November 12, 2011

CF124 – Alton Brown, This Bisque’s For You

CF124 – Alton Brown, This Bisque’s For You

Welcome, Folks, to the Catholic Foodie, Where food meets faith! I’m your host Jeff Young and I have lots of goodies for you today. The family and I had the opportunity to meet two chefs two weeks ago: Chef John Besh and Alton Brown, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

We have a question about skim milk… specifically, what makes it skim and how is it different than regular milk?

And I have a recipe for you. Two actually. We’ll talk about shrimp stock and shrimp bisque.

Sarah Reinhard joins us today. And in her Mary in the Kitchen segment we have food and faith thanks to the rosary on her kitchen windowsill.

All this, and more, right here at the Catholic Foodie…. Where food meets faith!

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Chef John Besh and Alton Brown

Alton Brown. I learned how to pronounce his name three years ago when he came to New Orleans to promote his Feasting on Asphalt cookbook. It was in the Fall of 2008, right about the time I launched the Catholic Foodie, as a matter of fact. So, some of my first blog posts and podcast episodes were about Alton Brown and Good Eats (you can check out episode 2 of the Catholic Foodie for proof!).

Anyway, several weeks ago we found out that Alton Brown would be back in New Orleans on October 19th for a book signing. This time he is promoting his final Good Eats cookbook, Good Eats 3: The Latter Years. We didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet him again, so Char and I took the kids to New Orleans on the 19th.

In order to make this happen, the girls had to skip gymnastics practice. Normally, they never want to miss. But, they uttered not one complaint about it, because they were going to meet Alton Brown. Char and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity that this trip to New Orleans would provide to treat the kids to a late lunch at one of our favorite new New Orleans restaurants: Chef John Besh’s Lüke. Char and I first discovered Lüke when we were at the Lebanese convention in July. I talked about our experience on episode 117 (Super Simple Summer Salads).

Chef John Besh calls Lüke ”his homage to the grand old Franco-German brasseries that once reigned in New Orleans.” Aesthetically, it has an old-world feel. There are lots of brass fixtures, polished wood panels and aged-looking ceiling fans. Lüke feels like a well-worn Parisian restaurant. It’s casual, yet elegant. Seafood is a main feature of the establishment, but not in the typical Cajun fashion that is associated with New Orleans. The dishes at Lüke are more “casual” French, Creole and German brasserie fare. But, don’t be fooled by the term casual. In this case it does not mean cheap or dressed down. Here’s an example of what I mean: One of the favorite items of many guests is the French Fries. They are unlike any fries you’ll ever have. Rumor has it they are fried in duck fat. And they are out of this world. They come to the table perfectly salted and sitting in a paper-lined silver cup. Delectable.

I know it’s hard to believe, but our kids are little foodies. They eat pretty much anything. And since we get so excited about meeting chefs and getting cookbooks signed, I guess you can say that our whole family is just a bunch of foodie geeks. Anyway, we really wanted to share that restaurant with the kids. It was a splurge, but it was a celebration we just wanted to have.

The book signing didn’t start till 6:00 PM, so we planned on a late lunch at Lüke around 3:00. We were a few minutes late, but that was alright.

As is customary, Char and I had already studied the menu online and we pretty much knew what we were going to order. There were a few appetizers that we couldn’t make up our mind on, but we figured we would just order whatever we were in the mood for once we got there. We didn’t know they were going to throw a monkey wrench into our plans by informing us that we were just in time for happy hour. Raw oysters, typically $14.00 a dozen, were on sale for $6.00 a dozen. I should have gotten two because the kids devoured them. I think I only got one oyster. Unfortunately I only ordered one dozen (but took note of when happy hour is!). Char really wanted to order the Terrine of Slow Cooked Foie Gras.

So, here we are at 3:00 in the afternoon, a table of 5 (with three of us ages 9, 10, and 12) at one of the nicest restaurants in the CBD, eating raw oysters and foie gras (and I was sipping on a Mint Julep), and the main door opens and who walks in? Chef John Besh and his business partner Octavio Mantilla. We must have stood out… a family of five having lunch at 3 something in the afternoon on a Wednesday, because as he walked through the restaurant (apparently on his way to a meeting) he stopped by our table to chat. Very gracious. We had a delightful (though short) conversation. Of course, Christopher wanted to detain him as long as possible (he was explaining that we were coming to HIS restaurant before going to see Alton Brown so that Alton could sign HIS cookbook). It was all slightly confusing, but precious nonetheless.

And that was it. He went to his meeting and we continued with lunch. I ordered an additional appetizer: a bowl of Seafood Gumbo so that we could all have a taste. Char ordered the special of the day, Ragout d’agneau provencal, which was braised lamb, ricotta gnocchi, Covey Rise vegetables and olives. She loved it. Believe it or not, I ordered the Lüke Burger. It was topped with Allen Benton’s bacon, caramelized onions, tomatoes, Emmenthaler Swiss cheese and served with their famous house-made fries. Christopher ordered the Cochon De Lait pressed sandwich, and the girls ordered one, too, to split. The Cochon De Lait pressed sandwich is pulled pork, Chisesi ham (which is a local ham), caramelized onions, and cherry mustard. Again, served with those famous house-made fries. At the end of the meal, we were stuffed and we were happy.

