Friday, January 20, 2017.

Repeat Performance.

I head into town for the radio show, mainly to find out what will happen with the station flip. It still looks like next Friday for the big day, with a few odds and ends needed.

For some reason, I decide to have dinner at Andrea’s, for the second consecutive day. But wait! I just thought to three reasons why I have come here so son. First, when Chef Andrea he did his call-in commercial today, he said that he had some nice whole flounders. I get that, with a simple brown-butter sauce. Second, I wanted to get home before a major storm–the kind promising tornadoes–comes through tonight. Third, I was halfway thinking of dining in the bar, where the singer Margarita performs. But the room is just about full. I never have liked crowds.

Chef Andrea begins my meal with a pizza so large that I can eat only two slices. This, after I begged him to keep it appetizer size. But he’s really proud of his wood-burning pizza oven. The flounder is also on the large side, but that’s what one wants.

I make it home with time to spare. The storm doesn’t arrive until around six a.m. I watch it on the radar until I feel we’re out of danger. Tomorrow, I will learn that the storm went to Hattiesburg, destroyed some houses and killed four people.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Santa Fe Trail.

A hearty breakfast at the Abita Roaster. I think they must add a new dish or two every week, because I keep finding interesting new flavors there. Today I try the new Santa Fe omelette, It’s a four-egg layered job with the layers held togather and apart by peppery cheeses, a sauce blending chipotle peppers with sour cream, black beans, shredded hash brown potatoes, and a few more items that require three lines of description on the menu. This is not merely a study in volume, but a fascinating collection of flavors, varying one bite to the next.

I make my usual calls at Rouse’s (where about two thirds of the purchases are for the cats and dogs), the drycleaners ($47 worth), and the hardware store which didn’t have what I was lookine for.

I get back to the Cool Water Ranch in time for the radio show, a full three-hour run. The subjects careen all over the place, with an unexpected discussion of whether the new oil-less frying appliances are worth getting. Almost all such considerations end in negatives for me. Almost no gadget I’ve encountered in recent times either a) made cooking easier or 2) turned out anything uniquely delicious.

A good example of that appeared again in my Christmas present from the Marys and Jude. It was a Nespresso machine, the kind I admired over the Jude’s house a few months ago. It really does turn out great coffee, particularly in the realm of espresso and cappuccino. But I can’t find room for it on any counter in the kitchen. And my dedication to New Orleans-style café au lait with chicory and hot milk is unshakable.

Another round of heavy rainstorms passes through in the night. But the Accuweather feed has some sort of problem, and I have to rear myself away from the wet drama. The people in George will take the next slam. I’m not hungry enough to go out myself.

Sunday, January 22, 2017.

Trying For Normal.

Mary Ann leaves Washington D.C. for home. I’m relieved to hear that she plans to break the trip into two legs, spending a night in Nashville. But that rain storm of the past few days jerks itself north and right into MA’s path today. After hours of rough going, she breaks out of it and it’s smooth sailing for half of today and all of tomorrow.

After my usualy Sunday morning singing gig, I have breakfast at Mattina Bella. The place is packed, and it’s awhile until a place at the bar opens up. But in the meantime I encounter Levere Montgomery III, his wife, his mother, and his son. Levere IV was in my son Jude’s Boy Scout group when they were that age. That friendship was simultaneity in the extreme: Jude and Levere IV were born on exactly the same day. They both attended Jesuit. And Levere’s dad was the man who created the Time Saver Stores, where I worked my way through high school and college for some fifteen years. I keep saying it: there are only five hundred people living in New Orleans, or random meetings like this wouldn’t happen.

I eat a standard breakfast: soft-scrambled eggs, three slices of bacon, and two multi-grain pancakes. And then I am still hungry. Second order of bacon, please, and a dozen or so of those brabant potatoes they call hash browns here. That should do me.

Until dinnertime, when I go to Zea for that good tomato-basil soup, a salad, and an appetizer-size tuna stack. It was about as average a day as I ever have.

Monday, January 23, 2017.

The Convergence Of Dilemmas. Leftover Red Beans.

Mary Ann left a little late in the morning to travel home from Nashville. But otherwise she’s in luck. All the horrible weather that sought to accompany her has moved north and east, and she has blue skies all the way.

I am beginning to believe that she is getting all the good luck in our family. Worse, she agrees with that, and adds that she deserves it all, so I should get out of her way.

While I’m waiting for this eventuality, I carry on with lunch from Buster’s Place in old Covington–the place that used to be the Acme before it became Bunny Mathews’s Vic ‘n’ Natly theme restaurant. It’s a nicely beat-up kind of neighborhood joint. My last few meals there have all been good. Especially the red beans, which have been just the way I like them: firm and served with hot sausage patties. Two of them, at that.

I order that again, but MA is using all the family good fortunes, and I get what looks like either a thick red bean soup, or the last beans in the pot. The sausage is covered with reddish rendered fat from the grill, but that’s something I like. But I just put up with the bean aspect.

I have a few other tasks, so I cut the time close for the radio show. That’s when I notice that there’s something wrong with the internet at the Cool Water Ranch. I fool around with it for a few minutes, but this seems to be something that doesn’t respond to a reboot or a checking of all the cables.

