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Archive for February, 2009

Lately, a lot of people have asked me to write them a weekly menu and corresponding grocery list.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to do this (or write the post on my latest dining experiences in Texas, my first post on “beauty,” starring Ella and Ava, or the post I’ve been planning on my favorite market…).  My insane schedule does not line up with my desire for slow living!  I suppose the next best thing is to post what we are eating for dinner tonight…something simple, healthy and supremely delicious for a weeknight dinner. 

As usual, I don’t recall where this recipe came from – as always, I’m sure I have made a few modifications.  The recipe is still scribbled in one of my “food” notebooks, but now the contents reside in my head.  While the ingredient list may seem bizarre or unappealing, do not be deterred.  These flavors and spices come together beautifully for a moist and delicious dish.  I’m sure that the recipe is to serve four, but I still make all of the extra sauce and topping for two.  I love EXTRA flavor! 

When I’m preparing this for two, I split one chicken breast between us and bake in a loaf pan; this way all of the juices don’t disappear.  I’m sure this would be very tasty served over couscous or quinoa, but I just pair it with some roasted carrots.  I have served this many times for guests in my home; it is a hit every time. 

garlic lime chicken and olives

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast halves (or less if you’re like me and split one chicken breast for two – skinny AND economical)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • fresh juice of one lime
  • 1 tbsp of molasses (not black strap – don’t skip this step – so tasty!)
  • 2 tsp worsteshire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin (or more if you really love this flavor)
  • 1 heaping tsp of dried oregano
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste (at least 1/2 tsp of each)
  • 1/2 cup of sliced, pitted black olives (I alternate between kalamata and plain black olives)
  1. coat a roasting pan or baking dish (or loaf pan for a small group) with oil or cooking spray
  2. combine all ingredients, except for olives in a bowl
  3. stir and add chicken
  4. pour the olives over and around chicken
  5. roast at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes

roasted carrots

  • carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks (amount of carrots depending on how many people you’re serving)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • thyme or rosemary (dried or fresh)
  • red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  1. add your carrots to a baking dish and toss with a generous amount of olive oil, a few splashes of vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of herbs, salt and pepper
  2. roast, tightly covered in foil at 400 degrees for 25 minutes
  3. remove the foil and roast for 10 minutes more

note: I use balsamic vinegar paired with rosemary and red wine vinegar paired with thyme

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orange yogurt cake

This is a very light and tasty little cake.  It is extremely simple to make and comes out very moist.  I don’t recall where I found the recipe, but I have made this cake time and time again. 

 

In the winter, I serve it with orange or tangerine segments macerated in a little sugar – I add berries when they are ripe and abundant in the summer.  I’ve considered adding a little Grand Marnier to the accompanying fruit, but the cake is so light and refreshing that I’m afraid the flavor will be over-powering. 

 

I’d love to know about any delicious dessert recipes that you have tried recently.

 

orange yogurt cake

 

  • 1 cup of flour, sifted
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup plain, whole milk yogurt (sour cream can be substituted, if you wish)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (or canola)
  • zest of an orange
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

whisk the first five ingredients together in a large bowl

mix the remaining ingredients separately, then gently incorporate the dry ingredients

pour batter into a greased, nine inch round (shallow) cake pan

bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes

serve dusted with powdered sugar with fruit and syrup on the side

 

 

fruit syrup

 

  • one to two oranges, segmented
  • fresh berries
  • 1 tbsp sugar

 

  1. mix your fruit and sugar in a small bowl and allow to sit for a while to macerate
  2. serve alongside the cake, which will soak up some of the sweet juices!

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Wow.  I have been traveling so it has been a while since I have posted.  Thanks to all who have continued to visit the blog!  I have so many things that I would like to share in depth, but in the spirit of something delicious on a busy evening, I will post a very tasty meal that I prepare frequently at home.  The avocados are ripe and beautiful right now at the market.  My grandma and grandpa had an ancient avocado tree in their backyard in California.  It was so lovely to walk outside and pluck beautiful fruit right from the tree. 

