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Pan Fried Pomfret with Meuniere Butter

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From Nola Cuisine

When we returned home from our recent trip to New Orleans I couldn’t get Galatoire’s out of my head, especially the Pompano with Crabmeat Yvonne, although the whole meal was very memorable. By the way, the Galatoire’s Cookbook is phenomenal, an absolute keeper. Their Meuniere Butter is to die for with crabmeat and especially with crabmeat and Pompano, so I decided to search for some Pompano, which I find only very rarely from one source here in Michigan. He didn’t have it but suggested that I try something similar, Pomfret.

Pomfret, or Butterfish, are in the same family as Pompano, in fact they look like a little Pompano, but you cook them whole; my fish guy suggested Pan Frying, which is what I did, topped with Galatoire’s Style Meuniere Butter (recipe below). A great guy with a great suggestion.

I also served these with Brabant Potatoes, another excellent part of our meal at Galatoire’s.

The Pomfret were super fresh and delicious, although not quite Pompano, lacking the sweetness by a bit, but very similar in flavor and texture, while in shrinky-dink size.

I cut the heads off for the sake of my wife, who like most Americans, is squeamish about making eye contact with her dinner. I personally like to be able to give my dinner a wink if it tastes good, or the unforgivable Stink Eye if I didn’t care for how it tasted, that’s just me.

Here is the recipe:

Pan Fried Pomfret with Galatoire’s Style Meuniere Butter

2 Pomfret per person, heads removed if you have squeamish guests
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Cayenne
1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Vegetable Oil for pan-frying
1 Recipe Galatoire’s Style Meuniere Butter (recipe below)
Lemon Wedges
Chopped Italian Parsley for garnish

Combine the flour, salt, cayenne, and black pepper in a bowl. Dredge the prepared Pomfret in the seasoned flour and set aside for 15-20 minutes.

In a large Cast Iron Skillet add about 1/2 an inch of oil to the pan, heat over medium flame until a sprinkle of flour flares up and starts to brown.

Add the floured Pomfret to the pan, in batches if necessary, so as to not overcrowd the pan. Pan-fry until golden brown on each side and cooked through.

Serve on a platter with lemon wedges, and top with the Meuniere Butter (recipe below), garnish with chopped Italian parsley. The flesh flakes away easily from the bones when eating, just use your fork to gently flake it away.

Galatoire’s Style Meuniere Butter Recipe

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
1 tsp Kosher Salt (or use Salted Butter and omit the salt)
1 & 1/2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 & 1/2 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
Large Sauce Pan (make sure that your pan is large enough, as the sauce will flare up when you add the liquids to the hot butter)

In a large sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat, add the salt (if using unsalted butter). Cook the butter, stirring frequently, until the fat is a nice golden brown and the solids just start to brown. Along the way the butter will go through a lot of changes, foaming, etc. When the butter reaches the appropriate color remove from the heat, stand back and very carefully add the juice and vinegar. **WARNING** it will flare up quite violently so make sure you are using a big enough pan! Pour a genourous portion of the Meuniere Butter over the fish, be sure to give it a stir as the dark brown solids contain a lot of the flavor.

Related Posts:

Our Dinner at Galatoire’s
Redfish Courtbouillon
Fried Catfish with Hush Puppies and Creole Tartar Sauce

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes, which links to all of the recipes featured on this site!

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Galatoire’s Restaurant

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We had a very aggressive dining schedule on our most recent trip to New Orleans last month, the finale being dinner at Galatoire’s on our last night in the city.

Galatoire’s Restaurant
209 Bourbon Street
New Orleans , LA 70130

Galtoire’s is a legendary restaurant, right on Bourbon street, surrounded by strip clubs, bars and even sharing a wall with a sex shop. It’s odd to step from the raucousness of Bourbon Street into a restaurant which has seen over 100 years of history, elegance and tradition, and still manages to be unpretentious and a hell of a lot of fun. Jean Galatoire opened the restaurants doors in 1905, and it has remained in the family ever since, they’re on their fourth generation of family ownership. In November of 2005 the family also opened Galatoire’s Bistro in Baton Rouge. Richard at Appetites gives a good comparison of the two restaurants here.

