I have to admit that in the past I’ve never been big on working holidays, since I would always rather be home cooking with family and friends. How that has changed since I have my own restaurant. It’s become one of the greatest joys of ownership that I now have this really big family to cook for, that being you our guests, and to have the opportunity to share the gifts of the land and sea with you given our special touch with the ingredients we so carefully select. It also helps me enjoy being in the kitchen when it’s food I think is befitting of the holiday, and that’s what I really strive to bring with each and every holiday we cook. So, these days I really enjoy working holidays, it’s my chance to share my love of the season and its unique gifts with you and hopefully make the holiday that much more joyous for you and yours.
The Reveillon, or “reawakening” has been a tradition of the New Orleans Creoles for many generations. For much of its history, it was a meal eaten after the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, when folks would get back home famished from their pre-communion fast, and would have elaborate meals waiting to celebrate the awakening that is Christmas to their Catholic religion.
During my early years growing up Catholic, I was a big fan of midnight mass, it was just a special thing. We looked forward to breakfast of eggs, ham, potatoes, and pancakes or french toast in the morning, and these were certainly part of many Creole Reveillons back in the day. Most of the post-midnight mass reveillons were in private homes for generations. This last generation, restaurants in New Orleans have given new life to the tradition by offering special menus during the season.
Our Reveillon menu keeps with the practice in Creole restaurants of offering a Table d’Hote menu, in which there are a select number of courses with a few choices per course. It provides the opportunity for quite a spread. Much of this menu is inspired by two old Creole cookbooks – Creole Cookery, an 1885 tome by the Christian Women’s League of New Orleans, and the Times-Picayune’s Creole Cookbook from 1901. It is my genuine hope that by dining with us on Christmas Eve, or even just reading the menu, you might realize that New Orleans has been a great food town for a long, long time.
There are a couple of things I’d like to point out because I’ve been browbeaten by people close to the restaurant to talk about this stuff more often – our restaurant is different in that we make all of this stuff from the ground up. Those chaurice meatballs? That was once a whole pig coming in our back door. The venison pie? We render the lard for the crust from that pig, and the venison comes in as a whole leg. That amberjack will be a 30-50# whole fish, still bleeding from the hook that snagged it. The pasta? Home made from eggs grown for us by Moore Family Farm in Mokena, Illinois. The salsify is candied and pureed before we can make the filling. The clotted cream starts as fresh non-homogenized cream delivered fresh from Kilgus Farmsted. We’ll make and bake the bread for bread service, and all of the desserts – even the formidable doberge – are made in-house from ingredients made in-house. No pre-bought fillings, sauces, preserves, anything. We cook this way because I believe it’s the best way to eat. Of course our proclivities for seasonality and local suppliers means this menu is adapted and won’t be just like you’d have gotten in New Orleans 100 years ago, or even today. While our cooking is inspired by the South, our acclimation to the spirit of the cooking means using what’s close at hand. Many of our ingredients are Midwestern, so this food will taste different than it would in New Orleans. All the more reason to make time for a visit to that magical city.
The menu is luxurious and celebratory, and exotic in a way that only an old-school Creole feast can be. Please join us for what will be a very special meal.
A Traditional Creole Reveillon
Christmas Eve December 24, 2011 5—10 pm
Table d’hôte, Choose one per course
Paneed Strauss Farm Sweetbreads with Oyster Puree & Absinthe Gastrique
Hearts of Palm Bisque with Vanilla, Truffle, and Pumpernickel
Coconut & Calf’s Foot Soup, ca. 1885 with Shrimp & Fingerling Potatoes
Oyster Stew with House-cured Hog Collar Cappicola & Buttered Croutons
Pickled Baby Beet Salad with Clotted Cream, Anise Cookies, Pickled Coriander, and Baby Spinach
Local Hoophouse Rocket Greens with Candied Peanuts, Shallot, Lime and Anchovy Dressing
Speckled Belly Goose Gumbo with House-made Chaurice Meatballs, & Organic Popcorn Rice
Creamed Venison Pie with Celery Root, Rutabaga, Leeks, and Horseradish Red Wine Jus +$5
Seared Amberjack with Gold Rice & Cauliflower Risotto, Parsnip Crisps, Crawfish Beurre Monte
Delicata Squash & Goat Cheese Love Letters, Creamed Butter Beans, Roasted King Trumpet Mushroom, Candied Three Sisters Garden Pecans, Genesis Growers Pasilla Chile Puree
A Traditional Doberge Cake of Chocolate, Lemon, Caramel
Rum & Nutmeg Bread Pudding with Molasses Cookie Crumble, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Pumpkin Pie with Sticky Sorghum Caramel Corn, Candied Ginger, and Whipped Cream
Forty-five dollars per person