A Toast To Chef Paul
Chef Paul Prudhomme was among the first American cooks to embrace their food heritage.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Variety came fairly late to American cuisine, and depending on one’s generation, typical American fare like burgers, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and overcooked boiled green veggies of one sort or another loomed large. Variation, apart from treasured family recipes around the holidays to add this or that accent to the overly familiar, was largely found only by “going out” to dinner. This tended not to be of the “foodie” variety available today, but more of the “Chinese” or other “foreign” restaurant, toned down and modified for the American palate.
Today, everything is different, and the “foodie” impulse has gone mass-market. Our food selections seem – the obvious limitations of the kosher diet notwithstanding — almost endless. The service side of the kosher food world remains largely in the doldrums, but on the food side there are plenty who successfully embrace the foodie zeitgeist of the larger food culture and endeavor to excite and impress. While there are many whys and wherefores that helped get us, in American mass-market terms, to embrace mysterious new “foodie” offerings, one of them was surely the late great Chef Paul Prudhomme, with is willingness to cook “trash food.”
Chef Prudhomme, who passed away recently at age 75, was among the first American cooks to embrace their food heritage. As chef at the venerable Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Prudehomme incorporated Cajun and Creole cooking into the menu and lead the way into food exploration for millions looking for genuinely authentic regional cuisine. First at Commander’s, then at his own place “K-Paul’s” and then on the road, on TV, in cookbooks and nearly everywhere where people enjoyed a good meal, Chef Prudhomme was an entertaining and joyful ambassador for great food and good times.
His recipes are obviously rife with seemingly essential treif ingredients, but many of them are actually easily adapted for the kosher kitchen, Chef Prudhomme even did so himself in Israel on a couple of celebrated command performance style grand occasions. (Our friend Ken makes a fantastic kosher Étouffée).
The use of such spices may seem challenging, but Zinfandel and Syrah are reasonable red choices. However, in memory of Chef P we will raise a glass of a delicious French sparkler that has the balance and character to match well with his classic N’awlins cuisine. The Drappier Carte d’Or, Brut NV (in the $50 range; mevushal) opens with citrus, tart apple and toasty aromas that lead into lemon, stone fruit, red berry and yeasty bread flavors with accents of spice and minerals extending into a lingering brightly acidic finish.
Spirits-wise, our thoughts continue to linger in memory of Chef P. So, even though we indulged in it a month or so back, we return to the Hurricane cocktail.
This 1940s era super sweet rum and fruit juice concoction, originally created at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans’ French Quarter, is still the most popular among tourists to the Big Easy. The reason is fairly simple: it is a stealth drink. That is, it tastes a lot like fruit punch, but by the time you reach the bottom of the glass, you are probably already drunk.
Here then is a delicious and not overly sweet recipe for this otherwise sweet, fruity, rum cocktail (as developed by mixologist and cocktail guru Gary Regan).
In a cocktail shaker filled with hard ice add 1½ ounces of light rum, 1½ ounces of dark rum, 1 ounce of fresh orange juice, 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice, 2 ounces of passion fruit juice, ½ an ounce of simple syrup or superfine sugar, and grenadine to taste (perhaps as much as a teaspoon). Shake thoroughly, strain into an ice-filled hurricane glass, and then garnish with a maraschino cherry and an orange wheel. Repeat as necessary.
If that still strikes you as too sweet, then use the Drappier Carte d’Or, Brut to fix yourself a Mimosa.
Wonderfully refreshing and light, the Mimosa has melted its way into the heart of the Big Easy, opposite such brunch staples as the spicy Creole Bloody Mary and the oversweet Brandy Milk Punch. Not specific to New Orleans, but like many a visitor to the French Quarter it seems to have abandoned any thoughts of leaving.
Combine 3 parts champagne with 2 parts chilled orange juice and serve in a champagne flute. L’Chaim!