Hungry Town: A Culinary History of New Orleans

September 30, 2010 9:45:13 AM PDT
Lovers of fine food are returning to post-hurricane New Orleans that is rebuilding its devastated restaurant community, once known around the world for its cuisine. So why is a New Orleans native and life-long foody leading more than two Louisiana friends on an eating tour of Chicago? Tom Fitzmorris says Chicago is his favorite food town, next to New Orleans, of course. Tom, an author, food columnist, blogger and radio host has brought 30 of his listeners to the Windy City looking for adventures in dining out. Tom has conducted this annual eating pilgrimage with his fans for more than 20 years. They have cruised all over the world, and done short trips to great eating places like Chicago.

Tom has been covering the restaurant scene in New Orleans for 38 years. His long-running restaurant review column The New Orleans Menu has become a popular website www.nomenu.com ; it is a go-to place for food lovers who are interested in New Orleans food. He's best known for his daily drive-time talk-radio show (talking about food for three hours) that has been running for 21 years He'll be broadcasting live from Chicago this week from 4 to 7 pm on Thursday and Friday at the Hotel Monaco, Wacker and Wabash, Chicago.

His first book, a cookbook called New Orleans Food: 250 of the City's Best Recipes for Cooking at Home came out right after Hurricane Katrina. Tom's second book Hungry Town, was released this summer for the 5th anniversary of the disaster. Hungry Town is a memoir of covering the food scene in New Orleans, emphasizing on how food has healed the city. In Hungry Town, Tom describes the disappearance of New Orleans's food culture in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its triumphant comeback?an essential element in the city's recovery. He leads up to it with a recent history of New Orleans dining before the hurricane, from the Creole craze of the 1980s to the opening of restaurants by big-name chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse. Tom's covers the return of the city's chefs after Katrina and show the importance of local cooking traditions to a community. The book includes recipes for some of the dishes mentioned in the story, and sidebars from Tom's long career writing about his "delicious city."

ABOUT TOM FITZMORRIS

Tom Fitzmorris was born in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. So a career writing and broadcasting on the pleasures of eating came naturally. He writes the longest-running restaurant review column in America by a single author, published every week since September, 1972.

He's better known, though, for talking about food on the radio. His program airs for three hours a day, six days a week, on WWWL (1350 AM) and WWL (105.3 FM). "I'm not sure that a daily food show that long will work long-term," he says. "It's only been on the air since 1988."

Tom writes and publishes the New Orleans Menu, a newsletter published every weekday online at NOMenu.Com. It covers the whole New Orleans food scene: restaurant reviews, recipes, top-ten lists, a calendar of local food events, a daily food almanac, and his Dining Diary. "It's what's now called a blog, but I've written it since decades before that word was invented," he says.

He's the author of sixteen restaurant guides, four cookbooks, and a memoir. The most recent include the fifth edition of "The Unofficial Guide to New Orleans" (Menasha Ridge Press, 2008) and Tom Fitzmorris' New Orleans Food: 250 of the City's Best Recipes for Cooking at Home (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, Second Edition, 2010). Hungry Town is a memoir which focuses on the reaction and recovery of the restaurant scene in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as well as other major turning points in the city's culinary past. (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2010).

Every week, Tom convenes local food-and-wine aficionados for the New Orleans Eat Club, a series of dinners in the restaurants of the city. A more-than-decent cook in his own right, Tom stages several annual dinners for various charities throughout the year.

Except for the six weeks after Katrina, Tom has lived his entire life in New Orleans. He attended Jesuit High School and is a graduate in Communications from the University of New Orleans (1974). He is married to the former Mary Ann Connell. They and their two children, Jude and Mary Leigh, live near Abita Springs, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. Good wild mushrooms grow in the woods around his house.

MEET TOM FITZMORRIS
Live Radio Broadcas
4-7 p.m.
Thursday and Friday
Hotel Monaco
Wacker at Wabash, Chicago

New Orleans Recipes by Tom Fitzmorris, author of the cookbook "New Orleans Food" and "Hungry Town."

You can visit New Orleans without leaving home by trying one of Tom's favorite recipes

Shrimp Remoulade with Two Sauces

There are two kinds of remoulade sauce served around New Orleans, and everybody has a distinct favorite. My preference is for the orange-red kind that's utterly unique to our area. White remoulade sauce, made with mayonnaise, is actually closer to the classic French recipe. It's good enough that in recent years I've taken to making both kinds of sauces, and letting people take their pick.

What they have in common is the main active ingredient: Creole mustard, a rough, brown, country-style mustard that has a bit of horseradish mixed in.

The shrimp for shrimp remoulade should be medium size--about 25-30 count to the pound. If you're making only the red style of remoulade, a good trick is slightly to under-boil the shrimp, then marinate them in the rather acidic sauce. That will finish the "cooking," in much the same way the marinade of ceviche does.

The words "remoulade," by the way, is an old French dialect word that refers to a kind of radish that hasn't been part of the recipe for centuries.

Shrimp:
Leafy tops of a bunch of celery
5 bay leaves
3 cloves
2 Tbs. Tabasco garlic marinade
1 large lemon, sliced
1/2 cup salt
3 lbs. shrimp

~ Red Remoulade Sauce:
1/2 cup chili sauce (bottled) or ketchup
1/2 cup Creole mustard
1 Tbs. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
1/2 tsp. pureed garlic
1/2 cup green onion tops, finely sliced
1 cup olive oil

~ White Remoulade Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Creole mustard
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic-flavored Tabasco
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup green onion tops, finely sliced

1. Bring a gallon of water to a boil and add all the ingredients except the shrimp. Boil the water for five minutes, then add the shrimp. Remove from the heat immediately, and allow the shrimp to steep for four to six minutes (longer for bigger shrimp).

