DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Diary For Tuesday, 4/23/2019. The Worst Of Days.

I hesitate to tell all the things that went wrong today, but regular readers tell me that they like reading my overwhelming reports as well as the bright ones. And today, the brightest elements were indeed bright. I will make short work of the worst of it, knowing that the situation will improve.

Things started at the hospital, where my physician told me that I am in good shape. But he also orders me to get one other analysis that she thinks I need.

From there I drove across town to something totally different, and for which I dressed up. The Orleans Club is a women’s organization with a big, beautiful capability for presenting private events. I became aware of the Orleans Club (preferably pronounced in the French manner) when I was asked to give a talk there some ten or so years ago.

I guess I didn’t make a strong enough impact then, because it took until today for me to get another Club Orleans gig. Which is just as well, because I’ve been using the same four jokes–all having to do with soups du jour–to open my talks ever since.

Nobody remembers having heard my first presentation, which may or may not be an indicator of how good it was. I’m pretty sure I made an impression, because they laughed just as hard as they did the first time. And here I was again.

Over a hundred people were at this lunch, asking and telling about their experiences in dining around in New Orleans. I made the sounds of the tables, collecting smiles of all these women (they were all ladies, even though their ages, clothing, looks, and demeanor were all female).

The luncheon was good and interesting. I noticed that a lot of the dishes were familiar from other dinners I’ve had around town. The bread rolls were offbeat and good, but I had seen them before. Same for the vegetable sides and the desserts. I don’t mind having platters duplicated, but some of these were exactly the same as other manifestations, down to the sides of the sauces. That’s common among caterers, which probably explains all my suspicions.

Mary Ann had been invited to the lunch, even though she’s not a member of le club. As we finished the afternoon, she leaned over and told me, “they love you!). In fact, she told me that a few more times by the time we broke up and went our ways.

I was early enough when I got over to the radio station to take a half-hour nap in my office. Although I do that often, it wasn’t a good idea today. I slept so thoroughly that when I woke up to interview New Orleans Opera Director, I was a little groggy. But Robert Lyall and I have conducted this routine enough for one of us to mention the other automatically. The upcoming performance–this Friday evening and Sunday afternoon will be Rigoletto.

So much for all the happy stuff. MA and I decide on a possible dinner venue. But Za Su–where I’ve been trying to dine for weeks–is occupied by a full buyout if the restaurant. So much for that. We move on to nearby Ralph’s On The Park, a restaurant I greatly like but don’t visit often enough.

But, as I worked my way down through the radio’s parking garage, another car whips up and slams into my car at the wheel. Not too bad–MA thinks maybe we could drive with it. I don’t like that idea, but at least we have all the pieces to put my treasured VW Beetle back together. I think. The people who hit it are apologetic and reasonable, and had their insurance in place.

We go to Ralph’s on the Park anyhow. I begin with a big pile of what may be the best French fries I’ve encountered lately. MA has a filet mignon, something she’s dining on often lately. I have a satsuma duck breast, which tastes good, but could use a little tenderizer.

I wrap up the dinner with an scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream. Very rich. We had for home, leaving my old car behind for now, and ready to start worrying about how I will get my car again. I try to make myself believe that all these problems will just fade away. I also rehash the niceness of all the people who laughed at my jests during my talk at the Club Orleans. I wonder whether they will ever invite me again. I hope so.

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

RecipeSquare-150x150

Creole-Mexican Flatiron Steak Tacos

This is the interior Mexican style of taco, very different from the crunchy, salad-filled Tex-Mex tacos. On menus, you’ll see tacos like these called “tacos al carbon.” Using flatiron steak adds a whole different flavor profile.

  • 1 1/2 lbs. flatiron steaks (beef shoulder top blade)
  • 12 handmade-style tortillas
  • 3/4 cup pico de gallo (recipe below)
  • 8 oz. shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Marinade:
  • 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • Pico de gallo:
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped ripe tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, leaves only
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh jalapeno, seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup salsa (picante sauce)
  • 1 Tbs. freshly-squeezed lime juice

1. Cut flatiron steaks beef steaks lengthwise in half, then crosswise into quarter-inch strips. Put the strips inside a heavy food storage bag.

