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 Ash Wednesday Doldrums...
Is that all there is?

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Ash Wednesday Doldrums


Well, it was a great party, was it not?  All five days of it. A tad too much vino, perhaps?  Hurricanes have wreaked havoc with your brain?  Your stomach could easily be mistaken for a cement mixer? You feel like the Zeus parade rolled right over you – all six miles? Cher ami, we have let the good times roll, and now the piper is waiting to be paid, non?  What to do?

In New Orleans, of course, being good Catholics (well, most of us, anyway),
the first order of the day is penitence. This is, after all, the first day of Lent.
We go to mass and get ashes on our foreheads. Very important. And I usually
say something along the lines of, "Father, please forgive me. I knew what I
was doing, and I did  it anyway..." Whoops!

 And then for the cure. Over the years I have conducted a good deal of research (albeit undocumented, and therefore far less than scientific) on the subject of
hangover remedies. Is it true what they say about “the hair of the dog that bit
you”? Some party animals swear by it. In which case you might want to try the
beefed up version of an old favorite (but it might be better not to polish it off
all by yourself)...


Poor Richard's Bloody Mary

One 46-ounce can tomato juice
1/2 cup beef bouillon
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) fresh lime juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon dill
1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
(such as Tabasco)
1 teaspoon creamy horseradish
1 quart vodka
Celery sticks
Lime wedges
Cucumber slices

 In a large shaker or a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine tomato juice,
beef bouillon, fresh lime juice, Worcestershire, coarse salt, coarsely
ground pepper, celery salt, dill, hot pepper sauce and creamy horse-
radish. Shake well. Fill 12-ounce glasses with ice cubes. Add 3 oz.
vodka (!) to each and add spiced tomato juice to fill. Garnish with
celery sticks, lime wedges and cucumber slices as desired.


Otherwise, I submit these antidotes for your evaluation:

  Sautéed Spinach & Mashed Potatoes...then go back to bed.
  Giant glass of water, 2 Tylenols, a B-Complex... then go back to bed.
  A hot shower, a muscle relaxant... then go back to bed.
  A hot Epsom salts bath, a bottle of seltzer and a bowl of homemade
vegetable or chicken noodle soup... then go back to bed.
(Note that the key here is going back to bed!)

Fresh juices are helpful in speeding a hangover away. They flush the system of toxins and rehydrate your body. Assuming you can drag yourself to the kitchen, (and further assuming that you have a high-powered juicer and are actually in
good enough condition to use it) blend 8 ounces of carrot juice, 1 ounce of beet
juice, 4 ounces of celery juice and an ounce of parsley juice. Drink a glass in
the morning, and another later on to stimulate your poor, abused liver.

No juicer?  No problem.  Give this a shot:
Drink 1 can V-8 juice (might want to add some
Worcestershire and Tabasco).
Eat 1 small bag cool ranch Doritos.
Jump in the ocean, not too deep though.
You'll feel like a million bucks instead of
a buck and some change.
(Thanks, Ray, whoever and wherever you may be.)

Or, as an old guy just said during a TV interview
(live from the French Quarter):
"What are you going to do tomorrow?"
"Have a hangover."
"What do you do with a hangover?"
"You live with it!"


And what is my favorite cure (next to ashes on my forehead)?


In a relatively large glass mix equal parts of Amaretto, Chambord, and pineapple juice. Shake this concoction with ice and strain it into a cobalt
blue glass decorated with sun, moon and stars (or favorite glass or your
choice). Top it off with ice-cold Champagne. Take two aspirin. Do
NOT call me.
Turn on the stereo. Gregorian chants would be perfect. If that's just a
bit too much cure for you, perhaps some Bach or Mozart. Get some aromatherapy going. Turn off the phone. Go back to bed.


On the other hand, you may have been a paragon of carnival virtue over the
course of the past several days. Which means that you might actually be inter-
ested in the consumption of real food. Austere, of course. I salute you. With
great respect (not to mention envy) for your self-denial, I humbly submit the
following New Orleans tradition for your consideration…

Recipe source:

Every Day's a Party:
Louisiana Recipes for Celebrating
with Family and Friends

By Emeril Lagasse with Marcelle Bienvenu and
Felicia Willett, 1999, William Morrow & Co.

“Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence… Marcelle turned me on to
a novel set in New Orleans, written by a friend of hers, Sheila Bosworth, called Almost Innocent. In the book two characters, Rand and Airey, meet every Ash Wednesday at St. Louis Cathedral to get ashes, then walk to Antoine’s, where
they have their ‘…annual White Lunch: vichyssoise, accompanied by vodka martinis, followed by filet de truite au vin blanc, pommes de terre soufflés, a
bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé, and, for dessert, Baked Alaska. No green salad, or
coffee, or cigars, in keeping with the Tout Blanc dictum.’ I so liked this tale
that I devised my own menu for a white lunch.”

Crabmeat with Celery Root Mayonnaise

“Celery root, also known as celeriac, is a knobby, brown tuberous root.
It tastes, some say, like a cross between a strong celery and parsley,
and it can be eaten raw or cooked. I decided to try it in a mayonnaise
to dress fresh lump crabmeat for an appetizer. The flavors are smooth
and pleasant for this first meal after the debauchery of Carnival.”

