jessica bride

Belle Annee: After the Crawfish Boil

From the beginning of February until the beginning of June, New Orleanians go into a festive frenzy.  It begins with Mardi Gras, then the first warm weekend that falls, followed by St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day, Easter, French Quarter Fest, Jazz Fest and then end of school and start of summer vacations.  The frenzy is not this collection of special events but rather the accessory to all of it:   The frenzy is Crawfish Season.  

The big plastic letters outside of Big Fisherman on Magazine Street or KJeans in Mid City  spell out the magic words “Hot Boiled Crawfish Today” and those signs remain until the beginning of summer.  During that time the seafood departments of grocery stores smell differently, weekends are planned differently, we look at draft beer with more affinity, and our Mardi Gras cups get used with more frequency.

Crawfish boils are comprised of collecting newspapers, setting up plastic tables, ordering kegs of beer, purging the crawfish, chopping the veggies, getting the seasoning juuuust so and then, finally, boiling the crawfish.   Friends and family tear into the steaming red trough of crustaceans, picking their favorite accoutrements along the way – potatoes, corn, mushrooms, sausage, and maybe artichokes and garlic.  Everyone comments on the size of the crawfish, the seasoning and the weather and they stand shoulder to shoulder pinching the tails, sucking the heads and enjoying their part in this Southern Louisiana ritual.

There is a a backside to all of this for the host though.  When the friends have gone, when the tables are folded up, and when the garbage has been relocated to black contractor bags for pick up early Monday morning, there is usually – almost always – a leftover pile of crawfish that did not get eaten.  So much work goes into the boil that it is disproportionately painful to discard anything uneaten, but what are you really going to do with any leftovers?  There is not enough to make Crawfish Étouffée or or Crawfish Bisque and too many to just quickly peel them and pop them into your mouth.

I pondered this while eating my very own pile of crawfish at a friend’s boil recently.  I looked around and realized the key to a good leftover recipe is finding a use not just for the crawfish but for the veggies and extras also.  That’s how you differentiate it from just a plain crawfish recipe.  And that is where Sunday Morning Crawfish Crepes come in.

Embrace the Saturday-afternoon crawfish boil as your first step toward Sunday brunch.  With advance planning you have a great use not just for your leftover crawfish but for any of the “extras” you can snag including corn, garlic, mushrooms, sausage and just about anything else.  The key to this being a success is to split up the work making the crepes on Friday, grabbing your leftover crawfish on Saturday and then mixing everything together on Sunday.

The recipe is really simple.  The basic idea is to peel your crawfish, cut up your veggies and add them to a spicy béchamel .  Then ladle that into and over crepes with asparagus.  The asparagus aren’t really that crawfish boil-y but they do look nice and the fresh green crunch adds to an otherwise rich filling.

So fold up the plastic tables and break out the wine glasses and silverware: Brunch is served!

Click here for the recipe!

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Belle Annee on Brandy Milk Punch

New Orleans is full of rituals. There is early morning at Cafe Du Monde when the French Quarter businesses and residents are hosing off their sidewalks, washing down the sins from the night before and steadying themselves for a new batch of visitors. All Saints Day at the cemetery where you cut down, clean up and tidy around the ancient stone monuments to loved ones since passed. Thanksgiving at "The Track" when you wear a silly hat or posh fascinator purchased at Fleur de Paris, long drunken Friday lunches at Galatoire's, only ordering fish on Fridays and always having your red beans and rice on Mondays. And always, always, WWOZ on the radio.


Photo by Gabrielle Geiselman //

Then there are drinks. Drinks are a bit of a rite of passage. Hurricanes and Hand Grenades are the beverage of choice in college when you can miraculously survive the onslaught of cheep booze and bright artificial colors. Spicy Bloody Marys call Sunday home as you say goodbye to the weekend and prepare for the business ahead. Pimm's are very best in the heat of summer when the fruits that adorn them are at their ripest and juiciest. Sazaracs become the aperitif of choice once you establish an appreciation for whiskey and then, one day, you are turned onto the best daytime cocktail ever. Ever. The Brandy Milk Punch.

Like so many things in New Orleans the origins of Brandy Milk Punch were likely beyond the shores of America but it was the restaurateurs of the city that gave the drink a rebirth as the preemenint Brunch cocktail. Today's version is a combination of brandy (sometimes bourbon), milk, simple syrup and vanilla. It goes down smoothly and is appreciated by spirited young men, elegant elderly women and just about everyone in between.

The very best way to make Brandy Milk Punch is by the jar. My friend Julie does that and it has become her hostess gift when invited to dinner parties. You have never seen someone invited to as many dinner parties as Julie. If you are going to make it by the batch, like Julie, my favorite bottle is this one because it looks really nice and pours easily. You just need a funnel to fill it. You can also make it in Mason jars - easier to mix but not as neat to pour. Life is a trade off, ya know?

This is a fantastic cocktail for this time of year, when it's a little cold, a little wet, a little rainy and you just want to start your Sunday brunch a little later and enjoy it a little more.

