12 August 2010

Chef Recipe: Seared Grouper with Crawfish, Bacon Risotto, Softshell Crab

*** Louisiana chefs celebrate fabulous new recipes in local food and wine competition.

Chef Austin Harrell at Mansurs on the Boulevard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

From Denny: At the end of this month (August 26 to 28) Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is putting on the culinary ritz for three days. It's called "Fete Rouge - A Louisiana Celebration of Food and Wine," the fourth annual event of gastronomic events. It will take place at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium. The event is hosted by the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society and is a showcase for local chefs, farmers, foods and wines. It definitely is a "do not miss celebration."

The Grace "Mama" Marino Lifetime Achievement Award (of Gino's Italian Restaurant fame where Hollywood celebrities visit) will be awarded to restaurateur and chef Charles Brandt. He owned the local hotspot Chalet Brandt from 1973 to 1996. Chalet Brandt was known for its continental dining as was popular during that period. It was also the only Baton Rouge restaurant to ever earn the four-star Mobile Guide Award for excellence in food, service and hospitality. Get this; it also received this award for a succession of the 20 years it was in operation. Chef Brandt will not be able to attend for his award due to illness.

Seven chefs are preparing the awards dinner menu that begins at 6 PM for cocktails and 7 PM for dinner. Entertainment will be enjoyed from Ned Fasullo and the Fabulous Big Band Orchestra. Dinner dress is black tie optional for men and cocktail attire for women. Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner tickets are $200 per person. And this was just for the first day.

The second day of the event brings on the "Food and Wine Fete" which is also hosted at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium downtown. This dinner sounds like a real blowout as it goes from 6 PM to 10 PM. Our Louisiana chefs will be presenting tastings of the latest fun foods and new recipes they are developing for culinary competitions. These dishes are what you see featured as Chef's Specials on the local menus. DeAngelo's chef, Mike Dardenne, says, "It’s a grand opportunity for food enthusiasts to see and taste the evolution of these dishes."

There are two categories of competition:

Open - this is where the dish can be anything like an appetizer, an entree or a side dish

Desserts - yes, this IS Louisiana where desserts reign king, deserving a category of their very own.

Louisiana ingredients are encouraged to be employed in these competition dishes.

Who are the esteemed judges?

Chef John Folse - who has won numerous national awards, becoming a national celebrity and promoter of Cajun and Creole cooking and yet is still a down to earth guy. Owner and founder of Chef John Folse & Company. He is also founder of the culinary education department at Nicholls State University. Chef Folse is also a well known local star of public radio and television culinary shows: "Stirrin' It Up" and "A Taste of Louisiana."

Chef Rick Tramonto - He is from Tramonto, of Tru, Osteria di Tramonto and Tramonto's Steak & Seafood restaurants in Illinois. He is known as a judge of Food Network's "Top Chef" and as a cook-off competitor on the esteemed foodie show "Iron Chef America."

OK, back to what you get when you go to this event besides enjoying the dozens of chef's tastings of future Chef's Specials on local menus. If you are a wine lover too then you will be able to sample from 150 wines. There is also a silent wine auction where you can bid on various culinary experiences and items like an instant 150-bottle wine cellar. Tickets for this Food and Wine Fete event are $50 if purchased in advance or $65 at the door.

The last day of the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society's Fete Rouge Festival is a free family fitness event. It will be held at the Main Street Market in downtown Baton Rouge from 9 AM to noon on August 28. You will get to witness culinary experts presenting cooking demonstrations for preparing seasonal healthy recipes for your family. The Red Stick Farmers Market (same immediate area just outside the door in the parking lot) will offer tastings of fruits and vegetables from the local farmers, vendors and chefs. Also present will be dietitians for advice and fitness experts leading family fitness classes.

Where do the proceeds from this festival go? Your dollars benefit child nutrition and 4-H youth education programs. It will also fund scholarships and cultural preservation projects in the Greater Baton Rouge area. They also spread the wealth to include the program ProStart that is a curriculum for high school students who desire to enter the culinary profession.

Want to purchase tickets? Just go to BresBR.com or call (225) 773-4889. If you plan on traveling to Louisiana consider a stop in Baton Rouge next year for this event.

Now check out this fabulous seafood recipe from this event! Mansurs on the Boulevard is a favorite restaurant at our house. It's always an imaginative menu along with familiar standards so there is something for everyone. Mansurs is a lively place on the weekends, like walking into an well-heeled jazz bar where regulars gather. The Sunday brunches are popular with families too.

Both Photos by Arthur D. Lauck @ The Advocate

Seared Grouper, Set Over Smothered Okra and Berkshire Bacon Lardon Risotto, Finished With Crawfish Butter, and Crowned With Blackened Soft shelled Crawfish

From: Chef Austin Harrell, executive chef at Mansurs On the Boulevard

Serves: 7


1 qt. risotto

2 yellow onions, diced

1 gallon or more crawfish stock

2 bottles Abita Amber beer

1 lb. butter

1-1/2 lbs. Berkshire bacon cut into lardons

2 lbs. fresh cut okra

1 batch spiced stewed tomatoes

1 each lime and orange zest

Salt and cracked black pepper to taste


Bring seafood stock to a simmer.

In another sauce pot, render lardons in the butter. Just before the bacon is completely rendered, add the onions and cook until the bacon is fully rendered.

Add the risotto and stir with a wooden spoon. Let the risotto cook for about a minute with the onion and bacon, but do not allow risotto to stick to the pot.

Deglaze with the Abita and add enough stock to almost cover the risotto. Constantly stir to keep the risotto from sticking and to also work the starch out to make it creamy.

Add the Spiced Stewed Tomatoes.

As the risotto takes in the stock, add more and continue the process until the risotto is almost cooked. At this point, the risotto should be almost cooked and very creamy.

Add the fresh okra and cook until the okra is fully cooked.

Season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Add lime and orange zest.

Spiced Stewed Tomatoes:

2 poblano peppers, diced

3 jalapeño peppers, diced

3 large shallots, thin sliced

12 large cloves garlic, thin sliced

10 large tomatoes, cut into 1/4–inch dice

6 ozs. Worcestershire sauce


In sauce pot, sweat shallots, garlic, poblano peppers, jalapeño peppers until soft.

Add tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.

Deglaze with Worcestershire and reduce by half. Season with salt and pepper.

Crawfish Butter:

2 lbs. butter

5 lbs. live crawfish

3 sliced shallots

2 lemons, cut in half

Small bunch of fresh thyme

2 cups heavy cream

1 bottle Abita Amber beer


In saucepan, melt butter with live crawfish, let sit on low heat for 10 minutes.

Puree butter and crawfish and strain through a fine mesh strainer.

Let chill until butter has become solid again.

In another sauce pot, add shallots, thyme, Abita and lemons. Reduce beer by 3/4 reduced. Add heavy cream and reduce by half.

Turn heat to low and slowly whisk in butter a little at a time. Add more butter as it melts. Season with salt and pepper.

Blackened Softshell Crawfish:

14 soft shelled crawfish

Blackening seasoning



Season crawfish with blackening seasoning.

Dust in cornstarch. Sear in sauté pan with oil for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Seared Grouper:


7 (8-oz.) portions of grouper

1 cup white wine

Salt and pepper


Cut each portion in half and season with salt and pepper. Sear in a hot sauté pan with a little oil until golden brown.

Turn heat down and flip the fish and let the other side develop some color.

Deglaze with white wine. Cook until the albumin (the white protein) starts to come out.

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