Tag Archives: New Orleans

BAKED OYSTERS NEW ORLEANS STYLE

At the end of our train trip from Seattle to Los Angeles, we spent a few days with our daughter, Carol, and her family. She is an excellent cook, and she always tries to make some interesting food during our visits. She also knows that Susan loves oysters, and since she grew up in Louisiana, New Orleans style baked oysters seemed perfect – even though it is May. The recipe in her recipe box is called Oysters Mosska, undoubtedly so as not to get in trouble with Mosca’s restaurant in the New Orleans suburb of Westwego and home to the eponymous Oysters Mosca.

Mosca’s is one of the old-line favorite restaurants of local residents, having opened in 1946 and operated by the same family ever since. Part of its charm is that it is not easy to find. It is on Highway 90 a ways after you cross the Huey P. Long Bridge, but it sits back from the road, is a low-slung white-painted clapboard building that looks more like a house, and has only a small, dimly lit sign. When we were living in Louisiana, I drove right by it more than once. An interesting story is that the place was where everyone went after a night spent in the gambling houses that populated this now-lonely stretch of road. As well, rumor has linked the restaurant to the local Mafia, but the Moscas have neither confirmed nor denied that rumor.

Once inside, you are struck by the liveliness of the place. It is brightly lit and filled with families enjoying themselves. Even with a reservation you may have to wait on the straight-backed chairs lined up against the walls.

Th menu is fairly limited but filled with Italian standbys that all have a full quota of garlic. Virtually every table has at least one order of Oysters Mosca. In the old days, the dish would be served in a metal cake pan, and each diner would fish out his or her helping of succulent oysters.

To my knowledge the family has never provided an authorized version of the recipe for Oysters Mosca. We have a made-up version in our family cookbook that is a close approximation. As I mentioned above, this version comes from Carol’s recipe collection and is labelled “Oysters Mosska”, I suspect to protect against any accusations of copyright infringement.

If you do decide to visit the restaurant, be advised that they do not accept checks or credit cards – cash only. But they do have a convenient ATM inside the dining area.

Oysters cooking in liquor/beef stock sauce

Oysters cooking in liquor/beef stock sauce

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

Baked oysters New Orleans style

Baked oysters New Orleans style

RECIPE

Baked Oysters New Orleans Style

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1½ tablespoons garlic, chopped
  • 1 pint shucked oysters with liquor
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • Creole spice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon basil chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

  1. n a saute pan over mediu heat, cook onions untile translucent. Then add garlic and stir for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the oyster liquor and the beef stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the liquids are reduced to about one-half.
  3. Add the oysters and parsley. Return to the boil and then remove from heat. Adjust seasoning with Creole spice, salt, and pepper.
  4. Transfer to a metal cake pan or a shallow baking dish.
  5. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped basil, 1 teaspoon of Creole spice, and olive oil. Sprinkle over the top of the oysters.
  6. Place under a pre-heated broiler for 8 to 10 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbling.
  7. Serve immediately. 2 or 3 servings
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THE MUFFULETTA AND THE CENTRAL GROCERY IN NEW ORLEANS

A while back I posted a recipe for olive salad that approximates the one that is used at the Central Grocery in New Orleans. Then I started reading Yelp reviews (which I try to avoid at all costs) and recipes on the Internet. All of that inspired me to write about what is said to be the “Original Muffuletta” and the Central Grocery.

First, there are Yelp complaints that the Central Grocery is dirty. C’m’on folks, the store is on Decatur Street in the Vieux Carre (the French Quarter). It is as old and as down at the heels as all of the other buildings in the neighborhood. At least one history says that the store was founded in 1906. It has probably operated non-stop ever since, except during severe hurricanes. Besides, a visit gives you the opportunity to wander the aisles and see some amazing food choices, like Bombay duck – not a duck at all, but rather a long dried fish with fearsome eyes and teeth – sticking out of a barrel,  and Italian delicacies hard to find elsewhere.

Then, some yelpers complain about rudeness of the men who make the sandwiches. I guess those reviewers have never been to Katz’s or Russ and Daughters on East Houston in Lower Manhattan. It is true that you need to be ready to order when you get to the front of the line, but the men are as friendly as I would be if I made sandwiches all day long.

Some recipes on the Internet call for lettuce or tomato. That doesn’t work, because then the sandwich becomes a sub or a hero. Some say that there are better versions elsewhere. I don’t know about that, but remember that the original is the original. The only place I know of that has a comparable sandwich is Fertitta’s in a seedy part of Shreveport, LA. Fertitta’s calls its sandwich “the Muffy”, and they make claims to being the original.

Whichever, the tale about the Central Grocery is that around 1906, Italian workers started coming to the grocery with lunches of cheese and meat. The owner of the Central grocery suggested putting the lunches in loaves of muffuletta, a Sicilian bread, and the muffulletta sandwich was born. Probably apocryphal, but it makes a good story.

These days the sandwich is sold as a whole or a half, and the whole is cut into fourths before being wrapped in butcher paper.  That’s really enough for four people, but many customers eat the whole thing. The paper gets olive oil stains all over, and that’s when you know the sandwich is ready to eat. Boxes and barrels are used as seats and  scattered around the crowded store, but you probably want to take a brief walk to Jackson Square and enjoy your lunch al fresco on a sunny day.

Bread. To me, the bread is an essential part of the successful muffuletta. The loaves at the Central Grocery are delicious, and in my experience only available in Louisiana, especially New Orleans. Schlotzky’s makes a reasonable substitute. Recently I discovered that the 9 inch focacchia loaf from Panera Bread makes another suitable choice.

Meat. You can choose whatever you like. Mortadella – a good mortadella and not plain “baloney” – is almost a requirement as is salami (I used Genoa). Ham is also important. A good Italian coppacola is my favorite, but any thinly sliced delicatessen-style ham can be used.

Cheese. Provolone and/or mozzarella are classic choices.

RECIPE

Central Grocery Style Muffuletta

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf, Panera Bread loaf, split in half
  • 1 batch Louisiana olive mix
  • ½ pound each, mortadella, salami, and ham
  • ¼ pound Provolone or mozzarella

Method

  1. Spread the cut halves of the bread generously with olive salad mix
  2. Add generous layers of meat and cheese and top with the top half of the bread loaf.
  3. Cut in four quarters. One quarter should serve most adults.

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EATING MY WAY THROUGH SAN FRANCISCO – b. PATISSERIE

It is hard to say enough good things about the b. Patisserie. This French-style bakery has been open only a short time , but it has already collected a lot of awards and a big following. It is located in Pacific Heights/Laurel Heights at 2821 California Street. The chef/owner, Belinda Leong, a friend of Sarah and Evan, is an experienced pastry chef with many awards. She is formerly the pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, CA and has also spent time in the fabled Parisian patisserie, Pierre Hermé.

The main attraction of b.’s is, of course, sweet pastry in the French style, but there is also a wide selection of granolas, mousses, quiches, and tartines so you can enjoy a nice lunch or snack with dessert. There ae pln†y of tables inside as well as some comfortable chairs outside. If you prefer, you can have it all packed in a box to take home, but then you have to forego the very interesting people watching.

There is a wide selection of croissants from plain (Is there such a thing as a “plain” croissant?) to a completely decadent chocolate, banana-almond version that is filled with a velvety banana cream.

The kouign amann is a wonder. Made of a light dough (I think it is puff pastry) and shaped like an opening flower bud, the outside is a caramelized brown, crisp and glistening with sugar crystals, reminiscent of a palmier. Break open the petals and the inside is filled with a nectar from the transformed sugar inside. You will need extra napkins even if you eat it with a fork.

The passion fruit-flavored bostock is redolent of almonds and the wonderful scent of passion fruit. The creamy little cake is so elegant and so flavorful.

