Diary: Friday, June 27, 2018. The Most Unusual Omelette. A few Sundays ago, the Cool Water Ranch crowd gathered on a Sunday morning for brunch at Ox Lot Nine in Covington. The menu doesn’t change a lot there, and the interior design of the place creates a happy situation for the Marys and me. I ordered an item they called a frittata–the Italian word for an omelette. It was unlike any frittata I’ve had before. And even farther removed from any omelette in my experience. It was more like a casserole, but with a cloud-like texture. Nothing like anything I’ve had before, with or without the omelette moniker.
Today, I ordered the frittata again, and asked the chef how it was made. He let me belly up in the kitchen to watch the technique.
The dish begins with a small cast-iron skillet heated in a high oven. In went a bit of butter along with wild mushrooms, crabmeat, Manchego cheese, and some slivered leeks. When all these elements have withered from the heat, a mixture of fifteen eggs to a quart of whipping cream fills the gaps in the skillet. (Not all of the eggs/cream blend is used–just enough to fill the skillet.)
Back into the oven went the skillet, until little dark edges form agreeably. A handful of baby greens get scattered across the top. Ta-da! This is brilliant in flavor, appearance, aroma and every other way. And I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. If I were giving an award for the best new brunch item of the year, this would be it. And with all that crabmeat, this is a good deal at $17.
Two other conditions made this an exceptional Sunday brunch. One was the roasting quality of the temperature that morning. Even the short walk to and from my car made me feel as if my skin were being blasted away. And the musicians standing at the door were as listenable as usual. I tried the persuade them to play “Cool Water,” which seemed to me the perfect music for this glaringly hot weather.
And to think that summer is just getting started!
Ox Lot 9. Covington: 428 E Boston St. 985-400-5663.
GW Fins’s Lobster Dumplings
This light pasta appetizer has become one of the signature items on the menu at GWFins, the best seafood restaurant in New Orleans. Co-owner and chef Tenney Flynn developed it as his standard item at events like the French Quarter Festival and the Royal Street Stroll. Eat one of these irregular ravioli and you’ll want to eat a dozen more, so make a lot of them and invite friends over. The technique and a couple of the ingredients come from the world of restaurant cooking, but it’s not so challenging that you shouldn’t be able to make them at home. If you have a lot of time on your hands. If it’s too complex, just go have dinner at GW Fins.
- 1 lb. lean fish fillets (snapper, grouper, drum, sheepshead), cut into strips
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold
- 3 Tbs. Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbs. lobster base
- 1/2 cup green onions, thinly snipped, cooked in 1 Tbs. olive oil until limp
- 1 Tbs. lobster roe (or tobiko from a sushi bar)
- Tail meat from one 1 1/2-lb. lobster, cubed
1. Put the food processor container and its blade into the freezer for ten minutes or so, to get them very cold. Similarly, chill two metal bowls, one slightly bigger than the other.
2) Reserve very cold.
Method for dumplings
Gyoza skins ( 2 packages of 50 )
Slurry of cornstarch and water – about 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch to 2
Cornstarch to sprinkle on baking sheet
1) Place a few dumpling skins on a work surface and moisten the edges with the cornstarch and water mixture.
2) Using a pastry bag or two spoons, place about a Tablespoon of the mousseline in the center of each of the skins. Fold them together and crimp the edges in a way I can’t begin to describe without showing you.
The important thing, aesthetics aside, is that they are completely sealed. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch. Continue until you run out of skins or mousseline. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not freeze.
Shelf life — MAXIMUM 48 HOURS
Lobster Butter Sauce
Mixing wand (almost essential for emulsifying butter this way)
1 pound salted butter cut in 1/2 inch chunks at 40 degrees
1 cup very strong lobster or shrimp stock (or 1 Tablespoon Lobster base and 1 cup water)
1) Place the cold cut up butter in a small sauce pan or other metal container (the operative word is small – so the liquid and butter mixture cover the blades on the blending wand)
2) Bring the stock to a rolling boil, pour over the butter and immediately blend. Reserve at about 125 degrees in a water bath. The mixture should be creamy.
Service recipe for Dumplings
6 dumplings per person
2 Tablespoons butter sauce
1/4 teaspoon grated roe or Tobiko
1 teaspoon finely diced peeled tomato
1 Tablespoon blanched shaved fennel ( blanch in lobster stock and Pernod)
1 each fennel sprig
1) Cook the wontons in briskly boiling water for 2-3 minutes
2) Ladle 2 Tablespoons lobster butter in a large preheated bowl
3) Arrange the cooked dumplings in a star shape and place the fennel in the center
4) Top with the tomato concasse and fennel sprig. Sprinkle with roe.
2. Remove any skin or bones from the fish. Put the fish into the freezer until almost frozen.
3. Put the fish into the processor bowl with two tablespoons of cream and a pinch of salt. Run the processor in bursts until the fish is chopped into dime-size pieces.
4. Add the egg, turn the processor on, and pour in the remaining cream in a thin stream. Stop every thirty seconds or so and stir the contents a little to keep the mixture uniform. After about a minute and a half of processing, the mixture (you can call it a mousseline now) should have the texture of soft ice cream.
