Artisan touches always appreciated

Artisan Cuisine is published monthly.

As a lover of artisanal foods, I'm delighted to be able to use some of the lessons I've learned in my last catering job of the year.

I'm about to have a baby and will be taking some much needed time off from my work. By the time you read this, I will have catered for retired film director Elmo Williams' 100th birthday party, and every single thing on the menu I've made from scratch.

I think knowing how to make food the artisanal or old-fashioned way is crucial to becoming a well-rounded cook. It helps one understand the relationships with foods and even if you don't notice a huge difference in the flavor of some things, others are usually impressed to know you've taken the extra effort to ensure the food is something homemade.

If you can add a few extra homemade items to your next party or get-together I guarantee you will make an impression on your guests.

With this last meal I'm preparing fresh homemade cheeses, which include feta cheese for the arugula salad, ricotta for the spring orecchiette pasta salad and I plan to share my homemade brie as one of the appetizers.

I'm planning to bake cornbread (Elmo's favorite) and several loaves of buttery brioche, a twisted cinnamon braided bread and a whole grain boule that I will stencil with a giant "E" in honor of Elmo.

I plan on making the cultured butter that I shared with you in the past, so that the carbs can be indulged in with the very best butter and some of my hand-harvested sea salt on the side.

I also plan to use local salmon for the smoked salmon mousse and to make a fun faux caviar to top the smoked salmon mousse using a modern technique borrowed from molecular gastronomy.

If you'd like the recipe, feel free to email me for it, but it does require some special ingredients you can't find at the local grocery store.

Taking the time to make things like good reduction sauces and homemade bacon jam using my own home-cured bacon, roasted garlic aioli and other dips and sauces are also part of the effort that an artisan chef fully embraces.

The Crescent City area has several such chefs who do these things, including the Morgantes of Vita Cucina and chef Justin Hall and the chefs at The Requa Inn. The best part is, anybody can learn how to make these things and I hope to share more ideas that you can incorporate into your own cooking.

In the meantime, if you've missed the columns on cultured butter, cheese making, curing bacon, bread baking or others, contact me and I'll pointyou to them online or send you the instructions. Bon appetit!

Anne Boulley is a local chef and culinary instructor with a passion for artisan foods. Her cooking classes and services are offered via her website,