Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

Cheers!

June 19, 2013
Luke O'Neil's rye based "Red Dwarf" cocktail, a traditional Manahattan and some snacks.

Luke O’Neil’s rye based “Red Dwarf” cocktail, a traditional Manahattan and some snacks.

Man and Woman cannot live on bread alone.

You have to wash it down with something.

Over the past several years my taste in adult beverages has expanded beyond basic beer, wine, spirits to include cocktails.

While I’m partial to a few classics, I have been inspired by my travels and reading to try different drinks now and again. Acquiring the ingredients for various libations leads to a modestly well-stocked bar

So, when friend Lou Krefski who recently relocated to Ludlow, Vermont from nearby Bucks County, Pennsylvania, sent me a suggested drink recipe, it was no surprise I had the required ingredients on hand.

Lou had seen an article and accompanying drink recipe in the Boston Globe. Writer Luke O’Neil had come up with a New Orleans-inspired cocktail that he puts up against the venerable Sazerac and Boulevardier (old and new favorites of mine, respectively) and the Cocktail a la Louisiane.

O’Neil took what he had on hand, rye, Campari, absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters together and was pleased with the result. The drink has been dubbed the Red Dwarf for the purpose of the article. The name will probably need to be changed as there is already a rum drink that goes by that name.

No matter what you call it, this cocktail is worth having in your repertory.

It’s always five o’clock somewhere.

The Red Dwarf*

  • 2 1/2 ounces good rye whisky
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 teaspoon absinthe or pastis
  • 2 big dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • strip of orange peel

In a large shaker filled with ice, combine the ingredients. Stir.

Strain into a chilled, double Old Fashioned glass, twist an orange peel over the glass.

*Not to be confused with the white rum drink with the same name.

 

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Memories and taste

April 7, 2013

After I graduated from college, I stayed in the greater St. Louis area for a couple of years. As was our custom, my roommate and I would treat each other to a night out for our birthdays (which happened to be just 10 days apart).

It was around this time that I really started developing my fascination with all things New Orléans: the music and the food especially. So for my birthday, we went to a place called Bobby’s Creole (now gone, I believe).

One of the specials on the blackboard that evening was “BBQ Shrimp.”  I’ve always been a shrimp lover and I’m fond of BBQ. What could be wrong?

When my entrée came out I was just slightly surprised. Instead of a plate, I was delivered a bowl of the sort in which you might be served pasta or a soup.  In the bowl were two of the largest shrimp I had ever seen. (These were probably U10’s meaning there were under 10 shrimp to a pound with an average being about five per pound or each shrimp weighing just over three ounces).

The shrimp were headless, but in the shell. They were also sitting in a clear, mahogany colored sauce and resting on a sediment of what turned out to be herbs and spices. On the side was a plate of crusty baguette.

While not what I had envisioned, I was game to try this dish and I am forever grateful that I did!

The only way to eat the shrimp was to pick them up and peel them with my hands. Once the shells were off, I was free to dip the shrimp in the sauce, nibble a bite and repeat.

The sauce was a butter-laden broth with a rich, herbal flavor and just the right amount of cayenne induced heat.

When the shrimp were gone, the bread was used for sopping up the remaining sauce. EXCELLENT!

A memorable meal with a great friend and a great experience.

***

Several years later, acknowledging my growing fascination with New Orléans/Louisiana culture, food and music, my sistCCCookbooker gave me a copy of Terry Thompson’s Cajun – Creole Cooking cookbook for Christmas. In that book was a recipe for “Peppered Shrimp” that struck a familiar chord when I read it.

Sure enough, the first time I made that dish and tasted it my mind flashed back to my meal at Bobby’s Creole in University City, St. Louis County, Missouri. I’d found it! I’d found a way to make that dish I had enjoyed so much.

It should be noted that there was not yet an internet; no Google; no Ask Jeeves, etc. to help with research.

***

When I finally got to New Orleans, it was about a decade or so after my introduction to BBQ (or, more often, Barbeque) Shrimp. My wife and I met my former roommate and his wife in the Crescent City for a long weekend. Of the many places we ate, we had dinner one night at the Chez Helene outpost in the French Quarter.

Chez Helene was a long time, local favorite restaurant that had received some notice as being the inspiration for Chez Louisiane in the Tim Reid/Hugh Wilson TV sitcom Frank’s PlaceIn the wake of the show’s short but very popular run, the French Quarter location was opened in an attempt to capture some of the tourist trade that didn’t want to be bothered to travel to the original location downtown on N. Robertson St.

