Monday Evening's Tasting Menu

This week, we’re playing on a wonderful class of flavor pairings: seafood seasoned with pork. It’s a chance to continue the seafood focus we have had in our first few tastings, and pair them with some excellent farm products. The first item is straight out of the Commander’s Palace Cookbook, a popular appetizer there. It pairs shrimp with our house-cured tasso ham, which is a spicy cured ham made from pork shoulder that is popular in Acadian country. Our recipe starts with Niman Ranch pork shoulders, a weeklong cure, a spicy rub, and a long, slow smoke. It’s truly something you can’t get anywhere else.

The rest of the menu follows the theme. In the coming weeks, we’ll vary the proteins some more and focus more intently on local farm produce, much of which is featured on this menu, but we’ll do better and better as green tomatoes, wax beans, okra, and the like start coming in. We’ve seen green tomatoes for a couple of weeks already, but the couple of growers that have them seem to prefer charging boutique prices, and we feel that good food should be affordable to normal people, and more reasonably priced tomatoes are on the way by this weekend from other growers. We’re also getting fresh dragon’s tongue beans and our first local pickling cukes of the season, so it’s gonna be a fun week!

Monday, July 14, 2008

  • Shrimp and Tasso Hennican: House Tasso-skewered Wild Shrimp in Crystal Hot Sauce Buerre Blanc with Pickled Okra and Five-Pepper Jelly
  • Chilled Oyster Soup with Crisp Applewood Smoked Bacon and Fennel Fronds
  • Warm Lump Crab and Pulled Pork Salad with Chilies and Orange on Kinnikinnick Farm Lettuces
  • Steamed Florida Middleneck Clams with Braised Pork Shoulder, Sally Lunn Crouton, Tomato, Garlic, and Poached Amish Farm Egg
  • Floating Coconut Island: Coconut Meringue In a Sea of Grand Marnier Anglais with Black Raspberry and Fresh Mint Granitas

While we featured Gunthorp Farm’s pork loin last week, and regularly do in our specials, and their ham shank on our menu, all of the pork for this menu comes from Niman Ranch, who supplies our bacon, ham, and pork shoulder. Great stuff, and they’ve made it possible for many, many small family farms to stay on the land and farm the way their families have for generations, so we’re honored to serve their pork.

As usual, everything in the tasting from the pickled okra and Sally Lunn to the granitas is home made. If you care to try this one at home, it’s simple, super refreshing, and works well with other herbs such as basil or lemon thyme, although in the case of thyme, you’d want to cut way back on the herb; it’d be way too strong in these proportions. I’ve made it before with fresh lemon thyme. About a half cup of picked leaves will make a really strong one. Use parsley or watercress for color if you’re using thyme or other less-green herb.

Fresh Mint Granita

Equipment needed: nonreactive saucepan, wooden spoon, cookie sheet, blender, fine sieve, non-reactive baking dish, sturdy fork

  • pinch salt
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper or cayenne
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • Leaves from 1/2 Lb fresh mint

Place the water, sugar, salt, and pepper in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat while you stem the mint. One the mixture comes to a boil, add the mint and cook, stirring, for one minute to blanch and intensify the color. Strain immediately. Set the syrup aside, and lay the mint out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet to cool rapidly. Once both the syrup and mint are cooled to room temperature, place the mint in a blender and puree with 1/4 cup of the syrup. Pure for five minutes or more. Add to the rest of the syrup and press through a fine sieve. Your mint syrup should be bright green. Pour into a shallow non-reactive baking dish at least 9″ x 9″ so the syrup is more than 1/2″ thick but less than 1-1/2″. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Before serving, use a stiff fork to crumble the ice.

Note: the syrup can be chilled and used as a base for a delicious mint soda. Just add club soda and ice!