NOLA, known for music AND food, is a gormands delight. The complete range of the keyboard down there- from hole in the wall home grown blue plate specials to high end, nouveau cuisine (who said the 80’s were dead), your tummy will wiggle with delight over the offerings.
A quick rundown of what we consumed and then a few recipes to try at home.
Breakfast was offered at the hotel we were staying at, so the simple fare daily consisted of fruit, breads, hard boiled eggs, muesli, smoked salmon and oatmeal. Not a grit to be had.
Which made me sad, because grits are my go to comfort food.
But I was able to find some amazing Shrimp and Grits for lunch at Redemption Hall Saints and Sinners Cafe @ 91 French Market Place in the Vieux Carre near the French Market
The red gravy is spicy and sweet with a hint of basil, the grits creamy from 15 minutes of constant stirring. The shrimp were plump and burst with just the right amount of crispness when we bit into them. I would eat these for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
We also enjoyed foie gras, done six ways, at John Besh’s restaurant August, on Tchoupitoulas one night.
The chef seared the mini selections with perfection and served them with a warm basket of garlic grilled brioche. These could have been our entire meal, as the rest of what we selected was disappointing. Except my dessert: napoleon of nougatine with Valhrona chocolate bavarois and salted toffee ice-cream.
Po’Boys are always in season in NOLA. This traditional southern sandwich, served on what we would call grinder rolls, can be built using any kind of interior fixings and the more unusual and wide-ranging the better. Fried shellfish and seafood is usually a good choice, but you can also use alligator. Its been reported that Po’Boys were the only food that could be afforded by “poor boys” during the 1914 strike by city streetcar workers, as in “Git dat Po’Boy something to eat.”
Joey K’s on Magazine Street, known for their amazing red beans and rice and once featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, has a mouth-watering Catfish Po’Boy. We ordered it “dressed” (Mayo, lettuce and tomatoes). And we slathered it in hot sauce. Mmmm.
Now if you’ve never had fried catfish or any kind of catfish for that matter, don’t turn your nose. It’s a mild, light fish, lighter than Tilapia in taste, but as substantive as a sea bass, so you get a meaty texture with a mild nonfishy taste. Set aside the way the darn thing looks (catfish are ugly!!) it’s a great fish, which I highly encourage y’all to try.
We also had a special dinner at Louisiana Bistro, located at 337 Rue Dauphine. We asked the Chef to “Feed Us”, which he proceeded to do for our party of six. He came out and chatted with our table first and asked for any preferences and food allergies or aversions (no mushrooms). We were a little scared, because on the menu that evening was Frog Legs. We fought the urge to say we were allergic to Frog Legs (really?!) but agreed to be adventuresome.
What followed was simply amazing. And i have no pictures, because we were so entranced with the experience, I forgot to shoot, lol.
Chef Mars surprised us early on with a first course of Crawfish Hushpuppies with a Creole Meuniere Sauce, which is a creole version of the french sauce, an emulsified lemon-butter sauce “browned” by the addition of a reduction of caramelized onions, worchestershire, garlic and black pepper.
For anyone not familiar with crawfish or hushpuppies, here’s a pic of each:
The two combined were knock your socks off good, especially with the drizzle of sauce.
The second course was more traditional, a seared Mahi Mahi, with Cajun rub, on a bed of creamed sweet potatoes. Meltingly remarkable and just enough spice to tingle your nose.
Just when we thought we had consummately avoided the frog legs, we were served our third course. Quail. And not just quail, but little bitty quail, char grilled and spiced on a bed of sautéed greens. I wasn’t sure, but the first bite confirmed, grilling is the way to go here. The earthy bite of the slightly bitter greens, offset nicely the heavier, decadent flavor of the quail. Heaven.
Feeling it couldn’t get any better, our main entree arrived: Buffalo short ribs, slow roasted for TWELVE hours. Fall off the bone good, lick your lips and suck on those fingers good. Marinated and basted with a sweet and sour barbecue- a mix of southern and vinegar based barbecue sauce, they were gone in minutes.
We ended with chicory coffee and a trio of desserts: A dense warm bread pudding with caramel sauce, an even denser flourless chocolate torte and the winner by far: Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream with a balsamic glaze. Why cream cheese? Chef Mars told us that during times of no refrigeration, people found adding some cream cheese to the ice cream they were making kept it harder longer. And the balsamic glaze? Inspired and a perfect accompaniment.
Jambalaya is a traditional highly-seasoned mixture of shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage and vegetables, simmered with raw rice until liquid is absorbed.
Gumbo is a thick soup , also with shrimp, chicken, sausage and rice, but less fiery, it starts with a roux, a holy base for most N’Awlins cookings.
Each has its own character, the Jambalaya being more of a casserole and the Gumbo a stew. Each are classic in the Big Easy.
Finally its essential to have Pralines (pronounced Prah-Leens), a confection made with sugar and pecans (pronounced pa-cons, emphasis on the cons).
Eat one, eat the whole darn box. Nothing finer.
Ahhh, New Orleans, “Je manque vous Tellement”
Make a Roux
1 cup all-purpose flour and ¾ cup vegetable oil. Combine the oil and flour in a skillet over a medium flame and don’t stop stirring. The roux will set up and begin to turn brown. When it’s the shade of an old penny, remove it from the flame, and allow it to cool. There’s a common saying before making a meal or making any important plans: “First, make a roux.” Roux can be prepared ahead of time and used as needed. Store in refrigeration.
Gumbo (from Paula Deen)
- 3 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup of Roux
- 3 tablespoons of margarine
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 3 stalks celery chopped
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves, coarsely chopped, plus chopped leaves for garnish
- 4 cups hot water
- 5 beef bouillon cubes
- 1 (14-ounce can) stewed tomatoes with juice
- 2 cups frozen sliced okra
- 4 green onions, sliced, white and green parts
- 1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavybottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and remove. Add the sausage and cook until browned, then remove.
In the same Dutch oven, over low heat, melt 3 tablespoons margarine. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper and celery and cook for 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, to taste and the 1/4 bunch parsley. Cook, while stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add the Roux to the Dutch Oven. Add 4 cups hot water and bouillon cubes, whisking constantly. Add the chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add tomatoes and okra. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Just before serving add the green onions, shrimp and chopped parsley.
Spicy New Orleans Fried Catfish
- 1 (10 ounce) fillet frozen catfish
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 cup corn flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 quart oil for frying
- Lay catfish fillet horizontally on cutting board. Cut thin 1/4 inch wide strips from the filet at a 45 degree angle. This is easy if your knife is sharp, and the filet is partly frozen.
- Dust fish strips moderately with cayenne pepper, and gently tumble together to evenly coat all strips. They should look pink all over when you are through. On the Bayou, this is called a dry marinade. Place catfish strips on a plate or pan, and set aside for a few minutes to thaw.
- Heat oil in deep-fryer to 365 degrees F (185 degrees C). Place enough corn flour to bread your catfish on a bowl or plate, and season with salt and black pepper.
- Place thawed catfish into seasoned corn flour, and tumble gently until all strips are evenly coated. Deep fry in hot oil for about 3 minutes, or until done. Fish should be golden brown, slightly crisp outside, and moist and flaky inside when done.