Diary: 8/26/2018: The Age Of Sheepshead. Over the last twenty years or so, there’s been an effort on the part of commercial fishermen to make the species called sheepshead popular. The name was one of the problems. Not only did “sheepshead” fail to ring the bell of familiarity, but if you ever saw a whole sheepshead, it would appear to have a face, with teeth that are almost cute. If you ever caught one while fishing, you’d also learn that the fish gives very little in the way of a fillet. And it’s hard to fillet to begin with.
On the plus side, however, is that the fish is sustainable. And when you finally get a fillet, it will be very appealing on the plate. It’s a firm, white fish with an easily edible portion. Finally, more sheepshead have been winding up on my plate lately. Whenever it’s offered to me as the fish of the day, I almost always get it. It’s such a nice presentation that a lot of sheepshead has been getting away with being called trout, redfish, or drum. The irony is that I’d prefer sheepshead to those other fish. It’s a great value on a restaurant’s entree plate.
I have been getting a lot of sheepshead lately. The most reliable place to look for it has been the specials board at Crabby’s Shack (not to be confused with Crabbyshack on Jefferson Highway). Crabby’s is the good neighborhood seafood café in Madisonville, not far from Keith Young’s Steak House, and also owned by Keith. Although most of its menu is about fried seafood platters of the mountainous kind, Crabby’s always has a very good grilled fish special. And that has often been sheepshead lately. It’s mostly white but nicely browned around the edges, with a brown butter to help that along.
MA and I were here for dinner today. Crabby’s is often where we wind up on a Sunday nights, even though it’s a long drive from the Cool Water Ranch. There’s just not enough restaurants open on Sundays.
It was a pleasant day in other ways. Our friends the Scotts met up with us earlier for the Southern’s Hotel’s pleasant little jazz session in its lobby. We discovered this a couple of weeks ago. I also found that the excellent musicians at the Southern would allow me to sing a song or two with them. I wish I had volunteered to do something other than “When They Begin The Beguine,” because I don’t have those lyrics in mind. I’ll have to get that down if I can get one more time out of these guys before Saints football takes over on Sundays.
Crabby’s Seafood Shack. Madisonville: 305 Covington. 985-845-2348.
Coolinary @ Antoine’s
The Coolinary is a month of dining brought to you by over 100 restaurants of all kinds, during the month of August. Yes, it’s almost finished for this year, although some restaurants are keeping the Coolinary Menus. Antoine’s, for example, keeps something a lot like their Culinary offers year-round(although not quite that good a deal. Here’s their $39 three-course Coolinary dinner menu as of right now:
Oysters St. Louis
Cornmeal-dusted oysters served over a fried creole tomato with a tomato cream sauce, topped with melted cheese and a chopped shrimp garnish.
Shredded lettuce, butter leaf, watermelon, feta cheese, toasted almonds, watermelon honey ginger vinaigrette
A richly-seasoned sherry wine-laced alligator soup
Honey glaze served over pesto rice and topped with a pineapple relish
Roasted Cornish Hen
Smothered potatoes and topped with a celery and bacon red wine reduction sauce
Pecan Bread Pudding
Cinnamon, golden raisin, pecan bread pudding topped with a praline rum sauce
$39 dinner price does not include drinks, tax or tip.
Available for parties of 15 or less. No Substitutions.
Throughout the year, Antoine’s offers a three-course lunch version of its Coolinary dinner for $20.
For more information about all the the Coolinary restaurants and menus, visit CoolinaryNewOrleans.com
August 29, 2017
Coolinary Summer Specials End: 4.
Memorable Weather Reports
Hurricane Katrina–one of the two or three most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in history–swept across New Orleans this morning in 2005. It changed everything, in ways we’re still discovering. Everyone who was here then, will talk about that event the rest of our lives. And take pride that, even in our sometimes raucous way, we lived through it and kept our identity.
As unlikely as it may seem to people who have never been here, our eating culture was one of the strongest forces that pulled us back together into a coherent city. We saw that in the very earliest recovery, when the first thing most returnees wanted to do was to eat some real New Orleans food. It started with red beans and poor boys and gumbo, but we were very quickly back to oysters Bienville, soft shell crabs, slow-roasted duck, and all the rest of it. If all that and the restaurants that served them hadn’t come back as quickly as they did, many people who came back would have wondered why they did, and left again.
