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Diary For Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019: New Year, Back To Work And Other Routines.

We didn’t get home from yesternight’s fireworks on the river until two in the morning. I’m glad Mary Ann was the designated driver. She drives a lot faster than I do, and she doesn’t fall asleep on the way home the way I do (not while I’m driving, I mean.) If this seems selfish on my part, know that MA hates my driving.

I am awake at my usual seven a.m. the next morning, trying to write up the last couple of days in this space. I went to the radio station to do the show through fairly dense fogs both ways. I’m glad MA didn’t have to drive through that. I grabbed a ham-and-pepperoni sandwich on the way out of the Cool Water Ranch, with the idea of having diner somewhere tonight.

But where? MA is dedicated to her new diet plan. Daughter Mary Leigh was to join me for dinner, but she changed her mind. MA was on the wrong side of the lake forus to hit a restaurant in town. I figured on a slow crossing of the lake, which wasn’t too bad, even with the middling fog in my face. Much worse were the three Causeway police cars that passed me at just little over my speed, making the driving difficult. Those bright blue flashing lights cause one to become disoriented. I slow down to let the cops get well ahead of me quickly. MA has this same complaint about the blue lights, and she’s a more skillful driver than I am.

All this is an illustration of what happens after the shank of the holidays are finished. No more fooling around now. It’s back to work, which is usually more trying this time of year. All the of the radio sponsors renew their contracts at this time, and until all those signatures have been gathered, my usually-heavy list of commercials swindles down to almost nothing. I know this is short-term, but I wind up having a lot of air time to fill.

A few of those minutes went to Chef Richard Hughes, the owner the the Pelican Club. The Pelican Club has long been at the top of the Reveillon list. When the Pelican Club opened, it was a great help to downtown restaurants in their effort to attract a lot of customers to the French Quarter and its environs. The Pelican Club would keep the Reveillon going for a few weeks after Reveillon was officially over. But Richard says that December has become one of the best times of the year. He will continue the Reveillon menu of four courses for between $55 and $65 until this Sunday, when he’ll plug in an entirely new menu.

A duck special at N’Tini’s.

Once both MA and I were on the South Shore, we landed at N’Tini’s, home of Chef Duke Locicero, formerly of CafĂ© Giovanni. MA sticks with her salads call for no fried food and a minimum of carbohydrates. She only had a spoonful of the good duck gumbo with Andouille, or the fried oysters with an Italian-style breadcrumb crust and a sweet-heat sauce. The latter was delicious. My entree was a braised duck, which was undercooked, as it is always and everywhere. Rare duck is among the chewiest dishes I know. And here it was.

For dessert I had a wild hybrid of ice cream, pistachio sauce, and bananas. Mary Ann says that our favorite cellist Dan Lelchuk told her once that many classical musicians eat a banana before performing, because the slippery fruit is a beta-blocker. I understand this: one of my medications for hypertension is a beta-blocker, and it works to keep my calm when I sing.

N’Tini’s wasn’t especially busy, but Chef Duke and most other restaurateurs are happy to have a slack day after the madness of New Year’s Eve. Chef Andrea, who called in to the radio show, had the same story to tell. It’s back to work, but the routine is somehow a beta-blocker in its own right.

N’Tini’s. Mandeville: 2891 US 190. 985-626-5566.

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Biscuit Tortoni

The misleading half-French, Half-Italian name disguises a delightful dessert, made popular in New Orleans by Angelo Brocato’s ice cream parlor. A biscuit tortoni is a frozen soufflee with an almond flavor it gets from several directions at once. It was created by an Italian restaurateur in Paris in the 1800s and became famous. It’s more often seen in Italy now.

  • 4 oz. slivered almonds
  • 6 Amaretto di Saronno cookies, or almond macaroons
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 Tbs. sweet Marsala (or port, Malmsey Madiera or sweet sherry)
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream

A frozen soufflee, known in Italy (or Angelo Brocato’s) as biscuit tortoni.

