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Diary For Sun., 3/3/2019. Chimes, the favorite restaurant of the Marys and my least favorite. Except for Sunday brunch.

I don’t have a radio show to give forth, which means that I can have lunch with the Marys for a change. Their liking for Chimes has not declined since the last time the three of us got together. My dislike of the Baton Rouge-based sports restaurant hasn’t grown. I will give its kitchen points for having a decidedly Creole- Cajun flavor. That is largely lost by the Mary’s liking for hamburgers there. But there’s lots of gumbo, fried and blackened seafood, red beans, poor boy sandwiches, alligator and boudin.

Also on Chimes’s menu are oysters, both raw and grilled. These were a highlight in the early years of Chimes, but the oyster bar is less impressive than it once was.

But there is something here that I have found consistently good. On Sundays, there’s a brunch menu. Not all of the possibilities are great, but the one I get when the Marys allow me to join them is called Eggs Pontchartrain. It’s poached eggs with bacon and hollandaise. So, more or less eggs Benedict, with a side of grits that reminds me of the grits with eggs stirred in that my mother used to cook in order to get me to eat eggs. It’s a little too thick for my tastes, but I rarely have any room left, Chimes always puts out a massive amounts of food.

The latter half of the day proved to be wonderful. I’ve given up on the malfunctioning computer printer that has been deranging my mind for the past few weeks, and bought a new printer–a simple ink jet job. But I am having problems with it too. All the instructions are in French and Spanish. But trying to decipher the messages I accidentally stumbled on the right combination, and here came a perfectly-printed page. I messed around with it and leaped with joy. I can now function again, at least for now.

Monday, Lundi Gras. 3/4/2019. Preparing for the big WWL Mardi Gras play-by-play tomorrow, I also had to go into town to record the fifteen-second commercial that Dorignac’s Food Center needs for its spots on Ash Wednesday. I have been so busy during the last few days that I took this down to the absolute last deadline. But it did make it onto the air, and everyone involved was taken care of. It’s nice to have a major first-class food market as a sponsor.

But that left a large chunk of the afternoon for me before the regular 3 p.m. radio show. I turned that into an opportunity for me to have lunch somewhere in the neighborhood. I haven’t been to Trenasse, the all-day restaurant in the Hotel Inter-Continental, three blocks from the radio station. It’s another of those restaurants that I think highly of, but where I rarely dine fine for reasons I don’t understand.

I had a simple menu in mind, centered on the excellent oyster bar at Trenasse. I went for a combination of oysters Rockefeller and oysters Intercontinental. The first was the original idea, more or less. The Intercontinental style had a rich, wine-laced stuffing in the shell. Six of each. Before those made their appearances, I had a cup of roasted tomato soup. Very good. The waitress started getting cute. And then, one by one, the management and staff started visiting my rather well-hidden table. I talked with about six of them. Although I don’t look for special treatment, I’m impressed. These folks were very much atop goings-on in their restaurant.

I finished this generous lunch with an oversize dessert platter. It held some five or six items, enough for four people easily. And all very good, in a handsome presentation.

On my way back to the radio station I found an increasing cold wind along Poydras Street. It would only get colder and blow more strongly all the way through the parades of Mardi Gras tomorrow.

Trenasse. CBD: 444 St Charles Ave. 504-680-7000.
The Chimes. Covington: 19130 W Front St. 985-892-5396.

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Shrimp With Vegetables And Sweet-Heat Sauce

Although the best shrimp come in the spring and fall, Louisiana shrimp–which freeze better than any other seafood–allow us always to keep thinking about what might be done with those big ones. I’m not a big fan of shrimp as an entree, but even such as I find recipes that are hard to pass up. This one is the result of my actively trying to invent such a dish. I had two ideas in mind. First was the unexpected affinity between beans and seafood. The other is a love we have for sauces that are both spicy and sweet. What I came up with was a little Asian (although a Chinese cook would have stir-fried this and made it thicker) and a lot Creole.

MiPiace-ShrimpPasta-2

  • Stock:
  • 2 lbs. large shrimp (16-20 count), heads on
  • Leafy tops of a bunch of celery, chopped
  • Stems from a bunch of parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • Peel of 1/2 lemon (can used previously-squeezed lemons)
  • 1 large carrot (or two medium), peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch coins
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced lengthwise into four pieces, then into one-inch sticks
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, any kind
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. mild pepper jelly
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped

1. Peel the shrimp, saving all the shells and heads. Refrigerate the tails. Put the shells into a four-quart saucepan and fill with cold water. Dump the water and refill with about a half-gallon of water. Add the other stock ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower to the lowest setting and simmer for 40 minutes.

2. Strain the stock and discard all the solids. Put the stock back on low heat and allow to reduce while you work on everything else.

