Archive for donald link

Cochon– lafille’s Culinary Kryptonite

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Photos, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , , , , , on 9 February, 2010 by la fille

Monsieur D just celebrated his birthday, so that was the perfect excuse to treat him to a fancy dinner while he was in town. Cochon was on the shortlist, but after sending a request for suggestions into the aether that is Twitter the answer was clear and I made a reservation.

Now, when it comes to ordering from a menu, I usually pride myself on being a terrific food-chooser. Upon trying the dishes of my dining partners, I inevitably say, “That’s good, but I like mine better,” which is always what you want to be able to say.

For some reason, though, my food choosing skillz vanish when I walk into Cochon.  I acknowledge that it’s a terrific restaurant– I love the concept, and lord knows I LOVE meat (har dee har).

Both times I’ve eaten there, however, I’ve CHOSEN POORLY.

To give Monsieur D an idea of the kinds of things Cochon produces, we started off with the boucherie plate, consisting of homemade bologna, tasso, head cheese, pork rillettes, pickled tomatoes, baby toasts, and creole mustard. Everything tasted delightful, but we were both mainly enamored of the head cheese.

Last time I dined at Cochon, it was springtime and they were running a crawfish special, which I ordered for my entree. While tasty, I later wished I’d just gone with some pig, and vowed to do so on my next visit.

Guess what? I didn’t.

I ordered the rabbit and dumplings, while my companion went with the smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad. Now, to be perfectly clear, there was NOTHING WRONG WITH MY MEAL. It just wasn’t my style– being raised on super-simple chicken and dumplings, I’ve never been a fan of the type that contains carrots, celery, and other sundry additions, which is what they serve at Cochon.

The presentation is lovely, coming out in hot cast-iron, but once again, too much going on for my tastes.

Monsieur D’s brisket, on the other hand, tasted like melty, savory heaven in my mouth and I may or may not have contemplated incapacitating my friend in some manner so as to have the dish for myself. So tender that I hardly believed it was cow, with a mouthwatering sauce that was intensely flavorful, but which allowed the quality of the meat to shine through as well. The horseradish tater salad wasn’t anything to sniff at, either.

Cochon’s got a nice beverage selection, and we got a bottle of Dona Paula malbec, which is a nice, inexpensive red that Monsieur D likes but can’t get in his neck of the woods.

The service was just the way it should be– attentive yet unobtrusive– and when I called to say we were running a bit late, the hostess was accommodating and pleasant. (We ended up being on time for the reservation, which of course made her even more accommodating and pleasant.)

So– super interesting concept, great menu and beverage list, good service, nice atmosphere, tasty food…Cochon gets a lot of attention, but it’s definitely warranted.

Most importantly, the birthday gentleman had a stellar time.


930 Tchoupitoulas St



Donald Link’s Super Bowl Gumbo Recipe

Posted in Eat, Recipe with tags , on 4 February, 2010 by la fille

via NPR


by Donald Link

Serves 12 to 16


At least 6 cold beers for the chef

4 pounds medium (16-20 count) head-on shrimp

6 blue crabs


Seafood stock

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons paprika

1 (4-in.) rosemary sprig, or 2 tbsp dried

13 bay leaves

9 quarts water

1 large onion

2 medium green bell peppers

3 celery stalks

2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

3 cups vegetable oil

4 cups all-purpose flour

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons salt

2 1/2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons file powder

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Several dashes of hot sauce

2 pints shucked oysters, liquor strained and reserved

1 pound crab claw meat, carefully picked over for shells


Peel the shrimp and set the shells and heads aside for stock. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add crabs and a generous amount of salt. Cover the pot, and boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain immediately and set the crabs aside to cool. (If you were going to cook them, it would be 10-15 minutes, but you want to leave their flavor in the crab for gumbo, and cook them just until you can take them apart.)

To make the seafood stock, put the chopped onion and celery and smashed garlic cloves in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Peel the front flaps and tops off of the crabs and place in a large bowl with the shrimp heads and shells. Use your fingers to scoop out the orange back fat from the middle of the crab and set aside in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the reserved shrimp shells and heads and the crab shells. Cook, stirring until the shells turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the coarsely chopped vegetables, paprika, rosemary, bay leaves and 9 quarts of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour; strain.

For the gumbo vegetables, dice the onion, bell peppers and celery. Set aside with the jalapenos to add to the roux.

To make the roux, heat 3 cups vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, whisk in the flour and reduce heat to medium. Cook, whisking constantly and slowly until the roux has thickened and is the color of a dark copper penny, 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll want to reduce the heat gradually as you go. When the roux first begins to take on color, for instance, reduce the heat to medium.

Continue in this fashion, gradually lowering the heat as the color of the roux deepens. By the end of the cooking, when the roux is appropriately dark, the heat should be on low. It’s essential to whisk constantly as it cooks (but not so vigorously that you splatter the roux and burn yourself!), because even if a small bit of flour sticks to the pot, it will become spotty, scorch quickly, and burn the entire roux.

Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, jalapenos and the reserved crab back fat, and stir until they are well-coated. Stir in garlic, salt, paprika, file powder, chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, white pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme and hot sauce, and continue to cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Add two-thirds of the strained stock and the oyster liquor, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure nothing clumps and burns, until the mixture returns to a simmer.

Start skimming the oil from the top of the gumbo almost instantly (by the end of the cooking process, the gumbo will have released almost all of the oil form the roux). Continue to simmer and skim for about 1 hour. Taste the stock. If it still has a strong roux flavor, gradually add the remaining one-third stock (if it doesn’t, freeze the remaining stock for another use) until the flavor tastes more like stock than roux.

When the flavor has developed and the stock is clearer (with fewer dots of oil), add the oysters and crab meat. Bring the gumbo back to a simmer, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Skim once more, add the shrimp, and simmer for 1 more hour.

Adapted from Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana, by Donald Link (Clarkson Potter, 2009).

Herbsaint named to the Fine Dining Hall of Fame

Posted in Restaurants, Words with tags , , on 3 June, 2009 by la fille

By Ian McNulty, from Gambit’s New Orleans Blog:

Chef Donald Link’s restaurant Herbsaint has been named to the Fine Dining Hall of Fame, a list of top restaurants around the country compiled annually by Nation’s Restaurant News, a restaurant industry publication.

Nation’s Restaurant News says that more than 220 restaurants have been inducted into its Fine Dining Hall of Fame since the awards were established in 1980. Chef John Besh’s Restaurant August was inducted in 2007.
The 2009 inductees were nominated by past winners and selected by the magazine’s editors. Criteria included excellence in food quality, professional service and a memorable ambiance. Check out the rest of the list here.
Link originally opened Herbsaint in 2000 along with chef Susan Spicer, under whom he worked as sous chef at Bayona in the early 1990s. It served as the springboard for much more culinary entrepreneurialism from the Louisiana native. He opened Cochon along with co-chef Stephen Stryjewski and last year they opened the related Cochon Butcher, an upscale meat market and sandwich shop attached to the Warehouse District restaurant. Earlier this year, Link opened an events hall and private dining facility called Calcasieu on the second floor above Cochon. This spring he also published his first cookbook, titled “Real Cajun.”
Still Herbsaint has remained Link’s flagship, where his French-meets-Southern cuisine and passion for cured meats and other made-in-house touches consistently puts it at the top of the pack for fine-dining restaurants in New Orleans.
The magazine also named chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., as its 2009 Fine Dining Legend, an honor bestowed on Ella Brennan of Commander’s Palace in the past.

— Ian McNulty

Link to original.