Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Leah Chase's Gumbo

Last June, Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole Cuisine, passed away. At the Crawfish Boil last month, Doug spoke about the importance of Chase's legacy as a chef and humanitarian.

Chase was famous for many of her dishes, still served today at her restaurant Dooky Chase, but none moreso than her gumbo. The video below details Chase's inspirational life story and just how she makes her famous gumbo.

Enjoy! Stay safe and wash your hands.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Saints Free Agency 2020: Part Two

Last week, we began our look at the New Orleans Saints offseason by focusing on re-signings of Drew Brees, Andrus Peat, and several other players. This week, let’s turn our attention to the two big players—one on defense and one on offense—that the Saints brought in from outside the organization to bolster the roster in the waning years of Brees’ career. 

WR Emmanuel Sanders, 2 years, $16 million 

The Saints wide receiver depth outside of Michael Thomas was nonexistent. Thomas led the team with 149 receptions. Ted Ginn, the ostensible number 2 wide receiver, had 30. Tre’Quan Smith was third with 18. Sanders fits the bill as a viable receiving option behind Thomas. 

Last season, Sanders split time between Denver and San Francisco. In 17 games, he had 66 receptions for 869 yards, including a memorable game against the Saints where he torched the defense for 7 receptions, 157 yards and a touchdown. Throughout his career, Sanders has ably served as a second wideout for receivers like Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, Demaryious Thomas in Denver, and now for Michael Thomas in New Orleans. 

Now that Sanders is in his early 30s, health and age-related decline are a concern. He missed four games in each of 2017 and 2018 and was only ever a full-time starter for three seasons, from 2014-2016. The Saints investment in Sanders, however, is modest (two years and $16 million) and he fills a much needed hole on their roster.  Grade: B+ 

FS Malcolm Jenkins, 4 years, $32 million 

A familiar face returns to the Crescent City. The Saints selected Jenkins with the 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft. He spent the first five seasons of his career in New Orleans. Over time, however, Jenkins fell from favor amidst the ever-changing array of defensive coordinators in the early 2010s—in his career with the Saints, Jenkins played for Gregg Williams, Steve Spagnuolo, and Rob Ryan—before departing as a free agent after the 2013 season. The Saints did not even offer him a contract. 

Jenkins signed with the Philadelphia Eagles where he became a standout defender and played in their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. He also was bitter towards the Saints for the way they had treated him, once flipping off Sean Payton during a game between Philadelphia and New Orleans. 

Payton later admitted that letting Jenkins leave was one of the biggest mistakes of his coaching career and he and Jenkins mended fences. The reconciliation paved the way for Jenkins return this offseason. 

While the Saints would like to rectify their mistake in letting Jenkins go, they paid too high a price to facilitate this reunion. If Jenkins were still the 27 year old safety with a lot of upside, this deal would make a lot of sense. Unfortunately he’s not. Jenkins will be entering his age-33 season making top-flight safety money. There’s very little room for excess value here. If Jenkins underperforms, he’ll be an expensive overpay. If he plays well, then the Saints derive little benefit since they’re paying him at the top of the market. Grade: C 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Saints Free Agency 2020: Part One

Even with everything going on in the world, the NFL officially began its free agency period last Wednesday. News of signings, however, began to leak on Monday as the league’s legal tampering began and free agents could officially contact and visit other teams. As usual the Saints, despite being close to the league’s salary cap were once again busy on the free agent market—both in terms of re-signing their old players and bringing in free agents from elsewhere. 

So this week, let’s take a look at the Saints’ most important re-signings of their offseason so far and next week, we’ll take a look at their biggest free agents. 

QB Drew Brees, 2 years, $50 million

The Brees re-signing was merely a formality. Over the past few years, Brees has made it clear that he would only re-sign with New Orleans or retire. In reality, this is a one year deal worth $25 million with a voidable year tacked on for the purposes of spreading Brees’ cap hit across multiple seasons and giving the Saints more flexibility to bring in other free agents. If Brees wants to play in 2021, he’ll sign a contract that looks exactly like this one. 

