Tag Archives: Creole

Calas: A New Orleans Tradition

 

It’s Mardi Gras, and down in New Orleans, the King Cakes, beignets and other gustatory delights are flowing freely. But if you prefer your culinary temptations with a side of history, allow me to introduce you to the calas, a Creole rice fritter with a storied past.

Never heard of a calas? Most people outside of New Orleans never heard of them either.

It’s basically a rice fritter. Calas are just one of the many rice dishes that actually made the journey during the Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean. Calas are made of leftover rice mixed into a sugary egg batter, then deep fried and served dusted with confectioner’s sugar. 

To  me, they are kind of like beignets, only better — with a more interesting backstory. Calas were once a vital part of African-American livelihood in the New Orleans, and even helped some slaves there buy their freedom. The cala became a very important part of New Orleans’ history.

Scholars think slaves from the rice-growing regions of Africa  who were brought to the Carolinas specifically to  grow rice.  And as slavery spread down to the Gulf Coast, calas  were eventually brought to Louisiana. Some culinary historians can trace calas to Ghana, others, to Liberia and Sierra Leone. If you were to go to Africa today, to Ghana or Liberia, you would find the women in the open-air markets making calas.

330px-Le_Code_Noir_1742_edition.jpgIn 1685, during the days of French rule, New Orleans was ruled by the Le Code Noir or the “Black Codes”, a decree originally passed by France’s King Louis XIV. The Code Noir defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Negroes, also known as free people of color,  and forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and expelled all Jews from France’s colonies.

The code has been described by Tyler Stovall as “one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe”.  The Code Noir resulted in a far higher percentage of blacks being free people of color during this period where the free color populations  was 13.2% in Louisiana compared to 0.8% in Mississippi. In by 21st Century standards, they were on average exceptionally literate and highly educated, sending their children abroad to study in some of Europe’s finest universities at the time.  Many were were doctors and lawyers, with a significant number of them owning businesses, properties and even slaves. Today, most people  are unaware that the free people of color were highly successful in the era of slavery. It was a very different climate in New Orleans than in the rest of the United States at the time.

In the Code Noir, it was stated that  all slaves were required calasby law to have at least one day a week off. The slaves’ day off usually was Sunday. Many of them would become street vendors. And so after church, African women would roam the streets of the French Quarter touting their wares with the chant, “Calas, calas! Belles calas tout chauds, madame, belles calas tout chauds!” — “Beautiful calas! Very hot!”

When the Spanish took control of Louisiana in the 1760s, they brought with them a powerful legal instrument, coartacion ,a specific type of manumission that pertained to slavery in the Hispanic Caribbean, through which slaves were allowed to purchase their freedom on a gradual basis. They were considered ‘free’ in exchange for compensation for the slave owner. In other words, coartacion  gave slaves the right to buy their freedom. For enslaved black women in the city, selling calas was a key way to earn money for these purchases. These women were able to buy freedom for their families and for themselves.

More than 1,400 New Orleans slaves bought their freedom under Spanish rule. But it’s not clear just how many did so with calas money.

African-American culinary historian Jessica B. Harris  has noted  in her writings that not all calas vendors were enslaved. And the ones who were  slaves often sold them for their mistresses. If they were lucky, they were allowed to keep a portion of the money, or perhaps have it go towards their freedom.

Americans ended the practice of coartacion soon after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. But New Orleans remained home to thousands of free blacks – and throughout the 1800s, many of them, especially women, made their living selling calas and other street foods.

In the 20th century, these vendors slowly disappeared, until, by 1940, according to an old Works Progress Administration report, just a single calas street merchant remained.

But indoors, calas “remained popular as a home treat” among African-Americans — especially during Mardi. Friends and neighbors prepared calas for their families and for the maskers who stopped by for a little ‘recess’ from their parading.

And the fritters did survive in at least one public eating space: The Old Coffeepot Restaurant, a French Quarter breakfast joint, where they’ve been on the menu for decades.

