DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Wednesday, January 17, 2018. I awakened five times through the Wednesday-Thursday night. The temperature was predicted to get down to the low teens. In the twenty-nine years we’ve lived at the Cool Water Ranch, we’ve never had a broken water pipe. I do have insulation an almost every inch of the system, but the temps have only rarely have gone down this far.

I made the rounds of the faucets and facilities around the house every few hours. One pipe ends in a thin stream of water coming out of a brass faucet. Or it should have. The faucet involved was now frozen. When I poured some hot water over it, it came back to life with very little force.

Later in the day, I saw that one of the toilets had stop refilling after flushing. I couldn’t get at it with hot water, but after a half-hour or so, it started working at full capacity again. And that would be the only problem I would observe.

But I regret is not having installed the skirts I used to hang around the crawl space. Having those keeps the underside of the house much warmer. Hanging the skirts was something son Jude used to do at the beginning of the cold-weather seasons. But he has his own family and problems to take care of now. In more treacherous situations: his house in Los Angeles is not an unimaginable distance from the forest fires that set records this year.

We cooked up a dinner of miscellaneous refrigerator food. MA made another sizzling broiled oyster-and-garlic appetizer. She broiled some Italian sausages that came our way some months. ago. Tasty. The three of us (the Marys and I) had an enjoyable evening in the kitchen.

The word from the restaurant world is that there was so much ice on the roads that most eateries were closed for the day. Their employees were having a rough time getting to the job. The Marys went out on an errand and came back saying that the roads were scary. Which is something for bold MA to say. The Causeway has been closed since late yesterday.

The radio station once again shut down for most of the day, although I have the capability for doing my show from home, and I did. I offered to inform the public of restaurants that were open today, and hoped that those calls would be enough to build listening to a conversation upon. Not so. The people who might have been on the way home on a normal night were not listening to their car radios.

It got even colder and persisted longer today than yesterday. But all my precautions held, and I was able to sleep better.

Thursday, January 18, 2018. Defeating Cold Weather, Mostly.

The Causeway was open almost the entire day, and things were returning to normal from Abita Springs to downtown New Orleans. And I was more than ready for that. Having dined in restaurants every day for many years, I feel trapped, out of place, deprived, and otherwise helpless. I ate only my spartan breakfast as usual, then nothing until dinnertime.

By that time, we had a reservation at Keith Young’s Steak House. Today is the thirteenth anniversary of Keith and Linda’s opening of the restaurant, which has become one of the two or three best and most successful restaurants on the North Shore. MA loves Keith and his restaurant, and so do I. We begin with oysters Bienville for two, an assortment of sides served as appetizers, and one fourteen-ounce (that would almost be a Chateaubriand) filet in sizzling butter. We observe that we are not the only ones who wanted to leave our homes after the previous four days. Even if that meant going out into sixteen-degree surroundings.

Back at home, I see that the forecast is for continuously freezing temps until well into Friday. (The thermometer at home says eleven degrees.) But there has been no more wintry mix or other ice on the the roads since the batch three nights ago. And thank goodness. The deck outside our kitchen is covered with almost enough ice to go ice skating. And I feel it necessary to check the faucets four times during the night. No problems.
Keith Young’s Steak House. Madisonville: 165 LA 21. 985-845-9940.


Crawfish Pie

I don’t really like crawfish pie the way it’s usually made–as a thickened crawfish etouffee baked in a little pie shell. This version is a bit richer, more herbal (with an up-front garlic tinge), and less red-peppery. It’s also folded into a triangle of phyllo pastry, and comes out looking like a Middle Eastern spinach pie. That eliminates the worst part of the standard crawfish pie–the fat-logged crust. You can also make these using small vol-au-vents (“patty shells”). Resist the temptation to add cheese of any kind.

The crawfish season is just beginning, but the kind of crawfish used for this dish (pre-picked crawfish tails) have become easy to find in the markets.

Crawfish pie in vol-au-vent pastry (also known as patty shells.)

  • 2 cups Louisiana crawfish tails
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 4 Tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. fresh, finely chopped garlic
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half, warmed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 slices bacon, fried crisp, drained, then crumbled
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dill
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Phyllo pastry sheets

1. If the crawfish tails are very large, cut them into two or three pieces.

2. Heat the butter over medium heat in a saucepan until it bubbles, then stir in the flour and make a blond roux. Don’t allow the roux to brown.

3. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and add the warmed half-and-half. Whisk until the sauce thickens to the texture of light mashed potatoes. Add half of the beaten egg and whisk until blended in.

4. Add add the crawfish and all the other ingredients except the phyllo and the remaining beaten egg. Simmer, stirring once or twice, for about two minutes. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

5. Unfold the phyllo pastry and separate ten sheets. Wrap the remainder and return to the box and the refrigerator. Cut the phyllo sheets into three strips, four to five inches wide and twelve to fourteen inches long. Dampen a clean towel and keep it on top of the phyllo you’re not yet using to prevent its drying out.

6. Spoon about two tablespoons of the crawfish mixture onto one end of two thicknesses of phyllo strips. Brush lightly with egg at the other end. Fold the phyllo over the filling at a 45-degree angle, and keep folding over till the end. Seal the edges with your fingers. Set the finished triangles on a greased baking sheet and continue making more until all the filling is gone.

