Commander's Kitchen, Ti Adelaide Martin and Jamie Shannon
[320] pages; Color, black and white photography
Broadway Books, 2000
Reviewed by Alexandra Clestin for Good Cooking
November, 2000

For all epicureans who savor gourmet cooking with a twist of authentic earthiness to it, the Commander's Palace cooking book is a must have. The "Commander's Kitchen" cookbook is not just a book of recipes it is a book of memories. Ti Adelaide and Jamie Shannon explain this well through an historical overview of New Orleans food culture in the first introductory chapter of the book. This enables the readers to understand that Creole cuisine, which lives in symbiosis with Cajun cuisine at the Commander's Palace, is very much alive, not stagnant. They are in a state of continuous evolution as the New Orleans community evolves.

Using this book is cooking with flavor and culture. The recipes are very well written, therefore very easy to follow; a segment about the tools and techniques is addressed in the first chapter which I think is a great help for any novice in cooking. Each chapter is overloaded with tips and an accompanied dish follows each recipe. I would recommend you to try the "Skillet grilled tuna with fresh legumes and onion marmalade" and to couple it with "Lyonnaise potatoes". It is absolutely divine. I have to say that it is a lengthy process but the end result is spectacular and worth every effort.

I strongly recommend this book; the myriad of different cultures, which encompasses New Orleans, comes out in the flavorful cuisine and the sense of hospitality that transpires in every line of the book. This book is the testimony of a region, a group of people and a family. Purchase this book and try these recipes and you will be "creolized" for a lifetime.

Enjoy the following recipe from the book. It is delicious. Good Cooking likes the colors, flavor and presentation!

Oyster Chowder

While clams in chowder can sometimes become a bit tough. Fresh oysters stay plump and salty-sweet, and rendered salt pork adds a depth of flavor. Use oyster liquor for flavor and potatoes for thickening.

8 ounces salt pork or bacon, cut in small strips
2 medium onions, in small dice
3 stalks celery, in small dice
10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 medium bell peppers, in small dice
1/4 cup flour
1 quart clear chicken stock, clear seafood stock, or oyster liquor
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, half of them cooked and put through a ricer, milled, or mashed, half uncooked but cut in small dice
1 cup heavy cream
3 pints shucked oysters in their liquor
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Hot sauce
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter (optional)

Place a soup pot on high heat for 1 minute. Add the salt pork and cook to render for about 5 minutes, or until fat is clear and colorless, stirring occasionally. Add the onions, celery, garlic, and peppers, and cook for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and onions are clear. Stir occasionally.

Add the flour, stirring constantly so that nothing sticks to the bottom during cooking. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the flour is well distributed and the mixture thickens. Add the stock and bay leaves and simmer uncovered over medium heat for 25 minutes. Add mashed potatoes, stir, and simmer for about 3 minutes. Add diced potatoes, simmer, and stir occasionally cooking for about 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Stir in the cream, bring to a boil, cook for 2 minutes, and add the oysters. Cook until the edges of the oysters curl, then season with salt and pepper. Spoon into serving bowls, add a dash of hot sauce and a sprinkling of green onions to each serving, and serve with a bit of the butter, if desired, floating on top.

Chef Jamie's Tipslt is much easier to cut salt pork when it is frozen. Oyster liquor, also called oyster liquid, is the juice from the oyster that runs off during shucking. Chicken or seafood stock, or canned clam juice, are all great substitutes. Don't season to taste until you have added the oysters, because they and the pork can be salty. You can adjust the consistency by adding a few tablespoons of blond roux to make a thicker soup or adding more stock or cream for a thinner soup.

Makes 4 quarts, enough for 16 appetizers or 8 entree servings