Food Day Satsuma Peel, Tomorrow, Oct. 24.

October 24 has been designated by somebody as National Food Day. We’ll brush past the matter of whether or not every day is food day and note that its purpose is to focus attention on the need for more food in certain places for certain people, all over the world. Those of us who eat mostly for enjoyment must ever be ready to help those who don’t have enough (or good enough) food to live well.

Tomorrow, after a half-hour presentation on the state of food around the world, there will be a satsuma peeling contest. It’s not clear how one can become part of this, but show up at 11:30 in Washington Artillery Park. (That’s across Decatur Street from Jackson Square, betweem the Cafe du Monde and the Jax Brewery.) You will likely to get a few satsumas. Those loose-peeled treats are at the peak of their season right now, with Plaquemines Parish leading the harvest.

So whether you show up or not, eat a few satsumas and think about how many people would love to be eating them with you.

NOMenu invites restaurants or organizations with upcoming special events to tell us, so we might add the news to this free department. Send to news@nomenu.com.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014.
Home. Trouble. An Indelicate Delicacy.

Even though I’ve broadcast from home two or three days a week for twenty years (what a reliable piece of equipment that gadget has been!), problems occasionally crop up. Today, for example, we were twenty-five minutes late getting on the air–a mortal sin in broadcasting. I was relieved (sort of) to learn that it had nothing to do with me. A scheduling snafu had nobody at the controls in the studio. Oh, well. The first hour of the show is weak anyway. Most of my listeners are actually eating lunch instead of listening to me suggest what they might have for that meal.

Mary Ann finds that something in the mail she thought was a solicitation from the St. Tammany Parish government was in fact a summons to me for jury duty in two weeks. This is the first time I’ve been called in ten years, and my third recruitment since we moved to the North Shore. At that pace, this will be my last time to be pressed into jury service. After seventy, one is finished unless one wants to serve.

Of course, this will throw a monkey wrench into my other activities. A remote broadcast planned for the big food show at the Convention Center will have to get along without me. The daily radio show itself will need patching. There is no time for me to pre-record even the commercials, let alone the whole show. Most frustrating of all, when I am interviewed in the voir dire process, when it comes out that I’m an active member of the news media I am instantly rejected. The only time I actually served on a jury was in 1974, when I was unknown. But there’s no getting around my having to hang around the courthouse waiting for the call. I view it as my duty as a citizen. But. . .

Chicken with two sauces and pasta.

The Marys and I have dinner at New Orleans Food and Spirits. It occurs to me that today is the day for a superlative special: panneed chicken atop angel hair pasta with both red and white sauces. As prosaic as that sounds, this is an incredibly fine version of the dish. Despite the overabundant portions, it’s hard to stop eating. And the price–$13, including the salad–is one of the best bargains on the North Shore.

Thursday, October 16, 2014.
Little Chinatown.

I knew I would get some laughs today when I told why I went to the hospital: because I had a really bad zit. I checked in with Dr. Bob, who agreed that it was nasty enough to require antibiotics. I won’t gross you out any further, but wrap up this micro-episode by saying that, as of this writing, it’s all better.

Something good came of this. Dr. Bob called me later to say that he was organizing a wine-tasting dinner at the Windsor Court next week, and if I wanted to join the small group I would be welcome. One little detail: every participant must bring a first-growth Bordeaux wine. I think–but am not sure–that I have one in my wine pile, and I accept gladly with my fingers crossed.

Since I was in Kenner, I have an early supper at the Little Chinatown, a restaurant that has excited everyone I’ve spoken with who’s been there. It’s what inevitably is called an “authentic” Chinese kitchen, meaning that there are many dishes available that may require either a willingness to try new flavors or a childhood in China. I dined there a couple of years ago, ordered a dish for the latter demographic, and left less than happy.

Hot and sour soup.

Today I do not make such a mistake. The waitress is bilingual (at least), and gives me lots of good advice before I order. Even though the menu has many offbeat, highly ethnic soups, she steers me to the standard hot and sour soup, which she said was as good as any she’d ever had.

Chicken with chili peppers and vegetables.

Then she turns me on to one of the daily specials, made with chicken, vegetables, and a scattering of hot, fresh peppers. I assure her that high pepper levels are desirable for me, and to tell the chef to do it his way. Both the soup and the chicken are superb, even though the chicken is cut in such a way that a slice of bone comes with every bite. I get more accustomed to this every time I try an advanced, non-Americanized Chinese place.

I have enough info to prepare a full review of the Little Chinatown, which I will publish in tomorrow’s edition.

