For those who were eating their way through New Orleans in the 1970s, there was only one guide to the city’s restaurants. The Underground Gourmet led the intrepid eater from the haute Creole halls of Antoine’s and Galatoire’s to back-a-town places like Buster Holmes and Chez Helene. Author Richard Collin had a cult following; one found his book, dog-eared and gravy stained, next to the phone book in houses all over the Crescent City. He was so witty, knowledgeable and influential that the New Orleans States-Item, the afternoon paper back before it merged with the Times-Picayune, hired him as the city’s first restaurant critic.

Collin clearly adored New Orleans food. In 1975, he and his wife Rima authored The New Orleans Cookbook, an important work that codified some of New Orleans’ most beloved classics. There are recipes like Monday’s tradition of red beans and rice, a quintessential seafood gumbo, four versions of jambalaya, including an unusual but brilliant combination of pork and oysters, and some of the city’s restaurant's signature dishes like Oysters Rockefeller and Trout Meunière Amandine. Collin also recognized and explained the difference between Creole and Cajun dishes and featured Acadiana’s chicken and sausage gumbo and rabbit sauce piquante in his book.

T-P Food Editor Judy Walker writes that Collin’s work was so important to Crescent City cooks that in 2006, The New Orleans Cookbook was one of the top three cookbooks purchased by those restocking their kitchen libraries after Hurricane Katrina. Collin, 78, died last week, in Birmingham, Ala., where he had relocated after the storm.

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