The Food Almanac: Monday, December 9, 2013
Celebrity Chefs Today
Frank and Marna Brigtsen, who are married to each other, were both born today in 1954. Same day! Talk about fate! Their delicious Creole bistro, Brigtsen’s, is an essential fixture in the dining scene for two decades and more. Frank and Marna met while both were working at K-Paul’s in the early 1980s. Frank cooked at Commander’s Palace during the years when Chef Paul Prudhomme was in charge of the kitchen there. When Paul opened K-Paul’s, Frank went along. They opened Brigtsen’s a few years later in an old cottage in the Riverbend. This year, they opened their second restaurant, taking over the good old Charlie’s Seafood in Harahan. They bring to it the essential standards of using fresh, local ingredients cooked to order, with a style of service that feels like dining in a friend’s home.
Annals Of Frozen Food
Today is the birthday, in 1886, of Clarence Birdseye. He was in Labrador trading furs when he noticed that the people there preserved fresh meat and fish by leaving it out in the extreme cold. He worked out a method of freezing food quickly, and then marketed the first frozen food. His company evolved into General Foods. The essence of his discovery was that the faster food could be frozen, the less damage was done to it by the smaller ice crystals that formed. (The opposite is true of thawing, which should happen slowly.)
Today is National Palmier Day. Palmiers are known around New Orleans as “shoe soles,” because of their resemblance to a very large such thing. They’re simple enough: sugar-glazed puff pastry, made traditionally with five “fingers” (hence the name). The more common variety has only two lobes. The way palmiers are made is by folding the sweetened dough over itself three or four times, then once more to form the lobes. The dough is then sliced at a ninety-degree angle to the folds, separated, and baked. Here’s a good recipe for palmiers from Pastry Chef Central, complete with photos that illustrate the technique well.
Hashtown, Indiana is on the other side of the tracks (literally) from Bloomfield, about seventy-seven miles southwest of Indianapolis. It’s a farming town in a somewhat hilly area. Corn is the main crop. Dining is limited to pizza and Chinese places, plus the usual chains.Browns Crossing, Indiana is only about twenty-five miles away from Hashtown, on IN 67. It’s a flatter place with even more corn. Somewhere between the two towns, one must be able to score some hash browns, because all of this is north (though not by a lot) of the Grits Line.
a la Normande, French, adj.–In the style of Normandy, referring to the northern coast of France, across the English Channel from Great Britain. A dish a la Normande, naturally enough, is made with the ingredients for which the area is best known. Those include bivalves (notably oysters and mussels) and dairy products (especially cream and butter). But the most distinctive specialty of Normandy is apples, and in this country a dish a la Normande is likely to include either apples or some kind of apple brandy. The most famous of the latter is Calvados, and if it’s a savory dish with a sauce, the presence of Calvados is a good bet.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
This is the season for mulled wine. Just add sugar and spices to warmed wine until it tastes good. It should be prepared in a very clean stainless pan over a heat too low to cause more than wisps of steam. The less time it’s in the pan, the better, since the alcohol will evaporate away if it cooks too long.
Deft Dining Rule #16:
If there is a restaurant where you get special consideration from the maitre d’, a special waiter, or a bartender, think of the most generous annual tip you’d like to give. Double it, and present it the next time you’re in there between now and Christmas.
Music To Eat Ribs By
Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, one of the big hits by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five in the early years of Satchmo’s career, was recorded today in 1927. A follow-up song told how hard it is to eat saucy barbecue while strutting, or playing a trumpet, or almost anything else.
Astronaut and Army Major Nancy Currie lifted off from her mother today in 1958. . . The Dutch singer George Baker let out his first notes today in 1944. . . Tennis professional Mardy Fish was caught today in 1981.
Words To Eat By
Anything that’s white is sweet
Anything that’s brown is meat
Anything that’s grey don’t eat.
–Hermione Gingold, British actress, born today in 1897. She was referring to airline food.
Words To Drink By
“By making this wine known to the public, I have rendered my country as great a service as if I had enabled it to pay back the national debt.”–Thomas Jefferson.