Waitress Gaynell James serves up calas cake from the kitchen at The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Jan. 28, 2013.

Waitress Gaynell James Serves up calas from the kitchen at The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter. Gerald Herbert/AP 2013.

After chef Frank Brigsten purchased Charlie’s in 2009, he replaced hushpuppies on the menu at the longtime neighborhood seafood joint —a fixture in Harahan, outside New Orleans, since the 1950s—with a savory take on calas. They have gotten to be so  popular that the restaurant now serve shrimp calas as an appetizer.

 In recent years, calas have also made their way into a higher-profile tradition as well.2010-Calas-Lady-_vo
In 1990, New Orleans’ Haydel’s Bakery revived the old tradition of including miniature porcelain dolls in their Mardi Gras King Cakes.  The Original 1990 Frozen Charlotte Doll quickly became a collector’s item.  Since then,  Haydel’s has choosen a different porcelain figure  that celebrates one of the traditions of  the city’s beloved Mardi Gras heritage and bakes them  into  their famous King Cakes. In 2010, that figurine was in the shape of the iconic calas lady, her basket of “belle calas” balanced on her head —not forgotten. a symbol of a New Orleans long gone but, but still alive in the hearts of many.

And so the cala, a rice dish that is a part of New Orleans’ history, will be saved for future generations to come with this recipe that is presented below.

Makes About 2 Dozen

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked white rice
6 Tablespoons all purpose flour
3 heaping Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
5-6 cups vegetable oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Mix the rice with flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Add eggs and when thoroughly mixed, drop by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil , heated to 360 ° F. Fry until browned on both sides.

Using a spyder, remove the fritters from the oil and drain on baking sheet lined  with paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot with coffee or Cafe au Lait. 

 

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Poulet Rochambeau

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Poulet Rochambeau (Chicken Rochambeau)

The tradition of Réveillon, the dinner parties held by the French on Christmas Eve is alive and well in New Orleans.  In order to stay awake until Midnight Mass, French families would draw out dinner right up till it was time to leave for church.

That means lots of good Creole-French food, of which Chicken Rochambeau is one of my favorites dishes. This is a great dish to make around holiday time because it calls for roast chicken, and there’s bound to be lots of roast chicken or turkey leftovers around many a New Orleans household at Christmas time.  Traditionally, this Louisiana Creole dish is half a chicken (breast, leg, and thigh), which is boned , leaving the skin intact. The chicken is then  roasted and served as a layered dish – first a slice of baked ham, followed by a brown, Rochambeau sauce made of chicken stock and brown sugar, with a final nap of Béarnaise sauce covering the chicken

Personally, I like to serve this dish with a rich  Marchand de Vin Sauce. which I used in this recipe. The  traditional brown sugar sauce is listed below, if you want to serve the dish in that  fashion.

Trying  to find the origins of this dish is just as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Antoine’s,  the  oldest family-run restaurant  in the United States, established   in New Orleans, Louisiana  in 1840, is famous for this chicken dish. The story is that the restaurateur Antoine Alciatore,  a French immigrant and the restaurant’s namesake, created the dish to honor the Comte du Rochambeau.

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The most famous Frenchman known in America was the Marquis de Lafayette, an American Revolutionary hero who has  parks named in his honor throughout the United States. However there is another French aristocrat who fought on the side of the Americans during the Revolutionary War and has been long neglected by history and his name was Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau (1725 – 1807). In 1780, he was was given the rank of Lieutenant General along with 7,000 troops to help George Washington defeat the British. Eventually his forces left Rhode Island for Connecticut to join Washington on the Hudson River. This culminated in the march of their combined forces, the siege of Yorktown, and (along with the aid of the Marquis de Lafayette) the defeat of Cornwallis.

Upon his return to France, Rochambeau was honored by King Louis XVI and was made governor of the province of Picardy. He supported the French Revolution of 1789, and on 28 December 1791 he and Nicolas Luckner became the last two generals created Marshal of France by Louis XVI. When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out, he commanded the Armée du Nord for a time in 1792 but resigned after several reversals to the Austrians. He was arrested during the Reign of Terror in 1793–94 and narrowly escaped the guillotine. He was subsequently pensioned by Napoleon and died at Thoré-la-Rochette during the Empire.

