| July 11, 2016 | Food & Drink
We caught up with the host of Travel Channel's Deep Fried America, Jay Ducote, before his upcoming James Beard events to get the details on his Louisiana-style cooking, who he thinks is NYC's next rising culinary star, and his favorite New York chef.
As a chef, television/radio host, and creator of his own Jay D's Louisiana Barbecue Sauce, there's no hiding that Jay Ducote's passion for the food industry shines through in many forms. On Thursday, July 21, Ducote will bring his classic Louisiana tailgate-style cooking to the James Beard House (7 p.m., tickets are $130 members; $170 general public on jamesbeard.org). The event will kick off with hors d'oeuvres such as jalapeño and creole cream cheese-stuffed and bacon-wrapped duck breast, before moving on to main dishes like quail-andouille gumbo with Louisana rice, and ending on a sweet note with "Granny's" cinnamon-pecan rolls.
We spoke with Ducote before the big event to get the scoop on his Louisiana roots, what food he thinks NYC is lacking, and how to make one of his signature dishes.
What is your favorite place to eat in New York and what do you order there?
JAY DUCOTE: My favorite place in NYC ever since I filmed my pilot for Deep Fried America on Food Network Star, is Sweet Chick on the Lower East Side. I get the classic sweet tea-brined chicken and waffles and whatever else they might be doing as a special that day. I also have trouble staying away from Momofuku Noodle Bar whenever I make a trip to the city. I just can't get ramen like that in Louisiana.
In your opinion, who is a rising-star chef to watch in New York?
JD: Keep an eye on Shelly Flash. She competed on season six of MasterChef on FOX and has stayed in the culinary industry ever since. She’s doing a lot of private chef work and getting experience with other chefs around the city and even across the country. She’ll be somebody to keep an eye on in the future for sure!
If you could have dinner with any New York chef, dead or alive, who would it be?
JD: I guess it would have to be Anthony Bourdain. I’m coming for his job, so I might as well get a head start by having dinner with the guy. Last month I had a pilot for my own show air on Travel Channel. I set that goal over five years ago because of watching Bourdain. I'd be the friendlier, more hug-able version of the guy who eats and drinks his way around the world, but still, that's the dream job!
What New York City neighborhood do you think has the best food scene?
JD: I haven't spent much time in Brooklyn, but I'd really like to. I can say for sure that the Chelsea area and Greenwich Village are both pretty awesome. And I also really enjoy getting down to the Lower East Side for Jewish delis and Chinatown!
What are you most looking forward to about the James Beard Foundation event?
JD: I'm excited to represent Louisiana and my alma mater, LSU, at the James Beard House. Doing a dinner for the Foundation that’s inspired by the tailgate parties that I grew up throwing is a huge honor. I learned how to cook while tailgating for LSU Football, so to recreate that food at the James Beard House... it doesn't get more amazing than that.
And then to be able to present and serve at the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne event in the Hamptons is another huge honor. It'll be an all-star cast of chefs from around the country, and Louisiana’s own chef John Besh will be the chef of honor this year. To be the only other Louisiana chef there is going to be really exciting as well.
Can you share one of your signature recipes with us?
JD: Molasses mustard-fried catfish topped with crawfish etoufee, see recipe below.
At the James Beard House, we are serving this over grits and mustard greens. It could also be served over rice. Ladle a spoonful of etouffee over the catfish and chow down.
What kind of food does New York need more of?
JD: Pizza. Nah, just kidding. NYC has such a good food scene. The barbecue restaurants have really come on strong. I guess the answer that I'm supposed to give is Cajun. I know there are some Louisiana-inspired restaurants in New York, but it is hard to find really good Cajun food anywhere outside of Louisiana.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cups seafood stock
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Cayenne, as needed
Smoked paprika, as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound crawfish tails
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 catfish fillets
1/4 cup Jay D's Louisiana Molasses Mustard
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon Slap Ya Mama Cajun Pepper Sauce
Oil, for frying
For the crawfish etouffee: First, you make a roux. In a Dutch oven, add the butter over medium-high heat and melt. Add the flour and whisk until combined and there are no lumps in the flour. Continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and flour mixture browns to the color of a shopping bag, 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure to stir continuously and do not allow the mixture to burn. If you notice little black specks, discard the roux and start over.
Once the roux is sufficiently dark, add the garlic, celery, onion, and bell pepper, and stir. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the seafood stock and bring to a simmer. Add the parsley, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, and some cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the crawfish tails and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
For the fried catfish: In a shallow pan or baking dish, combine the cornmeal, cayenne, paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper and stir to evenly spread the spices throughout the cornmeal. In another shallow pan, combine the molasses mustard, milk, and hot sauce. Add the catfish to the mustard mixture and allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Remove the catfish from the mustard and dredge the filets in the cornmeal mixture, generously coating both sides with it.
In a deep fryer with oil set to 350 degrees F (or a cast iron skillet with oil heated to 350 degrees F), fry the catfish in batches until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on a pan lined with paper towels.