a little extra garlic butter, if you have any left.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare February 21, 2017

Days Until. . .

Today Is February 21, 2018
St. Patrick’s Day–March 17
St. Joseph’s Day–March 19

Deft Dining Rule #249

Ask which is the worst table in the restaurant, and you’ll never be brought to that table.

Edible Dictionary

shu-mai, (shoo-my), Chinese, n.–A bite-size dumpling made by wrapping a thin skin of pasta dough around a stuffing of pork with mushrooms, and perhaps other finely chopped ingredients. Shu-mai are sometimes stuffed with shrimp. They’re steamed and served hot as an appetizer. The two most common dipping sauces are a combination of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. But yellow mustard–not the hot Chinese kind, but more like the mustard you’d put on a hot dog–is also commonly served. In America shu-mai is more often found in Japanese restaurants than Chinese, but it definitely comes from China. The name means “cooked for sale.” So, it’s street food.

Today’s Flavor

The Web buzz is that today is National Sticky Bun Day. I haven’t yet mentioned that February is National Potato Month. And today is National Hash Brown Potatoes Day.

Hash browns are a fuzzy concept. In shape they run the gamut from large diced potatoes to finely shredded. They’re usually cooked in a hot grill or skillet, but the other ingredients combined with it ranges from nothing at all to cheese, onions, bacon, ham, and whatever else the cook at the greasy spoon has handy. Everybody has a different preference.

Mine is for the way my wife Mary Ann makes them, which takes advantage of her penchant for burning things. She pre-bakes potatoes a little less than you would for eating. Then she melts some butter in a hot skillet and shreds the potatoes right into the skillet, scattering some chopped green onions as she goes. Then she walks away until she smells something burning, turns the potatoes over, and lets them go a little longer. This technique is terrible for most cooking, but happens to be perfect for hash browns, and the result is irresistible.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Dublin coddle is an Irish breakfast made with bacon, pork sausages, onions and potatoes, cooked together very slowly. Coddle Creek meets the Rocky River ten miles northeast of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. By that point it has flowed some thirty-two miles through the rolling foothills of the Appalachians. Coddle Creek flows within three miles of Three Monkeys Tavern and Grill, In Harrisburg.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you’re going to boil potatoes for any reason, buy potatoes that are all approximately the same size. You wouldn’t believe what a difference this makes not only in texture but flavor, too.

The Food Bill

Today is Food Checkout Day. That’s the day when the average American has earned enough money to pay for all his food for this entire year. That day comes much earlier in this country than anywhere else. On average, we spend about 12 percent of our disposable income on food. In France, it’s 15 per cent. Japan 18 percent, India 51 per cent. Here’s another statistic about food, while we’re at it: only 19 cents of the average dollar spent at the grocery store goes to farmers or other food producers. The rest goes for processing and marketing. I suspect that those of us who like to take a high percentage of our meals in restaurants have a Food Checkout Day much later in the year.

Food Through History

Speaking of breakfast: Today was Mardi Gras in 1950. On that day, the first International Pancake Race took place in Liberal, Kansas. It still goes on every Shrove Tuesday there, and is the premier celebration of a curious association between Mardi Gras and pancakes. It’s one we honor almost not at all here. In Liberal, they invite a team of women from Olney, a town in England (where the tradition began), and the contestants run four hundred yards down a twisting course, flipping pancakes in a skillet as they do. And you’d think they have no fun in western Kansas!

Annals Of Food Writing

It’s the publication date in 1925 of the first edition of The New Yorker, which for my money is still the most interesting magazine in the world. Its longtime editor William Shawn ate in the Algonquin Hotel every day, and ordered the same thing: a bowl of Special K with skim milk. This probably explains why the magazine didn’t run anything about restaurants until a few years ago recently. My wish for the dining out reports in a bigger typeface has come true lately.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

The first Jack In The Box hamburger restaurant opened in San Diego today in 1951. By my standards, it remains the worst large burger chain there is, barely edging out Hardee’s for that dishonor.

Annals Of Overeating

Today is the birthday, in 1931, of Alka-Seltzer, one of the most effective remedies for an upset stomach. It’s essentially an aspirin cocktail.

People We’d Like To Have Dinner With

Kelsey Grammer was born today in 1955. His character Frasier, on the brilliant television show of the same name, was the first I remember to profess a strong interest in fine dining and wine, and not as a parody, either. The wine-tasting scenes with Frasier’s brother Niles reek with authenticity and captured much of their potential foolishness. The Frasier show even had a radio restaurant critic–a rare bird in real life, I can assure you.

Food And Wine Namesakes

Advertising executive Fairfax Cone was born today in 1903. . . Rap music star Wish Bone was pulled today in 1975. . . Chantal Claret, lead singer for the rock group Morningwood, was uncorked today in 1982.

Words To Eat By

“A bachelor’s life is a fine breakfast, a flat lunch, and a miserable dinner.”–Francis Bacon (how ironic!).

Words To Drink Coffee By

“Making coffee has become the great compromise of the decade. It’s the only thing ‘real’ men do that doesn’t seem to threaten their masculinity. To women, it’s on the same domestic entry level as putting the spring back into the toilet-tissue holder or taking a chicken out of the freezer to thaw.”–Erma Bombeck, born today in 1927.

FoodFunniesSquare

Why Romantic Dinners Don’t Work Out.

There’s too much pressure in the matter of who is leading the charge.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Lundi Gras, February 12, 2018. A friend of ours who also has a lot of other friends owns a magnificent old mansion on St. Charles Avenue in the Central Business District. Every year, he holds a few costume parties during the parades, complete with a big buffet, a generous bar, and a very good band playing mostly New Orleans jazz.

I know some of the musicians, who have in the past allowed me to sing a song or two with them, usually “Sweet Lorraine.” I must not have thought about that tune lately, because I lost track of the lyrics and didn’t sound very good. Nobody else seems to have noticed. In attendance are the usual press people, including quite a few people I haven’t seen lately–notably Errol and Peggy Scott Laborde, he of the New Orleans Magazine group of publications, and she my co-author with The Lost Restaurants of New Orleans. Neither one of them ever seems to change with time.

Mary Ann and I didn’t stay for the whole parade, but it was a great evening, my first taste of Carnival parades this year. This krewe had much better luck with the weather than the two super-krewes over the weekend, Endymion and Bacchus. Both caught a lot of wet weather.

Mardi Gras, February 13, 2018. A Day Of Warmth, Sunshine, And Prime Porterhouse Steaks. It’s the twenty-sixth time I anchored the passage of Zulu and Rex from in front of Gallier Hall, the old New Orleans City Hall. But it’s the twenty-fifth anniversary of my broadcast from there, having lost one year to the infamous One-Tee-Many-Martoonis that had me in the hospital instead of in front of the microphone. Strangely, nobody other than Mary Ann ever gave me a lot of flack about that. I must have gotten a pass for its being Mardi Gras.

In the five years since then, I’ve shared the broadcast booth with Angela Hill, among the most beloved of local media figures. She’s certainly better liked than me. But she and I have a terrific repartee going on, with guests that Angela coaxes over to our spot: Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond, to name the most auspicious. Every year, I ask the Archbishop to tell us whether escargots, turtle meat, or alligator can be eaten on lenten days of abstinence from meat. (They are all allowed.)

The parades are unusually good, particularly among the marching bands and the dancers. Really, I don’t think I’ve seen better among the old-line krewes. Hardly ever do we need to kill airtime.

When the broadcast ends after three hours of parades, Rex still has a long way to go. Zulu is either very long or a little slow. As soon as I can cross the street, I hightail it for the Crescent City Steakhouse. This is where, some thirty years ago, I stopped for a Mardi Gras lunch. I was the only customer there–a condition not uncommon at the Crescent City in those days. I returned the next year to the same empty room. After that, the word began to spread, and more people showed up year by year. I remember running into Chef Paul Prudhomme there one time.

By then I was on the radio, and soon we’d have the Eat Club going. I promoted the Crescent City as a great place to go on Mardi Gras, where you would have the last steak before the weeks of lent. And soon the Crescent City started getting busy on Fat Tuesday. I don’t take the credit for any of this–it’s kind of an obvious idea. But the people who showed up were mostly people I knew. It’s still that way. It took me twenty minutes to say hello to everyone this year. I’m especially glad to see Krasna Vojkovich–the wife of the late founder and owner–still at work. She favors us with beef tripe stew, which is not to everybody’s taste, but I like it.

A piece of the porterhouse steak at the Crescent City Steak House

Joining us at our table was Clark, the Gourmet Truck Driver, with his wife. Clark has shown up for Mardi Gras at the Crescent City for many years. Today he slipped a fast one by picking up the whole check for the table. Now I owe him at least one.

His money is well spent. We ordered three porterhouse steaks, split four ways. They are big enough to leave substantial amounts of lean, dry-aged beef to enjoy. (I’ve had two lunches from it, as of this moment). We had a few sides, but really, once you’ve gone past the steaks at the Crescent City, you have eaten the star of that kitchen.

At its peak, the line for a table reached about ninety minutes long. Fortunately, it was warm and sunny outside, and people had nothing better to do but shoot the breeze with their friends. It all qualifies as a genuine phenomenon.

MA and I set sails for home at about six p.m. The crowd was waning but not disappearing. I wonder whether I should perhaps tell people that we’ll be there at five instead of two. Some people said I should spread this tradition to other steakhouses. But, really, it wouldn’t be right without the uniqueness of the eighty-two-year-old Crescent City Steak House.

Crescent City Steak House. Mid-City: 1001 N Broad. 504-821-3271.
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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, February 11, 2019. What Anniversary? Back to being just another voice in the choir after two weeks of being the cantor, but that’s a relief. By next time, I will have picked up better strokes. This is something I discovered a long time ago, when I was trying to learn the violin. I could hack and hack and hack away at the music with no improvements. But when I awakened the next morning, I found that somehow I had learned even the most difficult parts of what had stumped me before.

We fill the gap with brunch at Ox Lot 9, in the Southern Hotel in downtown Covington. That’s one of MA’s favorite places to dine, mostly because she likes the atmosphere. I don’t remember what she ordered, but what came my way was a dish so perfectly assembled that I couldn’t get my mind off it. It’s billed as a fritatta–the pancake-shaped omelette preferred in Italy. Inside, it has well-hidden crabmeat, some subtle mushrooms, and a bit of soft cheese. The matrix of the omelette is something close to a cloud in its lightness. The more I ate of it, the more impressed I was. We didn’t have time now, but next time we go there I want to watch how the chef did it. Everything about it was perfection.

I have a radio show to host at noon. I warn all the male listeners that they have to get on the stick with their Valentine’s plans, lest the ladies they’re involved with reminds them of the shortfall from here to eternity. MA points out that I myself, giver of advice, have no reservations for Valentine’s, nor have I secured any impressive boxes of candy.
So she writes her own diary entry to help correct this glaring lack.

I have a radio show to host at noon. I warn all the male listeners that they have to get on the stick with their Valentine’s plans, lest the ladies they’re involved with reminds them of the shortfall from here to eternity. MA points out that I myself, giver of advice, have no reservations for Valentine’s, nor have I secured any impressive boxes of candy.

So she writes her own diary entry to help correct this glaring lack.

A Simple Valentine’s Day Treat
By Mary Ann Fitzmorris

To say that Tom’s mother was into chocolate covered cherries is a gross understatement. Those were (and maybe still are) big in her day. I remember almost choking on the sweet syrupy centers,. But I couldn’t deny that everything should be covered in chocolate.

As Valentine’s Day rushes up on us, people may be more inclined to buy really expensive mail order chocolate covered strawberries, but why? You could have this decadent lover’s nibble for less than the price of the cherry box of yesteryear. We Marys do it all the time. I just gobbled the last three from the weekend before the other Mary notices.