My pretend Mexican dinner is so simple that it seems almost silly to share it, but I know how many of you avoid the kitchen.  🙂  No excuses with this one.  This recipe is very light and healthy; the flavors are assertive and delicious.  All recipes below serve 2.

Please fix this for dinner and let me know what you think!

spicy chicken with cool avocado

  • chicken breast cut in half – each half pounded to a little less than an inch thick
  • some chili powder
  • some cayenne pepper (less if you don’t like heat)
  • kosher salt
  • ½ a red onion, diced
  • lime
  • avocado, diced
  • canola oil, for pan
  1. dice the red onion and mix it with the lime juice in a little bowl – set aside
  2. rub your chicken generously with a mixture of chili powder, cayenne pepper (use depending on heat preference) and some salt
  3. heat some canola or olive oil over medium head, and cook the chicken 3-4 minutes per side until done
  4. while chicken is cooking, dice the avocado and mix it into the onion and lime mix
  5. top chicken with the lime, onions and avocado – SO GOOD

black beans 

  • one can of black beans, rinsed (organic preferred)
  • a couple of garlic cloves, chopped
  • a pinch of chili powder
  • kosher salt and ground pepper
  • lime
  • green onion (if you have it)
  • about ½ cup of water
  • canola or olive oil for the pan
  1. heat some oil over medium in a small saucepan, and add the white portion of the green onion and the garlic, cooking for about 45 seconds to a minute 
  2. add the beans and stir, adding salt, pepper and a pinch of chili powder
  3. turn heat up to medium high and add a little bit of water
  4. continue to add water and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, or until beans begin to take on a somewhat “refried” look, adding water as needed so that beans don’t burn
  5. give a generous squeeze of lime and serve

corn, elotes locos style

 

This corn is my white girl, at home interpretation of Mexican street food that I used to frequently eat in Dallas.  In Texas they call it “elotes locos,” or “crazy corn.”  Traditionally, corn is cut off of the cob and into a cup, topped with a mayonnaise/sour cream mixture, lime juice, hot sauce, and cheese (dry and crumbly – maybe cotija).  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  It is OUTSTANDING.  In California, the tradition is similar, with the corn eaten on the cob, slathered with mayonnaise, hot sauce, cheese and lime.  I prefer it in the cup, as you can mix all of the creamy flavors together. 

 

While I may be missing some authenticity here, I can mimic the flavors somewhat with the staples I keep at home. 

  • frozen corn or fresh cut off the cob (or canned, if you must)
  • heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise, depending on the amount of corn (no dressing style mayo!)
  • a tsp or so of chili powder
  • lime
  • kosher salt and ground pepper
  • a dash of hot sauce (I prefer Sriracha)
  • optional: a light sprinkle of cotija cheese if you have it, or, dare I say it (!!??), canned parmesan
  1. heat corn in a little saucepan with a tiny bit of water over medium high
  2. once it is cooked through (after about 5 minutes), stir in mayo, lime, chili powder, a squirt of hot sauce, salt and pepper and mix together
  3. top with a little cheese 

 

 

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My Mom was inspired from my post about trout almandine and prepared a letter and a few recipes for the blog.  I am delighted to share them!  However, the main ingredient is a bit of a stretch for me personally.  I am still steadfast in my goal be a tad more adventurous in the meat department, but turtle?  I like turtle.  We had a little turtle that visited our backyard regularly, and I took pictures of her.  How can I eat turtle?  Turtles are cute; thus nullifying their qualification as food (see my previous post on this matter).  Nonetheless, the recipe deserves to be shared.  Please note that Mom (aka Mimi) has shared some of her own notes following the recipes.  Enjoy!

From Paula:

Your blog about your “meat issues” reminded me of when I first moved to New Orleans from Southern California – talk about meat shock! Nothing was the same, the types of seafood and meat were totally different, and the way to cook everything was totally different, even the way people talked was totally different…I had a lot to learn.

