The Food Almanac: Friday, August 30, 2013

The Food Almanac: Friday, August 30, 2013

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The Day Of No Restaurants
Today in 2005 was a really bad day in New Orleans. Katrina was gone, but the levees parted and the city filled with water. The flood would cover eighty percent of its formerly dry land with several feet of water, and remain for weeks. It would be a couple more days before FEMA and other governmental agencies got a grip on how bad things were. Orleanians in exile knew exactly how awful the situation was, as we gaped at what we saw on CNN. And the worst was still yet to come. I remember drinking many martinis and feeling powerless, homeless, and jobless. I hadn't yet started wondering what would happen to our restaurants. On this day five years ago, the number of them in operation was zero. That had never happened to any culinary capital in history.

Today's Flavor
This is National Seafood Stuffing Day. Restaurants from the lowest to the highest price categories stuff seafood dressings into all sorts of other foods. But what is it, really? Usually, a combination of claw crabmeat, tiny shrimp, bread crumbs, and herbs. In flavor, it ranges from bready, oil-logged, and tasteless to marvelous, fluffy, moist concoctions that add magic to whatever it stuffs.

Seafood stuffing can be dangerous. The temptation to make it out of a little bit of seafood and a lot of bread gives a bad name to what can be, when made well, a delicious thing. Stuffing can be actually stuffed into something (as in a stuffed fish, lobster, or soft-shell crab) or wrapped around the outside of the stuffee (as in stuffed shrimp). Or it can be served all by itself (as in stuffed crabs, which starts with only the shell of the crab, if even that).

The secret of good seafood stuffing is in starting with cubes of stale bread, rather than bread crumbs. You then soak the cubes in a flavorful seafood stock. Then mix it with as much seafood as you can, of a quality you would eat even if it were served by itself.

Food And Wine In Show Biz
Today in 1968, the Beatles recorded the first songs on their new Apple label. One of them was their all-time biggest hit, Hey Jude,. It entered the charts at Number Ten (the highest entry level for any record ever), and was Number One for nine weeks.

Today is the birthday, in 1908, of actor Fred MacMurray, who had a long career in radio, movies, and television. His ranch in Sonoma became a vineyard, and under the management of the Gallo family has become a great source of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. Their reserve Pinot Noir I find particularly drinkable.

Shirley Booth, whose most famous role was as the eponymous maid on the 1960s television show Hazel,was born today in 1898. Talk about a show that would make no sense today! Hazel was a live-in maid who did all the cooking and serving for an upscale but not especially wealthy American family of three. She was a wisecracking busybody who bossed her employers around. Shirley Booth played another food-and-drink-related role, as Miss Duffy in the long-running radio comedy series Duffy's Tavern. In real life, she was the wife (and ex-wife) of Ed Gardner, who created the series and played Archie, the manager of a sleazy dive in which inedible food and bad drinks were served to a bunch of lowlifes.

Annals Of California Wine
Today is the birthday, in 1812, of Agoston Harazthy, considered the father of winegrowing in California. A native of Pest, Hungary, he brought thousands of vineyard cuttings to Sonoma County, planting what became the Buena Vista vineyards. His work to solve the problem of the phylloxera root louse--endemic in America--saved the vineyards of Europe when the louse found its way there.

Deft Dining Rule #194
When you hear someone rave about a wine because it comes from pre-phylloxera vines, you are listening to someone whose reception of flavor comes largely from self-hypnosis.

Edible Dictionary
surf and turf, n.--Substantial portions of seafood and meat served served together on a single plate as an entree. The classic combination is lobster (surf) and steak (turf). Shrimp are at least as common as lobster in the surf role. It's not known who originated the idea or the name, but it seems to have first appeared in the 1960s. Jane and Michael Stern, the authors of Roadfood, say it became popular at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair in the Space Needle restaurant. Surf and turf is popular because it creates the illusion of getting two entrees for the price of one. It's the same dynamic that propels buffets. Restaurateurs love surf and turf, too, because it allows them to use shellfish and steak of secondary size and quality, while the perception of quantity glosses over those shortcomings.