I haven’t been shy about gushing over Trader Joe’s 72% wonk of dark chocolate. A pound for $4.99!! I have enough of this stashed to last through at least one apocalypse. There are a few other varieties, all Belgian, but I’ve never gone past my obsession with the plain dark. A pound should make enough to please your lover.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
1) Heat chocolate over simmering water until melted.
2) Dip strawberries (you may need to get a double batch of berries to select the largest, but smaller ones are just as delish)
3) Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate.
Voila! These happen so quickly surprising your beloved should be a cinch.

If you missed this before, save this copy for next year. Or for Easter, or whenever Valentine’s Days are found.

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Oysters Sazerac

This recipe was created at the long-lost Flagons by chef Kevin Curran, who noticed how well the flavor of anise and oysters go together (in oysters Rockefeller, for example). He thought that the anise-flavored Sazerac cocktail might have possibilities as a sauce. He flamed the cocktail over some double-battered fried oysters, napped them with a little butter sauce, and it turned out to be wonderful.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Seasoned bread crumbs
  • 24 large, fresh oysters
  • 3 oz. 86-proof whiskey
  • 2 Tbs. Herbsaint
  • 1 tsp. Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 tsp. Angostura bitters
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 3 Tbs. chopped green onion tops
  • Beurre blanc:
  • 1 Tbs. whipping cream
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

1. Sift together the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne into a broad bowl.

2. Separate eggs and combine the egg yolks and the milk in a small bowl.

3. Mix the whiskey, the Herbsaint, and both bitters in a glass to make a Sazerac in the rough (the finished cocktail would be sweetened with simple syrup and shaken with ice).

4. Heat the butter in a skillet.

5. Coat the oysters with the seasoned flour mixture, then dip them into the egg wash. Coat them again with the bread crumbs.

6. Saute the oysters in the butter until lightly browned. Then pour the Sazerac into the skillet and carefully touch flame to it. Let the flames die out and most of the liquid evaporate.

7. Serve the oysters topped with the green onions and moistened, if you like, with beurre blanc.

8. To make the beurre blanc, heat the cream over low heat in a saucepan until it comes to a boil. Cut in, bit by bit, all of the butter, whisking all the while. Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice and pepper.

Serves six.

AlmanacSquare February 15, 2017

Days Until. . .
St. Patrick’s Day–40

St. Joseph’s Day–42

Philosophy Of Taste

Today is the birthday, in 1851, of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. One of his quotations rings true to me: “We think in generalities, but we live in detail.” This is why most restaurateurs don’t understand their customers, and vice-versa. Restaurateurs deal in generalities–getting the big job done for the greatest number of people. But the big picture is lost on most restaurant customers. They observe, praise, and complain about small details. The most common complaint I hear from restaurant patrons is that they couldn’t get their water, tea, coffee, or cocktail refilled when they wanted it. That’s a small issue, but if a restaurant doesn’t get that right it causes more upset among customers than, say, the serving of frozen fish does.

Annals Of Funny Weather

New Orleans got nine inches of snow on this date in 1895. It caused all the sno-ball stands to close early.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

In general, ground beef is a cheap, fatty mess. In particular, a hamburger is a delicious all-American treat.

Food Through History

One of the most important advances in farming history was the invention of the mechanical reaper. It made the vast acreage of grain in the Midwest and Prairie states (as well as in other grain-growing areas of the world) a breadbasket of incomparable richness. The reaper was invented by Cyrus McCormick, who was born today in 1809. His company evolved into International Harvester, which is still around.

Benjamin Franklin ran an ad in Philadelphia today in 1758 for mustard, which he ground and packed in glass bottles. It was the first mustard in America. Franklin, a gastronome of the highest order as well as an entrepreneur, had come to love the stuff on a journey to France.

This is the birthday, in 37 AD, of the Roman Emperor Nero. A real pig, he gave gourmands a bad name. His despicable policies inspired the Book of Revelation.

Food Across America


Today is the birthday of St. Louis, Missouri, founded in 1764. Two famous dishes came from there, and still bear the city’s name. The first is St. Louis-style barbecue ribs. Those are big spare ribs cut from down low on the pig. Some barbecue connoisseurs consider them the best cut of ribs. Less well known is a an ice cream concoction called a St. Louis Concrete. It’s a shake made so thick that if you turn the cup upside down it won’t come out. The classic is made with frozen custard.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Grits Day. Grits are ground hominy, which in turn is what’s left of a corn kernel after the starches have been dissolved away by a lye solution. Bad start for good food, right? As with most foods, some grits are better than others. The best we know are the stone ground grits from a company called Adluh. In an astounding and mutually annihilating clash of stereotypes, Adluh grits are kosher. Here’s their website.

Yellow grits are more fun to eat than white grits, we think. Our standard on grits is that they not be utterly soft, yet be just barely thick enough to be eaten with a fork. Rubbery grits are anathema, as are runny grits. You need salt in there, as well as tremendous amount of butter.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton Canyon is in metropolitan Los Angeles, just north of Pasadena and Altadena. It’s a gap in the steep San Gabriel Mountains, created by the San Gabriel Fault, connected with but less active than the San Andreas Fault. Eatin Canyon is a Natural Area Park, and well it should be. Hiking in its steep gorges is as challenging as it is beautiful. If you didn’t pack a snack but need to eat, after you finish hiking head over the Cafe Culture, three quarters of a mile south in Pasadena. Thereby concluding another in our series of Gazetteer items about eating.

Food In Music

In 1958 on this date, Jerry Lee Lewis performed Great Balls of Fire on American Bandstand. Over at Nor-Joe Imports, they have a delicious item called fireballs, made by marinating marble-sized lumps of fresh-milk mozzarella cheese in a very spicy olive oil. Vincent’s Restaurant puts those fireballs between two pieces of fried eggplant to make what they call an eggplant sandwich.

In other edible music notes, today in 1957 Harry Belafonte hit Number One with the Banana Boat Song, better known as “Day-O!”

Edible Dictionary

stamp and go, Jamaican, n.–The classic Jamaican native breakfast, composed of three kinds of fritters. One is made with fish–traditionally dried, salted codfish, soaked overnight before frying. The second is ackee, a starchy tree fruit which resembles scrambled eggs. The third is callaloo, a spinach-like green leafy vegetable. The name comes from the rapidity with which it’s cooked and served, and the way people pick it up from a cook and walk away with it.

Food Namesakes

Sugar Ray Leonard scored a knockout in the third round of a boxing match against Bruce Finch on this date in 1982. . . Sherry Jackson, movie actress, was born today in 1942. . . Frank “Home Run” Baker, who has a rare double food name, was purchased by the Yankees today in 1916. . . Josh Sole, an Italian rugby player, was born in New Zealand today in 1980.

Words To Eat By

“You don’t develop good teeth by eating mush.”–Earl Henry “Red” Blaik, football coach, born today in 1897.

Words To Drink By

“What you eat and drink is 50 percent of life.”–Gerard Depardieu.

FoodFunniesSquare

Service Standards Are Slipping In Many American Eateries.

It’s getting to be a lot like eating in a bathroom, and many others across America.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Friday, February 9, 2017. I have a review column to write for New Orleans CityBusiness, but almost every candidate for the would require a bit more information than I can raise to the state of consciousness. I have begun my drive home when it occurs that that I’ve had three dinners at Brown Butter Southern Kitchen, but haven’t written an official review. The sign on the front of the somewhat-hidden sign reminds me of this. I make the requisite U=turn, run over the rough streetcar tracks, grab a seat in the corner farthest away from the front door (it’s a cold night), get a friendly face from the dining room manager, and sit down for dinner.

In all the meals I’ve had at Brown Butter, there has always been a bit of eccentricity running through the cooking, larded with pleasant surprises. They usually serve soup only at lunch time. But they had it this evening for some reason. Soup is essential on chilly nights like the ones we’ve had lately. This one was welcome if unmemorable–by which I mean that I forgot what flavor it bore.

Second course was a chicken liver pâté. This reminds me of La Provence’s standard-setting version of that idea. This one was bit too dense–enough so to be hard to spread on the good bread it added for company. Topping the jar of the pâté was a gel with a sharp flavor, almost like that of a wine made into a apple jelly.

The menu described the great dish of the night as a panneed pork chop. It was about three times the size of the pork chops I’m familiar with. It became more alluring as I ate, with its juicy, pink interior (that’s completely safe at this temperature). The crusty, crackly coating–even the parts of it on the tomahawk-like bone–made for wonderful eating. This is a dish upon which Brown Butter could build a reputation. It’s certainly one of the very best locally.

The only detriment to dining here is that on all the times I dined at Brown Butter it was sparsely occupied. I hear they are very busy at dinner. And they do have a number of regular customers. Nobody asked me, but the restaurant could use a few more familiar dishes.

The dining room is the part of the restaurant that captures the “Southern Kitchen” part of the name. New Orleans people rarely understand what that means. What it does not mean is that it cooks in Creole or Cajun flavor. Orleanians don’t have an especially good idea of what Southern food is. Most attempts at teaching this distinction wind up frustrated. (Another example: Purloo, the original restaurant at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It went nowhere.)

Brown Butter. Mid-City: 231 N Carrollton Ave. 504-609-3871.

Saturday, February 10, 2019. I have a two-and-a-half-hour radio show commencing at noon. I run some of my usual errands. starting with the blue-crab eggs Benedict at Mattina Bella. This is a dish so good that even after eating it numerous times I’m taken aback by it. I have a mild claim to its invention, after having an omelette the restaurant was running as a special. I asked to have the same ingredients made into a stack with poached eggs on the bottom, jumbo lump crabmeat with a light mushroom-and-butter sauce in the middle and hollandaise on top. The result may be the best fancy egg dish in town.

Because of the farewell-to-beef aspect of Mardi Gras, I thought we could get a show out of talking about steaks today. That kept us busy the whole 150 minutes. Steak is always a hot topic, and it was one today. As if to convince the audience of the relevance of steak to Mardi Gras, I point to the Boeuf Gras float in the Rex parade. It’s been a fixture for over a century.

Mattina Bella. Covington: 421 E Gibson. 985-892-0708.

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Blackened Tuna

There’s no better fish for blackening than tuna. By wonderful coincidence, no way of cooking tuna is better than blackening. The essential thing to know is that blackening fish creates a terrific amount of smoke and perhaps flames. It’s best done outdoors over a very hot fire. And don’t be shy about getting the heat up there–it can’t possibly be too hot.

  • 4 tuna steaks, about 10 oz each, cut at least an inch thick (but the thicker, the better)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice, strained
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 6 Tbs. butter, softened

1. Cut off any dark parts of the tuna and discard.

2. Blend the wine, Worcestershire, lemon juice, and garlic in a broad bowl. Place the tuna steaks in this mixture for about thirty seconds on each side. Shake off excess marinade and set tuna aside.

3. Strain the excess marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a light boil. Reduce by half and hold.

4. Place a large black iron skillet over the hottest heat source you have. The pan is ready when the oils that have soaked into the metal have burned off and the surface is smoking.

5. Combine the Creole seasoning with the salt in a bowl. Sprinkle the Creole seasoning liberally over both sides of the fish. Spoon melted butter over both sides, enough for it to drip a bit.

6. Place the fish into the hot skillet. WARNING! There is a very good chance that this will flame up briefly. It’s a certainty that there will be much smoke. The fish will first stick to the skillet, but after about a minute or so it will break free. Turn it and cook the other side the same way. It should be red in the center.

