Tuesday 11 August 2009

palm hearts w parsley

One of my favourite indulgences is a can of palm hearts, sliced lengthways then sprinkled with vinegar, some olive oil, fresh parsley and a little salt and pepper. It’s just divine.

The perfect snack, despite how expensive one little can of palm hearts can be in Sydney (almost $6 dollars)!

I wonder how fresh palm hearts taste, and whether I’d like them as much.

As we raced through the Louisiana bayou on an airboat, our guide pointed out the fanned palm plants that produce these gorgeous creamy cores. Unfortunately I didn’t see the fresh product for sale in the restaurants or markets. Shame.

I have already blogged about palm hearts before, so I refer you to this previous post for the facts on this ingredient, but I did think it was worth bringing up again and reintroducing to the Weekend Herb Blogging community.

This is not a very complicated recipe, in fact it’s not really a recipe so much as throwing together some ingredients. It really doesn’t deserve to be written out step by step, but I will because I’m obsessive compulsive.

Palm Hearts w Parsley

Anna’s recipe. Serves 2.

Canned palm hearts
White wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper


1. Drain can of palm hearts.

2. Cut lengthwise and arrange on plate.

3. Drizzle with olive oil, vinegar and sprinkle over parsley.

4. Season with freshly milled salt and pepper.

This week our hostes is the lovely Anh from Food Lover's Journey in Sydney. Check out her recap!

And here's some other palm heart recipes from the blogosphere:
Arroz con Palmitos (palm hearts & rice) - Morsels & Musings
Blood Orange & Hearts of Palm Salad - Slashfoods
Green Bean Salad Recipe w Hearts of Palm - Kalyn's Kitchen
Grilled Hearts of Palm - Desert Candy
Heart of Palm Amuse Bouche - The Skinny Gourmet
Heart of Palm & Chard Dip - Delementals
Heart of Palm Empadinhas - Technicolor Kitchen
Heart of Palm Quiche - Technicolor Kitchen
Heart of Palm Remoulade Salad - Kahakai Kitchen
Mango, Radish & Heart of Palm Salad - Kalyn's Kitchen

From the M&M archives
2008 - rose apples in Thailand
2007 - Gochujang Salmon w Chilli & Ginger Bok Choy
2006 - Sahlep (Turkish orchid milk)

Sunday 9 August 2009

eggs hussarde

Since the lovely people at Brennan’s have kindly shared their recipe for the now internationally renowned Eggs Hussarde, I thought I’d post it with the photos I took when Jonas and I visited New Orleans and ate there.

Eggs Hussarde is poached eggs on rusks with smoked ham and both Hollandaise and Marchand de Vin sauces.

It is a Creole recipe and ticks off another 2009 Food Challenge.

Eggs Hussarde
Recipe from Brennan’s Restaurant, New Orleans. Serves 4.


2 tablespoons butter
8 slices Canadian bacon (or ham)
8 Holland rusks
2 cups Marchand de Vin sauce (recipe below)
8 poached eggs (recipe below)2 cups Hollandaise sauce (recipe below)


1. Melt butter in a large sauté pan and warm the Canadian bacon over low heat.

2. Place 2 Holland rusks on each plate and cover with slices of warm Canadian bacon.

3. Spoon Marchand de Vin sauce over the meat, then set a poached egg on each slice.

4. Ladle Hollandaise sauce over the eggs; serve.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Marchand de Vin (Red Wine & Mushroom Sauce)

Makes 3 cups.


6 tablespoons butter
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
½ scallions, finely chopped
½ cup boiled ham, finely chopped
½ cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef stock
½ cup red wine
1½ teaspoons thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and black pepper


1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and sauté the onion, garlic, scallions and ham for 5 minutes.

2. Add the mushrooms, reduce the heat to medium and cook for for 2 minutes.

3. Blend in the flour and cook, stirring for 4 minutes, then add the Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, wine, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.

4. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and add the parsley.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Poached Eggs
Serves 4.


1½ quarts water
2 cups vinegar
8 large eggs


1. Bring the water and vinegar to a boil in a large saucepan. Crack the eggs one at a time and drop them gently into the boiling water, being careful not to break the yolks.

2. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, moving the eggs several times with a spoon to cook them evenly.

3. When firm, remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a pan filled with cold water until serving.

Waiter making Bananas Foster


Makes 2 cups.


1 pound butter
4 egg yolks
1½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon water


1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, skim and discard the milk solids from the top of the butter.

2. Hold the clarified butter over very low heat while preparing egg yolks.

3. Place the egg yolks, vinegar, cayenne and salt in a large stainless steel bowl and whisk briefly.

4. Fill a saucepan or Dutch oven large enough to accommodate the bowl with about 1 inch of water.

5. Heat the water to just below the boiling point. Set the bowl in the pan over the water; do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl.

