‘Old’ NOLA still offers some of best food around

Published 3:13 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our visit to New Orleans saw us eating at the two oldest restaurants in the city. 175 years is a long time to be around, but Antoine’s has that claim to fame. Antione’s has certainly undergone some changes in those years .I remember 40 years ago when we were dining at Antoine’s we received our menu in the mail and it was in French. We had time to decide what each item was and decide ahead of time. I arrived in a long gown and place cards were on the table with our names on them. They only took cash! When we were there last Friday, anything in shorts could come in and of course all credit cards are acceptable.

0827-Antoine's-grilled-oystersWe love the ‘Coolinary’ lunches in New Orleans only served in August. They are rather cheap and usually good. They help get people into the restaurants when everything is so slow. Antoine’s had a $20.16 menu with 3 courses and it was all delicious. You are offered a 25 cent cocktail (basically a punch with a little gin) so I had two; limit is three. But it was only 50 cents, so not much to spend! My husband insists on his sazarac. Our courses started with three charbroiled oysters and then the entrée, andouille oysters Bonne Femme (oysters, crabmeat and andouille sausage in a rich wine sauce served in a flakey phyllo shell), and pecan bread pudding. What is not to love about this for $20.16? The waiters were on the ball and we found Antione’s to still be a great place to eat after all these years.

Now on to the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans, which is Tujague’s. It has been on Decatur Street in New Orleans for 160 years, and is now under new management and a new chef. The noise level was very high but it was Friday night and it was busy. The food was very good with old classics and some new things. I had a wedge salad with fried oysters which had a nice dressing with some onions and tomatoes added. The best was an entrée of two fried smoked soft-shell crabs. I had never had soft-shell crabs that really smelled and tasted of being smoked. It was delicious. The waiter said they smoked the crabs for a short amount of time and then fried them. I would recommend this dish if you are dining at Tujague’s.

Our meeting with the Historic New Orleans Collection ended with a delightful jazz brunch at Arnaud’s. It has only been around since 1916 so somewhat younger but still 100 years old. I love going to Arnaud’s and even though it was a group of about 100 people, the service was beautifully done and the food superb. (I was told they have room to seat 2,000 diners in their various dinning rooms!) They started with mimosas or blinis; the appetizer was their pommes soufflé. Then came the first course of shrimp with cocktail sauce, followed by a gulf fish amandine served with haricots verts and potatoes. Dessert was fresh strawberries with a strawberry sauce over vanilla ice cream. Finished with black coffee. The jazz band played throughout.

I could do all kinds of recipes from these restaurants but I think my favorite recipe would be the Gulf Fish Amandine. You cannot beat the combination of (in this recipe trout) and sliced almonds. It is always a New Orleans favorite directly descended from the French.

From Arnaud’s Restaurant Cookbook

Trout Amandine

Serves 6

1 cup (8 ounces, 2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup blanched, sliced almonds

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Vegetable oil, for frying

6 skinless speckled trout fillets, about 6 ounces each

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely chopped flat-leafed parsley, for garnish

Thin slices of lemon, for garnish

Heat the oven to its lowest setting and place a baking sheet lined with a doubled layer of paper towels inside. Place six dinner plates in the oven to warm.

In a small skillet, melt about ½ cup of the butter over low heat. Add the almonds and stir gently until they are uniformly golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the almonds from the pan with a slotted spoon, place in a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining butter to the same skillet. When it is melted, stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste and taste seasoning. Set aside while you fry the fish.

Place the flour in a large, shallow bowl near the stove and season generously with salt and pepper. In an electric deep fryer or a deep, heavy saucepan or stock pot, more than half filled with oil, heat the oil to 350°. Dredge two of the fillets in the seasoned flour, coating both sides. Shake off any excess flour and gently lower the fillets into the hot oil. When the first two fillets are golden brown, remove with a skimmer basket and transfer to the towel-lined baking sheet to drain and keep warm while you fry the remaining fillets in the same way. (Do not dredge the fillets until just before frying, or the coating will be gummy.)

Return the lemon-butter sauce to high heat and stir for a minute or two, until piping hot.

Place each fillet on a hot place and scatter generously with the almonds. Drizzle with some of the lemon-butter sauce and serve at once.

I hope these articles make you want to get in the car and drive to New Orleans in the hot days of August. Getting a reservation is easier and things are cheaper in August, but you do have to deal with the heat. But hey, all restaurants are air-conditioned so it is no big deal to have a COOL time!!!