So it was that we, as “tourists”, wandered into Chez Helene for dinner. Our order was easy for our server…the women ordered the Shrimp Creole, the men the Barbeque Shrimp. The rendition was quite good. Messy and rich, but not as hot as the Shrimp Creole (a fact we still laugh about today).

***

Over the years, I’ve made this dish for company, family or just the two of us. It was once the subject of a friendly dinner competition between a former employer and myself. I’ve also eaten it on subsequent trips to New Orléans (at Mr. B’s Bistro, for one place). The now defunct Penny’s Ribs restaurant here in Trenton had a passable version as a special menu item. It remains a favorite.

It always comes to mind around Mardi Gras, my birthday or when I’m dreaming of or recovering from a trip to New Orléans (as we just recently made over Easter weekend).

For the sake of gentility and ease of consumption, we sometimes prepare this with shelled, deveined shrimp. However, this dish is at its absolute best madewith shell-on and, when available, head-on shrimp. Regardless, good bread to sop up the juice is required. Add a salad and some white wine for a pleasing, if messy, meal.

BBQShrimp

New Orléans style BBQ Shrimp

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of shrimp stock or bottled clam juice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon good smoked paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (or more if you like) cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds, shell-on (head-on, if available) shrimp. (NOTE: you don’t want anything smaller than “large” shrimp that run about 31 – 35 per pound. You can go as large as you like/can find, but we generally prefer the “jumbo” or “extra jumbo” that are 21 – 25 or 16 – 20 shrimp per pound respectively).

Rinse shrimp under cold running water and set aside to drain.

In a large, wide skillet or heavy dutch oven type pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the stock, wine and lemon juice and let come up to a simmer.  Add the herbs and spices, stir and simmer for about 20 minutes. The sauce should turn a lovely mahogany color and give off a very appetizing aroma.

Toss in the shrimp and stir to coat with the sauce. Let cook for 10 – 12 minutes over medium heat until all the shrimp have turned a lovely pink and have curled slightly.  Spoon into bowls with some of the sauce. Serve with good, crusty bread, a salad and some of the white wine.

Serves 2 – 4 people.

A brisket for all seasons

February 19, 2013

BrisketSand1

Who doesn’t love beef brisket?

Here on the East Coast, most people know and like it brined (corned beef). In Texas, it is a prime cut for long slow cooking (smoked). And then, of course, the ultimate brined and smoked brisket that is steamed (pastrami).

Years ago during one of our trips to New Orleans, we dined at Tujague’s. Reportedly the second oldest restaurant in a city known for all levels of dining, Tujague’s is more of a local favorite than a “tourists must visit” kind of place. It is not often written about in the foodie mags. It is, in its own way, a classic and one that in my opinion is worth seeking out.

One of the house specialties at Tujague’s is their “boiled brisket.” Nothing could be more humble in name yet more superlative in flavor.

Sometime after that trip, I discovered, on the restaurant’s website, their recipe for this dish. Since that time, I have made this brisket at least once year, usually served with latkes as part of my Hanukkah celebration honoring the Jewish part of my heritage. It amuses me that I prepare a New Orleans Creole brisket recipe to celebrate Hanukkah. This provides a rare opportunity for me to combine my love of New Orleans, my French (my maternal great-great-grandparents entered this country at the port of New Orleans) and my Jewish family.

Recently, I had been overtaken by a strong craving for the brisket and so we purchased a seven pounder from the local BJ’s and I cooked it up for Sunday dinner with friends.

Preparing for our trip next month, yesterday I happened to be checking NOLA.com, the website of the New Orleans Times Picayune. In one of those quirky little coincidences,. I came across a story about the passing of one Steven Latter, the proprietor of Tujague’s It was interesting to read about how he and his brother took over the restaurant without any real food service experience and preserved this treasure.  Mr. Slatter (who, by the way, was Jewish) eventually bought his brother out to become the sole owner. Reading about him made me a little sad that I hadn’t actually met him as I think we might have enjoyed each other’s company.

I read the story and was contemplating what it might mean for the future of the restaurant. Sometimes, owners can be more than just the “boss” at a restaurant; they may provide the very soul of the establishment. As I mused on this, I noticed a link to a story from last year that talked about how great the “brisket sandwich” was. The sandwich was basically a roast beef poor boy/po’boy (the New Orleans version of a “hoagie” or “sub”) made with the house brisket and available only at the bar.

Aha!  Now I knew what I would do with some of the leftovers from Sunday’s brisket.

This noon, I ran out to Italian Peoples’ Bakery and picked up a loaf of their stick bread.

Back home, I made the sandwich and I was not disappointed.

Thank you, Mr. Slatter, for keeping Tujague’s traditions. 