1. Spread the almond slivers on a metal pan and put them under the broiler, about three inches from the heat. (This can be done in a toaster oven if you like.) Watch for the first sign of browning, count to ten, then remove from the oven.

2. Put the almonds and the cookies into a food processor and grind into coarse crumbs. Remove and reserve 2 Tbs. of the crumbs. Add the milk, 1/4 cup sugar, almond extract, and Marsala. Run the processor for a few seconds, until everything is blended.

3. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk until pale yellow and thickened. Add the cookie-milk mixture and stir to combine evenly.

4. In a clean bowl with grease-free beaters, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and 2 Tbs. sugar and continue to beat until stiff.

5. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently stir the cookie mixture into the beaten egg yolks until just combined. Streaks are okay.

6. In another bowl, beat the whipping cream until peaks form. Add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the other ingredients, stirring until combined. (Again, streaks are okay.)

7. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the mixture into dishes about three inches in diameter and two inches deep, or custard cups. (Disposable plastic or paper cups about that size not only work, but are traditional.) Sprinkle the tops with the reserved cookie and almond crumbs.

8. Put the cups into the freezer until frozen, and serve.

Makes eight to twelve servings.

AlmanacSquare January 2, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Carnival Begins Jan. 6.
Mardi Gras March 5.
Got Gumbo Competition Feb. 7.

Happy New Year!

This is the last time I’ll wish you a Happy New Year in this space. But you and I will keep on saying that to people we meet for at least a couple of weeks. When do you stop saying “Happy New Year!”? I asked that question on the radio about fifteen years ago. It became a contest, to guess the last consecutive day on which someone would say “Happy New Year!” on the air. The date was May 17. “Happy New Year!” became a catchphrase on the show, reaching its ultimate expression in 2010, during which someone said the phrase every day of the year. That has persisted every year since. New listeners must be puzzled to hear not one but numerous people say “Happy New Year!” in August on the program.

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Eight maids may show up a-milking. In other versions of the same song, we’re alerted to the fact dat you ate by your mama’s, have gold and silver tinsel for your tree, received an indoor plastic birdbath, and ate (our own lyrics) eight links of sausage.

Food Calendar

Back to those eight maids a-milking: The first of them brings skim milk, which tastes terrible but keeps your bones strong. The second has one per cent milk–too weak for coffee, but you can make good Creole cream cheese from it. The maid sells two-percent milk, which is tolerable for cereal, but not for mashed potatoes or bread pudding. Maid Number Four has whole, three-and-a-half-percent milkfat milk. Good old regular homogenized, which these days sells less well than two-percent. Behind her is a maid with four-plus-percent milk, made by smaller dairies like Smith’s Creamery. You have to shake it, because the cream still rises to the top of the bottle, like in the old days. This stuff is fantastic for making cafe au lait.

Milkmaid Five has light cream–also known as coffee cream. That’s is hard to find around New Orleans, although it’s common in the Northeast. For most purposes, instead of that we’ll have to use what the next maid has: half-and-half. Half cream and half milk, with about the milkfat content of light cream but not quite as good. (It’s about fifteen percent.)

Now here’s the milkmaid with whipping cream at around thirty percent, good enough for making whipped cream. But for sauces, what we want is the offering of Milkmaid Eight, who has heavy whipping cream–forty percent butterfat. Put it in a jar and shake it, and you can make your own butter.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Lemons is a small farm town in extreme north central Missouri, about ten miles south of the Iowa state line. It’s 154 miles northeast of Kansas City. This is rolling country, the prairie forming a low ridge alongside river drainages heading both the east and west. That layout put a former main line of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad through here, and that’s probably what built the town in the late 1800s. The map of Lemons now looks like an overly ambitious tic-tac-toe diagram. It’s dwindling slowly, and lost its post office a few years ago. You have to drive to Unionville for a restaurant meal: the Black and Blue, five miles north.

