Nov. 3, 2002 – I traveled with my family to New Orleans in October so that I could attend a Produce Marketing Association convention, but it wasn't produce that caught our fancy when we dined at the famed Antoine's in the heart of the famed French Quarter. The Creole Gumbo was to-die-for, and I was lucky enough to get the recipe.
A cold morning chill of 56 degrees surely didn't resemble the Virgin Islands, but the Creole cuisine definitely shared many attributes of our Caribbean cookery. Like the islands, New Orleans is a melange of French, Spanish and African cultures, with touches also of Sicily, Germany, Ireland, Greece and even Croatia. Add the raw ingredients of native spices and abundant fresh fish, and you have the makings of some exceptional eating.
Antoine's Restaurant, named for Antoine Alciatore, who started his fine dining operation in 1840, has enjoyed the status of a local landmark in the city's French Quarter ever since. It was a wondrous place for dinner — and a good test of table manners for the children.
We started with fresh Louisiana oysters baked on the half shell with bacon and a garlicky tomato sauce, then enjoyed bowls of Creole Gumbo. Then, it was fresh lump crab meat au gratin for me and lamb medallions wrapped in bacon, broiled and served with a tangy béarnaise atop a grilled pineapple slice for my husband.
The kids were good sports, nibbling at our dishes, but they were most impressed with dessert: vanilla ice cream scooped on a toasted meringue topped with chocolate fudge sauce and classic peach melba with a candied peach half, vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce and sprinkling of toasted almonds. Definitely a meal to remember!
To read more about the famed French Quarter restaurant and its cuisine, check out the Antoine's Web site.
Meanwhile, here's all you need to know to make Antoine's gumbo for yourself.
Creole Seafood Gumbo
Courtesy of Antoine's Restaurant, New Orleans
3/4 stick butter
2 cups chopped green onions
2 cups sliced okra
1 cup chopped white onions
2 cups raw peeled shrimp
2 cups raw oysters
1 cup chopped tomato pulp
2 cups tomato juice
1 1/2 quarts fish stock *
3 crabs (top shell discard, cut into 4 pieces)
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon File (sassafras)
3 cups cooked riceSalt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper
Melt the butter and sauté the green onions, okra, white onions and crabs.
In a separate pot put the shrimp, oysters, tomatoes and tomato juice with 1 1/2 quarts of fish stock and bring to a boil. Let boil for a minute, then add to the first pot.
In a small skillet cook the butter and flour together until brown. Blend this brown roux with the File and some of the gumbo liquid and add to the gumbo. Add salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. To serve, put 1/2 half cup of rice into each bowl, then pour 1 1/2 cups of gumbo over it
Serves 6. Per serving: 430 calories, 15 gms fat (32 percent fat calories), 173 mg cholesterol, 892 mg sodium.
* For the fish stock, here are three options:
– Substitute 6 cubes of vegetable bouillon or 3 cans of ready-to-use vegetable broth.
– Use the liquid from fish that you've boiled for a prior meal, preferably not thick with butter or oil.
– Make your own with the recipe below.
2 pound fish bones, skin and head
2 onion, sliced
4 small carrots, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
12 sprigs parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 quarts (12 cups) water
3 cups white wine, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large pot. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until liquid is reduced by half and well flavored. Strain and add to the gumbo recipe. Or freeze and use at a later date. Makes approximately 1 1/2 quarts or 6 cups.
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