Going back for seconds – in birthday fun, food

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 24, 2010

As my real birthday date arrived, we were told of the “running of the bulls” in the French Quarter. Not exactly what you’d think. San Fermin in Nueva Orleans, now in its fourth year, is modeled after the San Fermin festival and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The “bulls” in New Orleans are roller derby girls with horned helmets and whiffle ball bats. I couldn’t believe that thousands had dressed in the traditional Spanish costume of white with red accents and were running in the streets of the Quarter at eight in the morning. But this is New Orleans. My son ran in Pamplona on his 21st birthday. On my ?1st, I didn’t run; I just watched.

We then went to Stanley’s for breakfast. This restaurant on Jackson Square is owned by Scott Boswell, who is also the chef of the classier restaurant, Stella. I guess we all know where the names Stanley and Stella come from. My husband ordered tomato juice; no, but they had bloody Mary mix. I had a Reuben sandwich, and my husband had an omelet sandwich (a traditional omelet bathed in melted cheese and placed between toasted French bread with Creole mayonnaise). The sandwiches were so big that we felt stuffed for the rest of the day. Needless to say we did not eat lunch, but saved up for the real birthday dinner at Galatoire’s.

Galatoire’s has been around on Bourbon Street since 1905. It is a happening place on Friday when all the locals go for lunch and stay for dinner. Yes, they do. This was a Saturday evening, so we missed that crowd, but the place was party central anyway. Other people were having birthdays, too. We started with Sazaracs while we did not ponder the menu. This is the place where you ask for your favorite waiter and discuss with him/her what’s good today, and how you want it prepared. Bob was not there yet so we asked for Rushell (our favorite before she moved away for awhile, and we turned to Bob). I only wanted soft-shell crab, and sure enough they are in season, and I had a wonderful fried soft-shell with lump crab meat on top. Was it ever good?

For appetizers, we shared a plate of crabmeat maison and shrimp remoulade. These are both classic Galatoire dishes and are always delicious. I like the pomme soufflé, and my husband likes the Rockefeller spinach side (spiced like the oyster dish but without the oysters). No room for my favorite dessert at Galatoire’s, the banana bread pudding. But as the birthday girl I was given a dish of crème caramel and a Galatoire’s pen (fortunately no singing by the whole dinning room as they often do!). I love crème caramel, and have been known to eat a whole pan done by my friend in Wilmington on several of my birthdays. I gave the pen to my husband since he paid for the meal!

Fried Soft-Shell Crabs

from Leon Galatoire’s Cookbook

1 quart cooking oil

4 jumbo soft-shell crabs

2 cups flour


1 egg

2 cups milk

Pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together to form batter.

Salt to taste

1 tsp. parsley

2 lemon wedges

Preheat oil in a heavy pot or deep fryer to 375 degrees over a medium heat setting.

Clean the crabs by removing the underbelly flaps, eyes and gills located under each side of the upper shell. Dredge in flour, then shake off excess and pass thoroughly through the batter, then back into the flour and again shake off excess. Hold the crab by each claw and carefully place into the hot oil, a pair at a time. It may be necessary to do one batch at a time to accommodate the pot properly and allow the crabs space to prevent them from sticking together.

Using tongs, turn the crabs on both sides to cook evenly until golden brown, about seven to eight minutes. Remove and hold on a dry cloth, then repeat the process.

Place a pair on each plate, salt to taste and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and lemon wedges. Serves two as an entrée, four as an appetizer. To enrich do as they do at the restaurant, add lump crab meat on top.

Since Sunday is church day, we went to Trinity Episcopal Church, uptown on Jackson Avenue, where the service is always entertaining and the music good. After church we went to Commander’s Palace for their Sunday jazz brunch. Sometimes the food is not as good as it should be, but the atmosphere is so nice there, I just love to go. The chef, Tory McPhail, tries to come up with some clever creations, and some work and some do not. We had a trio of soups to begin with and the soup of the day was shrimp and mirliton, which tasted like the roux had burned. Now the turtle soup and gumbo were excellent. Our entrée consisted of white truffled scrambled eggs over veal (which tasted like pork) over a jalapeño grit cake. All the parts were good but added together, it was not better than the sum of its parts. When I go again, I am going to stick with the classic turtle soup and their steak with onions and truffled potatoes, which is always wonderful.

Commander’s turtle soup is the best. You can find turtle meat at Joe Patti’s and other seafood stores. It is a little pricy, but for a special occasion it is worth the effort.

Turtle Soup

From The Commander’s Palace

New Orleans Cookbook

1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 pound turtle meat, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 cup minced celery (4 stalks)

1 ¼ cups minced onions (2 medium)

1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ cups tomato purée

1 quart beef stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed

½ cup lemon juice

5 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced parsley

6 teaspoons dry sherry

Melt 1 cup (2 sticks) butter in a heavy saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the roux is a light brown. Set aside.

In a 5-quart saucepan, melt remaining butter and add turtle meat. Cook over high heat until meat is brown. Add celery, onions, garlic and seasonings, and cook until vegetables are transparent.

Add tomato purée, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add stock and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add roux and cook over low heat, stirring, until soup is smooth and thickened. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice, eggs and parsley.

Remove from heat and serve. At table add 1 teaspoon sherry to each soup plate.

The birthday is over, but the memories linger; also, a few extra pounds. Now it is back to the farm with fresh vegetables and fruit.