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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Doggie Bags

October 13, 2008

Doggie Bags

After 28 years in the restaurant business, one of the most consistent customer behaviors I have observed is with doggie bags. A majority of restaurant patrons are embarrassed to ask their server for a doggie bag.

I have never been able to figure out the tentativeness on the customer’s part, but it’s real. Many would rather throw away the remainder of a perfectly good pasta dish they ordered than to walk out of the restaurant holding a to-go box.

Doggie bags are rarely used for dogs. They are people bags, and I never hesitate to ask for one, even in the finest restaurants I have visited. It’s the ultimate compliment to the chef.

At the Crescent City Grill we serve large portions. We welcome customer’s requests for doggy bags. My mother can eat a Grilled and Chilled Chicken Salad for lunch and take the remainder home for dinner, and she does. It makes no sense to send it back to the kitchen where the bus boy is going to scrape it into the trash can.

Some foods are better than others the next day, and some foods can’t hold up even a few hours later. Hearty soups, stews, and gumbos (especially chili) benefit from a day in the refrigerator allowing the flavors to meld and intensify.

Fried seafood is only appetizing for a few minutes after it’s been cooked. Grilled chicken can be kept in the refrigerator for days and, whereas fried chicken from a fast-food chain is good— in the picnic sense— when eaten cold the following day, boneless chicken tender-type entrees don’t hold up as well.

The pinnacle of leftover food is steak. I always take steak home and my dog never gets any— well, maybe the bone.

When I grill steaks at home I always throw a couple of extras on the grill for steak and biscuits the next morning.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and one of my favorite breakfasts is leftover steak served in a biscuit, not the fast-food, deep-fried-steak-and-gravy version of steak and biscuits, but real steak— no gravy— and a little butter on a biscuit.

The reason my children get excited about a steak dinner has nothing to do with the supper they are about to eat, but what will be served for breakfast the next morning.

The St.John version of steak and biscuits is always made with leftover steak. I slice it into thin strips and place it in aluminum foil, sprinkle a little steak seasoning over the meat, top it with a small pat of butter, close the foil, and place it in the oven while the biscuits are baking. A microwave should never be used when reheating leftover steak as it causes the meat to dry out considerably.

I am a staunch proponent of homemade biscuits and believe that they should be used almost all of the time, but for some strange reason— maybe it’s because that’s the way I grew up eating this dish— refrigerated-whop-on-the-counter-straight-out-of-the-tin biscuits work best for this dish. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is. Save your emails, I’ve been eating steak and biscuits prepared this way for 47 years.

Once the biscuits have baked and the steak is warm, slice open the biscuits and spread a tiny bit of butter on the inside of each biscuit half, top with steak, close, eat, repeat.

These are especially good when served alongside scrambled eggs and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Once you’ve make steak and biscuits using last night’s restaurant steaks, you’ll never again be anxious about walking through a restaurant with a doggie bag.

Steak Seasoning

1 /2 cup Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 /3 cup Black pepper
1 /4 cup Lemon Pepper
2 Tbl Garlic Salt
2 Tbl Granulated Garlic
1 Tbl Onion Powder

Combine all and mix well. Store in an airtight container.

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