2. Combine marinade ingredients, and add to the bag. Seal the bag and marinate the steak strips for 30 minutes to an hour.

3. Remove beef from marinade, shaking off excess but leaving a coating. Pour the leftover marinade into a small saucepan and set over medium-low heat.

4. Heat a heavy skillet (you could also use a griddle) over medium-high heat. Sear half the beef, turning every thirty seconds or so until the beef is browned but still juicy. Repeat with the rest of the steak.

5. Distribute the steak strips equally over the tortillas. Scatter about a tablespoon each of the pico de gallo and the cheese over the tacos. Drizzle a little of the warm marinade over the top. Fold and eat.

Pico de Gallo. Combine all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl. Refrigerate for an hour.

Serves 12.

AlmanacSquare April 24, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Jazz Festival Begins April 26
Mother’s Day May 12
Greek Festival May 23-26

Annals Of Food Comedy

How y’all are? Today is the birthday, in 1914, of Justin Wilson, in Roseland, Louisiana (just north of Amite). He wasn’t exactly a Cajun, but that didn’t stop him from becoming the world’s best-known ambassador of Cajun culture. He picked up most of his style, speech, and stories while working along Bayou Lafourche as a young man. He first came to public attention with his comedy routines, but soon he started talking about cooking. Wilson’s pioneering television cooking shows became among the most popular of their kind. The recipes were less than brilliant, often using less than the best ingredients. But that was quite authentic. Justin Wilson died in 2001, but his TV shows are still in circulation, his many cookbooks still sell well, and his Cajun jokes are still being repeated–I gaa-rohn-tee.

Food Through History

Today in 1877, Federal troops left New Orleans, ending Reconstruction here after it made a shambles of the town. One effect of the new freedom was a burst of new restaurant openings in the next few years. Some of the more notable additions were Commander’s Palace, The Gem (a little-remembered but very important restaurant on Royal Street), La Louisiane, Victor’s (the restaurant that evolved into Galatoire’s), and Madame Begue’s.

Edible Dictionary

back bacon, n.–The Canadian name for what Americans call Canadian bacon. It’s made by curing and smoking pork loin (or, sometimes, pork round) in the same way that a ham would be. It’s much more like ham than it is like the more common strips of pork-belly bacon. It has a milder flavor and much less fat. It’s used mostly for making sandwiches. It was once popular as a topping for pizza, but that use has been fading in recent years.

Annals Of Soft Drinks

Today in 1833 two inventors–Jacob Ebert and George Dulty–patented the soda fountain. The bubbles lifted the water and carbonated it at the same time. The new drink was well received by the public, as the inventors suspected they would. Water with gas bubbles was already a big deal in Europe. By the end of the 1800s, soda fountains were everywhere.

Today’s Flavor

This is National Prosciutto Day. Prosciutto is dry-cured ham. Dry-curing takes much longer, and creates a much more intense flavor, than the brine curing more commonly applied to hams. To make prosciutto, salt is applied to the outside of skinned pig legs, usually with the bones still inside, and hung up to dry for as much as a year. In the old days, that was done outdoors. Now prosciutto makers have big warehouses whose walls allow free movement of air from outside through the hanging hams. The word derives from a Latin word that means “all dried out,” which it is after all that time.

The best prosciutto comes from Parma and San Daniele in Italy, but much prosciutto is made in this country. Its flavor is very intense; it should be sliced as thin as possible, and used sparingly. Classic uses of prosciutto include wrapping melon slices with it, stuffing it into veal and poultry concoctions, and standing alone as antipasto.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

A prosciutto made from the left leg of the pig tastes better than one from the right leg, which is tougher. Unless the pig is a southhoof.

Deft Dining Rule #452

It is impossible to slice prosciutto too thin.

Gourmet Gazetteer

April 24
Upcoming Deliciousness
Jazz Festival Begins April 26
Mother’s Day May 12
Greek Festival May 23-26

Annals Of Food Comedy
How y’all are? Today is the birthday, in 1914, of Justin Wilson, in Roseland, Louisiana (just north of Amite). He wasn’t exactly a Cajun, but that didn’t stop him from becoming the world’s best-known ambassador of Cajun culture. He picked up most of his style, speech, and stories while working along Bayou Lafourche as a young man. He first came to public attention with his comedy routines, but soon he started talking about cooking. Wilson’s pioneering television cooking shows became among the most popular of their kind. The recipes were less than brilliant, often using less than the best ingredients. But that was quite authentic. Justin Wilson died in 2001, but his TV shows are still in circulation, his many cookbooks still sell well, and his Cajun jokes are still being repeated–I gaa-rohn-tee.

