Monday, October 12, 2009

AFJ 2009: A New Orleans Thanksgiving

Probably the best quote at the final session of the Association for Food Journalists conference came from chef Frank Brigtsen: "Everyone in Louisiana has a propane burner out back of their house that could probably launch a rocket." This is how fried turkies and house fires are born. Brigtsen roasts his turkey by doing the following: Rub the turkey with butter and salt and pepper. Put butter under the skin of the breast bone. Preheat oven to 500 degrees and put turkey on V-shaped roaster. Put it in the oven then reduce heat to 325 and cook 15-20 minutes per pound. Brigtsen also prepared shrimp mirliton (aka chayote) dressing and offer some simple tips on layering flavors and how not to make your dressing too bread-y. He points out that onion, bell peppers and celery is not unlike French mirepoix. He recommends making turkey stock using wings, necks and legs before Thanksgiving and also a little shrimp stock for the dressing. He also cooks some of the onions, pepper and celery longer than others to add layers of flavor.

Poppy Tooker, who seemed to be attached to the conference, demonstrated how to cook a roux. The French may use butter, but she recommends canola or another vegetable oil because butter burns at high temperatures (see above center). The Creole favorite for roux is bacon grease. She also recommend pre-chopping your veggies and putting the onions ( they should be yellow) first. You cook roux over medium to medium-high heat. She also referred to roux as "Cajun napalm" for its ability to burn cooks. She recommends using a wooden spatula to stir it so it doesn't fly all over you. The seasoning base for roux is thyme, bay leaf and garlic.

While some of us ate oyster dressing, Chiqui Collier showed us how to make pralines (see above left). A candy thermometer is essential, as is rest for the mixture once it reaches the soft ball stage. All of us received the recipes, which I will post as PDFs on the AFJ Website. We also got to eat shrimp mirliton dressing and gumbo as we went along, and left with a praline to snack on. The conference was officially over after a short tour of the House on Bayou Road, but there's one more thing to come.

-- Claudia Perry, "official" AFJ conference blogger

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