6. Whisk the egg yolk mixture until slightly thickened, then drizzle the clarified butter into the yolks, whisking constantly. If the bottom of the bowl becomes hotter than warm to the touch, remove the bowl from the pan of water for a few seconds and let cool.

7. When all of the butter is incorporated and the sauce is thick, beat in the water.

8. Serve the Hollandaise immediately or keep in a warm place at room temperature until use.

Note: New Orleans style Hollandaise seems more buttery and less tangy than other Hollandaise I've tasted around the world.

Brandy Milk Punch

Thursday 6 August 2009

creole & cajun cooking

New Orleans. What a place!

Jonas and I spent 5 nights there in July and had such a wonderful time, despite the excruciating humidity.

We had not planned on going to New Orleans this year, or to the USA at all, but my grandfather turned 90 and I wanted to see my family so off we went. Apart from visiting my family in Daytona Beach, I let Jonas pick another city to visit.

His choice was New Orleans and I wasn’t complaining since I’d selected Cajun and Creole cuisines as part of my 2009 Food Challenges.

Before we left I did my research about what and where to eat (and drink) and we certainly weren’t disappointed. In fact I put on 2kgs from my efforts!

Highlights? I’d have to say for me the top 5 were:
1. Fiorella’s deep-fried pickles
2. Brennan’s brandy milk punch
3. Drago’s charbroiled oysters
4. Johnny’s catfish po’boys
5. Napoleon House’s Ramos gin fizz

My favourite bar was Napoleon House and my favourite restaurant was Bacco.

Jonas and I sampled some of the most famous dishes New Orleans has to offer and I finally came to understand the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking (sort of). Here’s my attempt at explaining it all:

Créoles, in the original New Orleanais sense of the word, meant a European of French or Spanish ancestry born in the colony rather than Europe. Even under Spanish rule they spoke French and were predominantly Catholic. By the time the United States bought Louisiana from Napoleon in 1803, Creole had come to symbolise colonial people of French culture more broadly (language, customs, governance) and incorporated others with African and Native American descent also. Interestingly, their “French island” in a sea of British-descended America, made them band together quite closely resulting in much less racial discrimination than other American cities at the time.

This heavy French influence means Creole is a fusion of French cooking techniques and local ingredients. It is an urban-focused cuisine with dishes lean towards the refined, with more subtle and buttery flavours, and care given to presentation. Good examples of Creole inventions are pecan pralines or turtle and sherry soup.

When Britain took over Nova Scotia (Canada) in 1755, they expelled the French peasant Arcadians (later known as Cajuns) who sailed to French New Orleans to find sanctuary. The gentrified Creoles wanted nothing to do with these distant rural cousins and so the Cajuns were forced out from the city and into the swamps and prairies.

The rural influences means Cajun cooking is more rustic and spicy, using ingredients from the land, sea and swamps like crawfish, rabbits and redfish. Stews and single-pot mish-mashes like gumbo and jamabalaya reflect their thriftiness and hearty cooking style.

Jonas and I sampled some of the most famous dishes New Orleans has to offer: eggs sardou; eggs hussarde; gumbo; jambalaya; po’ boys; red beans & rice; biscuits; pralines; beignets; bread pudding and pecan pie.

Our first night there we dined at Fiorella’s (1136 Decatur Street) and got a taste of the portion sizes we could expect for the rest of the trip. Stupidly, we ordered a few appetizers before our mains (as we would in Australia) only the appetizers that came out were the same size as an Aussie main course! Needless to say we waddled back to our hotel feeling very, very full.

But the food was fantastic! The first thing we tried ended up my all time favourite dish of the holiday: deep fried pickles. They were breaded and served with ranch, and were absolutely divine paired with a giant glass goblet of cold Abita beer. The spinach and artichoke dip (a common menu item in NO) and round slices of breaded and fried eggplant with a marinara dipping sauce were also very good.

Breakfast was covered well. There were an abundance of cakes, sandwiches, biscuits, grits and egg dishes to take care of any hangover. I particularly enjoyed a spicy gumbo start to my day, but New Orleans’ two most famous eggs dishes were also pretty damn good.

Eggs Sardou consists of a round of bread topped with creamed spinach, then artichoke hearts, then poached egg and all topped with Hollandaise sauce. It was invented at Antoine's, but is sold in most breakfast joints around town. Being a fan of artichokes and spinach, I’m a big fan of Eggs Sardou.

Eggs Hussarde was invented at Brennan’s, where I had the pleasure of eating it as part of Brennan’s wonderful three course brunch menu. As they describe it, Eggs Hussarde is “poached eggs atop Holland rusks, Canadian bacon and Marchand de Vin sauce. Topped with Hollandaise sauce.” What a way to start the day.

