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Big Brass Beat In New Orleans
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La Belle Cuisine


New Orleans JazzFest Food!
April  2002

Yes, it is that time of year again: JazzFest time! The time when all heaven
breaks loose in the Crescent City. Ohmigod!

Those of you who have been visiting us for quite some time now, or who are otherwise familiar with the LBC archives (and we thank you!), know full well
that this is not our first mention of what you can gorge on while soaking up the
vibes of the best music in the Universe. Still, we feel each year's JazzFest
deserves its own recognition and a word or two. And, of course, recipes...

So. We shall begin with one of the most famous (and one of the most sought-
after) JazzFest foods of all: Natchitoches Meat Pies. Unique in all the world...


Natchitoches-Style Spicy Meat Pies
Tom Fitzmorris

3 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. flour
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 lb. ground pork (lean)
1 lb. ground round
1 Tbs. salt-free Creole seasoning
(best: Bayou Bang)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 ribs celery, chopped
12 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

4 cups self-rising flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. Crisco
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk

2 quarts vegetable oil

1. Heat the oil and the flour together in a heavy, large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, to make a medium-brown roux. Add
the onions when the color is right, and sauté the onions until they begin
to brown slightly. Add the bell peppers. Cook for another minute.
2. Add the pork, beef, Creole seasoning, cayenne and salt. Sauté, breaking
it up as you go, until well browned. Pour off any excess fat that may
have been rendered.
3. Lower the heat and add the celery, garlic, parsley, and Worcestershire. Continue to cook for another eight to ten minutes or so, stirring now
and then to keep anything from forming clumps.
4. Remove the meat mixture to a big metal pan to cool for a few minutes. Then cover and refrigerate. The pies will be best if the meat can be
chilled for several hours or overnight.
5. Crust: In a bowl, blend the salt into the flour, then cut in the Crisco and blend with a whisk till it disappears and makes the flour slightly crumbly.
6. Blend the egg yolks into the milk, and add the milk to the flour. Stir with
a kitchen fork till mixed in, then with a rubber spatula to eliminate most
of the dry flour. (Add a little more milk only if absolutely necessary.)
Stir as little as possible.
7. Dump the dough onto a clean work surface and roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Fold the dough into thirds, to make three layers. Roll out again,
this time to the thickness of two stacked quarters. (This will make it
pretty wide; you might want to cut it in half.) Cut out circles about six
inches in diameter. Handling as little as possible, roll out the leftover
dough to cut another batch of circles. Put the dough circles into the
refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, while you make the filling.
8. When ready to serve, spoon a generous tablespoon or so of the meat mixture onto one half of a dough circle. Moisten the edge of the circle
with a little water. Fold the circle over into a half-moon, and press
down the edges with a fork to seal.
9. Heat the two quarts of vegetable oil in a heavy, deep kettle to 350
degrees F. Fry no more than three pies at a time until golden brown.
Let the heat of the oil recover between batches.
Makes 18-24 pies.

Here is a little meat pie history for you, once again courtesy of
Tom Fitzmorris:

"The meat pies first appeared at the Festival around 1980, and have been there
ever since. The outfit that makes them is run by the son of the late Mrs. Helen
Wheat, who at one time opened a restaurant selling meat pies. The recipe is
even older: Mrs. Wheat said she got it from her grandmother.
Natchitoches is a smallish town on the Red River, right under the "S" in
Louisiana. It's the oldest town in the state, settled by the French before New
Orleans was even founded. The name's roots are in Native American language,
and is pronounced "nack-a-tish." You'll not be there long before finding a
place that serves the meat pies. They're not quite as common as hamburgers
(more's the pity), but they're found as easily as poor boy sandwiches are in
New Orleans.
The Natchitoches meat pie is almost identical to the Spanish and Latin
American empanada. It's a pie crust dough that's folded over a filling of
ground  meat mixed with savory herbs and pepper, sealed, and deep-fried.
They can also be baked, but those lack something.
Although people in Natchitoches have been making meat pies for as long
as anyone can remember, it's only since Lasyone's opened in 1968 that it's
been a restaurant item. Lasyone's is to Natchitoches what Galatoire's is to
New Orleans. All the other meat pies in town are compared with theirs...
...But the lines are long for meat pies at the Jazz Festival, where they hold
the reputation of being among the best foods there. It would be a bad visit to
the infield if I didn't eat at least three of them, and if I'm there long enough
I'll get down five or more."

