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Monthly Archives: September 2019

Recipes from New Orleans first family of restaurants

New Orleans Is known for having some of the best restaurants in the country. Many of the best restaurants are owned and operated by the first family of New Orleans restaurants, the Brennans. This family started out when Owen Brennan opened Brennan’s Restaurant on Bourbon Street. He started planning the move to a larger location, to 417 Royal St, its current location. Unfortunately, Owen passed away before the new location opened.

This left his siblings to continue the work he did. Now into the second generation, the Brennan family has amassed a restaurant empire. They currently own and operate fifteen restaurants nationwide, with seven located in the French Quarter. Today, I am sharing with you recipes from two of Owen’s siblings, his brother John and sister Ella. Ella was the one who really took over after Owen’s death and was the driving force behind this empire.

This is a recipe from the website of Ralph Brennan, John’s son. It is a great dish for a party, since it needs to be prepared in advance. Of all of the second generation of the Brennan family, Ralph has the most restaurants of the lot. His eight restaurants include Brennan’s on Royal Street and the Red Fish Grill. He also has the Jazz Kitchen located at Downtown Disney in California.

Lump Crabmeat, Bacon & Onion Dip

1/2 pound chopped & Cooked Bacon
1/2 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
12 ounces Cream Cheese
3/4 cup chopped Onions
4 ounces Mayonnaise
2 ounces Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons Green Onions, sliced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco Hot Sauce to taste
Chopped Fresh Parsley, about 1 tablespoon
French Bread Crostini Slices

Stir together first 9 ingredients. Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours before serving. Stir in parsley just before serving. Serve with French bread crostini slices.

This recipe is from one of my favorite French Quarter restaurants. Mr B’s. Bistro. John’s daughter Cindy runs this location. We have visited this restaurant on many special occasions, celebrating anniversaries and Valentines day. The main cooking appliance is their wood burning grill. Mr. B’s was one of the first to design their menu around the wood burning grill. Here is a recipe that put that grill to good use.

Honey Ginger Barbecued Pork Chop

1 cup Honey
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Ginger
1/2 cup firmly packed Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Sriracha Sauce
1/4 cup Sesame Oil
2 tablespoons minced Garlic (about 6 cloves)
1/4 cup minced fresh Chives
4 Center Cut Pork Chops

In a bowl, whisk together honey, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, garlic and chives. Grill chops on a preheated grill or griddle about 4-6 minutes a side, reaching about 155℉ internal temperature. Place on a warm plate and drizzle with honey ginger sauce before serving.

The final recipe is from the best restaurant in New Orleans, Commander’s Palace, run by Ella’s daughter Ti and John’s daughter, Lally. This grand restaurant was where we first met Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse. Their presence in the kitchen here elevated the food to the level it is now, headed by Chef Tory McPhail. I am not sure who created this dessert but it is a wonderful way to finish any meal. It is also Lally’s favorite dessert.

Praline Parfait

1 1/2 cups White Corn Syrup
1 1/2 cups Dark Corn Syrup
1 1/2 cups chopped Roasted Pecans
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Dash of Nutmeg
Dash of Cinnamon
8 scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup Heavy Cream, whipped
6 Maraschino Cherries with stems

Mix together corn syrups, pecans, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Put 2 tablespoons each of this sauce in the bottom of 4 parfait dishes. Add 2 scoops of ice cream to each dish and top with a generous lacing of sauce. Top the sauce with a lavish spoonful of whipped cream and garnish with a cherry. (There will be some sauce left over for use another time.)

One day, I will write about the only Brennan family member who is a trained chef, a friend of mine, Dickie Brennan. Dickie’s three French Quarter restaurants are among the most popular in the city.

Irish Style cooking for St. Patrick’s Day

New Orleans has a large Irish population. It also has one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Every year, I return to New Orleans to march in the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s parade, which is held the Saturday before March 17th, unless the 17th is a Saturday, which this year it is. There are four St. Patrick’s parades, not counting the Irish-Italian parade, which parades the weekend after St. Pats.

I know what you are thinking. Centola is not an Irish name. However, my fraternal grandmother’s maiden name was Murphy. Back in Boston, I have cousins with the last names of Duffy and O’Brien. I think this qualifies me to march in the St. Pat’s parade.

I am fortunate enough to be able to march with my three brothers. Also included in our group is a couple of cousins, and friends, including my neighbor who started marching with us last year. Our group, The Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club has one of the largest parades in the city of New Orleans, rivaling some of the Mardi Gras parades.