7. To make the lemon butter sauce, reduce the marinade by half, then remove from the heat. Whisk in the softened butter a tablespoon at a time to make a creamy-looking sauce.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare February 14, 2017

Ash Wednesday

This is Ash Wednesday–the first day of Lent, and one of the days in which Catholics take Lent most seriously. The seafood restaurants of the city will be very busy today. That’s particularly true of well-known casual seafood places like Drago’s, Mr. Ed’s Oyster House, Mandina’s, Casamento’s, and Charlie’s. It might be a better idea to dine in a somewhat upscale seafood specialist like GW Fins, the Bourbon House, the Red Fish Grill, or Andrea’s. Play this game: it is possible to eat a different seafood in New Orleans for each of the forty days of Lent without repeating. First one to find triggerfish, report it to the messageboard, please.

Be My Valentine

Although this is St. Valentine’s Day, today has been noted as special for centuries before its namesake saint lived. February 14 was a Roman pagan holiday honoring Juno. The next day, young men and women would hook up for the duration of the festival of Lupercalia. Many pairings continued beyond that, and so the love lore attached to the date. The historic St. Valentine was a rebellious third-century Roman priest. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriages because he was running low on soldiers. Valentine married couples in secret until he was caught and executed on the day that became his.

St. Valentine, in addition to being the patron saint of people in love, is also the patron of beekeepers. Honey. Let’s also remember that we would be bereft of many of the fruits and vegetables we eat were it not for the busyness of bees.

Nowadays, romances are more stressed than formed on Valentine’s Day. Men have a propensity to take it too lightly, while women have the opposite tendency. Despite that, it remains one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, which fill up with people who only dine out a few days of the year.

Celebrations

Although this is St. Valentine’s Day, today has been noted as special for centuries before its namesake saint lived. February 14 was a Roman pagan holiday honoring Juno. The next day, young men and women would hook up for the duration of the festival of Lupercalia. Many pairings continued beyond that, and so the love lore attached to the date. The historic St. Valentine was a rebellious third-century Roman priest. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriages because he was running low on soldiers. Valentine married couples in secret until he was caught and executed on the day that became his.

St. Valentine, in addition to being the patron saint of people in love, is also the patron of beekeepers. Honey. Let’s also remember that we would be bereft of many of the fruits and vegetables we eat were it not for the busyness of bees.

Nowadays, romances are more stressed than formed on Valentine’s Day. Men have a propensity to take it too lightly, while women have the opposite tendency. Despite that, it remains one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, which fill up with people who only dine out a few days of the year.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Only eat Louisiana strawberries for the next few months. Isn’t that obvious?

Food Calendar

It is Cream-Filled Chocolate Day, says the Web. The explanation is obvious. In the course of looking up background on this, I found out why it’s nearly impossible to fill chocolates with cream or liqueur or any other liquid at home. But the explanation itself is too complex for laymen like me and you.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Choconut Center, New York is a crossroads on the road from Binghamton to its regional airport, all of which is just north of the Pennsylvania state line. “Choconut” is an Anglicized version of “Chugnut,” the Native American name for this general area. If nobody has created a candy with that name from around there, a good marketing bet has been missed. The nearest restaurants are the Oasis and Cacciatore’s, both in Johnson City, a suburb of Binghamton, a mile and a half south of Choconut Center.

Edible Dictionary

spaghetti alla chitarra, Italian, n.–String pasta cut by thin, parallel wires stretched across a wooden base. It resembles the strings of a guitar (“chitarra”). The pasta sheets are pressed through the strings, resulting in medium-thin noodles that are square in cross-section, not round as most spaghetti is. All this is done by hand, and because of that spaghetti alla chitarra is considered as being of better quality than extruded pasta.

Wine Around The World

This is Trifon Zarezan day in Bulgaria. That’s an ancient festival marking the end of the dead months of winter and the coming of the first signs of spring. It has particular significance in the vineyards, where a ritual of pruning takes place. There’s also a sexual and intoxicating aspect to the day. It’s a long story.

Food Through History

In 1889 today, the first load of fresh fruit shipped by rail from the West Coast to the East Coast left Los Angeles. The cargo was oranges, almost an exotic fruit back then and much prized. . . Speaking of fruit, on this day in 1803 one Moses Coats won a patent for a gizmo that peeled apples. . . Today in 1859, Oregon joined the Union as the thirty-third state. It makes first-class wines, particularly Pinot Noir. But it also the country’s biggest producer of hazelnuts. They also pull a lot of salmon from their streams, notably the state fish, the Chinook salmon. . . This is also the anniversary of statehood (in 1912) for Arizona. The cuisine there is interesting, blending Mexican and West Coast cooking.

Food Namesakes

Derrick Witherspoon, a pro football running back, grabbed the ball of life and ran with it on this date in 1971. . . Actress Florence Rice first appeared today in 1911. . . Captain James Cook, who turns up often in this department, was murdered in Hawaii (he called them the Sandwich Islands) today in 1779. He was making his third visit there. . . American actor Paul Butcher came to life today in 1994.

Words To Eat By

“Honey comes out of the air. At early dawn the leaves of trees are found bedewed with honey. Whether this is the perspiration of the sky or a sort of saliva of the stars, or the moisture of the air purging itself, nevertheless it brings with it the great pleasure of its heavenly nature. It is always of the best quality when it is stored in the best flowers.”–Pliny The Elder.

“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”–Nora Ephron.

Words To Drink By

“She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when.'”–P.G. Wodehouse, British humor writer, died today in 1975.

FoodFunniesSquare

Another Master Stroke From One Of The Great Palates.

When everything you see reminds you of eating, and yet you are a moderate eater in the quality department, you have reached heaven on earth.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150

Diary MO 02-05-2018-Last Rehearsal For Date Night.

If the upcoming NPAS event weren’t different from our usual concerts, this would be our dress rehearsal–the last run-through before the main performance. But everything about this is different and fun. The audience will be at the Abita Springs Quail Farm. It’s really is a farm for quails, an undertaking that’s practiced by quite a few people in that part of St. Tammany.

The theme of our chorus is love, a commonly-practiced pursuit. Aside from singing in the chorus, I am doing two solos: “If I Loved You,” and “The Way You Look Tonight.” My kind of music. It will accompany a buffet dinner for the audience, who I supposed is also looking for love. In the Richard Rodgers song, I will keep my focus on hitting three semi-high Gs, which will push me to my vocal limits, or, perhaps beyond. I used to sing this with the opera singers that entertained diners at the now-extinct Café Giovanni.

Speaking of which. . . Chef Duke LoCicero, who operated Café Giovanni for twenty-six years in the French Quarter, has finally come out of hiding. On the radio show this Wednesday, he will announce that Café Giovanni is kaput. The Decatur Street restaurant may already have new tenants. Duke is now the chef of N’Tini’s in Mandeville, working with the restaurant’s owner Marc Benfatti. Mark operated N’Tini’s since shortly after Katrina, and ever since. Recently, the name and menu were changed to “Due North,” a concept restaurant that went nowhere and is now forgotten.

Duke and Marc will be tell all in the Wednesday NOMenu Dining Diary. For the moment, I note that Chef Duke has lived on the North Shore for almost as long as Café Giovanni has been in operation. He very much welcomes his relocation to N’Tini’s, which will save Duke a lot of commuting on the Causeway. Besides, we could use another Italian restaurant on the North Shore.

N’Tini’s. Mandeville: 2891 US 190. 985-626-5566.

Come back here tomorrow for more details. Or tune in the radio show between 3 and 5 p.m. on 105.3 FM HD2.

Diary TU-02-06-2018-Another Year Drifts Past.
Mary Ann’s plans for my birthday party today made me suspicious. After a fantastic collection of my best friends turned up at Antoine’s when I turned six-o–I didn’t think she’d sneak another party like that one again. Especially because we’re gathering at Antoine’s.

It proved to be just another day at Antoine’s between Mardi Gras krewe lunches and dinners. It does, however, feature an exceptionally fine array of food. Most of it was suggested by my waiter Charles Carter. Particularly fine was an ancient dish that I haven’t thought about in a long time, even though it’s one I recommend often. Noisette d’Agneau Alciatore is a pair of what look like beef tournedos, but in fact are lamb chops. It has two sauces: bearnaise and a slightly-sweet brown sauce with a little pineapple hidden among the other flavors. There is nothing remotely like this anywhere else, either at Antoine’s or elsewhere.

The dish has a personal element. When I first began dining at Antoine’s in the early 1970s, it was on the menu as “Noisettes d’Agneau Maison d’Or.” A noisette is something like a filet mignon, meaning a small, beautiful nugget of something delectable. The Maison d’Or –meaning “house of gold”–was either a very classy jewelry store in France, or an equally upscale hotel in Brussels, Belgium, during the late 1800s or early 1900s. The sauce in this dish was a thick, golden concoction, but I don’t know the recipe.

The personal part of this is that my first dog–a Golden Retriever with which I surprised my girlfriend of the time, although not to her pleasure–was AKC registered as Noisette d’Agneau Maison d’Or. Not long after, without becoming aware of my wonderful dog, Antoine’s changed the makeup of the dish. It remained at Antoine’s for a long time, then became obsolete. But I kept ordering it, as I did tonight. It appears to have undergone a resurrection. It was the best noisette d’agneau in years, perhaps ever.

The dog Noisette lived on with me until dying of cancer at about twelve. By then we had moved to the Cool Water Ranch. With its woods and pond, it was heaven for Noisette until the end. She retrieved thousands of thrown tennis balls while she was still with us.

Antoine’s. French Quarter: 713 St Louis. 504-581-4422.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Bayard Salad

This is a singular salad from Antoine’s that you’ll like if you have a taste for strongly-flavored crunchy food. It is a ball of chopped vegetables in a vinaigrette, set atop an artichoke bottom, then topped with a rolled anchovy filled with Louisiana caviar. It has an almost Cubist appearance–like the sort of salad you’d expect Picasso to make when he was in a creative mood. It’s not for everybody, but I like it. Point of interest: a lot of the ingredients in here are the raw materials for Antoine’s famous oysters Rockefeller. But pretend you didn’t notice. The salad is named after a legendary horse with magical powers from French Renaissance poetry. I don’t know why.

Antoines--SaladaBayard-

  • 6 whole artichokes, steamed
  • 1 cup chopped fennel, bulb only
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, leaves and upper stems
  • 1 bunch green onions, tender green parts only, sliced thin
  • 2 small cans anchovies packed in oil (about 15-20 anchovies total)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 head Belgian endive
  • 2 oz. Louisiana caviar
  • Dressing:
  • 2 Tbs. Creole mustard
  • 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Pull the artichokes apart. Remove the bottoms and set aside. With a spoon, scrape the meat from the bottom of the leaves. Chop whole any tender white leaves from the center, and mix them with the scrapings.

2. Combine the artichoke leaves and scrapings with the fennel, celery, parsley, and green onions. (To save time, you can chop the fennel, celery, and parsley together in a food processor.)

3. Set aside the six largest, best-looking anchovies, and chop the rest. Add them and the salt and pepper to the vegetable mixture, and stir with a kitchen form to combine everything uniformly.

4. Make the dressing by putting all the dressing ingredients plus 2 Tbs. water into a bowl and whisking to blend. Add the olive oil in a thin stream while continuing to whisk, until a creamy dressing results. (This can also be done in a shaker bottle.)

5. Place an artichoke bottom on each serving plate. Spoon about a tablespoon of dressing into each artichoke bottom. With an ice cream scoop (or your hands), make balls a little smaller than a tennis ball with the vegetable mixture.

6. Roll up the six reserved anchovies, leaving a hole in the center about the size of your little finger. With your big finger at the bottom, fill the hole with caviar, and place the stuffed anchovy atop the ball of vegetables.

7. Arrange four endive leaves like flower petals around the artichoke bottoms, Drizzle the dressing over the entire salad and serve. The salad can be made in advance and chilled until serving time, but it’s best to take them out of the refrigerator about a half-hour before serving.

Serves six.