After all of my trips to New Orleans over the years, I finally made it to Galatoire’s, and it was well worth the wait.

In addition to wonderfully prepared French Creole Cuisine, the highlight of a visit to Galatoire’s will most likely be your waiter, probably one of the most knowledgeable in the city. Our waiter was Tony, an excellent waiter, friendly, jovial, and just one hell of a nice guy.

We started off with Souffle Potatoes and Shrimp Remoulade, I had a Sazerac, which Galatoire’s serves on the rocks, unless specified otherwise. Hey, when in Rome, right?

The Souffle Potatoes are a lost art, except in the old line Creole restaurants of New Orleans, those being Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, and Galatoire’s. They were easily my favorite part of the whole meal, out of sheer respect for the stalwart adherence to tradition and quality. Not to mention they are just a delicious and addicting appetizer. Little edible zeppelins as crispy as a potato chip with a perfect Bearnaise Sauce for dipping.

The Shrimp Remoulade was also fantastic, and my favorite Remoulade Sauce that I’ve had in the city thus far. In my opinion a perfect balance of flavors. (Galatoire’s Shrimp Remoulade Recipe)

Next I selected a nice French White Burgundy for the meal, and Tony brought us a staple for any great dining experience in New Orleans, a loaf of New Orleans French Bread, soft in the center with a flaky crust that keeps the busboys busy with their crumbers.

The fish selections were Pompano, Flounder, and Cobia. My wife asked if the Flounder would be good Amandine style and Tony kind of swayed and suggested it broiled with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat and Lemon. As I told my wife, trust your waiter. Listen to him. As a matter of fact, many regulars of Galatoire’s will let their waiter order for them. It basically goes like this…What would you like today? Lunch please.

I ordered Pompano with Crabmeat Yvonne and had my first taste of true Meuniere butter, Galatoire’s style, I fell in love with it and it’s now part of my repertoire. The Pompano was everything it should be, buttery flesh that melts in your mouth. The Crabmeat Yvonne topping is sauteed Mushrooms, Artichoke bottoms, Jumbo Lump Crabmeat with Meuniere butter. It is named for the Granddaughter of Jean Galatoire and daughter of Justin Galatoire. She worked in the restaurant starting as cashier in 1938. She managed from 1964 until 1997 when she retired and she was president of the business from 1984 until her death in 2000.

Our side dish was Brabant Potatoes, so named for their square shape. They were crispy and deliciously tossed in a New Orleans Bordelaise which is kind of a garlic butter.

Dessert was a creamy Creme Carmel which is a must at Galtoire’s…

…as is Cafe Brulot, flamed tableside. Brandy and Orange Liqeur are flamed in a Brulot bowl with Orange and lemon peels, cinnamon sticks, and cloves…

Tony ladles the flambe for flourish…

The flambe is extinguished with good strong Cafe Noir.

The finished product is ladled into coffee cups.

A perfect end to an extraordinary evening at Galatoire’s. Tony introduced us to one of the Galatoire family members who manages the restaurant, a delightful gentleman who thanked us for our patronage, and even took our picture in front of the restaurant.

By the way Galatoire’s also has a phenomenal Galatoire’s Cookbook that came out shortly before the storm, it’s a keeper. Great pics, recipes, and history.

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes!

Related Recipes:

Pan Fried Pomfret with Galatoire’s Style Meuniere Butter
Sazerac Recipe
Bearnaise Sauce Recipe
New Orleans Style Bordelaise
Shrimp Remoulade Recipe
Brabant Potatoes Recipe

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Muffuletta

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I received an email from Kristen Browning-Blas, food editor for The Denver Post, the other day asking permission to use my Muffuletta recipe at the Denver Post website, I said of course. Here is the article about Serio’s Po-Boys & Deli.

As I browsed through the pics and recipes I realized I needed to have a Muffuletta as soon as possible, so Anna and I headed over to Ventimiglia’s Italian Market, here in the Detroit area, to gather the necessary ingredients.

But of course, as I’ve mentioned in the past, Muffuletta Bread is not to be found here in the Detroit area, so that had to be made as well.

