We began this series just before St. Patrick’s Day, inspired by the suspicion that we were entering a period of crisis and danger, believing that regular sharing of food and dining ideas would serve as a balm of sorts. During isolation and fear, we’ve become wiser and stronger. Nothing is taken for granted. Happiness is at hand whenever we truly desire it. Few pleasures compare with the preparation and enjoyment of good meals. This week, Julia Child, always with us, provides a hearty French soup that is forever delicious. We drop in Antione’s in the French Quarter for Pompano the way it should be prepared. And, a regal Charlotte Russe, served with Champagne, rounds out the late autumn feast.
Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse
(Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.)
1 leek washed well and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic chopped
1 large can of diced tomatoes drained
6 cups of water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp fennel
2 pinches saffron
1 large piece of orange peel
About 3lbs of assorted fish We used: sword fish, halibut, lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for drizzling
Sauté leeks in olive oil for about 5 minutes until wilted but not browned.
Add garlic and tomatoes. Raise heat and cook for a few more minutes.
Add about 6 cups of water, all the herbs and seasonings, orange peel and fish. At this point I placed in all the fish but the shell fish. Allow to cook at a moderate boil for about 30 minutes.
Add in the shell fish and allow to cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Once the fish is cooked. Gently take the fish out and reserve to a platter. Using a strainer or sieve, strain the soup leaving just the tomato broth. Taste broth for seasoning.
Plate fish and shell fish in bowl and ladle broth.
Pompano en Papillote
Antoine’s New Orleans
Some consider this the epitome of classic Creole cuisine. Chef Jules Alciatore conjured up this dish to serve to a Brazilian balloonist. He presented the parchment packet like a puffed-up balloon, piercing it open at the table to reveal pompano smothered in butter, wine, and crabmeat.
2 skin-on pompano fillets, patted dry
salt and pepper
4 lemon slices
2 handfuls fresh herbs (whatever you like)
Preheat the oven to 375.
Rip off an 18-inch sheet of parchment. Place a fillet on the bottom third of the parchment. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange two lemon slices and a handful of herbs on top. Fold the top of the parchment over the fillet. Begin making small folds to seal the parchment all the way around and tuck the end underneath. Add a few staples wherever the folds aren’t tight.
Repeat with the remaining fillet.
Place the parchment pouches on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven. I usually put it right on the table. Use kitchen shears to snip a little hole in the top of each packet, then slip in the scissors and slice across the top of each one (obviously avoid getting burned by steam). Serve them in the packet or use a spatula to transfer the fish to each plate.
30-35 lady fingers (use 20-25 lady fingers for the sides of the cake, the rest will be used for the bottom)
For the Syrup:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon rum extract
2 1/4 cups/500ml heavy cream
4 envelopes/28g gelatin
4 tablespoons cold water
1 cup/200g sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup/200ml whole milk
1/2 cup/100g candied fruit
Optional: Fruits for decoration(strawberries, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches etc)
Use a 8 inches springform cake pan.
Prepare the syrup: bring to a boil the water mixed with sugar and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the stove and flavor the syrup with rum extract.(do not add the rum extract while simmering the syrup as the flavor will dissipate)
Let the syrup cool down. If you add ladyfingers to a hot syrup, they will fall apart.
Steep the lady fingers in the syrup and line the sides of the springform with them. Place them tightly together.(You will probably need 20-25 lady fingers)
Line the bottom of the springform with lady fingers that you steeped in the syrup.
How to make the cake filling:
Whipped Cream: Place mixer bowl and whisk in freezer for at least 20 minutes to chill.
Pour heavy whipping cream and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
Do not over beat. Set aside.
Start by hydrating the gelatin. Mix gelatin with water in a little bowl and set aside.
In a medium pot mix the eggs with the sugar.
Place the pot on Bain-Marie and stir constantly until the first signs of boiling. It should look like a thin mayonnaise. At this point the eggs are cooked enough and the custard should cling to the spoon.
Remove and add the hydrated gelatin. Mix continuously with a wooden spoon until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Allow it to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Add the whipped cream and blend them together.
Add the candied fruit and mix well.
How to assemble the cake:
Pour half the filling on the bottom of the cake, over the lady fingers.
Cover the filling with another layer of lady fingers soaked in the syrup.
Pour the rest of the filling over the lady fingers and smooth the surface with a cake spatula.
Place it in the refrigerator for few hours or better overnight.
Next day, carefully remove the edges of the springform and place the cake on a platter. Decorate it to your taste with fruits, more whipped cream, sprinkles etc.
Sir Verde’s Wine Suggestions: A quality sparkling wine like Cremant or the real thing from Champagne. “Hey, we’re warming up for Thanksgiving!”
Stay Safe. Eat and Drink Well. Love One Another.