Favorite Louisiana cookbooks?
- david in NOLa Mar 7, 2003 08:32 AM
I'm interested in upgrading my books on all varieties of Louisiana cookery. So far my collection is pretty pathetic. I have the first two volumes of River Road Recipes (the third, offering reduced fat recipes, doesn't interest me) and a book by Paul Prudhomme called Louisiana Tastes. The RR books seem OK to me, tho' they're very dated and too many recipes call for the use of processed foods (cream of mushroom soup, e.g.). And the Prudhomme book is full of what seem to me unnecessarily fussy recipes with a jillion ingredients, though I need to delve into it some more before passing final judgment. Emeril, of course, is banned for life from my bookshelf.
Books that do for Lousiana something like what D. Kennedy's has done for Mexico or M. Jaffrey for India would be ideal, though I won't be surprised if such a book does not exist.
But really, I'm interested in hearing about any books you like. Preferrably books in print, but even older ones are of interest. I can often track them down on ebay or elsewhere.
What follows are just a few of my favorites:
--Leon Soniat's Creole Cookbook: old-fashioned, creole home cooking. Excellent recipe for redfish courtbouillion, as well as interesting vignettes on life in NO in the early 20th century.
--Mary Land's Louisiana Cookery: indispensible for wild game, fish, turtle, etc. ML would cook almost anything!
--Richard Collin's New Orleans Underground Gourmet
--Times Picayune Creole Cookbook (any of the various editions)
--The Dooky Chase Cookbook
--Pirate's Pantry: good all-around, published by a service league in Lake Charles. Interesting because it includes diagrams and instructions for things like cleaning softshelled crabs, peeling shrimp, etc.
Personally, I like community cookbooks (like RR Recipes & Pirate's Pantry). While they often do have some junky fad recipes that rely on shortcuts, you can often find jewels buried in with the hot cheese dips and marshmallow fudge recipes. The Tabasco company sponsors a community cookbook hall of fame (visit www.tabasco.com), with new cookbooks included each year.
In addition, the Newcomb Center for Women at Tulane University has a large collection of cookery books. See the link to their NO Cookbook bibliography...
re: Hungry Celeste
My cookbook collection is, if I do say so, pretty enormous and a huge chunck is LA stuff. I second the rec of the "Picayune" cookbook which is as important to N.O cooking as escoffier's original conpendium was top France. "Recipes & reminisncences of Old New Orleans" from the Ursuline mob is right fine--has a few canned soup ingredients but what's cooking without cheating occasionally? NO Junior League's "Plantation cookbooks" has some great stuff but 1/2 og it is devoted to the Big Houses hooey.m(I think they became insecure about River Road's success and wanted to Do Something. Then there is Lafacdio Hearn's "Creole Cookbook"
There are two Leon Soniat books---I and II
The "Shadows on the Teche" Cookbook has many NO recipes due to the trade connections between the two towns. The great Hallman Woods Jr (world's best soup maker) has some good ones in there.
I am not a beleiver in the Collins' stuff but admit that I have held his "outing" of many favored places against him for more than twenty years. Someone in his horde invented a then-new standard for judging Red Beans and Rice...."bean definition" was the term. I thought--and think---that to be ridiculous.
There was abook of restaurant recipes (well, there are several) some years ago that had Anna Maye Maylie's eggs remoulade (a tear stands in the eye as we recollect Maylie's) and if you can find that one it is worth having. My copy was accidentally given away by a family member years ago & I'm damned if I forgive her
Thanks Hazelhurst. Am sure enjoying the posts in this thread. I was trying to decide whether to get "Shadows on the Teche" but didn't know much about it. Your comments decided me :-) Could you possibly recall more about the cookbook, or title of the cookbook, with Maylie's eggs remoulade in it?
re: Hungry Celeste
Hungry Celeste, I miss both you and Hazelhurst. A number of years ago he and I traded some wonderful posts that I have never forgotten. I type this a number of months after your post but I still have fond memories of trading posts with both of you from years ago.
On topic, I have about 30 or more Louisiana cookbooks. The three that I value the most are Emeril's first book, New New Orleans Cooking which I believe has more recipes that I have used from him than any other. It also dates to '93 when the Tchoupoulitas restaurant was still on top, before the Food Network. His second book, Real and Rustic, is very good also but for me, New New Orleans Cooking has at least a dozen or more recipes that I have made over and over. Frankly, none of the cookbooks that he has done since then, for me, have lived up to the first two.