 BrisketSand2

Boiled Brisket Po’ Boy

  • 12” length of good French or Italian stick bread sliced almost but not quite all the way through and opened up.
  • 5 ounces of leftover boiled brisket (see recipe below) warmed, slightly
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Fresh tomato slices
  • 2 Tbs Creole mustard (or dark, coarse grained mustard)
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbs prepared horseradish (or two taste)

“Dress” the bread with the mustard, mayo and horseradish. Add slices of tomato in one layer, then a light layer of lettuce. Cover evenly with slices of brisket (I warmed mine for one minute in the microwave). Close bread, using back edge of long knife to kind of stuff the filling back in while pressing down on the top of the bread with the palm of your free hand. Cut into two lengths and enjoy.  (I ate this myself but it would probably feed two normal people)

Boiled Brisket ala Tujague’s

  • Fresh beef brisket (about 4 pounds)
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ tbs. salt
  • 12 whole black peppercorns

Put the beef brisket in a coup pot, having trimmed excess fat. Add the onions, celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer slowly for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until brisket is very tender. When the brisket is ready, remove it form the pot, drain, and slice to serve. Serve brisket with horseradish sauce on the side.

Horseradish sauce

  • ½ cup horseradish
  • ½ cup Creole mustard
  • 1 cup Catsup.

Blend and chill.

 

Crawfish Monica

February 8, 2013
Crawfish Monica with sweet pepper garnish

Crawfish Monica with sweet pepper garnish

If you know me, you know that Thursday is “pasta night.”  There is little variation from that. It was the way it was as I was coming up and it is the way I prefer it now.

Unfortunately, every 1st and 3rd Thursday is also city council night. As such, I am often attending the meeting, which starts at 5;30 pm, and that throws dinner off schedule.

Last night, cold, damp, grey, was a council night. And a pasta night.

It was also the Thursday before Mardi Gras and just a few days after the Superbowl played in the Superdome, so I was especially attuned to New Orleans food inspirations.

In discussing dinner early in the day, I teasingly tossed out the idea of having Crawfish Monica for dinner. While we had everything we needed on hand (including the crawfish tailmeat), the evening’s schedule wasn’t condusive to an involved dinner prep.

We decided that pasta e fagioli would pass muster for Thursday night’s dinner. It could be slow simmered sans pasta until I was on my way home from city hall.

But the crawfish monica stuck in my mind.

With the threatened Snow-easter scheduled to come in overnight, we were prepared to batten down the hatches, have an adult beverage or two, build a fire and enjoy a relaxing dinner.

Crawfish Monica seemed to fit the bill.

It’s a rich dish. Fortunately, it is also satisfying so you don’t need to consume tons.

The dish screams NOLA! It is comforting and slightly decadent.  And it let afforded me the opportunity to have pasta two nights in a row.

Here’s a version of the dish from Emeril Lagasse and found on the Go Nola website.

Crawfish Monica

  • 1 pound linguine or fettucine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound crawfish tails*
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return to the pot and toss with the olive oil and reserved cooking liquid. Cover to keep warm.

In a large saute pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Essence, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the white wine and cook over high heat until nearly all evaporated. Add the cream lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced. Add the crawfish tails and cook, stirring, to warm through. Add the onions and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Cook until the pasta is warmed through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Turn out into a serving bowl and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Serves 6 – 8

*What? You don’t have crawfish tailmeat in the freezer? Why not? Check the frozen seafood section of your favorite supermarket or fish monger. You can order it online from Cajun Grocer. I know, it is not cheap. Splurge and get a couple of pounds to keep in the freezer. You never know when you might want to make some crawfish etoufee or crawfish cheesebread (a recipe I’ll get around to posting someday).  And if you can’t find the crawfish tailmeat or don’t want to order it, use the small “salad” shrimp that are readily available in the grocery store.

Just remember to rename the dish, SHRIMP Monica.

A good night for a good woman’s chicken

January 11, 2013

PouletalaBonneFemme

It’s that time of year again when my mind and tastes turn to all things New Orleans. Carnival season officially started on January 6 (3 Kings Day/Epiphany) and runs until Mardi Gras…the day before Ash Wednesday. Even as I fret about the post holiday “bloat”, I find myself planning if/when I’ll make a King Cake; who I will share Muffalettas with; when I’ll make my next batch of “Jersey Street Gumbo,” etc. My pre-dinner Negroni or Manhattan morphs into a Sazerac; the medieval influenced Christmas carols segue into the second line and rumba rhythms.

