Behind the Dish: Shrimp Étouffée

The master chef who provided Julia with the recipe for today’s Julia Project dish is one likely familiar to many: Emeril Lagasse, the Cajun/Creole chef whose presence on TV is ubiquitous. (You can see him preparing the dish at the video linked here.)

Shrimp Étouffé calls for, first, a butter-and-flour roux, to which are added chopped onions, bell peppers and celery, minced garlic, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cayenne pepper and, of course, “Essence” (a combination of paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried oregano and dried thyme). Then shrimp stock is added and the whole combination is boiled, then simmered. Raw shrimp is seasoned with more of the Essence and added them to the pot and cooked through. With a little parsley added, the finished dish is served on steamed white rice and garnished with green onion. BAM!

Behind the Dish: Smoked Salmon Napoleon

Tonight’s Julia Project dish is the creation of the award-winning chef Charlie Trotter, who shared with Julia an idea for an appetizer that Bistro 185 is turning into a full-fledged entree. Everyone’s heard of a Napoleon pastry, right?: layers and layers of delicate puff pastry sandwiching layers of sweet pastry cream, sometimes jam, sometimes both. (In some places it’s called a mille-feuille, mille foglie or vanilla slice.) Well, Smoked Salmon Napoleon takes that same principle and applies it to layers of smoked salmon. And it’s an ideal concept for us here at the Bistro, given that we smoke our own salmon.

The thinly sliced smoked salmon is layered with papaya that’s been pickled in hot pepper, sake, vinegar, cloves, mustard, cinnamon, bay leaf and allspice, as well as an avocado-tomato salsa made with chives and lemon juice. A green herbal sauce made from herb juice and herb oil containing parsley, watercress and tarragon, seasoned with salt and pepper, brings the whole creation together. Charlie serves his Napoleons with herbed potato tuiles; we’ll be serving ours with thin, freshly fried waffle potato chips, as well as another treat: salmon ravioli.

Get ready for a combination of flavors you’ve probably never experienced before — but will really enjoy!

Tonight: Lobster Thermidor!

Those of you who read the book or saw the movie Julie & Julia will probably remember Julie Powell’s story about having to bring herself to, um, dispatch live lobsters in order to make Julia Child’s Lobster Thermidor. Well, we’re here with good news: You can spare yourself the role of lobster executioner and still enjoy the unique pleasure that is Lobster Thermidor, because we’re preparing it tonight!

The basics: Dry white wine, onion, carrot, celery, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and tarragon simmer to a boil. Then the lobsters go for their final swim. While they’re cooking until they turn red, we’ll stew mushrooms with butter, lemon juice and salt. The cooked lobsters come out of the kettle, the mushroom juices (sans mushrooms) go in with the lobster juices, and the resulting liquid is boiled down and strained before being simmered again. Butter and flour are cooked together slowly in a separate saucepan (but not browned), then removed from heat and the lobster-mushroom liquid beaten into that. The mixture is boiled and cream (regular and whipping) is drizzled in. A little lobster dissection then takes place so that some of the tastier innards can be strained and blended into dry mustard, egg yolks and cayenne pepper. The lobster-mushroom mixture then gets beaten into that mixture, and the combined sauce is boiled and then thinned out a bit (but has become quite thick by this point). The lobster meat is shelled, cubed and sautéed in a butter-and-cognac reduction. The mushrooms, lobsters and part of the sauce are then combined and used to re-stuff the lobster shells, the whole thing is covered with the remaining sauce, we sprinkle on grated cheese and butter, and bake.

The result: a dish fit for a Child. And you can enjoy it tonight, without any of the work. We hope you’ll do just that.