Printer Friendly

Beignet done that.

Louisiana, specifically New Orleans, is a swampy mix of sultry southern enchantment and French savoir faire. The state's politics are just as murky as its bayous. Both serve as the setting for a few sugary stories. Because when it comes to the "Big Easy", there's nothing that goes better with a beignet than a cafe au lait and a lot of voodoo politics.

An uncivif offering

In 1862, as the Civil War wrapped up, a French market coffee shop, by the name of Cafe du Monde, opened in New Orleans. It's signature seller-noticeably strong coffee. Legend says it was purposely made industrial strength to dissuade the delicate constitutions of an unwelcome Union militia. And what to serve with the strange brew, but beignets-essentially, a square donuts sans the hole! Think chicory coffee and a plate of three-because that's how they serve the fried fritter down there-perfect squares dusted with powdered sugar. According to Crescent City Beignets, the sweet originated with the Acadian French (who first settled South Louisiana.) With the civil war at hand, the pastries became a welcome treat-inexpensive and effortless to produce.

Visit Louisiana today and you'd be hard-pressed to sidestep French culture. This has been the case ever since 1682, when Frenchman Rene-Robert Cavalier arrived in the Mississippi River Valley and declared it the territory of France (naming it "Louisiane" in honor of Louis XIV). Louisiana was sold to the Americans in 1803, but the French influence has endured, served up with a little American attitude- and a whole lot of beignets.

Beignet backlash

When French President Jacques Chirac openly opposed the U.S.-led effort to invade Iraq in the Spring of 2003, all things French suddenly became a foe. French fries went stale. French wines forgone. The backlash reached its peak in mid-March, when Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives decided to take control and rewriteno, not legislation-but cafeteria menus! Anything with the word, 'French' was replaced with 'freedom.' And in Louisiana? Republican State Representative, A.G. Crowe drafted a resolution to renig Jacques Chirac's invitation to attend the bicentennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase. But where does this leave Louisiana's favorite French-fried fritter, the beignet?

A culinary coup d' etat

Beignets aren't in jeopardy if Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has anything to do with it. Beignets made the back page in the summer of 2003. Fox News Channel's managing editor and chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume reports that when the Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate walked into a restaurant on Nantucket Island, an unnamed, but powerful Washingtonian was waiting for his order of Cod Fish Beignets. But for reasons unexplained, the waitstaff informed the VIP his dinner entree was no longer available. Smartly, the VIP asked the waiter if his order, (apparently the last serving), had been given away-to Kerry! The waiter confessed, "Yes," Senator Kerry couldn't wait any longer for his beignets.

I'm not very opinionated, am I?

Geoffrey Zakarian

The printed postcard that rests near the hostess stand in Town is titled, 'Still Life with a Glass of Water and Figs.' It was painted in 1888 by the late Zachary Zakarian, great-great uncle to--Geoffrey Zakarian.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Take one on your way in-or-out of Town. Just don't help yourself to the salt and pepper shakers. Or the flatware. Or the fine china. Unless, that is, you want a 400 dollar charge to appear on your credit card statement. And don't think it won't.

"We catch people taking things all the time. When we know we're going to catch someone, I come out of the kitchen and stand so I can see their reaction. I'll say something like, 'I'm flattered you like our place settings so much!' And they look at me mortified. Those are some of my most enjoyable times. Those salt and pepper shakers cost us a fortune. I'm not going to sell them at cost. Retail is a 50 percent markup."

Spoken like someone who carned one of his three degrees in business.

His chef's coat is embroidered with his initials only: GZ. So too might his line of pots, pans and plates he plans to design. "I love fashion and food. I read more fashion magazines than any woman I know." Blending these two loves, 'GZ' even consulted briefly for The Gap, when branding strategy called for juice bars and cafes in selected stores. "I take as much inspiration from Helmut Lang as I do from Alain Ducasse."

But who needs supermodels and a catwalk when there is ambiance and food just as sexy? Walk down-'Town' on the vertical runway--the staircase--to the sub-basement. This is the dining room and Zakarian's stage. "No girls running around in mid-drifts here. That's not what I'm about. We're all professionals."

And Zakarian is a pro. Being partners with the Chambers hotel (call it Town & Chambers), means he's responsible for the mood of anyone who walks through those heavy mahogany doors.

