Diary For The Weekend Of 5/11-12/2019. Time For Mothers. MA has a long-running program for the long-honored practice of Mother’s Day. I am not to bring her to a major restaurant, nor to buy anything for her, nor even to give in her name to a worthy cause. Instead, MA accords an aura of accomplishments which she, and only she, formulates and then radiates into the ether. I long ago gave up trying to figure out what the goodness is. As part of the deal, all I do is has faith in MA and her proven program of improvement of the world at large. Other than that, I have no idea.

We do have a couple of dinners to play out. On the day before Mother’s Day, Our longtime friends the Billeauds invited us over for what they promised will be a night of simple food. Chuck made a generous round of Old Fashioneds and filled in the gaps with beer and wine. Desiree Billeaud made up a big bowl of very good meatballs and spaghetti. Homely food for home-style holidays, which is it should be.

The Billeauds’ daughters and ours have been close friends of ours for decades through their mutual schools. One would imagine that after all possible subjects regarding both our families, we’d have run out of news. But, of course, the aging of all concerned has taken a hand, and all the girls are in their twenties and have other social concerns, which sent them on their way.

Still.. it’s wonderful the way good feelings with longtime friends enjoy times that the haven’t talked about in ages. The time is right to get in touch with people from the early precincts of life. In other words, I think we ought to hang out with old friends more often than we do anymore.

Mother’s Day, Sunday, 5/12/2019. I have no radio show to do. And we have no plans for Mother’s Day, as usual. MA finagles a table for three at the Lake House. On Sundays, and especially on a weekend when there’s festivity going on, the Lake House in Mandeville mounts a major buffet. As it was on Easter a few weeks ago, the place is maxed out. Not only that, but a ferocious rainstorm made it hard for anyone to get to the Lake House. A large tent that had been booked for a large private party was knocked down by the storm. Nevertheless, the forces of Cayman Sinclair–who operates the Lake House and a big movie catering operation–pulled everything together.

And that was Mother’s Day Was Like With My Gang.

Lakehouse. Mandeville: 2025 Lakeshore Dr. 985-626-3006.

RecipeSquare-150x150

New Orleans French Bread (Almost)

The French bread we eat around New Orleans, from the small loaves that come out with the oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s to the long loaves that enclose gravy-saturated roast beef at Mother’s, is a unique loaf. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else. Certainly not in France, where the bread may look the same from a distance but has a much denser texture and t thicker crust.

What distinguishes New Orleans French bread is the lightness of both the crust and the interior. A classic New Orleans French bread has large air pockets inside, with tendrils of baked dough stretching across them. And a light, thin crust that’s so fragile that it easily shatters into hundreds of little shards when you break it.

I’ve been told by the old bread bakers that this style of bread can only be gotten by using the special yeasts they employ, along with ovens whose humidity is kept high by pipes spraying a fine mist of water inside at intervals. Whatever creates that texture, I have been unable to duplicate it at home. Nor have I seen any other baker in a restaurant accomplish it.

I haven’t given up yet, but I haven’t hit the mark yet, either. However, I did manage to make four loaves of what my guests and I thought was a very good French bread for Thanksgiving. It took two days to make it (most of that was spent waiting for it to rise, but aside from paying close attention it wasn’t hard. The easy part: only three ingredients!

You do need one odd tool: a clean spray bottle filled with drinkable water.

You can do this in a pile on the countertop, but it’s much easier with a big mixer like a Kitchenaid. That’s what I base these instructions upon.

  • 2 packets active dry yeast (I prefer Hodgson’s Mill.)
  • 7 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt

1. Pour 2 1/3 cups of water at skin temperature into the bowl of the mixer. Stir in the yeast with a whisk and allow to sit for a few minutes while you measure the flour into a separate bowl.

2. Fit the whisk attachment on the mixer and turn it on the lowest speed. Slowly add four cups of flour (a quarter-cup at a time), whisking it into the yeast water until blended before adding more flour.

