April 9

Oyster Soup

It's <strong>National Oyster Soup Day. </strong>Enough people have called and written me lately about that dish that it seems perfect timing. Oysters are still meaty enough that they don't shrivel in the broth. ¶ The classic oyster soup is made by straining and reducing as much oyster liquor as you can get your hands on, adding a bit of butter, salt, thyme, and green onions, and slipping the oysters into the simmering liquid a few minutes before serving. ¶ They're perfect when they seem to inflate and get curly edges. ¶ Another good approach is to make a medium-dark roux and using that instead of the milk, to make a sort of oyster gumbo. Some chefs make a terrific oyster soup by stirring some of the sauce you'd use on oysters Rockefeller into the broth. It's all good.

Days Until. . .

Jazz Festival 16

Roots Of New Orleans Food

René-Robert Cavelier de la Salle found the mouth of the Mississippi River today in 1682. On that basis, he declared that river and its valley--quite a lot of territory--were the property of France. Those lands took on, to some degree at least, a measure of French culture, instead of Spanish or British. New Orleans, the capital of the colony, became the most thoroughly French city in America. That difference lingers to this day. Although French cooking can be found in any town with a significant restaurant community, a unique kind of French food has dominated the diets of Orleanians for almost three hundred years.

Today's Flavor

It's National Oyster Soup Day. Enough people have called and written me lately about that dish that it seems perfect timing. Oysters are still meaty enough that they don't shrivel in the broth. The classic oyster soup is made by straining and reducing as much oyster liquor as you can get your hands on, adding a bit of butter, salt, thyme, and green onions, and slipping the oysters into the simmering liquid a few minutes before serving. They're perfect when they seem to inflate and get curly edges. Another good approach is to make a medium-dark roux and using that instead of the milk, to make a sort of oyster gumbo. Some chefs make a terrific oyster soup by stirring some of the sauce you'd use on oysters Rockefeller into the broth. It's all good.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The water in an oyster is a living thing
Its flavor's as fresh as a day in spring
Open those shells and make some bubbles
The soup rewards all your troubles.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Dairy is near the southern state line of Oregon, a nineteen-mile drive from Klamath Falls. There is no dairy there. It was named by William Roberts, one of the first settlers in the area, because that was the name of the town he came from. Dairy is a crossroads on the edge of the Yonna Valley, farming country between two mountain ridges that tower 1000 feet above the valley. There is a restaurant there, however: it's O'Connor's Irish Pub and Diner. I wonder if it's foolish to ask for a glass of milk there.

Art Of Wine

Victor Vaserely was born today in 1908. He was the leading proponent of Op Art--creating abstract illusions with perspective and geometric patterns. He designed the first of the Artist Series for Champagne Taittinger, with an original Op Art piece in blue, silver, and black, for the 1978 vintage. I have a single unopened bottle of it in the original box in my "cellar," and I expect it will bring four figures in a charity auction someday.

People We'd Like To Have Dinner With

Dennis Quaid was born today in 1954. I'd like to know where he got the accent he used in his New Orleans-based movie, The Big Easy. Nobody I know around here talks like that.

Edible Dictionary

cumin, n.--A spice made by grinding the dried seeds from a plant in the umbellifera family. (Which also includes carrots, parsley, fennel, celery, and dill.) It grows wild in many areas, most especially in Syria, from which it is believed to have originated. It has been used in cooking for at least 4000 years. Although it seems unlikely, it is one of the most commonly-used spices in the world. It is truly cosmopolitan, turning up in dishes as far-flung as Indian curry, Tex-Mexican sauces, Szechuan and other Chinese cuisines, Texas chili con carne, and some Cajun seasoning mixes. (Chef Paul Prudhomme has always liked it.) Cumin has a distinctive, aromatic flavor, one not liked by everyone--especially if it appears where not expected. And a little of it goes a long way. Keep cumin in the back of your mind, but use it sparingly.

Food Namesakes

English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon died today in 1626. His death, of a very bad cold, was the indirect result attributed to an experiment he undertook involving freezing food. He stuffed a chicken with snow to see if it could be kept from going bad that way. . . John Updike's book Rabbit At Rest (the penultimate volume in the Rabbit series) won the Pulitzer Prize today in 1991. . . Frank King, who created the comic strip "Gasoline Alley," was born today in 1883. Whenever the current artist depicts a hot dog stand in the strip, its name is "Frank King." . . . Movie actor Nathan Cook was born today in 1950. . . Sharkey Bonano was born in New Orleans in 1904. He was a jazz trumpeter, and almost has a rare double food name.

Words To Eat By

"I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime associates, food, for me, has always been an adventure." --Anthony Bourdain.

Words To Drink By

"Liqueurs were not lacking; but the coffee especially deserves mention. It was as clear as crystal, aromatic and wonderfully hot; but, above all, it was not handed around in those wretched vessels called cups on the left banks of the Seine, but in beautiful and capacious bowls, into which the thick lips of the reverend fathers plunged, engulfing the refreshing beverage with a noise that would have done honor to sperm-whales before a storm."--Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.