Therefore, it really wasn’t a surprise that the daily question of “what do you want for dinner tonight” was answered with a dish from the Cajun/Creole canon. “Chicken a la Bonne Femme.”

I’m told the name means “Good woman’s chicken” or “Good wife’s chicken.” What it is, is just plain G-O-O-D!

While there are myriad vTalkAboutGood!ersions of preparing this dish, we have always stuck with the recipe we found in this book:

We picked this up on our first trip to New Orleans back in 1989. We bought its sequel on our second trip a year later. We use them as much for reference and inspiration as we do for actually preparing all the recipes from them. The recipe for Chicken Bonne Femme is one we do go back to often. It’s a little labor intensive but rustic, satisfying and oh so tasty. Unfortunately, this recipe is for a company-sized meal (serves 8).

On this damp, chilly night when we were craving the dish, we sought a way to scale it down.

Using what we had at the ready, we were able to put together a very tasty rendition of this homey dish just the right size for us.

Give this a try…the “small version” for two. Add a bottle of wine and simple salad. It’s a real big easy…

Chicken Bonne Femme (for two)

(Poulet bonne femme pour deux)

  • 3/4 to 1 pound chicken thighs
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, skin left on, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 pound thin sliced pancetta
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced thinly
  • Salt, pepper and red (cayenne) pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 10 inch, ovenproof skillet, cook the pancetta slices over medium low heat until nicely browned. Remove from pan and reserve.

Increase heat to medium and in the fat that has rendered out from the pancetta, lightly brown the chicken thighs (about 3 minutes per side.) Season well with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.

Brown the sliced potatoes in the remaining drippings 2 or 3 minutes per side. Add a little olive oil if need be to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Remove from pan.

In same skillet, layer some of the chicken thighs, the potatoes, some of the crisped pancetta and some of the onions. Repeat layers as needed to use up ingredients.

NOTE: don’t be afraid to season the potatoes as you layer them into the pan; you can be assertive with the seasoning of this dish.

Cover the pan and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 more.

Remove from oven and plate up. Serves 2.

Muffuletta: King of sandwiches?

February 10, 2010

A large part of traveling is eating.  How can you really know a place if you don’t become familiar with the local treats? And that includes sandwiches.

We’ve sampled a lot of them: lobster rolls in Maine and Martha’s Vineyard; Cheese steaks and Roast Pork in Philly; Italian Beef in Chicago; Amighetti’s in St. Louis; Fat Burger in L.A. and let’s not forget Trenton’s own Pork Roll and Cheese.

But one thing we never miss when in New Orléans is a Muffuletta. When made right, with good quality meats and cheese and an excellent olive salad, I’ll put this sandwich up against all others.  Strangely, though, you can seldom find it available outside of the Crescent City.

A large round loaf of bread sliced in half horizontally and filled with Italian lunchmeats (usually, capicola, genoa salame, mortadella), provolone cheese and a wonderful dressing of olive salad.  There is something about this sandwich that beats all others.

Central Grocery in the French Quarter is often considered the home of this wonderful sandwich…and indeed we’ve visited many times.  Good examples can be found elsewhere in the Big Easy as well.

What’s even better is the fact that you can make your own easily enough.  The lunch meats are readily available just about anywhere in the country, as are decent round loaves of Italian bread.  The one glitch is the olive salad. 

Sure, you can order it from Central Grocery via any number of internet sites.

Muffuletta olive salad in the works

But you can also make your own.

I’ve been making it for years from a recipe found in Cajun-Creole Cooking by Terry Thompson.  (one of my favorite cook books, by the way).

  • 1 (32-oz) jar broken green (unstuffed) olives
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (3 1/4 oz) jars marinated cocktail onions, drained
  • 4 celery stalks, halved lengthwise, sliced thin
  • 1 (4 oz) jar chopped pimentos, drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Drain olives, reserving 3 tablespoons brine. In a medium bowl, combine olives, garlic, onions, celery, pimentos and capers. In a small bowl, whisk reserved olive brine, oregano, pepper and vinegar until combined.  Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, Pour dressing over salad; toss. Spoon into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate until served or up to 3 weeks. Serve at room temperature.  Makes about 5 cups.

The finished salad ready to be jarred and put in the fridge to marinate

Once you’ve assembled the ingredients it takes little time to produce a batch of good, really good, olive salad.  Make it up at least a day ahead of when you want to use it to give the flavors a chance to marinate and meld together.

Then go out and get yourself the meat and cheese and bread to build a muffuletta of your own. That’s exactly what I plan to do as soon as we dig out from today’s snow storm. 

Just in case I can’t get out right away, the salad is also good tossed with fresh cooked pasta or as a topping on pizza.