Bridges To Fine Dining
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened today in 1956. A 23.86-mile, two-lane span (now the southbound span) opened as the longest bridge in the world. Lake Pontchartrain lies north of New Orleans; high water pushed into it by Hurricane Katrina caused the levees to break. (The Causeway, however, remained passable.) Its greatest effect was the development of the other side of the lake, now a major suburb of New Orleans. About twenty years ago I ran an April Fool review of a restaurant on the lower level of the mid-lake turnaround on the older span. Every now and then a radio listener calls about it. Come to think of it, that would be a good place to build an exit to a man-made island in the middle of the lake, with hotels, casinos, and restaurants there. Why not?

Politics In Food
Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, the most famous political figure in the history of the state, was born today in 1893. The lore about his life and idea fill many books. What we're interested in here is that promise he made to his constituents of "two chickens in every pot."

The Saints
Today is the feast day of St. Fiacre, who lived in Ireland in the seventh century. He is the patron saint of gardeners. His images depict him carrying a shovel and a bundle of vegetables.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Birdseye, Indiana is in the southern tip of the state, almost directly on the Grits Line, in rolling woods and farming country, about sixty-three miles west of Louisville, Kentucky. The population is about 500. You can stop for a quick lunch at the Birdseye Dairy Barn.

Food Namesakes
Coy Bacon, pro football player in the 1970s, was born today in 1942. . Peggy Lipton, television actress, turned on today in 1947. . R. (Robert) Crumb, the most famous and best of all the underground comix artists, was born today in 1943. Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice set an inglorious record today in 1984, by grounding into a record thirty-third double play of the year. He would run that total up to thirty-six. Otherwise, he was a great hitter. . Samuel Whitbread, who would become the head of the largest brewery in England, was born today in 1720.

Words To Eat By
"I'm a salty, greasy girl. I give every French fry a fair chance."--Cameron Diaz, born today in 1972.

"All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast."--John Gunther, American author, born today in 1901.

Words To Drink By
"A man cannot make him laugh; but that's no marvel; he drinks no wine."--William Shakespeare.

Dear Friend,

This year Democracy Now! is celebrating our 25th anniversary—that's 25 years of bringing you fearless, independent reporting. Since our very first broadcast in 1996, Democracy Now! has refused to take government or corporate funding, because nothing is more important to us than our editorial independence. But that means we rely on you, our audience, for support. Please donate today in honor of our 25th anniversary and help us stay on air for another 25 years. We can't do our work without you. Right now, a generous donor will even DOUBLE your gift, which means it’ll go twice as far! This is a challenging time for us all, but if you're able to make a donation, please do so today. Thank you and remember, wearing a mask is an act of love.
-Amy Goodman

Trisha's Southern Kitchen

Trisha Yearwood celebrates her 20th year as the 20th female member of the Grand Ole Opry by cooking up riffs on her greatest culinary hits from the past two decades. Her menu includes Pepper Jack Cheese Straws, Twice-Cooked Smokey Maple Bacon Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Pot Pie Burgers and White Chocolate Peanut Butter Sweet and Saltines. While cooking up these modern takes on her classics, she flashes back to some of her favorite Opry moments and gives an exclusive behind-the-scenes look of her 20th anniversary celebration.

Grillin' and Chillin'

Trisha Yearwood's nephew is coming in for a visit and is ready to chow down on a home-cooked barbecue meal. They have a great time catching up and chilling out with an old-fashioned menu that includes Bacon BBQ Nachos, BBQ Beef Brisket, Buttermilk Cheddar Corn Cakes, Crunchy Ranch Slaw and an Almond Camo Cake.

Fridays with Delilah

After sitting down for an interview with radio personality Delilah to promote her new album, Trisha Yearwood invites the famous host to her home to enjoy a night in with her girlfriends. Her menu features Broccoli Cheddar Mac n' Cheese, Brown Butter Honey Cookie Bars, French Onion Dip Popcorn, Mini Meatball Sliders and Frozen Ice Pops.

