Diary 9/30/2018. Readiness For The Cruise to New England and Canada. Of all the things I thought were not high on the list of my getting ready for the East Club’s cruise, the last I thought I’d be looking out for was tropical storms along the Eastern Seaboard. But a few days ago we had a little of that to consider, and a mild possibility of a hurricane in the Gulf. I gritted my teeth and decided that I would not worry about either of these. That’s certainly what Mary Ann always tells me to do.
Of all people, Lately I have been pushed into a total lack of ideas as to where to have dinner. Today, I wound up in a circle around Mandeville and Covington, with not a single appealing prospect for my dinner. I used to do that when I was in my late teens. Have those lacks of ideas come back? Or are they just an occasional vapidity of living alone for the first time in decades?
Here’s how it went down today. I decided that a visit to Pizza Man in Covington–something we did often when the kids were young. Back then, Pizza Man provided all the entertainment, throwing handfuls of flour at the window where the children watched his antics. Now I can’t find the place after dark, a by-product of the years’ passing. I wound up circling around Covington to wind up at Meribo. The pizza is very different there, and the rest of the menu is interesting enough to capture my interest.
Since I mentioned that, I will take this opportunity to alert regular NOMenu readers that we will be on vacation mode. It is very difficult–almost impossible– to broadcast from a ship. I will, however, keep writing as much as usual, and release the accumulated flow when we get back to town. Meanwhile, at the radio Food Show, we’ll have a schedule of guest hosts who have shown their capabilities in the past. Thanks for your tolerance.
Meribo. Covington: 326 N. Lee Lane. 985-302-5533.
Oysters Fonseca is the third oyster in the trio of baked oysters at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. The other two, of course, are Rockefeller and Bienville. The third oyster–each version unique to the restaurants where they are found–is a long tradition among traditional New Orleans restaurant, but one not as common as it once was. That’s mainly because not nearly as many restaurant bake oysters with complicated toppings anymore, now that Drago’s char-broiled oysters have become so omnipresent.
Oddly, however, oysters Fonseca has not been available at the Bourbon House on all my recent visits. So I just make my own.
- 2 oz. butter
- 2 ripe red bell peppers, chopped
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and membranes removed, chopped
- 2 1/2 lbs tasso, finely ground
- 2 medium, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 Tbs. white wine
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup oyster water
- 2 Tbs. heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tbs. parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup French bread crumbs
- 2 dozen fresh oysters
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. Heat the butter in a nine-inch skillet over medium heat until it bubbles. Add the red pepper, red onion and jalapeno, and cook until they soften. Add the tasso and cook until it’s heated through.
2. Add the tomatoes and cook until they start falling apart. Add the wine and stir to dissolve the pan ingredients. Add the flour and stir until it’s blended in. Cook for about five minutes.
3. Add the oyster water and continue cooking until the mixture shows only a small amount of liquid–eight to ten minutes. Add the cream and grated Parmesan cheese. After that’s blended in, taste the sauce (it is now finished) and add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Remove the pan from heat and cool.
4. You can finish the dish in either the fancy, restaurant way (on oyster shells, with the sauce applied with a pastry bag), or in small au gratin dishes or even a medium, shallow casserole dish. Either way, top each oyster with two tablespoons of the sauce, then sprinkle with teh bread crumbs.
5. Put the oysters into the preheated 400-degree oven and bake until the sauce starts to bubble and the bread crumbs get toasted–12-15 minutes.
Makes two dozen oysters, enough for four to eight people.
October 2, 2017
Halloween: Oct. 31
Thanksgiving (Nov. 23):
Today is National Sea Scallop Day. Those are the big ones, and they’re excellent this time of year. Sea scallops come from the ocean in the Northeast. They range in size from about an inch across to the size of a petite filet mignon. Scallops, like most mollusks, veer from the general seafood rule that smaller is better. I find that the bigger the scallop, the better the flavor.
Unfortunately, most sea scallops in supermarkets are heavily processed by floating factories. These shuck and preserve the scallops in a substance that extends the shelf life but gives the scallops a chemical taste and a terrible texture. Those are difficult to brown, regardless of the heat of your pan.
The good kind are harder to find and more expensive. Variously known as “dry-pack,” “day-boat,” or “diver” scallops, they’re caught the old way, shucked and shipped without preservatives. Those are the ones you find in the best restaurants. They have the superb sweet aroma and flavor of the sea, with just a light searing at the outside.
Some curious facts about scallops:
1. They can swim. They flap their shells (they’re like the one you see on the Shell gas station sign) and go “flying” through the water.