"If a customer receives bad treatment at the hotel, it reflects on me. And if he has bad treatment at the restaurant, they go piss at the hotel. They (the customer) rightly assume we are one entity. If I go to an establishment, it better be good. If it isn't, fix it. My customers spend a lot of money. We have to work hard here."

He drinks his cappuccino in one shot and says, "You're only as good as your last meal."

And Zakarian tries to make every morsel at Town memorable. This is hotel dining at its finest. A far cry from the dated associations with staid music, somber quarters and sorry cuisine now constrained to cities trapped in time. In NYC, it is the boom of the 'boutique,' the new buzz word for the upper-than-up-to-date hotel. Zakarian is proud to say he's worked at, what might have been, the first of these hotel types in the city--possibly in the country--when restaurants did not belong off the lobby. That was in the late '80s at 44 in the Royalton, an Ian Schrager endeavor.

"Everything old is new. It just has to be repackaged."

Geoffrey jokes about not being very opinionated, but he is. And in between his opinions, he tries to improve his, "I'm a six, but used to be a four" golf handicap as he "continues to deteriorate." That will happen if you spend most of your time tending to the kitchen rather than the pin.

"I live and breathe the kitchen--my office is there. People get hung up on whether or not a chef is always in the kitchen. There aren't that many chefs who actually cook. They're usually expediting, screaming, or pretending to cook when there's a photo session going on--let's be honest. When I was a chef de cuisine, or a sous chef, that was my job--to cook. Now, I need to make things work financially, to make this work as entertainment, and to make sure the customers are happy. And of course, to make sure the food is great."

His second degree, Bachelor of the Arts, is in music--classical piano. Creativity must run in the Zakarian family--his father was a 'Big Band' trombone player.

"I like a lot of things. I went to France, fell in love with French women and the French lifestyle. So, when I got back from France, I told my mom I was going to be a chef. She told me if I became a chef, I'd end up marrying a waitress!"

Zakarian didn't heed his mother's warning and went for his third degree, an Associate's at the CIA. Of the CIA, he speaks candidly, "That school's all bad fashion, bad food and bad teachers. I couldn't stand it. It taught me nothing about cooking. It barely taught me how to heat up a pan. They turn out little corporate monsters. The graduates come to me and want 35 thousand. Maybe in two years I'll give someone 35 thousand, if they can show me how to heat up a pan. What the CIA did teach me, is how to network and be a real generalist in this business."

With Country open, Town's sister restaurant, Zakarian spreads himself thin. He rarely finds time to use his golf clubs these days.

"There has to be a way out. So that at 50 or 55, you enjoy your life and don't stay in a kitchen. There are plenty of people who do that and who drop dead. My work drives me, but my idea of bliss is not spending ten hours in a kitchen sauteing squid."

"I want to do something that generates a lot of money, so I don't have to continue to rely on what is a very fickle crowd, in a very difficult environment, in a very tough economy, with very small margins."

Think cafes at the turn, Geoffrey. Even golfers appreciate gourmet.

RELATED ARTICLE: Baked Black Olive and Manchego Beignets (Makes 4)

Geoffrey Zakarian

directions

For the tomatoes: Score the bottom of the tomatoes and drop into boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove from water and, starting with the scored end, peel each tomato halfway, leaving the peel attached. Submerge in olive oil, salt and sugar; cure overnight. Remove from cure and set aside.

For the dough: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix cream cheese and butter until combined. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and paprika. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture. Mix until dough comes together; transfer to a lightly floured work surface and finish mixing by hand. Divide dough in half, flatten into a disc and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for one hour. Remove dough from refrigerator, and on a lightly floured work surface, roll to 10X14-inches and 1/8-inch thick. Place on a half-sheet pan and bake in oven for four minutes; remove and set aside.

For the dish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a medium saute pan; saute onions and garlic until translucent. Add thyme, parsley and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and spread mixture evenly over dough; sprinkle with anchovies and olives. Top with sliced cheese and place in oven until cheese melts.

