It’s a shame the gourmet’s of the world don’t unite to present an annual award to the Best Restaurant Of The Year.
I felt this shortcoming rather acutely some weeks ago when some of us gourmets – hearty eaters always refer to themselves as gourmets – were sitting around drooling on our bosoms.
The favorite indoor sport of those who enjoy good food is recalling Memorable Meals at famous eateries.
I opined that Antoine’s of New Orleans has to be ranked with the leaders because of its Steak Robespierre.
“Steak what?” demanded my incredulous companions, as learned eaters are wont to do. “Who ever heard of that dish? You’re putting us on.”
Stung to the quick of my taste buds, I asserted stoutly that Antoine’s concocted the most delectable steak this side of the Pearly Gates; and, indeed, Robespierre, was its name.
“Pooh,” they replied.
Thus it was that I set out on a quest for the recipe of Steak Robespierre.
None of our household cookbooks – already pledged to the Smithsonian Institute upon my death – had a word about Antoine’s famous steak.
Likewise the Public Library department of cookery.
Likewise the food editors of three great daily newspapers.
At last, in desperation, a long distance telephone call to Antoine’s itself.
A conversation with the head chef.
How do mere mortals converse with men on whose shoulders rests the awesome responsibility of preparing Great Meals?
“Please, oh august one, sir, my credentials as a Master Gourmet are in jeopardy because certain neophytes have failed to make your pilgrimage and are, therefore, ignorant of the joys of Steak Robespierre.
“Would’st thou, in this extremity, deign to enlighten the miserable ones in Ohio who doubt my veracity and thy culinary skill?” Long pause at other end of wire.
“Sacre bleu!” the Great One intoned. “Eet ees a secret recipe which I have sworn to give only to my son.”
“I am desolate,” I replied. “I shall be drummed out of the Gourmet’s Club and back to pork and beans every Saturday.”
“Weeeeel, in that case, I will tell you the ingredients – but not the quantities. My son – you understand?”
“Yes, Yes, Yes! But please to proceed, my three minutes are nearly up.”
Here, then, Friends of the Sauce Pan, are the materials that go into Antoine’s unique Steak Robespierre. This is a culinary scoop in the world of food journalism – other papers may copy.
Marinate whole, aged, beef tenderloins in red wine and French dressing up to four hours. Bake to medium rare.
Next, make a small brown gravy from beef stock and arrowroot. Add these ingredients: sauteed, diced bacon; scallions; red wine; tomato juice; chicken livers sautéed in the bacon drippings; sliced green olives; mushroom caps; and finally, chunked veal sweet breads well boiled and cleaned.
Garnish with artichoke hearts marinated in olive oil, wine vinegar and dill.
If this description hasn’t started your digestive juices boiling, leave us and turn to the sport page.
For those of you who are now faint with involuntary twitchings of the stomach muscles read on at your own risk.
The proof of the pudding – that is, the steak – is in the eating so the Mother of My Children graciously agreed to prepare the dish for our doubting friends. Our friends, now eager, promised to surround it with the same viands that accompanied our first Steak Robespierre at Antoine’s, lo, those many years ago.
Oh, what a dinner it was. It will be a legend to be cherished by my children.
First there was bouillabaisse soup with great chunks of white fish, scallops, and eels. Boiled shrimp with hot tomato sauce. Salad Ponchartrain with sliced tomato marinated in red wine, topped with finely chopped and blanched asparagus tips, potato salad, Thousand Island dressing and black caviar.
Steak Robespierre, cloud light and dripping with that exquisite sauce.
“Dirty” rice steamed in beef consommé. Crackling Rose for the table wine.
For desert, my specialty, Bananas Foster, flambé.
Cafe au lait.
Bon bons and mixed roasted nuts. Panatella cigars and Southern Comfort for both ladies and gentlemen.
Well, sir, and Bob, you can imagine the effect this masterpiece had on my doubting friends. Already there is a movement afoot in my gourmet club to give me a Certificate of Appreciation, and maybe make me Grand Guard Of The Skillet.
I hope I can bear the title with modesty.
October 10, 1973