The riders of the floats toss cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes to the crowds. Add some stew meat and seasonings and you have everything you need to make a New Orleans Irish Stew.

New Orleans Irish Stew

3 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 pounds Stew Meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Onions, cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dried Thyme
3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 pint Beer
4 cups Beef Stock
1 tablespoon Sugar
3 Bay Leaves
3 tablespoons Butter
3 Carrots, sliced into rounds
4 large Potatoes, cubed
2 cups Cabbage, sliced
2 tablespoons Parsley, chopped

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat oil. Add beef and brown on all sides. You might need to do this in two batches. It will take about 5 minutes for each batch to brown. Remove and set aside.
Add onions and sauté about 3 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and thyme and continue to sauté until garlic releases oils, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and continue to sauté for 1 minute. Add the beef back into mixture and continue to sauté until browned, about 4 minutes.
Deglaze with beer. Add stock, sugar and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
In a sauté pan, heat butter and sauté carrots and potatoes until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add cabbage and sauté until slightly wilted, about 3 minutes.
Add sautéed vegetables to stock pot and cook through before serving. Garnish with parsley.

Here is a recipe for all of you crock pot cookers out there. Corned Beef and Cabbage is a great dish to put on in the morning and have ready for you to eat when you come home from your busy day.

Irish Channel Corned Beef and Cabbage

3 pounds Corned Beef
1 Onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Water
1 pint Chicken Stock
4 Carrots, chopped
1 head Cabbage, broken apart

Rinse the corned beef and cut off excess fat. Place the onion on the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the crowed beef on top of the onion. Add water, stock, carrots and cabbage.
Cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours, or until meat is cooked and the vegetables are tender.

Next time, I will tell you about New Orleans first family of the restaurant business, the Irish family of the Brennan’s.

Wishing you Irish Blessings and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Recreating five-star restaurant recipes

My wife and I are planning our annual March trip to New Orleans. The conversation quickly turns to which restaurants we would like to dine at. One restaurant that, if it were open, would be at the top of my list, LeRuth’s.

LeRuth’s was the first job that I had. This five star rated restaurant was the best restaurant in New Orleans. Reservations had to be made at least 2 weeks in advance, 3 if you were going on the weekend. The food was the best examples of Creole cooking.

The genius behind the restaurant was Chef Warren Leruth. (Only the restaurant name has a capital R in it.) He began his career as a baker in the Army. After working in a few restaurants in New Orleans, he became a research chef, developing the Green Goddess dressing for Seven Seas. He returned to New Orleans in 1966 to open his restaurant. He eventually sold the restaurants to his two sons, Larry and Lee, who were both talented chefs, having learned from the master, their father.

Sadly due to personal tragedies, the restaurant closed in 1991. I remember going to visit the kitchen on that last night. It was sad that this great restaurant was closing. A few years later, Chef Warren came in to Cannon’s restaurant, where I was working at the time. As I approached him, he remembered my name and we talked for 1 1/2 hours about the restaurant business. He was amazed how many people who once worked for him were still in the business. So today, here are two recipes from that wonderful restaurant.

Chef Leruth did not think a dinner should start with a cold appetizer. However, this was the exception to the rule. It also makes a great substitute for a salad.

Shrimp Remoulade


3/4 cup Creole Mustard
2 tablespoons Paprika
1 cup Corn Oil
1/4 cup chopped Onion
1/2 cup chopped Celery
2 tablespoons chopped Parsley
1/2 teaspoon Sugar (optional)
Tabasco to taste

Mix well and refrigerate before serving.

To assemble appetizer
24 large Boiled Shrimp, deveined with shells and tail removed
1 head Lettuce, shredded
4 Boiled Eggs

Place lettuce on bottom of a chilled 6-inch plate. In the center put the boiled egg, then surround with shrimp. Top with a generous serving of the remoulade sauce and serve.

This is my version of my favorite entrée for LeRuth’s. Every night they would have a veal special. When asked what entrée I would like to have for my senior prom dinner, this was the one that I selected. It is usually made with King Crab meat, but Lump Crabmeat also works well.

Veal Marie

Crepe Batter

1 3/4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 tablespoon Sugar
2 cups Milk
1 Egg
1/3 cup Canola Oil
5 tablespoons melted Butter, plus extra for pan

Place the flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the milk, egg, oil and butter. Heat a nonstick sauté pan or crepe pan over moderate heat. Lightly coat with melted butter. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the center of the hot pan and tilt it in all directions. The batter should coat the pan in a light covering. After about 30 seconds, the bottom side of the crepe should be lightly browned and the crepe should be ready to be flipped. Shake the pan in order to release the crepe, and then turn it by using a spatula. Cook the crepe for an additional 15-20 seconds and then remove it from the pan and set aside. Repeat process until all of the batter has been used. This can be done in advance as the crepe will heat up when topped with the sauce.