Edible Dictionary

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Molten Cake, Lava Cake, A flourless chocolate cake, made with two variations. First, the egg yolks in the batter are beaten to a very light, foamy texture. Second, the cake is underbaked, such that the center doesn’t set. When the eater cuts into the cake with his (or, more probably, her) fork, the warm, unset interior flows out, like lava. (Hence the alternate name).

This dessert burst on the scene in the late 1980s, and soon it was on every upscale menu in the country. As usual, there immediately emerged a controversy as to who invented it, but the chef whose name is most often mentioned in association with chocolate molten cake is the vaunted Jean-Georges Vongerichten. As always happens, as the idea spread to more restaurants, the fine points were often lost. How far did it spread? By 1998, it was on the menu aboard Amtrak trains. (That one was pretty good, actually.)

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Here’s how to open a coconut. Buy a quarter-inch drill bit and wash it. Use it only for this purpose, and store it in a kitchen drawer. With a cordless drill, drill into one of the eyes, and drain out the coconut water. Drink it! It will be sweet and it’s very healthful. Then take the coconut outside and put it on concrete. Hit it hard with a hammer until it cracks open. A good fresh coconut’s meat will fall from the shell. If it doesn’t, use an oyster knife to separate it. Be careful! It’s easy for your hand to slip while doing this.

Eating Around The World

Today in 1492–which would prove a big year for the country–the last stronghold of the Moors in Grenada fell to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, and modern Spain was born. The long Islamic domination of the Iberian peninsula blended with the previous Roman influence to create a rich and unique Spanish culture. Its food, architecture, and music are among the world’s most influential, from Latin America to the Phillippines. In this country, we’re just beginning to learn about the goodness of Spanish cooking, but we never seem to get any farther along than that.

Eating Across America

Georgia, the Peach State, became the fourth of the United States on this date in 1788. It was the first Southern state to ratify the Constitution.

Clear-Air Dining

Today in 2007, smoking was banned in Louisiana restaurants, a move that a majority of people have wanted for years. Among them: most restaurateurs, who found the enforcement of smoking and non-smoking sections made both sides angry. Any fears about lost business don’t seem to have come to pass. . . Coincidentally, today in 1966 was the first day on which cigarette packages were required to carry health warnings, the first step along the way to destroying the addictive popularity of what even smokers call “coffin nails.”

Deft Dining Rule #222

The era of the two-course dinner in gourmet restaurants is now officially underway. Any more than that is now considered a major feast. This rule is in conflict with another one that says that the era of small plates is in force.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Basil the Great, a Greek church leader in the Fourth Century, one of the few saints with a food name. We also celebrate St. Macarius of Alexandria. Before he became a monk in 335, he made and sold pastries, candies, and fruit confections. For that reason he is the patron saint of bakers of fancy pastries.

Annals Of Overindulgence Remedies

Aspirin was first sold in tablet form on this date in 1915 by the drug’s inventor, the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. Too bad. They really needed it the day before, the morning after a wild New Year’s Eve party. (Or maybe not. This was right in the middle of World War I.)

Food Namesakes

Defrocked TV minister Jim Bakker (pronounced “baker”) was born today in 1939. . . Perfect-game pitcher, Cy Young Award winner David Cone stepped onto the big mound on this date in 1963. . . Nathaniel Bacon was born today in 1647. He led a power struggle that became known as Bacon’s Rebellion in the early Virginia colony. . . On this day in 1929, Evelyn “Bobbi” Trout set a new women’s world record for flying endurance by being airborne for over twelve hours. . . Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a British explorer of the Antarctic and the author of the well-named Worst Journey In The World, left on his life’s journey today in 1886.

Words To Eat By

“My illness is due to my doctor’s insistence that I drink milk, a whitish fluid they force down helpless babies.”–W.C. Fields.

“The human body has no more need for cows’ milk than it does for dogs’ milk, horses’ milk, or giraffes’ milk.”–Michael Klaper, M.D.

Yeah, but I wouldn’t mind trying all of those!

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