To serve: Cut beignet into quarters and arrange on plates. Garnish with olives, arugula, eggs, caperberries, olive puree, parsley oil, sardine-wrapped garlic and tomatoes.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

ingredients

For the tomatoes:

4 cherry tomatoes

1 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

For the dough:

5 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 ounces unsalted butter

4 ounces all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

For the dish:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped anchovies

8 Alphonso olives, pitted and chopped*

8 slices manchego cheese

Salt and pepper

For the garnish:

12 black olives, smashed

Wild arugula as needed

4 soft-boiled eggs, sprinkled with paprika and black and white sesame seeds

4 caperberries, sliced

4 tablespoons black olive puree

Parsley oil as needed

8 cloves garlic, roasted, sliced and wrapped with sardines

Reserved tomatoes

Available through El Mercato Grande at (480) 862-2964.

RELATED ARTICLE: Bacon and Truffle Beignets (Makes 12)

Geoffrey Zakarian

directions

For the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix cream cheese and butter until combined. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and paprika. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture. Mix until dough comes together; transfer to a lightly floured work surface and finish mixing by hand. Divide dough in half, flatten into a disc and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for one hour.

For the filling: In a large saute pan, add butter and render bacon. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add truffles and truffle oil, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

To finish: Preheat deep fryer to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and place onto floured work surface. Roll into two 12X4-inch rectangles 1/8-inch thick. Spoon 12 tablespoons of filling 2-inches apart on one rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges. Brush egg wash around the filling and drape the remaining rectangle over the filling. Cut between each beignet using a fluted pastry wheel. Deep fry beignets until golden brown. Remove from oil and blot with paper towels; sprinkle with sea salt.

To serve: Serve beignets on a bed of sea salt and caraway seeds. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

ingredients

For the dough:

5 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 ounces unsalted butter, softened

4 ounces all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

For the filling:

1 tablespoon butter

3 slices bacon, finely chopped

2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped black truffle

1 1/2 teaspoons truffle oil

Salt and pepper

To finish:

Egg wash as needed

For the garnish:

Sea salt

Caraway seeds

Parsley sprigs

RELATED ARTICLE: Vanilla Bean Beignets (Makes 12)

Geoffrey Zakarian

directions

For the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla seeds until combined. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture. Mix until dough comes together. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and finish mixing by hand. Flatten into a disc, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat deep fryer to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator, transfer to a floured work surface and roll into a 16X10-inch rectangle 1/16-inch thick. Cut dough with a fluted pastry wheel into long wavy strips. Deep-fry until golden brown; transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet pan.

To serve: Serve beignets with vanilla beans.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

ingredients

For the dough:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 ounces unsalted butter, softened

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

4 ounces all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the garnish:

Vanilla beans

RELATED ARTICLE: Sour Cherry and Goat Cheese Beignets (Makes 12)

Geoffrey Zakarian

directions

For the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix cream cheese, butter and zest until combined. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture. Mix until dough comes together. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and finish mixing by hand. Divide dough in half, flatten into a disc and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for one hour.

For the cherry filling: Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer for five minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the goat cheese filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix ingredients until combined. Place filling in a pastry bag and refrigerate until needed.

To finish: Preheat deep fryer to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and place on a floured work surface. Roll into two 12X4-inch rectangles, 1/8-inch thick. Pipe six quarter-size goat cheese circles 2-inches apart along the length of each rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges. Place one tablespoon cherry compote on top of each goat cheese circle. Brush remaining half of dough with egg wash and fold over the filling. Cut out each beignet using a ravioli crimper and secure the edges. Deep fry beignets until golden brown. Blot with paper towels.

To serve: Serve beignets with cherries and Parmesan cheese; season with salt and pepper.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

ingredients

For the dough:

5 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 ounces unsalted butter, softened

Zest of 1/2 lemon, finely chopped

4 ounces all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the cherry filling:

1 cup pitted sour cherries

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

For the goat cheese filling:

4 ounces goat cheese

2 ounces ricotta cheese

1 ounce granulated sugar

To finish:

Egg wash as needed

For the garnish:

Bing cherries

Grated Parmesan cheese as needed

Salt and pepper

RELATED ARTICLE: Apple Pie Beignets (Makes 12)

Geoffrey Zakarian

directions

For the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix cream cheese and butter until combined. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture. Mix until dough comes together. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and finish mixing by hand. Divide dough in half, flatten into a disc and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for one hour.

