New Orleans inspired dinner with wine pairings for a cause

Last night, Paul and I prepared a New Orleans-inspired feast of five courses with wine pairings for a group of friends who won the dinner at the OUTBid auction, a fundraiser for OUTMemphis. In previous years, we’ve offered a Wine Snob Dinner at the auction featuring food and wine from particular regions of the world like France and Italy. We try to visit New Orleans, Louisiana at least twice a year to sample great food at old and new restaurants. The uniquely American cuisine of Creole and Cajun food in Louisiana influenced by French, Spanish, West African, Amerindian, Haitian, German, Italian, British and Irish influences made sense for this year’s dinner. Paul paired wines from France, Italy and North America with all courses except dessert. We enjoyed creating and cooking this menu for Frank, Sue, James and Nikki who have won this dinner for many years, and we’re grateful for their generous support of OUTMemphis.

We greeted our guests in the kitchen with an amuse bouche of Creole Spinach-Stuffed Baby Bella Mushrooms paired with a Michel Gonet Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 2011.

The day before the dinner, Paul made a Duck Leg Confit and Andouille Sausage Gumbo for the first seated course to allow the flavors to mature and intensify. Paul accepted a generous gift of duck leg confit and a jar of duck fat for the roux from our friend and fellow gourmand David Brown. Paul paired this velvety rich gumbo with a L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc 2015 (Columbia Valley, Washington).

The salad course of Shrimp, Poached Beets and Green Girl Produce Microgreens with Horseradish Rémoulade really excited me because I made a new friend while sourcing my ingredients. I met Emma Self, the CEO of Green Girl Produce, who gave me a tour of her hydroponic farm in a loft in downtown Memphis. Emma invited me to sample various combinations of microgreens. Her tiny shoots pack powerful punches of flavor with aromas on the nose, gentle or spicy flavors, and unique finishes like a wine or spirit. After tasting several combinations of greens, Emma created a custom blend for this course. Green Girl Produce sells microgreens to many Memphis-area restaurants, so I felt privileged to buy her delicate greens.

I played with this recipe a bit by poaching the golden beets in white balsamic vinegar and white wine (1 part each) for about an hour). I then chilled the beets in the poaching liquid. Even finicky beet eaters would enjoy this method of preparation. I tried this approach based on another salad recipe that calls for red beets poached in red wine and balsamic vinegar. Paul chose a Radio-Coteau “Savoy” Chardonnay 2015 (Anderson Valley, California) to contrast with the spicy flavors of the rémoulade.

The recipe for Andouille Stuffed Pork Loin from Guy Fieri calls for a three-pound roast of pork loin to be impaled with a honing steel to make room for insertion of a pierced link of Andouille sausage. I opted to sear the loin and roast in the oven, but slowly smoking the loin over a grill provides another flavorful option. I draped the pork with a sauce made from pan drippings, leftover champagne and Creole mustard and served and Hasselback Yukon gold and purple baby potatoes on the side. Paul chose a Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2014 (Rhone, France – GR 55, MV 35, OT 10) to pair with this course.

For the fourth course, we made Tournedos Coliseum, a popular dish in the 1970s and 80s at Commander’s Palace, named for the Garden District street in New Orleans where this Brennan family restaurant thrives into its second century. The tournedos cut from the small end of a beef tenderloin seasoned with Creole spices and grilled rest between  luxuriant Marchand de Vin and Bearnaise sauces with broiled spears of asparagus. Paul paired a San Guido “Sassicaia” Bolgheri 2012 from Tuscany, Italy (CS 85, CF 15) with this decadent dish.

The above video from Great Chefs provides a great tutorial for this dish.

No visit to New Orleans is complete without paying homage to pralines. While I didn’t make pralines for dessert, I baked a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie served with whipped cream over streaks of Trees Knees Spicy Maple syrup given to us by Kim Gullett. Paul poured a neat glass of Woodford Reserve Bourbon from Kentucky to wash it all down.

We tried many of the recipes in this menu for the first time and highly recommend them for your table. Find most of the recipes for this occasion on my Pinterest.

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