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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Foodbuzz 24x24 New Orleans Brunch

It's time to benefit the Gulf recovery effort and celebrate New Orleans!  This month, Foodbuzz is donating $250 for each of the bloggers who particpate in 24x24.  It's a great cause!  Planning a party is always a fun time.  The first question is what's the theme?  Who's coming?  Then comes the menu, followed by the decorations.  Since Foodbuzz is highlighting the Gulf recovery, we're doing a brunch from one of my favorite cities:  New Orleans!

New Orleans is the home of many very well-known restaurants and bars.  I've been to too many to count and have enjoyed every meal I've had down there.  Here, I'm trying to recreate the flavor of some of those meals.  So, let's start the party. 

We've invited Susan and Paul, Joe and Susan and Stacy.  Stacy is a foodie and former professional photographer.  Great combo for sous chef and documentarian! 

To keep the length of the blog readable, recipes and lots more photos will follow for the next few days.

Here's the menu:

New Orleans Brunch
Bill of Fare
July 24, 2010

Cocktail hour
Bloody Mary’s with St. Elmo’s shrimp cocktail sauce and homemade pepper vodka
Salami rolls filled with cream cheese, muffeletta salad and crispy salami
Savory s’more (toasted mozzarella balls with crackers and olive tapenade)

Salad of tomato aspic, avocado mousse and crab and shrimp tossed with a lime cumin vinaigrette

Fresh fruit tossed with Hurricane dressing

Palate cleanser
Basil Champagne sorbet

Crab cake benedicts with remoulade/hollandaise sauce
Red potatoes roasted with rosemary
Grilled asparagus

Chocolate chip bread pudding with rum cinnamon sauce
Praline liqueur

A couple of hours before the party, I was ready to go.  The kitchen was cleanAll that was left were the tasks that had to be done last minute.  AND, a shower.  Boy, did that feel good!

Connie did a little last minute cleaning of the porch

Annie and Winston wanted to help...  But, they have no opposable thumbs!

In spite of the heat we decided to keep our original plan and serve appetizers on our screened porch. 

It's one of our favorite spaces in the house.  We've got a small table in the corner where we eat dinner when the weather's ok - and sometimes when it's not ok :-)  Two rocking chairs in the middle. 

Our grill.  And, a great heater for those times its just a bit nippy. 

Here's what we served:

Bloody Marys

My typical Bloody Mary has horseradish, lemon juice, garlic, seasoned salt, celery salt, Worcestershire, Tabasco, freshly ground black pepper, V8 and vodka.  For the party, we're changing it up a bit and using St. Elmos shrimp cocktail sauce and our own homemade pepper vodka.  These Blood Marys have a real kick!  for those of you who've never heard of St. Elmo's, it's an Indianapolis institution. It's a steak house famous for their shrimp cocktail. It's a fiery blend of freshly grated horseradish and ketchup and some other ingredients. If you don't have sweat rolling off your brow while you're eating it, you're not eating enough. They've just recently started selling the cocktail sauce at a specialty market called Goose the Market. It's not quite as hot as the real deal but it's pretty darned close!

Savory S'mores

We tried making these on the grill but you really need to toast the mozzarella over an open fire.  Unfortunately, the charcoal briquets in the hibachis weren't quite as hot as we'd have liked.  So, we improvised and removed a couple of grates from the grill and toasted away.

Crispy Salami Rolls

This is a recipe that I created for our holiday party.  We usually have about 150 clients, friends and family show up for our open house the first Friday after New Years.  Now, I do all the cooking - but, that's a story for another day!  I can't tell you where the inspiration for these came from.  But, I can tell you that a huge platter of these was inhaled.  I think this was the first thing we ran out of - and we rarely run out of anything at the party.  We live on the leftovers for a full week after!!  The first time through, I just used pimento stuffed green olives in the cream cheese.  This time, in honor of New Orleans, I used muffaletta salad.