2. The part of the scallop that we eat is analogous to the “eye” of the oyster. It’s a muscle. Sometimes sushi bars will serve scallops with the entire surrounding tissue intact. If you try that, you learn why we only eat the white part.
3. If you cook scallops at home, wash them well. Scallops can hold a lot of fine sand, and if that remains the grinding action one your teeth is disconcerting.
4. Scallops very rarely are found with an orange roe sac attached. Depending on which chef you ask, this is either wonderful or something to be trimmed off and disposed of. I think it’s good.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
When you cook good sea scallops, they’re ready when they’re just warm all the way through, and bulging a little on the top and bottom. When in doubt, take them out.
Bivalve, California is on the dramatic Highway 1, about forty-five miles up the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco. It is on Tomales Bay, a shallow tidal inlet where large populations of oysters are cultivated and harvested. No doubt the place is named for those briny mollusks. The nearest restaurants are on the other side of the bay in Inverness, where we find the intriguing Vladimir’s Czechoslovakian Cafe.
Namesakes Of Famous New Orleans Dishes
Ferdinand Foch was born today in 1851, in Tarbes, France. A career soldier, he became Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the final year of World War I, and one of the heroes of the war. He predicted–correctly–that the treaty ending the war would only keep peace with Germany for twenty years. The best dish at Antoine’s bears his name. Oysters Foch are fried, then placed atop a piece of toast spread with pate de foie gras. The sauce is a thick, dark brown derivative of hollandaise. The foie gras was to recall the mud Foch and his troops had to battle through, and the sauce the blood that flowed on the battlefield. Gross, yes. But that’s how people thought back in those days. Forget about that and remember it as a great appetizer.
Food In The Funnies
Today in 1950, the comic strip Peanuts appeared for the first time, in seven newspapers. It became the most widely-published strip in history, and made creator Charles Schulz a very rich man. He never liked the name of the strip, though. (It had been forced on him by the syndicators.)
Food In Show Biz
Today was the birthday, in 1890, of Groucho Marx, one of the greatest ad-lib comedians of all time, and as such eminently quotable. “Mustard’s no good without roast beef,” he once said. He and the Marx Brothers were in several movies with food names, the most memorable of which were Duck Soup and Animal Crackers. . . This is the birthday of Don McLean, the author of the song American Pie. Which, of course, isn’t about pie at all!
cafe brulot, [kaf-ay broo-LOW], French, n.–A hybrid of coffee and after-dinner drink, cafe brulot is lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon flamed in brandy, with dark, strong coffee added as the flames die down. It’s at least as much about the show as the flavor. While the spice-and-brandy mixture is burning, the waiter might intentionally pour the stuff on the tablecloth, where the blue flames burn harmlessly but dramatically. A special rig evolved for cafe brulot, involving a brass panholder held up by well-dressed demons, and thin, tall cups for serving the potion.
Invented at Antoine’s in the late 1800s, cafe brulot has become a universal end-of-dinner item in most of the traditional grand New Orleans restaurants, and has spread well beyond its boundaries. The best version now is at Arnaud’s, where they stud an orange with cloves, then cut the skin away from the fruit in a spiral. The waiter pours the flaming brandy down the spiral, which not only is quite a show but brings the oils in the peel into play, adding flavor as well as making the room fragrant.
Deft Dining Rule #491
As irresistible as hot glazed doughnuts are, their shape accurately estimates the feeling one has about oneself after freely indulging in them.
Food In Medicine
Sir Berkeley Moynihan was born on this day in 1865. He was a pioneer in abdominal surgery, but what brings him up here is this quotation of his, which we all know to be true: “The stomach is so sensitive an organ that it cannot refrain from weeping when its neighbors are in trouble, and its voice is sometimes so loud as to drown that of the real sufferer.” Turning it around, we’d say that you can make other parts of your body happy by making your stomach happy.
Dusty Baker hit his thirtieth home run of 1977 on this date, making it the first time four players on the same team hit that mark in a single season. . . Plum Warner, one of the most famous cricket players of all time, stepped up to the Big Wicket today in 1873. . . Toro, singer with the Taiwanese boy band Typhoon, started belting it out today in 1981. (Toro is the sushi-bar word for fatty tuna.)
Words To Eat By
“I did toy with the idea of doing a cookbook. The recipes were to be the routine ones: how to make dry toast, instant coffee, hearts of lettuce and brownies. But as an added attraction, at no extra charge, my idea was to put a fried egg on the cover. I think a lot of people who hate literature but love fried eggs would buy it if the price was right.”–Groucho Marx, born today in 1890.
Words To Drink By
“Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.”–Steve Martin