5) Place mousseline into an iced bowl and fold in the mustard, lobster base, green onions, roe or tobiko, and cubed lobster meat. Scrape the sides of the bowl as you go.
6. Lay flat four to six of the gyoza skins on a cutting board. Brush a little of the cornstarch and water mixture around the edges.
7. Using two oval-shaped tablespoons (one for scooping, the other for scraping), deposit one tablespoon of the mousseline into the center of the gyoza skins. Fold them over and press your thumbs along the edges, starting at the middle and moving to the sides. With a fork, crimp the edges some more. You want these things to be almost hermetically sealed.
July 2, 2017
Fourth Of July
Today is National Anise Liqueur Day. Anisette–a generic name for that spirit–was once very popular around America. Its anise flavor is what most people identify as like licorice. Many other liqueurs have it–notably absinthe and its many substitutes (Pernod, Ricard, and the locally-produced Herbsaint). You also find that flavor in Greek ouzo, and Italian Strega, Galliano and Sambuca. Those have largely supplanted the generic anisette in bars and homes. Not only do they make interesting cocktails, but they’re often used in cooking. The most famous dish with anise liqueur as an important flavor is oysters Rockefeller. Around New Orleans, the sauce is almost always doused with Herbsaint.
The big news on this front right now is the return of genuine absinthe to the market. It is now generally accepted that well-made absinthe does not carry the poisonous substances that resulted in a ban against it a hundred years ago. That toxin came from wormwood, an herb used in the making of absinthe. But the problem substance doesn’t persist through distillation. So The Green Fairy (absinthe’s nickname) is back. You may even see it served with water drizzled over a sugar cube on a flat, filigreed spoon set atop the little glasses designed for the purpose. Absinthe was so popular in the 1800s that a ritual grew up around its serving.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Most chefs drink more Herbsaint than they cook with.
Restaurants And The Law
Today in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited the denial of publicly-offered services on account of race. Here in New Orleans, many restaurants still excluded African-Americans from their dining rooms, or required that they sit in segregated dining rooms. Such policies were rarely stated publicly, but were understood. Restaurateurs worried about what would happen when blacks suddenly appeared in restaurants.
Dick Brennan Sr., who was running Brennan’s with his sisters at the time, told me, “We decided not to worry about it, and to just let it happen. We never had any kind of problem.” Other restaurants were more defensive. Some became private clubs–the only way they could legally remain all-white. I almost entered one of these in the early 1970s, but stopped when I saw the “Private Club” sign on the door. The owner, who was standing on the sidewalk, said, “Whoa! You looking to have dinner? Hold out your hand!” I did. He looked at it carefully. “That’s white enough. Come on in!” The fact that such a story now sounds shocking tells us how far we’ve come.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s Hamburgers (and father of Wendy), was born today in 1932. He accomplished what seemed impossible at the time: taking a big chunk of the fast-food hamburger market from McDonald’s and Burger King. He did it by moving the product a bit upscale (not enough to make it a great hamburger, but never mind), and by creating the drive-through window. The latter innovation did more for Wendy’s than the former. But now the whole hamburger business is moving upscale, and Wendy’s can be credited for starting that trend when it opened in 1969.
Biscuit Hill is a small mesa standing about a hundred feet above the desert floor in western Arizona. It’s 102 miles west of Flagstaff, and about the same distance southwest of the Grand Canyon. Its name is easy to figure: it looks like a big buttermilk biscuit out there in the parched landscape. A stream from the mountains a couple of miles east keeps enough water in Biscuit Hill Tank for the stock. Its a twenty-nine-mile drive to Seligman on I-40, where the nearest restaurant–The OK Saloon and Route 66 Roadkill Cafe–will be found.
strozzapreti, n.–Another pasta shape whose name seems to have been chosen to call attention to it. This name means “priest strangler.” There are several explanations. The one that rings most true is that the pasta is made by rolling wide ribbons of pasta dough into what looks like a wrung-out towel. The motion needed to do this might well be the same used to choke a person. Why the victim should be a priest is hard to figure. Because this is essentially a tube winth an open side, it picks up more sauce than, say, penne. The only restaurant in New Orleans where I’ve seen it is Ristorante Da Piero.
Singer and bass player Pete Briquette, of the Boomtown Rats, was born today in 1954. . . Actress Kathryn Erbe, who made a movie with a food name (Chicken Soup) was born today in 1966. . . Country singer Marvin Rainwater yodeled his first notes today in 1925. (Rainwater is the name for a variety of Madeira wine.) . . . Classical conductor Frederick Fennell raised the Big Baton today in 1914. . . George Law Curry, newspaper publisher and last territorial governor of Oregon, was born today in 1820.
Words To Eat By
“Food is an implement of magic, and only the most cold-hearted rationalist could squeeze the juices of life out of it and make it bland. In a true sense, a cookbook is the best source of psychological advice and the kitchen the first choice of room for a therapy of the world.”–Thomas More.
Words To Drink By
“They speak of my drinking, but never think of my thirst.”–Unknown, Scottish.