Food lovers know some of the country’s finest fare is in New Orleans, a city rich with culture and flavor. The distinctive cuisine of the Big Easy, with its buttery roux, plush sauces, piquant spice blends, and emphasis on seafood, is derived from French and Southern influences coalesced with European and African roots.
Some say a true taste can only be experienced with a visit. But if a trip to Mardi Gras isn’t in the plans this month, try these bayou-inspired recipes from four local chefs, two of whom once called the Crescent City home. Add a signature News Orleans cocktail like the Sazerac or Ramos gin fizz and let the good times roll.
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Chef and owner,
Bistro Louise Catering
Prevalent in Louisiana’s coastal waters, black drum will be found on many New Orleans white-tablecloth restaurant menus. Louise Lamensdorf, who lived in New Orleans for more than a decade and has a deep understanding of the city’s food culture, presents the fish here (attractively folded to create thickness and height) with a luxurious champagne and shellfish veloute, oysters Rockefeller and a julienned chayote salad. “Chayote is very common in New Orleans,” says the tenured chef. “This dish encompasses the type of cuisine that is now the focus of New Orleans dining.”
Grits have a long history in North America, as American Indians used hominy, from which grits are created, for food as well as trade. Commonly prepared with milk and butter, the classic Low Country dish regularly serves as a creamy base for shrimp in many New Orleans eateries. Chef Keith “Buttons” Hicks serves a spicy version of his own, inspired by the diverse tastes of the Crescent City. “What a melting pot of eclectic flavors,” he says. “I have only been to New Orleans once in my lifetime; however, it definitely left an influence on me.”
Executive chef and owner,
Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine and Waters Fine Coastal Cuisine
Years before Jon Bonnell opened his namesake Fort Worth restaurant, he completed a six-month culinary internship at the famed Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. “Cooking in New Orleans was one of the most difficult, stressful, yet most rewarding experiences of my life,” says Bonnell, who recalls one busy New Year’s Day when he prepared crabmeat for more than 12 hours straight. The chef still takes part in cherished New Orleans traditions by participating in a Carnival krewe and parade before Mardi Gras each year. He shares his take on bourbon bread pudding, a signature New Orleans dessert that’s great for a crowd.
Executive chef, Bayou Jack’s Cajun Grill
Thanks to the Gulf Coast’s bounty of bivalves, oysters are abundant in New Orleans. Shucked and served raw on the half-shell, the mollusks are also commonly broiled over a flaming grill and topped with butter sauce and grated cheese. (Acme Oyster House and Drago’s are two New Orleans institutions widely recognized for doing it best.) But Bayou Jack’s Cajun Grill in Roanoke, which moves into its larger Oak Street location this month, offers a version that ranks up there with those of the pros. Tangy white wine lemon butter sauce contributes to the rich mouthfeel, while pungent pecorino adds zip.
Creole Drum with Chayote Salad & Oysters Rockefeller
• 2 1/4 pounds drum (available when ordered in advance from Central
Market. Red snapper is a suitable substitute.)
• Olive oil and butter, as needed
• 4 tablespoons Champagne and Shellfish Veloute (recipe follows),
plus more for plating
• 2 tablespoons Rockefeller Pesto (recipe follows)
• 18 raw oysters on the half shell (remove oysters and reserve shells)
• Crayfish for garnish, if desired
1. Cut drum lengthwise into 18 2-ounce pieces. There will be three pieces for each portion. For each portion, cross two pieces to create an “X.” Roll up the third piece and place it in the center of the “X.” Bring up the four sides of the “X” and fold them over the center to create a packagelike presentation.
2. Heat a saute pan with just enough olive oil to keep the fish from sticking. When the oil is hot, add the prepared fish bottom-side down. When the bottom begins to cook through, add 1-2 tablespoons of butter. (The amount of butter depends on how many portions are cooking at one time.) The butter will immediately brown. Lower the heat and keep basting the fish with the brown butter until it is cooked throughout. Remove and keep warm.
3. In a small skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the Champagne and Shellfish Veloute with 2 tablespoons of the Rockefeller Pesto. Add oysters to pan for 30 seconds. Remove and place back in reserved shells. Keep extra sauce mixture for final plating.
• 4 chayote squash
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 3 green onions, finely diced
• 8 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat
• 1/2 cup Rockefeller Pesto
(recipe follows), room temperature
1. Peel chayote, then julienne on a mandoline so the pulp resembles spaghetti. Toss with salt and let sit about 30 minutes, allowing the salt to draw out the liquid. Place chayote in a tea towel and slightly squeeze to remove most of the liquid. Place in a bowl and fluff with a fork.
2. Incorporate green onions and lump crab, lightly tossing so as not to break up the lumps.
3. When ready to serve, lightly toss with Rockefeller Pesto.
Champagne and Shellfish Veloute
• 3 cups Mussel Broth
• 1 cup champagne
• 1 cup heavy cream, reduced
to 1/2 cup over medium heat
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 3 tablespoons softened butter
• 3 tablespoons flour
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, reduce Mussel Broth and champagne to 2 cups.
2. Add the reduced cream and simmer over medium heat to blend. Add cayenne.
3. Combine softened butter and flour to make a roux.
4. Remove saucepan from heat and add two-thirds of the roux mixture. Whisk well. Bring sauce back to the boil, then simmer 5-10 minutes. If sauce seems thin, continue to add more roux, little by little, until you achieve a velvety texture.
