Cooking under the (Louisiana) influence

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Mitch Rosenthal is the chef and owner of four popular restaurants on the West Coast, but it’s easy to see his affinity for Louisiana food in his new cookbook “Cooking My Way Back Home.” Right on the cover, in fact, there’s a photo of “angels on horseback,” or fried, bacon-wrapped oysters, dabbed with remoulade.

Familiar local flavors run through “Cooking My Way Back Home,” though it’s hardly a traditional Louisiana cookbook. Rather, recipes like Rosenthal’s rendition of chicken and andouille gumbo (he adds smoked ham hock) and a peacemaker po-boy appear next to instructions for cooking sea urchin with butter sauce or preparing hamachi tartare. The recurrence of Louisiana flavors (Tabasco in his clam chowder, tasso crusting his pork chops) is more a tribute to how formative and influential even a brief tour of duty in New Orleans kitchens may prove.

Back in the 1980s, Rosenthal was working in a Jewish deli in his native New Jersey when Paul Prudhomme did a visiting chef stint in New York. Rosenthal tasted his cooking and began a lobbying campaign to secure an apprenticeship spot Prudhomme then offered at his K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. Eventually he prevailed and would spend two months working at the famous Chartres Street restaurant.

He went on to open three restaurants of his own in San Francisco (Town Hall, Salt House, Anchor & Hope) and a fourth in Portland (Irving Street Kitchen) and all these years later Louisiana flavor remains an important part of the recipe. In “Cooking My Way Back Home” Rosenthal reveals that the most popular appetizer at Town Hall is BBQ shrimp (flavored with Dixie beer, no less; the recipe is in the book).

The book’s co-author is Jon Pult, Rosenthal’s brother in law, a New Orleans writer and musician and a well-known personality in the local traditional jazz scene. Their book has been getting some high-profile media mentions since publication this fall, making the New York Times’ list of notable cookbooks for 2011 and also getting a nod in Esquire from John Mariana, who was mighty impressed with its title.

This week, Rosenthal is in town for book signings with Pult, including one that promises a round of snacks along with signatures. Details below:

“Cooking My Way Back Home” events

Thursday, Dec. 15, 6-8 pm
Garden District Bookshop
2727 Pyrtania St., 895-2266

Friday, Dec. 16, 5-7 pm
Cochon Butcher
930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-7675
Chef Donald Link hosts a book signing, with a tasting.

Saturday, Dec. 17, 4 pm
Louisiana Music Factory
210 Decatur St., 586-1094

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