For the filling: Combine sugar and water in a saute pan; cook until golden brown. Add butter and apples; cook until soft. Remove from heat and stir in currants. Set aside to cool.

To finish: Preheat deep fryer to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out to 1/8-inch thick. Cut out twelve 6-inch round circles. Brush egg wash on one half of the circle and divide filling between all circles. Fold half over and push edges to seal. Run a dough crimper along the edge of the beignet. Deep fry beignets until golden brown. Remove from oil and blot dry with paper towels. Mix sugar and cinnamon together; gently roll beignets in mixture.

To serve: Stack beignets in a basket and serve.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

ingredients

For the dough:

1 pound 2 ounces cream cheese, softened

8 ounces unsalted butter, softened

15 ounces all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the filling:

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped

4 ounces sugar

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons dried currants, soaked in water

To finish:

Egg wash as needed

Granulated sugar

Cinnamon

RELATED ARTICLE: White Anchovy and Fresh Herb Beignets (Makes 6)

Geoffrey Zakarian

directions

For the dough: Combine egg yolk and water in a bowl and mix well. Stir in flour until combined and refrigerate until needed.

For the beignets: Preheat deep fryer to 350 degrees. Dredge anchovies with flour and coat with batter. Deep-fry until golden brown and blot with paper towels. Coat sea beans and half of the herbs in batter and deep-fry until golden brown; blot with paper towels.

To serve: Arrange in a cup and garnish.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

ingredients

For the dough:

1 egg yolk

1 cup ice water

1 cup all-purpose flour

For the beignets:

6 white anchovy fillets, drained

1/4 pound cranberry beans, blanched

1/4 pound sea beans, blanched

Basil, stemmed; as needed

Cilantro, stemmed; as needed

Tarragon, stemmed; as needed

All-purpose flour as needed

For the garnish:

1/4 pound sea beans

Basil, stemmed and fried; as needed

Cilantro, stemmed and fried; as needed

Tarragon, stemmed and fried; as needed

RELATED ARTICLE: Chocolate Beignets (Makes 12)

Geoffrey Zakarian

directions

For the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix cream cheese and butter until combined. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture. Mix until dough comes together; transfer to a lightly floured work surface and finish mixing by hand. Divide dough in half, flatten into a disc and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for one hour.

For the filling: Place chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Bring cream and butter to a boil in a saucepan and pour over chocolate. Allow to stand for five minutes and stir with a whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature and transfer to a pastry bag.

To finish: Preheat deep fryer to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and transfer to a floured work surface. Roll dough to two 8X10-inch rectangles, 1/16-inch thick. Brush one rectangle with egg wash, then pipe 16 quarter-size chocolate circles in two rows, 2-inches apart. Cover with remaining rectangle and cut out each chocolate circle with a fluted ravioli cutter, making sure to secure the edges. Fry beignets until golden brown; transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet pan and dust with powdered sugar.

To serve: Serve beignets on a bed of chocolate chips.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

ingredients

For the dough:

5 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 ounces unsalted butter, softened

4 ounces all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 ounces heavy cream

1 ounce unsalted butter

To finish:

Egg wash as needed

Powdered sugar as needed

For the garnish:

Bittersweet chocolate chips
COPYRIGHT 2004 Culinaire, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Back to Basics
Author:Newman, Carol M.
Publication:Art Culinaire
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:3408
Previous Article:Need a lawyer?
Next Article:Symmetry by way of chemistry.
Topics:


Related Articles
POSITIVELY GLOWING FIREFLY ALIGHTS IN STUDIO CITY.
'WANT FRIES WITH THAT?' THAT'S AL THEY ASK YOU AT BENITA'S FRITES.
MAMA'S COOKING AND MAMA COOKS HOME-STYLE JUST RIGHT.
WESTSIDE SUPPER CLUB VERY INVITING, ONCE YOU LOCATE IT.
FRIES GO BELGIAN AT SPUDS CAFE.
GOOD TASTES FREEBIE LEAFLET.
Pasta.
The batter to (b)eat you with.
Bananarama.
TAKE A WALK ON SPICY SIDE OF NEW ORLEANS TOUR SAVORS CRESCENT CITY'S CULINARY HERITAGE.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters