Digging In: At Coulis, a breakfast dish with Bluebird roots

Deck Franklin 25pt

CASUAL

Huevos Rancheros

Coulis

3625 Prytania St., 504-304-4265

This classic Mexican breakfast dish has been affiliated with this particular Uptown address long before it became Coulis. The building had been home to the revered Bluebird Café for more than two decades, and huevos rancheros was the centerpiece of its menu.

The Bluebird Café closed in 2009, but the space was reopened later that year as Coulis by James Leeming, a chef who had picked up the nickname “Coulis” during his years preparing sauces in the Commander’s Palace kitchen. He kept huevos rancheros ($8.50) on his menu but gave the basic concept a major stylistic overhaul.

The plate is neatly split between black beans and a smoky, dark tomato sauce, while the tortillas on top have been fashioned into a crisp quesadilla and long corn chips radiate out like sunbeams. There’s also an option to add pulled pork, which I highly recommend.

Chef Leeming died suddenly in 2011, but his wife Heather continues to run Coulis and has ensured that his rendition of huevos rancheros remains a staple.

UPSCALE

Smoked Soft Shell Crab

Clancy’s Restaurant

6100 Annunciation St., 504-895-1111

First smoked, then fried, then served with more crabmeat and a gliding of meunière butter sauce, the soft shell crab ($26.75) at Clancy’s is a modern Creole classic.

The dish had been a signature at Christian’s, the Mid-City stalwart that did not return after Hurricane Katrina. Chef Brian Larson explained that it made the move to Clancy’s long before that, following the usual route of mobile chefs bringing recipes from one kitchen to another.

“Next year will mark 20 years that I’ve been here, and it predates me by quite a bit,” Larson said.

The crabs spend about 20 minutes in the smoker (Larson recently switched from mesquite to a gentler cherry wood). That’s just enough time to give these delicate crabs a whiff of smoke riding between the sweetness of the meat and the salty, crisp fried crust.

It’s a seasonal dish at Clancy’s now and Larson estimated it would be on the menu through the end of the month before taking a hiatus. That means the countdown is on.

WILDCARD

Chicken Fries

Short Stop Po-boys

119 Transcontinental Dr. 504-885-4572

As far as guilty pleasures go, an order of chicken fries ($2.50) from this old school Metairie po-boy shop practically calls for a confession. They are essentially chicken nuggets cut into narrow pieces. The batter is tame and the texture of the heavily processed meat inside is a bit squishy. They tumble from the box to the fryer without much fanfare. They’re popular with kids, and maybe kids at heart.

But Short Stop is well known for its roast beef. Get a side order of extra gravy (50 cents), all laden with debris, dump that over your paper boat of chicken fries and suddenly your confession just got a little more interesting.