This recipe works with any small fish, not much less nor much more than a pound. Pat whole gutted, scaled or skinned fish dry–this is an important step–score, and slather with softened butter flavored with thyme, garlic, pepper, and paprika. Place in a well-oiled pan, add lemons with juice, and place in a very hot oven until fish flakes to the bone. A final squeeze of fresh lemon and a drizzle of oil before serving adds much to the dish.
Deep-fried stuffed crab shells were once a staple side in fish shacks throughout the lower South. You’ll still find frozen stuffed shells as well as 1-quart bags of stuffing in markets all across the region. With more crab meat (or shrimp), brushed with butter and baked, this recipe works as a stand-alone buffet dish. It also makes great hush puppies. Beautifully.
Combine two cups crumbled stale cornbread with a cup of coarse bread crumbs and a half cup grated Parmesan. Set aside. Dice a white onion and enough celery to make 2 cups. Sauté in a stick of butter with a clove of minced garlic until soft. Add to crumbs with a slosh of white wine.
Mix thoroughly with a pound of clean lump crab meat. I throw in a few minced cooked shrimp for color. Stir in two or three tablespoons of Creole mustard, and a bit more melted butter to firm it up. Pepper and salt to fit you. Add fresh chopped parsley and lemon juice before cooking. Roll in bread crumbs before if frying.
When Paul Prudhomme came barreling out of the bayous in the early 80’s, his cuisine had an enormous impact on the restaurant industry. The Cajun rage prompted restaurants as far away as Seattle to place jambalayas, gumbos, and etouffees on their menus. But the one dish that inspired a genuine craze was his blackened redfish.
Prudhomme first served blackened redfish at K-Paul’s in March, 1980, serving 30 or 40 people. It was an immediate hit; within days the restaurant was full, and within weeks, there were long lines. The dish became so popular that redfish (aka red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus) populations in the Gulf were severely impacted. The fish were sucked up in nets by the truckload in the bays, passes, and inlets from the Florida Keys to Brownsville, Texas, nearly wiping out the overall redfish stock. Fortunately, intensive conservation efforts were put in place—one of them being the founding of the Gulf Coast Conservation Association—and the redfish rebounded.
Blackening is an ideal cooking method for fish, but you can also blacken meats and shellfish, even squash and eggplant. Foods to be blackened are dredged in melted butter, coated in the following seasoning mix, then seared in a super-heated skillet. Do not try blackening inside unless you have a commercial vent hood, and if outside you must use a gas flame. Prudhomme’s herbal measurements are excruciatingly precise, so. I usually quadruple the recipe to make it easy.
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
¾ teaspoon white pepper
¾ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Why don’t today’s chefs create dishes in honor of performing artists like those who gave us Melba toast and turkey Tetrazzini? Where’s the Bowie sundae, the Madonna cupcake or the Star Wars souffle? The need, as I see it, isn’t so much for the dishes, which are admittedly key components, but for the stories they may tell, like this one.
In 1923, George Arliss took the stage as the Rajah of Rukh in The Green Goddess. Arliss was at the height of his career. He went on to repeat his performance in the film version of the play and received an Academy Award nomination for the role, ironically losing to himself that same year (1930) when he played British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli in the eponymous film.
While in San Francisco, Arliss stayed at The Palace Hotel, and for a banquet in Arliss’s honor, the executive chef of the hotel, Philippe Roemer, himself a celebrity, created an original salad dressing with an assortment of finely chopped green herbs to suggest the name of the play. The dressing is a signature recipe in the hotel’s Garden Court Restaurant, most often served with the Dungeness Crab Salad.
The classic Green Goddess recipe usually includes anchovies, mayonnaise, vinegar, green onion, garlic, parsley, tarragon and chives in some form or quantity. Some cooks add sour cream or yogurt, and a popular contemporary version includes avocado (wouldn’t it just?). Served with steamed vegetables or seafood. Combine and mix in processor or blender:
1 cup parsley leaves
1 cup packed spinach leaves, stemmed
½ cup tarragon vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
3 anchovy fillets
¼ cup vegetable oil