Monday, August 23, 2010

Gorging on Creole Dishes: A Honeymoon Edition of Southern Cookin'

"Best of all things in New Orleans was the food.  Remembering the bitter hungry days at Tara and her more recent penury, Scarlett felt that she could never eat enough of these rich dishes. Gumboes and shrimp Creole, doves in wine and oysters in crumbly patties full of creamy sauce, mushrooms and sweetbreads and turkey livers, fish baked cunningly in oiled paper and limes.  Her appetite never dulled, for whenever she remembered the everlasting goobers and dried peas and sweet potatoes at Tara, she felt an urge to gorge herself anew of Creole dishes." 
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XLVIII

It's time for another edition of Southern Cookin' and this time, we are bidding the aristocratic cuisine of Charleston adieu and moving on to that "strange, glamorous place" of New Orleans and its rich Creole dishes. As you've surely all guessed, the recipes we've prepared for you come from the quote above, taken from probably my favorite chapter in GWTW- the honeymoon chapter. Sigh, such happy times!

Some quick info on our recipes, which you'll find after the jump: They come from The Picayune's Creole Cook Book, first published in 1901 by The New Orleans Times-Picayune. While the cookbook's publication date marks the first year of the 20th century, many of its recipes are in fact older, as it was partially published to preserve Creole culinary tradition out of fear that the Civil War generation was now dying and, with them, the legacy of old Creole cooking. The Picayune's Creole Cook Book is still in publication today, last published in 1987 with slight modifications to aid the modern cook, and our recipes are excerpted from this version for your convenience, should you like to play Nola chef.

I was able to round up recipes (or close approximations) for all the dishes referenced in the quote above, with the exception of doves in wine and turkey livers. But, honestly, I can't imagine that you'll feel the loss of those two recipes too terribly.  At least I hope not because I'm sure you have much business eating doves these days, anyway.

But I shan't run on any more, for our New Orleans honeymoon banquet is all set and prepared for you after the jump. Bon appetit!

Creole Shrimp
Chevrettes a la Creole

4 pounds o f 20 to 25 count, fresh shrimp
A Large Onion
A Tablespoonful of Lard
A Tablespoonful of Flour
A Can of Tomatoes, or a Dozen Fresh Ones (if using fresh tomatoes, peel and chop them)
4 Celery Stalks
A Clove of Garlic
A Sprig of Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to Taste
A Dash of Cayenne

Boil the Shrimp first and then pick off the shells, leaving the Shrimp whole. Place them in a dish. Chop fine one large onion and brown it with a tablespoonful of lard, and a tablespoonful of flour. Add a quart of tomatoes or twelve large, ripe tomatoes, chopped fine, in their own liquor. Stir well and brown lightly. Then add three or four stalks of celery, a clove of garlic, a dash of Cayenne, a sprig of thyme, two bay leaves, all chopped fine and seasoned with salt to taste. After this has cooked ten minutes, add the Shrimp. Let them cook ten minutes longer and serve with Boiled Rice. Never pour water into stewed Shrimp, as the tomato juice makes gravy enough.

Oyster Patties

Petites Bouchees d'Huitres

4 Dozen Oysters
1 6-oz can of Mushrooms, reserving the juice
2 Tablespoonfuls of Butter
A Small Onion, Grated
1/4 Teaspoon of each Salt and Pepper
Cayenne to Taste
1 Tablespoonful Chopped Parsley
Lemon Juice
Tablespoonful of Cream (Optional)

Prepare a puff paste. (Commercial pastry shells, from your grocery or bakery, can be used.) Boil the Oysters in their own liquor. Drain, put the butter in the saucepan, and when it is heated, add the grated onion and rub in the flour until smooth. Add a gill (1/2 cup) of mushroom juice and pepper, salt and Cayenne to taste and the mushrooms chopped in quarters. Then add the Oysters and let all stew about five minutes, adding the lemon juice. A tablespoonful of cream will improve the Oysters. If this is used, omit the lemon juice.

Line the small tins with the puff paste and but in each three or four Oysters, according to the size of the paste. Cover with the paste and bake in a quick oven about fifteen minutes. Bake at 400 degrees.

To make the open Pates so much used at luncheons, and entertainments in New Orleans, cut the puff paste into round cakes. Those intended for the bottom crust should be about a little less than an eighth of an inch thick. Those intended for the upper layers should be a little thicker. Take a small biscuit cutter and remove a round paste from the center of these latter. This will leave a nice ring. Carefully place this upon the bottom rust, and then in a second ring, until the cavity is deep enough to hold several Oysters. Lay the pieces that have been extracted into a pan with these and bake to a fine brown in a quick oven. Take out and fill the cavities with the Oysters prepared as above, fit on the top lightly, set in the oven a second or two and serve.

Des Champignons

Mushrooms constitute one of the greatest flavoring Vegetables known to the scientific cuisiniere. The Creoles, like the French, think it a crime to cook this Vegetable in any form that would destroy its own peculiar flavor, or that which it is capable of imparting to the most ordinary dish.

Mushrooms can be served as a Vegetable in a variety of ways. They can be sauteed in butter, tossed in a cream sauce and seasoned with finely chopped green onions and a dash of sherry.

Sweetbreads Crepinettes
Crepinettes de Ris de Veau

3 Pairs of Sweetbreads
An Onion
A Bay Leaf
A Sprig of Thyme
1/2 Clove of Garlic
A Tablespoonful Butter
A Teaspoonful of Prepared Mustard

Clean and parboil the Sweetbreads. Chop an onion very fine and place it in a saucepan with a tablespoonful of butter. Let them simmer without browning; add one bay leaf, one sprig of thyme, one-half clove of garlic, a teaspoonful of prepared mustard, and mix well. Then add a pint of water and stir well; then add the Sweetbreads which have been chopped very fine and formed into Crepinettes, or little fringed Balls, by patting with the hand; let them simmer for about fifteen minutes longer. Serve with any sauce, preferably a Cream Sauce.

Baked Fish
Poisson au Gratin

Clean the fish, cutting off the fins. Make the letter "S" on the sides with a sharp knife. Rub well inside and out with pepper and salt. Butter a stewpan and put in one large chopped onion and a wineglassful (1/4 cup) of White Wine. Place the Fish in the pan, put in the oven and let it bake about twenty minutes, having been careful to place lumps of butter over it and basting frequently. When done, carefully lift the Fish out of the pan and put it into the dish in which it is to be served.

Take the gravy in which the Fish has been cooked and add about a cup of oyster liquor, the juice of one lemon, two tablespoonfuls of chopped mushrooms, one tablespoonful of minced parsley, thyme and sweet marjoram, ten allspice, one clove of garlic, a little Cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix all thoroughly over the stove, adding a little butter if the gravy adheres too much to the pan. Pour over the Fish, and garnish with whole mushrooms and slices of lemon laid alternately upon Croutons or dried toast cut in diamond shapes.

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