When the show ends, it’s time for NPAS rehearsal. We run through a few agreeable songs on a theme of dancing. The lady who has agreed to join me in a duet tells me that she has arranged the accompanist and suggests some times when we can work on our song, “I Won’t Dance.” See, it’s a contrast with the main theme, and. . . well, all we have to do is pass an audition.

When I get home at around 9:30, I call AT&T to report my problem. They run a few dozen tests to confirm what I already know from past problems: it’s the modem. They will send a guy over on Wednesday afternoon to swap out one box for another, after another round of tests.

Those tests may well find the problem their way. Last week, the parish sent its bulldozer over to scoop the ditches up and down our road. This will make them deeper, and removes any leaf blocks. I was thankful for this, because it made the tremendous flooding rains we had a few days ago from backing up. On the other hand, AT&T had flags marking its underground cables, which are positioned right in the middle of the ditch. I saw a few sections of cable that looked to have been yanked up. But all the phone lines at the Ranch were working fine.

Until tonight. Now, nothing more complicated than a voice phone call is being handled by my phone connections. No internet, no U-Verse TV. Nothing but a red light flashing at the base of the modem.

The only way I can look at this positively is to take two or three days off from publishing the New Orleans Menu. But I believe that if one is going to give subscribers daily service, one has to show up every day. I’m proud to say that I miss very few days. Vacations, major holidays, my retreat. Maybe 25 days total per year. But even saying that right here, I’m shocked by it. Makes me feel like a sluggard.

Mary Ann arrives home, very tired after driving 1400 miles in two days. She is already asleep when I return from NPAS.

Buster’s Place. Covington: 519 E Boston. 985-809-3880.

Creole Garbure

In the late 1970s, in the last decade of its century-plus history, Maylie’s was an interesting restaurant relic, standing at the corner of O’Keefe and Poydras, where Walk Ons is now. It was operated by its second-generation owner Willie Maylie and his wife Anna May, two people who I cannot imagine living anywhere but in New Orleans. I was a regular diner there, and became good friends with the Maylies. I especially enjoyed Willie’s history of Creole-French cooking, a perspective from fifty years earlier. Some of the dishes he cooked were extinct everywhere except at Maylie’s.

This is one of them. The recipe came from Madame Esparbe, whose family were partners with the Maylies in the late 1800s. It’s a distinctly New Orleans take on an old French soup with Basque influences. I found the recipe in Maylie’s charming but incomprehensible little cookbook. I had to cook this a few times to get what I remember of Willie’s version of it.

This is definitely one of those soups that’s better the second day. Also, a historic garbure is made almost entirely of vegetable and meat scraps. You don’t have to follow my list of those ingredients. Use what you have on hand.

1 cup white navy beans

3 bunches of collard greens, washed and picked of large stems, sliced into ribbons

2 slices lemon

1 lb. pork shoulder, fatty portion, cut into medium dice

1/4 cup flour

1 onion, chopped coarsely

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 1/2 quarts brisket stock

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 fresh or pickled birdeye pepper, chopped

3 whole cloves (the spice)

1 large white potato

1 tsp. salt

4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Soak the white beans overnight. The next morning, cook them for about an hour. Drain and reserve.

2. Bring two cups of water to a light boil. Add the collards and the lemon slices. Cook until the collards are tender but not falling apart–about five minutes. Remove the lemon, drain, and hold aside.

3. In a large saucepan, cook the pork cubes to render as much fat as possible, and to get them a little crisp. Add the flour and stir to make a light roux. Lower the heat, add the onions and the garlic, and cook until translucent.

4. Add the beef stock to the pot and stir to blend the ingredients. Add the thyme, birdeye pepper, cloves, the beans and collards. Bring to a light boil and lower to a simmer. Cool for about an hour and a half.

5. Cutting the potato into cubes. Add the potato and salt to the soup and cook about twenty minutes more. When the potatoes are cooked enough to eat without a crunch, the soup is ready. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves six.

Gnocchi With Crabmeat And Mushrooms @ Tujague’s

When the ancient (1856) restaurant Tujague’s updated itself in 2013, one of the dishes on the new menu was something so superb that customers who had it as an appetizer often asked to have a bigger plate of it as an entree. The gnocchi are made in house with a very deft hand. The texture is perfect. So is the sauce that connects it with the other elements on the place. The crabmeat is a no-brainer, but the wild mushrooms are another matter. The dish harkens back to the day when Tujague’s neighborhood was mostly Italian.

Gnocchi with crabmeat and mushrooms.

Tujague’s. French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676.

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

January 26, 2017

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras–33

Valentine’s Day–20

Eating Around The World

It’s Australia Day, the Down Under equivalent of our Fourth of July. On this day in 1788, eleven ships full of convicts from England arrived in Australia and began the colony. We avid diners most thank Australia for its wine and lamb. Both are of very good quality, and exceptional values. Australian wines at one time seemed almost too cheap. That’s a result of their vineyards having been purchased and planted over a hundred years ago, when land was almost free. Australia didn’t have to shut down its wine industry as Americans did during Prohibition, then start it all back up again. However, demand for Australian wine is good enough now that many new wineries, paying modern prices for their physical plant, are opening. Many of those new wines are substantially inferior to what I’m accustomed to getting from down under. (Yellowtail comes to mind.)

