BY CHEF JOHN BESH
Looking to impress that special dad, grandfather or great-grandfather in your life? Instead of going out this Father's Day, why not make him a special meal in your own kitchen.
Here are just a few recipes I suggest making for this Sunday's celebration. Click on the name of the dish, drink, or side for a link to the recipe. Some of my suggestions use fresh, local, in-season ingredients such as Creole tomatoes, Louisiana oysters, and crabmeat.
- Garlicky Baked Oysters The presentation alone of these baked oysters on the half shell makes a great statement on a buffet table. Or you can use freshly shucked oysters sold by the pint or quart, and assemble them in a large baking dish or in individual ramekins. Either way, be sure to get the flavorful oyster liquor. You can make the sauce and topping ahead and combine them at the last minute.
- Trout Amandine In New Orleans we prefer the skinless trout filet. Properly browning the butter makes all the difference. Don't rush it; take your time swirling the butter in the pan so that the milk solids brown and give off the signature, nutty aroma that is heightened once you add the almonds. Add the lemon juice and serve while the sauce is still foamy. We love it that speckled trout are fished recreationally, never commercially. Pan-frying one of these boys is the perfect finale to a day well spent fishing.
- Crown Roast of Pork with Dirty Rice Dressing It is made with two racks of lamb, veal, or pork, tied together to form a circle. Ask your butcher to prepare and tie the pork racks for you, planning on one rib per person. Then assemble the stuffing, bake, and serve it forth! I just love rice dressing (“stuffing” to some of you) as it so reminds me of my childhood, its flavor reminiscent of our boudin sausages. As the pork roast renders and browns, the dressing will absorb all of its wonderful flavors.
- Provençal Stuffed Tomatoes Beautiful Louisiana Creole tomatoes are currently in season, but any type of tomato will work for this recipe. Medium or large, red, yellow, or orange, it makes no difference as long as they’re fresh and flavorful.
- Basic Cornbread Most self-respecting Southerners wouldn’t admit to adding sugar to corn bread, but it’s both acceptable and good in New Orleans. Grand-daddy never put sugar in his, but I find that I can omit the sugar and still have it taste right only when I use a fine-ground white organic cornmeal such as that milled by my friends at McEwen’s in Wilsonville, Alabama. Make sure the skillet is so hot that the batter begins to fry when you pour it into the pan. And don’t fret about the calories. Corn bread is about love – you can diet tomorrow.
- Fennel Soup with Crab & Pistou I serve this light, creamy soup cold over a little crabmeat salad. At home I use lump blue crabmeat.
- String Beans with Garlic I make sure to have a serving bowl ready with paper-thin sliced garlic and butter just waiting for the hot string beans to arrive. Then all I have to do is boil the beans, toss, and serve. The residual heat from the beans will warm the garlic and melt the butter. I like to salt the water for the beans to the point where it tastes like the sea.
- Perfect Mashed Potatoes If you don’t already own a good old-fashioned food mill, now’s the time to go get one. Potato ricers wok fine, but it takes so long to refill the potatoes, the mixture cools down so much that you’re liable to overwork the potatoes as you add the butter. A food mill makes mashed potatoes a cinch and is indispensable for making tomato sauce. Good butter matters here!
- Sazerac It may or may not be America’s first cocktail, but it is one of my favorite drinks. Famously made in the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel (which is now home to our Italian restaurant, Domenica), my version has Herbsaint, the anise-flavored liqueur invented in New Orleans when absinthe was banned in the 1930s.
- Brown Butter Fig Tart There are few fruits more fascinating than the fig, and in Louisiana we are spoiled, as they weigh down the trees in backyards all over the state, where they thrive on our abundant sunshine and temperate winters. The ones we grow the most in Louisiana are the Celeste (which my granddaddy knew and loved), a small but resilient fruit with a purplish-brown skin and a reddish-pink flesh, and the larger and ruddier Southeastern Brown Turkey.
I hope you enjoy my suggestions! Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.