Monday, August 31, 2009

Luncheon at Galatoire's

In 1983 I was passing through New Orleans on a tour of South Louisiana. It was my first visit to the Crescent City and my pal Tommy Curtin was driving. Tommy had been here before and told me of a restaurant that had been around for nearly a century. Not only was it world famous, it was Bob Hope's favorite restaurant. Well, that sounded good to me, let's go!

The restaurant in question was Galatoire's. It was opened in 1905, by Jean Galatoire when he bought out Victor's restaurant on a VERY different Bourbon Street. It has stayed in the family for generations and won many prestigious awards over the years. Always listed in the top restaurants in New Orleans it has been consistent in its stellar service and amazing food.

On my first visit to Galatoire's I vividly remember ordering the Trout Meuniere Amandine, which was recommended by my friend Tommy. Honestly, this was the best fish I'd ever eaten. Actually it was the best meal I had ever eaten. This beautiful trout was sautéed in clarified butter, and topped with toasted almonds. How many meals can you remember 26 years later?

When I was considering going back to Galatoire's, I made up my mind I was going to have to Soft Shell Crabs, they've been my favorite food for years. My decision was made easier by watching a video of soft shells being made by Galatoire's Head Chef Brian Landry. (To view this video CLICK HERE.)

I made my way over to Bourbon street to the restaurant with its classically appointed green awning. Entering from Bourbon is like stepping into a different world. The white linen covered tables, and real waiters dressed like waiters and not like the flair-festooned, suspender-bound, "wait-persons" you see at Bennigans and the like.

I was seated and introduced to Peter, my waiter and his lovely assistant Evangelyn. She served me a personal loaf of nice crusty french bread with butter. Ice tea came and I made my choice for the soft shells with a gumbo appetizer. I asked Peter if Chef Landry was on the premises, to which he said "yes, would you like to meet him?" "I would love to," was my reply.

Soon I was shaking hands with one of New Orleans' youngest head chefs, especially in such a prestigious appointment. A friendly face let you know that meeting a customer was not a laborious chore, but an honest gesture of welcoming me to his place. We chatted for a moment about what a big fan I was of him and the restaurant, he then excused himself to get back to work. This simple, friendly encounter really made my visit special and memorable. By the way, make no mistake, my mention of his age has no bearing on his abilities, which are beyond impressive.

Peter first brought out a bowl of seafood gumbo, which was the best I've EVER had, and that's no easy task. Chock full of shrimp and lump crab meat, the base was dark and flavorful, the way it's supposed to be. After finishing the gumbo, I was served my entrée. There on the plate were two large, expertly pan fried, "busters," covered in toasted almonds and sautéed lump crab meat. I almost got teary at the sight and aroma of this heavenly crustacean.

Words can barely express my emotions from the first bite to the last of this wonderful meal. The dish was absolute perfection. My favorite food just got "kicked up a notch." Where could it go from here?

OK, maybe I am going overboard, but it was a great meal. I topped it off with coffee, and as I was finishing up Chef Landy came back to my table to ask how my meal was and bid me farewell. What other "Top Rated" restaurant does the Head Chef take this type of personal approach? Not many I'd recon. I paid my bill and made my goodbyes to Peter and Evangelyn. On the way out I grabbed a menu and a couple of recipe cards and headed back out into the garish trappings of Bourbon Street.

A wonderful day with an exquisite meal. An exceptional New Orleans experience that I will cherish. Did this meal top my first Galatoire's encounter? Not sure, but if not it's a close tie. Chef Landry, his staff, and the owners should be very proud of this crown jewel in New Orleans' lofty epicurean crown. Galatoire's is located at 209 Bourbon St., just a block off Iberville. Reservations are not required for the downstairs dining room, but dress respectably, no shorts, etc. Click HERE to see their website.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Metairie Creamy Crabby Soup

When I was first staying in New Orleans overnight with business, I had a friend Doug Ferguson who lived in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. Doug and his sweet wife Barbara welcomed me to their beautiful home like family, and I love and cherish them dearly for their wonderful Southern Hospitality.

