The Food Almanac: December 13, 2012

It's National Beef Stew Day!
Beef Stew
Wikimedia Commons/ jumbledpile

Beef Stew


In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter The New Orleans Menu notes food facts and sayings.

Days Until. . . 
New Year's Eve--19

Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour
Bananas Foster Poor Boy @ 5Fifty5, CBD: Marriott Hotel, 555 Canal. 504-553-5638. I don't know who discovered that if you soak a piece of stale French bread in the kind of liquid custard you'd use to make lost bread or bread pudding. you can bake it afterwards and find that it still looks like a piece of unaltered French bread. The amazing thing is that it now tastes like bread pudding. Mark Quitney of the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street came up with a unique version of the idea, with bananas Foster involved to boot. It's one of the most original desserts I've had in a long time. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans Restaurants. The entire list is here

Edible Dictionary 
meringue, [meh-RANG], n.--A baked foam of sweetened egg whites. Depending on the recipe, the baking can give the meringue a lightly browned exterior, leaving the inside soft and foamy. Or, with slow, low baking, it can dry the foam out with little or no browing, such that it becomes a very light cookie-like confection. A good example of the uses of meringue can be seen at Antoine's, where they brown a layer of it around a block of ice cream for baked Alaska, or make the dried, crisp meringue as a base for meringue glacee and other desserts. Meringue is also the topping for pies and pastries. My mother used it to top bread pudding, adding vanilla and browning it a bit in the oven before serving.

Today's Flavor
It's National Beef Stew Day, and the weather will be perfect for it. It will be chilly for the next few days, and we'll need something to warm us up and stick to our ribs. The unique New Orleans twist on beef stew is that it's served over rice. Why not? Wherever there's gravy, there ought to be rice.

Beef stew is a close relative to the French dish beef bourguignonne. Other than the inclusion of wine in the recipe, the principal difference between beef stew and beef bourguignonne is about five dollars per serving.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: 
Cubes of good beefsteak
Lightly dusted with flour
Sear 'em, and then take
Red wine with some power
Pour into that hot pan
Whisk, then add onion, 
Herbs like marjoram
Stock if you have one
Simmer while you cut
Potatoes and carrots
Turnips, green beans, but
Though it may sound nuts
Boil those separately
Add when beef's juicy
You've now delicately
Made something stewsy!

Gourmet Gazetteer
Lamb, Illinois is in the southeastern part of the state, about a mile from the Ohio River. It's a small community of grass farms, the pasture interrupted by woods in the low spots of this rolling terrain. They really do raise lambs around there, as well as cows and horses. The nearest place to eat is Dutton's Cafe, five miles away in Cave-In-Rock, right on the river, where there's a . . .uh. . . cave in a big rock.

Music To Eat Turkey By
On this date in 1969, Arlo Guthrie released his most famous album, Alice's Restaurant. The entire LP is taken up with his relating the story of "a Thanksgiving dinner that can't be beat" in Alice's place, and what happened afterwards. Very funny, and an iconic recording of the early 1970s.

Annals Of Weather 
Today in 1962, a deep cold wave swept over the South. Temperatures in New Orleans were in the low teens. In Florida, almost the entire citrus crop was lost, and many trees died. The shortage of Florida oranges that followed has been repeated a few times since then. Most recent was the complete disappearance of Florida oranges from New Orleans area groceries from 2005 until this year, when a few have begun to return.

Annals Of Dressing For Dinner
The clip-on tie was introduced on this date in 1928. Imagine: a time when wearing a tie was so important that even if you couldn't figure out how to tie one, there existed a way for you to sport one anyway. I remember having a few of these when I was a kid, but by the time I was fourteen I wouldn't have been caught dead with a clip-on. Every man should know how to tie both a four-in-hand tie and a bowtie.

Deft Dining Rule #180:
Men who wear beautiful ties in restaurants register unconsciously in the minds of servers as generous tippers, and so get significantly better food and service. (Read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell for more on this effect.)

The Saints
Today is St. Lucy's Day, celebrated widely in Europe, especially in Scandinavia and Italy. The eldest daughter in the family wears a crown of holly and burning candles (this is really something to see), and serves a breakfast of hot sweet rolls flavored with saffron and cardamom. Nothing like that around here, of course, although you do hear the opera singers at Cafe Giovanni singing "Santa Lucia." St. Lucy is the patron saint of writers, so I ask her intercession.

Annals Of Viticulture
Pierre-Marie-Alexis Millardet was born today in 1838. He created the world's first successfulfungicide, which protected from mold and mildew. His first patients: grapevines for wine production. He later attacked another scourge of the vineyard, the phylloxera root louse, which threatened to destroy the vineyards of Europe (and almost all the rest of the world). Without his discoveries, the wine world would be very different now.

Food Namesakes
Russell Porter, an early Alaska explorer, was born today in 1871. . . In 1974 on this date, Jim "Catfish" Hunter was able to break away from Charles Finley's baseball A's and become a free agent.

Words To Eat By
"I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o'clock in the morning."--John Barrymore.

Words To Drink By
Seamen three! what men be ye? 
Gotham's three Wise Men we be. 
Whither in your bowl so free? 
To rake the moon from out the sea. 
The bowl goes trim. The moon doth shine, 
And our ballast is old wine. 
--Thomas Love Peacock, British writer in the 1800s.