I worked in a high rise office on Poydras Street and would go out to lunch with groups of “natives” who thought it was their sacred duty to introduce me to the cuisine of the Crescent City. Some days I was happier with the introduction than others. (We will not discuss my first look at a boiled out crab carcass in my first bowl of seafood gumbo. Your dad was there, he saw the horror on my face! It produced reoccurring nightmares for years. It’s a good thing Turtle Soup isn’t made from those teensy little turtles they used to sell at the pet store…talk about finding an unwelcome shell in your soup…but I digress.)

Anyway, one of the things best things I was introduced to during that time was Turtle Soup, a New Orleans specialty. I first had it at Galatoire’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.  Back in the day, you had to wait in line outside the restaurant for a table. I remember that it was a windy fall day and I had to hold my dress down to keep it from blowing over my head! Once we were inside I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of this truly elegant restaurant and nervous about whether I could afford to eat here.

One of the guys in the group (the late, great Frank Fetter) decided that he was going to order for me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was pretty panicked about it and told him that if he was going to order then he was going to pay! I didn’t have the money for food experimentation at one of the most expensive restaurants in town! Well, he took me up on it and I was stuck with his choices…in hindsight, it was one of the best moves I ever made because it introduced me to two of my most favorite dishes ever, Turtle Soup and Shrimp Remoulade. Frankly, I don’t remember the rest of the meal because I was so entranced by these two dishes.

For years after, at every restaurant in New Orleans that served it, I ordered Turtle Soup. Every recipe was different – thickness, clarity of broth, ingredients – the only constants were turtle meat, sherry and chopped hard boiled eggs. Some stirred the eggs and sherry into the soup, some garnished the soup with the eggs chopped fine and served the sherry on the side in an elegant cruet. My eventual favorite ended up being the Turtle Soup from Commander’s Palace. As for the shrimp, no one ever topped that first Shrimp Remoulade from Galatoire’s. Here are the recipes from both restaurants for my favorite soup and favorite shrimp dish. I have not altered these recipes in any way, why mess with perfection?

 

Shrimp Remoulade – recipe and comments from Galatoires.com 

 

Shrimp Rémoulade is in every New Orleans girl’s arsenal of favored dishes for relaxed entertaining. Serve this simple dish on elegant china and its fit for a king- Mardi Gras or otherwise. This is our most popular dish and most frequently requested recipe. Bonus for the home cook: The sauce is definitely best made a day in advance and refrigerated, then all that’s left to do is toss in the shrimp and plate and serve. It’s a snap to make, yet it’s always impressive.

 

¾ cup chopped celery

¾ cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)

½ cup chopped curly parsley

1 cup chopped yellow onion

½ cup ketchup

½ cup tomato purée

½ cup Creole mustard or any coarse, grainy brown mustard

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or to taste

 ¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Spanish hot paprika

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ 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.

 

Mimi’s Note: The chilled iceberg lettuce ribbons are essential – they taste delicious with the sauce and shrimp bites – it cools the sauce down a bit and compliments the taste of the shrimp.

 

 

Turtle Soup – recipe from CommandersPalace.com

Chef’s Note: We use alligator snapping turtles, which is a farm-raised fresh water species available all year long. Turtle meat usually comes in 2 ½ pound portions. This soup freezes well. Makes 5 servings

Mimi’s Note: Freshwater turtle meat (either snapper or soft shell) is usually available at Asian markets. Both of these meats are legal when purchased from a licensed turtle meat supplier or retailer. Other types of turtle meat may or may not be legal depending on the state you live in. Salt water turtle meat is strictly illegal in the USA. Salt water turtles are highly endangered! Don’t eat them! If you cannot find turtle meat locally, it is available at 1-800-Steaks.com in 1# and 5# quantities, also from marxfoods.com in a 5# bucket. Thaw and cook it all, then refreeze for future use in small portions. Be prepared, turtle meat is pricey!  If you cannot find veal stock locally, veal demi-glace to make the veal stock is available from dartagnan.com and morethangourmet.com. Concassee tomatoes are tomatoes without skin or seeds, it is a process, not a type of tomato!  A great explanation on how to do this is at kitchensavvy.com. By the way, it sounds harder to do than it really is.