We would cook from time to time, and I developed this soup while there. Now, we used to add shrimp to it, but I think it is perfect as it is with just the crabmeat. I miss the evenings with the Fergusons since they moved to Texas after Katrina, here is the soup recipe though. I made it tonight and it was wonderful. It made me think of my friends, so I named it after Metairie. I know you'll love it.

BTW you can use less crab, or more soup. I like this balance. Also, you can use the less-expensive claw meat instead of the lumps for this soup. It actually works better for soups like gumbos and bisques.


1 lb crab meat (use cheaper claw meat)
1 cup onion (small dice)
1 tsp garlic (minced)
1 16oz can chicken stock
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ stick butter
4 tbs flour
1 tbs Tony Chacere's
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp nutmeg (or a pinch)
½ tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme


In a MED/HI stockpot melt butter, and add onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and nutmeg. WHen onions are wilted, add flour, Tony C's, cayenne, black pepper, and paprika. Cook and stir until the roux starts to turn a tan color. Add stock and blend into the roux. Cook for 10 mins. and add crabmeat, milk and heavy cream. Bring to a boil and turn down to LO and cook for about 30 mins. Great with cheddar garlic biscuits. Don't add salt, there's salt in the crab, stock, Tony C's, and the butter. You might get it too salty!


Saturday, August 22, 2009


Zatarain's has been a New Orleans' tradition since 1889. Although they have a very wide and encompassing selection of products, my favorite is their Creole Mustard. This is one of the first products introduced by Emile Zatarain in the late 1800s. It remains a big seller to this day. Now, I know they have rice mixes, seafood boils, gumbo base, Creole Spices, etc, but my favorite is still their mustard.

Anywhere you use yellow mustard, try this instead. I use it in recipes, sometimes I use it in my barbecue sauce. My favorite application for it is on a roast beef or Ferdi Po-Boy. There is nothing better than that spicy mustard complimenting my Po-Boy, and not just the meat type, shrimp, oyster, fried crawfish, all can benefit with a shot of Zatarain's Mustard.

I like mixing it with mayonnaise, (about half and half), or with Steen's Pure Cane Syrup for a nice glaze for pork loin or chicken. I learned that little tip from my friend Danno at NOLA Cuisine. Anyway you use it is fine and it's up to you! Please go over to their site and see the many great products a they offer. For their website CLICK HERE!

PS: I like their Cayenne Pepper too!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Chef Matt Murphy Recovering

As we reported a few months ago, Chef Matt Murohy from the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, contracted a streptococcus infection that led to toxic shock syndrome and disseminated intravascular coagulation, a condition that prevents proper blood coagulation. Well after many surgeries, and treatments he is finally back on the mend. HERE is our original post.

If you go to you can read all about his recovery and all the efforts by his fellow chefs in New Orleans to raise money for his mounting medical bills. Matt, we are happy and relieved you are getting better, our prayers were always with you. See you soon at the Ritz-Carlton, maybe I'll pipe you a tune 'er two on my Uilleann Pipes.

How to Make a Roux

As Justin Wilson used to say, "firs' ya gotta make a roux, you know dat!" If you don't "know dat" you should realize to make a proper gumbo, sauce piquant, etouffée, or crawfish stew, for example, you need to know how to make a Roux. Pronounced "roo," it is the result of cooking nearly equal amounts of oil and flour together until it is nice and brown. Different shades of brown are achieved by different cooking times and temperatures. The longer the cooking time, the darker the color and flavor, and the less thickening quality it has. Usually cooked in a cast iron pot or skillet, oil can be substituted with lard, shortening, or animal fat. Most of the old Cajuns insisted on using lard.

Although both descended from French kitchens, Cajun rouxs are usually darker in color, and are used more for flavor than as a thickening agent. Creole rouxs are used more to thicken and tend to be lighter in color, like a béchamel sauce. They often use butter instead of oil for a more savory flavor.

For most recipes, I will use a dark roux. Somewhere between the color of milk chocolate and dark chocolate. This takes some time. Etouffées, for instance, use a lighter roux, but this varies from dish to dish.

