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"To cook is to create. And to create well...
is an act of integrity, and faith."


In Memoriam - Chef Jamie Shannon



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"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. 
Dance like nobody's watching. Sing like nobody's listening.
Live like it's Heaven on Earth."

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Jamie Shannon, 1961-2001


You know how it is. You arrive home from your holiday travels and are faced with all manner of regrouping.  Not only do you have to unpack and get back in the groove, but also you must plow your way through stacks of mail as well as an incredible amount of e-mail. Imagine my shock in discovering the following when I opened Tom Fitzmorris’ New Orleans Menu Daily, dated Monday, November 26, 2001:

This is a heartbreaker. The kind that gives you no good place to start. Or stop.

So let's fall back on the facts. Jamie Shannon was only 40 years old when he
died at four in the afternoon last Friday. He seems even younger than that to
me, though. About as young as the old photo they ran in the newspaper made
him look.”

 Naturally, I did not want to believe what I read. It simply could not be
true. Not Jamie Shannon! Not at age 40! I began plowing through piles
of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. And there it was: 

Commander’s Palace loses top chef to cancer.
(The Times-Picayune, Saturday, November 24, 2001, by John Pope, Staff Writer)

Jamie Shannon, the exuberant, innovative chef who led Commander’s Palace’s already fabled kitchen to a string of national awards, died Friday [23 November]
of cancer at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
He was 40.
‘He had magic in his hands and a fire in his belly and a twinkle in his eye,’ said
Ti Adelaide Martin, a member of the [Brennan] family that owns the Garden
District restaurant. ‘He was the quintessential hospitality person. He wanted
to make people happy.’ "

What an excellent way to be remembered! And what a perfect place for
such a man to have spent the last seventeen years of his life. That is, of course, what Commander’s Palace is all about – making people happy.
That has been my experience, time and time again, most recently when I
was fortunate enough to celebrate a significant birthday at Commander’s, surrounded by the people I love.

Because of Commander’s ongoing excellence, and because of its
dedication to service (making people happy), we have often sung its
praises on these pages in the past:

 Commander's Palace Recipes 

Commander's Kitchen 

Remembering the Brennans: A New Orleans Reverie

Commander’s will go on. It always has. And we like to believe it always
will. Nevertheless, Jamie Shannon will be sorely missed. Not just by his family and the owners and staff of Commander’s Palace, but by the countless thousands of people he has made happy. Perhaps you are
among those fortunate enough to know just how happy that is. If not,
you can cook, and eat, one of his creations, in what we consider the
most fitting tribute to his memory. 

Following is the recipe for the dish topping Tom Fitzmorris’
“Jamie’s Greatest Hits” list…


Salt-Crusted Whole Baked Redfish

Commander's Kitchen:
Take Home the True Taste
of New Orleans with More
than 150 Recipes from
Commander's Palace Restaurant
by Ty Adelaide Martin and Jamie Shannon
2000, Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc.


Makes 4 servings

“This dish is a showstopper. When I know that it will be served to customers at
our Chef’s Table, I try to be around for the presentation. Out walks this smiling
6-foot-3 Irishman. Chef Jamie, in his crisp whites, carrying an oversize oval
copper pan with what looks like a mound of baked salt. Then Jamie cracks the
salt to reveal a fish so moist and fresh that you’ll swear you can taste the sea.
The feigned nonchalance of even the most serious foodies is overcome. When
you present this dish at home, only you’ll know how simple it is to prepare.”

One 6-pound redfish, gutted, rinsed, and gills
(but not scales) removed (snapper makes a good
substitute, as does bluefish, rockfish, or salmon)
8 pounds kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, halved
4 sprigs fresh rosemary or other fresh herb
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Pat the fish dry with a towel. Place a 1/4-inch-thick layer of salt on a sheet pan large enough to keep the fish from hanging over the edges. Place the
fish on top of the salt, and, using your hands and the remaining salt, mound the salt so that it completely covers the fish.
Place the fish I the oven for 1 hour (or 10 minutes per pound), or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish registers
an internal temperature of 130 degrees F.
In a saucepan over low heat, bring the olive oil to 185 degrees F. and
add the lemon halves, rosemary, pepper and a touch of salt from the crust
of the fish. Remove from the heat and let steep.
Brush off the excess salt from the fish. You should have a hard, white
crust that encases the entire fish. Crack off the top part of the crust.
With a fork, poke into the skin near the dorsal fin at the top of the fish,
and run a tine of the fork under the skin up the back of the fish to the
head, then in the opposite direction to the tail. Still using the fork, peel
the skin back from the length of the fish, being careful not to let the fish
flesh touch the salt. Using two large spoons, remove the top fillet and
neatly place it on a serving platter. Remove the backbone by lifting it
from the tail toward the head. Before removing the bottom fillet, push
all of the small fin bones off to the side. Remove the bottom fillet in the largest pieces possible, removing any bones that you see.
With one of the spoons, take up any liquid remaining in the pan and
spoon it over the fish. It’s loaded with flavor.
Serve with a touch of the rosemary-infused olive oil. Garnish with a
sprig of rosemary and a lemon half.

Chef Jamie’s Tips: Trust me, even though this dish call for 8 pounds of salt
 it will not taste salty. The salt crust acts to seal in the natural flavors and
juices of the fish. I also like to serve a piece of the salt crust with the fish
for seasoning and as a garnish. In the summer, I like to garnish the dish
with Creole or vine-ripened tomatoes; in the winter, I’ll garnish with
Creole Roasted Ratatouille.

Creole Roasted Ratatouille
Commander’s Kitchen
By Ti Adelaide Martin and Jamie Shannon, 2000, Broadway Books

Makes 12 side-dish servings

2 medium eggplants, skin on, in small dice
1 medium zucchini, in small dice
2 small yellow squash, in small dice
2 bell peppers, any color, in small dice
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, stemmed,
and cut in small dice
15 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 medium to large tomatoes, in small dice
2 medium onions, in small dice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the diced eggplant to soak in about a quart of salted cold water.
After the other vegetables are cut, drain the eggplant.
Toss the eggplant, squash, bell peppers,  jalapeños, garlic, tomatoes,
and onions in the olive oil. Add the thyme, basil, salt, and pepper,
place in a large roasting pan, and roast in the preheated oven for 1
hour. Gently mix the vegetables from top to the bottom, but be
careful not to break them up. Roast for 10 minutes more. The
vegetables should be brown and colorful.

"Jamie Shannon pushes, nurtures, and derives more life,
passion, and fun out of this wonderful restaurant business
than anyone who has gone before."

~ Ti Adelaide Martin

 Be well, stay safe, and express your love for each other.
God bless you all.  And until next time, remember,

"If the only prayer you say in your life is 'Thank You'
hat would be enough.

~ Meister Eckhart


"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one."

~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating icon icon



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