AlmanacSquare
February 8, 2017

Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–5
Valentine’s Day–6

The Chemistry Of Food

Today is the birthday of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev, who created the periodic table of elements, seen in every chemistry classroom. I’ve often thought that a periodic table of food would make in interesting kitchen poster. Let’s see. . . Water would be Element 1. Chicken Stock is Element 3, Veal Stock Element 11, Beef Stock Element 19. Salt would be Element 17. Sauvignon Blanc is Element 2, Chardonnay is Element 10, Pinot Noir Element 18. . . Foie Gras is Element 79, Caviar Element 47, Oysters Element 29 (chemists will be chuckling at that one; see if you can guess why). Maybe somebody has done this already. Would somebody please set the periodic table for dinner? Thank you.

Today’s Flavor
Courtbouillon of shrimp and drum @ Toups Meaterie.

Courtbouillon of shrimp and drum with a medium roux.

Today is Statewide Fish Courtbouillon Day. Courtbouillon (the word is pronounced “koo-boo-yon”) is made by poaching fish in a small amount of water seasoned with the holy trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery, along with fresh tomato, parsley, peppercorns, white wine, lemon, and a few other possible ingredients. The word “courtbouillon” translates from French as “short boiling,” and that’s exactly the process. The fish and the vegetables all give their flavor into what becomes a very sloshy sauce, which you get up with a spoon while you eat the fish with a fork. Made with good fresh fish (redfish is the classic species, but it’s also good with other flaky white fish) and a deft hand, it’s one of those wonderful rarities: a really delicious dish that’s also very light in every sense of the word.

Annals Of Sweetness

Sugar beets are a greater source of sweetener than most people know. The process for making sugar from those roots was created by a German scientist named Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, who was born today in 1795.

Edible Dictionary

oxtail, n.–This is literally the tail of a cow. It has a bone in the center at the top end, but this tapers off to a cartilaginous appendage as it heads to the rear. It’s surrounded by a layer of meat which gets progressively thinner. As a muscle, its only job is to wag the tail. So it’s reasonably tender and has a very good flavor. The great use for oxtails is in making beef stock for soup. The cartilage gives up a lot of gelatin, which lends a marvelous mouthfeel to a broth. (There’s no better beginning for a French onion soup.) The meat can be pulled apart into strings and bundled together for a nice presentation. In the store, oxtails are usually cut into inch-thick (actually, inch-long) segments.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When you’re making simple syrup or even more concentrated sugar solutions, brush any grains of sugar that stick to the side of the pan into the water. If you don’t, granulation may begin and you’ll have to start over.

Deft Dining Rule #217:

Any restaurant brave enough to still serve loose sugar from bowls is worth your special attention.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton is a rural crossroads in the northeast corner of Arkansas, 112 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee. The rolling land is about equally divided between farm acreage and woods. Two branches of Cypress Creek drain the land as they head towards the Mississippi. The nearest source of eatin’ to Eaton is the Sportsman’s Grill, three miles away in Lynn. This is another in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer entries beginning with “Eat.”

Annals Of Campfire Cooking

Today in 1910 was the founding date of the Boy Scouts of America. Nothing in my life was more rewarding than my participation in Scouting with my son for ten years. We’re both out of it now, but our lives are much richer as a result of that experience. From it we both know how to cook trout meuniere and blackened lemonfish in the middle of nowhere!

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Meingold, who lived in the ninth century in Belgium. He was of noble blood from the Belgian city Liege. He is one of many patron saints of bakers.

Food Namesakes

Today is the birthday (1925) of the great comedic actor Jack Lemmon, who was in one of the great food scenes in the history of cinema. As Felix in The Odd Couple, he corrected Oscar (Walter Matthau) about the bowl of pasta on the kitchen table. “That’s not spaghetti, it’s linguine!” he said. Oscar picked it up and threw it against the wall, red sauce and all. “Now it’s garbage!” Not only that, but two of his movies have food titles: The Days Of Wine And Roses and The Fortune Cookie. . . Another actor, Welshman Stanley Baker, was born today in 1927. . . Paul Wheatbread, who was a member of the Union Gap with Gary Puckett, was born today in 1946. . . John Evert Morel, a Dutch artist, was born today in 1777. . . Big-league pitcher Aaron Cook was born today in 1979.

Words To Eat By

“I saw a cavalry captain buy vegetable soup on horseback. He carried the whole mess home in his helmet.”–Aristophanes, classic Greek dramatist.

Words To Drink By

“Marriage isn’t a word. . . it’s a sentence.”–Elbert “King” Vidor, Hollywood movie director.

FoodFunniesSquare

No Wonder Greek Cooks Prefer Lamb To Beef.

They flunked their Ancient Literature in high school. It begins as follows for the Odyssey. “Andra moi ennepe, musa, poloutrepon. . .hos mollo polo, plangthes, epeis. . . Well, I flunked it myself in my junior year.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary 2/3/2018-Somber Morning, Missed Breakfast.
The day was dominated by the funeral of Ryan Pearce. He was same age as my son Jude and had a lot of the same interests–filmmaking being one of them. Ryan and Jude were good friends for years. Lately, Ryan has been writing reviews for this publication, in my effort to get some new voices in our virtual pages. He was good at that job. Ryan’s father Harlon Pearce is a major figure in the Louisiana seafood business, and so well known in that industry that the services brought hundreds of attendees. It’s not yet known what brought about Ryan’s demise, but it’s a tragedy in every aspect.

The Marys were to have met me Café B, Ralph Brennan’s casual but excellent bistro in Old Metairie. We were going to have breakfast, then move to the Garden of Memories. As often happens, I went to the Garden first, while the girls went to Café B. My family (although the blame is usually laid on my door) never seems to get these coordinates right. The Marys reported that the breakfast was very good, and that it’s too bad I missed it.

They then moved on after the ceremonies to attend the wedding shower for one of MA’s grown-up nieces. I would not see the Marys until much later in the day.

After an hour-long walk, I rehearsed the hymns that I am supposed to lead the next day. It will be my second stint as the cantor of the ten-o’clock Mass at St. Jean De Chantal Church in Abita Springs.

When the Marys showed up at home, we entered our perennial argument as to where we will eat dinner. The winner most of the time is the Acme Oyster House. It took the prize again, mainly because the girls had eaten more than they really wanted today already. So had I, having downed a couple of finger sandwiches at the funeral.

The matter of whether food should be served in a funeral home has not been decided. Some notable funerary venues at which there was food include my mother’s; Chef Paul Prudhomme; and Henry Lee, the owner of the Genghis Khan and virtuoso violinist. That last one was an amazing spread. Anyway, it seems to me that there’s something a bit off-kilter with the idea of eating in a funeral home. If I could dictate my own funeral, I’d say no to the food in exchange for my kind of music. That would be a blend of Bobby Short, the Sons of the Pioneers, and Holiday for Strings, the latter is the theme for my radio show.

For once, I had a dinner idea that captured the Marys’ attention. I pass in front of an Outback Steak House when I go grocery shopping on Saturdays. And I had done so today. It’s been at least fifteen years since the last time we darkened the door of an Outback anywhere around New Orleans. Since then, the place has been significantly renovated.

The first white tablecloth restaurant I ever dined in regularly was a local chain called Buck Forty-Nine Pancake and Steak House. I thought it was really something, and indeed it was better than its name might suggest.

By the time I was done with the Buck Forty-Nine, I had moved on to USDA Prime steak houses, as well as to the upper ranges of the restaurant trade. It wasn’t long until inexpensive steakhouses were off my radar. Outback had a connection with New Orleans (one of its original partners in Florida had managed some Uptown New Orleans bistros in the 1980s). But that was never enough to convince me.

The kids liked the Outback in the 1990s, but it didn’t move me much. But the word is that it upgraded their restaurants quite a bit. That seems to be true, but not across the entire menu. Although we liked the assortment of fried nibbles, the ceviche-like marinated tuna, and some of the soups, we also found some items that need rejiggering. The onions soup’s pillow of floating bread with a blob of melted cheese floating about was uninteresting.

Fortunately, they handle the beef well. This looked like my chance to do some research on ribeye and prime-rib. The Outback features those cuts well. The best of them is the 22-ounce bone-in rib roast, with great tenderness and juicy flavors. Too big to finish, I could pass it around to the Marys, who like that configuration of beef.

After becoming convinced that this is a better steakhouse than the likes of the Bonanza and other brands from long ago. I was further surprised by the prices. They are at least $10 less expensive than comparable steaks. But then comes another problem: the sides, which I find less than polished.

But the Marys may be good to try the place another time in a few weeks, and see if Outback is as good as it was tonight.

Outback Steakhouse. Covington: US 190 (Causeway Blvd). 985-893-0505.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Roasted Onion (or Garlic) Vinaigrette

Although it seems much too simple, this is a great dressing with a little sweetness and sharpness from onions or garlic. Don’t use both. Contrary to common practice, onions and garlic don’t go all that well together. Similar to the discord you get when you play two adjacent keys on a piano at the same time.

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced, or 2 heads garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Pinch salt

1. In an ovenproof pan with a lid, combine the onion with 2 Tbs. olive oil and the Creole seasoning. Cover and bake in a 225 degree oven for two hours. Cool to room temperature.

2. Add remaining olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir well. This dressing can be stored, refrigerated and covered, for two weeks.

Makes about a cup.

AlmanacSquare

February 7, 2017
Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–6
Valentine’s Day–7

Food Names In The Movies

The man with what may be the greatest food name of all time, Buster Crabbe, was born today in 1908. He came to prominence first as a swimmer in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. His good looks got the attention of Hollywood, and his acting career began. He made over 75 movies, usually cast as a powerful hero: Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers were among his best-remembered recurring roles.

Crab on crab.

Whether Buster Crabbe ever ate a buster crab, I don’t know. This seems the perfect day for National Buster Crab Day, but it’s too early in the year for these little hand-peeled soft-shell crabs, which we start seeing in a month or two. (Although people with good connections– like a chef I know whose brother-in-law raises soft shell crabs–can get them almost year-round.)

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pease is a town of some 250 people in central Minnesota, sixty miles north of the Twin Cities. The uninterrupted Midwestern cornfields south of Pease start to break up around there. The town was originally a station on the Great Northern Railway, but that’s gone now. An interesting census statistic is that not one single person claiming to be African American lives in Pease. This does not bode well for those of us with a preference for the New Orleans taste in our food cuisine. But we’ll keep an open mind and go to the Pease Cafe in the middle of town, and ask them whether they know that “pease” is the original name what we now call the pea.

Edible Dictionary

darne, French, n.–A steak of fish, cut crosswise into a thick, usually U-shaped slab, with the major bones still intact. This presentation is most common in this country for use with salmon, but the vogue is moving away from that int he direction of fillets. The fish can be cooked in almost any way, from grilling to braising or steaming. If there’s a sauce, it will not be many steps away from a fish stock.

Deft Dining Rule #216:

Stone crabs are so expensive because many people who order them are just showing off their wealth. Try them once, and consider forgetting them forever after.

Food Names In The Newspapers

Crawdaddy, a newspaper about pop and rock music in the 1960s and 1970s, first appeared today in 1966. I once gathered a bunch of back issues of Crawdaddy spread them on a table where we were eating boiled crawfish. Nobody got the joke.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Fettuccine Alfredo Day. What is little noted about that dish, as practiced by the much-turned-over Alfredo’s of Rome, is that a raw egg yolk is stirred into the hot pasta as the very last step. Few versions have egg at all, and it’s probably for the best. Most versions now are just pasta, cream, and Parmesan cheese. Which isn’t exactly bad. I have my recipe for it in today’s Recipe department.

In a speech today in 1839, Henry Clay said, “I had rather be right than be president.” If only that were the rule today. Orleanians thought enough of Henry Clay that a statue of him stood for decades in the neutral ground of Canal Street at St. Charles. The streetcar tracks curved to go around it. That statue is now in Lafayette Square, opposite Gallier Hall. Henry Clay waves to diners at Herbsaint, Café At The Square and Desi Vega’s Steak House, and Marcello’s, all of which are roughly within sight of his statue.