1 ½ sticks butter
2 ½ pounds turtle meat, medium dice
2 medium onions, medium dice
6 stalks celery, medium dice
1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
3 bell peppers, medium dice
1 tablespoon dried thyme, ground
1 tablespoon dried oregano, ground
4 bay leaves
2 quarts veal stock
1 cup flour
26 oz. dry sherry (750 ml bottle)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups concassée tomatoes
10 oz fresh spinach, stems removed, washed 3 times, coarsely chopped
6 medium eggs, hard-boiled and chopped into large pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large soup pot over medium to high heat. Brown the meat in the hot butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is almost evaporated. Add onions, celery, garlic, and peppers, stirring constantly, then add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves and sauté for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables have caramelized. Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, periodically skimming away any fat that comes to top.

While stock is simmering, make a roux in a separate pot: Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan and add the flour a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to burn the roux. After all the flour has been added, cook for about 3 minutes until the roux smells nutty, is pale in color, and has the consistency of wet sand. Set aside until the soup is ready.

Using a whisk, vigorously stir the roux into the soup a little at a time to prevent lumping. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir to prevent sticking on the bottom.

Add the sherry, bring to a boil, and add the hot sauce and the Worcestershire, and simmer, skimming any fat or foam that comes to the top. Add the lemon juice and tomatoes, and return to a simmer. Add the spinach and the chopped egg, bring to simmer, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. This soup freezes well.

Chef’s Note: Caramelize the vegetables and meats thoroughly, by cooking until the natural sugars form a thick dark liquid, to get a nice dark color.
Remember, this soup is like a stew and could be eaten as a main dish. Because of its thickness, prepare it in a heavy pot, and stir frequently to avoid burning.

Mimi’s Note: NEVER use “Cooking Sherry”, it contains a large amount of salt so that it can be sold legally on a regular grocery aisle. Remove the bay leaves; they shouldn’t ever be left in the pot to be accidentally ingested. Also, I like to garnish with a small amount of finely chopped egg with a small green leaf like a celery leaf. Serve with extra sherry on the side to suit individual taste. If serving as a main dish, serve a hot, crispy French baguette with the meal so that everybody can soak up the meaty goodness.

 

 

 

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korean bulgogi

My love for Middle Eastern food may be rivaled by my love for Korean food – wonderfully stinky, pungent, spicy Korean food.  While Korean food may share some elements with its Asian neighbors, the flavors and fragrances of Korean food are wholly unique.  Unusual flavor pairings combine to create little flavor explosions – sweet but spicy with garlic and jalapeños, roasty and salty with sesame oil, hot pepper with a sour kick, light but intense – these are some of the words that come to mind as I envision some of my favorite little delicacies.     
I am always surprised (and terribly sad) to find how little experience many people have with Korean food; the fact that I dated a Korean for nearly six years left me delightfully familiar.  In fact, my former boyfriend’s parents owned a Korean restaurant for many years, and I spent countless Sunday afternoons gorging myself on Korean BBQ and the delicious stews and dishes that his mother often expertly prepared.  There are a lot of things that I miss about my regular immersion into the world of Korean food, but I certainly don’t miss the ten or more pounds I’ve shed since my Korean BBQ excursions have become drastically less frequent!  Don’t let all of those vegetables fool you; you can’t eat five pounds of beef in one sitting and not notice a difference in your waistline. 

