The Food Almanac: Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's Stuffed Flounder Day!

The typical flounder stuffing is crabmeat and other seafood, plus bread crumbs and herbs.

Tom Fitzmorris publishes The New Orleans Menu

Food Calendar 

It’s Stuffed Flounder Day. The typical flounder stuffing is crabmeat and other seafood, plus bread crumbs and herbs. Stuffed flounder was once a mainstay in New Orleans casual seafood restaurants, especially those at West End Park. The most famous was the house specialty of Bruning’s, where they used flounders so large that the fishermen referred to them as “doormats.” [related]

The idea of stuffed fish sounds appealing. It conjures up the image of a nice, moist, buttery fillet of fish, bursting at the seams with a filling of crabmeat or something similar. But the reality is usually quite different. Most cooks use too much bread crumbs, making the fish unpleasantly dry. The problem is often patched up with a sauce, but that has a way of turning the bready stuffing into an unpalatable mass.

All that said, it is possible to make a good stuffed flounder. Start with a fish wide enough to accommodate a stuffing without falling apart. Most restaurants that do this put the stuffing right on top, but a better way is to remove the bones in the middle and slip the stuffing in. Best of all is to make the stuffing from crabmeat, small shrimp or crawfish, green onions, all folded into a bechamel. Bake the fish till done and then you’re eating.

Our Great Chefs 

Lazone Randolph, the longtime executive chef of the now-extinct Brennan’s on Royal Street, was born today in 1946. He began working in Brennan’s kitchen when he was seventeen. Like most chefs back then, he started at the bottom of the kitchen and worked his way up, learning his craft on the job. He shared a kitchen with Chef Paul Blange, the man who created most of Brennan’s original menu. Lazone is a stickler for consistency, and that always showed in the cooking. His turtle soup knew no peer.

Deft Dining Rule #748:

If you can’t get a whole flounder in a restaurant, don’t order it at all.

Edible Dictionary

oats, n., pl. — Oats are a cereal grain whose wild forebears originated in Eastern Europe or Western Asia, and cultivated there beginning about 1000 BCE. Because oats grow best in cool climates, that’s where they were most eaten. The Romans considered them the food of barbarians. That bad public image continued for a long time, appearing memorably in Samuel Johnson’s description of them in his dictionary as “a grain which in England is given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” One of the problems with oats is that they have never been refined much. Flour made from them doesn’t have enough gluten to make bread. On the other hand, eating oats has many health benefits, particularly when the bran is included. Oatmeal can been cooked and eaten as is, or added to breads to contribute a nutty flavor.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Oatfield is a neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Portland, Oregon. It is surrounded by other suburbs, making a continuously urbanized stretch all the way to downtown Portland. Some 14,000 people live there. It’s indirectly named for the Oatfield family, who were among the first non-native settlers in the area. The nearest restaurant to Oatfield is Chan’s Garden, about five blocks from the center of the neighborhood.

Annals Of Intemperance

On this day in 1478, George, the Duke of Clarence and brother of Edward IV, was executed by drowning in a barrel of wine. (Malmsey Madeira, to be exact.) The scene is immortalized in Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Great Moments In Dairyland

In 1930, a cow named Nelly Jay (or Elm Farms Ollie–she seems to have had two names) was taken up in an airplane flying over Missouri. The Guernsey was milked at altitude, and the milk was packed into quart-size paper cartons and delivered by parachute to St. Louis. She was the first cow ever to fly.

Science In The Kitchen

In 1745, Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta was born on this date. He invented the electric battery. The volt, a unit of electrical force, was named for him. The one place where the battery has not made significant inroads is the kitchen. I’ve been universally disappointed by all battery-operated kitchen appliances. You go to use them for the first time in a year (because they tend not to be essential tools), and the batteries are always dead. Since every kitchen has electric outlets, why should anything in it be battery-powered?

Annals Of Place Settings

Harry Brearley, the inventor of stainless steel, was born today in 1871 in England. He was working on a new alloy for use in gun barrels when he combined steel with chromium and nickel. That creates an outer layer of metal oxides that retard tarnishing. Brearley recognized that the new metal would be perfect for forks, knives, and spoons. All other metals in use had to be well-dried after washing or they’d start getting dull or even rusty. Stainless changed the way cutlery was made, and dominates the table now.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of Fra Angelico, a Benedictine monk whose painting and illuminated manuscripts in the 1400s are still among the great sights in the Vatican and Florence. Another Benedictine of the same name lives in the Piedmont region of Italy in the 1700s. Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur in a bottle shaped like a monk (complete with a rope belt) is named for him.

Music To Eat Creole Food By

It’s the birthday (1941) of Irma Thomas. Nobody can touch her when it comes to singing New Orleans-style R&B. She also had the good taste (and good luck) to record many songs written by Allan Toussaint when nobody knew who he was. Irma’s best food lyric is the song “You Can Have My Husband, But Please Don’t Mess With My Man:”

My husband only feeds me red beans and rice
But my man gives me steak. Ain’t that nice?

Food Namesakes

Singer Juice Newton warbled her first notes today in 1952. She has a rare drink-and-food name — or would if were her real one (which is Judy Cohen). . . Political writer Peter Fryer entered the Big Skillet today in 1927.

WordsTo Eat By

“The fact is I simply adore fish,
But I don’t know a perch from a pike;
And I can’t tell a cray from a crawfish
They look and they taste so alike.” — William Cole.

Words To Drink By

”It is something — it can be everything — to have found a fellow bird with whom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting and fighting go on below.”–Wallace Stegner, American writer, born today in 1909.