Photographed by Sara Essex Bradley
Louisiana cuisine offers so many delightful dishes that are perfect to serve for brunch, and many can be served room-temperature. A whole theme can be created around what we love about the state, from the menu to the table setting.
Chef Melissa Martin, who grew up in Chauvin, Louisiana, and her husband, photographer Rush Jagoe, opened the Mosquito Supper Club in 2014, which aims to celebrate Cajun culture: food, music and traditions. The supper club honors tradition by using the bounty of shrimpers, oyster fishermen, crabbers and farmers that define Cajun cuisine.
“I love to cook and grew up in a family of strong women that stood guard at their stoves on a daily basis; they tended gardens and always put food on the table,” she explains. “We have a coastal cuisine that isn’t represented here in New Orleans in a very basic way. I wanted to put the food I grew up eating on the table for folks. I wanted to share the waxing and waning of the seasons, and I wanted folks to slow down and enjoy the food in a lazy environment the way we would have on the bayou in Chauvin.”
Recently she put together a fabulous brunch at the French Quarter location (on the second floor, 806 N. Rampart Street).
She is adamant about using local ingredients and cooking with love. “This quote from Nina Simone sums up cooking for me,” says Melissa, “You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served.”
Home cooks can prepare a similar style of brunch with local ingredients. You can find Murder Point Oysters, marinated crab claws and pickled shrimp at Curious Oyster Company in the Dryades Public Market. You can also source local produce, pantry items and local meats and fish at the Dryades Public Market. Melissa says that she uses grits that are stone-ground fresh at Bellegarde Bakery in the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans. She gets her crab from the Higgins in Lafitte and crawfish is from Cottonport. “I shop twice a week at the Crescent City Farmers Market. You should visit and get inspired for your brunch,” she recommends. “Just get the things that appeal to you, and create with what is in-season.”
The atmosphere at The Mosquito Supper Club is bright, airy and rustic. Artist Mia Kaplan uses the space as a gallery. “Mia and I are both inspired by the landscapes and culture of South Louisiana,” explains Melissa. “Being out in the swamp is our happy place. We have collaborated mentally on ideas that Mia can physically bring to life through her art. Her art creates the environment that guests are treated to at Supper Club, and she has a space that is hers to work in and show her work publicly in New Orleans.”
Their compatible personalities and philosophies result in a relaxed, inviting space. “Things just roll off our shoulders here,” says Melissa. “As natives, Mia and I are both sensitive and reflexive to the glorious nature we were able to grow up in.”
Mia Kaplan’s artwork illustrates a personal connection to natural borders, landscapes, wildflowers, refuges and themes of transformation. “Mosquito Supper Club is reflexive of the serious transformation that Terrebonne Parish has seen, as the land subsides into the Gulf. I’m cooking and sharing the things that inspired and shaped me as a way to communicate it to folks and as a way to save it,” says Melissa.
Mosquito Supper Club takes place every Thursday (September through May) at 7:30 p.m. It is closed during the summer and reopens in the fall. You can join the club by simply making a reservation on their website (mosquitosupperclub.com). You can also book private parties. Additionally, they are expanding to host cooking workshops and tiny private dinners on a houseboat in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Sweet Potato Biscuits with Poirier’s Butter
The good thing about sweet potatoes in Louisiana is that they are always in season and you can always pick them up at the farmers market.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
2 cups flour
6 tablespoons leaf lard (from Leigh Ann the butcher at Dryades Public Market)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
La Canne coarse raw sugar for dusting
Heavy cream or egg wash for brushing
1/2 teaspoon salt
Bake 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, mash then allow to cool (must be cold). Sift together flower, baking powder and salt, and in a medium bowl cut in lard to flour mixture. Add buttermilk until mixture comes together (do not over mix). Turn out onto a floured surface, using a book fold method, fold the dough, lightly, and flouring if it sticks. Fold as many times as you like as this will determine how flaky your biscuits are. (Melissa prefers not to fold more then 3 times.) Press or roll to 1 ½-inch thickness, cut out biscuits with a floured biscuit cutter and brush tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes (depending on your oven)
In a mixer using the paddle attachment or a medium bowl and wooden spoon, combine a stick of room-temperature salted butter and 1 cup Poirier’s Pure Cane Syrup or other high-quality cane syrup, such as Steen’s. Spoon butter into ramekins or serving dishes and refrigerate until just before serving. This compound butter can be made up to seven days in advance.
Bloody Mosquito Cocktail
5 pounds tomatoes
2 ribs celery (plus more for garnish)
2 cucumbers (plus more for garnish)
4 lemons, juiced
4 limes, juiced
Pickled okras with juice (plus more for garnish)
Fresh green beans for garnish
Dash celery salt
Dash Louisiana hot sauce
Dash salt and pepper
Vida Del Maguey Mezcal or good quality tequila or vodka
In a juicer (preferably) or blender, juice tomatoes, cucumbers and celery and strain overnight through cheesecloth. Add lemon and lime juice, and a touch of pickled okra juice. Add a dash of celery salt, Worchestchire, Louisiana hot sauce, salt and freshly milled black pepper. Let sit for a coupe hours, taste and adjust.
