Kitchen Accomplice - The Big Easy

By John Kirkendall

The Big Easy

What better way to arm yourself for a New Orleans adventure. Augment your cooking acumen and tease your palate by immersing yourself in some Cajun cookery.  Once you ultimately breeze into town, you will be fully prepared for the culinary excitement that follows.  And it is truly excitement!

I think a focus of initial attention could not be better placed than with the Brennan family.  The history of restaurants in New Orleans could not be written without reference to the Brennans.  
The dishes developed by chefs at the Brennan restaurants in New Orleans have become synonymous with what we have come to expect from a breakfast, lunch or dinner in New Orleans.  In fact, the book Breakfast at Brennan’s captures some of the excitement of these dishes.  In addition, a surprising number of cooking channel chefs have obtained training there.

The recipe I would like to share with you today is one I have enjoyed in New Orleans and which is a close relative of Eggs Benedict composed of poached eggs – one of the ubiquitous foods found throughout the city.

Eggs Hussarde
2 tablespoons butter
8 slices Canadian bacon (or ham)
8 Holland rusks
2 cups Marchand de Vin sauce (recipe below)
8 poached eggs (recipe below)
2 cups Hollandaise sauce (recipe below)

Melt butter in a large sauté pan and warm the Canadian bacon over low heat.
Place 2 Holland rusks on each plate and cover with slices of warm Canadian bacon. Spoon Marchand de Vin sauce over the meat, then set a poached egg on each slice. Ladle Hollandaise sauce over the eggs; serve.

Marchand de vin Sauce

6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
1/2 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup boiled ham, finely chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and black pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and sauté the onion, garlic, scallions and ham for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, reduce the heat to medium and cook for for 2 minutes. Blend in the flour and cook, stirring for 4 minutes, then add the Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, wine, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and add the parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Yields three cups

Poached Eggs   
1 1/2 quarts water
2 cups vinegar
8 large eggs

Bring the water and vinegar to a boil in a large saucepan. Crack the eggs one at a time and drop them gently into the boiling water, being careful not to break the yolks. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, moving the eggs several times with a spoon to cook them evenly. When firm, remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a pan filled with cold water until serving.   When ready to serve, place in slightly simmering water until heated through.  Dry on toweling. 4 servings

Hollandaise Sauce
1 pound butter
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon water

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, skim and discard the milk solids from the top of the butter. Hold the clarified butter over very low heat while preparing egg yolks.

Place the egg yolks, vinegar, cayenne and salt in a large stainless steel bowl and whisk briefly. Fill a saucepan or Dutch oven large enough to accommodate the bowl with about 1 inch of water. Heat the water to just below the boiling point. Set the bowl in the pan over the water; do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl.

Whisk the egg yolk mixture until slightly thickened, then drizzle the clarified butter into the yolks, whisking constantly. If the bottom of the bowl becomes hotter than warm to the touch, remove the bowl from the pan of water for a few seconds and let cool. When all of the butter is incorporated and the sauce is thick, beat in the water.

Serve the Hollandaise immediately or keep in a warm place at room temperature until use.
Yields 2 cups.

Judge Kirkendall is a retired Probate Judge. He presently serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. I am (thankfully) past president of the National College of Probate Judges. He can be reached at