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Learn How to Whip Up a Taste of New Orleans


Grilled Oysters Rockefeller

Now that the weather’s warmer, it’s time to return your attention to the grill. In that spirit, the County Line, 10101 I-10 W., resumes its monthly Pitmaster Cooking Class at 7 p.m. March 25.

The March theme is “A Taste of New Orleans” and will feature chef Garrett Stephens presenting a multi-course dinner inspired by the Big Easy.

Guests will be able to dine on full servings of the each of the four courses, while Stephens demonstrates how each of the dishes is prepared. All of the recipes are in a souvenir cookbook with plenty of room for taking notes.

Creole-grilled Mirliton Ratatouille

The evening begins at 7 p.m. with Hurricane cocktails, followed by the class at 7:30 featuring the following menu:

  • Grilled Oysters Rockefeller with Crispy Pancetta and Gruyère
  • Creole-grilled Mirliton Ratatouille
  • Nawlins’ Style BBQ Shrimp
  • Bananas Foster with County Line Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

The cost for the evening is $50 a person plus tax and tip. To make a reservation, call 210-641-1998 or e-mail garretts@countyline.com. (The last two classes have sold out a week before the event, so you may want to plan ahead.)

The next class after that will be April 29.

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Oyster Artichoke Soup


On my first adult visit to New Orleans, I started things off with lunch at Galatoire’s, which remains among the city’s finest restaurants. I can still remember my first taste of Oyster Artichoke Soup, with its intoxicating mix of oyster brine, tangy artichoke and butter. You could make this recipe with unshucked oysters and fresh artichokes, as Galatoire’s does. I find myself to be lazier and prefer the ease of this version from “La Bouche Creole,” a souvenir I picked up on that trip.

Oyster Artichoke Soup

2 dozen oysters and their water
2 bunches shallots, chopped (about 6 large or 8 medium shallots)
1/2 pound butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

Poach the oysters in their own water. Strain, reserving water, and set aside.

Sauté the shallots in melted butter. When they are transparent, add the flour. Mix well, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. add oyster water and the juice from the artichoke hearts. Pour in additional water to make enough for eight to 10 diners. Add 2 bay leaves, and salt and white pepper, to taste. Slowly bring to a boil. Chop the oysters and artichoke hearts and add to the soup. Cook for a few more minutes and serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

From “La Bouche Creole” by Leon E. Soniat Jr.

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Cocktail à la Louisiane


Cocktail à la Louisiane

“This is the special cocktail served at Restaurant de la Louisiane, one of the famous French restaurants of New Orleans, long the rendezvous of those who appreciate the best in Creole cuisine. La Louisiane cocktail is as out-of-the-ordinary as the many distinctive dishes that grace its menu.”

Stanley Clisby Arthur wrote that in 1937 in his now-classic cocktail compendium, “Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em.” La Louisiane, which opened in 1837, is still in operation today, offering dishes as mouthwatering as in Arthur’s day.

Cocktail à la Louisiane

1/3 jigger or 1/2 ounce rye whiskey
1/3 jigger or 1/2 ounce vermouth
1/3 jigger or 1/2 ounce Benedictine
3-4 dashes Pernod or other absinthe substitute
3-4 dashes Peychaud bitters

Mix in a barglass with lumps of ice. Strain into a cocktail glass in which has been placed a maraschino cherry.

Makes 1 cocktail.

Source: “Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em” by Stanley Clisby Arthur

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Griffin to Go: Drink in Some Mardi Gras Spirit


The cover of the book says it all: “Famous New Orleans Drinks (And How to Mix ‘Em).”

Well, almost all. This gem from one Stanley Clisby Arthur was first printed in 1937, a few years before the introduction of the Hurricane by Pat O’Brien, whose name still graces a chain of bars, including one on the River Walk.

But don’t let that deter you from searching out this slender volume, because it is a treasure trove of facts and stories behind the potent potables that dominated the Big Easy, and many a Southern bar, during the era. It’s little wonder the book is still in print today.