• 3 carrots, peeled
and roughly chopped
• 3 sticks celery
• 1 tablespoon celery seed
• 8 parsley stems
• 4 bay leaves
• 3 cups dry vermouth
• 3 cups water
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 pounds of black mussels, washed (available at Central Market)
1. Bring all ingredients, except mussels, to a boil. Add mussels. When they open, remove and reserve for another use.
2. Strain broth and in a saucepan reduce to 3 cups over medium heat.
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 1/4 cup yellow onion,
• 1/4 cup green onions with
tops, finely diced
• 1/2 cup green bell pepper,
• 1/2 cup celery,
• 1/2 tablespoon finely
chopped garlic, mashed
with 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups raw spinach,
• 1/4 teaspoon black
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
• 3/4 cup fresh basil, finely
• 2 tablespoons Pernod
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
1. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add onions and green peppers and glaze with butter until onions are opaque. Incorporate celery and garlic. When all vegetables are soft, add the spinach, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
2. Place mixture in a food processor. Fold in the basil and Pernod. Puree until well-blended. With machine running, drizzle in the olive oil until all is well incorporated into a pesto texture. Reserve.
Note: This can be made several days ahead. Any leftover pesto may be used with pasta and shellfish.
1. Place Chayote Salad in the center of each plate. Top with warm fish, then drizzle Champagne and Shellfish Veloute around the salad.
2. Completely coat the oysters with an even layer of the warmed mixture of Champagne and Shellfish Veloute
and Rockefeller Pesto. Place three oysters on each plate, banked against the Chayote Salad.
3. Garnish with crayfish, if available. Pass around more Champagne and Shellfish Veloute for guests to enjoy with the fish.
— 817-291-2734, www.bistrolouise.com
Shrimp with Piquant Sauce
and Jalapeño-Cheddar Grits
Shrimp with Piquant Sauce
• 2 cups blended oil
• 2 pounds shrimp
(size 21-25) peeled and deveined
• 7 cups canned chopped
• 1 cup chopped celery
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 1/2 cup chopped bell peppers
• 1 poblano, chopped
• 1 jalapeño, chopped
• 1/4 cup minced garlic
• 1/2 cup Cajun seasoning
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon oregano
• 1/4 cup dried thyme
• 3 bay leaves
• 4 cups chicken broth
• 3/4 cup chopped parsley
• 1/2 cup chopped green onions
1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and sear shrimp in batches until just partially cooked. Remove and set aside.
2. Add remaining ingredients, except parsley and green onions, to pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp, parsley, green onions, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Serve over Jalapeño-Cheddar Grits (recipe follows).
• 4 cups milk
• 4 cups water
• 1 jalapeño, chopped
• 2 cups coarse ground grits
• 1/4 pound butter
• 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
• 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
• 2 tablespoons kosher salt
• 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1. In a large pot, heat milk and water together until boiling.
2. Add the chopped jalapeño. Reduce heat and slowly whisk in the grits. Cover and stir occasionally to avoid lumps. Cook for approximately 15 minutes and whisk in butter, cheese and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.
— 4701 West Freeway, Fort Worth, 817-735-4900, www.buttonsrestaurant.com
Bourbon and Berry Bread Pudding
• Butter for greasing pan
• 4 cups dry bread, cut into
(white French bread works
• 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
• 1/4 cup raisins
• 1/2 cup dried cherries
• 1/4 cup dried blueberries
• 5 large eggs
• 2 1/4 cups half-and-half
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Butter a square baking dish (a nonstick pan works well for this dish) and add in the cubes of bread. Sprinkle in the nuts and the fruits.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients and pour over the bread and fruits. Allow the mixture to soak in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking.
3. Bake at 375 degrees in a water bath (optional) for 45-55 minutes. Check for doneness by jiggling the pan to see if the center is cooked. When the center is cooked all the way through, remove from oven, scoop into bowls for serving and top with warm Bourbon Sauce (recipe follows).
• 2 ounces butter
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 4 tablespoons heavy cream
• 3 ounces bourbon
• Pinch of salt
Bring all ingredients to a light simmer, stir and serve.
— Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, 4259 Bryant Irvin Road, Fort Worth, 817-738-5489, www.bonnelltexas.com; Waters Fine Coastal Cuisine, 2901 Crockett St., Fort Worth, 817-984-1110,
Char-Grilled Oysters with White Wine Lemon Butter and Pecorino Cheese
Makes 1 dozen
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, divided
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tablespoons fresh
• 2 tablespoons dry white wine
• Black pepper to taste
• 12 Gulf oysters, freshly
shucked and on the half-shell
• 4 ounces pecorino cheese,
• Chopped parsley for garnish
1. Melt 1 cup butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add garlic. When butter begins to brown, remove from heat and set aside to allow the milk solids to settle. Strain and set aside. (This can be done in advance.)
2. Melt remaining butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add lemon juice and white wine and season with pepper to taste. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes until slightly reduced. Reserve.
3. Place oysters on a hot grill and top with prepared garlic butter. When the sides start to shrivel (about 5 minutes), top with cheese. Once cheese is melted, top with prepared white wine butter sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately with lemon slices and hot French bread.
— 200 N. Oak St., Roanoke, 817-490-7800, www.bayoujackscajungrill.com