3. Put the carrot, celery and green beans into a steamer. Steam until the celery bends without snapping. (You may also boil the vegetables if you don’t have a steamer.) Immediately rise the vegetables in cold water until they are no longer warm to the touch. Set aside.

3. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper until the garlic is fragrant.

4. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Hold it there for a minute, then add about 3/4 cup of shrimp stock. Return to a boil, and reduce the pan contents by about a third.

5. Add the Worcestershire, lemon juice, soy sauce, pepper jelly and salt. Stir until the pepper jelly dissolves, then add the shrimp. Cook the shrimp, agitating or stirring the pan, until the shrimp are pink all over and firm.

6. Stir in the carrots, celery and green beans. Cook until they’re heated through but not soft. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

7. Serve with or on pasta or rice, garnished with chopped fresh parsley.

Serves four entrees.

AlmanacSquare March 7, 2019

Upcoming Deliciousness

St. Patrick’s Day–March 17
St. Joseph’s Day–March 19
Easter–April 21

Annals Of Restaurant Reservations

In 1876 on this date Alexander Graham Bell was granted the patent for the telephone, thereby allowing us to call restaurants to reserve tables. What did people do to get a spot in the dining room before the phone was in widespread use? Perhaps reservations were not needed, or the reservation concept was not in existence. This bears some research.

Annals Of Food Research

Today is the birthday, in 1849, of the botanist Luther Burbank. He developed at least 800 new breeds of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and showed the way to generate many more of them. We owe him a debt for the great diversity of food on our tables.

Today’s Flavor

It is Crown Roast of Pork Day. This is what passed for gourmet food in America during the first half of the 1900s. It is a grand presentation: an entire rack of pork chops curled in a circle, with some sort of stuffing in the center. However, no part of the dish cooks well. The chops themselves get steamed more than roasted, and that makes them either too tough if cooked to the proper temperature, or juiceless if cooked beyond that. This is one we ought to rename Crown Roast of Pork Memorial Day.

This is also noted as National Cereal Day. That’s because on this date in 1897, Dr. John Kellogg began serving corn flakes to the patients in a mental hospital. His brother William K. Kellogg, who started the cereal company that bears his name, improved on the flakes by adding sugar to them to make them taste better. The two Kellogg guys had some nutty ideas about health, but they did introduce a great new way to incorporate more grains into the modern diet.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Catfish Paradise is a fishing hamlet on the Arizona side of a marshy reservoir off the Colorado River. It’s across from Needles, California–a town famous for its frequently being the hottest place in America on a given day. The old Route 66 passed nearby, as did I-40 and the Santa Fe Railroad. Doesn’t sound like a great place for fishing, but indeed there are catfish in there. And crappie (a.k.a. “gaspergou,” various bass, and bullfrogs. The nearest interesting restaurant is Munchy’s, in downtown Needles.

Edible Dictionary

Dutch baby, n.–An unusual kind of pancake, made by baking a rather light, runny, eggy batter in a preheated cast-iron skillet in a very hot oven. As it bakes, it spreads, forcing the sides to rise above the rim of the skillet. The texture is like that of a soufflee, but a little heavier. The classic way to serve it is with a squeeze of lemon juice and powdered sugar. A Dutch baby is a smaller and more popular version of the German pancake, which is a bit harder to handle at home. Both were made popular by the Original Pancake House, an old, loose chain of breakfast specialists around the country.

Ancient History Today

Today in 321, Emperor Constantine decreed that the official weekly day off for the Roman Empire would be Sunday, the day honoring the pagan sun gods. Although most (but not all) Christians already considered Sunday their day of worship and rest, Constantine’s prominence as the first Christian emperor definitively gave mainstream acceptance to Sunday over Saturday. So you have Constantine to blame for the Sunday closing of the restaurant you really wanted to dine in. And for Sunday brunch.

Deft Dining Rule #128:

Sunday is the chef’s day off, and tied with Monday for the worst day to dine in an ambitious restaurant. This remains true for Sunday brunch–unless that’s the only time any local people ever go to the place. The very finest restaurants admit the accuracy of this rule by closing on Sundays and Mondays.

The Saints

Today is the dual feast day of St. Felicity and St. Perpetua, who were friends and both patron saints of cows. (Don’t even think “Holy cow!”)

Food Namesakes

Tammy Faye Bakker, the televangelist with the overdone makeup, was born today in 1942. . . Matthew Fisher, who plays the baroque-sounding organ on Procol Harem’s A Whiter Shade of Pale, was born today in 1946. . . Rachel Rice, actress, model, and English teacher in Wales, began to live today in 1984.

Words To Eat By

“If I go down for anything in history, I would like to be known as the person who convinced the American people that catfish is one of the finest eating fishes in the world.”–Willard Scott, born today in 1934.

Words To Drink By

“The greatest luxury of riches is that they enable you to escape so much good advice.”–Sir Arthur Helps, British writer, who was born on this date in 1813, and died on this date in 1875.