• Tommy Centola

A trip down memory lane

Writing about Galatoire’s has me thinking about the last restaurant I worked in, Cannon’s. Now closed, Cannon’s was an American style restaurant that many people thought was a chain restaurant. The main difference between Cannon’s and a chain is that almost everything was made from scratch.

Every morning, soup would be the first thing to be started. Pasta sauces and desserts would be made next. Whenever needed, salad dressings would be made. Since most restaurants buy their salad dressings already made, we felt homemade dressings set us apart from our competition.

While the food was special, I made many lasting friendships. This past March, a group of us got together for a reunion that will soon be repeated. It was amazing since it had been at least 20 years since we had that many of us together.

Now for the food. Today, my recipes feature three of the more popular dishes, the Spinach Dip appetizer, Broccoli and Cheese Soup and Pasta Jambalaya.

This is one of the dishes that my family always ask me to make for get togethers. This popular dish is found on restaurant menus across the country. You can serve with chips or crackers. You can also use this to top chicken for a quick Florentine.

Spinach Dip

3 ounces Butter

1/3 cup Olive Oil

1 cup Onions, chopped

1 ¾ tablespoons Garlic, minced

½ cup + 2 tablespoons Flour

1 pint Heavy Cream

1 pint Chicken Stock

1 teaspoon Salt

1 ½ teaspoons Sugar

2 tablespoons Lemon Juice

¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1 ¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

1 cup Sour Cream

1 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce

3 pounds Chopped Spinach

1 cup Chopped Artichoke Hearts

Add butter and olive oil to a 5 quart pan and heat over medium heat. Do not burn butter. Add the onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are soft. Turn down heat and add flour to make a roux. Cook slowly for 5 minutes. Do not allow roux to brown. Slowly add cream and chicken stock to roux. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt, sugar, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and cheese to mixture and remove from heat. When the sauce has slightly cooled, add sour cream and Tabasco. Add spinach and artichoke hearts to sauce and heat before serving.

One of our more requested soups was Broccoli and Cheese, which we served on Wednesdays. Velveeta is the perfect cheese for this, due to its melting qualities. It’s a great was to get children to eat their vegetables.


Broccoli & Cheese Soup

8 cups Minced Broccoli (Buds and Stems)

4 cups Onions, chopped

1/4 pound Margarine

½ cup Flour

12 cups Chicken Stock

12 cups Half and Half

1 tablespoon Parsley Flakes

1 ½ pounds Velveeta Cheese

Melt margarine. Sauté onions and broccoli until soft. Add flour and mix well. Slowly add chicken stock stirring with a wire whisk. On a low fire, cook out the flour taste for approximately 5 minutes. Pour in half and half with a steady flow, stirring continuously. Cook for 5 more minutes. Add Velveeta slowly. Cook approximately 10 minutes.

This was our take on Pasta Jambalaya, that was created at Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter. The substituting of the pasta for rice in jambalaya is brilliant. Wish I would have been the first to think of it.

Pasta Jambalaya

¼ cup Olive Oil

1 ½ teaspoons Chili Powder

1 tablespoon Cumin

6 ounces Andouille Sausage, cut into bite sized discs

6 ounces Chicken Breast, cut into bite sized pieces

1 tablespoon Garlic, chopped

1/8 cup Red Onion, cut into strips

1/8 cup Yellow Bell Pepper, cut into strips

1 ½ cups Marinara sauce, warmed

1 pound tricolor Fusilli(spiral) pasta, cooked

Shredded Provolone Cheese

Shredded Smoked Gouda Cheese

Combine Olive Oil, chili powder and cumin. Sauté andouille and chicken in oil mixture until the chicken has lost its raw color. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook until garlic is golden. Add marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Place warm pasta into a large bowl and cover with the sauce. Mix well and divide into 4 bowls. Top with cheeses.

I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. Every word I typed brought a smile and pleasant memory. Many people from New Orleans have this reaction while cooking or talking about food.

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