2 ounces celery root, peeled and
finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg (see note)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup vegetable oil
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
for shells and cartilage
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium-size head iceberg lettuce,
cored, rinsed, and cut into 4 wedges
1 recipe Toasted Croutons (recipe follows)

Put the celery root, onion, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, egg, 1/4 tea-
spoon of the salt, and the cayenne in a food processor or blender and
blend for 30 seconds. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the
vegetable oil. The mixture will thicken slightly.
Put the crabmeat in a medium-size mixing bowl and season with the
remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Add 1 cup of the
dressing and toss lightly to mix. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Remove several leaves from the inside of each lettuce wedge and thinly
slice. Toss with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup of the re-
maining dressing in a bowl. Divide this mixture into 4 equal portions
and arrange in the center of four salad plates. Place a lettuce wedge on
top of each portion. Spoon a tablespoon of the remaining dressing over
each wedge, then put 1/2 cup of the crab mixture in the center of each
wedge of lettuce. Serve with the croutons. Makes 4 servings

Note: Salmonella warning: Let’s talk about egg safety because I don’t want any
of you out there to get sick. I personally love homemade fresh mayonnaise and I
make it with fresh—and I mean FRESH—raw eggs. I’ve never had any trouble,
but I want you to take some precautions. Always purchase your eggs from a
reputable source, a place you can trust with your life. Don’t use eggs after the
expiration date on the carton. Don’t go leaving your eggs in the backseat of
your car while you’re out and about, and once you get home, keep the eggs in
the refrigerator. I use eggs pretty quickly, so I don’t have to worry about keep-
ing them too long at home. But I suppose there’s a tiny risk some nasty old
salmonella could sneak into some eggs, so just be cautious about serving
young kids or the elderly or to people who have health problems. Okay?
[More egg safety information]

Toasted Croutons

1 loaf French bread (about 8 inches in diameter
and 15 inches long), ends trimmed and cut
crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the bread slices on the baking sheet and brush them with
half of the olive oil, then sprinkle them with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and
1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper. Turn the slices over, brush with the
remaining oil, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt
and pepper.
Bake for about 6 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around in the oven
to ensure even browning. Bake until the croutons are lightly browned,
about 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before
serving. Makes about 32 croutons


Poached Trout with Lemon Butter Sauce
and Parsley Potatoes

For the Court-Bouillon:
3 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup sliced carrot
1 cup sliced yellow onions
1 large sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 medium-size lemon, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the potatoes:
8 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 new potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 trout fillets (5 to 6 ounces each)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the lemon butter sauce:
1/4 cup chopped shallots
6 medium-size lemons, skin and pith
removed and quartered
1 cup dry white wine
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted cold
butter, cut into pieces
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Make the court-bouillon. In a shallow pan or a fish poacher, combine the water, wine, carrots, onions, thyme, and bay leaves. Squeeze the juice
from the lemon into the pan and add the lemon shells. Add the salt and
the black pepper and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the
heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard
the lemon shells. Simmer for 12 minutes more.
Meanwhile, make the potatoes. Put the water and 1/2 teaspoon of
the salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the
potatoes and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until fork-tender, about
25 minutes. Drain.
Season the fillets with the salt. Add the fillets to the court-bouillon,
cover, and cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the lemon butter sauce. In a small nonreactive sauce-
pan, combine the shallots, lemons, wine, salt, and cayenne over medium
heat, bring to a gentle boil, and cook until as thick as syrup. Add the
cream and cook, stirring a few times for 2 minutes, then remove from
the heat. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each
addition, until all is incorporated. Add the hot sauce and Worcestershire
and whisk to blend. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and keep hot.
Finish the potatoes. In a medium-size skillet over medium heat, melt
the butter. Add the potatoes, parsley, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt,
and the white pepper and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
To serve, put a fillet on each serving plate, spoon 1/4 cup of the sauce
over each, and serve with equal portions of the potatoes.
Makes 4 servings


Floating Islands

"Floating Islands, also called Oeufs à la Neige (Snow Eggs), have been
popular in New Orleans for years. This is a simple dessert, consisting of
a cold light egg custard in which scoops of meringue float."

3 cups milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 recipe Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)

In a large nonreactive saucepan, combine 2 1/2 cups of the milk, 1/2 cup
of the sugar, and the vanilla over medium heat and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a gentle boil.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on
medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon
sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
With a wooden spoon, scoop 2 balls of the meringue into the simmering
milk mixture. Poach the balls for 2 to 3 minutes, rolling them over with
the spoon and basting them with the milk. When all sides are cooked
(they are slightly firm to the touch), lift them out with a slotted spoon and
set aside on a platter. Scoop 2 more balls from the remaining meringue
and repeat the process. The meringues can be stored for about 1 hour,
loosely covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until ready to use.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup milk, the egg yolks, and cornstarch and whisk together. Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, then pour into the warm milk mixture in the saucepan. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a gentle boil and cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 2 min-
utes. Remove from the heat, pour into a glass bowl, and let cool to room
temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down against the
surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least
4 hours or up to 8 hours.
To serve, gently stir the custard and spoon equal amounts into four
dessert bowls. Set a meringue ball on top of each and drizzle with the
caramel sauce. Makes 4 servings

Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a
boil, stirring often. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is a deep
caramel color and has the consistency of a thick syrup, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the cream, return the saucepan to high heat,
and boil the sauce until it regains the consistency of a thick syrup, about 2
minutes. Let cool.
The sauce can be refrigerated until ready to use. Allow it to reach room temperature before using it. Makes about 3/4 cup.

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