There was little reason to think Brees would retire. Even at age 40 when quarterbacks generally decline, Brees was better than ever. He led the NFL in completion percentage at 74.3%, just 0.1% short of his career mark of 74.4% set in 2018. Age has cost Brees the ability to throw the ball down the field, but he has compensated by becoming an ultra-accurate short and intermediate range passer. In only 11 games last year, he threw for 2,979 yards with 27 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Grade: A 

G Andrus Peat, 5 years, $57.5 million 

This signing is a little more puzzling. The Saints seemed all-set to move on from their former first round pick. New Orleans already has Larry Warford, who was signed a few years ago for big money, and Nick Easton, a former starting center, who filled in at guard last year when Peat was hurt. He’s missed games over the past two seasons due to injuries and with the Saints tight against the salary cap, it seemed like Peat’s time in the Big Easy was over. Maybe they’re getting ready to move on from Warford instead? Additionally, there did not seem to be a big market for Peat, who now has the fifth largest annual salary ever given out to a guard. Grade: C 

 DT David Onyemata, 3 years, $27 million 

Onyemata’s Cinderella story continues. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Onyemata never played football until he emigrated to Winnipeg for college. After four years in college, the Saints selected him in the fourth round out of the University of Manitoba. Early in his career, Onyemata was a backup defensive lineup who generated a few sacks per season and mostly was used in run-stopping situations. In 2019, however, he filled in for the injured Sheldon Rankins, starting all 16 games. He had 3 sacks, 11 quarterback knockdowns, and continued to play well against the run, helping New Orleans finish with the 5th ranked run defense according to DVOA. Grade: B 

LS Zach Wood, 4 years, $4.78 million

The Saints re-signed their long-snapper, maintain continuity with punter Thomas Morstead and kicker Wil Lutz. Good for him.  Grade: B 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Virtual NOMA

The New Orleans Museum of Art was created by sugar baron Isaac Delgado in 1911. Delgado felt New Orleans needed an art museum so it could join the ranks of America's great cities. Currently the museum houses over 40,000 objects from the Renaissance to the present. Their collections are especially strong in the areas of 18thand 19thcentury American and French furniture. It also includes a wide range of European and American art with pieces by Degas, who lived in the city from 1871-1872, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Gaugin, Jackson Pollack, and Georgia O’Keeffe. 

As of today, however, the museum is closed because of coronavirus. The museum, however, has teamed up with Google Arts to provide virtual tours of its collections. Follow the link here.

It may not be the same as going to the museum, but it's the best way to view the collections safely.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Crawfish Boil 2020: How To Peel Crawfish

        Just a reminder: the 12th Annual DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil is THIS SATURDAY! That’s right, this Saturday, March 7, 2020 from 12-5 at Maison Lafitte, 402 Lafitte St. Mandeville, LA.

        Now to get you properly prepared, here’s Benson to teach you all had to peel and eat crawfish. 

        The process is relatively simple, and a well-coooked crawfish should give even inexperienced folks little trouble. Before you start peeling, remember that crawfish boiled live typically have curled tails, such as the one in the image above.  Those that were dead when they went in the boil (there’s always a few) have flat tails and mushy meat.  You can toss those suckers into your pile of shells if you like.

Y        ou might have heard of the twist, pinch, and suck method of peeling crawfish.  This refers to twisting off the head, pinching the tail, and sucking the head.  This is the basic method we’re going to learn, although sucking the head is entirely optional.  Most crotchety Cajuns suck the heads to put newcomers off their crawfish, but there’s also a culinary reason to do it and I’ll explain that at the end.

        Although these colloquial terms are wildly inaccurate in terms of a crawfish’s anatomy, the two basic parts you need to know about are the “head,” the main body of the crawfish, and the “tail,” the segmented abdomen of the crawfish. 

To start peeling, grasp the head in one hand and the tail in the other. 

Next, twist the head and pull it away from the tail. 

        At this point, you can pinch the tail and pull out the meat with your teeth, but that takes some crawfish experience.  Being new to peeling crawfish, you will have more success if you peel the first segment of the shell off of the tail. 

        You can then flip the tail over, use your thumb to pinch the tail at the base, and then pull out the meat.

        Last, but not least, you can suck the head.  The reason to do this is that most of the fat is in this part of the crawfish and it doesn’t always come out with the tail meat.  Like crabs, crawfish fat is extremely tasty and it holds a remarkable amount of flavor. You also get a good taste of the spicy boil from sucking the head.

        See you Saturday! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Crawfish Boil 2020: What are crawfish exactly?

        The DGA Friends and Family Crawfish Boil is about many things. It's about bringing friends and family together. It's about listening to some awesome local music. And it's also about eating crawfish. But just what are crawfish and why do they taste so good? Let's take a look at the history of these delicious crustaceans and how they've become a culinary staple of south Louisiana.  