I used my Muffuletta Bread recipe, Olive Salad recipe , my Muffuletta sandwich recipe, which I altered slightly by doubling the amount of meat and cheese, I figured what the hell, I’m going to all of this trouble, why not go the full 9.

By the way for a great Italian Market in the Detroit area check out:

Ventimiglia’s Italian Foods
35197 Dodge Park
Sterling Heights, MI 48312

Related Posts:

Be sure and check out Jason Perlow’s post on The Muffuletta at Off the Broiler!

Muffuletta Bread recipe
Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe
Muffuletta Olive Salad Recipe
Shrimp Po’ Boy Recipe
Roast Beef Po Boy Recipe

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Kitchen Witch Cook Books

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The French Quarter is filled with amazing little shops to suit anyone’s taste, I found mine on Toulouse Street between Chartres and Royal, just a couple of blocks from Jackson Square.

Anyone that knows me knows my love for cookbooks of all kinds, but especially Creole & Cajun Cookbooks. Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon a sign that simply read Cook Books when walking down Toulouse Street in the French Quarter during our recent trip to New Orleans.

A wonderful shop with vibrant art work on the walls, various kitchen related items lovingly placed around the store, and lots of used and new cook books seperated by category, a cook’s dream!

The proprietors Debbie Lindsey and Philipe LaMancusa are among the many friendly faces we encountered in the city on our trip, and Debbie was quick with some favorite dining suggestions when I asked for some recommendations.

The real treat for me was located in the back of the store, the Creole & Cajun section, as well as a large collection of vintage LPs.

They have a very nice selection of used and new Creole & Cajun cook books and a glass case that contains some more rare items, such as the Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook.

Another thing that really caught my eye was a Chez Helene t-shirt under glass, Chez Helene of course being the long lost restaurant of the late Austin Leslie who passed away shortly after being trapped in his attic during Katrina.

Debbie & Philipe also ship so give them a call at (504) 528-8382 or email at kwitchen1@aol.com if you’re looking for that hard to find cook book that you lost years back.

Kitchen Witch Cookbooks, Music, and Art is located on Toulouse Street between Royal & Chartres in the French Quarter (MAP):

Kitchen Witch
631 Toulouse Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
631 Toulouse

Kitchen Witch
kwitchen1@aol.com

Click here for information on visiting New Orleans and Louisiana!

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which lists all of the recipes featured on Nola Cuisine.

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Redfish Courtbouillon

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From Nola Cuisine

This is the city or Creole version of the great Louisiana Courtbouillons, the other being the Cajun Catfish Courtbouillon (COO-be-yahn). The major difference in my two versions is the absence of a Roux in this one and of course the type of fish. I actually used Red Snapper for this version. Although Redfish is preferred and classic, I went with what I could get freshest.

According to the The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook of 1901:

Those kings of the New Orleans French Market the Red Snapper and the Redfish, are used in the pride and glory of the New Orleans cuisines, a good Courtbouillon. More generally and with finer results the Redfish or Poisson Rouge is used. This Fish may always be known by the single spot on the tail. The old Creoles have a tradition that this was the fish that the Apostles brought to the Savior when he performed the great miracle of the loaves and the fishes. They hand down the quaint legend that the Savior took up this fish between his fingers and blessed it, and it was ever after a marked fish in the waters, the imprint of the Lord’s fingers having remained on the spot where He held up the fish and blessed it and offered it up to His Father. They hold the Redfish in reverent veneration, and never fail to tell the children when cooking it: ‘Those are the marks of the Lord’s hand.’

More on Redfish Courtbouillon from what I’ve said before is one of my absolute favorite reads on the subject of Creole & Cajun cooking, the long out of print 1971 Time-Life publication
American cooking: Creole and Acadian (Foods of the world) by Peter S. Feibleman:

Stop and have a bowl of redfish courtbouillon, a dish that is to the bayous and marshes and Gulf coast what a hamburger is to the Midwest. A rich brown roux has been made and combined with tomato puree, onions, shallots, garlic, celery and bell pepper. Bay leaves and allspice and red pepper and other spices have been added, and a dash of Tabasco. Redfish meat and a bit of claret have been put in and simmered gently for an hour, and the courtbouillon is served in a gumbo bowl with rice. It is red and thick and searing, and just one taste of it makes you imagine that you can stand up even to the weather.