The second is Prudhomme's first also, "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen." An extraordinary book that was released in '84 five years after K-Paul's first opened. I believe that what is important about this is that at that time his wife was still alive and K-Paul's was (as Emeril in the early and mid '90's) on top. I had a close friend whose roomate was a waitress at K-Paul's and through her met him (later his pastry chef, Marty, who actually created his fresh coconut cake which, to this day, is the best cake I have ever had. The Prudhomme Family Cookbook has the recipe for Marty's coconut cake along with several other incredible cakes including a fantastic spice cake. For years both of these were available only on request from K-Paul's). Chef Paul was trying to lose weight and I had just lost over 140 pounds on a diet and was doing everything in my power to gain it all back in one meal! A good friend and I were literally eating our way around the country and met him-through her-just after spending several days in Houston. At the time he was fascinated with Tex Mex cooking and had recently spent several days at Ninfa's on Navigation Blvd. in Houston. We'd had dinner there three nights in a row. Between Ninfa's and my weight loss and the roommate/waitress Chef Paul and I hit it off. To this day one of the best experiences I have ever had was a tour of his kitchen, with him, and a spoon tasting most of his dishes.
Twenty five years later I have not forgotten this. I also understand that now he has finally lost much of the weight that he so long wanted to lose. For myself, I've kept it off for all this time despite my life long obsession with food.
The third cookbook is from the Junior League of New Orleans, Jambalaya. The spiral bound volume that I have dates to 1980 and is falling apart, page by page. But there is passion in it along with a number of excellent recipes.
Fond memories of my first visit to NOLA and meeting Chef Paul which was an opportunity to buy Jambalaya and, on later visits to buy his first cookbook along with Emeril's first cookbook.
I love your hometown.
Hi David and everyone,
I have: Arnaud's Creole Cookbook by John Demers; Creole Gumbo & All That Jazz by Howard Mitcham; Antoine's Restaurant Cookbook by Roy F. Guste; Commander's Kitchen by Ti Adelaide Martin and Jamie Shannon; The Prudhomme Family Cookbook, among others.
Most of these have to do with New Orleans cuisine rather than Louisiana cuisine. I guess the Prudhomme Family Cookbook is not strictly NO. I have especially enjoyed Creole Gumbo & All That Jazz because it tells some history of NO and because I am also a jazz fan. I must say that I don't always cook from my cookbooks. I am interested in food and history every bit as much as I am in cooking.
I too, would enjoy a definitive book on the cuisine and culture of Louisiana, al la Diana Kennedy. Let us know if you run across one. Or maybe this will be an inspiration for a writer-cook to pick up on. This is a project I would love to be involved in -- eating AND history/culture. Heaven.
I was fortunate to inherit a number of cookbooks from an aunt,who apparently bought a new one every time she and my uncle (LSU alum) went to Baton Rouge for a ball game. My favorites are Pirate's Pantry, already mentioned, and Talk About Good!, from a service league in Lafayette. I have vols. 1 and 2 of River Road Recipes too, of course,as well as some more obscure ones including one called Tiger Bait. I'm not at home now and can't remember the others...but the first two I mentioned are the ones I use most often. For a rather bizarre glimpse into a pre-cholesterol-conscious time, check out the recipe for something called Fleetza Cleetza in Talk About Good!
"Cajun-Creole Cooking" by Terry Thompson is good. Unfortunately, out of print.
You might want to swap "Louisiana Tastes" for "Louisiana Kitchen" if you're wanting a Paul Prudhomme book on your shelf.
My Louisiana cookbook is as small as yours, just "Cajun-Creole Cooking", "Louisiana Kitchen", and "Enola Prudhomme's Low Calorie Cajun Cooking"(I haven't used Enola's book much, but haven't had it long.)
Thompson's book would be the one I'd keep if I had to get rid of two of mine.
I took a look at my shelf and was surprised to see I have none of the standard tomes on New Orleans cooking. I guess while I was living there I was learning and eating from the kitchens and spent the money on beer and not the books.
One book I have enjoyed, which I bought as I was leaving Louisisana, is Marcelle Bienvenu's "Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux?" which was published by Times of Acadiana Press in 1991.
Since Lent has begun, I look to that section of her book and note that she includes 2 gumbo z'herbes recipes as well as for shrimp creole, baked macaroni and fried catfish.
The theme of the book is snapshots and recipes through the seasons while growing up in St. Martinville but she does fill in some things she learned when she went off to the big city, New Orleans.