Music To Eat Ice Cream By

On a related note, the Beatles arrived in the United States for the first time today in 1964. To honor the occasion, Baskin-Robbins created a flavor called “Beatle Nuts.” Don’t remember what it tasted like, and not sure I want to.

Food Namesakes

John Deere, of farm equipment fame, was born today in 1804. . . Jimmy Greenspoon, the organist of Three Dog Night, was born today in 1948. . . Artist Arthur Berry came along this day in 1925. . . Today in 1959, John Cook and co-pilot Robert Timm landed their airplane in Las Vegas after being continuously airborne for just shy of sixty-five days. Yes, you read that right, and it was a record. . . Baseball
Dan Quisenberry
was born today in 1953. When do the quisenberries get ripe?

Words To Eat By

“Those from whom nature has withheld taste invented trousers.”–Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, early French food authority.

Words To Cook By

“Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it.”–Unknown.

FoodFunniesSquare

Gourmet Guilt.

Unsureness over whether you left a big enough tip, asked for too much service, and otherwise being an all-around pill at the table.

Click here for the cartoon.
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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Simply Sublime By Mary Ann Fitzmorris.
January was National Soup Month, but it’s still cold outside. That means the divine spicy crab and pumpkin soup at Oak Oven in Harahan will still be a special for awhile. Try not to miss it.

I have my issues with the Oak Oven–often find them ungenerous in their portions, and my atmosphere-junkie sensibilities are offended by lingering hints of its former-Popeye’s self) we are embarrassingly frequent regulars at the Oak Oven. For one simple reason–it’s consistently yummy.

Owner-Chef Adam Supernau cooked at a two star Michelin restaurant during a long stay in Sicily. This street cred shines everywhere, from pastas to pizzas to homemade gelato.

But this soup is perfection. It is just the right kick of spice, just the right weight of cream, and just the right hint of claw crabmeat. Pumpkin makes a mild statement, its flavor graciously yielding to the others.

My reaction to finishing the bowl is always the same: will anyone notice if I lick the bowl? Sadly, yes, so I just have to wait until my next visit. And think about it till then. It really is that good.

The Camellia Grill. . . No, Make That Just “The Grille.”

DiningDiarySquare-150x150 The Camellia Grill had a hard time coming back from Hurricane Katrina. Its story semed to have gelled when Hicham Khodr–one of the partners with Emeril of Nola–bought it. Hicham would later open a second Camellia Grill and buy the Gumbo Shop. Hicham also left off the reference to Camellias in locations other than the original at the foot on South Carrollton Avenue.

The new diner (that’s what the Camellia Grill always was) has a great location, next door to the first Trader Joe’s supermarket to open in the New Orleans area. It and a number of other stores of various kinds took over a long-empty nine-block area on Veterans Blvd., near Causeway Boulevard.

And here we find a diner whose menu includes almost all the items I remember from my fifty years of dining at original Camellia Grill. Again it must be noted that all of that is also true of thousands of diners across America. What I had for dinner, for example, was a poor boy sandwich. The Camellia Grill never had those in its glory years, limiting itself to hamburgers and toast-bound sandwiches, breakfasts, including omelettes of the frothy, light way the Camellia Grill always espoused, and baking pecan pies and waffles.

People have been asking me about the new place for a few weeks now. I was in the neighborhood today, so I thought I’d give it a try. The sandwich I refer to above was on this menu called “The New Yorker.” It’s a roast beef poor boy whose gravy has a rather different taste from the one that poor boy fans recognize. Atop the beef are Swiss cheese and onions. One has choices of the side dish that comes with the poor boy. I have the hash-brown potatoes. They are the stringy kind that can be found in diners across America. Indeed, a lot of the menu here meets that description. It’s also true of the original Grill (or Grille; have it your way.

Two guys who were acting both as grill men and waiters tried to be jolly and happy–a hallmark of the Camellia Grill, best shown by the late Harry Tervelon, the greatest waiter of all time in New Orleans and a good friend of mine until he passed away not long after Katrina.

The Grille is very stark and too modern. Maybe some years of wear and experience will polish it into what we remember about the original place. Maybe. Being in Metairie will not help. But I’m ready to keep it on the list as time goes by.

The Grille. Metairie: 504-522-1800.

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Veal with Anchovies

A couple of days ago I picked up a pizza at the long-running Pizza Man of Covington, the most interest pizzeria on the North Shore. I always get their enormous Italian salad when I’m there, and they know me well enough that they include eight or nine anchovies automatically. Anchovies get a bad rap from most people, but I love them. They pop up in a lot of unusual places. The oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, believe it or not, includes a few anchovies pureed into the sauce.

Chef Goffredo Fraccaro–retired owner of the now-extinct La Riviera–made a dish he called by its Italian name: vitello con acciughe. Veal with anchovies. The dish has a distinctly Italian flavor, with a much bigger flavor than we get from most veal dishes. I think you’d like it even if you’re not keen on the little salty fish.

Veal with anchovies and capers.

  • 12 white veal cutlets, 2 oz. each
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 anchovy fillets (two of them chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 black olives or 1 tsp. capers, pitted
  • 1 Tbs. chopped parsley

1. Pound out the veal between sheets of plastic wrap until very thin.

2. Mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Dust the veal with the seasoned flour and shake off any excess.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over a medium heat. Saute the veal until lightly browned–about a minute on each side. Remove the veal, drain, and keep warm.

4. Pour off the excess oil and lower the heat. Add half the butter, the two chopped anchovies, and garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant.

5. Add the wine and bring to a light boil. Return the veal to the pan and cook for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining butter. Add the chopped parsley.

6. Wrap the olives with anchovy fillets. Place two veal slices per person on the plates, and garnish with the anchovy-wrapped olives.

Serves six.

AlmanacSquare
February 6, 2017

Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–5
Valentine’s Day–6

 

Today’s Flavor
Raw oysters.

Raw oysters.

This is National Raw Oyster Day. It’s the shank of the oyster season right now along the Gulf Coast, with water temperatures cool enough to make the oysters pump a lot of water through their bodies to filter out nutrients. This makes them fat, with big meaty “eyes,” (the adductor muscles) and more complex, briny flavors. Assuming you have no health problems that would prevent you from doing so, you should have a dozen or two today and see how good oysters can be. I think they’re the finest seafood we produce in our part of the world, and by far the best buy.

All that is true despite the damage done to the Louisiana oil beds indirectly because of the BP oil spill. Few beds of any size were touched by the oil, but fresh water sent from the river through the bays where oysters grow killed them. It was estimated that it would take three years to return to full production. It’s still much lower than before the spill, but you can once again get Louisiana oysters everywhere you once did. At higher prices, however.

The oysters we enjoy in New Orleans are all of the species crassostrea virginica. These are also the oysters of the entire Atlantic Coast, including those of the Chesapeake Bay and the formerly rich oyster beds of New York City. But there are many other species, although they only occasionally appear in this market. Reason: the quality and low cost of the local oysters, which are as fine a blessing as a habitat ever bestowed on its interlopers.

Edible Dictionary

OystersRockefeller-Drawingoysters Rockefeller, n.–A baked oyster dish, usually served as an appetizer, of a thick sauce of very finely chopped pureed greens with a slight tinge of anise in the aroma and flavor. It’s usually served atop an oyster on a shell, usually three to six at a time. The most common recipe for oysters Rockefeller uses spinach as the main component, and gets the anise flavor from Pernod, Herbsaint, or a similar liqueur. The original recipe, created at Antoine’s in 1899 and still served there, is made with celery, fennel (the source of the anise flavor), parsley, and green onions. All that is combined with a light roux and bread crumbs to thicken the sauce. The dish is named for John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in the world at the time of the dish’s creation. The richness and green color of the sauce suggested the name to Jules Alciatore, whose idea the dish was. The story is that he needed a quick appetizer for a party, and saw a line of picked-over relish plates in the kitchen. He told the cook to grind their contents and make it into a sauce for oysters. For many years, if you ordered oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, you’d get a card saying how many orders of it had been served in history, including yours.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Oyster Creek runs twenty-six miles through a twisting course into the Gulf Of Mexico near Freeport, Texas, sixty miles south of Houston. The creek is a distributary of the Brazos River, and about 7,000 years ago it was the Brazos. Now it is more a tidal stream than a running waterway, allowing oysters to move in as the salt water takes over. Along the creek is the town of Oyster Creek, with its 1200 residents. Niko’s Grill is right in the middle of the town, and probably has oysters on the menu.

Deft Dining Rule #670:

No recipe for cooking oysters will ever equal the goodness of the same oysters, freshly shucked, eaten raw.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The best way to shuck oysters is to find somebody who really knows how and get him to do it for you in exchange for beer.

Food Games

Today in 1935, the board game Monopoly was sold for the first time. Now you can find custom versions of the game for many cities and special interests. But I don’t think I’ve seen one with restaurants as the theme. Let’s see. . . in New Orleans, the inexpensive properties just past GO would be Domilese’s and Dong Phuong. Around the first turn you’d have the opportunity to buy Mandina’s and Liuzza’s. Just past Free Parking you’d have Mr. B’s and Clancy’s and Brigtsen’s. The green properties would be Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, and Antoine’s. But which would be the ones where Boardwalk and Park Place? August? Commander’s Palace? Square Root?

Annals Of Bottled Water

Today in 1985, Perrier rolled out the first of its flavored bubbly waters. It was the first time the French company bottled anything but its famous spring water. They recently added Pink Grapefruit to Lemon, Lime, and Citron (the latter, conceived in a flash of creative brilliance, is lemon and lime together).

Annals Of Food Writing

This is the birthday of Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a great book about the food we eat, where it comes from, and how growing it the way we do is creating enormous problems. It’s a book well worth reading, one full of surprising facts.

Mardi Gras 1951

Today is the sixty-sixth anniversary of the last time Mardi Gras fell on this date. Reason I know: I was born that day. Carnival will not fall on my birthday until 2035. I hope I live so long. I share the day with Ronald Reagan, Aaron Burr, Babe Ruth, Tom Brokaw, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and my late radio colleague Bill Calder.

Also born today (in 1914) was Thurl Ravenscroft. A voice actor with the deepest imaginable bass, he appeared in thousands of records, movies and commercials. His most famous gig was as Tony the Tiger saying, about Sugar Frosted Flakes, “They’re great!” He was a good singer, too, easily able to hit a low C without sounding unnatural. You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch was his best-known song.

Back Of The Butcher Shop

Today in 1865, a banquet at the Grand Hotel in Paris featured horsemeat in almost every course. Horsemeat soup, sausages, ragout, and steak were served, among many other dishes. Horsemeat goes in and out of popularity in Europe. During the mad cow scare of a decade ago, it had a brief renaissance. Eating horsemeat has not caught in in the United States. I have never seen it on a menu or in a store, even though I have encountered just about every other edible mammal. Not even T. Pittari’s ever offered it.

The Saints

It’s the feast day of St. Amand of France, a monk of the seventh century. He is the patron saint of bartenders, brewers, and winemakers. He’s also a patron saint of the Boy Scouts, strangely enough.

Food Namesakes

Ebenezer Brewer, the writer of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, was born today in 1897. . . Film music composer and conductor Maurice Le Roux was born in 1923 on this date. . . Sir Charles Wheatstone, a British physicist who invented a device for measuring electrical resistance, was born today in 1802. . . Eric Partridge, who wrote about the English language as used in New Zealand, was born today in 1894.

Words To Eat By

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.”–Ernest Hemingway.

Words To Drink By

“Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life.”―F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned.

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Diary Of Jan. 39, 2018. The Return Of Ralph’s On The Park.