When making your Creole Sauce for this recipe be sure to make it extra thick, otherwise the liquid the fish lets out while cooking will make your sauce watery.

Here is my recipe:

From Nola Cuisine

Redfish Courtbouillon Recipe

2 Whole Redfish, Red Snapper, or other firm fleshed fish (scaled, gutted and trimmed of all fins)
1 Cup Flour, liberally seasoned with salt, pepper and cayenne
2 Tbsp Unsalted butter
1/4 Cup dry white wine
1 Recipe Creole Sauce, made with fish stock, and made extra thick
1 Lemon, thinly sliced
2 bunches fresh Thyme, 1/2 of which tied tightly with butcher’s twine
1 Bay Leaf
1 Recipe Creole Boiled Rice as an accompaniment

Season the fish all over including in the cavity with kosher salt, black pepper and a little cayenne. Place some of the sliced lemon and 1/2 of the Thyme into the cavity of each fish.
Dredge the fish in the seasoned flour and warm the unsalted butter in a large cast iron skillet.
When the butter just starts to brown place the fish in the pan, cook until golden brown on both sides.
Remove the fish to a plate and deglaze the pan with the white wine. When the wine reduces slightly, add the fish back to the pan and ladle enough Creole Sauce to come up the sides of the fish by half, plus ladle a little on top of the fish.
Add the Thyme and bay leaf to the pan and place some of the lemon slices on top of the fish. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil and place into a 350 degree over for 30 minutes.

When plating, carefully remove the fish and filet gently being careful to get rid of all of the bones. An alternate method would be to filet the fish raw and use the head and bones to make your fish stock.

Serve with Creole Boiled Rice and garnish with chopped parsley, lemon slices, and a genourous helping of the Creole Sauce from the pan.

Serves 2-4 depending on the size of your fish.

From Nola Cuisine

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which is a directory of all of the recipes featured on this site!

Related Posts:

Cajun Catfish Courtbouillon Recipe

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Chaurice Sausage

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From Nola Cuisine

I made a small batch of Chaurice today to go into tonight’s Gumbo, and as a side for Monday’s Red Beans & Rice. Chaurice sausage is a fresh, highly spiced Creole sausage. For my more in depth post about Chaurice see this post. The one pictured on both posts is today’s batch, using the recipe below. I can’t wait to use it.

Chaurice Sausage Recipe

3 lbs Pork with plenty of fat (I use Boston Butt) Cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Medium Spanish Onion, Chopped
3 Tbsp Fresh Garlic, Minced
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves, Chopped
4 Tbsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Cayenne
1 tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
4 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Ground Allspice
1 pinch Meat Curing Salt (Optional) (Here is what I use: http://www.butcher-packer.com/pg_curing_dq.htm)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss thoroughly.
Cover and let stand in the refrigerator overnight (this step is optional).
Place all of your grinding equipment in the refrigerator 1 hour before grinding. Using the 1/2″ die for your meat grinder, grind all of the ingredients. Alternatively you could finely mince the ingredients in a food processor or by hand. Cook a small patty to taste for seasonings, reseason if necessary. Follow my instructions for Linking Homemade Sausage. I make my Chaurice into about 10 inch lengths. When finished, I vacuum seal the links into individual portions and freeze. They will keep indefinately in the freezer.

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes!

Other Sausage and Seasoning Meat Recipes on Nola Cuisine:

Andouille Sausage
Tasso Recipe
Pickled Pork

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Oyster Dressing Recipe

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I’m getting geared up for the rapidly approaching Thanksgiving holiday, so I decided to make a Roast Chicken stuffed with Oyster Dressing.

Oyster dressing is wonderfully flavorful, and is a perfect compliment to Roast Chicken or Turkey. This dressing will also compliment Quail, Duck, or even a thick cut Pork Chop with a pocket cut into it.

I used Duck Fat in this recipe along with butter, because quite frankly, it is the nectar of the Gods. If you can’t find Duck fat, you can render your own or just substitute more butter in this recipe. If you do have Duck fat, be sure to also brush it all over whichever bird you’re roasting, as I did, for crispy flavorful skin.