Crabmeat Sauce

2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons All-purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Dash White Pepper and fresh Nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Half and Half
1 pound Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook until evenly combined. After the mixture is combined with no lumps, slowly add the half and half, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until evenly blended. Stir sauce over medium heat until the mixture bubbles across the entire surface. Cook and stir for a few more minutes. Add crabmeat, stir and keep warm.

4-3ounce slices Veal, pounded thin
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning

Mix the flour and creole seasoning in a shallow bowl or plate. Lightly dust the veal in the flour. Add enough oil to a large skillet to coat the bottom. Heat pan over medium heat. Sauté the veal for 1 1/2 minutes on each sider until golden brown. Cook the veal in multiple batches, so you do not overcrowd the pan. Add oil to the pan as needed. Keep veal warm until assembly.

To assemble, place a piece of veal on the bottom of a warm plate. Top with a crepe and a generous portion of Crabmeat sauce and serve.

I am hoping one day Larry Leruth will publish a cookbook with his father’s recipes. Until then, I can only try to recreate those delicious dishes.

Considering cooking with Lamb

In New Orleans, lamb is a popular dish for the Easter feast. However, I have another memory that I associated with lamb. My maternal grandmother found out that I liked lamb. She would buy leg of lamb with the intention of inviting me over to eat, since many in the family did not care for lamb. Even though she was advancing in age, at least once a year I would get the invite for a lamb dinner.

So today, I will share with you a couple of lamb preparations, one using a leg of lamb and one using lamb shanks. You can find both of these at local stores. If you like lamb, you will love these dishes.

This is my version of the dish that my grandmother would prepare for me. It is close to the flavor that I remember hers to have. It is delicious to eat, but still not quite as good as hers.

Roasted Leg of Lamb

1 whole Leg of Lamb, about 6-9 pounds
20 cloves of Garlic, large ones cut in half lengthwise
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Thyme
Creole Seasoning
Olive Oil
Red Wine

Prepare leg by removing most of the visible fat. Cut slits into the top portion of the roast with a small sharp knife. Insert garlic clove into each slit and push down with finger until it is no longer visible. Rub the herbs and Creole seasoning all over the surface. Do the same with the olive oil. Splash with wine and rub again. Cover and let meat marinade for at least 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting.

Preheat oven to 450℉. Place the lamb leg in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 10-15 minutes for the initial searing, and then reduce the temperature of the oven to 350℉. Continue roasting for 8 minutes per pound for rare, 10 minutes per pound for medium, or 18 minutes per pound for well done. Baste occasionally with pan juices. Remove roast from oven when done. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest 10-20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, reduce the liquids in the pan and deglaze to get all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add wine, beef stock or water if necessary.

I have seen a nice selection of lamb shanks at the local large grocery store. The best way to prepare them is to braise them in liquid over a long period of time. This will give you a delicious lamb dish that falls right off the bone.

Braised Lamb Shanks

4 Lamb Shanks, about 1 pound each
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
2 Onions, cut into chunks
2 large Carrots, cut into thisk coins
3 stalks Celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Marjoram
2 sprigs Fresh parsley
1 Orange ,cut into eights
1 1/2 cup White Wine

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Trim as much fat as you can off the lamb shanks, unless they are already trimmed. Don’t get too zealous about this; there should be a little fat still there. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Season the shanks with Creole seasoning. Brown the shanks on all sides and remove from the pan. Place the shanks into a roasting pan. Add all the other ingredients around it except for the wine. Put the skillet back onto the burner on medium heat. Add the wine and bring to a boil, while whisking to deglaze the pan. Hold at a light boil for about 2 minutes, then pour over the shanks. Add enough water or beef stock to come about 1/3 up the sides of the shanks. Cover, or wrap with aluminum foil, the roasting pan and cook for 90 minutes, turning the shanks every 30 minutes. After 90 minutes, remove the cover, turn the shanks and roast for another 30 minutes. The meat should be falling off the bone with just a touch of a fork, if not add more liquid, if necessary, and continue to cook uncovered until done. Discard the vegetables. Strain the pan juices, skim off the fat and reduce until you have about 1 cup of liquid to serve with the lamb.

I hope you enjoy these lamb dishes as much as I do. While some may find the flavor a little gamey, I enjoy the difference and I think you will as well.