Fill a tall glass with ice. Add 3/4 juice and top with Del Maguey Mescal. Stir, then rake it through the garden.
Crab Debris & Grits
2 shallots diced small
1/2 bell pepper diced small
1 celery stalk diced small
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4-cup heavy cream
1-2 pounds crabmeat
Sauté shallots in butter until soft. Add bell pepper, celery and garlic and sauce until soft. Taste your vegetables to make sure it’s not crunchy. Add heavy cream and reduce until it’s thick. Let mixture cool; add crabmeat and green onion and parsley. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, hot sauce and a generous squeeze of lemon. Let flavors marry overnight.
Sauté mixture in pan with butter, allowing crab to get crispy. Serve over grits with minced green onion and parsley.
Soak your grits overnight in fresh water. Strain off all the chaff that rises to the top.
Boil 3 cups water. Add 1-cup grits and a bay leaf to briskly boiling water. Stir constantly until grits are cooked. Add butter, salt, white pepper, a touch of cayenne and a squeeze of lemon
5 cups freshly milled whole-wheat flour from Bellegarde Bakery
16-ounce European-style butter (cold)
1-cup ice cold water
2 teaspoon sea salt
Mix together flour and salt. Cut in cold butter with your fingers. Bring together mixture with cold water, drizzling a little water at a time. Form 4 rounds of dough; freeze 3 rounds for later use. Cover other round with a clean cloth and refrigerate for a least an hour. Roll pie dough out and place in your quiche pan. Pre-bake your quiche shell (with baking beans or rice) on 300 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until set. Remove shell and add quiche filling. Bake quiche until golden brown on 350-degree oven.
1 pound local crawfish tales
4 fresh farmers market egg yolks
4 fresh farmers market eggs
2 cups local heavy cream
Local green onions
Sauté crawfish tales in butter with salt, pepper, cayenne and hot sauce. Add green onion and parsley. Allow to cool a bit. Whisk together eggs and cream. Add crawfish mixture. Fill pie shell and bake until golden brown on top.
Dutch Baby Pancakes
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 eggs (beautiful yard eggs)
3/4 cup milk (local Feliciana’s or Math’s milk)
3/4 cup flour (Bellegarde bakery freshly milled flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 teaspoon sugar (La Canne sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in an iron skillet. Beat eggs until fluffy add milk, flour, salt and sugar and pour over butter. Place in cast iron skillet in a preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve warm. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh blackberries.
Shrimp, Okra & Crab Gumbo
You can find almost all the ingredients you need from the Crescent City Farmers Market and Dryades Public Market.
1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
5 pounds fresh okra, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large tomato, chopped (1/2 cup)
3 pounds yellow onions diced small
1 bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced small
4 stalks celery diced small about 1 cup
6 cloves garlic minced
5 pounds wild shrimp (from a local shrimper if possible), smaller shrimp are harder to peel but usually pack the most flavor. Try to get something in the 26-30 size range.
1/2 dozen gumbo crabs (ask your fishmonger for small cleaned crabs)
2 quarts chicken or seafood stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Hot sauce, such as Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 bunch flat leaf Italian parsley chopped
1 bunch scallions chopped, green and white part (slice the green onions long wise a couple times first then chop)
Steamed white rice for serving
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot on lowest heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and okra, and stir to combine. Cover pot and cook okra, stirring occasionally, on stovetop for 6 to 8 hours. The okra will move through different stages. First it will be bright green, then sticky and sweating and a little softer, the color will start getting darker and eventually after a couple of hours the okra will start breaking down. Keep cooking the okra until is completely loses its shape and is broken down. The seeds will still be visible. The color will be dark swampy green. Add tomato and cook for 30 minutes more. The tomato acid will help neutralize the sliminess. Set aside. In another large, heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat, add tablespoons of oil or lard heat then add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent (about 15 minutes). Add reserved okra and stir to combine; cook for about 15 minutes more. Add bell pepper, celery, and garlic and continue to cook until vegetables are soft, about 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, place shrimp and gumbo crabs in separate bowls and season to taste with pepper, cayenne and hot sauce. Add seasoned shrimp and crabs to okra-vegetable mixture and stir to combine; cook for about 5 minutes. Add stock and bring gumbo to a simmer. Allow gumbo to simmer uncovered stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Just before serving, stir in parsley and green onion. Serve gumbo hot, ladled over steamed white rice.
Keep it rustic – no tablecloth needed, but a cloth napkin is
Keep it simple – use all-white dinnerware and serving pieces
Use garden flowers in mason jars and for drinking glasses
Cookie sheets make great serving trays
Bring the cast iron pot and skillet to the table for serving
Invite your guests to dress country style
Use local ingredients and family recipes