Lasyone's  Natchitoches Meat Pies


What's new this year in the way of JazzFest Food?
(courtesy New Orleans Times-Picayune live)

Food Area I: Cajun smoked boudin, fried eggplant with shrimp and tasso
cream sauce, blackened chicken salad with Caesar dressing, and Guil's
gator with fried jalapenos and onions

Food Area II: Barbecued Oyster Spinach Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
and Bananas Foster  (Ralph Brennan's Red Fish Grill - please do NOT
miss this one!)

Around the grounds: Shrimp and Sausage Maquechoux, hand-dipped ice
cream, Dove bars

International: Gyro sandwich, falafel sandwich, yassa (stewed chicken and
onions), mafe (peanut stew with beef and okra), and djoloff rice with shrimp.

And, more to the point (at least to me), what are the favorite JazzFest foods
of some of New Orleans most renowned (and esteemed) chefs?  Wonder
no more...

Certain foods are mentioned again, and again, and again (you guessed it):
Natchitoches Meat Pies
Crawfish Monica
Crawfish Bread (this is Emeril's recipe - not the one served at JazzFest)
Crawfish Pie ( Emeril's recipe follows)

Plus Soft-shell Crab Po' Boys, Cochon de Lait Po' Boys, Crawfish Boudin.

And, of course, there are all manner of things cold offered at the JazzFest
(trust me, you will need them): mango freeze, snoballs, iced tea (the house
wine of the South, as so aptly proclaimed in "Steel Magnolias") - both
regular and herbal, strawberry lemonade, strawberry smoothies. And, it
goes without saying - beer, beer, beer...


Crawfish Pies, My Way

Every Day's a Party:
Louisiana Recipes for Celebrating
with Family and Friends
by Emeril Lagasse with Marcelle Bienvenu & Felicia Willett
1999, Williams Morrow and Company, Inc.


“There’s a place on Lake Pontchartrain just across the New Orleans city
limits, in Metairie, called R & O Pizza Place. The pizzas are great, but they
also serve all kinds of seafood, like soft-shell crabs, shrimp, oysters, and,
in season, boiled crawfish.
On Sundays during the springtime, I like nothing better than to spend the
better part of the afternoon eating my way through their menu. That’s how
I discovered their small crawfish pies. Boy, are they tasty. Of course, they
wouldn’t give me the recipe. But I brought several home and dissected
them. This is about as close as I could get.
You should know that all over Louisiana you’ll find all kinds of fried pies.
Some stuffed with a meat mixture like the Natchitoches Meat Pies, others
stuffed with crawfish like these.”

3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 pounds peeled crawfish tails
1/2 cup chopped green onions or
scallions (green part only)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg
3/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs

For the pastry
3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk

To fry the pies
4 cups vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning

Make the filling: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
Add the onions, bell pepper, salt and cayenne and cook for 2 minutes,
stirring a few times. Add the crawfish tails and cook, stirring, for 2
minutes. Add the green onions, garlic, and parsley and cook, stirring,
for 1 minute. Pour the mixture into a medium-size mixing bowl and let
cool for about 3 minutes. Add the egg and bread crumbs and mix well.
Set aside.
Make the pastry:
Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large
mixing bowl. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the shortening
until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small mixing bowl, beat
the egg with the milk. Gradually add the egg mixture to the flour
mixture, working it to make a thick dough.
Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. On a lightly floured work
surface, roll out each dough piece into a thin round about 5 inches
in diameter. Put about 1/4 cup of the crawfish mixture in the center
of each round, fold the dough over, and crimp the edges together
with a fork. Heat the shortening in a heavy, deep pot or an electric
deep-fryer to 360 degrees F. Fry the pies, two to three at a time,
until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with the
Creole Seasoning, and serve hot. Makes 12 hand pies

Featured Archive Recipes:
Crawfish Crazy!
French Quarter Muffuletta Sandwich
Natchitoches Meat Pies
(Lasyone's Meat Pie Kitchen)

New Orleans Po' Boys
New Orleans Shrimp Jambalaya

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