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La Belle Cuisine
Birthday Bash, New Orleans Style
it possible to celebrate these days? Yes.
Now more than
Books are being written about the
ripple effects of the wave of terrorism set into motion on 11 September
2001. The date joins the list
of infamous days etched indelibly in our individual and collective memory
banks. That sad fact appears to be beyond our control. What is
not beyond our control is how we choose to live our lives from that day
of the initial effects for me personally, although certainly not by
design, was a tendency to shy away from anything light-hearted. Intellectually, I recognized the need for it, but emotionally, I
simply could not bear it. My
heart was far too heavy for frivolity.
moves on, does it not? Despite
the unspeakable horrors of terrorism
and its aftermath, we find that the
facts of our lives remain. Holidays
come and go. Long-anticipated
days of celebration approach. What
are all called upon to continue to live our lives with meaning, with
compassion. And yes, with
passion. Otherwise, we may as
well wave the white flag and let the forces of evil have their way with
allow me to share my own experience with you.
have never been one to make a big deal out of my birthday.
the reasons. About
a year or so ago, quite spontaneously, it occurred to me that I had a
relatively significant birthday coming up in 2001, and that I had
burning desire to make it a Big Deal. To celebrate royally. Surely
if I gave the family a year’s notice, we could all make it happen!
of you who know me well – or who know La Belle Cuisine well – surely
must be aware of how I feel about
Palace. If you are
not in either of these categories, perhaps you have had
an opportunity to
the Brennans: A New Orleans Reverie”. No? Please
either to refresh your memory or to acquaint you with one of
me, the ultimate atmosphere of pure merriment is to be found at
Commander's renowned Sunday Jazz Brunch. Along with excellent food,
including a myriad of scrumptious egg dishes: Creole, Hussarde, Soubise
and Basin Street, among
others, you'll be treated to strolling jazz bands,
a multitude of colored balloons,
and a relaxed, carefree, convivial
environment. A celebration of the senses.
like New Orleans
itself. You'll be coaxed to "Enjoy, chere Madame! Enjoy!" In
short, you can experience the epitome of the very heart and soul of
exquisite city. And when you take your leave, you will truly know what it
means to miss New Orleans.....but that's another story!”
here it is. The rest of the story…
Obviously, there was no question of where
this significant birthday was to
be celebrated. I reiterate, for me, the ultimate atmosphere of pure merriment
to be found at Commander's renowned Sunday Jazz Brunch.
Here’s what you do. Well
in advance, give Commander's a jingle(504.899.8221) and make reservations.
And just in case you are wondering,
as I did, whether they book
reservations more than a year in advance, the
answer is yes.
Contact your sons (daughters, parents, nieces, nephews,
and give them fair warning. Make
no bones about the fact that
this occasion is extremely crucial to your
well being, and that you are
counting on their participation.
You may have to call them again several
months later, as I
add a reservation for your new granddaughter!
No problem. They
simply congratulate you.
Big Day approaches. Things
are looking good. Your heart
is already racing with anticipation. And then the unthinkable, the unspeakable occurs.
11 September 2001. The
thought of celebration makes you heartsick.
now as foreign to you as terror once was. You seriously consider canceling
How can you possibly expect your older son and his wife to fly
do not cancel your celebration. If for no other reason, gather and
celebrate the very fact that you are still alive and well and able
and celebrate. Perhaps
the old adage about good intentions is true.
now that if I had given in to that dark, joyless thought -
as good as my
intentions were at the time - I would have regretted it the
rest of my life.
needed this gathering. For
different reasons, perhaps, but it served
us all well.
Of that I am sure.
time! There we were: The
Birthday Girl and her Gentleman Friend,
both sons, each with his
respective gorgeous, elegantly-attired, devoted
wife on his arm, the now
one-year-old granddaughter (who was, needless
to say, the star of the show, the apple
of everyone’s eye, decked out in
her brand-spanking-new party dress).
The Elders of the Clan (Birthday
Girl’s aunt and uncle) graced us
with their presence, rounding out the
gathering to a representation
Gentleman Friend and I could not resist beginning the celebration
hour ahead of schedule. On
the patio, with a cocktail or two. Or
was it three? Ohmigod.
What might you find in the way of cocktails at Commander’s? Why, Sazeracs,
of course, and French 75s (for me, the quintessential celebratory
libation!). Or how about an
a Kir Orleans? Perhaps
a New Orleans Gin Fizz, or Godchaux Plantation Punch.
If none of those delectable drinks tickles your fancy, you are sure
to find one that will. You
can trust me on that. I
cannot guarantee you, however, the serendipitous weather with which we
were blessed this past Sunday. The
clear blue sky, the glorious sunshine sparkling through the waving palms,
the magnificent autumnal day, the invigorating chill in the
borderline miracle in New Orleans!).
know what you’re thinking. What
about the FOOD? Well.
