DIARY For Wednesday 10/19/2018. A few months ago, Mary Ann booked Jess Bourgeois as a guest on the radio show. He duly showed up with several containers full of food from Lula, his restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. Lula is the name of the sugar refinery up the river from Bourgeois’s restaurant. And that’s the other part of the program. Under the same name Lula, these fellers are making vodka, gin, and rum, the better to make craft cocktails.
The last thing I need in composing these short essays on eating and drinking is more vodka, rum, and gin, even if they all are composed of Lula’s original spirits. And, that aside, we also find here some original, highly local cooking. Jess started the studio staff first with a pork osso buco, with meat cooked until falling off the big bone and a thick sauce loaded with corn, rough-textured grits (the rougher the better is my thinking on that).
But the most impressive dish on the table before me item was some sugar cane wrapped in a spicy sausage. That cane also showed up with a second sauce that would carry what the late Chef Warren Leruth would have called “a sweet-heat” flavor. Taking a bit from the cane itself further released another sweetness, this time from the cane directly.
NOMenu Goes On Vacation
We’re taking off what’s left of this week and all of next week, as we cruise through New England and Canada. I will not be publishing at all, but I will be keeping track of all the food and drink that comes our way. We will return on October 20. Meanwhile, my radio show will be guest-hosted by our usual cast of articulate foodies. Thanks for your indulgence.
What all this amounted to was my discovery of an unusually Creole-Cajun catch of eating and drinking. I learned that Lula is in business without my having written about it before for almost two years. This is surely negligence on my part. I also now have a restaurant to write about around now, in fulfillment of MA’s demands that I visit and eat in more new places. I have always know to be true, but it’s hard to leave old favorites behind. It’s one of the less frustrating parts of the job. But I think I can get along with it.
Lula. Center City: 1532 St. Charles Ave. 225-938-4263.
This creation of Brennan’s is found in fancy restaurants across New Orleans, and far beyond. Chef Paul Blange developed it because the Brennans had close friends in the banana business. It was named for Richard Foster, the owner of an awning company and a Brennan’s regular. Although the dessert is classically prepared and flamed at the table, there’s no reason it can’t be done in the kitchen. This is one flaming dessert in which the flavor is much better than the show. My recipe is influenced by the way they do it at Arnaud’s, which puts out the most exciting version.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 Tbs. butter
- 4 ripe bananas
- 1 oz. banana liqueur (optional)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 4 oz. dark rum (80 proof maximum)
- 4 large scoops vanilla ice cream
1. Melt sugar and butter over medium heat in a large flat pan, stirring frequently.
2. Peel the bananas and slice them in quarters–first lengthwise, then across.
3. When the sugar and butter have melted together and begun to bubble, add the bananas and sauté until tender. Add banana liqueur and sprinkle with cinnamon
4. Add the rum and touch off a flame in the pan (if you like, and if you’re prepared for the possibility of a flare-up). Carefully spoon sauce over bananas until flame burns out.
5. Serve immediately over ice cream with lots of sauce.
October 10, 2017
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): 44
This is Meuniere Day in all Francophone areas of the world. The French word meuniere means “in the style of the flour miller’s wife.” Which is to say coated in flour before being cooked, probably in butter. The butter and the flour that shook loose brown a little. It’s then doctored up with lemon juice, red wine vinegar, or Worcestershire sauce, resulting in a sauce for the fish or veal or whatever.
Here in New Orleans we make full use of the concept, enough that a uniquely Creole version of meuniere has evolved. It uses all the same ingredients, but in a different way. The flour and butter are made into a light roux, which is then added to a little stock, with lemon and Worcestershire. This can be made in a large batch, instead of a few servings at a time. It also allows for the fish to be fried instead of sauteed. This style of meuniere probably was invented in the 1920s at Arnaud’s, where it sped up production of the restaurant’s signature trout meuniere. Arnaud’s style of meuniere spread to many other restaurants, getting thicker, darker, and meatier in flavor as time went on.
Today is also rumored to be National Angel Food Cake Day. Angel food cake was a reaction to devil’s food cake. And, of course, not nearly as satisfying. Angel food cake’s distinction is its lightness; it’s made with only the whites of eggs, whipped into a fine foam, with the sugar and flour and flavoring added to it. No matter what you do, it comes out dry, and needs something juicy added to it. Hey! Here’s an idea. A layer cake alternating devil’s food and angel food. Why not?
andouille, [ahn-DOO-yee], n., French–In Louisiana, andouille is the most exalted form of smoked pork sausage. It’s made with chunks of pork filled out with a little ground pork and pork fat. The seasoning mix gives it a medium kick of pepper and a reddish color from cayenne and paprika. Most andouilles also contain a noticeable flavor of garlic. All of this is stuffed into a thick casing and smoked to about the degree that barbecue sausage would get.
