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Diary 9/25/2018. Artistic Dream, Starring The Moon. I am a student of my own dreams. A textbook example of one a few days ago involved the Harvest Moon–the full moon about which songs have been written. The Harvest Moon is a phenomenon in which the full moon of September hangs higher in the sky than at any other time of year. The Harvest Moon is also unusually closer to the Earth now than at any other time. This is not merely something to sing about, but has a real function among people who collect the richest crops of the year. The moon is so bright that the harvesters can stay out in the fields well into the night.

My dream wasn’t about collecting crops, though. On my mind was the different nature of the Harvest Moon from the very real, striking, and unique eclipses that have imposed themselves on our worlds this year. The sun and the moon are very real perfect spheres, not just the poetry that makes us smile right now.

Mary Ann saw the Harvest Moon before I did, as she usually does whenever there is something unusually bright hanging in the sky. All the rest of the day, thoughts of this imposed on my mind, not far from global warming. Which MA doesn’t believe in. I find myself thinking about her, the moon, our daughter, and the love that exudes from all quarters of my world.

The days since the above halcyon clime are much sharper. Over the weekend we had only a little rain, but with the acute heat we have suffered all this summer. Driving to the radio station yesterday was a different deal. The rain pelted me mercilessly me about halfway across the Causeway. When I arrived at the studios, even with an umbrella I had to wait for the rain to end. It’s a wonder that the guest for the first hour of the show managed to show up.

The rain delay squeezed the gist of jobs I needed to deal with before air time. I was just getting into that when Mary Leigh called to ask whether I would be available for dinner. I am indeed. Always for her. Se suggested that we return for my third time to Copper Vine, the new wine bar and bistro in the buiding that used to be the historic restaurant Maylie’s.

As it has been, on both previous visits to Copper Vine, the place was filled with younger-adult customers, and the noise level was very high. I don’t know what can be done about that, what with the high ceilings, large windows, and large number of seats. But nothing can stop a hip restaurant.

ML was already through an order of the right-out-of-the-fryer pommes frites, with duck fat, grated cheese and herbs. I arrived just in time to get my portion of those. MA and I debate as to whether these are hand-cut potatos. She doesn’t think they are, but their goodness is undisputable.

ML has become a wine lover, and ordered a glass of GrĂ¼ner Veltliner. She already knew a few things about that Austrian white and appreciated it. That’s my girl!

Her entree was a batch of cold toasts, topped with Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and a few other things. On the advice of the waiter that last time I was here, I order chicken fricassee. As is true for most dishes with that name, one is only guessing at what might show up. In this case it was a collection of fried chicken fingers, stirred up with disassembled, spicy boudin and a scattering of peanuts. Unusual, but good.

We split after dinner. Almost as soon as I was in my car, a rainstorm kicked in. It wasn’t nearly as ferocious as the one that tortured me earlier today, but I had to be careful and keep the wipers going.

Copper Vine Winepub. CBD: 1009 Poydras St. 504-208-9535.

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Chicken Bonne Femme

“Good woman’s chicken” and its variations (chicken Clemenceau and chicken Pontalba) is one of the best dishes in the Creole cookbook. There is little agreement on how it’s prepared, but potatoes and garlic are always part of the recipe. This one evolved in my kitchen from the very good version at Antoine’s, with inspiration from the super-garlicky, great bonne femme at Tujague’s.

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 2 chickens, about 3 1/2 lbs., quartered
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1/2 cup ham, cut into tiny dice
  • 1 cups chopped green onion tops
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 2 lbs. white potatoes, peeled and cut into three-quarter-inch dice
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 stick butter
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chicken Bonne Femme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp, then remove. Leave the fat in the skillet.

2. Salt and pepper the chicken quarters, then dust lightly with flour. Raise the heat to high and brown the chicken pieces in the bacon fat on all sides. Remove the chicken pieces and keep warm.

3. In the same pan cook the ham, green onions, and yellow onions until the latter turn translucent. Add mushrooms, wine, Worcestershire, and Tabasco, and bring it up to a boil. After a minute, lower to a simmer.

4. In a separate skillet, fry the potatoes in 375-degree oil until very lightly browned. Drain them well and add to the ham, onions, etc. You now have the bonne femme garnish.

5. Continue simmering sauce until all of the liquid is absorbed; lightly stir to distribute ingredients. Remove from heat.

6. Heat the butter in a small saucepan until it starts bubbling. Lower the heat, skim the foam off, and add the garlic. Cook the garlic in the hot butter for about a minute.

7. Put the chicken pieces in a broiling pan. Put the pan into a preheated 400-degree oven and cook for seven to ten minutes. Turn the pieces, and cook them another 5-7 minutes.

8. Spoon the bonne femme garnish over and between the chicken pieces. Crumble the bacon over the top. Continue cooking until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced. Serve the bonne femme garnish over the top of the chicken pieces.

9. Serve with lots of the bonne femme garnish.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare September 26, 2017

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New Orleans Chef’s Hall Of Fame

Today in 1972, Chris Kerageorgiou opened La Provence, a little west of Lacombe, in what had been the dining room of a small defunct motel. He went by the name Chris Kerras back then; he didn’t think anybody could handle his real name. He was well-known to New Orleans diners. He had been the maitre d’ at the Rib Room at the Royal Orleans, and then at the Royal Sonesta.