The restaurants near the intersection of Canal Street and Canal Boulevard had recent battle with the streets department over the recent reconstruction of the end point of the Canal streetcar. The problem was that people who need the streetcar and other transit to get around had a tough time transferring from the streetcar to the bus at the cemeteries. Crossing the street was the challenge.

Now it’s not. The tracks now extend across the traffic and a couple of blocks into Lakeview. It doesn’t sound like a big deal. But for restaurants in the vicinity–including a few that were as much as ten blocks away–getting through the construction zone was a horrible trick. The worst part was the deplorable condition of the side streets that one needed to get through the area.

It was so bad that Ralph’s on the Park–a favorite restaurant of mine since it opened around 2003. The streetcar massacree forced it off my list of favorites for awhile.

But the project is over, and Ralph’s came to mind today. The Marys were off doing something else. And aside from the attraction of the food, a long-time pianist was in the bar playing my kind of music. I took a table next to the keyboard, and settled in for the evening.

Charlie Miller

The eats were orchestrated by Malory, a waitress who has been at Ralph’s long enough that she recognized me from past dinners–and I her. She’s my kind of server: knowledgeable on the food and wine, not condescending, easy to joke around with.

All those qualities fit right into Ralph’s style of cooking and service. The departments in the menu show as many appetizers as entrees, as many big appetizers as small ones, and some dishes that fit no category at all. You are free to play these flexibilities.

And I did. I began with what amounted to oysters cooked the same way chefs used to broil escargots, in the same six-pocket serving utensil. They should have bought one with bigger pockets, but otherwise it was a fine starter.

Now I have a shrimp bisque loaded with the namesake main ingredients. Not like a dark-rough crawfish bisque, but the French variety with a creamy sauce.

The entree is a variation of speckled trout. It is actually red snapper tonight, but I prefer the latter to the former. It comes out buttery, nicely seasoned, and cooked the way I like it–not dried or tough.

I get to talking with pianist Charlie Miller, who has been playing both piano and wind instruments for a very long time. As in, fifty or sixty years, if I heard him right. He plays at Ralph’s every now and then, on no particular schedule.

I had already too much food when I asked for a scoop of house-made ice cream.

All this took place in the bar, my preferred place to sit at Ralph’s. The main dining room is pleasant enough, but the ambient sound can be a bit much there. The only other physical problem is that in the bar it’s so dark that I use my flashlight every time I dine.

But Ralph’s is back in service, about which I am glad.

Ralph’s On The Park. City Park Area: 900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000.

Maison Pierre

French Quarter: 430 Dauphine
1970s-1993

The fortunes of New Orleans were on an upswing in the late 1970s. Restaurants answered the new Baby Boom’s affluence with some uncommonly grand, expensive restaurants. These went well beyond the unstudied, comfortable dressiness of the old-line dining institutions like Antoine’s and Galatoire’s.

The mainstream dining public was still dominated by the tastes of their parents, who had a taste for formality. Formality was soon to become characterized as pretension, but it hadn’t happened yet. So the few restaurants that decided to push service and grandeur to new heights attracted a certain number of loyal customers, who enjoyed the ceremony and specialness.

The restaurant property that is now Bayona was, for two decades, ruled by a doctrinaire French chef named Pierre Lacoste. His dining room had the over-the-top decoration of La Belle Epoque. Every reference in the place was to some vaunted French institution, with the suggestions that it should be revered in hushed tones. In the 1970s, hardly a restaurant in town could match it for gilding.

The dining room was orchestrated by Pierre’s wife. In contrast to the pompous chef, Madame Pierre (that how she introduced herself) was a lovely, hospitable, smiling lady. While she made it clear that you were about to be escorted through a dining experience in which you were required to put your petty preferences aside and allow the particular magic of Maison Pierre to dictate all, she was so pleasant that she made you want to go along with the program.

Maison Pierre was the first restaurant where I was ever served what we now call an amuse-bouche. And an intermezzo (a sorbet to cleanse the palate between the seafood and the meat). Or a post-dessert bon-bon. It was the first restaurant in which the waiter presented the cork from the wine bottle for me to inspect. (“Sniff it, to make sure it’s not rotten,” he said.) It was the first restaurant that had several shapes of wine glasses for different kinds of wine. None of this was due to my naivete; none of these things could be found in regular service anywhere else at that time.

In an article I wrote in New Orleans Magazine in 1975, I describe a dinner that had nine courses–in a time when the chef’s tasting menu was unheard of. No other restaurant offered anything like that, either, except perhaps for gourmet society dinners. Certainly not a la carte.

Everything was heavy French. The dinner started with oysters, moved to a consomme, followed by a fish course that was said to be rouget. That’s a French mullet, and in retrospect I wonder whether it really was. I wasn’t yet knowledgeable enough to tell fish species apart. My suspicion now is fueled by Chef Pierre’s practice in later years of using a good deal of catfish.

I remember the entree vividly. It was prime rib, but “Ah!” said Madame Pierre. “The chef, he cooks it on one side only, so the juices and aroma rise to the top. Surely you will like it medium rare. I will add fresh horseradish.” That really was as good as advertised.

At the end of the meal, Madame Pierre brought some sort of after-dinner drink and what she called “bon-bons,” which I remember as chocolate truffles. By then, I’d had the pants charmed off me. (The didn’t know who I was or what I was doing, I know, because I was truly anonymous back then.) The check came to $84–real money in 1975. I wrote a glowing article about this enchanted evening in tandem with a similar review of Louis XVI.

Maison Pierre would never be as good as the version I described at that time. Every time I sampled it again, I was more puzzled by why I liked it so much the first time. By the last time I went, it all seemed like sleight of hand. The catfish, among other things, shattered the illusion.

Maison Pierre closed in the 1990s, to be replaced by Torey’s, operated by Lee LeRuth, who had by then taken over LeRuth’s, his father’s spectacular restaurant in Gretna. That didn’t last long. Then it became Bayona. Chef Pierre has since passed away, and his restaurant forgotten except by the few whose idea of a great dinner called for its being ritualistic.

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Panneed Pork Chops with Fennel Creole Sauce

Some years ago, the annual March of Dimes Gourmet Gala took the form of a celebrity cooking competition, to which I was invited. My dish was panneed sweetbreads prepared with the sauce below. I won!

As much as I like sweetbreads, I’m giving you this recipe with pork chops because a) sweetbreads are hard to find and fool with, and b) a lot of people don’t like sweetbreads. This pork chop takes on an amazing appearance after you pound it out; the bone almost looks ridiculous.

Panneed pork made into the shape of a fleur de lis.

  • Sauce:
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bulb fresh fennel
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed, diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. Crystal hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ~
  • 8 center-cut pork chops, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated bread crumbs
  • Canola or olive oil
  • Fresh chervil (or parsley)

1. For Creole sauce, heat butter in a heavy saucepan and sauté the onions, bell pepper, fennel, celery, and garlic until just tender, but not browned–about five minutes.

2. With your fingers or a food processor, break up the canned tomatoes. Add them, all the juice from the can, and the fresh tomatoes to the pot, along with the chicken stock. Bring to a light boil.

3. Add all the remaining sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat for five minutes.

4. Lower to a simmer and cook until the sauce has reached a non-runny consistency. Adjust salt and pepper levels, and keep warm until time to serve.

5. Pound the pork chops between two pieces of waxed paper (or inside a large food-storage bag) until they’re about twice their original size.

6. Mix the salt and Creole seasoning into the flour, and lightly dust (don’t dredge!) the pork chops with that.

7. Pass the pork chops through the beaten egg. Shake of the excess. Then dredge through the bread crumbs.

8. Heat about a half-inch of oil in a heavy skillet (cast iron is perfect) over medium-high fire, until a pinch of bread crumbs fries vigorously. Cook the pork chops, one at a time, for about a minute and a half per side, or until the exterior is golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.

9. Spoon about 1/4 cup of sauce around each chop and serve garnished with chervil or parsley

Makes about four cups of sauce. Serves four.

AlmanacSquare February 5, 2017

Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–12
Valentine’s Day–13

Dining On Wheels

Today in 1883, the second transcontinental railroad in America was completed, creating a continuous line from New Orleans to San Francisco. The Southern Pacific’s Sunset Route is the southernmost of the transcons, and the one that crosses the least mountainous terrain. The last rail was spiked down (with a silver spike) just west of the Pecos River near Langtry, Texas. The new line helped move California produce to the rest of America. Millions of bottles of wine traveled the Sunset Route. You can still ride the whole thing on its namesake train, the Sunset Limited, the oldest passenger train name in America. Some of my most memorable train rides have been on that train. I remember in particular an unexpectedly superb prime rib in its dining car in the summer of 1978, somewhere in Arizona.

Great Local Restaurateurs

Ruth Ann Udstad Fertel was born in New Orleans today in 1927. She is the Ruth of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, the restaurant she bought for $18,000 from Chris Matulich in 1965. By the time she was finished with it, she was the most successful female restaurateur in the world, with nearly 100 locations of the top-end steakhouse, in every city that mattered. An overachiever all her life, she skipped grades in school and started college in her mid-teens, majoring in chemistry and physics. She was working as a researcher at Tulane University when she saw an ad to sell Chris Steak House. Even in 1965, it was recognized as one of the two or three best places to get a steak in New Orleans, with prime beef sizzling in butter. She mortgaged her house and used her savings to buy it. Chris took the money and left her to figure it all out on her own.

Figure it out she did. Her principal idea was that her customers could have anything they wanted all the time. You didn’t have to find your waitress to ask; anybody on the staff (including Ruth herself) would fetch you more butter. She charged you well for this, but long before Outback claimed it, there were no rules at Ruth’s Chris. It became far more than just a steakhouse. The Ruth’s Chris on Broad Street was for decades the meeting place of the alpha males of the community. Ruth sold her restaurant chain–the biggest of its kind in America–in 1999. In the three years left in her life, she became a philanthropist, underwriting among other things a culinary arts center at Nicholls State University. She died in 2002.

I lunched with Ruth a few times. She was a fascinating person. In our first meeting, she chewed me out for some things I said in a review. My complaint was that the au gratin dishes had too much cheese. “We give them what they want!” she retorted. “You wouldn’t believe how many people ask for extra cheese! Some people want cheese on a steak, and you know that’s crazy. But we give it to them!” The next time–and every time thereafter–she was as friendly as can be. Inside dope: she always said that her best steak was not the best-selling filet mignon, but the sirloin strip. No question about that. She also said that her own favorite dish on her menu was the veal chop.

Food Calendar

In honor of Ruth Fertel, today is Sirloin Strip Steak Day. For my money, it’s the best standard steak there is. That’s appropriate because today is the earliest possible date for Mardi Gras, which celebrates a farewell to beef before Lent.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Squab, California is an industrial area on the south end of Napa County, between Vallejo and the town of Napa, on the edge of Napa County Airport. People who have been to the Napa wine country may know exactly where this is. Squab is just west of some large vineyards–but also near two large junkyards. Drive quickly away and ten miles north into Napa for a more appealing scene, dozens of wineries, and many excellent restaurants.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The thicker the steak, the better it cooks.

Deft Dining Rule #782:

If a restaurant’s steak selection doesn’t include a sirloin strip, the place is not seriously a steak specialist.

Edible Dictionary

marbled, adj.–Having thin flecks and streaks of fat in the lean. The term is most used to describe a desirable characteristic of beefsteaks, most often seen in the higher grades. The streaks resemble those in a block of polished marble, hence the name. The fat is particularly effective in tenderizing and adding flavor to sirloin strips and filets mignon. Looking for marbling in steaks is a better way of buying quality steaks than going by the official grade. A well-marbled USDA Select steak will be better than a Prime steak with less marbling, despite the two-grade difference.

