Monday, April 19, 2010

A Modernist Architect Cooks

New Orleans architect Harold E. Piqué (1921-2001), a Tulane University School of Architecture graduate ('42) and later Tulane Resident Architect and Head of the University Planning Office, designed the Musicians' Union Hall at 2401 Esplanade Avenue (1957).

In 1988, he authored a cookbook titled An Architect's Interpretation of Creole Cuisine, which he introduced with the following words:

"My architectural and engineering training fostered an inquisitive desire to experiment with creativity. This eventually resulted in acquisition of more than two hundred cookbooks, extensive research for authenticity and many hours in the kitchen."

The cookbook includes a photocopy of his portrait, as well as reproductions of his food sketches. By contemporary standards, the recipes favor large quantities of bacon fat and butter. Here is his rendition of Shrimp Creole:

3/4 c. bacon grease
1/2 c. gravy flour
2 sticks butter
2 c. coarsely chopped onion
1 c. coarsely chopped celery (use primarily the leaves)
1 1/2 c. slivered bell pepper
1/2 c. finely chopped parsley
2 minced garlic cloves
5 bay leaves
1 tsp. Tobasco
2 tsp. thick rich beef base or beef concentrate
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 16-oz. can tomatoes, slivered
4 1/2 ounces tomato paste
10 lbs (weight before peeling) small peeled shrimp, raw
6 c. shrimp stock
3 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. powdered thyme
1/2 tsp. each: basil, ground cumin, oregano powder
1 tsp. each: chili powder, paprika

1. Sauté chopped vegetable seasoning except parsley in bacon grease until wilted. In separate pot make dark roux with flour and 1/2 of butter. While still hot, add tomato paste and tomato sauce. After cooling, add stock and vegetable seasoning. Cook on low heat about 1/2 hour.

2. Sauté shrimp in remaining butter in separate pot until pink. Combine all ingredients, then add shrimp to main pot and cook another + or - 10 minutes. Seasoning must be done after all ingredients are together to be effective. Adjust seasoning on completion. Add parsley during last 10 minutes.

Do not overcook. Shrimp should be very tender.

Make shrimp stock by boiling heads and shells + or - 2 hours with onions, bay leaves, celery, parsley sprigs, bell pepper and salt. Vegetable seasoning listed for stock are not part of ingredients listed for recipe.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains a copy of Piqué's cookbook signed by the author.

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