The day that New Orleans becomes Anywhere, USA is the day she dies.
Our Famous Restaurateurs
On the other hand, some wonderful things happened this date. It’s the birthday, in 1960, of Ti Adelaide Martin. She and her cousin Lally Brennan own and manage Commander’s Palace and Cafe Adelaide. Ti is the daughter of Ella Brennan, one of the most accomplished of American restaurateurs. Ti clearly learned a lot from her mom. But even her mom learned a few new lessons in their struggles to reopen Commander’s Palace after Katrina. It took a year and a half–much longer than anyone ever imagined. But when it open, it resumed its position as the city’s top restaurant.
By coincidence, Today is Eating Away From Home Day. That’s what most of us in the New Orleans area had to do on this distressing day in 2005. And it’s what an increasing number of people across America do every day. Just before the 2008 recession, more meals in this country were eaten out of the home than in it. That reverted to the opposite statistic during the slack years. But dining out is once again edging towards a majority of U.S. meals.
It is also More Herbs, Less Salt Day; Lemon Juice Day; Chop Suey Day (see below), and Swiss Winegrowers Day (the Swiss drink almost all of their wine themselves, so to hell with that).
bouillon, [BOOL-yawn], n.–This word translated from the French as simply “boiled broth,” without specifying much else. A bouillon can be made out of almost any meat or vegetable, but the word has become closely associated with either beef or chicken. Its use also brings to mind the bouillon cube, which is made by reducing a broth so much that it becomes a solid. In that form, it can be kept in a jar without refrigeration until needed to create a quick broth. Broths made from bouillon cubes are decidedly inferior to those made from fresh meats and vegetables.
Fork is a little hamlet 606 people in the Low Country of South Carolina, fifty-three miles northwest of Myrtle Beach, SC. It’s surrounded by farm fields, much of which are planted in rice. (South Carolina people eat almost as much rice as Louisianians do.) It’s too bad there is no restaurant in Fork, from which it’s six miles south to Mullins for lunch at the Chatterbox Cafe. (I wonder if Garrison Keillor has been there.)
Annals Of Dieting
Dr. Nathan Pritikin was born today in 1915. The diet plan that bears his name posited that a high-carbohydrate, low-fat regimen would not only result in weight loss, but also prevent heart disease, from which he believed he was suffering. The thinking these days is that the opposite is true, but dieting vogues swing as often and popular style of cooking. But in the 1970s it was all the rage, enough that some restaurants opened with menus the kept to the Pritikin Plan. I went to one such, and found it among the worst I ever reviewed. Losing weight is a laudable goal. Eating with pleasure is also important. Tricky to achieve both goals with the same meal.
Annals Of Chinese Food
Today in 1896, Li Hung Chang, ambassador and military hero from China, visited New York City. Things Chinese were very much in vogue, as that country’s opening to the West for the first time revealed a fascinating world. Chang was feted with grand dinners, but he rejected all that, insisting that his own chefs cook for him. This was allegedly the moment when and where chop suey was invented, but that’s unlikely. “Chop suey” translates idiomatically into “mixed food in small pieces,” which describes a great deal of Chinese food. So it was probably pretty generic when Americans first encountered it when Chinese people began appearing in large numbers. That was in California in the 1860s, during the building of the Central Pacific Railroad. Now, think about this: when was the last time you saw the words “chop suey” on a menu?
Deft Dining Rule #524:
Never eat in a Chinese restaurant that specializes in chop suey, unless the place is over fifty years old.
Books About The Table
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., the father of a Supreme Court Chief Justice, was born today in 1809. He wrote The Autocrat Of The Breakfast Table, the first in a series of novels with the words “breakfast table” in their titles. They were about life in New England.
Actress Rebecca de Mornay was born today in 1962. (Mornay sauce is a bechamel with cheese added). . . Edward Denny Bacon was born today in 1860. He was a British author and the curator of the King’s stamp collection. . . Kyle Cook, lead guitarist of the American rock band Matchbox Twenty, was born today in 1975.
Words To Eat By
“You don’t get ulcers from what you eat. You get them from what’s eating you.”–Vicki Baum, Austrian-American writer, who died today in 1960.
Words To Drink By
“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”–Rev. William A. Spooner, for whom the expression “spoonerism” is named. He died today in 1930.