Unfortunately for my tastes, I noticed a city-wide tendency for sauces to take on cream or butter flavours. They did not taste “bad” but it was clear this was the local preference. A good illustration was every restaurant serving very buttery Hollandaise which lacked the slight acidity of the European (and Australian) styles. For me this meant it didn’t help cut through the fattiness of the eggs it was served with.

Small problems when faced with such delights.

Breakfast at Johnny's Po' Boys (511 St Louis Street) really hit the spot. In fact I’ve been hankering for their catfish po’ boy for days. A po’ boy (short for poor boy) or sub (or submarine sandwich), is a sandwich of fillings served on a baguette. In New Orleans they take on a whole new meaning with fillets of crumbed catfish, piles of deep fried oysters or shrimp and the debris po’ boy, made from all the crispy pieces of beef that fall from the roast as it cooks.

Johnny’s also serve a mean bowl of gumbo (perfectly spicy) and Jonas was a fan of their “biscuits” with eggs, smothered in one of Louisiana’s fine hot sauces. I also loved the sweetened iced tea they had too.

New Orleans offers an abundance of seafood from the generous portions of lump crabmeat to the fillets of catfish, redfish or black drum, as well as crawfish, shrimp, soft shell crab and plump oysters. New Orleans seafood goes at very decent prices and I ate so much that when I arrived back in Sydney all I wanted to eat for the next week was red meat.

At Bacco (top right) I dined on delicious grilled blackdrum served with shrimp, panzanella and pesto. The Grapevine (bottom left) delivered a beautiful redfish stuffed with crab lumpmeat and smothered in crawfish sauce.

Drago’s famous broiled oysters really hit the spot. Our swamp boat captain had been singing their praises and they were truly delicious. Unfortunately the lobster I ordered was tough and over-cooked and drawn butter just isn’t exciting enough to wet my lips. I need acidity (read lemon) with blanched seafood.

The beignets in New Orleans (top left) were quite different from the ones I’ve tried in France and Italy. They were much lighter but also oilier, and one was good but two became a bit monotonous. Frankly I think they are a bit overrated. I wasn't a big fan of the Café Du Monde coffee either, even though it was the best cup I had during my time in the US.

Other local desserts did not disappoint! Delicious cream cheese ice cream (here sandwiched between red velvet cake) was smooth and perfectly sour-sweet while Grapevine’s divine vanilla and white chocolate bread pudding was dense and rich and perfect. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try the flambéed Bananas Foster, photographed at their birthplace, Brennan’s.

I always thought of praline as a chocolate filling made of powdered caramelised nuts (almond or hazelnut), but in New Orleans the praline is a buttery, sugary, crumbly type of caramel studded with pecans (bottom right). I adored them.

The other New Orleans specialty are their cocktails, which I covered in another post.

New Orleans sure has a lot to offer a foodie.

There were quite a few famous dishes that I didn’t get to sample while I was there, including Bananas Foster, turtle soup and crawfish Étouffée, shrimp Remoulade, oysters Rockefeller, Café Brûlot, king cake and grits. I guess that just gives me an excuse to go back!

Venues I’d recommend:
310 Chartres Street
Italian (with very local twists)
Good food and elegant atmosphere without the stuffiness.

Napoleon House
500 Chartres Street
Historic bar
Sit at the bar and soak up the 200yrs of atmosphere.

Johnny’s Po’ Boys
511 St Louis Street
NOLA staples (po’boys, gumbo, muffelettas)
No fuss diner with delicious food.

Orleans Grapevine
720 Orleans Avenue
Wine bar / restaurant
Funky and sophisticated all in one.

1136 Decatur Street
Casual diner
Deep-fried pickles, fried chicken and cold beer.

Chart Room
300 Chartres Street

Casual bar/pub
Local watering hole oozing with character.

417 Royal Street
A brunch extraordinaire.

Marigny Brasserie
640 Frenchmen Street
Sunny place for afternoon cocktails or lunch.

Bombay Club
830 Conti Street
Martini bar / restaurant
Romantic, smoky, colonial charm.

Carousel Piano Bar
214 Royal Street
Cocktail lounge
Rotating 1904 carousel as the bar. Need I say more?

200 Magazine Street
Modern, fresh flavours in a city of deep-fry.

Café du Monde
800 Decatur Street
It’s overdone, but you’ve got to do it!

2 Poydras Street
Stick with the charbroiled oysters.

View New Orleans in a larger map

Monday 3 August 2009

milk-braised pork & cavolo nero

As one of my 2009 Food Challenges I promised to Road Test Kalyn’s recipe for Milk-Braised Pork. In the recent cold weather in Sydney, I managed to tick it off the list and add this Italian comfort-food recipe to my repertoire.