I am so thankful for my exposure to Korean culture and cuisine, and I feel it is my duty to share this love of mine with all of those unfortunate souls who have yet to experience this spicy bliss.  It is harder now that I live in Atlanta and am not familiar with the best spots to indulge my cravings for steaming stews and smoky meats.  However, I relish any opportunity that I have to take others to my favorite old spots in California or Dallas.  Eating Korean BBQ is a naturally convivial experience; what can be more soulfully jovial than sitting in a circle around fragrant meat as it sizzles on the hot coals that occupy the center of the table?  When dining on Korean BBQ, it is a community experience with most dishes being shared and passed.  My usual favorites include bulgogi (sweet and delicious thinly sliced ribeye), chadorbegi (also thinly sliced beef served with intensely flavored sauces), spicy, bubbling kimchi chigae (kimchi stew), and all of the lovely and surprising little panchan (various small plates similar to tapas, usually consisted of marinated veggies or tofu). 

There are so many things that I am inspired to write about as I reminisce about my former life as a fully Caucasian but quasi Korean girl, but I shall save the markets and soups and pastries and ice creams and tapioca spiked beverages for another post… Here, I want to share the only Korean food that I have ever managed to successfully prepare – bulgogi.  While I can appreciate and understand what quality Korean cuisine should taste like, how to properly prepare my favorite dishes still eludes me.  The subtle nuances that are intuitive to me with other preparations continue to elude me with Korean dishes.  I remember attempting a simple Korean wedding soup many times, each new batch as disappointing as the previous.  I later discovered that the secret to my boyfriend’s mother’s soup; she used the “dirty” water from rinsing rice as the broth.  Somehow that little bit of starchiness made all the difference.  Anyhow, I remain intimidated (but not defeated) in my quest to master Korean home cooking.  I have a wild plan to seek out the best cook at the Korean Baptist church that sits about a mile from my home, and bribe this woman to teach me how to make my favorite dishes!

In the meantime, I would like to share the only dish I have prepared successfully: bulgogi.  This is a combination of recipes that I believe will yield the best results.  You can grill this meat or quickly sear it in a hot pan.  Serve it with rice and a little salad, and you will have a simple meal of Korean BBQ.  Some traditional Korean mamas would tell you to marinade your meat in Sprite or 7up before placing it overnight in the flavorful concoction outlined below, but I typically don’t have the patience.

A side note: They say that Koreans smile upon a girl who can eat, and eat well.  Needless to say, my adopted Korean family was always very, very proud.  🙂

bulgogi

  • 1 pound of ribeye
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Korean pear or Asian pear, grated with the juice
  • 2-3 cloves of thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp ground red pepper
  • 1/3 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  1. place the ribeye in the freezer for about 45 minutes so that it is easier to slice very thin
  2. whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a large baking dish, and add the sliced beef to coat
  3. marinate overnight
  4. cook on a grill or sear in a hot pan, garnish with more green onions, and serve with sticky white rice

If you want to be really authentic, cook your meat in the center of your table on a little hibachi style grill.

 

 

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One of my plans for 2009 is to be more adventurous with my choices of meat.  I will try almost anything; any flavor, any spice, any sort of preparation of food.  But step outside of the conventional with cut and type of meat, and I become boring and rigid.   A few of my issues:  cute animals (how can you eat bunny?), meat that resembles its living form.  This is unusual, as I am typically the person harassing someone else to try something new; expand the pallete!  experience something new!  relish something different! 

I’m aware that it may seem bizarre for someone to include expansive meat selection in their New Year’s plans, but there are so many fabulous recipes and dishes that incorporate something I am not comfortable eating.  Hence, my little meat resolution.  My initial thoughts were to just start with a rustic braised rabbit, but it made sense that one of my FAVORITE restaurants led to my adventure beginning with goat, better known as cabrito.

Pura Vida is one of the most fabulous restaurants in Atlanta, specializing in Latin American tapas.  Chef Hector Santiago is a graduate of the famed Culinary Institute of America and frequently travels to Latin American countries to ensure that his kitchen produces authentic and creative cuisine.  It is a sassy yet cozy little spot, comfortably nestled betweet Soul Vegetarian (owned and operated by some very legit African vegetarians) and San Francisco Coffee (purveyors of the finest breve latte known to mankind).  This little corner of the Virginia Highlands neighborhood houses some of the most unique and unreplicated food in the city. 

