ABOVE Entertaining guests on the wharf, porch or patio can be so extraordinary in autumn. Take advantage of cooler temps and changing scenery this season.
Christy and Allan Gustin have always enjoyed sharing a glass of wine on their front porch with friends. It is a treasured tradition they learned to love while living on South Georgia Avenue in the Oakleigh Garden District. Now, the couple continues the custom after a momentous move to Midtown. Their new abode, a stunning circa 1915 stucco manse on Dauphin Street, boasts a big, deep porch with an open veranda on the side. The Gustins didn’t even realize the true party potential of their fabulous front porch until inclement weather cropped up while they were hosting a family crab boil in the backyard. The unexpected thunderstorm caused them to quickly pick up the entire party and move it to the safety of the spacious porch. The result turned out to be so much fun that the porch has become their preferred place to entertain.
Christy, a local realtor, says she and her husband, Allan, a builder, really honed their host and hostess skills in Oakleigh where they and their four children had lived for a dozen happy years. But, having been bitten by the restoration bug, the Gustins decided to move to their current location. “When we bought it, the house had been empty for 10 years, ” says Allan.
The couple agrees it was a substantial project. “What we love about it is that we have a little more property, just over half an acre on two and a half lots and a little more privacy, yet we’re still close to Downtown, ” says Allan. They also find it especially enchanting in the evenings when they sit on their porch swing and watch the fireflies emerge.
But both say they do miss Oakleigh. So, while they ended up leaving their old neighborhood, they couldn’t leave their neighbors behind. They still like to get together and partake in a festive party on the porch, especially come autumn when the weather becomes a little less humid and a lot more hospitable.
Cranberry Gimlet Cocktail
This festive garnet-hued cocktail is fabulous for fall sipping and works well on into the holiday season.
2 ounces citrus vodka
3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce unsweetened cranberry juice
1/2 ounce agave nectar
6 – 8 fresh cranberries, divided
twist of lemon, for garnish, if desired
1. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a shaker along with 3 – 4 fresh cranberries. Muddle the cranberries.
2. Add ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist and 3 – 4 cranberries, if desired. Makes 1 cocktail.
Allan’s Old Fashioned Cocktail
Allan crafted this classic toddy when they moved into the new house and had “a little neighbor function.” He says that, more often than not, as you make your way to the bottom of the glass, the splendid sweetness of the cocktail will inevitably beg you to imbibe one more.
1 good teaspoon orange marmalade (Allan prefers Smucker’s.)
2 Bada Bing pitted cherries
Peychaud’s Aromatic Cocktail Bitters
4 ounces Four Roses Kentucky Bourbon
1. Muddle marmalade and cherries together in an old fashioned glass.
2. Fill the glass with ice. Give two generous shakes of the bitters over the ice. Cover the ice (almost) with the bourbon. Do not stir. Sip and enjoy. Makes 1 cocktail.
Bacon, Poblano and Cream Cheese Duck Bites
These divine duck bites are addictively delicious, especially served with a sweet, sassy Raspberry “Punch” Sauce.
1/4 – 1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 – 1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/4 – 1/2 cup red wine
2 – 3 nice sized duck breasts, sliced across the grain into 1/2-inch wide strips
8 ounces cream cheese
1 poblano pepper, sliced in 1/2-inch wide by 3-inch long pieces
bacon slices (one per duck piece), cut 3 inches long
Raspberry “Punch” Sauce (see below)
1. In a zip-top bag, combine equal parts orange juice, balsamic vinaigrette and your favorite red wine. Marinate duck in the refrigerator for 8 – 24 hours. Discard the marinade.
2. Spread approximately 1 teaspoon of cream cheese on each slice of duck, add a slice of poblano pepper, then wrap with a slice of bacon. Secure with a toothpick. Repeat process until all of the duck pieces are wrapped.
3. Heat grill on medium or heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook approximately 25 – 30 minutes or until bacon is brown and almost crisp.
4. Remove toothpick and serve immediately alone or with Raspberry “Punch” Sauce for dipping, if desired. Serves 8 – 10.
Raspberry “Punch” Sauce
Allan says this sweet, snappy foil for his savory snack packs a fun peppery “punch, ” hence the name. It is suitable for serving with all sorts of game.
2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
4 – 6 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1/8 cup raspberry liqueur
1. Puree raspberries, and then mix with sugar, cornstarch and crushed red pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until thickened, then let cool.
2. Stir in raspberry liqueur and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Whisk together just before serving. Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups.