A statue of Rochambeau by sculptor Ferdinand Hamar was unveiled in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square, by President Theodore Roosevelt on 24 May 1902, as a gift from France to the United States. The ceremony was made the occasion 300px-comte_de_rochambeau_statue_dcof a great demonstration of friendship between the two nations. France was represented by ambassador Jules Cambon, Admiral Fournier and General Henri Brugère, as well as a detachment of sailors and marines from the battleship Gaulois. Representatives of the Lafayette and Rochambeau families also attended.

In 1934, American A. Kingsley Macomber donated a statue of General Rochambeau to the city of Newport, Rhode Island. The sculpture is a replica of a statue in Paris. It was from Newport that General Rochambeau departed with his army to join General Washington to march on to the Siege of Yorktown.

Ironically, Lafayette Square in New Orleans has neither a statue of Lafayette, nor one in Rochambeau’s honor, but the city does have a way of creating monumental culinary dishes. Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans is famous for its Poulet Rochambeau.

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 slices French bread toast, 1/2 inch thick rounds, toasted under the broiler on both sides
4 large slices roast chicken
4 large slices boiled or baked ham
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Dash Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Béarnaise Sauce
1 cup Marchand de Vin Sauce (See Recipe Below)
Parsley, finely chopped for garnish (See Recipe Below)

Directions:
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and fry the ham. Warm the chicken slices.

To assemble:
In the center of two heated serving plates, place the French bread rounds. Next, place the ham and top with a generous portion of Marchand de Vin. Place the chicken on top of the Marchand de Vin, finish the dish with a generous portion of Bearnaise. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

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Marchand de Vin Sauce
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely minced ham
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef stock
3/4 cup red wine
Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste.
Dash of Cayenne

Directions:
To make the Marchand de Vin Sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and sauté the ham, scallions, mushrooms, and garlic over medium heat until the whites of the onions are translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the beef stock and red wine  and bring to a boil. Add seasonings. Let simmer for about 40 minutes. The sauce should  be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set sauce aside until ready to serve.

Béarnaise Sauce
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 Tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon cold water

Directions:
To Make the Béarnaise Sauce: Add the butter in a small heavy saucepan and let it melt slowly. Skim off the foam that rises to the surface. Heat the shallots, vinegar, peppercorns, salt and tarragon in another saucepan and cook until all the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat and let the saucepan cool slightly. Add the egg yolks and the water to the shallots.

Return the saucepan to the stove and stir the yolk mixture vigorously over very low heat. Do not overheat or the mixture will curdle. Remove the saucepan from the heat and place it on a cold surface. Add the melted butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. After incorporating the butter, remove from the heat and set aside until ready to serve.

For the Chicken Rochambeau with Brown Sugar Sauce

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Ingredients:

Brown Sugar Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup dry vermouth

Directions:
Prepare the brown sugar sauce by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk until mixture is a caramel color.  Slowly whisk in the brown sugar ,salt and vermouth.  Increase heat to medium high and whisk constantly until mixture is  slightly thickened, and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.

Prepare the  toasts, ham , chicken and Béarnaise sauce as indicated above.

To assemble:  Spoon a portion of the brown sugar sauce to the center of the  plate. Place the French bread toast on top of the brown sugar sauce and add the  ham on top of the bread. Top the ham with a generous amount  Béarnaise sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Chicken Pontalba

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Chicken Pontalba is one of the many signature dishes served at old-line New OrleansMicaela_Pontalba Creole restaurants. This dish was created in New Orleans by Chef Paul Blange in the early days of Brennan’s in the French Quarter during the early 1950s and was a well-established local favorite when the Delmonico re-opened. The recipe is very similar to Chicken Clemenceau, but without the inclusion of green peas. The name Pontalba denotes richness, as the dish is named for  Micaela Leonarda Antonia Almonester y Rojas, Baroness de Pontalba (1795- 1874) who was a wealthy New Orleans-born aristocrat, businesswoman, and real estate developer, and one of the most dynamic personalities of that city’s history.

