N.O. chefs offer tips on how to ‘Eat Smart, Eat Well’

Audience members got a chance to learn how to “Eat Smart, Eat Well” from several culinary experts from the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group during the recent New Orleans Home & Garden Show.

Steven Marsella, executive chef of Heritage Grill and Ralph Brennan Catering and Events, offered tips and kitchen secrets on how to cut butter and fat from one’s diet from the Cast Iron Chefs Stage in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Marsella recounted the year he spent as a private chef for a couple who wanted to cut fat from their diet. He dubbed his talk “365 Days Without Fat: One Family’s Commitment to Living Well.”

He said he took classic Creole recipes and gave them an extreme makeover. While most people would not take such drastic measures to their diet as his employers did, there are still ways to cut fat and calories from recipes and not miss the butter, Marsella assured the audience. One way is to pair the meal’s center-of-the-plate protein with a light sauce.

For example, a fresh tomato and basil sauce can be used to top shrimp, chicken and various fish, he said as he demonstrated the easy-to-make sauce. The audience members were later given samples to taste.

He also demonstrated a ginger, green onion and lime chimichurri that he said would work with salmon, swordfish, tuna, shrimp and chicken and provided recipes for two other sauces.

Brett Gauthier, executive pastry chef for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, demonstrated a strawberry berry mousse and red berry parfait. That recipe wasn’t as practical for the home cook.

It began by making a red berry nectar, which was used to make a gelatin with strawberry wine. The mousse, made with yogurt, the red berry nectar, cream and sugar, was made in a 1-quart whip cream canister.

While Gauthier assembled his dessert, beverage specialist Thomas Register offered ideas for infused syrups, cocktails and carbonations. He also offered recipes for lemon grass and ginger soda and orange and vanilla soda.