Brandy Milk Punch By The Glass:

2 ounces Brandy

1 ounce simple syrup (if you are anywhere near New Orleans try to find Locally Preserved cane simple syrup - it is a little richer in flavor than regular simple syrup)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 ounce milk

1/2 ounce whipping cream

fresh nutmeg

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and add a cup of ice. Shake it until your arms hurt, then strain into a champagne coupe or strain over a fresh whiskey glass of ice. Top with fresh grated nutmeg.


Brandy Milk Punch By the 24-oz Bottle:

10 ounces Brandy

5 ounces simple syrup

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

7 ounces milk

2 1/2 ounces whipping cream

Add ingredients into the bottle through a funnel. Give it a good shake and then put it in the freezer for one to two hours. Take it out, give it another shake and then show up at the dinner party of your choosing. Invited or not. It won't matter.


For more from Jessica Bride, visit www.belleannee.comPhotos by Gabrielle Geiselman //

Belle Année on Champagne Cocktails

Jessica Bride is an amazing wife, mother of three, avid traveler, soon-to-be cookbook author, and she co-founded the John Besh & Bride Mayor Chefs Move! Scholarship

There are tons of things I didn’t know about British people before I married one. For  starters, they are incredibly funny. Not just the odd one here or there, but all of them. As  a breed. Just funny. They also invented the stiff upper lip. And whatever the opposite of exaggeration is. When my husband has an absolutely horrible day and his clients quit  and his boss hates him and his ideas stink and he steps in dog poop and scratches the side of his new car he freaks out with something like, “That’s not the best day I’ve ever had.”  It’s like they carry the loss of the Empire with them on a daily basis and nothing, nothing, seems bad after that.

But here was my favorite discovery: They love Champagne. Like the way you love that Call Me Maybe song even though you pretend you don’t. Like southerners love college football. The way Millennials love positive feedback. All the time. No special event required.

Nick, my aforementioned British husband, even has friends whose black and white spaniel recognizes the shape of a Champagne bottle and goes crazy when one is pulled out until someone shoots the cork out of the top so he can chase and retrieve it. Sticks? Not interested. A ball? Save your time. Champagne cork? Barney is all over it.

I, like the rest of the world not speaking The Queen’s English, used to think of Champagne as a special event drink but I’ve enjoyed getting used to it as an every day thing. Right now (this may get embarrassing) I have two magnums of Veuve Cliquot and several bottles of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose in our garage refrigerator, three bottles of Prosecco in the wine refrigerator, a bottle of Gruet and two bottles each of Pol Roger and Nicholas Feuillatte calling my name from their cozy little nook under the stairs. Of course Champagne may best be served ice cold and in perfect crystal Champagne flutes but with all of these bottles knocking around the place, and with my propensity to take anything simple and overcomplicate it, it was inevitable that I would eventually tackle champagne cocktails. Fortunately this is the perfect time of year because Halloween is just around the corner and after that, like dominos, comes Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannakuh, Festivus, New Year’s Eve, Valentines Day and Monday.

So stick the bubbly in the fridge and polish up the Champagne flutes. There is no time like the present to try your hand at discovering or perfecting a signature cocktail for the season.



Grand Champagne Cocktail

Sugar cube
Angostura Bitters
¾ oz Grand Marnier
Sparkling Wine

Soak a sugar cube with 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and place in the bottom of a champagne flute. Add a half jigger (3/4 ounce) of Grand Marnier. Fill with very, very
cold sparkling wine and top with a lemon twist.


a dry domestic version: Gruet, Ceja, Jordan

Champagne & Chambord

¾ oz Chambord

In a champagne coupe add ½ jigger (3/4 oz) Chambord and fill with cold Champagne. Top with a fresh raspberry.


French Champagne or sparkling wine or Prosecco.

Champagne Mojito 

Sugar cube
½ ounce white rum
4 mint leaves
1 lime wedge
club soda
Sparkling wine

Place a sugar cube in the bottom of stemmed glass. Add ½ jigger (3/4 oz) white rum, 3 mint leaves and the juice of a lime wedge. Add a splash of club soda and stir. Fill to the very, very top with ice and then top with Champagne. Garnish with a lime and mint leaf.


Prosecco or American sparkling wine

St. Germain Cocktail

½ ounce Hendricks Gin
½ ounce St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
Lemon and/or cucumber

In a Champagne coupe add ½ ounce Hendricks Gin and ½ ounce Elderflower liqueur. Pour in a very cold sparkling wine, preferably Champagne. Garnish with either a lemon twist or a cucumber.


French or American sparkling wine

St. Germain Spritzer

For a lighter alcohol version of the St. Germain Cocktail, fill a Champagne flute with one part elderflower soda and 3 parts Champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.


French or American sparkling wine

And there is no way a round up of cocktails from a writer in New Orleans is complete without the French 75.

French 75

Most places make this classic, lemony cocktail with gin but of course, in New Orleans, it is done differently. We use Cognac.

1 oz Cognac
½ oz fresh lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup
Lemon peel

Combine Cognac, lemon juice and simple syrup in a champagne glass. Top with Champagne and serve with a lemon peel.


French or American sparkling wine


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