As  the wealthiest woman in New Orleans she built the opulent Pontalba buildings in 1848, that still flank Jackson Square in the historic French Quarter. The construction of the Pontalba Buildings cost more than $300,000  and she was a constant visitor to the construction sites, often supervising the work on horseback.

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The cast-ironwork decorating the balconies were also her personal design and she had her initials “AP” carved into the center of each section. Considered the oldest apartments in Potatoes Pontalba wrought ironthe country, the buildings continue to house elegant residences upstairs and fine retail shops downstairs. The Baroness was also instrumental in the name change of Place d’Armes to Jackson Square; as well as the decision to convert it from a parade ground to a formal garden. It was alleged that when she was landscaping the garden, she threatened the mayor with a shotgun after he tried to prevent her from tearing down two rows of trees.

Andrew_Jackson_(14130889).jpgShe also helped finance the bronze equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson which features prominently in the square.Legend has it that her friend Andrew Jackson, once failed to raise his hat to the Baroness, so when she funded the statue baring his likeness she insisted that sculptor Clark Mills depict Jackson forever raising his hat toward her apartment building. Probably not true, but it is a great  story.

The Baroness  was also known to give  lavish parties and served rich creative Creole dishes to her guests during these affairs. And in that same  spirit , what could be any more different than the simple ingredients of cooked chicken napped with Bearnaise sauce all on a bed of deep fried potatoes, diced ham, mushrooms, onions, garlic and white wine? Chicken Pontalba, of course, which is a rich and lavish dish that is truly Creole in creation  and meant to be enjoyed as fine  dining.

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Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, lightly pounded
1 large baking potato, cut into 1/2- inch dice
3/4 cup ham, diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 1/2 cups baby Portabella mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground  black pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Vegetable oil

For the Bearnaise Sauce , click here for the recipe 

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 400 ° F.

Toss the Potatoes in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and crispy.

In the meantime, season the flour with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Season the thighs also, then dredge pieces in the flour.

When the potatoes are almost ready, heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a saute pan. When the fat is hot, brown the chicken quickly on both sides, place on a ovenproof dish and finish in the oven.

In the same saute pan, add the ham and onions, saute until golden brown and the onions are tender. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and a tablespoon more butter. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine, and cook until the alcohol evaporates.

Fold in the brabant potatoes from the oven and 1 tablespoon of the parsley, taste for seasonings. Just before serving, incorporate the last tablespoon of butter.

Split the potato mixture between two heated plates. Top each with a chicken thigh, and finish with a generous drizzle of Bearnaise sauce. Garnish with minced parsley.

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All photographs and content are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

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Chicken Clemençeau

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This dish is one of the famous chicken creations of New Orleans, along with Chicken Bon Femme , Chicken Pontalba, and Chicken Rochambeau. It’s named for Georges Clemençeau (1841-1929), a French statesman who became the French Premier in 1906. He served as theabout-romania-and-her-people-georges-clemenceau.jpg Prime Minister of France from 1906 to 1909, and again from 1917 to 1920. In favor of a total victory over the German Empire, he militated for the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine to France. He was one of the principal architects of the Treaty of Versailles at the France Peace Conference of 1919. Nicknamed “Père la Victoire” (Father Victory) or “Le Tigre” (The Tiger).

