When you think of New Orleans, Louisiana, the first things that come to mind are great music, and marvelous food. The first two restaurants that come to mind, serving that extraordinary food are Brennan’s, and Commander’s Palace. This week’s woman, number 34, as outlined in Gourmet Online’s “50 Women Game Changers“, is Ella Brennan, who had a towering influence on both of these landmark historical restaurants. I hope you follow along with Mary Berger, at One Perfect Bite, and fellow bloggers as we pay tribute to this special woman.
To talk about Ella’s life involvement with food, you’ve got to start with her older brother Owen. He was flamboyant, and a much loved character in New Orleans. It was Owen who went into the restaurant business on a dare from restaurateur, Count Arnaud. It’s said that he put his Irish stubbornness and hard work into the Vieux Carre. Ella, however, complained to Owen about the food and the decor, so he told her to come to work and do something about it—and she did. By 18 years-old Ella was managing the restaurant. Eventually, all five Brennan siblings got into the business and it took off.
Owen conceived the concept idea breakfast at Brennan’s, but he died in 1955 before the opening in May of 1956. Brennan’s was a great success and the family business grew to six expanded restaurants, which included Brennan’s Houston and Dallas, and Commander’s Palace. And to make the long business history shorter, there was a rift in the family and it split. In 1974 the agreement was final, Owen’s children kept the original Brennan’s, and Ella and her siblings with their families kept the other six restaurants. Her favorite, Commander’s Palace, needed a lot of work and she did what had to be done.
Commander’s Palace under Ella’s reign has produced world known Chefs: Paul Prodhomme, Emerile LaGasse, the late Jammie Shannon, and the current Tory McPhail. At this exceptional restaurant, Ella serves modern New Orlean’s cooking side by side with “Haute Creole.” Restaurant critic Ruth Reichl commented after her first visit to the restaurant, that it combined “upscale fun” with “extraordinary service.” In 1996, the restaurant received the Lifetime Outstanding Restaurant Award from the James Beard Foundation. Ella herself, won the Lifetime achievement award in 2009. Ella is now retired, but she lives next door to the restaurant and is still active. The family now owns twelve restaurants.
*Note about the recipe: I found this recipe for red beans and rice online at TheGreatFamilyCookbookProject. The contributor found this Comander’s Palace recipe in La Meilleure la Louisiane—The Best of Louisiana, Theriout, 1984. The recipe below is the original. To make it more healthy, I modified it by cutting out the ham and using just the sausage (Aidell’s Cajun Style Andouille). I also served it with brown rice pilaf. You many want to double the recipe if you want leftovers.
Yield: 6 cups
Cooking Time: 3 hours (I used a pressure cooker and it cooked in 25 minutes)
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ham, diced (I omited this)
1 Tablespoon butter (I used 1 T. olive oil)
1/2 pound dry red beans
Water to cover the beans
Salt and black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
1/4 Tablespoon thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 Tablespoon oregano
1/2 pound hot pork smoked sausage or Kielbasa, sliced
1) Melt butter in a large sauce pan, and saute onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic with ham until the vegetables are tender. Add the beans with enough water to cover. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, bay leaves, and oregano and cook until the beans start to break up, about 2 hours.
2) Add sausage and cook slowly for approximately one hour, until beans start to change color and are getting thick and creamy. stir occasionally to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat until they are ready to serve. Serve over rice.
Check out and see what these other great bloggers have cooked up.
Val – More Than Burnt Toast, Joanne – Eats Well With Others, Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden, Heather - Girlichef, Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney, Jeanette – Healthy Living, Mary – One Perfect Bite, Kathleen -Bake Away with Me Sue – The View from Great Island, Barbara – Movable Feasts, Kathleen – Gonna Want Seconds, Linda A - There and Back Again Nancy – Picadillo, Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen, Annie- Most Lovely Things , Claudia -Journey of an Italian Cook, Amrit Beetles Kitchen Escapades, Alyce – More Time at the Table
This recipe is also posted at Frugal Food Thursday