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Food for Taught

Locals Share Their Favorites from Mom’s Kitchen

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Sue Zamanick

Executive Chef, Gautreau's Restaurant

While Gautreau’s menu is more likely to list poached lobster or duck confit, you might occasionally see a pierogi doctored up to meet the restaurant’s upscale standards. The simple Eastern European cheese-filled dumpling is comfort food to executive chef Sue Zemanick, and she can’t help but share it with her customers, if dressed up a bit with wild mushrooms.

“I still love Slovak food, especially at holidays,” says the 32-year-old Pennsylvania native and star among New Orleans chefs. She was the 2008 Food & Wine “Top 10 Best New Chef,” among numerous awards (including New Orleans Magazine’s Chef of the Year 2008).

She started cooking when she was 8 to 10 years old with her mother and grandmother, both from the Czech Republic and Slovakia (formerly Czechoslovakia). “I would make table arrangements like for a photo shoot,” she says of her childhood experiences. Her mother Marie Zemanick cooked cabbage rolls with pork and rice; braised pork with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes; and, her very favorite, a rich lemon pie. Her grandmother made a nut or poppy seed roll with sweet dough that was cut into pinwheels.

“All of my childhood revolved around food,” she says. But many of the dishes are peasant food and not appropriate for the upscale offerings at Gautreau’s. No problem. She serves them to her kitchen staff.

“We have the best staff meals in town,” she says of the halusky, cabbage and egg noodles, spatzle and drop noodles, served regularly in the kitchen.

Zemanick’s mother still lives in Pennsylvania but loves to visit New Orleans. Now retired, she was president of a hospital and a nursing school teacher. Her influences on Zemanick were “hard work and making time for family.”
“I know that she’s very proud of me,” Zemanick says, although at first she wanted her daughter to go in a different direction. “But (my mother) understood my passion and my art,” she says of her love for cooking. When Marie Zemanick dines at Gautreau’s, her favorites are the dressed-up pierogi, fish dishes and anything with jumbo crabmeat or scallops. Like her daughter, she loves seafood.

Says the chef, “I moved here for the crab, crawfish, shrimp and oysters.”


Marie Zemanick’s Lemon Pie

Crust:

2 1/2    cups all-purpose flour
1     Tablespoon sugar
1    teaspoon kosher salt
8     ounces unsalted butter, chilled very cold and diced very small
1/2    cup cold water with 1 ice cube in it

Lemon curd:

2    cups sugar
8    ounces butter
5    eggs
4    Tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2    cup lemon juice

Blueberry sauce:

2    pints blueberries

1/4    cup sugar
1/4     cup water
1/2    vanilla bean, scraped

Crust:

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. With either your hands or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like peas. Slowly drizzle in the cold water to bring the dough together. Do not over mix. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness and place dough in a 9-inch pie pan. Prick the dough with a fork and line with parchment and pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

Lemon curd:

Over a double boiler melt the sugar and butter. While that’s melting, mix together the remaining ingredients. Add that mixture to the butter and sugar. Continue to cook over the double boiler until thick, whisking occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Strain through a mesh strainer.

Blueberry sauce:

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
When pie crust is cool, pour the lemon curd into pie crust. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and blueberry sauce.

Serves 8.
 

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