We left and drove down St. Charles Avenue to Octavia Street. The book signing was at Octavia Books again. To our great delight we found the perfect parking spot and we were early. We were late three years ago and we missed his talk before the signing started. But not this year.

It was so delightful. We were already close to the front of the line, but when Alton arrived he invited all the kids and their families to come up real close. It was a school night, he said. He wanted families to go first so that they could go home and get to bed at a decent hour. It was such a delight to listen to him talk about food and New Orleans. Like John Besh, he too was very gracious. He had had lunch at a very nice restaurant in the Warehouse district called Cochon. As you can imagine, that restaurant specializes in pork. He said they had ordered about 20 dishes that they passed around the table. I don’t know how many “they” were. But he said he felt like he had eaten 4 pigs. He also noted that he had been saving up for days for his trip to New Orleans. The day before, the only thing he had to eat was a bowl of oatmeal and a can of sardines (he really likes sardines). I found it very interesting to hear him comment that there are only 3 food meccas in the United States: New York, New Orleans, and Las Vegas. Someone in the crowd asked him what he thought about the food truck revolution that’s sweeping the nation. He said he loved it. He said it is really needed in places like Atlanta and L.A. He said we really don’t need it here in New Orleans. “It’s hard to have a bad meal in New Orleans,” he said. “Y’all are saturated with good restaurants and good food,” he said. But, food trucks in New Orleans will still do well because we love good food down here. I loved hearing that.

Good Eats 3

I have all the Good Eats cookbooks, and I can tell you that they are awesome. Fun and solid. Christmas is coming up. If you want to get a copy of any of his cookbooks for yourself, or give away as gifts, please you my affiliate links over at It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it really helps me with the work I do here at the Catholic Foodie.

I really wanted to record his question and answer session, but felt awkward doing so, especially since we were up front and I didn’t want to block the view of people behind me. But, luckily, some folks at Googleplex videoed the hour-long presentation he made to them just a few days before he came to New Orleans. I took the time to go through that presentation and pull some clips that I thought you would enjoy. You will find those clips on the podcast episode (CF124).

Here are some of the topics he talked about:

  • His recently published cookbook, Good Eats 3.
  • Is there life after Good Eats? If so, what is it?
  • How is his health, weight, and sweet tooth?
  • What is his “go to” recipe?
  • What was the last meal you cooked before coming here?

Make sure you listen to the episode to hear his responses.

And if you want to see the whole presentation that Alton Brown did at Googleplex, you can check it out on YouTube.

You may be wondering why I chose to title this episode “Alton Brown, This Bisque’s for You.” Perhaps I was being a bit silly. But, obviously, I wanted to share our experience of meeting him again with you. Also, the two other segments of this episode are related: the question of skim milk and bisque. Bisques are often cream-based. So, let’s move on to our next segment about skim milk.

Skim Milk: What makes it skim?

Sister Maria Francina wrote in a few weeks ago asking the following question: “What do they do to milk to make it SKIM? I hear how it is not good for us. Please inform me. Thank you.”

Sister, I won’t be able to go into great depth today to answer your question. There’s not enough time for that. But I do want to give you a condensed answer.

If you take milk after first comes out of the cow, and you place it a large glass jar and wait, you will notice after a short while that it starts to separate. The fat rises to the top. In the old days, folks used to skim that fat off (they could use it to make butter or cream). That’s where the name “Skim Milk” comes from.

Today they don’t skim milk that way. Rather they use more technologically advance tools to separate out the fat from the milk. Interestingly, milk manufacturers then add back some fat to make your different types of milk (1%, Skim, Whole).

There’s a lot of talk today about milk. The processes used to make skim milk today removes virtually all of the flavor and nutritional value of the milk. Whole milk has been demonized because it is fatty… Never mind the fact that it actually contains good fat. Still, whole milk is not nearly as nutritionally valuable as is raw milk. But, raw milk has been even more demonized than whole milk. It is illegal to sell raw milk in almost all of the United States. The fear, of course, is salmonella and other dangerous bacteria. But what we are not told, is that the salmonella is not from the cow (this is very similar to what I talked about last episode with eggs and chickens). No, it’s a result of our modern means of mass production of food and the necessary travel time and conditions that foods go through before they get into our cupboards and fridges.

Perhaps milk is a topic that we can come back to in a future episode.

Thank you very much, Sr. Maria Francina, for the question!

If You have a question for the Catholic Foodie, you can always call the listener feedback line at 985-635-4974, or send me an email at

Shrimp Stock and Shrimp Bisque

Here are links to the recipes mentioned in the show:

Mary in the Kitchen

On this episode, Sarah Reinhard shares a bit of food and faith inspiration with us, thanks to the rosary on her kitchen windowsill.

A special thank-you to L’Angelus for allowing us to play their Ave Maria on the show. You can find L’Angelus at

You can find more of Sarah’s work, including her recently published Advent book, Welcome Baby Jesus over at

And now, over at you can find all of Sarah’s Mary in the Kitchen segments in print format. Just go to There’s a Mary in the Kitchen spot right there on the homepage. Or you can go to

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Until next time… Bon appetit!

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