Barbecue Shrimp

Barbecue shrimp, one of the four or five best dishes in all of New Orleans cooking, is completely misnamed. They’re neither grilled nor smoked, and there’s no barbecue sauce. It was created in the mid-1950s at Pascal’s Manale Restaurant. A regular customer came in and reported that he’d enjoyed a dish in a Chicago restaurant that he though was made with shrimp, butter, and pepper. He asked Pascal Radosta to make it. Radosta took a flyer at it. The customer said that the taste was not the same, but he liked the new dish even better. So was born the signature dish at Manale’s.

The dish is simple: huge whole shrimp in a tremendous amount of butter and black pepper. The essential ingredient is large, heads-on shrimp, since the fat in the shrimp heads makes most of the flavor. Resist the urge to add lots of herbs or garlic. This recipe is largely based on the new recipe created by Chef Gerard Maras in the early 1980s at Mr. B’s. The butter emulsifies into the other liquids, and gives not only a bigger flavor but a nicer-looking dish.

The amount of butter and pepper in my recipe seem fantastic. Be bold. This is not a dish you will eat often–although you will want to.

3 lbs. fresh Gulf shrimp with heads on, 16-20 count to the pound

1 Tbs. lemon juice

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 Tbs. black pepper (or more!)

1/4 tsp. salt

3 sticks butter, softened

2 tsp. paprika

1 loaf French bread

1. Rinse the shrimp and shake the excess water from them. Put them in a large skillet (or two) over medium heat, and pour the lemon juice, wine, Worcestershire, and garlic over it. Bring the liquids in the pan to a light boil and cook, turning the shrimp over with a spoon every two minutes or so, until all the brown-gray color in the shrimp is gone. Don’t overcook! At the first moment when you think the shrimp might be done, they will be: lower the heat to the minimum.

2. Cover the shrimp with a thin but complete layer of black pepper. You must be bold with this. When you think you have enough pepper in there, you still need a little more. Add the paprika and salt.

3. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces and distribute over the shrimp. With a big spoon, turn the shrimp over. Agitate the pan as the butter melts over the shrimp and emulsifies into the liquid at the bottom of the pan. When no more solid butter is visible. Remove the pan from the burner.

4. Serve the shrimp with lots of the sauce in bowls. Serve with hot French bread for dipping. Also plenty of napkins and perhaps bibs.

Serves four to six.

Barbecue Shrimp @ Mr. B’s Bistro

The dish we misname barbecue shrimp is one of the greatest creations of Creole cookery. All credit for its invention go to Pascal’s Manale, which not only introduced it but made it popular. Not that it requires much persuading. Even for people who don’t like shrimp especially (and I’m not really crazy about them), a bowl of well-made barbecue shrimp is lusty and spicy and rich and seafoody and all the other things you want out of the experience of eating New Orleans food.

Manale’s version is still good, and there are others around town I like a great deal. But Manale’s can’t really change its recipe, even for an improvement. Mr. B’s was not under such a restriction when Chef Gerard Maras, intrigued by the possibilities, changed the dish just enough. He cooked it more or less in the standard way, but at the last minute before serving emulsified some additional butter into the sauce. That not only made it look better, but it gave the sauce an even greater flavor release.

[p]There’s only one thing wrong with barbecue shrimp, and it’s not the mess from having to eat heads-on shrimp. It’s that this quantity of butter in a dish means it’s something the average person can’t really eat all that often, unless his cholesterol is very low. But we do it anyway, I guess.

Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

October 23, 2014

Days Until. . .

Halloween 8

Today’s Flavor

Today in 1989, Hungary became a fully independent republic again, ditching the Communist government supported by the former Soviet Union. Hungary. Home of Tokai, one of the world’s great (and underappreciated) sweet wines. And the homeland (and best sources of) paprika. Paprika looms large in Hungarian cuisine, one we have been able to enjoy here in New Orleans very rarely in restaurants. And that’s why today is Paprika Day.

Paprika is a simple enough substance: it’s simply dried, powdered red pepper. The species is capsicum annuum, the familiar bell pepper. However, in Hungary they’ve hybridized a variety that’s long and narrow, with a bit more heat. Hungarian paprika ranges from sweet (not spicy, in other words) to very hot. Often the hot varieties get that was from having cayenne added to them–not a big deal, since cayenne is closely related to this pepper, anyway.