My copy, given to me by dear friends who understand the joys of a well-mixed cocktail and a well-spun story, is from the book’s fourth printing, which was in April 1941. The country was still months away from the second world war at that time, and some areas were only beginning to emerge from the Great Depression.

Though Prohibition had ended only a few years before, Arthur proudly hails his city as “the home of civilized drinking” for more than a century.

He doesn’t stop there: “The flowing bowl and the adept mixing of what went in it has constituted as high an art in this Creole city as the incomparable cooking for which it is famed.”

To prove his point, Arthur offers recipes for drinks that are still shaken, stirred and layered at many a New Orleans haunt, including the Sazerac, the Absinthe Frappé, Ramos Gin Fizz and Planter’s Punch.

“The quality of mixed drinks as served in New Orleans has always appealed to the sophisticated taste,” Arthur writes. “It was here that your most modern of American beverages, the cocktail, first came into being and was given its jaunty name.”

Etymological stories are of particular interest to the author. The term “julep,” for example, dates as far back as 1400 A.D., he writes, “long before we ever heard of the Southern States of these United States, where the julep is popularly supposed to be indigenous.”

But Arthur doesn’t stop there. He goes on to give advice about how to make a julep that will keep you smiling: “Don’t use rye whiskey in making a julep. If you do use whiskey, let it be Bourbon, which serves its highest purpose when it becomes a component part of that prince of all thirst-quenchers known as the Mint Julep.” As a Kentuckian who honors the derby each May, I heartily concur.

I also love the fact that so much of the lore remains up-to-date more than 70 years after the book’s initial publication. Take this passage on one of the Latin Quarter’s still-popular nightspots: “Of all the ancient buildings in New Orleans’ famed Vieux Carré, none has been more glorified in story and picture than a square, plastered-brick building at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville streets, known as the Old Absinthe House.”

The building, erected in 1806, was originally used for importing, then bartering foodstuffs and tobacco. Over the course of its history, it became a grocery, a boot shop, and, in 1846, “a coffee-house, as saloons were then called.”

Today, you can taste a cocktail made with real absinthe there.

Absinthe, or actually something called “absinthe substitute” (which I would take to be Herbsaint, Pernod or a similarly anise-flavored alcohol), is a key ingredient in the Sazerac recipe included in the book. But it wasn’t always part of the mix. And Arthur is more than happy to offer the evolution of a drink, when he can. Especially when the drink in question is considered “the best known of all New Orleans cocktails.”

The original recipe called for Peychaud’s bitters, which were created in New Orleans by a druggist named Antoine Amédée Peychaud. It remains a key ingredient today; not so the alcohol it was meant to complement. It seems brandy was a little too European for American tastes, so rye whiskey elbowed its way into the mix. With that change came the addition of absinthe.

“But this history delving is dry stuff,” Arthur notes, “so let’s sample a genuine Sazerac.”

Indeed.

A Genuine Sazerac

1 lump sugar
3 drops Peychaud’s bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 jigger rye whiskey
1 dash absinthe substitute
1 slice lemon peel

[amazon-product]0882891324[/amazon-product]To mix a Sazerac requires two heavy-bottomed, 3 1/2-ounce bar glasses. One is filled with cracked ice and allowed to chill. In the other a lump of sugar is placed with just enough water to moisten it. The saturated loaf of sugar is then crushed with a barspoon. Add a few drops of Peychaud’s bitters, a dash of Angostura, a jigger of rye whiskey, for while Bourbon may do for a julep, it just won’t do for a real Sazerac. To the glass containing sugar, bitters and rye, add several lumps of ice and stir. Never use a shaker! Empty the first glass of its ice, dash in several drops of absinthe … enough will cling to the glass to give the needed flavor. Strain into this glass the whiskey mixture, twist a piece of lemon peel over it for the needed zest of that small drop of oil thus extracted from the peel, but do not commit the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the drink. Some bartenders put a cherry in a Sazerac; very pretty but not necessary.

