NOLA: K-Paul’s Kitchen

Tonight we headed down the street, a 5 minute stroll to K-Paul’s. Paul Prudhomme’s beautiful, warm Cajun kitchen. You want to be here as soon as you enter. Friendly staff, exposed brick walls, an open kitchen and original pop art works greet you.

K-Paul's Outside

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We had perused the menu online before coming and hoped something would finally say, “pick me.” K-Paul’s short menu has too many choices that jump out. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know. Just as I think I have it nailed, our knowledgeable server Nicole relates the special. Surf and turf which basically combines two fan favorites. I’m in. I order the fried green tomatoes and shrimp creole to start. Rob orders the rabbit starter and stuffed pork chop. We intend to really explore the native sazerac and so we start here. The cocktail arrives and is VERY generous, about a triple. It is classic. Hints of absinthe and citrus and warm, soft rye. Excellent. We also order a “Cajun” gin martini to try with pickled chayote, which they call mirliton.  Again an excellent cocktail, spicy and crisp.

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Appetizers arrive. My shrimp creole is rich and succulent. The tomatoes are lightly fried but unnecessary. The creole is divine. Rob’s rabbit is crisp and delicious. The dark meat is nicely cut with a sweet orange marmalade. Two truly excellent apps.

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Our mains arrive shortly after. I am having the recommended special, Drum fish, a light flakey white fish, pan fried with blackening spice and beef tip also blackened and served with rich, debris sauce, a roast beef jus that is reduced for four days in the kitchen. K Paul’s is a kitchen which takes their sauces seriously. True French influence on the Cajun scene. My main came with perfect broccoli and heavenly mashed potatoes. My only complaint would be the overall saltiness. I am hesitant to berate a kitchen on this point because my tolerance is low, but this was at the peak of my tolerance.

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Rob’s pork chop was blackened and stuffed with exotic cheeses, and served with a spiced and sauced potato with sautéed bok choy. The pork chop was tender and flavourful and it’s sauce was meaty and rich with mushrooms, red wine and prosciutto. The potato was outstanding with a rich and creamy, spicy sauce. This food was set apart from the more typical New Orleans fare because of the clear mastery of ingredients and sauces.

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Dessert was a shared piece of pecan sweet potato pie. Perfect – not too sweet and chock full of nuts, it was wonderfully balanced between the sugary nuttiness of pecan pie and the Christmas-spiced sweet potato filling, to make the best of both worlds.  The lightly sweetened whipped cream was a true compliment.

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K-Paul’s is a stand-out. It is clear why Paul Prudhomme was among the first celebrity chefs in a world without Food Networks and mainstream food culture. This flagship restaurant exhibits the best of Creole-influenced food and sets the standard for what it can aspire to be.

 

N’awlin’s. Settling in.

Day one: travel day. Even when air travel is uneventful it is a grind. “Moo!” Treated like cattle. Ottawa is a snow covered, balmy -2. Pretty hard to take since it is nearing the end of March. Not sad to be leaving winter behind for a short time.

We arrive in New Orleans in late afternoon. It is sunny and 70. Aahhhhh. After arriving at our French Quarter hotel, we settle in and head to a favourite haunt to kick off our New Orleans trip, Acme Oyster House. The line is long but we are tired and hungry, so we hang. The wait is always shortened by striking up a conversation with fellow hungry patrons in line. After about forty minutes we are led to a table. A pitcher of Blue Moons is delivered, glasses are clinked and we are officially on holiday in the Big Easy.

This is our third trip to Acme. We both order their excellent Po’boy sandwiches, shrimp for me, for Rob, the Fried Peace Maker Po’boy, oysters, shrimp and tabasco infused mayo, all dressed of course. We also ordered a side of Boo Fries which are akin, dare I say as a proud Canadian, to our beloved poutine. Acme’s are excellent fries topped with their extremely rich, tasty roast beef gravy and mediocre cheddar shreds. Not bad. The gravy is the star here.

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Grilling Oysters at the Acme Oyster House.
Grilling Oysters at the Acme Oyster House.

As we fill our bellies we realize that our plans of people watching on Bourbon Street and late night drinks are fading with the daylight. It’s been a long day and we are just happy to be here.