7. Bake the triangles in a 400-degree oven until browned and crisp. Serve immediately, or keep warm for an hour or less.

Serves eight to twelve.

AlmanacSquare January 19, 2017

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras–26
Valentine’s Day–27

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Popcorn Day. The Popcorn Board has abunch of popcorn recipes on its site, along with history and FAQ’s about the stuff. We can’t live without popcorn. It’s essential for the movies, of course. But it’s also helpful when you’re trying to lose weight. The Boy Scouts sell great microwave popcorn every year. Popcorn was the first food tested in a microwave oven. My last Golden Retriever, who died in 2005, was named Popcorn. Popcorn is omnipresent.

Popcorn is such a popular snack that it has been studied intensively. The most fascinating discovery was explained by Orville Redenbacher, when he appeared on my radio show a long time ago. He said some kernels pop into mushrooms” (industry jargon for rounded pieces) and others into “butterflies” (with what look like wings). Orville, who did a lot of popcorn research, said that the mushrooms look better but the butterflies taste better.

New Orleans Icons

Today is the birthday of Robert E. Lee, in 1807. Northerners are still amused that we still honor him as a hero in the South. His Confederacy gig may have ruined his national reputation, but he was a brilliant man. His main remembrance in New Orleans until a few months ago was Lee Circle, with its commanding statue facing defiantly north. Several restaurants that have opened there over the years, but none of them have lasted long. And now the statue is gone, too.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Soup Bean Branch is in the North Carolina, near the Tennessee state line. (For some reason, we find more food-named places around there than any other part of the country.) It’s a little stream that runs on the west side of the Blue Ridge in the Appalachians, in pretty, hilly, wooded countryside. The water of Soup Bean Branch runs through intermediate streams into the New River, then the Kanawah, then the Ohio, and finally the Mississippi–which brings it past the French Quarter in New Orleans. It’s a long, very circuitous route for that soup. The nearest place to eat is the intriguing Thurl’s Music Hall, just over the state line in the well-named Mountain City, Tennessee.

Edible Dictionary

lychee, [LEE-chee], Chinese, n.–lychee [LEE-chee], n.–A sweet fruit about an inch in diameter, grown and much liked in China for at least two thousand years. It can be found fresh as well as canned. The latter is found in most Chinese restaurants as a dessert. It has a flavor somewhere between that of a pear and a sweet grape. The lychee is the fruit of an evergreen tree native to the southern, semi-tropical parts of China where part of the year is dry. (They’re grown in Florida in this country.) Lychees have rough red skins that turn brown shortly after being picked. Although it’s often called “lychee nut,” it’s not a nut, although it does have an inedible seed that might suggest that.

Deft Dining Rule #958:

Buttered popcorn is better in theory than in practice. That’s not butter, it’s grease.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Don’t let anybody tell you that better popcorn can be made in a pan than in a microwave oven. It was once true, but is no longer. Unless you have an industrial-strength popper.

Celebrity Chefs Today

Television personality, cookbook author, and Savannah, Georgia restaurateur Paula Deen was born today in 1947. Her entire presentation involves Southern homestyle cooking, which she delivers with a famous drawl and charm. That’s very big right now, and so is she, as she comes back from that slip of the tongue of a couple of years ago.

Food Through History

King Louis XVI was sentenced to death on this day in 1793, as the French Revolution hit its stride. Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, ruled over a period of excess and decadence among the French aristocracy. It’s this over-the-top grandeur that Mark Smith and George Huber (both of whom passed away in 2004) had in mind when they named their new French restaurant after the last ancien regime king of France. When it opened in 1970, Louis XVI French Restaurant was unparalleled for hauteur in the annals of New Orleans dining. The city’s gourmets took to Louis XVI warmly. Few thought the formality, Frenchness, and high prices would last long. But the restaurant was a success for thirty-five years, until Katrina. Louis XVI has not reopened as an a la carte restaurant since Katrina, although it does serve private parties and occasional wine dinners.

Annals Of Restaurant Marketing

The neon tube light used to make advertising signs was patented in the United States today in 1915 by Frenchman George Claude. Expensive at first, neon signs took a few years to catch on. But they soon transformed outdoor advertising. Some local restaurants–notably Acme Oyster House and the extinct Toney’s Spaghetti House–became famous for their neon displays.

Food Patents

Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum became a patented trademark today in 1915, allowing many sets of twins to get acting work in television commercials for the chaw. . . Two New Yorkers patented a process for safely canning oysters and other seafood on this date in 1825. Every time I see oysters in a can I wonder how they do that, and who would want the results.

Food Namesakes

Lysander Spooner, an American philosopher and abolitionist, was born today in 1808. . . Famous billiards player Minnesota Fats (real name Rudolf Wanderone) was born today in 1913.

Words To Eat By

“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”–Paul Cezanne, French painter, was born today in 1839.

Words To Drink By

“Whiskey—I like it, I always did, and that is the reason I never use it.”–Robert E. Lee, born today in 1807.


TheFate Of Most Daily Restaurant Specials.

Even if they’re delicious, chances are that they will never be touched again by a fork.

Click here for the cartoon.

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