M-m-m-m-m! Let’s have another!

From “Famous New Orleans Drinks (And How to Mix ‘Em)” by Stanley Clisby Arthur

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Making a Last-Minute Mardi Gras Party Fun


Add some zest to your Mardi Gras party with a few items from the store that are easy to prepare and full of flavor.

Beignets are more than just a New Orleans version of a doughnut. The fried dough, buried under a blanket of powdered sugar deeper than the snows in Washington, D.C., has a unique flavor and texture. Cafe du Monde, the temple of these crisp yet airy confections offers a mix at Central Market, 4821 Broadway, that will get your day off to a sweet start.

You’ll also be able to find Cafe du Monde’s chicory coffee in a regular and decaf version. (Scoff at the latter, if you will, but the flavor is surprisingly robust and full-bodied.)

Costco offers Cajun Hollar’s version of dirty rice made with andouille and boudin sausage. This heat-and-eat treat is marketed as a “rice, pork and chicken product.”

Many supermarkets offer Zatarain’s New Orleans-Style Dirty Rice Mix that calls for you to add your own meat “to make a complete meal.” The company also offers jambalaya, red beans and rice, and gumbo mixes as well.

The meat you add could be andouille sausage or boudin, both of which are often among the sausages at your neighborhood grocery.

Check the frozen meat section for crawfish tails that have already been peeled. These are great to toss in a gumbo or jambalaya at the last minute.

Check the condiments section for olive salad, if you have a hankering for a muffuletta. The deli section should have everything from the mortadella to the provolone cheese. You may have to make a special trip to Central Market, though, for the special round bread.

Oysters from the gulf are available at most fish departments, if Oysters Rockefeller, an oyster po’ boy or Oyster Artichoke Soup is on your agenda.

Pick up a king cake at your nearby H-E-B bakery. The soft cake with the white glaze and the multi-colored sprinkles on top are made fresh daily during the season. And if you get the slice with the baby, you host the party next year.

All of these shortcuts will help you let the good times roll. And that’s really what Mardi Gras is all about.

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Celebrate Mardi Gras With a Pot of Gumbo


Mardi Gras is just a day away. Time to start thinking gumbo. SavorSA reader Sandy White, originally from New Orleans, shares a recipe for her version of this favorite:

“Just about every Louisiana kitchen has its version of the soup/stew called gumbo.  The name is derived from the African word for “okra” – though it’s not necessary and you will see that this version does not contain any.

“Although various versions contain game, poultry, seafood or a combination thereof, one ingredient common to all is the roux, which is simply the combination of equal parts of flour and fat. It provides both thickening and color to the gumbo.

“Enjoy!”

Sandy’s Gumbo

1-1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
Good quality Creole seasoning
1 cup vegetable oil plus 2 tablespoons, divided use
1 cup flour
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced pepper (I use a combination of green and red bell pepper)
1 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
2 bay leaves
1 ½ pounds good quality smoked andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces (see note)
8 cups broth (I use a combination of chicken and vegetable)
1 (14 ½-ounce) can of crushed/diced tomato
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)

Season chicken thighs with creole seasoning. Sauté chicken is 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until browned.  Remove chicken from pot.  In pot add flour and 1 cup oil together and stir to combine.

Cook the roux until it develops a medium dark brown color (dark peanut butter).  Be careful not to splash the roux on you – it is very hot! Paul Prudhomme refers to it as the “Cajun equivalent of napalm.” While cooking the roux be careful not to allow it to burn – if it does, you must start over.  Stirring the roux is a must, and the process can take 30 minutes or more. I have a Cajun friend who likes to time the process in terms of the number of beers consumed.  Based on his timing this roux would probably be a 3 to 4 beer roux!

Add vegetables and sauté until translucent.  Add cayenne, pepper and salt.

