The Best of All Things Brennan
The 20th Anniversary of 25 cent Martinis at Commanders Palace and Learning to Have my Cake and my Skinny Jeans, Too
Commander’s Palace recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of offering 25 cent martinis at lunch. Ti Martin and her cousin Lally Brennan own and manage the fabled Garden District restaurant their family started generations ago. Ti generously shared the story of how the 25-cent martini came to be.
“When our parents were in their twenties, they were running a restaurant in the French Quarter. Somewhere along the way, they got the idea to sell martinis for 25¢. It was funny, it was naughty—and we know how New Orleanians like to be naughty. It helped put the restaurant on the map for lunch.
“Fast forward to about 1999. Aunt Dottie kept telling us that we should do it again at Commander’s, the message repeating like a broken record. We told her ‘People didn’t drink like that in the daytime anymore, the world was too fast paced, etc.’ Well, we finally caved in, mostly so we could stop hearing about it.
“Wrong, wrong, wrong, Lally and me, that is. They always seem to be right—why didn’t we listen sooner? It took about a year for word to spread but when it did, wow! We developed four different martinis in four different colors, even an aqua blue one, to match the hue of the Commander’s Palace exterior. Any day of the week now you walk into the Commander’s Palace dining room and there are bright colored drinks on every other table. People celebrating that the Saints won a game, or their child finally graduated, or—well, our locals never needed much of a reason. Festive, silly, lots of nonsense going on, and a more colorful atmosphere than any decorator could come up with.
“We’re a little better about listening to Aunt Dottie now.
“It’s been fun to watch this idea spread across New Orleans over the years. The truth is while we believe very much in hard work, we also know New Orleanians have a little something figured out that the rest of the world needs to catch up on: Life is meant to be lived, not endured.”
With this same sentiment in mind, I recently learned how to have my cake and my skinny jeans, too.
A few weeks ago I participated in The Art & Science of Gluten Free Flours & Plant-Based Sweeteners, a culinary workshop at the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCCHI)—another Brennan’s institution—in partnership with Ochsner’s Eat Fit program and Swerve brand sweeteners and baking mixes The hands-on training for chefs and a few of us who either develop and test recipes and /or write about such things, was comprised of three different immersion workshops hosted by experts from around the country Carolyn Ketchum, author of The Ultimate Guide to Keto Baking (Victory Belt Publishing, 2020) and the blogger behind All Day I Dream About Food, led a class on gluten free quick breads. A class on frozen desserts – ice cream, sorbet, and semifreddo- was led by NOCCHI instructor Zak Miller, and a class on baked sweets – crème brulee, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry custard pie, chocolate tarte, a lemon cake, and a lime tart- was led by Ben McLaughlin, a recipe development chef with Swerve. The day wrapped by with an Eat Fit cocktail demonstration led by T. Cole Newton of Twelve Mile Limit.
Swerve is a New Orleans-based company with an increasingly significant international reach, which made sense when I learned that on a typical day with three meals (including dessert after dinner) and a snack, you can shave off 340 calories, 69 grams of sugar, and 72 net carbs from your daily intake without changing a thing other than the sweeter and flours used in preparing meals.
Swerve is made with erythritol and oligosaccharides, both of which occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. In the instance of flours, almond and coconut or a combination of the two were the most common recommendations in the course Making these changes, which can have a huge impact on your blood sugar and general health is not as simple as swapping out table sugar with something else or all purpose flour for an alternative one but with a bit of practice and research those with dietary restrictions can enjoy the breads and sweets they crave without suffering negative health outcomes. Carolyn Ketchum’s book is loaded with detailed information and recipes that make it easy to make these conversions. The recipe portion of Swerve’s website, developed by the affable, and brilliant Ben McLaughlin (who grew up in Alabama baking bonafied Southern cakes and pastries at his grandmother’s knee) is another excellent source.
With both the heat and the unwelcome Delta variant of Covid 19 raging about right now this could be a good weekend to hunker down in the kitchen and try a few new things after a 25-cent martini (or three) in the courtyard at Commander’s.
Keto Rosemary Focaccia Bread
We made this amazing bread in class. The dough also works for pizza.
Courtesy of Carolyn Ketchum
Makes 12 servings
- 1 cup (100g) almond flour
- 1/3 cup (37g) coconut flour
- 1/3 cup unflavored whey protein powder (can sub egg white protein for dairy-free)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
- Course sea salt and fresh rosemary leaves for sprinkling, as needed
Preheat the oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, coconut flour, protein powder, rosemary, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder. Add the olive oil, eggs, and egg whites and mix until well combined.
Stir in just enough water to form a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto the prepared baking sheet and use wet hands to spread to a 9×12-inch rectangle.
Use your fingertips to dimple the surface of the bread lightly, then sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary leaves.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is golden on the edges and firm to the touch. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Eat Fit Chocolate Tart
Courtesy of Ben McLaughlin for Swerve
If you make this the day before an event or party, set the cooked tart in the refrigerator overnight. Add the glaze an hour or two before serving. The glaze will lose its pretty shine in the fridge.
- 1 cup almond flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1/2 cup Swerve, Granular
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 9 oz Lily’s Baking Bar Dark Chocolate (chopped or broken into pieces)
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup Swerve, Confectioners OR 2 Tbsp allulose granules
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 oz Lily’s Baking Bar Dark Chocolate
- 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut cream
- 1/4 cup Swerve, Confectioners OR 1 Tbsp allulose granules
- 1 tsp grapeseed oil
For the crust, preheat the oven to 325F. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with a spatula or fork until well combined. Pour into tart pan and press into an even layer.
Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
For the tart, increase the oven temperature to 350F. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Place the chopped chocolate in a separate heatproof bowl, then pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, Swerve, vanilla, and salt. Stir this into the melted chocolate.
Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Bake until the filling is set along the edges but still slightly wobbly in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely in the pan, about 1 hour. It will continue to set as it cools.
Meanwhile, for the glaze, combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk continuously until the ganache is smooth and warm.
Pour on top of the cooled tart, tilting the tart pan slightly in a circular motion to help the glaze cover it completely and evenly. Let cool for an hour, then top with whipped cream lightly sweetened with Swerve.
Courtesy of Zak Miller, NOCCHI
- 500g fruit purée such as raspberry
- 100g Swerve, Granular
- 25g allulose syrup
Blend all ingredients with an immersion blender until the Swerve is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Chill if needed, then spin according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
Courtesy of T. Cole Newton (Twelve Mile Limit, The Domino)
- 1/2 oz monk fruit and Stevia syrup (see below)
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- Absinthe, to rinse
- Lemon peel, for garnish
To make syrup, dissolve 20 grams (10 packs) of sweetener in 2 oz steaming hot water. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, chill an Old-Fashioned glass to prepare.
In a mixing glass, combine the rye, syrup, and bitters. Add ice and stir.
Coat the inside of the chilled glass with absinthe and discard the excess. Strain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with a lemon peel.