          Crawfish season runs from late February through early June. Crawfish live in the wetlands that surround the Mississippi River and its estuaries. In the centuries before European settlement in Louisiana, the crustaceans thrived in the creeks, lakes, and bayous of south Louisiana. Local native Americans collected crawfish by the bushel by baiting wooden reeds with venison and dipping them into the water. The crawfish would latch onto the meat and dangle off the reeds, providing locals with their dinner.

All the crawfish!

         When the Acadians arrived in Louisiana in the 1750s, they quickly learned the value and deliciousness of this local delicacy. These French settlers, who had been expelled from Canada by the English during the Seven Years War, began incorporating crawfish into the cuisine. Over the ensuing decades, crawfish became a staple of Cajun cuisine. The Cajuns even created their own legends about the origin of crawfish, demonstrating just how important they had become in Cajun culture. According to the legend, after the explosion of the Cajuns from Canada, local lobsters followed the Acadians from the ice cold waters of the Atlantic to the Mississippi basin. When the lobsters entered the warm waters of the gulf, they shrank to their present size. 

          The commercial sale of crawfish began only in the late 1800s with the first recorded harvest in 1880. The crawfish, raised in the Atchafalaya Basin, resulted in a  harvest of 23,400 pounds, worth about $2,140 (about $51,000 in today’s money). In 1908, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded that Louisiana produced about 88,000 pounds of crawfish per year, worth about $3,600 (about $93,000 today). The Great Depression of the 1930s drove the price of crawfish down to as low as 4 cents per pound. Technological advancements, including trucking, railroads, and refrigeration, fueled the movement of live crawfish from the rural bayou to urban centers like Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The introduction of traps and nets allowed for the collection of greater numbers of crawfish. 

There are entire memes devoted to crawfish. 

          In the 1930s, Louisiana began to cultivate the production of crawfish on farms. Rice had long been a staple of bayou farmers. In order to gain more income, rice farmers began re-flooding their fields in order to produce harvests of crawfish in the winter and early spring. This practice soon spread across Louisiana wherever low-lying ponds and marshland could be found.

          The process of farming stabilized crawfish production. Before farming, the harvest in any given year depended on the water levels in the Atchafalaya Basin. Thus the market fluctuated wildly from year to year. Now with consistent water levels, farmers could control the size of the harvest and stabilize their incomes. By the mid-1960s, over 10,000 acres of crawfish farms had spread across Louisiana. In the decades since, crawfish farms have increased by a factor of twelve to approximately 120,000 acres. Louisiana accounts for 85%-95% of total U.S. crawfish production. 

Hmm... crawfish 
          In 1960, the community of Breaux Bridge was named the crawfish capitol of the world and every year since has held yearly crawfish festival.  This growth in production caused Louisiana restaurants to begin featuring crawfish on their menus. Long a staple of Cajun cuisine, crawfish étouffée became a restaurant staple. With its increasing visibility as a product unique to south Louisiana, crawfish boils became a way to celebrate the culinary traditions that make Louisiana unique. Today, the crawfish industry accounts for seven thousand jobs and 300 million dollars in revenue for the state. 

The process for cooking crawfish has stayed the same over the years (and this may attest to the longevity of crawfish consumption); get a pot of water boiling (seasoned with salt and spices), add the live crawfish, let cook for several minutes. Then eat the crawfish on newspaper covered tables until you can’t eat them anymore. It’s a tradition that we look forward to upholding on Saturday March 7! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Crawfish Boil 2020: Band Bios

          So the Crawfish Boil is obviously about the crawfish. But it's also about the music. And if you know anything about us, it's that we take our music very seriously. So for this year's Boil we're proud to welcome an old friend, Benny Turner, a returning band, Flow Tribe, and a new band the Dapper Dandies! 

            We're proud to welcome back Benny Turner and the Real Blues with Sam Joyner to the 12th Annual DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil.   

Benny in action

Benny Turner is a veteran of the New Orleans, Chicago, and Texas blues scenes. His connections to the history of the blues in America run deep. His brother was legendary blues artist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Freddie King. Born in Gilmer, Texas, Benny and Freddie learned guitar from their mother and uncles. Freddie gravitated towards the guitar and performing while Benny enjoyed music and spending time with the brother he admired. The family moved to Chicago in the early 1950s and as Freddie’s fame and prowess with the guitar grew, his brother soon joined his band as a bass player. By the late 1950s, Benny had toured across the United States with R&B singer Dee Clark at venues like the Apollo Theater in New York City, the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia, the Howard Theater in Washington D.C., and the Regal Theater in Chicago. Benny also enjoyed a stint in the Soul Stirrers, a touring gospel music band, and introduced the bass to gospel music, laying the groundwork for modern gospel music which is heavily reliant on the bass. 