3. Fit the dough hook on the mixer. Sprinkle the salt into the dough and run the mixer about two minutes. Then speed the mixer up to about 3 or 4 and resume adding the flour, continuing at the rate of a quarter-cup at a time, and allowing the flour to blend in thoroughly before adding more. Incorporate all the remaining flour, except for the last quarter-cup. (Reserve that.) Run the mixer until the dough ball cleans the side of the bowl. (You might have to pull the dough off and drop it to the bottom of the bowl if it gets tangled in the hook.)

4. It should take a total of about 25-30 minutes to add all the flour and knead the dough. It should come out smooth and damp but not sticky. Form it into a ball.

5. Grease the sides of a large metal bowl and roll the dough ball around in it to coat the sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator overnight. (Or leave it out at room temperature and let it rise for about two hours, then pick up at the next step.)

6. The dough should have about doubled in size. Punch it down, fold it and knead it for about two minutes, then make divide it into six to eight cylinders, about eight inches long and an inch and a half in diameter. Duct with flour and cover them with plastic wrap and put them it in a warm place to rise again. If the dough is still cold from the refrigerator, let it rise for two hours. It it’s already at room temperature, 50-60 minutes should allow it to double again.

7. Press each cylinder down hard with the heel of your hand, and make them into rectangles about eight inches long and four inches wide. Cover these with the plastic wrap and let them rest for ten or fifteen minutes. While waiting, grease baking sheets (or, if you have them, one baguette pan per loaf).

8. Fold one of the long edges of each rectangle to meet the other. Pinch the seam together with thumb and forefinger until it’s sealed all the way around, and flatten the dough again, trying to make it longer rather than wider. Fold it over, pinch it closed, and flatten again. Then fold and pinch closed one final time, leaving any air pockets inside be. The loaf should now be about 16 inches long. Take your time doing all this; the dough needs to have these manipulations done slowly, or it will shrink back to the size it came from.

9. As you finish each loaf, place it seam side down on the baking sheet or pan and cover with a damp cloth. If using the baking sheets, leave about three inches between each loaf. Let the loaves rise one final time for about an hour.

10. Bake the loaves in a preheated 450 degree oven for 25 minutes. Every five or ten minutes, spray water from a clean bottle used only for this purpose, four fine sprays in different parts of the oven. Cool for at least five minutes before attempting to slice or break.

AlmanacSquare May 14, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Food Calendar 

Today is National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. To which I say, preheat that oven, let’s make a batch. Buttermilk biscuits are so wonderful and so easy to make that I wonder why anyone buys those biscuits in a can or a mix like Bisquick. The perfect recipe for biscuits requires only three ingredients: self-rising flour (three cups), butter or shortening (six tablespoons), and buttermilk or regular milk (a cup and a half). Mix the first two with a whisk until the lumps are gone. Add the milk and lightly blend until no dry flour is left. Spoon the dough on a greased baking sheet, and bake at 450 degrees for about fifteen minutes. Butter ’em up and enjoy!

Gourmet Gazetteer 

Rib Falls, Wisconsin is a crossroads community sixteen miles west of Wausau, which puts it in the center of the state. It is named for the Class III rapids on the Big Rib River, a favorite stream for avid canoe paddlers. It’s a tributary of the Wisconsin River, which flows into the Mississippi and down to New Orleans. All this is in a pretty landscape with gently rolling hills and large acreage of cornfields. If you’re hungry in rib falls, you have a choice of two sports bars with food: Don’s and the Cornerstore. They’d better have baby backs.

Edible Dictionary 

baking soda, n.–Baking soda is almost perfectly pure sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO³). Even the stuff you buy to deodorize your refrigerator is pure enough to use in a lab. Baking soda enhances the action of baking powder, but does not replace it. Baking powder is mixture of ingredients which, when combined with flour and wet ingredients to make a dough, have a reaction that produces gas and causes the dough to rise. Baking powder is made many different ways, but almost always includes a dry alkali (like bicarbonate of soda) and a dry acid (like cream of tartar). Baking powder has a shelf life, because the humidity of the air is enough for the acid and the base in it to react slowly and thereby lose its potency.