Annals Of Food Research

Lafayette Benedict Mendel was born today in 1872. He spent most of his career discovering which elements of food made it nutritious. He was one of the discoverers of Vitamins A and B. . . Today in 1850 Gail Borden–who would make his fortune a few years later by inventing condensed milk–created a meat-enhanced biscuit that carried a lot of protein to the eater. He had the military man in mind. His biscuits lasted for a long time without losing goodness. It could also be used to make soup. Why does this suggest dog biscuits?

World Food Records

The biggest bowl of Jell-O ever made–7700 gallons–was completed in Brisbane, Australia today in 1981. The flavor was watermelon. It cost $14,000, but it made Guinness.

Food In Literature

William S. Burroughs was born today in 1914. He was one of the Beat Generation’s favorite writers, and his novels were shocking in their time. The one with the food title was Naked Lunch, but it is more about drugs than an underdressed good midday meal.

Food Namesakes

Robert Peel, who established the London police force, was born today in 1788. The British cops are still called “bobbies” for him. . . Actress Barbara Hershey was born today in 1948. . . Today in 2001, William D. Baker ran amok at a diesel engine factory and killed four people, then himself. . . . Sugar Ray Leonard won his first pro fight today in 1977. . . Diego Serrano, a TV soap opera actor, was born today in 1973. . . Olympic rower Pete “Chip” Cipollone paddled out into the world today in 1971. . . Canadian hockey commentator and former pro hockey player Don Cherry was born today in 1934. His nickname is also edible: Grapes.

Words To Eat By

“Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor and sick, do you?”–Judith Martin (Miss Manners).

Words To Drink By

“The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature.”–William James: Varieties of Religious Experience
FoodFunniesSquare

A Delicious Way To Remember Passwords.

All you need is to remember your favorite dish. and add a wrinkle or two.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Tuesday, January 30, 2018. The busy last two days have me running around catching up. I have columns to write for New Orleans CityBusiness, Inside New Orleans, and the daily pile of news for my own New Orleans Menu subscribers. Meanwhile, the Marys have changed their minds again and made another bid for the house they’ve been interested in buying. The sellers have countered the bids a few times. I am keeping my distance from this bargaining, even though I know I’ll be pulled into it at some point.

The restaurant development of the day is that Chef Duke Locicero, who left his French Quarter restaurant at the end of the year, has turned up at N’Tini’s in Mandeville. I heard this rumor about a week ago, but couldn’t confirm it. I am still unable to get Duke on the phone so we can get details. All I know just yet is that the kitchen will deal in Duke’s own New World Italian flavors. Given that N’Tini’s has been more or less afloat and directionless in the last few months, it could only be an improvement. Duke has excited our palates for a long time, and I have no reason to think that the momentum will continue.

Wednesday, February 31, 2018. Retake of WYES Dinner @ The Pelican Club. We are visited on the radio by Jacques Leonardi, the owner, conceptualist, and K-Paul’s alumnus of Jacques Imo’s on Oak Street. Jacques-Imo’s made a big splash in the early 1990s, particularly among younger diners, who liked the funky-authentic, convincingly Cajun and soul-food, and usually delicious eating. Jack was ready to talk in his mellow tones for the whole hour on the air, and even another hour if I wanted him to stay. This is the first time I’ve had him on the air in years. In fact, I’m not sure that this wasn’t the first time. However long he would be there, it was worthwhile. Jack knows all about the food and the neighborhood, and has a fascinating personal history. He ought to write a book.

A wine dinner was supposed to have gone off about a month ago at the Pelican Club. It was postponed because of two days’ worth of terrible weather. But here it is tonight. Channel 12–the public television station hereabouts–started planning these Season of Good Tastes dinners a year or so before my New Orleans Eat Club commenced its events. It was a lot like the Eat Club, or the Eat Club was a lot like it–except that all the proceeds go to WYES, while the money from the Eat Club events is taken entirely by the restaurants.

Mary Ann wants to attend any dinner put on by the Pelican Club. So do I. Every time we go there, Chef Richard Hughes shows off even more deftness and generosity than the time before. This dinner particularly shines in the wine department, which brought from the cellar some particularly wonderful reds. First, though, was an original gin cocktail that sent an electric shock down my spine (that’s what it felt like, anyway). Then came a dark and mellow Chateauneuf du Pape. We shifted to a Sancerre followed by Au Contrerie Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley (with a lobster ravioli, of all things), then a really fine (everybody near me loved it Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa.

The nicest surprise of the night was the dessert wine: Late-Bottled Warre’s 2004 Vintage Port. I haven’t had a port in years, but this was the perfect cool day for it. And once again, Richard and his Pelicans give forth much more than they says they’re giving. And has a better wine list than most.

One more thing, from my egomaniac department: A woman at the dinner said she heard I was a singer, and wanted to me sing something to prove it’s true. I have the perfect song for moments like this: “You Stepped Out Of A Dream.” The woman was convinced, and a guy standing next to me said that he had vocally performed in theaters around the country, and that he found my efforts credible. What a way to end an evening! Too bad Mary Ann left early. (Or too lucky, the way she looks at my need to sing in public.

All the above were the makings of a great meal, and we haven’t even touched on the food. Best courses: seafood martini, lobster Ravioli, filet mignon marchand de vin, a gumbo of shrimp, duck, and andouille. Profiteroles for dessert.

Pelican Club. French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Natchitoches Spicy Meat Pies

Spicy meat pies, as big as your hand and shaped like a half-moon,are a major specialty in the central Louisiana town of Natchitoches (pronounced “NAK-uh-tish”). That French colonial city boasts being even older than New Orleans. We get our share of meat pies at the Jazz Festival and the like, but the temptation to make them at home is strong. I must warn you that this is not easy. The filling is straightforward, but the dough is a little work (as is all pie dough). And then you have to deep-fry, never any fun. (They can also be baked, but they’re not quite the same that way.) Still, these things are so good that your guests will think they’re worth the work, even when you decide otherwise.

Natchitoches spicy meat pies.

You can make the pies up ahead of time and freeze them, and fry them when ready to serve. They will taste better if you make the meat mixture the day before and refrigerate it.

  • Filling:
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 lb. lean ground pork
  • 1 lb. ground round
  • 1 Tbs. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 12 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Crust:
  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. Crisco
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil

1. Heat the oil and the flour together in a heavy, large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, to make a medium-brown roux. Add the onions when the color is right, and saute the onions until they begin to brown slightly. Add the bell peppers. Cook for another minute.

2. Add the pork, beef, Creole seasoning, cayenne and salt. Saute, breaking it up as you go, until well browned. Pour off any excess fat that may have been rendered.

3. Lower the heat and add the celery, garlic, parsley, and Worcestershire. Continue to cook for another five or six minutes, stirring now and then to keep anything from forming clumps.

4. Remove the meat mixture to a big metal pan to cool for a few minutes. Then cover and refrigerate. The pies will be best if the meat can be chilled for several hours or overnight.

5. Crust: In a bowl, blend the salt into the flour, then cut in the Crisco and blend with a whisk till it disappears and makes the flour slightly crumbly.

6. Blend the egg yolks into the milk, and add the milk to the flour. Stir with a kitchen fork till mixed in, then with a rubber spatula to eliminate most of the dry flour. Stir as little as possible.

7. Dump the dough onto a clean work surface and roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Fold the dough into thirds, to make three layers. Roll out again, this time to the thickness of two stacked quarters. (This will make it pretty wide; you might want to cut it in half.) Cut out circles about six inches in diameter. Handling as little as possible, roll out the leftover dough to cut another batch of circles.

8. Spoon about three tablespoons of the meat mixture onto one half of a dough circle. Moisten the edge of the circle with a little water. Fold the circle over into a half-moon, and press down the edges with a fork to seal.

9. Heat the two quarts of vegetable oil in a heavy, deep kettle to 350 degrees. Fry no more than two pies at a time until golden brown. Let the heat of the oil recover between batches.

Makes 18-24 pies.

AlmanacSquare February 2, 2017

Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–19
Valentine’s Day–20

Famous New Orleans Food Figures

Al Copeland, the creator of Popeyes Fried Chicken and the Copeland’s restaurants, was born today in 1944. Without having graduated from high school, he worked in his brother’s doughnut stand until he went out on his own in 1972 with the first Popeyes stand, in Arabi. It looked more or less the way Popeyes did for decades after. He had many other things right from the beginning, most notably the red-pepper-based seasoning that made Popeyes distinctive. Popeyes was a tremendous success, and Copeland used that success to get into many other activities–some successful. some disastrous. He opened the first Copeland’s in 1985, which was so good and so far ahead of its time that it established Copeland’s reputation as having had a golden palate. Ironically, he died from a rare cancer of the salivary glands in 2008. A fascinating man.

Observances

GroundhogIt’s Groundhog Day, the approximate midpoint of winter. There are six more weeks of winter, no matter how an animal’s shadow registers with him. While I was in evacuation in the Washington, DC area, I lived for a month in the basement of my wife’s sister’s mother-in-law, finishing my cookbook. One morning several groundhogs were walking around her yard, occasionally standing up. “They dig under the fence to get the apples that fall from the trees,” she said. I’d never seen a groundhog before. They were bigger than I thought–twice the size of my fattest cat. I’d say they weighed thirty or forty pounds. They were so wary that you couldn’t even enter the yard without scaring them off. I could see how they’d be afraid of their own shadows.

Some people catch and cook groundhogs, usually into a stew. They have scent glands that may daunt anyone who may be uncertain about this idea to begin with. I hear they taste a lot like possum, but having eaten that before I can’t accept it as a recommendation.

A groundhog is the same animal as a woodchuck, which reminds me of a Latin maxim: “Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?” (“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”)

The Fortieth Day Of Christmas

Today is Candlemas, the last gasp of the Christmas season. It’s forty days since December 25, and according to the Jewish laws of purification, Mary would have presented herself and Jesus at the temple–if Jesus had actually been born on December 25. But the chances of that are 365 to 1. Oddly, the lore about Candlemas is similar to that of Groundhog Day. If it’s a mild day today, then winter has more to throw at us. If it’s a stormy day, then winter is almost over.

Today’s Flavor

Today, we hear, is Heavenly Hash Day. “Heavenly hash” has two meanings. In most of America, it’s a sort of trifle, with pineapple, cherries, nuts, and marshmallows suspended in whipping cream and rice. Around New Orleans, however, when you say those words you mean the concoction of dark chocolate, marshmallows, and almonds famously marketed by the candy shop at the old D.H. Holmes and, more commercially, by Elmer’s.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton Lake is one of several glacier-carved lakes in the mountainous panhandle of Idaho. It’s eighty miles northeast of Spokane, Washington. In wetter times, the marshland connecting it with Beaver Lake just north unites the two into one lake. It’s fairly swampy these days. Most people looking for a lake experience head two miles east to Lake Pend Orielle, a reservoir on the river of the same name. The only place you’ll be eatin’ around here is the Capt’n’s Table, six miles west in Sagle. another in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer places whose names begin with “Eat.”

Edible Dictionary

quattro stagione, [kwah-tro-stah-jeh-OH-neh], Italian, adj.
Literally, “four seasons.” This description is most often applied to pizza. The ingredients are different in each of the four quadrants of the pizza. Spring is represented by artichokes. Summer, red and green peppers and/or tomatoes. Fall, mushrooms. Winter, ham and black olives. The sauce is usually a standard tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella. “Quattro stagione” is also sometimes used in a similar way in salads and platters of antipasto. They can be served any time of year.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

To remove the skin from whole almonds, simmer them for about four minutes. Let them cool, then squeeze them like a crawfish tail. The meat pops right out of the skin. Then it’s a good idea to toast them for ten to twelve minutes at 300 degrees. Watch to make sure they don’t burn.