It’s sunny and cool the next morning, our first full day in the city. Expected high in the seventies. Perfect day for strolling and getting reacquainted with the French Quarter. We decide to head on down to the famous Cafe du Monde, a tourist trap in its own right but with the distinction of actually serving excellent beignets and coffee despite that rap. The quarter is beginning to hop despite the chill in the air. The Cafe is bustling. Freighters cruise along the Big Muddy. Live music mingles with the clatter of horse drawn buggies, trucks making deliveries, streetcars and the locals starting their work days and some just getting home.

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Working the line at Cafe Du Monde.
Working the line at Cafe Du Monde.

We sight see for a time and just soak up the Quarter, and grab a quick drink. The day is fresh and we are deciding on somewhere new to try for dinner tonight.

Portuguese Cod

Two weeks ago when all of the kids and significant others were in town, we went to breakfast at Le Resto Fish & Smoked Seafood Bistro, in Chelsea, Quebec. I  was enticed by their new menu item, Cod poached Portuguese-style in tomato sauce with anchovies, chorizo, capers and olives served with chick peas, green beans, egg and olive oil drizzled bread. For an extra charge you can add mussels and shrimp. This rustic dish was so good I could not stop thinking about it.

Potuguese Cod stew 6The cod was lightly poached and held its shape and succulent, delicate flavour. The tomato poaching broth was rich with the warm spicy flavours of anise, saffron and smoky paprika, chunky with carrot and chick pea, salty and complex with olive, caper and anchovy, and bright with citrus. A perfect half of a soft boiled egg adds luscious creaminess and the grilled bread slathered in olive oil lends a delicious chewy crunch.

I  was prepared to recreate it through Google and trial and error when, on a whim we visited the Boucanerie (the Resto’s smokehouse just up the street) for some of their divine hot smoked maple salmon. Madame Line Boyer was in the house and I decided to straight up ask her if she would share the recipe for the cod dish. Line is the kind of hostess who is passionate about her product and customers and not only happily shared, but also led me through the preparation of her creation which was inspired by a surplus of cod, her French heritage and intuition for cooking and a traditional Portuguese recipe. The Boucanerie sells the sauce pre-made for the less adventurous, and of course, excellent cod fish.

So, as Mme. Boyer launched into her passion for this recipe (which is now a regular menu item due to popular demand), Rob recorded the “recipe” on his phone as she shared. Line cooks inspired by her ingredients and what is on hand. No measuring. I guessed at most amounts, and I must say I think I nailed it. I made the cod this past “Bottle of Wine Monday” and it was perfect. I also learned how to make a perfect soft-boiled egg for the top…which is essential.

Cod Poached in Tomato Sauce Portuguese-Style

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Olive oil
2 Fresh chorizo sausage, casing removed and meat cut into small chunks
1 Carrot, small dice
1/2 tsp. Anise seed
Good pinch of saffron
1 tsp. Smoked Sweet Paprika
Splash of Sherry or Marsala
1 28 oz Can San Marzano or best quality whole tomatoes
1 Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (Line prepares dried chickpeas for her dish)
1 Anchovy fillet, mushed up, plus a bit of the anchovy oil
A good dollop of frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tsp. Capers, rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Pound of Cod
2 Eggs, soft-boiled
Rustic bread such as Art-Is-In Dynamite white, grilled or toasted and liberally drizzled with good quality olive oil
16 Kalamata olives

Method:

1. Render chorizo in a bit of olive oil. When meat is cooked add carrot and saute until tender, about a minute or two.

2. Add anise, saffron and paprika. Saute another minute. Deglaze pan with sherry.

3. Add chick peas and toss. Add tomatoes by squooshing the whole ones with your hands.

4. Add anchovy and a bit of anchovy oil. Simmer for 20 minutes

5. Walk the dog

6. Add the orange concentrate and the capers. Taste and add salt and pepper.

7. Place cod pieces in stew to poach. About 7 to 10 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, as fish cooks, boil eggs and toast bread.

9. Serve in low bowls, with 4 olives for garnish, half of a soft boiled egg and toasted baguette drizzled with olive oil.

10. Open wine

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