Food Through History
Today in 1877, Federal troops left New Orleans, ending Reconstruction here after it made a shambles of the town. One effect of the new freedom was a burst of new restaurant openings in the next few years. Some of the more notable additions were Commander’s Palace, The Gem (a little-remembered but very important restaurant on Royal Street), La Louisiane, Victor’s (the restaurant that evolved into Galatoire’s), and Madame Begue’s.

Edible Dictionary
back bacon, n.–The Canadian name for what Americans call Canadian bacon. It’s made by curing and smoking pork loin (or, sometimes, pork round) in the same way that a ham would be. It’s much more like ham than it is like the more common strips of pork-belly bacon. It has a milder flavor and much less fat. It’s used mostly for making sandwiches. It was once popular as a topping for pizza, but that use has been fading in recent years.

Annals Of Soft Drinks
Today in 1833 two inventors–Jacob Ebert and George Dulty–patented the soda fountain. The bubbles lifted the water and carbonated it at the same time. The new drink was well received by the public, as the inventors suspected they would. Water with gas bubbles was already a big deal in Europe. By the end of the 1800s, soda fountains were everywhere.

Today’s Flavor
This is National Prosciutto Day. Prosciutto is dry-cured ham. Dry-curing takes much longer, and creates a much more intense flavor, than the brine curing more commonly applied to hams. To make prosciutto, salt is applied to the outside of skinned pig legs, usually with the bones still inside, and hung up to dry for as much as a year. In the old days, that was done outdoors. Now prosciutto makers have big warehouses whose walls allow free movement of air from outside through the hanging hams. The word derives from a Latin word that means “all dried out,” which it is after all that time.

The best prosciutto comes from Parma and San Daniele in Italy, but much prosciutto is made in this country. Its flavor is very intense; it should be sliced as thin as possible, and used sparingly. Classic uses of prosciutto include wrapping melon slices with it, stuffing it into veal and poultry concoctions, and standing alone as antipasto.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
A prosciutto made from the left leg of the pig tastes better than one from the right leg, which is tougher. Unless the pig is a southhoof.

Deft Dining Rule #452
It is impossible to slice prosciutto too thin.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Annals Of Chocolate
Britons breathed a sigh of relief today when World War II chocolate rationing finally ended in 1949. Until then, they had to make do with hollow bunnies made from a mixture of toothpaste and coffee.

Food And Space
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched today in 1990. Its magnification was so acute (once they got it focused, anyway) that it could actually detect an amuse-bouche on a restaurant table from space.

Food Namesakes
Former Connecticut congressman Charles Bakewell was born today in 1867. . . William I of Orange, who ran the Low Countries for a time on behalf of Spain, was born today in 1533. . . Kristie Krabe, Broadway actress, was born today in 1974.

Words To Eat By
“So to church, and staid out the sermon, and then with my aunt Wight, my wife, and Pall and I to her house by coach, and there staid and supped upon a Westphalia ham, and so home and to bed.”–Samuel Pepys.

Words To Drink By
“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by
―J.R.R. Tolkien

Annals Of Chocolate

Britons breathed a sigh of relief today when World War II chocolate rationing finally ended in 1949. Until then, they had to make do with hollow bunnies made from a mixture of toothpaste and coffee.

Food And Space

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched today in 1990. Its magnification was so acute (once they got it focused, anyway) that it could actually detect an amuse-bouche on a restaurant table from space.

Food Namesakes

Former Connecticut congressman Charles Bakewell was born today in 1867. . . William I of Orange, who ran the Low Countries for a time on behalf of Spain, was born today in 1533. . . Kristie Krabe, Broadway actress, was born today in 1974.

Words To Eat By

“So to church, and staid out the sermon, and then with my aunt Wight, my wife, and Pall and I to her house by coach, and there staid and supped upon a Westphalia ham, and so home and to bed.”–Samuel Pepys.

Words To Drink By

“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by
―J.R.R. Tolkien