For a standard roux, we will use 1 cup of vegetable oil and 1½ cup of flour and a cast iron skillet or dutch oven. If you make it in a skillet you'll probably need to transfer it to another, larger vessel after making it. Heat the oil in the skillet on MED, whisk in flour to avoid any lumps. After smoothing out all the lumps, I use a heat-proof, silicon, flat-end spatula to stir the roux, you want to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot, and this silicon spatula gets in all those little corners. Most cooks prefer using a wooden spoon.

Don't go off and leave it. With the spatula, completely brush/scrape the roux off the bottom and sides, wait a few seconds, letting it brown a bit, and then repeat. Keep it moving, don't let it burn. If black specks appear, throw it out and start again. Keep stirring until it is the desired color you need, take it off the stove eye, and continue with your recipe.

Roux can get to upwards of 500º and can burn you badly. Chef Paul Prudhomme calls it Cajun Napalm. Be careful and don't burn it, or yourself. Do a few trial runs before you plan a big dish. If you are making it to put in a recipe later, transfer it to a heat-resistant container, as it will continue cooking if you leave it in the skillet. It is best to make it in the pot or skillet you will be using for the particular dish. Most recipes will require you to sauté the *"Holy Trinity" in the roux. If so, put the onions in first, to wilt them for a few minutes, then add the remaining celery and green peppers. This picture shows a roux after the onions have been added.

Adding the "Trinity" will stop the cooking process, so make sure you have it where you want it (color-wise) before adding the onions. Oh, the roux will actually turn a darker reddish color after adding the onions, this is from the caramelization of the sugar in the onions. The smell is almost irresistible at this moment. If you wanna cook cajun food, you gotta make a roux.

* The Holy Trinity is diced onions, celery, and green bell pepper.

Have Fun!


The Dry Dock Cafe

Well, I've been through dry dock before, but that usually pertained to a refurbishment of a cruise ship. The Dry Dock Cafe is a great meeting place and restaurant across the river from New Orleans downtown in an area called Algiers. My friend Mangesh Desai, an Indian magician from the ship, and I took the ferry over to Algiers Point to meet two other magician friends, Trini Montes, Trini's darlin' wife Amy, and card magic legend Jon Racherbaumer.

I first met Trini and Jon years ago when I first started coming to New Orleans, then Trini, an excellent magician on his own, came on the cruise and we got together later to do some magic. Jon is a prolific author, writer, and performer. I always feel humbled when I get to see Jon. He is as friendly as can be and will absolutely blow you away with mind-blowing card magic, especially for magicians.

I had been to The Dry Dock Cafe before with my magician friend Joe Harrison, it must be popular with magicians for some reason. Just right off the ferry platform on the corner of Bouny & Delaronde, The Dry Dock Cafe is serving a great menu from seafood to cajun and creole specialities. I had the seafood gumbo and a fried shrimp and oyster platter for my meal and they were both great.

The gumbo, was brown and thick with great crabmeat and other seafood. The flavor was some of the best I've had in town. Believe it or not, it is hard to find good gumbo in New Orleans, since so many restaurants (rumored to be over 50) are using an institutional gumbo made by hundreds of gallons, and passed off as made in-house. This is a welcome change to have this great bowl of gumbo with it's little gumbo crab reaching over the edge of the bowl.

The fried shrimp and oysters were really fresh tasting and fried perfectly. The slaw and hushpuppies were great, and the fries, although I ate only a couple, were good enough. The meal was capped off by some nicely brewed ice tea. All in all a great meal.

Getting together with my magician buddies was a special day and the food was equally magical. I recommend The Dry Dock Cafe for their food and pleasant atmosphere. You can get there from downtown by heading down to the end of Canal Street, crossing the tracks there at the World Trade Center to the Spanish Plaza, and then walking up the ramp to the ferry. The best part is... it's FREE! Check it out when in New Orleans, you can even take your car over on the ferry.