My dish is based on version that was first  served at but Galatoire’s , one of the  grandest and oldest Creole restaurants in  New Orleans. Galatoire’s  was founded in 1905 by Jean Galatoire, and distinguished itself on Bourbon Street from its humble beginnings. From the small village of Pardies, France, Jean Galatoire brought recipes and traditions inspired by the familial dining style of his homeland to create the menu and ambiance of the internationally-renowned restaurant. In its fifth generation, it is the Galatoire family and descendants who have carried the tradition of New Orleans’ fine dining restaurants and influenced its evolution.
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So how did this dish come  about ? Well, Clemençeau is credited with bringing France from the brink of defeat to victory in World War I. In part, he did so by convincing the Allies to unify their efforts through the leadership of a supreme commander, previously unheard of among nations of the day.Equally unheard of was the amalgamation of chicken, fried potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, and canned peas into a single dish, as was achieved at Galatoire’s in the 1920’s to delicious effect. And so the dish was  named  in his honor.

At once glamorous and homey, the nostalgic dish  is still on the menu at many old-line dining rooms in New Orleans, an enduring favorite that deserves to be revisited. Authenticity requires using a young fowl known as a poussin or a spring chicken, but it is fine to substitute a small fryer or even boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

And with that in mind, I made a few variations  to the original recipe. Chicken breast were used here, mainly because it was what I had on hand at the time. Also note that Brabant Potatoes, are usually fried, and in this  recipe, I baked them instead with great time  saving results.The original  recipe also called  for  canned baby peas (petit pois), but  I opted for fresh baby green peas, lightly blanched, because I  like bright  vegetables on my plate.

To complete  this meal, serve this dish with a full-bodied Chardonnay.

Bon Appétit!

Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 chicken breasts, lightly pounded
2 cups mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 small white onion, chopped
2 scallions, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Yukon Gold  potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 Tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
1 cup fresh petite green peas, blanched

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 400 º F.

Toss the diced potatoes in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Place on a baking sheet, and into the oven for 35 minutes, occasionally turning them with a spatula for even browning.

When the potatoes are almost golden brown, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter, and 1 tablespoons of the oil in an ovenproof skillet. When the fat is bubbling and hot, add the chicken breasts, which have been seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper, brown quickly on both sides, remove to a plate.

In the same hot pan add the mushrooms, saute until golden brown. Add the onions and garlic, season with a little salt and pepper, saute until the onions are almost tender and have some color. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoons  of the parsley.Place the chicken back in the pan and cover with some of the “sauce.” Place in the oven until the chicken is just cooked through.

To serve, divide the Brabant potatoes between two warmed plates, making a pile in the center, place a chicken breast on each.Melt the remaining butter into the sauce, and fold in the peas until just warmed through. Divide the sauce over the two chicken breasts and garnish with the remaining parsley.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Pumpkin and Shrimp Corn Chowder

This chowder  recipe takes advantage of the last of the fall corn harvest and the arrival of pumpkins in the pumpkin patch. Diced potatoes  with a taste of smoked paprika and Creole seasoning gives this new seasonal favorite delivers a new twist to a not so traditional chowder. So warm and satisfying, this dish is perfect with a chunk of rustic French  bread.

Enjoy!

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
4 Fresh ears of corn
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch dice
½ cup celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
½ cup celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 cup heavy cream
Sprigs of flat leaf Italian parsley, for garnish

Directions:
In a shallow dish, with a serrated knife, strip the kernels off the corn. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and cook the shrimp for 4 to 7 minutes or until they become completely opaque and pink. Remove the shrimp to a plate, and set aside.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and cook the garlic, onions, celery and red bell pepper for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the corn to the Dutch oven and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes. When the flour begins to brown, add the smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, bay leaf, chicken stock, pumpkin puree and potatoes. Bring the chowder to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

While the chowder is simmering, reserve 8 shrimp and chop up the remaining shrimp into bite sized pieces. Add the heavy cream, Creole seasoning, and chopped shrimp to the Dutch oven. Stir until the cream is incorporated and allow the chowder to heat through. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Remove the bay leaf.

Ladle into soup bowls and serve warm, garnished with parsley sprigs and top with the remaining whole shrimp.

Style Notes:
Staub Burnt Orange Mini Pumpkin Cocotte (3/4 quart) 
The Home Cook’s personal, French White Plate, Venetian Glass Charger, and Silver Spoon