Andouille is thought of as Cajun and its name is French, but the part of Louisiana most famous for it–the River Parishes, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge– has a German heritage. The thick, smoky skin is evidence of that. Andouille is usually sliced into thick coins about a half-inch thick before it’s cast into the pot with the red beans, gumbo, or jambalaya (its favorite hangouts). It’s also delicious all by itself, grilled until the skin is crunchy and served with some Creole mustard on the side. The center of andouille-making is Laplace, about thirty miles west of New Orleans. It’s also made by most of the small butchers throughout Cajun country.
Bacon Creek runs some eleven miles across rolling dairy ranchland and woods in southwestern Arkansas. Seventy-three miles northeast of Texarkana, it ends in the Muddy Fork, whose water then goes to the Little Missouri, the Ouachita, the Red, and finally the Atchafalaya down to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s unlikely that bacon will be found in the creek, but you might find some wrapped around filets mignon at Mr. T-Bone’s Steakhouse, five miles away in Murfreesboro.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
You can make a credible meuniere sauce in seconds by swirling pats of butter around in a very hot pan, then adding dashes of lemon juice (or red wine vinegar) and Worcestershire to it as soon as the butter is completely melted.
Annals Of Kitchen Accidents
Earle Dickson, the man who invented the Band-Aid, was born today in 1892. He was motivated by his wife Josephine, who–like most of us who spend a lot of time in the kitchen–cut herself often enough to need a quick, ready remedy. In those days you used gauze held in place by tape to wrap a cut. But that had a way of slipping off. Dickson’s insight was that if a pad of gauze were attached to a piece of tape the proper size, it would remain in place longer and be more effective. His employer, Johnson and Johnson, started making the new bandage in 1924, and it became the fantastic success it remains today.
Annals Of Formal Wear
This is the birthday of the tuxedo. The year was 1886. Tobacco heir Griswold Lorillard showed up for the autumn ball at his club in Tuxedo Park, New York, wearing a dinner jacket custom-made for him in England. Its radical design departure: no tails. The daring new look swept through high society, where it remains the standard uniform for men in formal settings. I wear a tuxedo every chance I get, because it makes even bald old men look fabulous. (Well, some of them, anyway.)
You don’t need a reason. If you’re going out to dinner, just show up for dinner in a tux. (Do remember that it is strictly for dinnertime, and not to be worn before six p.m.) The worst thing that could happen is that you might be mistaken for a waiter. In the old days of Arnaud’s, Germaine Cazenave Wells (Count Arnaud’s daughter) declared that in order to dine in the Richelieu Room (that’s the one the restaurant now uses as its Jazz Bistro), men were required to wear tuxedos. I think some restaurant ought to bring that idea back, at least once in a while. (In the winter, please.)
Food In Music
Today in 1966, Simon and Garfunkel released their third album. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.
That’s a line from Scarborough Fair, the hit song in the album. It came out on the radio when the weather was just turning cold, and I think of fall every time I hear it.
Speaking of fall songs: Today in 1903 was the birthday of composer Vernon Duke (born as Vladimir Dukelsky). He wrote many standards, of which the best is Autumn In New York. The song is always on my mind this time of year. In fact, I’ve been singing it to myself all morning.
Today in 1926, the musical Hold Everything, about a boxer, opened on Broadway. It included the song You’re The Cream In My Coffee. . . Today in 1970, Neil Diamond had his first Number One hit, Cracklin’ Rosie. The name was a play on crackling rosé, a cheap pink wine popular for about three days in the late Sixties.
Annals Of Katrina Recovery
Around New Orleans, everyone remembers the day he or she returned from evacuation to resume life in the Crescent City. Today in 2005–six weeks after the storm–I arrived home permanently after a two-day drive from Washington, D.C. The entire New Orleans metropolitan area was still a disaster area, and would be for quite a while longer. But few moments of my life were more heavily freighted with happy expectancy. It really was the first day of the rest of my life.
Swedish vocalist Neneh Cherry was born today in 1964. . . Luc von Brabant, a poet specializing in erotic works, was born in Belgium today in 1909.
Words To Eat By
“I hate television. I hate it as much as I hate peanuts. But I can not stop eating peanuts.”–Orson Welles, actor, director, magician, and very dedicated gourmet, who died on this day in 1985.
“He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.”–Raymond Chandler, mystery writer.
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.”–Giuseppe Verdi, opera composer, born today in 1813.
Words To Drink By
“The days of wine and roses
Laugh and run away
Like a child at play.”–Johnny Mercer, American singer and songwriter.