Add broth and stir to dissolve roux.  Add bay leaves. Add sausage, browned chicken and tomato.

Simmer, covered, over low heat for 1 – 2 hours.

At the end of cooking turn off heat, add shrimp (if using) and cover the pot.

In 5-10 minutes the shrimp will be cooked and the gumbo ready to eat.

Serve over steamed rice and garnish with thinly sliced green onion.

Note: I am convinced that it is the sausage that makes the gumbo. I use two sources for my andouille.  The first is Jacobs in Laplace, La., (www.cajunsausage.com) and the second is The Best Stop in Scott, La., (www.thebeststopsupermarket.com).  Both places will ship overnight.

I find that this gumbo is best if made 2-3 days ahead and reheat when ready to serve.

Makes 8-10 servings.

From Sandy White

If you have a favorite recipe to share, e-mail info@savorsa.com.

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Pecan Pralines a New Orleans Treat for Almost 400 Years


Pralines have long been a New Orleans favorite. “Supposedly, Marshal Duplesis-Preslin’s (1598-1675) cook invented pralines,” according to Leon E. Soniat Jr, author of “La Bouche Creole. “But millions of those crisp pecan goodies have been exported from New Orleans around the globe.” You will need a candy thermometer to make these.

Pecan Pralines

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecan halves

[amazon-product]0882898051[/amazon-product]Combine the sugars and milk, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the butter, vanilla and pecans, and cook until the syrup reaches the soft ball stage (238 degrees). Cool without disturbing, then beat until somewhat thickened, but not until it loses its gloss. Drop by tablespoon onto a well-greased, flat surface. (A piece of marble is best for this.) The candy will flatten out into large cakes.

Makes 20 pralines.

From “La Bouche Creole” by Leon E. Soniat Jr

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Finish the Game Off With Something Sweet


Pecan Pralines

4No party table, whether it’s for the Super Bowl or any other occasion, is complete without something sweet to finish off the meal.

This year, the two teams have plenty of choices to choose from.

New Orleans has myriad offerings, from bread pudding to beignets. We narrowed down the list to a fan favorite that has stuck to many a tooth outside the Big Easy: pecan pralines.

Indianapolis has its contenders, including chocolate cream pie and serious milkshakes, but there’s really only one dessert with the Indiana state legislature’s approval: sugar cream pie.

Sugar Cream Pie

Why not enjoy the game with a little of each? You’ll come out a winner regardless of which team captures the crown.

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Griffin to Go: For Super Bowl, It’s a Battle of Two Cities, Two Sandwiches


To the football fanatic, there is no greater day than Super Bowl Sunday. For Super Bowl 44, the two teams vying for the championship, the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, are busy working on their strategies, their plays, their strengths and their weakness.

The rest of us are busy working on the food we plan to consume on this festive occasion.

But what will that be? Sandwiches have long been a favorite, whether the coach in charge of the food offensive prefers to serve up a table-long sub sandwich or a series of sliders. Before you place your bets, however, consider the two sandwiches, listed alphabetically by hometown, that fans from each of the home teams will likely be serving their guests.

Indianapolis Colts: Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Which Wich Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Take a pork cutlet, pound it until it’s broad and flat, bread it and fry it. It’s as simple as that. Yet a good pork tenderloin sandwich has a hold on anyone who ever tried one at any of the countless drive-ins that dot the Midwest. There’s something about the hot, slightly greasy patty and the cool mayonnaise on the toasted white bun that has made it a perennial favorite with millions.

Fan testimonial from Chuck Lundquist, formerly of the Midwest and now of San Antonio:

I’m a fan of the Colts …  and I’m certainly a fan of the pork tenderloin sandwich.

