Breakfast at Brennan’s

with Donna Sweeny

A visit to New Orleans with­out breakfast at Brennan’s? Unthinkable? This landmark restaurant, located on Royal Street in the heart of the French Quarter, has been delighting diners since it first opened its doors in 1945.

The late Owen Brennan, Sr. was certainly a man of vision. A flamboyant Irishman, he had a lifelong dream to open a restaurant which would incorporate the French-Creole cuisine, and the decided flair for the dramatic, of his native New Orleans. Living in the Crescent City, he was well aware of the abundance of fine fresh foods available there, as well as with the local facility of combining different cooking styles to produce a unique cuisine.

Owen Brennan was not a cook himself, but he wisely did something even better — he married one of the truly out­standing cooks in the State. Until her death last year, Maude, Owen’s widow, played an active role in the business; her three sons, Pip, Jimmy and Ted, now run it.

Brennan’s is a family restau­rant and therein lies its secret of success. It often serves 1,000 patrons a day, but it manages to foster the feeling of dining in a gracious home. In fact, the present site of the restaurant was once a magni­ficent residence; the former stables now serve as a wine cellar, cocktails are served on the quiet, tree-lined patio, and diners enjoy their meals in one of 12 elegantly decorated dining rooms.

Maitre d’ Ken Woodson pointed out to me that in one of the upstairs rooms, there is marble, human-sized chess board on the floor; unfortun­ately too slick and slippery for waiter and heavy customer traffic, it has had to be car­peted. A pity.

While Brennan’s is open for lunch and dinner, it is their breakfast for which they are justifiably famous. The hearty Creole midmorning breakfast is a New Orleans tradition dating back to the time of French Market merchants whose days started well before dawn. The Brennan family has adapted some of their most popular recipes for home preparation: I do hope you will try them — a wonderful taste of Southern hospitality.

Eggs a la Nouvelle Orleans (for eight)

  • 1 pound butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds lump crab-meat
  • 16 poached eggs

Brandy cream sauce:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 5 cups hot milk
  • about 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • about 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 ounces brandy

Melt the butter in a saute pan or skillet over low heat. Add the crabmeat and cook slowly, stirring very gently, just until hot, about 5 to 8 minutes. To prepare the brandy cream sauce, melt the but­ter over low heat in a sauce pan. Stir in the flour gradual­ly, cook for about 3 minutes, then gradually pour in the milk; continue stirring. Cook over low heat until the sauce thickens, then add the salt, pepper and brandy. Continue to cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce is medium thick. Place 3 ounces of lump crabmeat on each of 8 heated plates, then place 2 poached eggs side by side on the crab-meat. Ladle sauce evenly over the portions.

Shrimp Clemenceau (for eight)

  • 3 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup cooked green peas
  • 4 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups deep-fried diced potatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • about 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • about 3/4 teaspoon pepper

Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet or saute pan. Add the shrimp, garlic, green onion and mushrooms. Saute until lightly browned, stirring fre­quently but gently. Add the re­maining ingredients and mix well. Cook for about 4 to 6 minutes longer. Serve on heat­ed plate.

Veal Cardinale (for eight)

  • 8, 4-to-5 ounce medal­lions of baby veal, pound­ed very thin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups Italian flavored bread crumbs

Egg Wash:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Cardinale Sauce:

  • 3 cups ketchup
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Worce­stershire
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat egg thoroughly in a mixing bowl, then add milk and mix. Sprinkle veal lightly with salt and pepper, then dip in egg wash and place in bread crumbs; cover well with the crumbs. Saute veal in butter until golden brown. Place the finished pieces on a platter, then set the platter in a 175° oven to keep warm while you prepare the sauce. To prepare the sauce place ketchup in a saucepan over low heat; gradually blend in sour cream with a wire whisk, add re­maining ingredients and heat, stirring frequently. To serve, place portion of veal on pre­heated plate and top with about 1/4 cup of sauce.

Maude’s  Steak  Diane (for eight)

  • 4 small tournedos or filets, about 1 1/4 inch thick, each sliced across to make 8 slices
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salt butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 3 drops Tabasco

Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. When the butter is melted, place the slices of meat in the skillet and simmer until medium done. Turn the slices over and cook on the other side. When the meat is cooked, remove it to a large serving platter and set aside. Add the chop­ped vegetables, salt and pepper to the melted butter remaining in the pan. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the Worces­tershire, lemon juice and Tabasco. Cook a few minutes longer, just until the sauce is slightly thickened. Put the slices of meat back in the skillet and cook about 30 seconds on each side. Place the slices on the serving plat­ter again, then pour the sauce from the pan evenly over them. Serve from the platter with sauce spooned over each portion and provide bread to soak up the gravy.

Stewed Okra (for eight)

  • 1/4   to  1/3  cup vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds fresh okra, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 ham steak (about  1 pound in weight), boned and diced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 medium  white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 a green pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 medium size cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • about 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • about 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a large skillet or saute pan just until warm. Add the okra, ham and remaining vegetables. Cook, stirring from time to time to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan, until the okra begins to get soft, then add the tomato sauce and the water. (Put the water into one of the empty sauce cans and stir it around, then into the other can and stir: this gets the last of the sauce out.) Stir, then add the salt, pepper and bay leaf. Turn the heat to very low and cover the pan. Cook until the okra is tender to taste, uncovering to stir fre­quently.

Praline Parfait (for eight)

  • 1 quart Karo syrup
  • 1 1/2 pounds shelled pecans
  • 1 ounce caramel color
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream for whipping
  • 8 maraschino cherries

Mix the Karo syrup, pecans and caramel color together in a bowl, using a long spoon or spatula, with a circular mo­tion. When the mixture is even and soft enough to use easily, spoon one tablespoon into a 6-ounce parfait glass for each serving, then fill each glass with vanilla ice cream not quite to the top. As you fill each glass, push the ice cream down with the back of a spoon so the syrup is forced up around the inside of the glass. Top with about 1/2 teaspoon of the syrup mixture, a generous dollop of whipped cram and a maraschino cherry. If desired, set to chill briefly on the top shelf of the re­frigerator before serving.

Bananas Fosler (for four)

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons banana liquer
  • 4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
  • about 1/4 cup rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Melt the butter over an al­cohol burner in a flambe pan or attractive skillet. Add the sugar, cinnamon and banana liquer and stir to mix. Heat for a few minutes, then place the halved bananas in the sauce and saute until soft and slightly browned. Add the rum and allow it to heat well, then tip the pan so that the flame from the burner causes the sauce to light. Allow the sauce to flame until it dies out, tipping the pan with a circular motion to prolong the flaming. Serve over vanilla ice cream. First lift the bananas carefully out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream, then spoon the hot sauce from the pan over the top.