New Orleans is filled with many restaurants of different cuisines. To only talk about the current restaurants will leave out a great part of the local cuisine. Many restaurants that paved the way for the current group of eateries has long closed their doors and remain a memory.
I was looking at the cookbooks on my shelf when I noticed the book, Lost Restaurants of New Orleans. I picked it up and started leafing through it. Remembering the restaurants in this book brought a smile to my face and triggered my taste buds. Fortunately, there are some recipes from these now extinct venues. Thus, the idea for this article was born.
I found two memories from the 1970’s, Berdou’s and Delmonico. Their down home type of dishes laid the foundation for what would become my style of cooking. Nothing overly fancy, but delicious food for any occasion. My recipes today are Crabmeat Berdou and Creole Eggplant Gratin Delmonico.
Berdou’s was the closest restaurant to the house I grew up in. When you saw the building, you would not think that the food there was outstanding. New Orleans is known for restaurants with great food in ordinary looking buildings. Berdou’s fit this to a T. The food was magnificent. But you had to get there early. If you were not in the restaurant by 7pm, the doors were locked. It did not matter how important you were, you were not getting in. Here is their signature dish, Crabmeat Berdou.
4 tablespoons Butter
3 tablespoons Flour
1 cup Milk, warmed
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Make the Béchamel by heating the butter in a saucepan until it bubbles. Stir in the flour to make a blond roux; don’t allow it to brown. Whisk in the milk over low heat until the sauce thickens. Add the salt and keep warm.
1 stick Butter
1/2 cup chopped Green Onions
1/2 cup sliced Mushrooms
1 tablespoon chopped Garlic
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
1/2 cup Cooking Sherry
1 pound Lump Crabmeat
Preheat broiler with the rack about 4 inches below the heat.
In a saucepan, heat the butter until it bubbles, add in and sauté the green onions, mushrooms, garlic and cayenne until the mushrooms are tender. Add the sherry and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Carefully add the crabmeat and combine with the rest of ingredients by agitating the pan, so as not to break the lumps. Spoon the mixture onto 4 oven-proof serving dishes. Spoon 2 or 3 tablespoons of the béchamel over the top of the crabmeat on each dish. Put the plates into the hot broiler for about 1 minute. Serve immediately, warning that the plates are hot.
To say that Delmonico’s is a lost restaurant is not 100% accurate. When the original restaurant closed, it was bought by Emeril Lagasse. He revamped the menu and renamed it Emeril’s Delmonico. While the food coming from the kitchen is still delightful, the original dishes are no longer to be found. They have either been removed from the menu or have been “Emerilized”. Here is a wonderful dish from the original menu, Creole Eggplant Gratin Delmonico.
Creole Eggplant Gratin Delmonico
2 Eggplants, peeled and cut into large dice
2 tablespoons Butter
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 ribs Celery, chopped
1 cup small peeled Shrimp
1/2 cup Claw Crabmeat
1 Tomato, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Marjoram
3 springs Parsley Leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup Breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350℉.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and drop the eggplant in for about 2 minutes. Remove and drain. Heat the butter in a large skillet and sauté the onion, celery and shrimp until the shrimp turn pink. Add all the other ingredients except the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring very lightly, until everything is heated through. Load the mixture into a baking dish and top with the breadcrumbs. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are toasty.
I hope you enjoyed today’s trip down memory lane. Either one of these dishes will create a memorable dinner. I have a feeling that we will be taking a few more trips to some lost restaurants.