Deft Dining Rule #202:

The only real strawberry shortcake is made with what looks like a sweetened biscuit. The pre-made sponge cakes you see in the stores are used only by the laziest of cooks.

Famous Local Chefs 

Today is the birthday, in 1928, of Chef Robert Finley. He headed the kitchen of Masson’s in Lakeview for most of its history. During its prime in the 1960s and 1970s, Masson’s was among the most celebrated of local restaurants, nationally as well as locally. Not only did Chef Robert cook excellent and original food, but he took in many budding cooks and turned them into skilled masters. The most noteworthy of those is Chef Dennis Hutley of Chateau Country Club and the extinct Le Parvenu. Masson’s is long gone, and Chef Robert passed away in 2009, but his dishes and proteges live on.

Dining With The Royals 

King Louis XIII ascended to the throne of France today in 1610. The most expensive widely available Cognac is named for him. Coincidentally, his son and successor, Louis XIV, also came to the throne on this date at age four in 1643. When he took control of France in 1661, the Sun King (as Louis XIV was known) assembled a lavish royal court culture, which demanded cuisine at the highest levels. He would have liked his father’s namesake Cognac.

Through History With Beer 

Today in 1932, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker led an all-day We Want Beer parade in Manhattan. There was another such parade in Detroit that day. The forces of Prohibition began to crumble, and it would be less than a year before beer returned to America.

Food Inventions

The first patent issued for a dishwasher went to Joel Houghton of Ogden, New York on this day in 1850. It worked more like a modern clothes washing machine than a modern dishwasher. So, a lot of broken dishes.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Matthias, the Apostle who replaced Judas. He is the patron saint of alcoholics.

Music To Eat Red Beans And Rice By 

Sidney Bechet was born in New Orleans today in 1897, and in 1959 died on this date, too. He was a major jazz pioneer, a self-taught genius whose techniques and compositions were so offbeat that he was constantly in conflict with band leaders and other performers. Playing saxophone and clarinet, he recorded his first sides just before his fellow Orleanian Louis Armstrong cut his. Bechet was internationally famous, especially in his later years.

Music To Eat Anything By 

Frank Sinatra passed away this day in 1998. He was 82. “May you live long, and may the last voice you hear be mine,” he said at the close of his concerts in his later years. It still could happen, especially if you die in an American Italian restaurant. I wouldn’t mind having the last voice I hear be that of Old Blue Eyes.

Food Namesakes 

Al Porcino, a jazz trumpeter, was born today in 1925. I suppose one single mushroom of the porcini variety would be a porcino. . . North Carolina Congressman Basil Whitener was born today in 1915. . . Honey Cone, a female singing group, had a gold record today in 1971, called Want Ads. . . Apple Corps, the Beatles’ business and recording company, was formed today in 1968. . . Salt ‘n’ Pepa, a two-girl hip-hop group, had a hit today in 1990 with the song Expression.

Words To Eat By 

“Americans are just beginning to regard food the way the French always have. Dinner is not what you do in the evening before you do something else. Dinner is the evening.”–Art Buchwald.

We’ve known that in New Orleans for over a century.

Words To Drink By

“I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle, so he won’t let himself get snotty about it.”–Raymond Chandler.

AlmanacSquare May 14, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Food Calendar 

Today is National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. To which I say, preheat that oven, let’s make a batch. Buttermilk biscuits are so wonderful and so easy to make that I wonder why anyone buys those biscuits in a can or a mix like Bisquick. The perfect recipe for biscuits requires only three ingredients: self-rising flour (three cups), butter or shortening (six tablespoons), and buttermilk or regular milk (a cup and a half). Mix the first two with a whisk until the lumps are gone. Add the milk and lightly blend until no dry flour is left. Spoon the dough on a greased baking sheet, and bake at 450 degrees for about fifteen minutes. Butter ’em up and enjoy!

Gourmet Gazetteer 

Rib Falls, Wisconsin is a crossroads community sixteen miles west of Wausau, which puts it in the center of the state. It is named for the Class III rapids on the Big Rib River, a favorite stream for avid canoe paddlers. It’s a tributary of the Wisconsin River, which flows into the Mississippi and down to New Orleans. All this is in a pretty landscape with gently rolling hills and large acreage of cornfields. If you’re hungry in rib falls, you have a choice of two sports bars with food: Don’s and the Cornerstore. They’d better have baby backs.