Oyster Dressing Recipe

3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
3 Tbsp Duck Fat
1 Cup Onion, finely diced
3/4 Cup Celery, finely diced
2 Tbsp Garlic, minced
1/8 Cup Green Onions, sliced
1 Tbsp Fresh Sage, chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves
1 tsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped
6 Cups French Bread, cubed
1 Dozen Oysters, shucked, drained, and chopped; liquor reserved
2-3 Cups Chicken Stock, hot
Kosher salt, black pepper and Cayenne to taste

Melt the butter and duck fat in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, sweat until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, green onions, sage, parlsey, thyme, and rosemary, cook for 2 minutes. Add the french bread, stir to coat. Add the Oyster liquor and 1 cup of the stock, stirring constantly, then add the stock in 1/2 cup intervals until you have a moist dressing. Stir in the Oysters, cook until they’re just cooked through. Season the dressing to taste with the salt, black pepper and Cayenne.

I stuffed about half of this into the chicken, and the other half I baked in a greased Cast Iron skillet.

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes!

More Oyster Recipes at Nola Cuisine:

Angels on Horseback
Drago’s Style Charbroiled Oysters
Oysters Bienville
Oyster Omelette
Oysters on the half shell

Thanksgiving Related Posts:

Turducken
Praline Sweet Potatoes
Turkey Bone Gumbo Recipe

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Homemade Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream

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Here is the latest batch of Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream, made from the Creole Cream Cheese which I made the other day. It’s texture is like velvet, and the flavor like frozen cheesecake, I can’t get enough. I made a quick strawberry sauce to accompany this (recipe follows), though it goes just fine all alone. The recipes:

Homemade Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream Recipe

1 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
6 Large Egg Yolks
2/3 Cup Creole Cream Cheese
1/3 Cup good quality Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche

Combine the Cream, Milk, Sugar, and Vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the mixture just starts to boil, remove from the heat. Put the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl, then temper the yolks with a little of the milk mixture. Combine the two mixtures. then return them to the saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook the custard until it coats the back of a wooden spoon, 2-4 minutes, DO NOT BOIL. Strain into a mixing bowl and refrigerate until chilled, at least a few hours (you want it very cold before it enters the ice cream machine). Meanwhile, combine the Creole Cream Cheese and Sour Cream then put them through a fine mesh sieve, mashing them through with the back of a wooden spoon. When the custard is cold, fold in the Creole Cream Cheese and Sour Cream. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve as is or freeze overnight for a firmer ice cream.

Makes 1 Quart (You’ll wish you had doubled it! My Creole Cream Cheese Recipe makes enough for a double batch of Ice Cream.)

Strawberry Dessert Sauce Recipe

1 Cup Fresh Strawberries, chopped
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tbsp Grand Marnier

Add the ingredients to a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries break down slightly, and the sauce reduces a bit. Chill.

I also added some additional chopped fresh strawberries to the cooled sauce for more texture.

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which features links to all of the recipes on this site.

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Creole Cream Cheese Recipe

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From Nola Cuisine

I made a fresh batch of Creole Cream Cheese yesterday that I finished today. I just ate what you see in the picture, sprinkled heavily with sugar, and I can tell you honestly, you don’t know what you’re missing if you don’t try this recipe. This is the easiest cheese in the world to make, and you will learn more on its versatility, when I post further with recipes for Creole Cream Cheese Cheescake, and Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream (a.k.a Frozen Creole Cream Cheese, my fave, which I will make in the next few days.

By the way, what I used for a cheese mold this time was an inexpensive silicone muffin tin, which I punched drainage holes into with a hole puncher, traditionally used for paper (but not here on Nola Cuisine).

The way I have presented Creole Cream Cheese here is at its simplest, the way it was meant to be served; sweetened with fresh fruit and cream as a breakfast treat. Give it a shot, it is extremely cheap and easy to make.

I wrote an extensive post on this subject with the recipe just over a year ago, which I am including below because:

a.) I didn’t have this wonderful camera to show the fruits (no pun intended) of my labor a year ago, and a picture is, as they say, worth a thousand words.

b.) I worked hard reasearching this post, so it bears repeating, at least for my sake (or your sake if you plan on making this recipe.)