Before the new era of gourmandise dawned in the late 1970s, paprika was widely overused to add color to wan-looking dishes. That use, and paprika in general, fell out of favor. But it has other contributions to make. I like it particularly as an ingredient in cold sauces, notably remoulade. The version at Arnaud’s has a lot of paprika in it. Also, the old (and apparently departed) house salad dressing at Ruth’s Chris was a vinaigrette with a lot of paprika and Parmesan cheese. Paprika is also a big ingredient in my version of barbecue shrimp. Think about paprika again, especially the spicy kind.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Satsuma, Texas is in the northwest corner of the Houston suburbs, which have so surrounded the little town that it’s all but lost its identity. Satsuma was founded in 1909, and named for some satsuma orchards a developer planted in the area. The town was a stop on the Houston and Texas Central line of what became the Southern Pacific Railroad, an important gateway west. But it didn’t catch on as a railroad town or anything else except for a church and a general store for the ranchers in the area. There’s a little open land left, but not much. Maybe for a hundred satsuma trees. If you’re hungry, you won’t have to go far. Many of the Houston chains have restaurants nearby. Pho Kim Vi, a Vietnamese restaurant, is a half-mile off.

Edible Dictionary

tetrazzini, adj.–Despite its obviously Italian name, a tetrazzini is an American creation, combining a white meat (chicken and turkey are the most common) and pasta. Holding it all together is a white sauce made with butter, onions, celery, and sometimes other finely-chopped savory vegetables. Mushrooms and sherry come in at the end of the sauce. Almonds are a common finishing touch. There’s lots of room for interpretation in the dish; no two versions are alike. The dish was created in the early 1900s in honor of the Italian-American opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini.

Food Inventors

Nicholas Appert was born today in 1749, in Chalons-Sur-Marne, France. Appert changed the world of food by finding that if you fill a container with food, heat it to the boiling point of water, and seal the container in an airtight way, it will preserve the food in something like a natural state for extended periods of time. In other words, Appert invented canning, now the most widely-used method of preserving food in the world. Appert also invented the bouillon cube, a highly-reduced stock with salt and a bit of starch added to keep it from spoiling. It’s an easy, if not particularly good, way of obtaining a quick stock.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Have a spray bottle full of water handy when you’re grilling fish on a charcoal grill. Get the heat way up there, and every now and then shoot a few stream of water into the hot coals. Billows of steam will come up, adding a blast of moist heat to the fish and keeping it tender. (The spray bottle should not be one that used to have some chemical in it previously, of course.)

Food In Crime

Today in 1935, The Chophouse Massacre took place in Newark, New Jersey. Dutch Schultz, the leader of the Jewish branch of organized crime around New York, was murdered in the men’s room of the Palace Chop House and Tavern, along with several of his henchmen. He was eating a mutton chop at the time. Since then, mutton chops have become very unpopular.

Annals Of Dessert

Today is the birthday, in 1845, of French actress Sarah Bernhardt, one of the most celebrated performer of her time. A widely-sold pastry in New Orleans bakeries was named for her. The bakery most famous for it was the now-extinct Dixiana Bakery on North Broad Street, which claimed to have invented it. No bakery makes it anymore, but it is remembered by enough people that any food writer here is often asked for a source, or at least a recipe. It’s complicated, to say the least. It involved making a yellow layer cake and then topping it with a sweetened yeast dough, of the kind used for doughnuts. It’s covered with a red glaze made with rum and currant jelly. It sounds very difficult, and not very good–but the nostalgia eaters wish for it fervently.

Deft Dining Rule #139

The best place to dine alone in a restaurant, even if you’re not drinking, is at the bar. Restaurateurs take special care of people dining at the bar, because they add value to a restaurant’s space. You may even get a free glass of wine (but don’t expect it).

Food Namesakes

New Orleans R&B girl singing group The Dixie Cups has a birthday today: Barbara Ann Hawkins, one of its members, was born today in 1943. . . Gummo Marx, the least-known of the Marx Brothers (he acted with them for awhile, then became their business manager), was born today in 1893. . . Nobel Prize in Physics winner Ilya Frank was born today in Russia in 1908.

Words To Eat By

“If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.”–Johnny Carson, the most entertaining personality in the history of television, born today in 1925.

Words To Drink By

“Happiness is finding three olives in your martini when you’re hungry.”–Johnny Carson.

A New Problem For Picky New Orleans Eaters.

Pumpklin patches such as demonstrated in today’s Food Funnies are ubiquitous in the Northeast, where families buy pumpkins the way we buy Christmas trees. Some of the lots are small, with lots of pumpkins and decorations but littele else. Others are like miniature amusement parks. If you want to see a real pumpkin patch, one has opened on the corner of LA 59 and US 190 in Mandeville.

Click here for the cartoon.

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