Food Inventions

Crown cap and opener.The crown bottle cap was patented on this date in 1892, by William Painter. Most widely used on returnable soft drink and longneck beer bottles, the crown cap (upside down, it looks like a crown) required either the blunt end of a churchkey, one of those wall-mounted openers that probably said “Coca-Cola,” or a good set of teeth to remove. Until the mid-1960s, the seal was made hermetic with a thin layer of cork. It was replaced by the thin layer of plastic that’s still used today. Crown caps are universally used on Champagne bottles during the lengthy period when the wine is resting on its yeasts.

The ice cream scoop that’s still in common use today was invented on this date in 1897 by Alfred Cralle, of Pittsburgh. His insight was that a scoop with a nearly-round bowl shape and a knife-like leading edges would scoop up a ball of ice cream.

Food And Media

Ina Garten, who hosts the television food program The Barefoot Contessa, was born today in 1948. After working in nuclear politics for two presidents, she opened a gourmet shop (also called Barefoot Contessa) in the Hamptons. Everything she did after that increased her fame.

Deft Dining Rule #215:

Almost all restaurants will let you bring in your own wines, but most will charge you a corkage fee. If you try to avoid this, the staff will pick you up on their unerring radar and give you less good food and service all night long.

Food Through History

Prince Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, one of the most avid gourmets in French history, was born on this date in 1754. He was so astute a statesman that he managed to remain prominent and active through the French Revolution, into the Restoration, and even into the reign of Napoleon. In his home he employed a seminal chef of classical French cuisine, Antonin Careme. Talleyrand-Perigord set a standard for grand dining with his banquet menu. It started with two soups, was followed by two seafood courses, then four varied entrees of meats and birds, then two large roasts, followed by four sweet courses and one of cheese.

Annals Of Winemaking

The first bottle of wine made from grapes grown in South Africa was produced today in 1659. The maker was Jan Van Riebeeck, the founder of Cape Town. It was a Shiraz-Charbono blend. (No, it wasn’t.)

Food Namesakes

Former U.S. Congressman from New Jersey Joshua S. Salmon was born today in 1846. . . Rock guitarist Alan “Tea” Caddy was born today in 1940. . . British model Michelle Bass hit the Big Runway today in 1981. (Not you, Michelle.)

Words To Eat And Drink By

“People are getting really baroque with their perversions.”–Texas food writer Alison Cook, on fajitas marinated in a blend of Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper.

“Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love. . . As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move. . . similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.”–Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, whose birthday it is today.

FoodFunniesSquare

The World’s Most Boring Culinary Attraction.

The organization that assembled this says that it will become more interesting when they finish the Roux Museum, right here in New Orleans.

Click here for the cartoon.

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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Sunday, January 28, 2018. An adventuresome day. Not only do I sing at the ten o’clock Mass at St. Jane’s, but this week and next I am the cantor. It’s the first time ever for me. A rookie perhaps will gives me an excuse for my much-less-than-perfect performance. I have my usual problems: making up words and lyrics as I plow through the inaccuracies, a losing my place now and then. If I were easily shamed, I would have been embarrassed. But at the end of the service, the rest of the choir didn’t ask “how could you do that?” But they tell me I was pretty good. In all immodesty, I was okay in spots. But I wouldn’t want to listen to a recording of my general disaster. Next week, I will be the cantor again, with different music and, I hope, more success.

Since I have the afternoon off from my radio show, The Marys and I have brunch at Impastato Cellars. A few months ago, we were there when a telephone call came in from the radio staff, telling me that I was supposed to have done a show today. Good Lord! Only one time before did I completely forget a show. I rush home to get it on the air back then. Today I make sure that I am not expected, and the Marys and I can have brunch in peace.

Monday, January 29, 2018. Investment Guys Take Over Galatoire’s. I have a major gig today, one I have been thinking about for months. A corporate meeting of people in the financial industry is spending a lot of time and money here in New Orleans. For several days, they have been enjoying a full slate of New Orleans pleasures, between business programs. They asked me to give a talk about the culinary world in our town, and there I was.

The man running the show had a big evening for his guests. When I broke away from the radio studio, they were at Preservation Hall, listening to the best traditional jazz to be found in these parts. And you don’t get better than that. The group then second-lined up Bourbon Street, tugged along by a carnival-style parade of powerful, jazzy musicians. Their route took them to the front door of Galatoire’s, when there attendees would enter and get ready for a serious Galatoire’s meal.

My presentation to the group was arranged by the host for this show. When he and I discussed how this would go, one of us let loose the datum that he was a Jesuit Blue Jay. So am I, said other. Not living in New Orleans now, but happy to be back, and eager to turn on all those who have not walked these streets nor eaten this gumbo. I was the older of the two of us, by a couple of years. But that difference means nothing to us Jesuit guys.

The dinner was classic Galatoire’s fare: oysters Rockefeller, shrimp remoulade, trout meuniere, a very juicy, excellent pork chop (best dish of the night), and an assortment of little sweet items in lieu of desserts. Starting the short list of wines, we begin with nothing less than Montrachet.

It all made for a pleasant evening. My host is a good speaker, and he clearly knows New Orleans. He let me play my usual games. On the way out, one of the organizers handed me an envelope. How much did I want for my services, they had asked a few months ago. My price list asks only whatever the host thinks I’m worth, I told him.

When I opened the envelope, I found that my estimation of the number indicated more success than I expected. It made up for what happened in the church sacristy this morning.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Commander’s Palace’s Garlic Bread

This is the garlic bread by which all others are measured in New Orleans. At least, that’s what my wife says. I can’t disagree, and I always eat far too much of it every time I have dinner at Commander’s, where this seems low-rent for such a fabulous restaurant. So what? It’s great with cocktails.

The essential trick to making great garlic bread is to spread on what seems like the right amount of garlic butter onto the bread. Then spread on the same amount all over again. One other fact: you will make (and eat) twice as much garlic bread as you think you will.

  • 1 poor boy loaf of French bread
  • 3 sticks softened butter
  • 1 medium head fresh garlic, chopped
  • 4 Tbs. dried dill (or 1/2 cup fresh dill)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

1. Slice the poor boy loaf crosswise into two equal pieces, and then from end to end.

2. Heat 2 Tbs. of the butter in a skillet over medium heat until it melts. Add the chopped garlic and cook until you can smell the aroma of the garlic.

3. Put the remaining butter into a bowl and stir in the garlic butter from the skillet and the dill.

4. Spread the butter mixture very generously across the open face of the poor boy bread. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the bread.

5. Put the bread on a baking pan and into the oven until it browns around the edges and the aroma is driving you wild with desire.

6. Cut the bread crosswise into crescents about an inch thick, and serve very hot.

Serves eight to twelve.

AlmanacSquare

February 1, 2017

Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–12
Valentine’s Day–13

Eating Across America

Grand Central Terminal in New York City opened today in 1913. At the time, it was the largest train station in the world. It’s still a grand place, and if you ever show up there hungry go down below to the Oyster Bar and Restaurant, a fixture in the station for decades. The Oyster Bar’s vaulted tile ceilings make for a unique environment. Last time I was there (September 2006), I counted thirty different kinds of oysters available. None from Louisiana–boooo! The prices–a buck and a half to two dollars per oyster–are shocking to us Orleanians. They’re well past $3 each now.

Celebrity Chefs Today

In 1982, former Ma Maison chef Wolfgang Puck opened Spago in Los Angeles, starting any number of trends that can be seen in restaurants all over the country, including here. Spago made pizza glamorous, for example. My wife, my son and his wife all love going there as much for the chicness of the place as for the food. Which is good, but less than mind-blowing. Meanwhile, Puck now has countless restaurants bearing his name around the country, no small number of which are convenience cafes in places like airports.

Today’s Flavor

Don’t be frightened by this, but it’s Rutabaga Day. Rutabagas are among the most misunderstood and underrated vegetables in this country. It’s a cross between the turnip and a variety of wild cabbage. It has been raised for food since at least the 1600s. It’s always been popular in Scandinavia. For that reason, the name for the vegetable in Great Britain is “swede.” I encountered that word on a trip to England a couple of years ago, when I bought a Cornish pasty stuffed with swede/rutabagas.

Rutabagas look like turnips, but are bigger and lack the sharp turnip flavor. They’re much starchier, too, and can be used in almost any recipe you’d use for potatoes. The color of the flesh is a bright yellow-orange. When mashed, it looks a bit like sweet potatoes. My own favorite use for rutabagas is to slice them and bake them with cream, cheese, butter, garlic and bread crumbs as a gratin. Great side vegetable with almost anything.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Be sure to peel rutabagas before cooking them. They’re usually coated with a wax to keep them from going soft too soon after harvest. They should be very firm.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton Lake is one of several glacier-carved lakes in the mountainous panhandle of Idaho. It’s eighty miles northeast of Spokane, Washington. In wetter times, the marshland connecting it with Beaver Lake just north unites the two into one lake. It’s fairly swampy these days. Most people looking for a lake experience head two miles east to Lake Pend Orielle, a reservoir on the river of the same name. The only place you’ll be eatin’ around here is the Capt’n’s Table, six miles west in Sagle. another in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer places whose names begin with “Eat.”

Deft Dining Rule #534:

The idea that little towns in the middle of nowhere always have a great little cafe with home cooking is only a romantic myth.

Edible Dictionary

vitello tonnato, Italian, n.–An appetizer of thin slices of roasted veal (often from the tenderloin or sirloin strip), served cold. It’s topped with a mayonnaise blended with pureed, cooked tuna. The tuna is usually canned, although in recent years the imperative to serve fresh product only has forced many chefs either to use fresh tuna or to drop the dish entirely. Indeed, vitello tonnato has become a rarity. The sauce usually also contains capers, lemon juice, and anchovies, but not always.

Restaurants Through History

Today in 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina, four black college students stopped at a Woolworth’s to buy school supplies. They wanted to have coffee at the lunch counter, but were told that it was white-only and were therefore refused service. They sat there until the counter closed. Their action started a movement, and sit-ins began occurring at other white lunch counters throughout the South.

World Records In Food

A Cuban cow by the name of Ubre Blanca was milked on this day in 1982 and delivered 28 gallons of milk–a record. That’s nearly four times what the typical cow produces. Imagine the flan you could make with that!

Perhaps the achievement of Ubre Blanca occurred through the intercession of St. Brigid of Ireland, whose feast day it is today. She is the patron saint of milkmaids, and anyone who works in any part of the dairy industry.

Regional Culinary Differences

Today in 1939, a Maine assemblyman named Seeder introduced a bill in the legislature banning the use of tomatoes in clam chowder. You know, of course, that New England clam chowder is made with milk or cream, and that Manhattan clam chowder has tomatoes. James Beard said that the latter was like “vegetable soup with some clams dumped into it.” Here in New Orleans, we don’t care one way or another, because we don’t like clams.

Food And Drink Namesakes

Sir Edward Coke was born today in 1552. He was a lawyer whose ideas about the supremacy of the common law of the people over the whims of the king gave shape to the British legal system. . . Hattie Caraway, the first elected female U.S. Senator, was born today in 1878. . . Canadian hockey player and coach Mike Kitchen was born today in 1956. . . Outfielder Zack Wheat was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today in 1959.

Words To Eat By

“To me, an airplane is a great place to diet.”–Wolfgang Puck.

“Plain cooking cannot be trusted to plain cooks.”–Countess Marcelle Morphy, British cookbook author in the 1930s, reputed to be a native of New Orleans.

Words To Drink By

“A good general rule is to state that the bouquet is better than the taste, and vice versa.”–English writer Stephen Potter, speaking of wine. He was born today in 1900.

FoodFunniesSquare

And This Explains Why I Never Have That First Martini Anymore.

Poem by Dorothy Parker:
“I love a good martini.
One, or two at the most.
After three, I’m under the table.
After four, I’m under the host.”

Click here for the cartoon.

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