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Praline Connection

I rarely, if ever travel past Esplanade, on into the Faubourg Marigny section of New Orleans, although I should more often. Well I climbed on the Riverfront Streetcar and rode to the end of the line which left me off at the end of the French Quarter on Esplanade. My reason for the trip was to try out a restaurant I had read about in a magazine ad from Louisiana Cookin' Magazine.

The Praline Connection is a restaurant, that started as a confectionery, by business partners making pralines. Cecil Kaigler and Curtis Moore opened their first location on Frenchman Street in 1990 and, according to them, the rest has been culinary history.

I arrived about 1:30, just after the lunch rush and was immediately seated. My waitress was a lovely lady named Toya. I considered ordering appetizers since I wanted to try some of their standard dishes. I then noticed the Taste of Soul platter which came with chicken, ribs, catfish, gumbo, jambalaya, collards, cornbread, red beans and rice, finishing off with bread pudding for dessert. Daaayaaamn!

I know, it sounds like a lot but... IT IS!!! It's friggin massive, I had to take MORE than half of it back with me. As you can see in the picture, I got nice cup of gumbo, which tasted great, but I will say, was kind of sparse ingredient-wise, but it was really tasty, so I'll give it a thumbs up anyway!

Then they brought my entrée or entrée group. Everything was hot, fresh, and delicious. The chicken was really good, nice crispy outside and cooked perfectly. The catfish was light and mild tasting, (I hate stinky fish). The ribs were baked nicely with a standard barbecue sauce. Not the way I normally like ribs, but very flavorful anyway. Most people prefer more sauce than I do, and would love these.

The red beans were creamy, and the jambalaya was spicy and moist like I like it. I have to say I really loved the collard greens. They were just like I remember eating them while growing up. I had a piece of cornbread with the meal and for dessert had a warm serving of bread pudding with a praline sauce. The sauce had a slight "bourbony" flavor and really rounded out the bread pudding.

The service was excellent, Toya was a great waitress and was helpful in her food suggestions. I will say I was disappointed the ice tea was a mix or from a can or something. It had that artificial taste that comes with the preservative. Fresh brewed tea is not that hard to manage. If you were raised in the South you expect fresh brewed tea, but this is one of my few criticisms.

A traditional restaurant with great food and reasonable prices. The Taste of Soul platter was just under $20, and can easily feed two people. I found all the menu items very affordable. I am going back soon to try their Etouffée and other items like Gumbo ZHerbes. I highly recommend this place if you are visiting New Orleans or showing friends or tourists around the French Quarter. It's about two blocks off Esplanade, an easy walk from the Streetcar station. Enjoy!


Jezebel Sauce

If you've never had this wonder sauce, you need to try it out. I had read about if for a few years and had even seen it referred to on television before I decided to make a batch. What is it? Jezebel sauce is sweet, spicy, and savory all at once. It puts you in the mind of a honey mustard on steroids.

It contains a varied bunch of ingredients that don't normally share the flavor platform. It is best when served at a party by placing a block of cream cheese on a platter and pouring a couple of cups of Jezebel sauce over it. You guests can then scoop the mixture with crackers. The cream cheese tempers the feistiness of the Jezebel nicely. I have also seen recipes using the sauce with pork or chicken.

It is quite easy to put together, and I keep it refrigerated between servings. This is my version of the recipe, I was torn between apricot or pineapple preserves for the second ingredient, some recipes call for either. I found that Walmart actually carries an apricot/pineapple preserve mixture that worked wonderfully. I hope you enjoy making and eating this sauce, it is great for parties and adding a little zest to baked chicken, pork loin, or something similar. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

12 oz apple jelly
12 oz pineapple/apricot preserves
½ cup horseradish
3 tbsp dry mustard
1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Tony Chacere's Creole Seasoning

Mix the jelly and preserves in a bowl, stir in horseradish and blend thoroughly. Mix the dry mustard, black and cayenne peppers, and creole seasoning in a bag or bowl, dump it into the jelly mix, and whisk it together well. Refrigerator until ready to use. CLICK HERE to download the recipe.