Here is the post and recipe from July 29, 2005, about a month before Hurricane She Who Shall Not Be Named reared her ugly head on the wonderful city of New Orleans. I hope you enjoy and learn as much from this post as I did researching and making the dish:

Creole Cream Cheese used to be widely available in New Orleans, over time however it became harder to find, and never outside of Louisiana. It’s a soft cheese eaten as a breakfast treat, sprinkled with sugar, covered with cream or half & half, and usually fresh fruit. This is what “>The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook of 1901 had to say about the subject:

Cream Cheese is always made from clabbered milk. The ‘Cream Cheese Woman’ is still as common a sight on our New Orleans streets as the Cala Woman was in the days gone by. She carries a covered basket in which are a number of small perforated tins in which the Cheeses are. In her other hand she carries a can of fresh Cream. She sells her wares to her regular customers, for the old Creoles who do not make their own Cream Cheese are very particular as to whom they buy from, and when once a good careful, clean woman gets a ‘customer’ she keeps her during her period of business, coming every fast day and Friday with her Cheese and Cream, for this is a great fast-day breakfast and luncheon dish.

The “Cream Cheese Woman” has long ago gone the way of the “Cala Woman”, but fortunately for me, I enjoy making it myself. It’s a fairly long but very simple process; combined, about 10 minutes of actual work. Rennet is a coagulating enzyme which comes from a young animal’s stomach, but there are also vegetable varieties. It comes in liquid or tablet form, I use the liquid animal variety. Although I had a hard time finding it in my area, you may find it in tablet form in the baking aisle at your grocer. If not, do what I did and order it from Cheese Supply(dot)com. The shipping is a little steep for just a small item, so I ordered some Manchego, Cheesecloth, and a few other items to pad the bill. The recipe:

Creole Cream Cheese Recipe

2 Quarts Skim Milk
1/4 Cup Buttermilk
8 drops Liquid Rennet or 2 tablets
Cheesecloth

Combine the skim and buttermilk in a good sized saucepan. Over medium heat bring the mixture to 110 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Pour the heated mixture into a large, non-metal bowl. Add the rennet, stir and cover with cheesecloth. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. After a few hours there should be chunks (Curds) and liquid (Whey), try to keep Miss Muffet at bay. Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth, then spoon the curds into the colander, try to keep them intact. Let this drain for 1 hour or until it is one solid piece. Discard the Whey, or make Ricotta, which is made from cooked Whey. I haven’t tried it yet, but next time I will. Place gently into a bowl and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Serve with sugar, half & half, and fresh fruit.

*New* I have another recipe for Creole Cream Cheese that says you cannot use Homogenized milk. I’ll have to locate some to see if there is any difference in the finished product. The same recipe states you can substitute reconstituted dry skim milk. Another variation in this recipe is the use of Plain Yogurt as the culture, in place of the buttermilk. I will post when I try this.

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes! It’s an index with links to all of the recipes featured on this site. Also check out my new sister site to Nola Cuisine called American Gourmand!

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Homemade Fil&#233 Powder

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From Nola Cuisine

I finally made a small batch of homemade Fil&#233 Powder, and I can’t believe the difference between the true Fil&#233 and the store bought variety.

The Fil&#233 that I made smells subtle and fruity like coriander seeds, or as my wife said, “Fruit Loops.” It’s color as you can see, is army green, and I’m assuming that it’s thickening power is way more intense than the store bought, which I’ve noticed has zero thickening power at all, and has a flavor that can almost take over the flavor of your Gumbo.