By the late 1960s, Benny returned to Chicago, playing in local bands and recording songs for the Leaner Brothers’ One-Derful and M-Pac! labels. He soon rejoined his brother, Freddie King, on the touring circuit. Alongside his brother, Benny performed with artists like Dionne Warwick, Memphis Slim, BB King, Solomon Burke, Eric Clapton, and Grand Funk Railroad. In December 1976, Freddie King passed away at the age of 42. Having lost his best friend, brother, and band mate all at the same time left Benny unable to perform. After two years away from music, famed Chicago blues artist Mighty Joe Young convinced Benny to join him on stage. Over the next few years, the two men travelled and performed together as Benny rejoined the blues scene.  

By the 1980s, Mighty Joe Young had retired from touring and Benny took another big step: moving to New Orleans and becoming the bass player and band leader for blues singer Marva Wright. Wright, known locally as the “Blues Queen of New Orleans,” toured all over the world and was a staple of the French Quarter music scene. After Wright died, Benny struck out on his own. In 2011, he released, “A Tribute to my Brother Freddie King” a collection of some of his brother’s most famous songs. In 2014, he released “Journey” playing homage to his history with the blues. His latest album, “When She’s Gone” mixes some of Benny’s original songs with old blues classics. He dedicated the album to his mother, Ella, the woman responsible for his and Freddie’s love of music.

            So come see this great blues artist perform at the crawfish boil. In the meantime, go to Benny’s website, read about his life, listen to some of his music, and buy an album or two in support of this legendary blues artist.

Flow Tribe 

            The band formed in 2004 from a group of friends from Brother Martin High School. Penot's back porch served as their primary rehearsal and hangout space. Like most high school musical ventures, the band broke up once all the members went off to college. In 2006, Hurricane Katrina brought all six men back home. They devoted themselves to rebuilding efforts, but also sought to contribute to the city's rebuilding in their own way – through their shared love of music. Early recalled that "We thought about our love of the city's music, the history, the culture. We were just a bunch of 18 and 19-year old kids, rebuilding our parents' houses during the summer... and we knew the only way we could contribute on a bigger level was with music."
            The band soon reformed and hit the road. They played shows for music lovers and displaced Katrina survivors across the South. Their musical style, a blend of different New Orleans musical genres, found a wide audience amongst exiled New Orleanians and people from different parts of the country.

            Since 2006, Flow Tribe have been a fixture in the New Orleans music scene while also touring across the country. They've appeared on The Real World: New Orleans in 2010. They've played at the Voodoo Music Experience, appeared on the main stage at Jazz Fest, and at just about every other major festival in New Orleans. They describe their music as "backbone crackin’ music”—a "gumbo" of funk, rhythm-and-blues, rock, bounce, hip-hop and zydeco. Flow Tribe cite Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima and Kermit Ruffins, R&B and funk classics of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and hip-hop hits released by Cash Money Records in the 1990s and 2000s, as some of their influences. 
            They've recorded four albums: Pain Killer (2012), At Capacity Live: Live at Tipitina’s (2013), Alligator White (2014), and Boss (2017). If you want more information or examples of the Flow Tribe's music check out their website here. And make sure you come see them at this year's Crawfish boil! 

Dapper Dandies 

            Signed to Total Riot Records, the Dapper Dandies are part of a new generation of musicians bringing back the sounds of traditional New Orleans jazz. One review of their album Between St. Roch & the Channel describes the Dapper Dandies sound as "slow and boozy, yet lighthearted and romantic." The reviewer also writes, "The bass sax by Adrian Seward sounds nearly human; it’s throaty and soulfully wailing its sentiments. Jason Cash’s clarinet has a major place in the opening of “I’ve Found a New Baby” as he plays a winding tune before Aaron Lind on the guitar plays a jaunty backing to Fourmy’s melody. During the bridge, Sean Dawnson’s trumpet growls above everything else. Dawson’s horn has just a bit of a tinny echo throughout the album, which adds a nostalgic layer, as though you heard this on an original record."