Side Dish: Cookbook dream come true for Sclafani

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“Seasons of Louisiana” by chef Peter Sclafani III

Self-published, 2013.

$29.95, 180-page hardcover.

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Most people divide the year into the standard spring, summer, fall and winter seasons. In his first cookbook, third-generation chef Peter Sclafani III charts his year by eight-seasons any Louisiana cook will understand — shrimp, crawfish, crab, oyster, Creole tomato, fishing, holiday, hunting and tailgating.

The New Orleans native even throws in a little lagniappe, recipes for sauces, seasonings, stocks and dressings.

Sclafani is co-owner and executive chef of Ruffino’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge and Ruffino’s on the River in Lafayette, where he showcases his Italian-Creole fusion cuisine.

In the book’s foreword, chef John Folse writes that he thinks of Sclafani as a Louisiana “heritage chef” since Sclafani grew up in an Italian restaurant family. His grandfather, also named Peter, began the original Restaurant Sclafani on Palmyra Street in New Orleans before relocating to Causeway Boulevard in Metairie in the late 1950s. Sclafani’s father, Peter Jr., and uncle ran the restaurant together until the late 1960s.

In his book’s acknowledgments, Peter Sclafani III thanks his parents for “raising me in our family’s restaurant, Sclafani’s on Hayne Boulevard in New Orleans. My upbringing in their restaurant planted the seed that has shaped the course of my life as a chef and restaurant owner.”

The publishing of “Seasons of Louisiana” is a dream come true for him, Sclafani writes. The inspiration “began decades ago at the onset of my culinary career,” he says.

Sclafani writes that he believes “there’s no place on Earth that produces more original, delicious and innovative food than Louisiana,” and he sets out to prove his point with a book filled with great “seasonal” foods.

His book also includes recipes from his father and his grandfather. The Sclafani Salad was created by his grandfather who always made it tableside for his customers. Sclafani also shares the secret of his grandfather’s oyster dressing, red snapper soup and oyster vongole recipes. And, he includes his dad’s version of BBQ Shrimp Pasta.

Many of the recipes are for what the home cook might consider special occasion dishes, such as Crawfish Cheesecake, although others are easier, “any time” choices, such as Tuna Puttanesca and the book’s only dessert recipe, Bourbon Pecan Pie.

The recipes are clearly written and easy for the home cook to follow, and “Seasons of Louisiana” is illustrated with terrific full-color photographs of the completed dishes. Other nice touches are the conversions chart for kitchen measurements — liquid or volume measures and dry or weight measurements — and a short list of resources for ingredients and equipment.

“Seasons of Louisiana” is a great first book for a passionate Louisiana chef.

Cookbook signing

Jacquy Pfeiffer, founder and dean of The French Pastry School in Chicago, will be in New Orleans Saturday through Monday to celebrate the publication of his first cookbook, “The Art of French Pastry.”

At 4 p.m. Saturday he will do a free demonstration, tasting and book signing at The Ritz-Carlton, 921 Canal St., while at noon Sunday he’ll do a tasting and book signing at Sucré: A Sweet Boutique, 3025 Magazine St. At 11 a.m. Monday, he’ll give a free lecture, tasting, and book signing at Maple Street Book Shop, 7523 Maple St.

Email Cheramie Sonnier, The Advocate’s food editor, at csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Advocate-tested recipe

Crawfish Cheesecake

Serves 12. Recipe is from “Seasons of Louisiana” by chef Peter Sclafani III.

Filling:

1 tbl. olive oil

1 cup peeled and chopped onions

1 tbl. chopped garlic

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. fresh ground white pepper

11/2 lbs. cream cheese at room temperature

4 eggs

11/4 cups grated Fontina cheese

1⁄3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1⁄3 cup grated Romano cheese

4 tsps. lemon juice

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1 lb. fresh Louisiana crawfish tails

Crust:

1 cup plain bread crumbs

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tbl. Creole seasoning (see recipe)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Season the onion mixture with salt and pepper and mix well. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

3. For the crust, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, butter and Creole seasoning in a mixing bowl. Pour into a 10-inch springform pan and press into bottom. Set aside.

4. In a food process, blend the cream cheese until smooth. While the machine is running add the eggs and blend until well incorporated.

5. Scrape this into a mixing bowl and stir in the onion mixture. Add the cheeses, lemon juice, green onions and crawfish tails and mix well.

6. Pour into the prepared pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until set. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

7. Cut into 12 slices and heat in a microwave or a preheated 250 F oven until hot.

Testing note: The recipe’s instructions say to serve with Creole meunière sauce and top with hollandaise sauce, but I did not do so. The cheesecake is quite rich on its own.

Creole Seasoning

Recipe is from “Seasons of Louisiana” by chef Peter Sclafani III.

10 tbls. sea salt

4 tbls. fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

4 tbls. granulated garlic

3 tbls. granulated onion

2 tbls. dried oregano

2 tbls. dried thyme

10 tbls. ground paprika

Combine all ingredients in a plastic self-sealing bag and blend well.