This is an idea inspired by Gautreau's Sue Zemanick, but different enough from her great works with halibut that she avoids all blame. The detonator is a crusty topping with horseradish and garlic held in a matrix of bread crumbs. While the fish roasts, the thick crust get toasty brown.
4 thick halibut fillets, cut across, about 8-10 oz. each
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
1. Melt the butter and blend it with the other crust ingredients until it almost but not quite sticks together. Divide this into four portions, and cover the top of each grouper fillet with a layer of the crust.
2. Place the encrusted fish fillets in a large skillet or baking pan, lightly oiled with olive oil. Sprinkle lemon juice over all. Bake the fish in a preheated 400- degree oven for 10-12 minutes. (To test the fish for doneness, push a kitchen fork into the center of the biggest fillet. Hold it there for five seconds, then pull it out. Touch the tines of the fork carefully to your lips. If it feels even warm, the fish is done.)
Redfish with a sauce of artichokes, capers, mushrooms, and butter appears on the menus of quite a few New Orleans restaurants. It's delicious far beyond the promise of its description or even appearance. Trout, redfish, flounder, lemonfish, sheepshead, or striped bass also work for this recipe. So do really big oysters or shrimp.
The dish was invented at Brennan's, where it still can be had (with fish or veal) under the name Kottwitz. The best practitioners, however, are the Impastato brothers Joe (at Impastato's in Metairie) and Sal (Sal And Judy's, in Lacombe). As an option, they will take the idea another step beyond and add crabmeat, shrimp or both. The resulting dish bears the name of the current Saints head coach.
• 4 red snapper, trout, redfish, drum, or sheepshead fillets, 6-8 oz.
• Juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
• 1 cup flour
• 1 Tbs. salt
• 1/4 tsp. white pepper
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 4 Tbs. butter
• 2 fresh artichoke bottoms (or canned)
• 8 artichoke hearts, quartered
• 1/3 cup dry sherry or white wine
• 2 cups sliced white mushrooms
• 2 Tbs. sliced green onions
• 1/4 tsp. chopped garlic
• 1/2 tsp. chopped French shallots
• 1 Tbs. smallest possible capers
• 2 Tbs. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
• 1 1/2 sticks butter
1. If using fresh artichoke bottoms for the sauce, poach until soft in water with a little lemon juice and 1 Tbs. salt. Cut the artichokes into eighths and set aside.
2. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the fish fillets. Stir the salt and pepper into the flour with a fork, and dredge the fillets in the seasoned flour. Shake off the excess flour, dip the fillets in the beaten eggs, and dredge through the flour again. Knock off the excess flour.
2. Heat the 4 Tbs. butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet and sauté until the fish is cooked–about three minutes per side. Remove the fish and keep warm.
4. To make the sauce, add the white wine to the pan in which you sautéed the fish, and whisk to dissolve the pan juices. Bring to a boil until the wine is reduced by two-thirds. Lower the heat to medium and add all the remaining sauce ingredients except the butter. Cook until the mushrooms no longer break when flexed.
5. Lower the heat to almost off, and add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, agitating the pan until the butter has blended in completely.
6. Place the fish on serving plates and top with the sauce.
This dish looks and sounds much more difficult than it really is, but it is very impressive to serve. The puff pastry can be found (probably frozen) at better food stores. If trout is unavailable, drum, redfish, sheepshead, rainbow trout, or salmon also work well for this dish.
1/2 lb. peeled, deveined medium shrimp (25-30 count)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 slices lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine
Stems of 1 bunch parsley
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
4 speckled trout fillets, about 6 oz. each
4 sheets puff pastry, 8″ by 8″
1 beaten egg
1. First make the shrimp mousse. Bring a wide, shallow pan of water about an inch deep to a simmer. Add the shrimp and poach just until they turn pink. Remove, drain, and allow to cool to lukewarm.
2. In a food processor, combine eggs, salt, pepper, dry mustard and garlic. Run the processor on and off a few times to chop and blend everything. Add the shrimp and turn the processor on. Add the cream while the machine is running and process into a paste. Add a little water from the poaching pan if necessary to keep it rather light. Don't overdo it; small lumps are okay.
3. Add the lemon slices, white wine, parsley stems, and peppercorns to the poaching pan, and return to a simmer. Add the trout and poach for six to eight minutes, depending on thickness, until the flesh is opaque. Remove and drain.
4. Cut the trout fillets across and lengthwise into two thin halves. Place one half of the trout over the bottom half of the puff pastry. Spoon about 2 Tbs. shrimp mousse over the trout. Top with the other half of the fish.
5. Brush edges of puff pastry dough with beaten egg, then fold top half over and press in place to form an envelope around the trout. If you really want to get fancy, cut the pastry envelope in the shape of a fish. You can stick the parts of the dough you cut off back onto the fish to create fins. Make scale-like indentations on the side with the tip of a spoon.
6. Place the pastry on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Put it in a preheated 375-degree oven for eight to ten minutes–until the pastry has puffed and has just turned brown. Push the tines of a kitchen fork into the thickest of the fish and hold it there for about five seconds. Carefully touch the tips of the fork to your lips; if it feels quite warm, the fish is done. Serve immediately.
This is good as is, but if you want a sauce, reduced cream with fennel or fresh thyme is delicious.
From Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food cookbook, copyright 2006 Tom Fitzmorris.
An enchilada is a tortilla filled with almost anything, topped with cheese or a sauce. The most familiar enchiladas are filled with chicken, cheese, or beef. But why not do it with seafood? If we can make seafood cannelloni, seems to me that seafood enchiladas are not far behind.
1 Tbs. butter
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed, chopped
1 lb. peeled shrimp
1 lb. white crabmeat
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Tabasco chilpotle pepper sauce
16 flour tortillas
1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Saute the green onions, mushrooms and jalapeno until the get soft.
2. Add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp turn pink, then stir in all the other ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise, but no longer than that.
3. Spoon 3 oz. of the filling into flour tortillas. If you like, serve with hot Mexican salsa con queso.
From Tom's "New Orleans Food" cookbook, copyright 2006 Tom Fitzmorris
Louisiana white shrimp appear in late summer and fall. I believe they are the world’s best shrimp. Here’s a chilled shrimp dish that qualifies, I suppose, as Creole antipasto. It’s pretty good as is, served chilled. Or you can toss it with greens or with cooked, chilled pasta as a salad.
1/2 cup Creole mustard
1/2 Tbs. salt
1/3 tsp. red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped green onion
3/4 cup chopped chives
2 Tbs. salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs. liquid crab boil
2 lbs. medium-large shrimp, peeled
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1. Mix the mustard, eggs, salt, and red pepper in a food processor. (You can also use a wire whisk in a bowl.) Add the oil a few drops at a time while continuing the blend the egg mixture. When the mixture begins to thicken, increase the oil addition to a thin stream. Blend until well mixed. Add the vinegar, green onions, chives, and parsley.
2. Bring one quart of water to a rolling boil in a saucepan, with the salt, lemon juice, and crab boil. After the water has boiled for three minutes, add the shrimp. When the water returns to a boil, turn off the heat and allow the shrimp to steep in the water for about four minutes–until they’re pink and firm. (When you first wonder whether the shrimp are cooked, that’s when they are.) Strain out the shrimp and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
3. Blend the shrimp and the artichokes into the sauce. Cover the bowl and put it into the refrigerator to marinate for at least one hours. Serve tossed with salad greens, tomatoes, or chilled pasta–or all by itself.
Serves eight appetizers.
From Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food cookbook, copyright 2006 Tom Fitzmorris
Chef Gunter Preuss was formerly the owner of Broussard’s where he created a version of the famous French soup-stew with a local flavor. This dish is very similar to bouillabaisse, but without the saffron and with more pepper and other Louisiana ingredients.
1 stick butter
4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, white parts only, well washed and chopped coarsely
6 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups white wine
3 fresh, ripe, peeled, seeded tomatoes
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
3 quarts chicken stock
3 Tbs. butter
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb. fish fillets (redfish, trout, sheepshead, drum, etc.)
2 dozen oysters
1 lb. lump crabmeat
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. In a large saucepan, heat the butter until it bubbles. Saute the carrots, onions, leeks and celery in the butter until they turn limp.
2. Stir in the tomato paste, then pour in the brandy. Carefully flame the brandy and allow the flame to extinguish itself.
3. Pour in the white wine and bring it to a boil. Reduce by about one-fourth, then add the tomatoes and garlic. Return to a boil, cook for about a minute more, and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat the 3 Tbs. butter in a skillet and, in turn, saute the shrimp, fish, and oysters. The shrimp should turn pink, the fish should turn opaque, and the edges of the oysters should curl. Take care not to overcook anything.
5. Add the shrimp, fish, oysters, crabmeat, and parsley to the soup and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. This dish can be served as is, with rice, or with pasta. The consistency should be like that of gumbo.
This dish was invented at Mr. B’s, and it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before. It replaces the rice in a good sausage-and-chicken jambalaya with pasta. This version was created by the Taste Buds–the three chefs who own Zea–for their first big restaurant concept, Semolina. (Only one Semolina survives, , in the Clearview Mall.) The Buds added two interesting wrinkles: Creole sauce and smoked gouda cheese. The latter touch gives the smoky flavor we all want in a jambalaya.
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 lb. andouille, sliced thinly
8 oz. chicken breast meat, bone and skin removed, cut into medium chunks
2 Tbs. tasso, chopped
1 small red onion, cut into strips
1 small bell pepper, cut into strips
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
4 tsp. minced garlic
1 stick butter
3 cups Creole sauce (see recipe)
2 lbs. orecchiete, shell, or spiral pasta, cooked and drained
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked gouda
2 green onions, tender green parts only, thinly sliced
1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet. Sear the chicken, andouille, and tasso in corn oil until the chicken is nearly cooked. Drain excess fat.
2. Add onion, bell pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic, and butter. Continue cooking until the the garlic is fragrant. Add Creole sauce and bring to a boil. Stir well to incorporate butter into the sauce.
3. Put the pasta into a large bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss the pasta with the sauce to incorporate. Divide the pasta jambalaya on six plates. Top with the cheeses. Garnish with sliced green onions.
Semolina’s Creole Sauce
1 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. yellow onion, finely diced
1/4 cup bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup celery, finely diced
1 Tbs. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. basil
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. green onions, chopped
1 cup whole canned tomatoes with juice, diced
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 cup stock (shrimp or chicken)
1/2 tsp. Crystal hot sauce
1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, basil, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, bay leaves, sugar and green onions. Cook until the bell pepper turns bright green and the onions begin to become transparent.
2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
This recipe came from the late Chef Jamie Shannon at Commander’s Palace., one of the most likeable people ever to work in the local restaurant business. There’s nothing like the taste of fresh corn, which matches the flavors of seafood exactly.
1 qt. heavy cream
5 ears of corn, cut (save cobs for sauce)
4 oz. butter
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
1 cup tequila
2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 lbs. catfish fillets, the smaller the better (cut them if very large)
2 Tbs. Creole seasoning
3 Tbs. Creole mustard
2 cups cornmeal
2 Tbs. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
1. Make the sauce first. Put the corn cobs with the cream into a saucepan, and reduce the cream over medium-low heat by one half.
2. In another saucepan, heat one ounce of butter and saute bell peppers, garlic, shallots, and fresh corn until translucent. Add tequila and (if you’re comfortable with this, careful, and have taken safety precautions) flame it. (Otherwise, just bring it to a light boil for two minutes.)
3. Strain cream into other ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Add parsley, green onions, salt and pepper. Whisk remaining butter into sauce. Keep the sauce warm.
4. Rub Creole mustard and seasonings on catfish fillets and marinate for an hour.
5. Season the cornmeal with the salt and pepper. Dredge the catfish in the cornmeal. Don’t worry that not as much will stick as usual
6. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet until grains of cornmeal sizzle in it. Fry the catfish, turning once, till golden brown. Allow the oil to recover heat between batches.
Place the sauce on a plate and top with the fried catfish.
New Orleanians celebrate the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the Carnival season on the same day: January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, also known as King Day for the three Magi to whom the baby Jesus was first revealed to the world. The day has its distinctive dish: king cake, inherited along with the rest of New Orleans’s French culture. King cake is as popular in New Orleans as any other local specialty. We start seeing king cakes in large numbers right after Christmas, and they’re everywhere until Mardi Gras. In recent years, bakeries have begun making king cakes much earlier–in Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even Halloween colors. I am opposed to this spread of what is more enjoyable in its season, but know that the trend is unstoppable.
Here’s something else I know: Unless you really enjoy baking and are good at making yeast breads, it’s not worth the trouble to make your own king cake. It’s the kind of thing that a commercial baker can turn out far more easily than the home baker. Not only that, but people are so accustomed to eating bakery-made king cake that they often reject as weird even a well-executed individual work.
I gave up on creating my own king cake recipe years ago. However, I have a baker friend in Washington D.C. who has a great recipe in his book GoodDamSweet. David Guas is a New Orleans guy who moved to D.C. with his wife Simone Rathle (who was for a long time the p.r. lady at the Windsor Court). So he understands the concept of king cake and what people expect of it. He has his own artisinal bakery in the D.C. area, and his book is terrific. I add more cinnamon when I bake his recipe, but otherwise it’s perfectly to my taste.
1 (1-1/4-oz.) package dry-active yeast
1/4 cup warm milk (105°F–115°F or warm to the touch)
1 cup plus 6 Tbs. bread flour plus extra for rolling
1 Tbs. honey
3/4 cup cake flour
2 large whole eggs plus one large egg yolk
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. salt
5 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 Tbs. milk
Icing and decoration
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
3 Tbs. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups granulated sugar
Green food coloring
Gold or yellow food coloring
Purple or red and blue food coloring
1. Whisk the yeast with the warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer until dissolved. Add 6 Tbs. bread flour and the honey. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until smooth with a few small lumps, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
2. When the dough is doubled, add 3/4 cup bread flour, and all the cake flour, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then switch to a dough hook. Increase the speed to medium, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
3. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add 4 Tbs. of butter, one Tbs. at a time, mixing well between additions. Continue to knead until the dough forms a slack ball that will hang loosely on the dough hook and be sticky to the touch. (It shouldn’t slap the bowl, but it should hold together). This should take 2-3 minutes. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add up to 1/4 cup of bread flour and keep kneading until it does.
4. Coat the inside of a large bowl with 1/2 Tbs. of butter. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning it over in the bowl to coat with butter. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and put it in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough has doubled in size–about 1 hour.
5. Line a rimmed baking sheet pan with parchment paper. Coat the parchment paper with the remaining butter. Generously flour your work surface with bread flour. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and sprinkle the top with flour. Using your hands, press and flatten it into a rectangle.
6. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1/4-inch-thick strip about 24 inches long by about 6 inches wide. Starting with one of the long sides, roll the dough on top of itself, making a long, thin baguette-shaped length. Pinch the edge to the body of the dough to seal. Then turn the dough so it lies horizontally on your work surface, and gently roll it to even out any bulges and create a more or less consistent 1 1/2-inch-wide rope. Bring the two ends of the dough together and pinch them together.
7. Carefully transfer the dough oval or circle to the prepared sheet pan. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Set in a warm, dry spot to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
8. Heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the top and sides of the dough, and bake the king cake until golden and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Set on a rack to cool completely.
9. Make the icing while the cake cools. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, milk, and vanilla together in a bowl until smooth and completely incorporated. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel until you are ready to glaze the cake.
10. To make the colored sugars, divide 1 cup of the sugar into three sealable quart-size plastic bags. Add 4 drops of green food coloring to one bag, 4 drops of gold or yellow to another, and 4 drops of purple to the last bag. (If you don’t have purple, mix 2 drops each of red and blue food coloring in a spoon, and mix with a toothpick.)Seal the bags and shake them to combine the sugar and food coloring.
11. When the cake is cool, spoon the icing over the cooled cake. Immediately after icing, decorate with the colored sugars in patches of one-third or one-sixth to surface area. Slice and serve immediately.
Confession: I never make fried chicken the same way twice. It’s a work in progress that’s been going on for over ten years. This recipe is an amalgamation of the ideas that resulted in the most delicious chicken–so far.
The primary challenge in frying chicken is that the various pieces cook at different rates. This is why, I suspect, the Colonel used to cut his chicken differently than the standard breast-wing-thigh-drumstick configuration. I like that idea, if you’re up to cutting your own chickens. What you do is pull the breastbone of the chicken out with the two tenders still attached. This removes about a third of the meat from each breast, making it more the size of the other pieces.
The problem is not entirely solved. Breast meat cooks faster than leg meat of the same size. Consider that as you cook. One more thing. There is no question that the flavor of the chicken gets better after you’ve fried one chicken. Or that it starts deteriorating after you’ve fried about five chickens. So refresh the oil–strain it and add fresh–along the way.
1 quart buttermilk
2 Tbs. salt
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 Tbs. tarragon
1 Tbs. dill
1 Tbs. garlic-flavored Tabasco
2 whole chickens, cut up into breast tenderloin, two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, and two wings
4 cups self-rising (yes!) flour
2 Tbs. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. thyme
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbs. granulated onion
2 cups vegetable oil
1. Combine the marinade ingredients, mixing until the salt is dissolved. Divide the chicken among gallon food storage bags. Add enough marinade to complete soak the chicken. Place the bags in the refrigerator eight hours to overnight.
2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off excess. Place the chicken pieces on a rack over a pan (the racks you use to cool cakes are perfect). Place the chicken out of the way but in the open air, and allow to warm up for about a half hour.
3. When ready to begin cooking, combine the coating ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a large, clean paper bag.
4. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pot to 375 degrees.
5. Put three or four pieces of chicken into the bag with the seasonings. Shake to coat uniformly. (The bag method will also shake off excess coating.)
6. Using tongs, put four or five pieces of chicken into the hot oil and fry, without turning, for eight to ten minutes. Turn it over and fry on the other side, again for eight to ten minutes. The color you’re looking for is a bit darker than the usual golden brown.
7. As you remove the chicken from the pot, drain it in a large sieve over a bowl. Shake it a couple of times and let it remain there for at least one minutes. If nobody grabs it immediately (the recommended way of eating fried chicken), keep it warm in a 150-degree oven until serving.