When I was in college, a small drive-in diner called Porky’s was on University Avenue in Des Moines (I went to Grand View College , a Lutheran junior college for two years before transferring to the University of Iowa).  They had a great big pork loin sandwich that just hung over the outside of the bun.  Pork is fairly inexpensive up north, and we always had big pork (and chicken) family meals.  On Sunday night when the dining hall was closed, Porky’s was the place to go.  We would have that big sandwich, soda and shake and walk around and talk to the ladies who had driven in.  Lots of fun on a Sunday evening.

That big sandwich would stay with you.  Plenty of meat and always tender and moist.  Over the years, the pork tenderloin has become too packaged with too much breading.  There is still a Porky’s in Des Moines, and I still like to eat there, but the sandwiches aren’t quite the same.

For a recipe to make your own pork tenderloin sandwiches, click here.

If you want to buy a pork tenderloin sandwich in San Antonio: Check out Which Wich, with two area locations: 11224 Huebner Road, (210) 561-WICH (9424); and 10730 Potranco Road, (210) 682-WICH (9424), or click here.

New Orleans Saints: Muffalletta

Murphy's Deli "The Muffaletta"

New Orleans’ version of the pressed sandwich is the muffuletta with its blend of cheeses melted into Italian meats and the salty, tangy appeal of olive salad. The sandwich dates back to 1906 and is still served today.

Fan testimonial from Sandy White, who grew up in the Big Easy and now lives in San Antonio:

Growing up in New Orleans I remember the times we would go down to Central Grocery for a muffuletta sandwich.  We would always go in multiples of either 2 or 4 as one of Central Grocery’s creations had to be shared, the final number determined by the level of hunger.  Since there was no table service, one would approach the counter to get the sandwich and proceed outdoors to find a suitable place to consume the masterpiece.

For those not familiar, the muffuletta is the quintessential New Orleans sandwich —A large, round Italian sandwich loaf, sliced in half like a English muffin, is piled high with Italian delicacies such as mortadella, capicola and salami, layered with provolone and Swiss cheeses.  What really sets the muffuletta apart from your garden-variety lunch-meat sandwich, however, is the generous helping of rich, tangy olive salad that serves as the only condiment.  The olive oil moistens the bread while the olives, garlic, peppers, and giardiniera add texture and spice to the meats and cheeses.  For a real treat, build the sandwich, wrap in foil and heat it in the oven until the cheese has melted, then add the olive salad and enjoy the finest sandwich you ever tasted.

Geaux, Saints, Geaux!

If you want to make your own muffuletta, click here. Central Market, 4821 Broadway, has the round Italian bread needed, while many supermarkets carry the olive salad.

If you want to buy muffulettas, check out Murphy’s Deli with three area locations: 300 Convent St., (210) 212-8833; 116-123 E. Houston St., (210) 299-2600; and 7702 Floyd Curl Drive, (210) 692-9852. Or click here.

(Pork Tenderloin image provided by Which Wich, Inc.)

(Muffaletta image provided by Murphy’s Deli)

(NFL Team helmet images provided by the NFL)

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Make Your Own Muffuletta


Murphy's Deli "The Muffaletta"

The muffuletta was created at New Orleans’ Central Grocery in 1906 by Italian expatriates. The sandwich can still be ordered there today.

Muffuletta

1 (15-ounce) loaf Italian bread, preferably seeded and round (about 12 inches in diameter)
1 1/2 cups olive salad, or more, to taste (store-bought or homemade)
3 tablespoons oil from olive salad, or more, to taste
3 ounces capicola ham, thinly sliced
3 ounces Genoa salami, thinly sliced
3 ounces mortadella, thinly sliced
3 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced
3 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced

Halve loaf of bread lengthwise. Spoon olive salad on one side. Spread out olives, breaking them into pieces with your hands, and gently push into bread. Coat other side of bread with oil.

Layer olive-salad-laden side of bread with overlapping slices of ham, salami, mortadella, provolone, and Swiss. Top with oil-coated side. Cut loaf into four wedges; serve with Zapp’s Cajun Crawtator potato chips and Abita bottled root beer.

Adapted from Oprah.com.

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