Friday, March 17, 2017

"Breakfast at Brennan's and Dinner, Too" by Pip, Jimmy and Ted Brennan, Proprietors of Brennan's, New Orleans - Shrimp Creole - Mardi Gras!

Date I made this recipe:  February 28, 2017 – Fat Tuesday and the start of Mardi Gras!

Breakfast at Brennan's® and Dinner, Too by Pip, Jimmy and Ted Brennan, Proprietors
Published by Brennan's Inc.
ISBN: 0-9639819-0-0; © 1994
Purchased at Barnes and Noble (Used), Roseville, MN
Recipe:  Shrimp Creole – p. 159

Ah, Mardi Gras!  Every year, it arrives before we know it, kicking off the Lenten season with one big party in the Big Easy (and your "Little Easy's," i.e. other southern cities that celebrate Mardi Gras).  After using this cookbook, I realized that I am going to have to beef up my "Mardi Gras" cookbook collection as supplies are getting low.

This cookbook, Breakfast at Brennan's – and Dinner, Too!, is from one of the leading restaurant families in New Orleans, the Brennan family.  Starting in 1946, various Brennan family members started creating some of New Orleans's most beloved restaurants (and food) and are still going strong today.  The first of these restaurants – Brennan's – kicked off the restaurant boom, but they are also known for the restaurant, Commander's Palace, from which notable chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme got their starts.

Like many restaurant families, the Brennan's have had their share of controversies, starting with the contentious 1974 departure of (aunt) Ella Brennan from her family's restaurant group.  She left Brennan's to manage Commander's Palace and never looked back until 2014 when she returned Brennan's for a visit.   Wow—that was a long-lasting family feud although I do believe it ended with that visit. Ella made a name for herself at Commander's Palace and is the subject of a 2016 documentary about her life and her loves – New Orleans and food.

This book though, is about the restaurant run by Ella's nephews, Pip, Jimmy and Ted Brennan.  Their father, and Ella's brother, Owen, gave the family its start in the business and after Ella's departure, they took over running Brennan's

Although I've been to New Orleans twice in my life, I have never been inside either restaurant although I would love to some day, particularly Brennan'sBrennan's interior has been much discussed and is much-photographed as it is classic south:  soothing green and pink abound and I love it. Even the exterior is pink! Although the interior has been redone from time to time, the private party room remains the same and you can't beat classic design like that.  Locally, Murray's steak house was known for their pale pink interior but then was redesigned and painted yellow a few years back.  I have not seen the new interior and I get why the Murray family wanted to upgrade, but still.  At any rate, some of you may consider Brennan's interior downright gaudy in which case, please leave the reservation lines open for someone like me who would appreciate, nay, bask in it!  (I am an old soul.)

At any rate, when it came time to find my Mardis Gras meal, I didn't have to look too far and honestly, could have probably cooked my way through the entire book (save for the frog leg's) but time was of the essence (hmm...Emeril's "Essence?") and so I selected a New Orleans's classic, "Shrimp Creole."   And you can't go wrong with Shrimp Creole but I tell you, you can also "go right" by this dish and make it up the day before you are going to eat it to let the flavors really settle in.  I enjoyed the dish "fresh," but I really enjoyed it the next day.

Another reason to make it up and let it settle in is that it calls for 2 tablespoons paprika which is an awful lot, but it brings unique flavor to this dish that I liked.  If you are around my age (late 50's), you grew up during an era when paprika was something you sprinkled on a plate of lettuce that was topped with a canned peach half and cottage cheese to make a fancy salad.  Back then, paprika was used to add color to a dish rather than as a flavor-enhancing spice.  To be honest with you, I wasn't quite sure how I felt about that much paprika but finally ended on the side of "She likes it, hey 'Mikey!'"  (1972 Life Cereal commercial). 

In addition to the paprika, the recipe's other spices include cayenne pepper (naturally—this is New Orleans we are talking about), white pepper and Italian seasoning which again, only added to the flavor profile...and now I'm sounding like the judges on Chopped!

And as always, no god-fearing New Orleans' [Creole] cook would ever consider making a dish like this without the "Holy Trinity" i.e. you green pepper, onion, and celery, which is why they are pretty much the first ingredients on the list right after butter – ha! 

Now should you for some reason (allergy, dislike – other) decide shrimp is not your thing, you should be able to find something equally delicious in this cookbook as it supplies you with a wide-range of options.  Here are the Table of Contents categories:

  • Appetizers
  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Salads
  • Salad Dressings
  • Breakfast
  • Entrees
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts
  • Drinks

Note though, that many dishes in this cookbook are heavy on seafood, especially shrimp and oysters, even some of the breakfast dishes.  And unlike other parts of the country, salad dressings are almost as important as the salad itself; this holds true for sauces as well. Then there's the drink menu and you should know that Brennan's drink menu is almost as famous as the restaurant itself.  My personal preference though, for making a meal is to make an entree and that's why I went with the Shrimp Creole but feel free to roam about the cabin.

All right then, so Mardi Gras is underway, Lent is underway and the whole thing will come full circle on Easter Sunday, April 16th when it's time for ham.  Meanwhile, this dish makes a great and tasty entree for those of you observing a Lenten meatless Friday so have at it and enjoy!

Shrimp Creole – 8 servings
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 ½ cups chopped green bell pepper
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 ½ cups chopped celery
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 ½ cups chicken stock or water
1 cup tomato juice (Ann's Note:  I cheated.  I did not want to stock up on tomato juice just for this dish so I pureed some of the tomatoes this recipe uses and added that juice to the mixture.)
1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of white pepper
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons water
3 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cups white rice (Ann's Note:  cooked white rice, made however you want to.)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and cook the bell pepper, onion, celery, and garlic until tender, 5 to 8 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste, paprika, and Italian seasoning and cook an additional 3 minutes.  Add 1 ½ cups chicken stock or water, tomato juice, tomatoes, Worcestershire, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and white pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a small bowl, blend the cornstarch with 4 tablespoons water until smooth.  Gradually add the cornstarch to the shrimp sauce, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.  Add the shrimp and parsley to the sauce and bring mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through; do not overcook.

Serve the Shrimp Creole over cooked rice.  Pasta can be substituted for rice.

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