We had noisemakers and beads and horns and masks for everyone. 

Susan and Paul came decked out in beads.

Through the whole thing, Mo retained his cat composure and status as king of the deck! 

Time to come in the house and head to the dining room.  We've decorated the table for Mardi Gras. 

Even though the theme is New Orleans, we still love our Colts!

We'll start with a salad course. 

Crab and Shrimp Salad on Tomato Aspic and Avocado Mousse

I love to make salads with tomato aspic and avocado.  Usually, I mix a little Hellman's Olive Oil mayonnaise with Wishbone Robusto Italian Dressing (one of the few I don't make myself) to dress the salad.  In this case, I thought an avocado mousse might be interesting.  And, I wanted to change up an appetizer we served not long ago that had a crab and avocado salad served in a martini glass with a few shrimp hooked on the sides as garnishes.  Let the recipe hunting commence.  My first stop for the tomato aspic was Foodbuzz.  Kathyvegas posted what looked to be a great tomato aspic recipe.  Thanks Kathy!  I had to do a bit more hunting to find an avocado mousse recipe that wasn't sweet.  I finally found one at  The original recipe called for dicing a third avocado and folding it into the mousse.  I didn't want anything chunky in the mousse so skipped the extra avocado.  One of the Susans is allergic to shellfish so hers didn't have any seafood.  And, I was extra careful to keep my cooking utensils separate.  We served this with a Prosecco.  If you've never tried one, it's essentially Italian champage.  Since true champagne can only come from the Champagne region in France, you'll find different names used for other countries' bubblies.  We much prefer this to real champagne. 

Fruit salad with Hurricane Dressing and Ginger Muffins
One of the best known bars in New Orleans is Pat O'Briens.  They serve a drink that'll knock you flat on your arse.  It's called a hurricane.  There are many variations of the Hurricane so it was tough to decide which to use.  I finally decided simple was better...  We served the fruit with ginger muffins.  We tried Sommer's ginger mulberry muffins (from A Spicy Perspective) a few weeks ago and really enjoyed them.  This time, we decided to try them with just ginger.  They were awesome!

The fruit salad and ginger muffins were served with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. 

Since we were really working at pacing ourselves, there was plenty of time for fun and frivolity between courses!

Now, it's time to move on to the palate cleanser.  My mom had a collection of demitasse cups she'd collected as a young girl.  My grandmother had a shelf that was perfect for them.  Several years ago when I had too few of the little bowls I'd normally use, I glanced at the dining room wall.  Wonder how those would work?  Just fine, thank you.

Champagne Granita
This came about sometime in the late 70's when one of my three jobs was catering dinner parties for friends.  At that time, pink champagne was oh, so very cool.  Yes, those of you who have a bit of grey in the hair can relate to the old Mateus Rose days.  Over the years, I changed it up to plain champagne.  Not quite as sweet but still very unexpected!  A couple of weeks ago, I read a granita recipe with basil in it.  So, once again we changed it up!

We're now ready for the main course. 

Crab Cakes Benedict, Rosemary Red Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus

We're both huge fans of Harry Carey's crab cakes.  What?  A Chicago restaurant?  Not one from Maryland.  Indeed.  This is how it came to be.  I have almost all of Jane and Michael Stern's cookbooks.  They're one of the first places I turn when I'm looking for a specific recipe. If I get a hankering for say, crabcakes, I'll go through my cookbooks and pull those where I think I'm most likely to find what I want.  Now, don't ask me why I actually pulled the Harry Carey's one but my guess is it was next to one from a restaurant in Key West.  My favorite crabcakes have VERY little filler and lots of crab flavor.  These seemed to fit the bill.  So, I made them.  And, made them.  And, made them.  This recipe became the only crab cake recipe in our house.  I even made mini versions for the aforementioned holiday party.  Like the salami rolls, those were inhaled.  One evening I made a batch of these and made enough that there were leftovers.  My usual tactic so we have lunches at work.  Somehow instead of becoming lunch the next week, the leftovers became Crab Cake Benedicts for dinner the next day.  I mixed the leftover remoulade sauce with some freshly made hollandaise sauce and poached some eggs.  Haven't made regular eggs benedict since.  And, may not in the future.  Why settle for ham when you can have crab cakes??? 