The goodness of Australia’s wines is largely due to a paradox. The soil in most of Australia is among the oldest and poorest in the world. Without nearby volcanoes and new mountain formation, the soil’s nutrients have largely been washed out over the eons. However, that’s a good thing for grapevines, which produce the best wines when under stress.

Edible Dictionary

tucker, n.–An Australian semi-slang word meaning “food.” It carries the denotation of good, basic grub rather than fancy fare, although that’s not an ironclad rule of usage. The expression “bush tucker,” refers to the kind of food one might find growing wild in the wilderness, and that the hunter-gatherer aborigines ate.

“Tucker” is my son Jude’s middle name. We had the food meaning in mind. We have been chided for this by friends, but Jude likes it enough that his screen name in his movie-producing career is “Jude Tucker.”

Gourmet Gazetteer

Smokehouse Creek runs through the badlands part of the Texas panhandle, sixty-seven miles northeast of Amarillo. It’s usually a seeping stream fed by a few springs. In drought times, it’s sometimes dry. It meanders a dozen miles before reaching the braided streams of the Canadian River, whose water runs through the Arkansas and the Mississippi before being sucked up into the water system of New Orleans. Smokehouse Creek is in desolate territory, but it comes within six miles of M A N’s Cafe, just on the other side of Signal Hill.

Music To Listen To Food Radio By

Stephane Grappelli, the greatest jazz violinist of all time, was born on this date in 1908, and lived to be almost ninety. During his eighties, he played the Blue Room and other venues in New Orleans a few times; I always went to see him. The short bits of music I play on my radio show after commercial breaks are all Stephane Grappelli’s inspired improvisations.

Food Through History

Louisiana seceded from the Union on this date in 1861, the sixth state to do so. To look at it from the narrow perspective of cuisine, it was a big mistake. I wonder what would have happened had the state not seceded and had avoided the penalties of Reconstruction.

On this day in 1784, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter that included this opinion: “For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird [than the eagle, which had just been chosen for the national emblem], and withal a true original Native of America.” Once again Ben proved that his mind was synchronized with his palate, as has been true of so few other American leaders.

Physiology Of Eating

This is the birthday of nutritionist Ancel Keys, whose experiments with World War II C-rations led him to discover that overeating saturated fats can lead to heart disease. That was not previously known, but we know it now, don’t we? He later wrote a landmark book, The Benevolent Bean.

Today’s Flavor

It’s Pistachio Day. The most famous pistachio confection in New Orleans is the cannoli dipped in pistachios from Angelo Brocato’s Ice Cream Parlor.

This is also International Hanger Steak Day. Hanger steak doesn’t show up on many beef charts or in many books. A French butcher’s chart shows it as onglet. Hanger steak (not “hangar,” as it’s often misspelled) is so named because it’s not attached to any bones. It just hangs there, massaging the pancreas. There’s only one in each cow. It’s alleged that butchers saved it for themselves. Some stories say this was because it was too tough to be salable; others say it was too delicious for mere customers.

Hanger steak is not for everybody. It is a bit on the chewy side, like flank or brisket. The unique flavor is worth the bother. It’s more assertive than that of most beef. If you like dry-aged beef, you’ll like this. Hanger steaks are grilled whole, preferably over a very hot fire, and cooked rare or medium rare at most. It really should be sliced in the kitchen, against the grain, or it may prove difficult to eat. Marinating it in something acidic–pineapple juice is the classic–is a good idea.

Deft Dining Rule #780:

The more tender the meat, the less distinguished the flavor.

Food Entrepreneurs

Paul Newman was born today in 1925. He passed away in 2008. Although his acting career certainly makes him immortal, he’s also right up there with Emeril, Paul Prudhomme, and Chef Boy-Ar-Dee in the number of food products whose labels show his face on the label. It seems that a new one comes out every other day. They’re of great quality, as bottled food products go. And all the profits go to charity.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Timothy, whose intercession we ask when we are beset by intestinal or stomach problems, as many of us avid eaters sometimes are.

Food Namesakes

Jazz singer Anita Baker was born today in 1958. . . Eddie Ballantine, the orchestra leader on the old Breakfast Club radio show, was born today in 1907. When you see his name on a menu, it’s a mistake. There is a galantine (a forcemeat wrapped with sliced meat, usually of a bird), and a ballottine (the original, much smaller version of the turducken–birds within birds). But there is no such dish as a “ballantine.”. . . Harvey Wallis Salmon, Missouri politician and Confederate soldier, was born today in 1839.

Words To Eat By

“The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is outgrossing my films.”–Paul Newman.

Words To Drink By

“How come if alcohol kills millions of brain cells, it never killed the ones that made me want to drink?–Unknown.

Hmm. If You Cook From A Book Of Bad Recipes. . .

. . .will your failures turn out to be brilliant successes?

Click here for the cartoon.

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