Edible Dictionary 

baking soda, n.–Baking soda is almost perfectly pure sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO³). Even the stuff you buy to deodorize your refrigerator is pure enough to use in a lab. Baking soda enhances the action of baking powder, but does not replace it. Baking powder is mixture of ingredients which, when combined with flour and wet ingredients to make a dough, have a reaction that produces gas and causes the dough to rise. Baking powder is made many different ways, but almost always includes a dry alkali (like bicarbonate of soda) and a dry acid (like cream of tartar). Baking powder has a shelf life, because the humidity of the air is enough for the acid and the base in it to react slowly and thereby lose its potency.

Deft Dining Rule #202:

The only real strawberry shortcake is made with what looks like a sweetened biscuit. The pre-made sponge cakes you see in the stores are used only by the laziest of cooks.

Famous Local Chefs 

Today is the birthday, in 1928, of Chef Robert Finley. He headed the kitchen of Masson’s in Lakeview for most of its history. During its prime in the 1960s and 1970s, Masson’s was among the most celebrated of local restaurants, nationally as well as locally. Not only did Chef Robert cook excellent and original food, but he took in many budding cooks and turned them into skilled masters. The most noteworthy of those is Chef Dennis Hutley of Chateau Country Club and the extinct Le Parvenu. Masson’s is long gone, and Chef Robert passed away in 2009, but his dishes and proteges live on.

Dining With The Royals 

King Louis XIII ascended to the throne of France today in 1610. The most expensive widely available Cognac is named for him. Coincidentally, his son and successor, Louis XIV, also came to the throne on this date at age four in 1643. When he took control of France in 1661, the Sun King (as Louis XIV was known) assembled a lavish royal court culture, which demanded cuisine at the highest levels. He would have liked his father’s namesake Cognac.

Through History With Beer 

Today in 1932, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker led an all-day We Want Beer parade in Manhattan. There was another such parade in Detroit that day. The forces of Prohibition began to crumble, and it would be less than a year before beer returned to America.

Food Inventions

The first patent issued for a dishwasher went to Joel Houghton of Ogden, New York on this day in 1850. It worked more like a modern clothes washing machine than a modern dishwasher. So, a lot of broken dishes.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Matthias, the Apostle who replaced Judas. He is the patron saint of alcoholics.

Music To Eat Red Beans And Rice By 

Sidney Bechet was born in New Orleans today in 1897, and in 1959 died on this date, too. He was a major jazz pioneer, a self-taught genius whose techniques and compositions were so offbeat that he was constantly in conflict with band leaders and other performers. Playing saxophone and clarinet, he recorded his first sides just before his fellow Orleanian Louis Armstrong cut his. Bechet was internationally famous, especially in his later years.

Music To Eat Anything By 

Frank Sinatra passed away this day in 1998. He was 82. “May you live long, and may the last voice you hear be mine,” he said at the close of his concerts in his later years. It still could happen, especially if you die in an American Italian restaurant. I wouldn’t mind having the last voice I hear be that of Old Blue Eyes.

Food Namesakes 

Al Porcino, a jazz trumpeter, was born today in 1925. I suppose one single mushroom of the porcini variety would be a porcino. . . North Carolina Congressman Basil Whitener was born today in 1915. . . Honey Cone, a female singing group, had a gold record today in 1971, called Want Ads. . . Apple Corps, the Beatles’ business and recording company, was formed today in 1968. . . Salt ‘n’ Pepa, a two-girl hip-hop group, had a hit today in 1990 with the song Expression.

Words To Eat By 

“Americans are just beginning to regard food the way the French always have. Dinner is not what you do in the evening before you do something else. Dinner is the evening.”–Art Buchwald.

We’ve known that in New Orleans for over a century.

Words To Drink By

“I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle, so he won’t let himself get snotty about it.”–Raymond Chandler.