2. Remove the shrimp and allow to cool enough to handle. Peel and devein the shrimp, then refrigerate while making the sauce.

3. To make the red remoulade sauce, combine all ingredients except green onions and olive oil in a bowl. Add the oil a little at a time, stirring constantly, until all oil is absorbed. Taste the sauce and add more mustard or chili sauce to taste. Stir in green onion tops.

4. For the white remoulade sauce, just blend all the ingredients except the green onions. Then add the green onions last.

5. Place the shrimp on a leaf of lettuce, sliced avocados, sliced tomatoes, or Belgian endive leaves. Drizzle half the shrimp with one sauce, half with the other. The sauces can also be served in pools for dipping.

Makes eight appetizers or six entree salads.

Crabmeat Ravigote

This and shrimp remoulade (with which it can be served as a combo plate) are the most popular cold appetizers in traditional New Orleans restaurants. The word "ravigote" means "revived," the original idea being that you could add this tangy sauce to some crabmeat or fish that was on the edge of freshness and resurrect it. Of course, it was quickly noticed that it also tasted great with vividly fresh crabmeat.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. Creole mustard
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 green onion, tender green parts only, finely sliced
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
1/2 tsp. dill
1/2 tsp. tarragon
Pinch white pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1 dash Tabasco
2 Tbs. small capers
1 lb. lump crabmeat

1. Combine all ingredients except crabmeat and mix with a wire whisk.

2. Add the crabmeat and very carefully toss with the sauce. It's best if you let it sit for an hour or two before serving. Serves eight.

Hot Shrimp With Cajun Sausage

Cajun-style Stuffed Shrimp and Sausage

When Louisiana brown shrimp or white shrimp are in season (spring and late summer respectively), New Orleans people think of a new way to cook them every day. This one is a great party dish: big shrimp butterflied and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, wrapped in Cajun hot sausage (pre-fried bacon also works), and broiled till the sausage is crispy. Make a million of these: once people start eating them, they won't be able to stop.

24 large (16-21 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 oz. Fontina cheese
24 long, thin (cut on the bias) slices of smoked Cajun sausage (or any hot smoked sausage)

Preheat the broiler and the broiler rack to 450 degrees.

1. Wash the shrimp and pat them dry. Butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tail section intact.

2. Cut the cheese into sticks a little smaller than the shrimp. Insert a stick of cheese into the shrimp.

3. Wrap each shrimp with a piece of sausage, spiraling the sausage around. Secure the sausage with a toothpick.

4. Place the shrimp, cut side up, on the hot broiler rack. Broil until the sausage begins to crisp at the edges and the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.

Makes twenty-four.

Crabmeat Remick

This was one of the best dishes at the long-gone Caribbean Room in New Orleans, and it still turns up now and then on menus here and there. When jumbo lump crabmeat is in season (in the summer), this is a great dish to make with it.

8 slices smoky, thick bacon
1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat
1 Tbs. lemon juice

~ Sauce:
1/2 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 cup bottled chili sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. Creole mustard
1 Tbs. tarragon vinegar

1. Slice the bacon into squares and fry till crisp. Drain very well and set aside.

2. Divide crabmeat into six small, shallow au gratin dishes. Sprinkle with lemon juice, and heat in 350-degree oven for five minutes.

3. While waiting for crabmeat to warm, blend all the sauce ingredients.

4. When the crabmeat is hot, top each baking dish with an equal portion of crumbled bacon. Pour the sauce right on top, just enough to cover.

5. Turn the oven on broil and place the au gratin dishes three inches from the heat for about a minute--until the sauce begins to bubble. Serve immediately with a warning that the dish is mouth-searingly hot!

Serves eight appetizers or four entrees.

ABOUT TOM FITZMORRIS

Tom Fitzmorris was born in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. So a career writing and broadcasting on the pleasures of eating came naturally. He writes the longest-running restaurant review column in America by a single author, published every week since September, 1972.

He's better known, though, for talking about food on the radio. His program airs for three hours a day, six days a week, on WWWL (1350 AM) and WWL (105.3 FM). "I'm not sure that a daily food show that long will work long-term," he says. "It's only been on the air since 1988."

Tom writes and publishes the New Orleans Menu, a newsletter published every weekday online at NOMenu.com. It covers the whole New Orleans food scene: restaurant reviews, recipes, top-ten lists, a calendar of local food events, a daily food almanac, and his Dining Diary. "It's what's now called a blog, but I've written it since decades before that word was invented," he says.

He's the author of sixteen restaurant guides, four cookbooks, and a memoir. The most recent include the fifth edition of "The Unofficial Guide to New Orleans" (Menasha Ridge Press, 2008) and Tom Fitzmorris' New Orleans Food: 250 of the City's Best Recipes for Cooking at Home (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, Second Edition, 2010). Hungry Town is a memoir which focuses on the reaction and recovery of the restaurant scene in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as well as other major turning points in the city's culinary past. (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2010).

Every week, Tom convenes local food-and-wine aficionados for the New Orleans Eat Club, a series of dinners in the restaurants of the city. A more-than-decent cook in his own right, Tom stages several annual dinners for various charities throughout the year.

Except for the six weeks after Katrina, Tom has lived his entire life in New Orleans. He attended Jesuit High School and is a graduate in Communications from the University of New Orleans (1974). He is married to the former Mary Ann Connell. They and their two children, Jude and Mary Leigh, live near Abita Springs, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. Good wild mushrooms grow in the woods around his house.

MEET TOM FITZMORRIS
Live Radio Broadcast
4-7 p.m.
Thursday and Friday
Hotel Monaco
Wacker at Wabash, Chicago


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