Prosciutto & Portabella Wrapped Quail
1 dozen quail, cleaned and breasted
2 large portabella mushrooms, sliced into 1/4″ by 2″ pieces
½ -1 tablespoon light olive oil
salt and pepper
Prosciutto pieces (one per piece of quail) approximately 3″ long by 1″ wide
1. Place quail in a salt water brine for 8-24 hours. Refrigerate.
2. Meanwhile, marinate mushroom slices in light olive oil, salt and pepper for 8 hours. Toss to coat and refrigerate. Discard brine.
3. Take each piece of quail, add a mushroom slice then wrap with a slice of prosciutto. Secure each with a toothpick. Repeat process until all of the quail is wrapped.
4. Salt and pepper each wrapped piece. Heat grill on medium or oven to 375 degrees. Cook approximately 15-20 minutes or until quail is slightly browned. Do not overcook the quail. Remove toothpick and serve immediately alone or topped with a savory sauce such as the Creole mustard cream sauce below. Makes 2 dozen bites.
Creole Mustard Cream Sauce
1/4 cup of green onion, minced, green part only
1-2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup of dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup Zatarain's Creole mustard
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Simmer green onion in olive oil over medium heat. Add in garlic after one minute or so and continue cooking for one minute.
2. Stir in wine, butter, sugar, and mustard and bring to slow boil. Cook 3-5 minutes until slightly reduced.
3. Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper. Whisk together until well combined then serve immediately. If serving with quail wrapped bites, drizzle generously over each bite and enjoy. Makes approximately 2 1/4 cups.
Cindy’s Grandmother’s Bodacious Brisket
Cindy Rathle, the Gustins’ former neighbor, is renowned for this recipe passed down to her by her grandmother, Lillian Leet.
1 (5-pound) beef brisket
black pepper, to taste on both sides
garlic powder, to taste on both sides
thyme, to taste on both sides
1 large onion, sliced into thin circles
1 beef bouillon cube
2 (10 1/2-ounce) cans French onion soup
2 (10 1/2-ounce) cans beef broth
1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Season meat with next 3 ingredients. Place in large baking dish. Top with onions.
3. Dissolve bouillon cube in one can of warm water. Combine with next 3 ingredients. Pour over brisket. Cover with foil.
4. Cook 3 – 4 hours until fork in meat comes out easy. Allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. Slice and reheat to serve. Serves approximately 12 – 16.
Sydney’s Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
The Gustins’ sweet friend and former neighbor, Sydney Betbeze, makes these sumptuous sweet potatoes.
4 pounds canned sweet potatoes (Sydney uses Bruce’s.)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup bourbon (Sydney uses Maker’s Mark.)
1/8 – 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pecan halves
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, in a pan over low heat, heat potatoes in juice, drain and mash well. Add sugar, butter, bourbon and enough milk to achieve desired consistency.
3. Place sweet potato mixture in a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle pecans on top. Heat in the oven until bubbling. Serves 8 – 10.
Pan-seared Brussels Sprouts
This delectable dish of Allan’s turns Brussels sprouts into a hedonistic splurge.
2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, plus additional for garnish
Parmesan Cream Sauce (see below)
1/8 cup minced green onions
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to garnish
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Coat Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook for 25 minutes. While cooking the Brussels sprouts, make the Parmesan Cream Sauce.
3. Remove Brussels sprouts from the oven and sear in a hot skillet or saucepan with a little light olive oil for 3 – 5 minutes, searing the exteriors. Remove from heat and place in a nice serving dish. Drizzle the Parmesan Cream Sauce over the Brussels sprouts and top with black pepper, green onions and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 8 – 10.
Parmesan Cream Sauce
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Place cream, butter, garlic and rosemary in a saucepan over medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes. Stir regularly until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Do not overcook sauce as it will thicken as it sits.
2. Stir in grated Parmesan cheese. Let melt and whisk together and remove from heat. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Chocolate Ganache Cake
Sydney and Jamie Betbeze’s daughter Virginia, a talented baker, prepares this rich, decadent dessert. The Betbeze family originally got the recipe from their fellow Oakleigh neighbor, Paula McPhail. It is extra lavish served with a sidecar of Cammie’s Old Dutch butter pecan ice cream. (Old Dutch is within easy walking distance of the Gustins’ new home.)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate squares
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, room temperature
Chocolate Ganache (see below)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, making sure to stir constantly.
3. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl of a standing mixer. Add chocolate mixture, buttermilk and eggs. Beat at low speed for 1 minute; increase to high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
4. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake until cake springs back when gently pressed, 25 – 30 minutes.
5. Allow layers to cool. Then pour Chocolate Ganache between layers and on top of the cake, letting it drizzle down the sides. Serves 8 – 10.
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 – 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. In a saucepan, boil whipping cream. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth.
text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by Elizabeth Gelineau