New Orleans has a holiday tradition that dates back to the early 1800’s, the Reveillon (REV-ee-on) Dinner. The word “reveillon” means “awakening.” The Creoles celebrated the start of Christmas with a big family meal when they returned home from midnight mass. This multi-course feast was inherited from their European cousins as a way of breaking the daylong religious fast leading up to Christmas Eve.

BY the 1940’s, the Reveillon tradition, which had been slowly fading out over succeeding generations, all but disappeared. However, it was revived in the 1990’s, with modifications reflecting the times, and has been increasing in popularity ever since.

Among the modifications, the emphasis on the Reveillon tradition shifted from family dinners at home to the tables of the city’s top-tier restaurants. Also, the meals are offered at more conventional dining times during the day, instead of in the wee hours of the morning. Today dozens of New Orleans restaurants offer Reveillon Dinners with menus inspired by those enjoyed by the Creole family who began the tradition.

Most Reveillon menus offer 4 courses: Appetizer, Salad, Entree, and Dessert, with options in the Appetizer, Entree and Dessert selections. Today, I am featuring recipes from some of New Orleans top restaurants: Mr. B’s, Emeril’s and Brigtsen’s.

Every restaurant has their version of BBQ Shrimp. Mr. B’s, in the French Quarter, has one of the best in the city. Most BBQ Shrimp are cooked in butter. Mr. B’s was the first restaurant to cook the shrimp then incorporate the butter into the sauce.

Mr. B’s Barbequed Shrimp

16 Jumbo Shrimp (12 per pound, about 1 1/2 pounds), its heads and unpeeled
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice (about 2 lemons)
2 teaspoons ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted Butter, cubed

Directions

In a large skillet, combine shrimp, Worcestershire, lemon juice, black peppers, Creole seasoning, and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until shrimp turn pink, about 1 minute on each side. Reduce heat to moderate and stir in butter, a few cubes at a time, stirring constantly and adding more only when butter is melted. Remove skillet from heat. Place shrimp in a bowl and pour sauce over top. Serve with French bread for dipping.

Duck dishes are often featured on Reveillon menus. For our menu, here is a basic Roasted Duck from the chef that became the face of New Orleans kitchens, Emeril Lagasse.

Emeril’s Roasted Duck

2 Ducks, cleaned
Olive Oil
Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
2 large Yellow Onions, quartered
8 cloves Garlic, mashed

Directions

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Rub the ducks lightly with olive oil and liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff each bird with equal amounts of the onions and garlic. Arrange the ducks, not touching, on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. Bake until the skin is golden, the juices run clear, and the internal temperature reaches 165℉, about 2 1/2 hours.

To finish this Reveillon dinner, here is a dessert from my friend, Chef Frank Brigtsen. Every year, Frank features a bread pudding as one of the dessert choices. This is Brigtsen’s Banana Bread Pudding recipe.

Brigtsen’s Banana Bread Pudding

6 whole Eggs
3 Egg Yolks
1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon
2 very ripe Bananas, puréed (“black-spot” bananas)
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
3 cups Whole Milk
1/2 can (or 10 tablespoons) Sweetened Condensed Milk
12 cups stale French Bread, diced into 1/2-inch pieces (2-3 loaves)
3/4 cup Raisins
2 ripe Bananas, thinly sliced (no black spots)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and yolks, and whisk until frothy. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, puréed bananas and vanilla. Whisk until fully blended.

Add both sugars, and whisk until blended. Add milk and condensed milk, whisking again until completely integrated.

Add diced bread to the egg/milk mixture. Mix well until bread has absorbed most of the custard mixture. Add raisins and sliced bananas, and stir to combine.

Pour pudding into a shallow baking pan and let sit for 30 minutes. Place pudding pan into a slightly larger pan and add about 1 inch of hot water to large pan, to create a water bath.

Bake uncovered until center of pudding is no longer runny, about 1 hour. Serve by itself or with ice cream, whipped cream or caramel sauce.

With this article, I am finishing up my first year of writing this feature. It has been a pleasure sharing my recipes and stories with you. Next year, I want to feature recipes that you are interested in. Please contact me at tommy@creolecajunchef.com with your recipe request.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!