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The Picayune (now known as The Times-Picayune) of New Orleans began publication in 1837.  Its name referred to the cost of the paper in those days– ‘1 picayune’ (a Spanish coin worth about 6 pennies then).  The paper’s history is not only long, but full of interest and accomplishments.  William Faulkner once worked there as a writer; so did O. Henry.  Members of its staff have been Pulitzer Prize winners.

Besides a reputation for fine journalism, the paper has to its credit a cookbook of enduring popularity.  The editors’ stated purpose in compiling it back in the beginning of the twentieth century was:

“To preserve to future generations the many excellent and matchless recipes of our New Orleans cuisine, to gather these up from the lips of…the grand housekeepers who still survive ere they too, pass away and Creole Cooking with all its delightful combinations and possibilities, will have become a lost art..”

That goal has met with a fair degree of success.  The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book has gone through 17 editions since the first one appeared in 1900.  (Some mistake the second edition in 1901 for the first one.)  There are residents of New Orleans who count among the personal treasures destroyed by Hurricane Katrina a mother’s or grandmother’s well-thumbed copy.

The most recent version of The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book appeared in 2002.  There is, however, a free online version courtesy of Cornell University’s collection in the Internet Archive.  This is the 4th edition, published in 1910 and it is an excellent source for anyone interested in cooking Creole dishes.  The instructions are not too dated for a 21st century cook to follow, and there is, in addition to recipes from soup to desserts, rare and excellent material on making flavored vinegars, Tabasco and other condiments, fruit sirops and fruit-infused brandies.

But perhaps the most attractive feature of perusing this older copy of The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book is the charm it holds for anyone who appreciates the opportunity to step back into an earlier era and look through other, older eyes at a little piece of American domestic life at the turn of the last century.

The diplomatickitchen’s version of French Fried Eggplant derives from this good old cookbook, in which the vegetable’s worth is succinctly expressed in one brief line:  “This is one of our most esteemed and useful vegetables.”

French Fried Eggplant The Picayune with Sauce Remoulade Cajun-style (for about 32 fries, enough for 8 people as an hors d’oeuvre)

Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.

I.  Making the French Fried Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized Eggplants:  An eggplant weighing about 8 ounces (230 grams) will make about 16 – 18 large fries.
  • 1 Egg
  • 3/4 cup of Milk
  • Flour, on a plate or in a pan, for coating the eggplant slices before frying
  • Salt and White Pepper to taste
  • Oil for Deep Frying: The amount will depend upon the size of the fryer.  The oil should be about 3-inches deep so that the eggplant slices float freely in it as they fry.

Equipment:

  • a large Mixing Bowl
  • a Cotton Dish Towel
  • 2 Cooling Racks each placed over a rimmed Baking Pan: These are a useful place to arrange the fries before frying and to drain them afterwards.
  • a heavy-bottomed Pot or a deep, heavy-bottomed Skillet for deep-frying the Eggplant
  • a Candy/Deep Fry Thermometer is useful for judging the oil’s temperature and adjusting it as the eggplant slices fry

1.  Fill the mixing bowl with salted water.  Peel the eggplants and cut them into large French fries–about 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick.  Another way of describing the cut and size is:  Cut the eggplant as you would potatoes for making ‘Steak Fries’:

2.  Soak the slices for 30 minutes in the salted water:

3.  Drain the eggplant slices, spread them out in a cotton dish towel, and pat them dry.  Mix the egg and milk in the mixing bowl and season with salt and several grinds of white pepper.  Place the pan of flour close at hand:

4.  Dip the eggplant slices in the egg and milk batter, roll them in the flour…

…and place the battered fries on one of the cooling racks set in a rimmed baking pan:

5.  Heat the oil in the frying pot or deep skillet to around 375 F.  Fry the eggplant slices a few at a time, adjusting the heat to keep the oil at a temperature between 350 and 375 F.  A batch of 4 will be done in 3 – 4 minutes.  Place the fries to drain on the second cooling rack placed in a rimmed pan.  Sprinkle them with a few grinds of salt and white pepper and serve them hot.

Suggested Sauces for accompanying French Fried Eggplant:  The recipe for Sauce Remoulade Cajun Style is given below.  It is more highly seasoned than a traditional Remoulade and contains no eggs or mayonnaise.  A simple sauce made by mixing Prepared Horseradish to taste in some Ketchup is another very good alternative:

II.  Making the Sauce Remoulade Cajun-Style (for about 2 cups)

Timing Suggestion:  The sauce is best when the flavours are allowed to develop together for 24 hours. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium Onion
  • 8 Green Onions, trimmed:  Use the green stalks as well as the white parts
  • 1 stalk of Celery
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 1/4 cup of Parsley, roughly chopped before measuring
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sweet Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt or more to taste after the sauce is mixed
  • 1/2 cup of Dijon coarse-grained Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons of Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce or Tabasco
  • 3/4 cup Sunflower Oil

Equipment:

  • a Food Processor:  Alternatively, the onion, green onions, celery, garlic and parsley may be chopped finely by hand, and all the ingredients combined together, and last of all, the oil added slowly, using a whisk

1.  Combine all the ingredients except the sunflower oil in the food processor and mix them together well.

2.  With the processor on, slowly add the sunflower oil by drips and drops through the tube of the processor.

3.  Transfer the sauce to a bowl, cover and refrigerate it for 24 hours to allow the flavours of the sauce to develop and combine.

III.  Caper Berries on the Side

A bowl of Caper Berries is included among the Hors d’oeuvres in the Dinner MenuDinner ‘Louisianne’, along with French Fried Eggplant The Picayune with Sauce Remoulade Cajun-style.  The smaller pickled ‘caper’ commonly used in cooking is actually the flower bud of the caper bush.  Caper Berries are the ripened fruit, are also pickled, and may be eaten like olives, as an appetizer.  (Both the flower bud ‘caper’ and the caper berry are shown in the photo below.

A Note:  As mentioned above, French Fried Eggplant The Picayune with Sauce Remoulade Cajun-style is an Hors d’oeuvre in the Dinner Menu:  Dinner ‘Louisianne’The fries may also be served with a Main Course as a vegetable, or in place of potatoes.  The recipe is adapted from one in The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (4th edition, 1910), which is available to read free online here at the internetarchive.

An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012

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