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  • Writer's pictureCherie Claire

Holidays make me wish for New Orleans

breakfast at brennans

Something about the holidays make me hungry for my home town of New Orleans. And yes, you can take that literally. Along with the lights, the caroling in Jackson Square, the bonfires on the levees and the rainy streets that glisten the French Quarter, there’s the food, the glorious food. Ah, just sitting here thinking about roast beef poboys, grillades and grits, crawfish etouffee, seafood gumbo and trout meuniere. Brunch at Brennans (that's bananas Foster being created at right). Dinner at Antoine’s.

And that’s not even talking cocktails.

During the holidays, many restaurants serve up Reveillon dinners, an old Creole tradition that’s been reinvented for modern tastes. In the old days, the Reveillon, which means awakening in French, was a meal served to families who arrived home hungry after Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. The dinners were elaborate and featured many of the city’s traditional dishes, like turtle soup, oysters, fine wines.

Today, restaurants serve Reveillon dinners to visitors and locals alike so if you have an opportunity to visit New Orleans during the holidays, be sure and sample the Reveillon. The Maison Dupuy Hotel, for instance, offers a Reveillon menu in its Bistreaux Restaurant during December but if you get there on Nov. 30 you can watch them light their 30-foot Christmas tree and enjoy spiked egg nog and other delights.

For a list of Reveillon dinners at participating restaurants, click here.

Another restaurant for enjoying the holidays is Galatoire’s, one of the city’s old guard establishments with white table cloths and lunches that last two hours. Their Reveillon features shrimp remoulade, fried oyster Rockefeller, seared duck breast and banana bread pudding, among other delights. If you can’t make it to Galatoire’s, I recommend "Galatoire's, Biography of a Bistro" by Marda Burton and Kenneth Holdritch (Hill Street Press), which features a history of the famous restaurant as well as recipes. The restaurant owns a colorful history, continues to attract a line (for years Galatoire's did not take reservations, hence there was always a line), a steady stream of celebrities in its midst such as Tennessee Williams and Richard Gere (Jimmy Buffett used the restaurant on an album cover) and the best coffee I’ve ever had. The following are recipes from the book and the restaurant's website.

Shrimp Remoulade

3/4 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)

1/2 cup chopped curly parsley

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup tomato purée

1/2 cup Creole mustard or any coarse, grainy brown mustard

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or to taste

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Spanish hot paprika

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup salad oil

4 dozen jumbo (15 count) shrimp, peeled, boiled, and chilled

1 small head of iceberg lettuce, washed, dried and cut into thin ribbons

Mince the celery, scallions, parsley and onions in a food processor. Add the ketchup, tomato puree, Creole mustard, horseradish, red wine vinegar, paprika and Worcestershire. Begin processing again and add the oil in a slow drizzle to emulsify. Stop when the dressing is smooth. Chill for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Correct the seasoning with additional horseradish, if desired, after the ingredients have had the opportunity to marry. In a large mixing bowl, add the sauce to the shrimp and toss gently to coat. Divide the lettuce among 6 chilled salad plates. Divide the shrimp evenly atop the lettuce and serve.

Want more?

Crabmeat Ravigote

4 green onions, finely chopped

3 tablespoons clarified butter

2 cups Béchamel Sauce

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat

Pinch cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley

1 cup Hollandaise Sauce

Sauté onions in butter over low heat until tender. Add Béchamel Sauce, then fold in crabmeat. Add cayenne and white peppers. Salt to taste. Simmer mixture 5 minutes. Add parsley. Remove from heat. Fold in Hollandaise Sauce until well blended. Serve in small casserole dishes.

Note: This dish can be difficult to reheat as it may separate. It is best to add Hollandaise just before serving.

Serves 4.

Béchamel Sauce

4 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

1 cup heavy cream (if needed)

In a sauce pan, heat the milk to a simmer. Reduce heat and add salt, pepper, cayenne, bay leaf and white wine. Simmer for a few minutes. In a separate pan, melt the butter over low heat and add the flour, constantly stirring the roux with a wire whisk. Strain the milk through a fine sieve and pour it into the roux pot, stirring constantly in a circular motion until the sauce thickens. Add heavy cream, if needed, to enrich the sauce or to thin it out if it becomes too thick.

Simmer for 5 minutes

Makes 4 cups.

Hollandaise Sauce

6 egg yolks

2 tablespoons solid butter

Pinch salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons cold water

2 cups clarified butter

In a double boiler, combine the egg yolks with the 2 tablespoons of solid butter cut into small pieces, salt, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Using a wire whisk, slowly blend the mixture over medium heat, allowing the butter to melt into the mixture. Whisk until the mixture takes on a thick, almost coarse texture. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons cold water. This will prevent curdling. Using a ladle, slowly pour in the clarified butter, whisking the mixture constantly with a circular motion. The sauce should achieve a nice, thick consistency. Keep at a constant temperature and do not refrigerate.

Makes 2 cups.

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