But Chris wanted to explore his own ideas. He went into the kitchen (he’d done that before, on cruise ships) and put together a menu of familiar New Orleans dishes. But the menu was sprinkled with tastes from his native South of France, as well as a few tastes from his Greek background. Chris sold La Provence in 2007 to John Besh (who cooked at La Provence on his way up), and shortly after passed away. He is a permanent member of the pantheon of most loved New Orleans chefs.

Today’s Flavor

It’s rumored that today is National Pancake Day. The day on which pancakes are most widely celebrated is Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras. We’re too busy here in New Orleans with other things that day to do much with pancakes, so we’ll take the cue.

Pancakes were more popular forty or fifty years ago than they are now. Restaurants specializing in pancakes were a big deal. The Buck Forty-Nine was as much a pancake house as a steak house, and its menu listed dozens of varieties, which they served with a rack of some six flavors of syrup. Rick’s on Canal Street and the Tiffin Inn also made sure Orleanians got their share of pancakes. Here and there around America, a widely-imitated franchise called the Original Pancake House keeps the flame alive. Begun in the 1950s, those places take pancakes to the limits, with a number of variations that boggles the mind.

Banana-nut pancake at Mattina Bella.

Banana-nut pancake at Mattina Bella.

Now pancakes are hard to find in New Orleans restaurants. They don’t like to make them, because they take up a lot of space on the grill. The few restaurants that make pancakes don’t do a very good job of it. The Tiffin Inn is still at it. So is the Peppermill, a descendant of the old Buck Forty-Nine. The Abita Cafe turns out flapjacks that are almost impossible to finish because of their size. But not many other purveyors are out there.

Making pancakes is so simple that I’ve never understood why anyone uses a mix for them. The batter is essentially one of everything: one cup of flour, one egg, one cup of milk, one heaping tablespoon of sugar. Flavor it with a little vanilla and cinnamon, and add a bit of butter or oil, and that’s about it. (The exact recipe is elsewhere in today’s edition.) It’s best if the batter sits for a few minutes before you pour the first one onto the griddle.

Gourmet Gazetteer

gaspergou, n.–A freshwater drumfish, commonly caught in bayous and rivers in Louisiana and Texas. Its nickname is “goo.” (Once David Letterman showed a picture of a sign advertising “Fresh Goo” and got a big laugh out of it.) The opinions on its edibility range from enthusiastic to disdainful. It is most often caught by anglers trying to get something else–crappie and freshwater bass, mostly. The smaller they are, the better they are. I’ve never seen gaspergou in a restaurant, probably because it’s off-limits to commercial fishermen, like most freshwater fish.

Edible Dictionary

Sandwich, Illinois is a middling-small town (population 6607) sixty-two miles west of Chicago. That’s close enough to qualify as an exurb (with its own web site). But for most of its history its location in the cornfields and the presence of the Burlington Railroad determined its existence. The Sandwich Fair–the oldest county fair n the state, running every Labor Day week since 1889–does indeed have sandwiches, in addition to events like tractor pulls. Among the restaurants in Sandwich are these charmingly-named spots, all within a block of one another, downtown: Brenda’s Breakfast Basket, Dinner’s Ready, and Picket Fence.

Deft Dining #533

The first pancake in a batch is always the worst one. The second one is the best.

Food In The Wild

Johnny Appleseed (real name, John Chapman) was born today in 1774. He was a real person, who really did plant thousands of apple trees all over the eastern United States. He was romanticized as a delightful eccentric, wearing a pot as a hat, usually going around barefoot. What is not well known is that his apple trees were meant for the making of hard cider. Apples do not grow true from seeds. If you plant the seeds from a single apple, the trees will give you five different kinds of apples, none of which will be like the original apple. All of them probably will be nearly inedible. The only thing they’re good for is making an easy alcoholic beverage. I’ll bet that changes the image you had of the guy from your children’s books.

Food In Science

Today was the birthday, in 1754, of Joseph-Louis Proust, a French chemist. He studied sugars, among other things, and found that most sugars are very similar, no matter what their original source was.

Annals Of Cookbook Writing

Lafcadio Hearn, the author of what is generally considered the first Creole cookbook, La Cuisine Creole, in the 1880s, died today in 1904.

Food In Show Biz

The movie Soul Food premiered today in 1997. Starring Vanessa Williams, it’s the story of a mother who maintains a family tradition of Sunday dinner at home, and what happens to the family when it stops. Not good, you can bet on that. That’s the downside of our much-increased reliance on restaurants.

Food Namesakes

TV Actor Philip Bosco (no relation to the Italian restaurant Bosco’s in Mandeville) was born today in 1930. . . . Actor Donald Cook hit the big stage today in 1901.

Words To Eat By

“It is contrary to the will of God to eat delicate food hastily.”–Chinese proverb.

Words To Drink By

“One sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight, beyond the bliss of dreams.”–John Milton.

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