The dishes at Pura Vida are absolutely phenomenal; expertly prepared, inventive but deliciously approachable.  Succulent little morsels of juicy steak slathered in chimichurri, truffled mushrooms with crema or hongos sizzling in chipotle butter, perfectly fried yuca with a spicy honey dip, heart of palm stacked with sweet dates and salty serrano ham, fresh and lively tuna ceviche, and most recently, tender goat stewed in a coconut broth with green banana mash and caramelized, smoked trout belly with a lemon verbena sauce.  The latter two dishes constituted my step off of the proverbial ledge, out of the “safe” meat zone…  The goat and the trout (with tiny little fin attached – agh!) may be standard fare for many, but for me this was an experience in gastronomic growth.

Both dishes were so, SO good.  The little fin on my trout became less of an issue with flavors this seductive, the thought of baby goat fading with each rich and tender bite.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that this tasty little goat was not gamey or tough at all, but delightfully flavorful and very akin to a well cooked brisket.  The trout was all at once tender, smokey, sweet, salty, tangy – perhaps one of the most brilliant little tapas that I have ever had. 

Our meal was completed with three of the house made ice creams, which change frequently.  I dream of this ice cream.  I tell everyone about this ice cream.  I have spent hours trying to ascertain the secret to this ice cream.  The ice cream at Pura Vida is the most heavenly and wonderful mystery, light and creamy and amazing.  Stone fruit with candied kumquats or coconut with cocoa nibs, vanilla bean with housemade cornflakes and chocolate chipotle with a creamy drizzle, OR the red wine ice cream, which I hear is the BEST but remains elusive at every visit.  Our lovely server informed us that the secret of this frozen delicacy is that it isn’t actually ice cream, but frozen espuma.  Forget ice cream.  Give me espuma.  And while we’re at it, I’ll have another order of the cabrito please.

 http://www.puravidatapas.com/ 

one of my favorite spots - please go immediately

one of my favorite spots - please go immediately

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john alma’s trout almandine

My post on sole almandine reminded my mother that I have been anxiously awaiting my grandmother’s recipe for trout almandine.  This is a fabulous dish, and I believe that trout is abundant in the markets right now.

I remember thoroughly enjoying the French/Creole dishes prepared by John Alma (my grandmother on my father’s side); smothered quail at Christmas, the richest French onion soup, spicy gumbo and jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, and my favorite, trout almandine…  They were delicious – the amount of butter prolific.  These were pretty fancy dishes coming from a woman who claimed she ate black-eyed peas every day of her childhood.  My mother also cooked many recipes that came from John Alma and the wholly unique culinary culture that emanates from New Orleans and the Delta South.  The smell of flour and oil browning in a pan instantly transports me to a time when I had to stand on my tip toes to peek at the roux that one of these talented women was carefully stirring.

I was reminded of the extensive culinary diversity of New Orleans during a recent visit.  The city is rich with the most vibrant and ostentatious food, overflowing with accidental fusion cuisine.  France, Spain, Italy, Haiti, the West Indies – all stake a claim to the food that Louisiana is famous for.  The bizarre landscape of this swampy state provides some interesting star players for the main course; turtles, frogs, squirrels, fish of every size shape and color…nothing is safe.  Put all of this together and you have some spicy, steamy, intense food.  No worries.  You can balance the savory with the sweet; my personal preference being a hot, fluffy biscuit doused in cane molasses, or a sticky bread pudding spiked with rum or bourbon.  Only in Louisiana can you have food that is at the same time elegant and wacky.

