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Cooking for Visitors

A friend sent me an email last month alerting me that he was planning on surprising his wife with a visit to New Orleans at the end of September. He asked me for some recommendations and hoped that we could get together.

I met this fellow at a conference; we have a client in common and we bonded over our love of food and cooking. He’s from Puerto Rico, and I think we also became friends because we are both used to a certain lifestyle. Some say that New Orleans is the northern-most Caribbean city, and I think that’s a pretty apt description. We tend to take things a bit easier and we live to eat rather than eating to live. We work hard when we should but most of us, at least, view work as a necessary evil rather than the thing that defines us.

My friend has told me stories about his law firm; how he and his partners and their spouses would get together on the weekend and cook together. I was jealous. He was in town a few years ago and I’d made plans for us to get together at my house to cook, but at the last minute something came up for me and it didn’t work out.

I’ve been thinking about a menu for weeks now. What I cook on a daily basis isn’t what one thinks of when one thinks “New Orleans food.” In the last week I’ve cooked Chinese, Italian, French, Thai and “Southern” dishes. There wasn’t anything Creole in the mix, really.

But I started cooking seriously by making most of the recipes in the Antoine’s cookbook, and I’ve got copies of pretty much every local cookbook of note (and some of no note) in my collection. I can cook like a local when I want to.

But what to cook for folks who’ve traveled a great deal, love food and have sophisticated palates? Here’s what I came up with: to start, broiled oysters with andouille. I’ve got some lovely ceramic oyster-shaped dishes that are made for char-broiling. I settled on an andouille cream because I also want to feature some of the outstanding local sausages we have here.

As an entrée I’ve decided on Poulet Clemenceau. I love the preparation – my go to order at Galatoire’s is sweetbreads Clemenceau – and I have cooked so many chickens over the years that I can make the dish in my sleep. The only question is whether to use slab bacon lardons or another pork product.

The chicken is served with peas, Brabant potatoes and mushrooms, so it doesn’t need much in the way of a side dish, but I figured a small salad of tomatoes and cucumbers would work and I always have a few different pickles available.

I always leave dessert to my wife, but I was thinking a bread pudding soufflé with some sort of fruit rather than whisky sauce. I know I’m a heretic, but I prefer light desserts for the most part.

As it turns out, I may not be cooking after all; my friend emailed me to see if my wife and I could join them at Brennan’s the night they arrive. It’s very hard to be disappointed about things when the “downside” is dinner at Brennan’s.

But it’s also possible that I’ll be cooking after all; whether or not that happens, I’d be very interested to read what you might serve in similar circumstances. Bonus points if you come up with something that allows for collaborative cooking. 


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