I also used the opportunity to pair the milky sauce with the strong flavour of cavolo nero, my Weekend Herb Blogging theme ingredient this week.

I am a big fan of cavolo nero and kale in soups and I adore a big TV dinner plate of colcannon.

This sautéed recipe is a good side match to the pork recipe, but be careful not to overdo the chilli or it will detract from the subtlety of the milk-braising sauce.

Cavolo Nero Soffritto (Sautéed Tuscan Cabbage)

Anna’s version of an
internet recipe. Serves 4.

2 bunches cavolo nero
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red chillies, finely sliced
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, for frying


1. Rinse cavolo nero and remove stalks if desired, chop coarsely.

2. Blanch cavolo nero in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Dry well with paper towels.

2. Heat oil in large heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat.

3. Cook garlic and chilli until garlic is just starting to brown.

6. Add prepared cavolo nero and stir well to combine.

7. Reduce heat to low. Fry 5 minutes or until tender. Season to taste.

Milk-Braised Pork Chops
Anna's adaptation of
Kalyn’s adpatation from The Good Home Cookbook. Serves 4.

4 boneless pork loin chops
2 tablespoons wholemeal flour
½ teaspoon smoked salt
½ teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ cups (375ml) milk
2 tablespoons olive oil


1. Trim all fat from pork chops. Use meat mallet or something heavy to pound pork chops slightly until they are an even thickness and about ¾ inch thick.

2. Combine flour, salt and pepper in shallow bowl. One at a time, lightly dredge pork chops in the mixture, shaking off any extra.

3. Whisk 1/2 cup milk into the flour left in the bowl.

4. Heat olive oil in heavy (lidded) frying pan, big enough to hold all the pork chops. Add pork and brown well, about 3 minutes per side.

5. Pour out most of the pan drippings, add the milk-flour mixture then reduce heat to low and simmer (covered) for 30 minutes, stirring a few times.

6. Turn pork chops over, and add the remaining one cup milk, whisking to combine if needed. Cover and cook for 30 minutes more, stirring a few times.

7. Uncover skillet and if there is a lot of liquid, cook a few minutes more until reduced to about ¼ cup. (This will depend on how tightly your pan lid fits.)

8. Serve hot, spooning the milk gravy over the pork.

Instead of smoked salt and garlic powder, Kalyn uses Penzey's Pork Chop Seasoning which is flavoured with salt, hickory smoke, garlic, onion, white pepper and ginger. This probably provides a stronger flavoured sauce.

Cavolo Nero translates to “black cabbage” but in English it’s often called Tuscan Cabbage because it features often in Tuscan rustic cooking (cucina povera).

I’ve also seen it called “dinosaur kale” and “dino kale”. Anyone care to shed some light on that?

I think cavolo nero is simply beautiful to look at (dusty black-green leaves criss-crossed with wrinkles) and, if it wasn’t so rare and expensive (and tasty) in Australia, I’d be happy to keep a bouquet in a vase.

What I really like about cavolo nero is that it keeps it’s texture even after long cooking, so it can add crunch and chew to stews and soups. It’s most famously added to Ribollita, a Tuscan bean soup similar to Minestrone, only thicker in consistency.

The downside is when using it in recipes with short cooking periods you need to take care that it’s cooked through enough. I’ve made that mistake before and it’s not so pleasant.

Like more common cabbages, some people eat it raw but I don’t think I would.

Cavolo nero enjoys many nutritional traits similar to its common cabbage cousins such as low fat, low calorie and high levels of dietary fibre. It’s also high in iron, calcium, vitamin C and K, as well as carotenoids (which provide vitamin A).

This week’s WHB host extraordinaire is Dhanggit from Dhanggit's Kitchen, a Pinoy cooking and eating in Aix en Provence, France. She’s got some beautiful photos and lovely recipes, think Raspberry Vodka Granita, Tomato Mozzarella Millefeuille and Zucchini Flower Tempura. Check out her round-up and the other delights on her blog.

Other recipes using cavolo nero:
Baked Eggs w Cavolo Nero Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once
Braised Tuscan Kale w Tomatoes Lucullian Delights
Cavolo Nero Omelette Jam Faced
Farrotto with Cavolo Nero feelgood eats
Hearty Kale & Sausage Soup The Kitchn
Ribollita A Spoonful of Sugar
Sausage & Cavolo Nero Tortiglioni eat the right stuff
Strozzapreti w Black Kale & Sage Mimi On The Move
Tuscan Beans & Cavolo Nero on Toast Lucullian Delights
Warm Lentil, Chorizo & Cavolo Nero Salad stone soup


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