I was in New Orleans this fall and stayed at the B&W Courtyards, a charming bed and breakfast on Chartres Street that is a collection of 1854 cottages joined together by cobblestone walkways and courtyards with pretty fountains and within walking distance of the French Quarter. The walking distance was lucky as New Orleans is so full of wonderful restaurants that a lot of walking is required to burn off some of the calories.
One of the restaurants I wanted to try was Herbsaint which is frequently named one of the best restaurants in the city (no easy feat) and whose executive chef/CEO Donald Link is a James Beard award winning chef. Located at 701 Saint Charles Avenue it was a long walk from our B&B but New Orleans has a great trolley car system which took us from the French Quarter to Lafayette Square where Herbsaint is located. Link’s first cookbook, Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana (Clarkson Potter) won the James Beard top award for Best American Cookbook. He has a new one out as well, Down South Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything.
The restaurant’s name, Herbsaint, comes from a favored New Orleans anise-flavored liqueur which dates back to the early 1930s and like other NOLA drinks such as Sazerac is enjoying a new popularity because of the popularity of vintage cocktails.
I thought it would be fun to share some of Herbsaint’s recipes that we tried. Needless to say, after dinner, we needed the long walk back to our B&B.
Herbsaint’s Shrimp Bisque
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup Scallions
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
5 whole shrimp cut up with shells on
1 pint shrimp stock
1 pint Water
1/4 cup rice
1 sprig Tarragon
Dash of Brandy and Herbsaint
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
In a heavy bottom sauce pot, sauté the onion, carrot, celery, and scallion with the spices until soft. Add tomatoes and shrimp and cook until tomatoes break down, about 15-20 minutes.
Add shrimp stock and water and simmer an additional 10 minutes then add the rice and cook another 15 minutes. Add the tarragon about 5 minutes before removing soup to strain. Put soup in small batches in a blender and blend until smooth, then strain. Return to heat and finish with a dash of brandy and Herbsaint, salt, cream, and butter.
Chef’s note: A little hot sauce never hurts.
Herbsaint’s Coconut Cream Tart with Macadamia Nut Crust
1 cup dry-roasted macadamia nuts
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
1 cup medium shredded unsweetened coconut
Purchased caramel sauce
Optional Fresh Fruits
For Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread macadamia nuts on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until light golden brown, about 6 minutes. Cool.
Place cooled nuts, flour, and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, process until nuts are finely ground. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Beat in yolk. Add nut mixture; beat until blended.
Press into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim excess dough overhang. Pierce all over with fork. Cover and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake crust until golden brown, pressing on bottom of crust with back of spoon if bubbles form, about 26 minutes. Cool completely.
For Filling: Heat 1 1/2 cups cream in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan; add bean. Bring just to boil, remove from heat, cover, and let stand 15 minutes.
Return vanilla cream just to boil. Whisk 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar mixture into vanilla cream. Whisk yolks in large bowl to blend; gradually whisk hot vanilla cream into yolk mixture.
Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture boils and becomes thick, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Transfer pastry cream to medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of pastry cream. Refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread coconut on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.
Whisk remaining 1 cup cream and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl until peaks form. Whisk in pastry cream. Continue whisking by hand until thoroughly combined. Gradually stir in coconut. Spoon mixture into cooled tart crust. Cover and refrigerate tart at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.
Cut tart into wedges and serve with caramel sauce and fresh fruit.