Cookbook Crush: 'Drag Queen Brunch'
Celebrating both the restaurants and female impersonators of New Orleans, 'Drag Queen Brunch' by Poppy Tooker tells the tales of the food and the folks that make the Crescent City culture so fabulous.
Drag Queen Brunch by Poppy Tooker is just as fascinating as the ladies it's dedicated to. The book shows the history of New Orleans' female impersonators and its storied restaurants and food. I couldn't wait to use it to plan a menu as I hosted my own RuPaul's Drag Race marathon at home with friends.
I started with the Savory Pain Perdu, a French-bread French toast stuffed with goat cheese that uses hot sauce in the batter for a subtle kick. The fluffy bread soaked up much of the batter, creating a custardy goodness as it mixed with the warmed chevre inside. Quick and easy, I prepared and plated this a short time ahead of my guests' arrival. It was a huge hit. The Cranberry and Prosecco Mimosa was a simple hot pink cocktail—I went with an unsweetened cranberry juice, as my own taste leans bitter. The Crabmeat Cheesecake with Meunière Sauce (don't let the name fool you; this is a quiche!) was my ambitious dish of the day, not because it was difficult but because it had the most steps. Worcestershire and hot sauces gave it a zingy, bright topping that perfectly contrasted the creamy, crabby quiche. The dish got a warm reception from my Drag Racers, but I'd recommend making it ahead of your extravaganza; the leftovers got better and better each day. The Italian-inspired Tasso Baked Eggs were the hit of the party. A baked blend of sausage, green onions, parsley and cream, this comfort food dish brought in tons of textures. The crunch of the breadcrumbs offset the creaminess of the eggs and cream spectacularly and had my guests asking for more. (Note: I couldn't find tasso at my local NYC grocery store, but chorizo made a nice, spicy substitute.)
Some of the book's recipes were more ambitious in their preparation (things like stuffing crabs and cooking head-on shrimp intimidate me!), and finding ingredients such as boudin and crawfish can be difficult outside of The Big Easy (especially if you're like me and rarely plan ahead to get the proper ingredients). Still, this book will take you out of your brunch comfort zone and teach you different takes on New Orleans-style cooking. It's a great guide for hosting your own fab brunch or just for getting some glamorous inspiration when you need a little sumpin-sumpin for your couch-and-a-movie Sunday.