When we visited, it was lunch time, so I ordered a muffuletta tartine. If you have been to New Orleans, you probably have had a muffuletta from the Central Grocery in the French Quarter where it is said the sandwich was invented more than a hundred years ago. The original is served on a giant Italian bread roll with provolone, salami and cappicola. The thing that really makes it a muffuletta and different from other subs, heroes, and po’boys, though, is the unique “olive salad” rich with garlic, olive oil, chopped olives, and pickled vegetables.

Belinda’s muffuletta nails the flavors of the original, including the olive salad. But it is so much more: served on a thin slice of flavorful toasted French bread slathered with olive salad, covered with Black Forest ham, Genovese salami, and mortadella topped with provolone melted under the salamander. Only one word: delicious.

To help you make your own muffuletta, either like the original or as a tartine, I am providing you with one of our family secrets, a recipe for olive salad that we collected when we lived in Louisiana and have subsequently included in our family cookbook.

RECIPE

Louisiana Olive Salad

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup chopped green olives
  • 2/3 cup chopped black olives
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped pimiento
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 anchovy filet, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients
  2. Let stand over night at room temperature.
  3. Use a generous serving when making a muffuletta.
Louisiana olive salad

Louisiana olive salad

 

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RED BEANS AND RICE

Whenever our children visit us with their families, as they did this Christmas season, we try to make old favorites from their childhood. Often the food is drawn from the Southwest, but all three of them grew up in Louisiana, so Cajun and Creole dishes are high on the list of favorites. Gumbo is popular, and boiled crawfish in the spring is almost required. Bread pudding and shrimp creole are also on the list, along with red beans and rice.

For as long as anyone can remember, Monday has been laundry day in New Orleans. For as long as anyone can remember, red beans and rice has been the standard Monday supper in New Orleans because it can be started when the wash is started, stirred from time to time during the day, and finished when everyone is ready to gather around the table in the evening. We didn’t live in New Orleans, but the custom is common throughout the entire state of Louisiana.

An essential part of the dish is the meat that is used in the red beans. Traditionally a ham hock is tossed in – mostly for flavor – but also for the morsels of ham that are closest to the bone. Andouille sausage is popular as is Tasso ham. Sometimes you will see whole pork chops swimming in the stew. For this version, I chose boneless pork loin which gives good flavor and tenderness without bones. The chunks of pork fit perfectly on the fork and make a single melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Usually red beans and rice have the spiciness that is famous in Cajun and Creole cooking, but because one of our family members has severe reactions to hot spices, we make it without red pepper or chiles. Not to worry, because it is easy to add your preferred level of hotness at the table with Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce.

 

RECIPE

Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry small red beans
  • water to cover the beans for cooking
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ¾ inch cubes
  • 1 bunch green scallions including green stems, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves or ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Louisiana hot sauce to taste
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed in a fine sieve with cold water
  • 1½ cups water

Method

  • Pour the beans into a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a ver slow boil. Cover and cook the beans for 1½ to 2 hours or until they are tender. Stir the bottom occasionally and add more water if needed.
  • When the beans are tender, transfer them and the cooking liquid to a large bowl Rinse and dry the pot. Then return the pot to a medium flame and add the olive oil.
  • When the olive oil is just shimmering, add the chopped onions, lower the heat and cover so that the onions “sweat” (become soft and translucent and give up some of their moisture). Do not let them brown.
  • Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium and stir in the celery, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are throughly wilted. Then transfer them and their juices to a plate.
  • Return the pot to the stove. Add the cubes of pork and brown them. Use more oil if needed.
  • When the meat is evenly browned, return the beans and their liquid, along with the vegetables, and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the scallions, bay leaves, and thyme.
  • Simmer the mixture, covered, for an additional hour. Adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper and, if desired, hot sauce. Remove the bay leaves
  • While the red beans are cooking, prepare the rice by combining the rice and water in a small covered pot. Bring to the boil. Stir. Cover and reduce the flame to very low. Do not remove the cover, but cook for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. The water should be completely absorbed, and the rice should be fluffy with individual grains.
  • Serve by placing a scoop of rice in the middle of a wide-mouthed bowl. Top with the red bean mixture, and serve with additional hot sauce.

Should serve 6 to 8

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