It is only through cooking that I continue to discover the subtle influence my early years in Louisiana have on the dishes I now prepare.  Believe it or not, I can clearly remember sucking down crawfish, raw oysters, beignets and cafe au lait from my highchair.  Some would scoff at a three year old eating raw oysters and drinking coffee from a sippy cup.  Not me!  I couldn’t be more grateful for my dive head first into some serious food.  I am not only thankful for being exposed to something other that fish sticks and mac and cheese, but also for having recipes that have been prepared by at least two generations of women in my family.  Thankfully, I have fabulous cooks on both sides of the family.  I’ve also had the very good fortune of living in three states with completely different styles of cuisine; California, Texas and Louisiana.  Even as I am writing, I am flooded with the best memories of eating or watching my mother, grandmother or aunt fixing something delicious.  These memories are still so near and close to my heart that they actually have a fragrance – the image of the food and hustle bustle in the kitchen flawlessly clear in my mind’s eye.  

But back to the topic at hand, which is the most delicious and delicate trout you will ever eat.  My mom expertly prepared the freshest trout – typically just caught from Lake Ponchartrain by my proud father and his best buddy.  Even cooked from the tiny kitchen of a Residence Inn, my mom could turn out some trout that tasted as if was prepared by the most accomplished chef in the finest kitchen.  It was one of my absolute favorites and I could never get enough of it.

Below is John Alma’s recipe with a few of my mother’s minor alterations, posted exactly as provided to me.  Mom has never prepared this dish with stream trout; only the fat, speckled trout from Lake Ponchartrain.  No matter; you can always imagine that your trout was swimming in that vast Louisiana lake mere hours ago.  A few other notes from my mother:  “There is nothing low calorie, fat or carb about this recipe! Do not modify, it alters the soul of this dish! Just enjoy its buttery deliciousness without guilt…”

I couldn’t agree more. 

john alma’s trout almandine

  • 6 mediums size trout, filleted (you can substitute redfish fillets if trout is unavailable) 
  • 1 tsp. season salt (I use Nature’s Seasons, it is very well balanced and doesn’t overwhelm)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground Savory
  • 1/4 tsp. ground Turmeric
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp ground Mace
  • 1 pack (2 1/2 oz.) slivered blanched almonds
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
  • thin lemon slices for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place baking sheet or serving platter in oven to prewarm.
  2. Melt butter in sauté pan until foam subsides and it barely starts to brown. NOTE: Watch carefully that butter doesn’t burn. If butter has very dark granular specks, it has burned!  Throw it away, clean pan, and start again.
  3. Roll freshly washed (slightly patted dry) trout fillets in mix of season salt, savory, turmeric and flour. Only flour as many as will fit in your sauté pan at one time.
  4. Brown fillet in butter on both sides (about 2 minutes per side, depending on size of fillet). Place cooked fillets on warming dish or baking sheet in oven as they finish. Place skin side down if skin is still on fillet, they look prettier that way. Place a piece of loose foil over warming dish of fish to preserve moistness if cooking a lot of fillets.
  5. Cook remaining fillets in batches until all are on warming dish.
  6. Add additional butter to sauté pan if needed for sauce. Turn heat to low and melt butter and add mace and almonds. Stir constantly and lightly sauté almonds. They will burn easily if left unattended. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice and parsley.
  7. Keep fillets on warming dish or place fillets on warmed serving plate, or individual plates. Place thin lemon slices on fillets. Spoon sauce over fish, any remaining sauce may be placed on the table in a bowl for spooning on fish or side dishes.

More of mom’s notes:

The flavor of this dish is very delicate and relies on the turmeric, savory and mace with a browned butter foundation. I have tried to use oil and low fat substitutes for all or part of the butter and it didn’t work, the taste was not the same.

 

I have never cooked this with freshwater stream trout (rainbow, golden, etc.), only with pretty big trout from Lake Ponchartrain. I think that the trout down there are speckled trout and the fillets were about 1/2 lb. each.

 

I would serve this with a mild flavored spring vegetable such as fresh sautéed green beans. A strong flavored vegetable such as broccoli will overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fish and sauce. Wild and Basmati mixed rice, Jasmine rice or my favorite, Konriko wild pecan rice are really good with the fish. 

 

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