Consider a festive restaurant party with all of the trimmings for your next hosted gathering
The winter holiday season in New Orleans starts at Thanksgiving, barreling through December, January and February to Ash Wednesday. There are countless opportunities for winter entertaining in your home but — consider the restaurant party. Reserving a small private dining room in a beautiful setting where you don’t have to clean the house, prepare the food, serve the food and then clean the house again when your soiree has ended, is an alluring option.
Arnaud’s Restaurant in the French Quarter has been a popular New Orleans fixture since 1918. Family-owned and operated, the elegantly rambling space is made up of several townhouses tied together with striking décor. The private dining rooms evoke a well appointed and gracious home, which in fact could be your home for a few hours for a holiday gathering. Each room has a distinct style, and is dressed with classic white linens, flatware and silver. The food, cocktails and service are outstanding, and you can tailor the menu.
The dining room in the Bourbon Suites features festive wallpaper by Scalamandre called Venetian Carnival. Playful animals and revelers are a perfect backdrop for a party anytime during the winter entertaining season. It’s easy to personalize a restaurant space by bringing in a few special decorative touches to make the fête feel like an extension of your home.
The colors and motif of the wallpaper are the jumping off point. Add special tablecloths with a hint of sparkle, bring in family silver julep cups and fill with simple greenery clipped from the garden. Place twinkle lights and votive candles around a gilt leaf wreath laid flat on the table to provide a base for the splendid croquembouche centerpiece by Rebecca Krebs, pastry chef at Arnaud’s.
Just like at home, employ hostess elements, such as napkins tied with ribbon and party favors at each person’s place. Decorate the mantel with gilt garland, pillar and votive candles, and more julep cups filled with boxwood.
Organize everything at home and pack into boxes for easy transport to the restaurant. Arrive an hour early to personalize the space. The staff at Arnaud’s is extremely helpful, and will add an extra pair of hands. Your guests will undoubtedly applaud your efforts. The best part of it all: You can be a guest at your own party, enjoying the delicious cocktails and food, the homey and beautiful environment and the familial service. Bonus: You don’t have to do the dishes.
The Raspberry Beret
El Guapo Old Fashioned
Creole Onion Soup en Croute
Rock Cornish Game Hen
Redfish on the Half Shell
On the Table
The featured recipes for the menu are from “Arnaud’s Restaurant Cookbook: New Orleans Legendary Creole Cuisine,” by Kit Wohl. The recipes for some of the dishes pictured are not included in this piece. The book is available at Arnaud’s and at arnaudsrestaurant.com
Bring a special tablecloth. The shimmery one shown was rented from Event Rentals.
Use family heirlooms such as silver julep cups with seasonal greens for a centerpiece.
Clip greens from your garden. We used boxwood. Assemble the day before at home and transport them finished and table-ready.
Use holiday décor you have on hand. We used a gilt leaf wreath and garland with battery operated twinkle lights, and pillar and votive candles.
Tie the restaurant napkins with ribbon to coordinate with tablecloth.
Tie each party favor gift box with same ribbon.
Choose a keepsake party favor themed to the décor and season. We used bejeweled whimsical trinket boxes in the form of animals that looked like they leapt off the wallpaper in the dining room.
The Raspberry Beret
1 ounce Pineau des Charentes
½ ounce Peychaud’s Aperitivo
¼ ounce agave nectar
2 ½ ounces champagne brut
Muddle, shake and strain. Top with champagne and raspberry garnish.
El Guapo Old Fashioned
¼ ounce Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup
½ ounce Amaro Meletti
2 generous dashes of El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters
2 ounces Jim Beam
Stir with ice, garnish with orange twist and rosemary sprig.
Creole Onion Soup
Yields 8 Servings
4 yellow onions thinly sliced
½ gallon veal stock
2 cups white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions and caramelize, stirring onions so they do not stick about 15 minutes. Add wine, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and chicken stock. Deglaze until the liquid almost dissipates about 5 minutes. Add veal stock and let simmer about 10 minutes. Add roux (1 cup at first) and let simmer until roux is cooked out. If you desire a thicker soup, add 1⁄2 cup more roux. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Puff Pastry Tops for Onion Soup
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough
1 whole egg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Flour a clean surface and lay the pastry flat atop the surface. Using a round dough cutter about 1/8-inch over the size of the bouillon cup. Cut the dough rounds out and lay flat on parchment paper. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and lightly place the round atop the soup filled cup egg wash side down, and lightly press the dough to the cup on all sides. Repeat. Place the cups on a sheet pan about 1½ inches apart. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
Serves 6-8, yields about 3 cups
2 ten-ounce boxes frozen chopped spinach, completely thawed
4 tablespoons lightly salted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
4-ounce block of cream cheese
Using your hands, squeeze as much water as possible from the thawed spinach. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the onion, stirring occasionally, until tender, about five minutes. Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer. Add the spinach, salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Stirring occasionally bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for three minutes. In a small bowl, blend the cornstarch and one tablespoon water until smooth. Add to the spinach mixture, then add cream cheese and continue stirring until thickened, about two minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve at once, or keep warm for up to thirty minutes in the top of a covered double boiler over barely simmering water. Or, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in a double boiler before serving.