Southern Fusion

Trisha Yearwood invites her friend Sarah Gavigan -- owner of Japanese pub-style restaurant Bar Otaku -- to her home for a Japanese-infused Southern meal. Her menu features Smashed Cucumber Salad, Ramen-Inspired Soup with Soy Marinated Eggs, Glazed Veggie Skewers and Japanese Breaded Pork Cutlets with Sweet Tomato Soy Sauce.

Ashley Buys a House

Trisha Yearwood and her sister Beth are preparing a travel-friendly meal derived from basic pantry staples to serve as a house-warming welcome for her niece. Her menu includes Grilled Yellow Tomato and Pepper Gazpacho, Instapot Sausage Lasagna, Veggie Ribbon Salad with Any-Nut Herb Pesto and Jam Tart with Salted Butter Cracker Crust.

Music City with Jeff Mauro

Trisha Yearwood gives her pal Jeff Mauro the inside scoop on what makes the Music City sing by taking him to the Nashville club where she first got signed. Together they cook up a hearty Southern brunch that includes Ham and Veggie Quiche with Hash Brown Crust, Breakfast Burgers with French Toast Buns, Pickled Okra Bloody Marys and Pecan Sticky Buns with Bacon Caramel.

Rose All Day With Geoffrey Zakarian

Trisha Yearwood invites Geoffrey Zakarian over for a proper Southern throwdown filled with tasty apps and his signature magnum of Rose. Her menu includes Pork Ribs with Sun-Dried Tomato Glaze, Raspberry Cream Puffs, Mini Potato Pancakes with Sour Cream and Pepper Jelly, Whipped Cheese Endive Spears and GZ's White Russian "Munich Style."

Gardening with Julie

Now that she's no longer on her world tour, Trisha Yearwood finally has time to grow fresh veggies in her garden and she's enlisting one of her close friends for help. Together they whip up a delicious lunch that includes Creamy Corn and Chile Dip, Roasted Taco Lime Chicken, Jicama and Red Cabbage Slaw and Bacon Dirty Rice.

Trisha's FAN-tastic Favorites

Trisha Yearwood gives two of her biggest fans the ultimate surprise experience by inviting them over to help in the kitchen while she makes a classic Southern lunch. Their menu includes Southern Stewed Green Beans, Skillet Sweet Potato Biscuits, Fried Chicken Thighs with Pepper Gravy and a Black Plum and Cardamom Crumble.

Share the Love

After a recent night out seeing Cher in concert, Trisha Yearwood has invited her friends over to continue celebrating with an 80s-themed party complete with a righteous meal, costumes and karaoke! Her menu includes I Got Hooch Babe, Tipsy Ham and Cheese, The Beet Goes on Salad, If I Could Turn Back Lemon Thyme Bruschetta and Dark Chocolate Ladyfingers.

Rainbow Connection

Bakery owner Amirah Kassem takes her first trip to Nashville to join Trisha Yearwood for a meal inspired by her recent performance at New York City's Rainbow Room. The menu includes Vanilla Cream Soda, Coffee-Glazed Doughnuts, Salt-and-Vinegar Chips, Reuben Sandwiches, Black-and-White Key Lime Cake Pops and a surprise dessert from the Big Apple!

A Magical Evening

Trisha Yearwood and her Glam Squad have known each other for decades but rarely have time to play together due to their busy schedules. Tonight, Trisha is bringing the fun to her home with an exciting dinner and a live magic show by world-renowned magician Justin Flom. The magical menu includes Stovetop Smoked Pecans, White Pizza with Bacon, Greens and Fried Eggs, Stuffed Zucchini Boats and Blackboard Cookies with Edible Chalk.

High School Reunion

Trisha Yearwood and her sister Beth invite their high school BFF over to reminisce about old memories over a delicious meal. They share a few laughs together before enjoying a menu made of classics from their high school days including Sloppy Joes with Fruit Drink Pickles, Spinach Artichoke Dip in a Bread Bowl, Chocolate and Vanilla Pudding Swirl Pie and Tropical Punch Cocktail in a Pouch.


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