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Sips Across America articles.
“Wine makes daily
living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”
Chef John Folse is revered as one of the great American chefs from Louisiana. His eight cookbooks, particularly the monumental
Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine, spread the gospel of indigenous Louisiana
cooking to the world. The PBS mainstay, “A Taste of Louisiana,” is Folse’s masterfully produced international television series. The Chef John Folse
Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University is dedicated to the preservation of Louisiana's rich culinary heritage.
Folse introduced Louisiana’s cuisine to Japan, Beijing, Hong Kong, and
Paris. In 1988, Folse opened “Lafitte’s Landing East” in Moscow during the
Presidential Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Folse was
the first non-Italian chef to create the Vatican State Dinner in Rome,
followed by his promotional restaurants in London, Bogota, Taipei, and Seoul
earning a proclamation as "Louisiana’s Culinary Ambassador to the World”
from his beloved state. A past chairman of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America, Folse
recently served as the American Judge for the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine
Contest in Lyon, France.
asked Folse, a man who knows wine as well as he knows how to cook, about the
importance of wine in the dining experience. “Wine,” he responded, “has
graced the table since the beginning of recorded time. Wine not only
enhances the flavor of food when properly paired, it helps to create a
social and welcoming atmosphere among diners. Whether sipped as a pre-dinner
beverage or a sweet finish served with dessert, wine is an extremely
important element to the meal.”
Chef Folse has myriad original recipes in his outstanding new book,
Hooks, Lies & Alibis, (Chef John Folse & Company Publishing, 2010), and
I thought it might be fun to take some recipes and do some wine pairing.
Wines from Louisiana? Folse reminded me that Louisiana was producing
award-winning wines before Prohibition, a natural consequence of the state’s
fondness for alcoholic beverages. After all, the cocktail was invented and
named by Antoine Peychaud, a French Quarter pharmacist.
John Seago owns Ponchartrain Vineyards and produces a white Blanc Du Bois and a red, Norton/Cynthiana, both from
American grapes. Pairing them I thought, with Folse’s recipes had to be fun.
The Blanc Du Bois has some taste kinship to the white wines of Alsace and no
finer recipe than the iconic Trout en Papillote, a New Orleans classic dish
featured in Folse’s book takes the flavors of the trout’s natural juices and
magically blends everything with butter and spices, all baked in parchment.
The Blanc Du Bois (Seago produces a bottle called Le Trolley) or a bottle of
Alsatian dry Riesling or Pinot Gris will pair beautifully with this dish,
offering just enough acidity and fruit balance to make this an elevated
Southern fried catfish and hushpuppies, a culinary heritage recipe found in
Folse’s book, is a border crossing dish found taking various forms from Key
West to Louisville that is found as far west as Austin, Texas. A dry
Australian Riesling like Wakefield Promised Land 2008 or an Alsatian
Gewürztraminer for me was a great fit.
Travels often lead to restaurant variations of another spectacular entrée,
shrimp and grits. Once a pioneer staple, it’s now omnipresent. Folse’s
original recipe, Catfish and Shrimp over Grits, becomes a production that
takes to good red wine a little better than most light white wines. I paired
this outstanding recipe with Ponchartrain’s Norton/Cynthiana, a red that is
quite dry, and the flavors married beautifully. Substitute dry Chianti, a
Rioja Crianza or a Pinot Noir from Oregon and you have the makings of
another lasting memory.
Ever the ambassador of American food, Folse referred me to a dish from his
friend, Chef Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. McPhail, who
is from a small town in Washington State near the Canadian border, devised
an award winning dish, Creole Seafood Mixed Grill. It is in Folse’s new
cookbook. From the first rich spoonful of complex flavors, the wine light
bulb flashed. Wine choices should never be vexing, so I went directly to my
fail-safe that works with everything: Champagne. Don’t hesitate to
substitute a high quality American sparkling wine. The good producers are
easy to find.
Chef Folse is an observer of food evolution, believing that over the next 20
years we will see a huge growth in cuisines reflecting our South American
neighbors. “From Mexico to Chile, Argentina and beyond,” he said, “ a
tremendous array of exciting herbs, spices and raw materials never seen here
before will be brought to North American kitchens. Indian and Middle
Eastern cuisines will gain a rapid foothold in our restaurant and food culture.
Exciting new food means more wine adventures and that’s good news if we
follow the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.
Trout En Papillote Recipe
Yields: 6 servings
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 min
6 (6-ounce) fresh trout filets
1/2 cup butter, softened and divided
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Salt and freshly-ground
black pepper, to taste
Granulated garlic to taste
12 pearl onions, peeled
1 cup thinly-sliced carrots
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut six (6) pieces (8” x 10”) parchment paper.
Lay parchment paper pieces on a flat, clean surface and brush with softened butter.
Place one (1) trout filet on each piece of parchment paper and brush each trout filet with softened butter.
Drizzle with lemon juice and then season with lemon pepper, thyme, salt,
pepper, and granulated garlic, to taste. Top with onions, garlic cloves, and carrots.
Enclose each prepared trout filet in the parchment paper by folding sides over the top of each trout fillet and vegetables.>
Set papillotes on a baking pan with 1-inch lip, seam side down, and bake approximately 20 minutes or until fish is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
NOTE: Perfectly cooked fish is nearly opaque, should be very
moist, and will flake easily with a fork. Fish that looks slightly dry is
overcooked. Undercooked fish will look translucent and raw. If you have a
digital meat thermometer, the internal temperature in the center of the fillet should reach 145ºF.
is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers
asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the
Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the
Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world. To learn more about this excellent
thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined:
To serve, transfer papillotes to 6 serving plates and cut open with a sharp knife, and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.