I am still chastising myself for lack of foresight. I could have actually recorded every single morsel if only I had
thought of it in time. Highlights
I can give you, however. Along
with my personal menu:
Roasted Gulf Oysters
Topped with garlic, artichokes, French bread crumbs,
Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper touched with virgin olive oil
With crushed corn sauce ~
finished with a jumbo lump crabmeat and pinched herb salad
of course, the infamous, oh-so-decadent,
Riesling flowed like water, and I am embarrassed to tell you how
Bread I ate. But then,
who was counting? Did they have
carry me out? Who cares???
in our party opted for one of the specials not listed on the
web site menu – Crab Pain Perdu. I
was led to believe
they had no regrets!
Others indulged in:
Jeannette (named for Chef Jamie Shannon’s wife)
Garlic and black pepper crusted pork loins served sliced and simmered
rich mushroom and leek sauce placed atop a sage biscuit and finished
two poached eggs and Creole Hollandaise (recipe follows)
Gentleman Friend seemed quite pleased indeed with his
Molten Soufflé. The
popular dessert choice was Commander’s signature
Pudding Soufflé. The
revelers were too busy eating to comment,
which I interpret as 5 stars.
yes. Lest I forget. At present,
Commander’s Jazz Brunch menu
the aforementioned Eggs
Creole, Hussarde, Soubise,
or Basin Street. It may, however, include Eggs
Sardou, Garden District
recipes? Y’all ain’t just
whistlin’ Dixie! How about some
Take Home the True Taste
of New Orleans with More
than 150 Recipes from
Commander's Palace Restaurant
by Ti Adelaide Martin and Jamie Shannon, 2000,
Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
you improve a classic? Yep.
I’d put money on it that we probably have served more Eggs Benedict, the
classic brunch dish of poached egg with Canadian bacon and hollandaise
that an other restaurant. But Chef Jamie and my mother, Ella,
lamenting one day that customers were sticking with the old egg dishes and
not trying our new versions. Mom loved one of them, ‘that new egg dish
sage buttermilk biscuits and the roasted pork loin. It’s really
better than Eggs Benedict, you know.’ What did he call it?
‘Poached Eggs with Roasted Pork
Loin,’ Jamie said. We try not
to name too many dishes after people, but Mom
thought this should be an
exception. ‘Let’s name it after your wife.’ After all,
Jeanette was a great New Orleans name. Now this new classic is a
1 pound boneless pork loin
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, for dusting
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, cut in half, thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted
cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 poached eggs
1 cup Hollandaise Sauce (refer to Eggs Sardou recipe)
the oven to 400 degrees F. Season the pork with the rosemary,
salt, and pepper,
and dust it with the flour over a large bowl to catch any
a roasting pan over two burners on the stovetop over high heat. Melt
butter in the pan, being careful not to burn it. Place the loin in the pan
fat side down, sear for about 4 minutes, turn the meat, add the onion and
garlic, and cook for about 8 minutes. Remove the loin.
the excess flour and seasoning from the large bowl to the pan, stir to
incorporate, about 1 minute, gradually add the cold water while stirring,
and bring to a boil. Return the loin to the pan, and place in the
oven. Roast for about 1 hour, or until the sauce seems slightly
and the loin is completely cooked. Remove the pan from the oven,
remove the loin from the sauce. Let the meat rest.
the loin is cool enough to handle, cut it in thin slices (each about 1/16
of an inch), return the pork to the pan, and simmer about 30 minutes, to
get the pork extremely tender. Adjust sauce consistency while simmering.
the hot sauce and adjust seasoning. Keep warm until serving time.
the oven at 400 degrees F. for the biscuits.
the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and pepper into a large bowl.
the sage. Gently work the butter into the mixture, being careful to
keep the butter pieces about the size of peas. Form a well in the center of
mixture and add 3/4 cup of buttermilk and the baking soda. Using a
spatula, lightly fold the mixture so that it’s just sticky and the dry
ingredients are just moistened – no longer. Add more buttermilk if
for the proper feel.
The idea is to create layers so the butter
will steam and will serve as a leavening agent to help the biscuits rise.
The less the dough is handled,
the, flakier the biscuits will be.
a counter lightly dusted with flour, flatten the dough to about 1 1/2-inch
thickness. Using a flour-dusted cutter 3 inches in diameter, cut the dough
into 4 biscuit shapes. Arrange them in a 9-inch pie tin so that the
are touching; this helps them stay moist while baking. Bake the
20 minutes, but do not overbake. Remember: The last 10
percent of the
cooking will occur after they’re removed from the oven.
serve, split each biscuit in half horizontally, set two halves side by
in the center of each dinner plate, place about 2 ounces of pork on
biscuit half, top each with an equal amount of sauce, from the
pork, place a poached egg on each biscuit half, and top each half
about 2 tablespoons of hollandaise sauce.
Jamie’s Tips: Be sure
the pork is tender. It can be made in advance
and reheated before serving.
With a little practice, the biscuits will be
perfect. The biscuits could
be made with a different herb (marjoram or
rosemary, for example),
none at all.
Until next time,
order to create there must be a dynamic force,
and what force
is more potent than love?"
as the Germans say,
"So jung kommen wir nie mehr zusammen."
More recipes from Commander's Palace
In Memoriam - Chef
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without
the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about
love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
of it and the hunger for it…
and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it
is all one."
~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating
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