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Festive Feast

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Brighten up your holidays with these tasty recipes from local chefs.

PHOTO ©SARA ESSEX BRADLEYEveryone loves the classic recipes that your mother, grandmother and great grandmother used to prepare during the holidays. We dig out faded index cards with instructions for dishes that are savored and cherished year after year, but why not try something a little different? Local chefs Kristen Essig, Aaron Burgau and Tenney Flynn have graciously agreed to share one of their personal favorite recipes to add just a little more cheer to your holiday table. Enjoy!

White Bean Dip with Braised Greens & Bacon Aioli
By Chef Kristen Essig, Sainte Marie Brasserie
Born and raised in Florida, Chef Kristen Essig acquired her passion for food at an early age while cooking with her grandmother. After graduating culinary school in South Carolina, Essig made the move to New Orleans and worked in the kitchen with legendary chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Anne Kearny. Essig is now the Executive Chef in her own kitchen at Sainte Marie Brasserie on Poydras Street.

(Makes 4-6 servings)
1-1/2 cup cooked white beans (navy, cannellini, etc)
1/4 cup water
2 tsp. lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/3 cup mustard greens, chopped and sautéed
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, for garnish
Bacon aioli (see recipe below)

Combine beans, water, lemon juice and zest and white pepper in a blender or food processor. Mix on low speed until smooth with some texture. Place purée in a bowl, stir in 1/3 cup bacon aioli, then fold in the sautéed greens. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with crumbled bacon and serve with vegetable cruditées or toasted pita chips.

Bacon Aioli
(Makes 2 cups)

3 egg yolks, room temperature
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup bacon fat, melted
2 Tbsp. water
Salt and pepper to taste

Place egg yolks, garlic, vinegar and mustard into a blender or food processor, and mix on high. With motor running, drizzle in the oil and bacon fat, until mixture emulsifies. If too thick, add water, a little at a time until desired texture is reached. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

AaronBurgaueditBaked Shrimp & Mirliton
By Chef Aaron Burgau, Restaurant Patois
A native New Orleanian, Executive Chef Aaron Burgau has worked with some of the city’s most honored chefs like Gerard Maras and Susan Spicer. In 2007 he partnered with his friends Leon and Pierre Touzet to open Patois Restaurant, located Uptown on the corner of Laurel and Webster streets. At Patois, Burgau offers a constantly evolving menu using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to create classic French dishes with a local twist.

6 medium mirlitons, diced large
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp salt-free Creole seasoning mixed with 1 Tbsp. of kosher salt
4 Tbsp. butter, divided
1-1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper chopped
2 ribs of celery, diced fine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled
1 cup dried coarse breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. dried fine bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add mirlitons and cook until tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside to cool completely. In a mixing bowl, toss shrimp with the olive oil and 1 Tbsp. of Creole seasoning mixture to coat well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, remaining 1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning mixture, thyme and bay leaves. Cook, stirring until the vegetables are soft and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the mirlitons and cook – lightly mashing them with the back of the spoon – until very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 25 minutes. Add the shrimp and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the shrimp are pink. Remove from heat. Add the coarse bread crumbs and mix well. Spoon the mixture into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle fine breadcrumbs over the top and dot with small knobs of the remaining butter. Bake until the topping is lightly browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve warm.

Flynn_Tenney_3editBouillabaisse
By Chef Tenney Flynn, GW Fins
Chef Tenney Flynn grew up cooking in his father’s restaurant in Stone Mountain, Ga., and went on to train at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Since then, Flynn has worked at fine dining restaurants in Atlanta like Panos & Pauls, Atlanta Fish Market, Chops Lobster Bar and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Flynn is currently co-owner and Executive Chef at GW Fins, a local restaurant he launched with Gary Wollerman more than a decade ago.

(Makes 4 servings)
2 chick lobsters (cut in half)
1 lb. Mussels (about 30)
1 lb littleneck or cherrystone clams (about 25)
3/4 lb16/20 domestic shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb 10/20 dry-pack scallops
1/2 lb mild fish fillet, cut into bite size pieces
1 pinch saffron
1 oz. Pernod
1-2 bulbs of fennel, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 cups shrimp and lobster stock (see recipe below)
Rouille croutons, for topping (see recipe below)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cover. Allow it to simmer for about 8 minutes. Divide into four large preheated pasta bowls, top with a toasted rouille crouton and garnish with a sprig of fresh fennel top.

Shrimp and Lobster Stock

1 cup onions, diced medium
1/2 cup celery, diced medium
1/2 cup carrots, diced medium
1/2 cup fennel (or 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed)
1 Tbsp. butter
2 lbs. shrimp heads and shells
1 whole lobster shell (blanched 8 minutes, then meat removed)
1 lb. fish bones (mild, fresh fish)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
5 peppercorns, crushed
2 oz. brandy
2 oz. white wine
2 cups canned tomato juice or canned plum tomatoes
8 cups water

In a large stockpot, sweat the vegetables in butter until they are somewhat soft and have a little color. Add shells and increase heat, stirring until any raw shrimp shells are pink. Add fish bones, herbs and seasonings, and deglaze pan with brandy and reduce to dry. Add white wine and tomato juice. Add water, and bring to a simmer. Cook 1 hour at a low simmer. Strain, mashing shells and vegetables to get all liquid.

Rouille Croutons

1 red bell pepper (roasted, peeled, and seeded)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic (roasted in oven until soft)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt
4 slices ciabatta bread

Combine red bell pepper, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, cayenne pepper and salt in a food processor and purée until smooth. Spread evenly over bread and place in oven until slightly toasted.