Have your own Réveillion

Published 11:57 pm Friday, December 5, 2014

We spent a few days in New Orleans last week and I thought about how much I think about food when I am there.

Where do I get my next meal! But one does have to say that the Crescent City identity is based on its food traditions.

The Christmas celebration, known as Réveillon, is a perfect example. From the French word réveil or “awakening,” the Réveillon tradition of holding lavish, late-night feasts on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve is celebrated around the world. In New Orleans, the practice began during the 1800s when the city’s Catholic Creole population, many French immigrants among them, began breaking their Christmas Eve fast as they do in France, with a post-Midnight Mass family fete.

After days of cooking, a lavish buffet of traditional Creole dishes was laid out: oyster stew, turtle soup, or rich gumbos; savory soufflés; cold beef daube glacé; roasted game and game birds and bread puddings. Wines and cordials flowed to heighten the revelry, which lasted until the sun rose on Christmas Day.

At the turn of the century, American holiday traditions began supplanting these Réveillon gatherings and by the 1940s, Réveillon was all but extinct.

In the late 1980s, Ralph Brennan partnered with some French Quarter business owners to resurrect Réveillon in the restaurants in order to stimulate the local economy at an otherwise slow time of the year. It was a huge success and now Réveillon is celebrated nightly at many fine restaurants during the Christmas season, showcasing menus that are both traditional and contemporary.

I think this is a wonderful idea to do at home if you cannot go to a fine restaurant in New Orleans. The recipes given by Mr. Brennan for ‘Fine Cooking Magazine’ are truly delicious. The starter is a wonderful crab-cauliflower bisque followed by oyster patties; a creamy potato-artichoke gratin, garlicky green beans and a stuffed pork tenderloin. There is always the classic bread pudding for dessert.

I decided to try the green beans and the gratin to add to one of my Christmas meals and I would give them a heads up. Very nice dishes! Give these a try and have your own Réveillon.

Recipes from the 2014 ‘Fine Cooking Magazine’

Garlicky Green Bean with Almonds

Serves 8 to 10

Kosher salt

2 lb. green beans, trimmed (No green beans in the garden but I did freeze some last summer.)

1 Tbs. olive oil

½ cup sliced almonds

5 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice (Our lemon trees have ripe fruit now.)

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook, stirring once, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and refrigerate until ready to use. (The green beans can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead.)

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over low heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring, until golden, 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 10 seconds; transfer to a plate.

Add the butter and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown, 3 minutes. Add the beans and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, until tender, 4 minutes. Add the lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the beans topped with the almonds.


Artichoke Gratin

Serves 8

2 Tbs. unsalted butter; more for the pan

1 ½ lbs. onions, thinly sliced (5 cups)

Kosher salt

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick

1 tsp. minced fresh oregano

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup half-and-half

4 oz. (1/2 tsp.) mascarpone

Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt, and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring every few minutes and adding water 1 Tbs. at a time if the bottom of the skillet gets too dark, until the onions are caramel brown, about 20 minutes. Add 2 Tbs. water and scrape the pan well. Spread the onions on a baking sheet and let cool to room temperature. (You can refrigerate the onions in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.

Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Spread the onions on the bottom of the dish. Top with half of the potatoes, shingling them in an even layer. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. of each herb, a heaping ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Arrange half of the artichokes over the potatoes. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, herbs, salt, pepper and artichokes. Whisk together the cream, half-and-half, and mascarpone; pour over the potatoes. (You can refrigerate the gratin at this point for up to 4 hours.)

Bake until tender when pierced with a fork and golden brown in spots, 1 to 1½ hours. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.