The store bought Fil&#233 smells very woodsy, and you can detect some thyme and possibly some bay leaf in there, it’s color is tan. One that I saw recently contained Sage, Oregano, and Thyme, and no Sassafras at all. There are definately some good ones out there, but definately some really bad ones. For example, here is a picture of the two side by side, the store bought is in the background, my homemade is in the foreground:

From Nola Cuisine

The following is from the 1978 book Creole Gumbo and All That Jazz by Howard Mitcham:

The Story of Fil&#233

For hundreds of years the Choctaw Indians have had a settlement at Bayou Lacombe on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and they had a way of making Gumbo long before the white man and the black man arrived. They invented fil&#233 (pronounced feelay). The tender green leaves of the sassafras tree are gathered, dried, and ground to a powder. Only a few tablespoons of the powder will thicken a whole pot of Gumbo and give it a flavor that’s spicy and pleasant. The fil&#233 must always be added after the pot is removed from the fire. If allowed to boil, it becomes stringy and unpalatable. Okra and fil&#233 should never be used together in a Gumbo or it will be as thick as mud. The Creoles in New Orleans used fil&#233 only in the wintertime, when fresh okra was not available but many Cajuns prefer fil&#233 gumbo year-round. They pass a big bowl of fil&#233 around at the table, so that all the guests may take as much as they want.

The Indians also supplied dried bay leaves (laurel), an essential flavoring element in most Creole soups and stews. At the old French Market there were always several Choctaws sitting in the shade of the arcade, peddling their small caches of fil&#233 and dried bundles of bay leaves.

On several visits to Bayou Lacombe a few years ago I was fortunate enough to meet one of the last of those Indian fil&#233 makers. His name was Nick Ducre, and he was over eighty-five, very proud, wise and independent. He owned a few acres of very valuable land on the banks of the bayou. Rich folks had built up bayou estates all around him, but he clung to his land and kept it in a primitive state with plenty of game-coons, possums, squirrels, rabbits, and even a few deer. A great story teller, he told us much about the good old days in the early part of the century. Once a month he would take a schooner across the lake to New Orleans and sell his fil&#233 and bay leaves at the market at the New Basin Canal. He would sell out in one day, buy himself a pint of whiskey, and sail for home that night, a happy Indian.

At our last parting Nick gave me a sample jar of his homemade fil&#233, and I made a pot of gumbo with part of it. Because I didn’t realize just how strong it was, I overdid it. That gumbo got so thick, the stirring spoon stood upright in it. I have saved the rest of that fil&#233 as a memento of one of the best Indians I ever knew.

So whenever you eat gumbo fil&#233, give a thought to the almost vanished Choctaws of Lacombe. fil&#233 of a commercial grade can be purchased at any grocery store in New Orleans and in the Cajun country, but the homemade kind is stronger and tastier. If you can’t find an Indian source, you can make it yourself by pounding dried sassafras leaves with pestle and mortar. And while you’re at it, pound up a few bay leaves for a terrific flavoring element.

The Choctaws and their Fil&#233 are long gone from the French Market, which is now little more than a tourist trap to purchase Mardi Gras beads, T-shirts, and a million varieties of hot sauce. It’s still a must stop though, if just to feel the history of the old French Market.

Here is a quote from Leah Chase regarding Fil&#233 from the 1978 publication Creole Feast by Nathaniel Burton & Rudy Lombard:

I don’t buy the fil&#233 powder for my gumbo off the shelves. My daddy makes it for me. He grinds it himself and it is perfect because it is pure sassafras. He has sassafras trees and he dries the leaves. The fil&#233 from a store will have maybe a little bay leaf in it and it’s much weaker. Mine is pure sassafras, nothing mixed in, and it’s always fresh and strong. Daddy sends it to me in little mayonnaise bottles.

From Nola Cuisine

How to make homemade Fil&#233 Powder

Locate a Sassafras tree and take some branches containing the younger, more tender leaves.

From Nola Cuisine

Hang the branches outside to dry (preferably out of the direct sun) for about one week.

From Nola Cuisine
From Nola Cuisine

When the leaves are completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems and pulverize very well in a mortar and pestle, or an electric coffee grinder as I did.

Pass the powder through a very fine sieve, or a metal coned coffee filter as I did. It was a painstaking process as the mesh was too fine, but it worked to remove all of the little twigs, and tough pieces.

Store in an airtight container and keep out of the sunlight.

I feel a Fil&#233 Gumbo in Nola Cuisine’s very near future, I will keep you posted.

**Update** I recently noticed a container of Tony Chachere’s File powder at the store and picked some up. It’s the real deal, pure Sassafras, just like my homemade. Highly recommended!

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which provides links to all of the recipes featured on this site!

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