Rock Cornish Game Hen
This dish is complex, but it’s all worth it in the end. To break up the preparation over two days, prepare and refrigerate the Bordelaise sauce and the stuffing a day in advance. If you choose this method, additional time in the oven will be required.
For the stuffing:
2 ounces pork tenderloin, cut into ½-inch cubes
8 ounces veal top round, cut into ½-inch cubes
1-ounce fatback or salt pork, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
½ cup ruby port
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 Rock Cornish game hens, about 8 ounces each
4 slices bacon
1-quart veal stock
2 tablespoons clarified butter
8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup Bordelaise sauce
Kosher or sea salt and white pepper, preferably freshly ground
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
cherry tomatoes and sprigs of flat-leaf or curly parsley for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. First, make the stuffing: Chill the cubes of meat and fatback for 30 minutes. Place in a food processor and pulse into a smooth paste. Transfer to a large bowl and add the shallots, egg, and 2 tablespoons of cream, port, parsley and thyme. With a fork blend until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. (The mixture should be very moist, but not loose; two more tablespoons of cream may be added if necessary).
2. Season the birds inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff loosely with the stuffing mixture. Wrap a slice of bacon around each bird, wrapping across the opening to hold the stuffing in. Secure the bacon with toothpicks. Place the hens in a roasting pan and pour the veal stock over and around them. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and braise in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until tender and the juices at the thigh joint run clear when pierced with a small, sharp knife. (If the birds were prepared and stuffed the night before, use the longer cooking time).
3. While the birds are braising, place a saucepan over medium-high heat and add the clarified butter. When it is hot, add and sauté the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, until tender. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and Bordelaise sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat through, stirring, then add the parsley and remove from the heat.
4. When the birds are done, transfer them to a warm platter, discarding the bacon. Garnish the edges of the platter with cherry tomatoes and parsley sprigs and re-warm the sauce, if necessary. Drizzle the sauce over the hens and serve immediately.
Orange Cranberry Sauce
1-pound fresh cranberries
2 oranges, zested and juiced
1 cup white sugar
Water to cover
Stir cranberries, orange zest, sugar and enough water to cover berries together in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil and cook until cranberries begin to bust, 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, stir in orange juice, and simmer until flavors blend, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until a gel consistency is reached, at least 1 hour.
Yields 6 servings
6 filets of redfish with skin & scales intact
2 lemon zest & juice
6 sprigs fresh oregano
½ tbsp red pepper flakes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt to taste
Lay out the fish filets flesh side up on a sheet pan. Zest the 2 lemons above the fish and spread out evenly amongst the filets, lightly coat the filets with olive oil. Lightly tear the oregano leaves apart and place atop each filet, sprinkle the filets with the pepper flakes. Squeeze the lemon juice from the lemons over the filets, sprinkle the filets with salt. Place on the chargrill skin and scale side down, once placed do not move the filets till they are cooked it should take about 7-9 minute depending on the heat output of the chargrill. Garnish with lemon wedges as desired.
Wild Mushroom Sauté
4 ounces Shitake mushrooms
4 ounces Oyster mushrooms
6 ounces mushrooms
1 tablespoons minced shallots
1½ cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
sea salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
pinch of chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash the mushrooms as needed; pat dry. Julienne the mushrooms. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium high heat and sauté the minced shallots until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until al dente. Add the cream and reduce heat by half. Fold in half of the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small casserole dish. Spread the remaining Parmesan and parsley atop the mushrooms and broil in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown. Serve with toasted baguette.
Coconut Cream Profiteroles
(used for the croquembouche)
1 ¼ cups half and half
2 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1-tablespoon coconut extract
2 tablespoons butter
1-cup heavy cream whipped to stiff peaks
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
In a medium saucepan, combine 2/3 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup, and bring to a boil over high heat. Do not stir. Cover pan, and boil until steam dissolves any crystals. Uncover, and boil 5 more minutes, or until syrup is amber in color. Remove from heat. Dip the bottom of each puff into the caramel, and arrange puffs in a pyramid. To make a spun-sugar web to wrap around the croquembouche: Cut the looped ends of a wire whisk with wire cutters, or use 2 forks held side by side, and dip the ends into caramel. Wave the caramel back and forth over the croquembouche, allowing the strands to fall in long, thin threads around it.