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Gianna Does Brunch and Jacques Pépin’s Cuisine Economique


Gianna is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, so it’s good news when one hears of expanded hours. That includes a Friday lunch as well as brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

I will share a portion of the release I received yesterday to give you an idea of what they have to offer:

Chef de Cuisine Jared Heider’s brunch menu features a variety of antipasti, including chopped salad, meatballs, ciabatta garlic bread, strawberry & burrata, semolina pancakes, and lamb sausage gravy with creamy polenta. The primi course offers ricotta gnocchi, rigatoni Amatriciana, and lobster mafaldini. Secondi options include a traditional scampi, crispy short ribs, eggs alla Gianna, and prosciutto flatbread. Contorni, or sides, to choose from are creamy polenta, paesano potatoes, pasta bordelaise, and cornetto.

The Friday all-day menu features antipasti favorites such as grilled octopus, ribollita soup, grilled lion’s mane mushroom, and roasted heirloom carrots, in addition to many of the brunch options. Other menu items include spaghetti and clams, pesce del giorno, fire-roasted chicken, veal saltimbocca, and roasted cauliflower. Several brunch items are also available on the all-day menu. See the full menus here.

Gianna is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., and now on Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; on Saturday they’re open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with the same hours on Sunday except until 9 p.m. If that is confusing and you have questions, or to make reservations, you can reach the restaurant at (504) 399-0816.

I had some positive response to the idea that I would discuss cookbooks here from time to time, and so I’m going to try to work that into the schedule going forward around once a month. I thought I could write a brief few paragraphs about a book to whet your appetite for the feature going forward, but as sometimes happens, I ended up writing more than I planned (and less than I could) about a book that is dear to my heart. Towit: my take on Jacques Pépin’s “Cuisine Economique.”

I don’t know if Jacques Pépin is as wonderful a person as he’s reported to be. It’s hard to believe he is, but I’ve been paying attention to the guy for around three decades now and I’ve yet to see anything about him that makes me think he’s anything but a generous, skilled, intelligent man who has done great work to advance the idea that we all deserve to eat good food.

I have several cookbooks by Pépin, but the one I wanted to discuss was first published in 1992. “Cuisine Economique” is about making good food inexpensively, and in the introduction Pépin writes something that I think defines his approach to cooking:

As I travel around the country and work with young chefs, I am always more impressed with those who produce good, well-cooked food with speed, organization, cleanliness and economy than those who create complicated “food art” at the expense of thrift, order and taste.

I appreciate “food art,” as I know Pépin does as well, but as I see it, the purpose of all of the cookbooks he’s written is not to advance the “art” of cuisine but rather to bring an appreciation for simple, good cooking to as many people as possible. That’s a noble goal.

The thing that makes this book worth far more than the $8 I paid for it at Beckham’s Bookshop is that the techniques employed are so clearly described, and while some of the ingredients are no longer as “economique” as they were in the early 1990s (lamb, for example) or are not easily obtainable (veal tendon comes to mind), the overall approach and the vast majority of the recipes will still be of use if you’re trying to cut down on food costs.

The book is divided into four chapters based on the seasons, but there are interstitials, like the six recipes in the introduction under the title, “A Master Lesson in Economy: Turkey” that transcend that format. In writing about turkey, Pépin stresses the importance of buying a whole bird. The truth is that while it’s definitely cheaper to buy whole birds (or larger cuts of meat and whole fish), it’s also just better generally if you have the time and the skill to break it down and if you are going to use the whole thing.

That’s a theme that comes back multiple times in this book: Use the whole thing. The bones from that turkey or chicken can go into stock, as can the wing tips and just about any other scraps you have left over from portioning it out. From one turkey, Pépin provides recipes for turkey stock soup with lettuce strips, scaloppine of turkey breast, escarole salad with turkey crackling, turkey liver toasts, fricassee of dark turkey meat … and then he throws in a pear tatin for good measure.

This is a cookbook that I have marked with “post it” notes on multiple pages because many of the recipes are simply the best explanation of a classic technique; see for example “choux a la crème,” or cream puffs. Making choux pastry isn’t all that hard, but it’s the sort of thing you can mess up, and it’s frustrating when you do.

Then there are recipes that were completely unfamiliar to me, as is the case with his recipe for purée of onions, which includes the note, “Although the cooked onions could be puréed through a food mill or processed briefly in a food processor, these machines tend to liquify them too much; it is preferable merely to whip them with a whisk or a spoon to break the slices of onion into a coarse puree.”

I intended this to be a brief discussion of a cookbook I like a lot, and I’ve already written far more than I intended. Having said that, here are a few more recipes that I’ve tabbed over the years that may give you an idea of the scope of the book: cold zucchini terrine (which includes tomatoes, unflavored gelatin and a tomato-basil sauce; chicken livers in salad; black-eyed peas and kale ragout; flan of green herbs; and, my God, fromage fort, which is a way to deal with the bits and pieces of leftover cheese and because here is his description:

I would spread the cheese mixture on a thick slab of country bread, impale the bread on a fork, and then hold it in the fireplace, with the cheese side as close as possible to the fire. When the cheese bubbled and a nice glaze formed, I would rub the crusty cheese with a piece of butter and eat it piping hot.

I do not have a fireplace and I only have intermittent access to really good, crusty bread, but if that does not make you hungry, I think you may have taken a wrong turn somewhere on the internet because damn.



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