Missing German Food
Diary Saturday, 7-14-2018: Breakfast a deux at Mattina Bella. At first MA wanted to take this meal at the Fat Spoon, but it’s not her kind of place atmospherically. We wind up at at Mattina Bella, of course. The routine runs as usual, winding up with my broadcasting the Saturday show from the Cool Water Ranch. Meanwhile, MA cuts the grass, even though it’s really hot outside. Her greater concern is that the big dog Barry insists on attacking the wheels of the little mower. It’s another one of those weird things dogs do when the temperature outside is this hot. It seems to be affecting the cats, too, who for some reason have been fighting one another.
The show ends after three hours of interesting calls. The Germans, for example, come up a few times. Why is it that, while the New Orleans area is home to a lot of German families, are there hardly any German restaurants? The same sort of question comes up about some other ethnic cuisines.
On the other hand, another topic isn’t mentioned. Several local restaurants with ethnic themes have lately been accused of caught not paying all their taxes. Others have been accused of failing to meet some employee payments. The Food Show doesn’t cover legal matters like that, so we don’t bring these things up in depth. I can say that I was surprised by the identities of some of these accused restaurants.
Mary Ann makes the choice for dinner tonight: How about Annadele Plantation? That restaurant isthe closest major eatery to the Cool Water Ranch, but for some reason we dine there only seldom. The two of us both like the premises (a real plantation on the edge of Covington, built in the 1850s). We also like the food, which is modified contemporary Creole. I think it could use a little updating. It’s also a shade on the expensive side, but given the expenses of operating such an antique premises makes it reasonable.
I begin with vichyssoise, the cold potato-and-leek soup that sounds French but which actually was created in a New York City. I get some good laughs out of the waitress, who takes excellent care of us all night, especially for a night that had a large wedding reception going on upstairs.
We move on to oyster spinach-artichoke dip (one guess as to who ordered that), a crab cake (ditto), and a gigantic fillet of catfish. The latter is served meuniere style. Very buttery. I don’t think I’ve seen such a large catfish executed this well.
We skip dessert, which totals the check to about $75, plus plus. Not bad. I mentally move Annadele’s up our list of restaurants for more often attendance.
Annadele Plantation. Covington: 71518 Chestnut St. 985-809-7669.
On my first visit to Italy, we were served risotto with every meal. My favorite versions were those made with green vegetables. Every time I see asparagus in the store, risotto crosses my mind. The critical ingredient is Arborio rice, a variety now widely available even in supermarkets. It’s extra starchy and creates the texture you need. I would also highly recommend using either Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese. Both are expensive, but intense in flavor so that you don’t need to use as much.
- 1 lb. fresh asparagus
- 1/2 stick butter
- 2 green onions, sliced thin
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
- 3 leaves fresh basil, chopped
- 1 leaf fresh mint, chopped
- 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
1. Cut off the bottom tough inch or so of the asparagus and discard. Cut off the top inch of all the spears and set aside. Slice the asparagus stalks into little disks about 1/4 inch thick.
2. Heat half the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cool the green onions, asparagus, salt and crushed red pepper until the asparagus is tender. Add the rice and sauté for about four minutes, stirring more or less constantly.
3. Dissolve the salt in the stock, and add the stock, one cup at a time, stirring until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid. The rice is done when there is no crunch left in the center, but don’t allow it to get mushy. It should, however, become creamy.
4. Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer, and cook the asparagus tips for three minutes, or until tender. (Even better: steam them, if you have a steamer.) Drain and stir the tips into the rice, along with the Parmigiano, basil, mint, parsley, and the rest of the butter.
Serves four to six.