Along with the crab cakes benedict, we had rosemary roasted red potatoes. This recipe is why we drag three pots of rosemary into the office every winter and baby them while they toast in the south windows of Connie's office.  I've tried making it with dried rosemary but it seems to lose something in the translation.

Grilled asparagus finished the entree course.  This is where the grill pan comes in REALLY handy.  When it's 95 degrees and the shade and we just don't want to turn the grill on once again...  Besides, Connie was busy clearing the table AND making sure the right wine was served at the right time.  

With this course, we had a Cline Viognier.  Many thanks to Jason at Ancient Fire Wines for his suggestion.  You were spot on, Jason.  This was perfect with the crabcakes, remoulade/hollandaise, etc.

Ah, time for dessert.  We've now been wining and dining for about three and a half hours.  What a lovely way to spend an evening.  The sun was gone so the candles became more beautiful.  The beads' colors really popped.  Those brought back a wonderful memory.  Several years ago, I lost a very close friend to cancer.  His widow, knowing how much I love New Orleans, gave me his Mardi Gras beads.  Those were the beads on our table. 

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Rum Cinnamon Sauce

This recipe came from a wonderful friend, Doris.  She and Jeffrey try really hard to eat healthy meals.  This is one recipe where she obviously didn't cook healthy!  But, the bread pudding is fabulous and pretty easy to make.

Along with the bread pudding we served Praline Liqueur.  It's a New Orleans original.


Now for some thank you's

First to Connie.  Thank you for being the perfect host.  You were such an incredible help.  The porch sparkled thanks to you.  Last, but not least, thank you for running all over the city to get the special ham for Susan, the St. Elmo's cocktail sauce, the iris and all the other goodies. 

Next, to Stacy.  Thank you so much for helping.  Helping me cook.  Helping me serve.  Teaching me how to use the new camera.  I know I'll master it someday!  And, thank you for taking so many wonderful photos of the party.  Last, but not least, thank you for being such a wonderful friend.

To Joe and Susan and Susan and Paul.  Thank you for being such wonderful friends!  For being so adventurous and eating everything.  And, thank you for being such great sports about every move being documented. 

To Jason at Ancient Fire Wines for his excellent advice on libations.

To Sommer at a Spicy Perspective ( for such great recipes.

To Chef Dennis at More Than A Mount Full ( for such great ideas, comments and encouragement.

And, finally, to the one who started all of this.  Mom.  Thank you for teaching me to cook and to be adventurous with my food. 

Ok, that wraps up the party summary.  Please check back over the next few days for all of the recipes and more photos.


Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet } said...

Looks like a great time was had by all! Also you did a terrific job on the menu. Great job!

Pacheco Patty said...

What a fun dinner party, I think you thought of everything and it looked like everyone had a great time!

Nicole@ The Dirty Oven said...

What a great time. It looks like so much fun. Thanks for sharing.

The Mom Chef said...

Wow, what a lot of work and an excellent result. I loved the crab cake benedict especially. Well done.

Jason Phelps said...


Great outcome with the party. That food really does sound great. Do any catering in New Hampshire?

Your decorations were fitting and it looks like everyone had a good time. How could you not be happy!!!

You are most welcome for the beverage pairing suggestions the creativity I am exposed to with these types of challenges is working so well in my training. Thank you.


Heather said...

Well done! I would very happily eat all items at that brunch! :)

Belinda @zomppa said...

What an amazing meal - looks like a great time!

The Food Apprecianado said...

Splendid! You had me at "New Orleans" after that, everything must taste good! Great cause, great food, what else is there?

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel