Mary Beth Ringgold, chef and restaurateur behind Cajun’s Wharf, Capers and Copper Grill, was the latest chef to participate in the Historic Arkansas Museum’s “History is Served: Arkansas Foodways Dinner Series.” Ringgold cooked food that colonial Arkansans might have found familiar.
Chefs Michael Selig and Gilbert Alaquinez of 42 Bar and Table at the Clinton Center did food inspired by Quapaw cooking at the first instalment of the series in February.
HAM has a Q&A with Ringgold on its blog.
What did you serve?
Working through the menu, the first course was the crawfish bisque, and crawfish was available at the time. I don’t know who the first person was to look at a crawfish and say, ‘I wonder if you can eat this?’ Probably a very hungry person, I suspect. Somebody eventually cooked it or boiled it and decided how to eat it. But we didn’t do it a rustic way. They didn’t run it through a sieve, they didn’t have blenders back then.
The second course was rabbit, and we weren’t really developed as farmlands at that time. We were trappers, we had guns, there were ducks available, pheasants available, rabbit, any kind of wild game. So we chose a rabbit loin, which we pan seared and finished in the oven. We served it with some stone ground grits and a mushroom demi-glace and it was very, very tender, something that people really enjoyed. The [guests], they scraped their plates. We always pay attention to the dishes that come back in.
For the entrée—you know they had hogs, wild hogs back then. But they had no diet, just what they could forage. Our hogs are on grass and grain. Back then they might have killed a hog at 80 or 90 or 100 pounds, but our hogs fill out at almost 300 pounds, or heavier than that. So we did a big thick bone-in pork chop but they would not have had that back in the day, they would have had a baby pork chop.
So with the dessert, it’s called ‘pan perdu,’ and we did it with fresh blueberries. And it’s a course of a bread pudding; there were a lot of French influences and the French loved their breads; that was their staple. They had bread and butter for breakfast. So [bread pudding] is a great thing to do with remaining bread, like wholesale bread or leftover bread. And we finished it with caramel.
The next dinner will be in July, but no other details have been determined. Those interested in knowing more can contact Ellen Korenblat, 501-324-9304.