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i just got back from NOLA, and damn the food rocks. now, how can i try to prepare it myself? [Moved from New Orleans]

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I just came back from noLA....what a wonderful experience full of lovely, genuine people! the food was full of heart, and clearly a great pride is taken in the culture concerning the preparation of meal. Thank you to all my friends who gave their suggestions so kindly and passionately (ScarlettNola, Ris Deveau, BillHunt, JazzyB, CajunGirl, nikinik, jreedtattooer, skirx, and debrouillard, to name a few.). i truly appreciate it. If you're ever in B-more, I owe you a cocktail and dinner...and no, i'm not kidding.

Now what i would love to know...how can i make this food at home? there are no cajun/creole restaurants to pop into here in honville, and i crave certain things. wanted to buy a cookbook, but i've heard there are certain ways to perfection. please give a shout-out!!! a recipe, or a cookbook i can purchase that is "authentic." I was wary of bourbon street stores, and the like...
would be awesome to hear your tips on gumbo, red beans and rice(is there such a recipe?), fried catfish, collards, macc chou, pecan pie, crawfish etoufee, fried chicken, jumbaylaya, and beignets.

I love your city. I can't wait to return. but until then, will never be able to live witout the aforementioned..

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  1. the food does indeed rock. outside of tips from NOLA about cooking methods, there's a thread on the WDC/B board about sourcing ingredients in the Mid-A region.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/609314

    1. I like "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Lousiana
      Kitchen" (abook).

      Also, check out the Gumbo Pages:

      http://www.gumbopages.com/

      1 Reply
      1. re: mpalmer6c

        I second the Gumbo Pages recommendation, I'd also suggest buying a copy of the Picayune Creole Cookbook.

      2. Hell yeah, that food rocks! My favorite food (and music) city, hands down; my brother lives in Mandeville and commutes downtown to work everyday, eats lunch in the French Quarter once a week. We've visited many times and can't get enough; I still dream of going to JazzFest some year. One thing I did years ago was go out and buy a great cast iron skillet; I was so lucky to find someone in the classifieds giving up her camping gear so I scored a beautifully seasoned CI skillet and dutch oven for $10-yo! the dutch oven is HEAVY!- Do you have a skillet? Really helps with roux-making. Red beans and rice has been discussed at great lengths on this board. Have fun with your great new culinary adventure--you will love the dishes you create!!!

        10 Replies
        1. re: Val

          i don't have a cast iron skillet...is there one that is a better quality? thanks, Val!

          1. re: LuLuBlaubugunder

            I've read favorable comments on Chowhound about Lodge cast iron products which are preseasoned--you might look at the Cookware board here on chowhound for more information. Of course, I use my CI skillet for more than just roux-making; you can bake up some hellacious cornbread in it too!

            1. re: LuLuBlaubugunder

              jcp.com has a cast iron Dutch oven for sale that looks good....

              1. re: bayoucook

                Honestly, I would not try to make my first roux in an iron skillet- it just retains too much heat, so you either have to pour lava-hot roux from a hot, heavy pan into a container, or you have to know when to turn the heat off.

                I make it my stainless stockpot.

                1. re: Coconuts

                  the first few times are always going to be problematic, it is a 'feel' kind of thing, often easily fixed if it's not burned.

                  Coconuts: I think the exact pan is secondary to the technique and ingredients, but do you make excess roux? I see that as a sort of a starter batch for the next time and just let it cool on the range before storing in the fridge. I think an hour or two is prob. safe.

                  IMHO the key thing with CI is curing and not getting too uptight about scouring. Lulu If you MUST use water always always put it back on the range, oil and sear the moisture off. one wants a certain 'history' of flavor and no rust.

                  1. re: Coconuts

                    I've noticed that it takes soooo much longer in a stockpot or Dutch oven than it does in >any> skillet; have you? I was taught to make it in a cast iron skillet and told how to control the heat - that helped a lot!

                    1. re: bayoucook

                      No, it's faster for me in the pot since it gets hot so much faster- but it's a thin stainless pot with an aluminum bottom, and it's the pan I've gotten used to, so that helps too.

                      I think the "being taught" is really the key. I made my first roux in a nonstick pan by directions from a packaged gumbo soup mix. My mom's "gumbo" involves a lot of cans of stuff (then again, everything my mom cooks involves a can, box or bag of something). The only other person I knew for years that made roux for anything made his in the microwave. If you don't have someone to tell you to turn the cast iron pan off now, X number of colors before the one you're going for, then the learning curve is easier in a pan where you can turn the heat off and it stops cooking within minutes.

                      1. re: Coconuts

                        True!

                2. re: LuLuBlaubugunder

                  the BEST place to get a cast iron is a yard sale or flea market, used. They get sooo better with age. It's my two favorite cooking pans in my house - big fryer and dutch oven.

                  I'm with you bout NOLA - hubby and I bought timeshare in La. JUST to get our fix once a year.

                  How close are you to Augusta, NJ - The Best Crawfish Festival where you can get authentic NOLA food for three days (and excellent music too). Restaurants come up from Nola to cook and serve. It's the end of May - we found it a few years ago, been going ever since:
                  http://www.crawfishfest.com/

                  1. re: LuLuBlaubugunder

                    My neighbor bought two of Emeril's pre-seasoned cast iron skillets and she's very happy with them. She still oiled them and set them in a moderate oven for an hour to really season them.

                3. You must have Tom Fitzmorris's book New Orleans Food. It is one of the best. Also like Emeril's cookbook Louisiana Real and Rustic, and Commander's Kitchen. But if just one, the first one.

                  1. Also go to Louisianacookin.com and emerils.com for good recipes. You might want to subscribe to Louisiana Cookin' - love that mag.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bayoucook

                      I will and thank you! i went to the commander's kitchen..thought it was great that they walk you through the back of the house to get to the bar. talk about stimulating the appetite! are all three user-friendly?

                      1. re: LuLuBlaubugunder

                        Very user-friendly, down to earth recipes that are delicious.

                    2. You've run the gamut from fried chicken to RB&R so you are ranging from "Southern"(see collards and fried chicken) to Cajun (etoufee) to something "Creole" but you can argue ALL day about the distinctions. THere are an awful lot of medicre books out thre, some are just cutesy, and quite a few are by really good cooks who just cannot get it down on paper. Older etoufee recipes(and you won't find many in print more than fifty-five years old) are more authentic than the goeey, roux-ey ones that are in vogue lots of places nowadays.Jambalaya is an art you have to learn yourself----older recipes call for it to be done in an oven---and you are going toneed to figure out how to eyeball the liquid/rice ratio..this varies according to your ingredients. In a standard chicken/sausage jambalaya (and otehrs too) remember that beer in place of chicken stock is always good but don;t overwhelm it.

                      I am a believer in the New Orleans Junior League PLantation Cookbook for several recipes especially grillades and shrimp creole. THe Baton Rouge River Road from the 1950's is a excellent primer... The best Cajun cook I know tells "foreigners" to get Alex PAtout's original book (very good "cajun" hash browns).

                      Most of the folks who respond to you wil have been cooking this stuf fsince they were kids and so much of it is "feel" but the basics are available....always remember that with Red Beans, a can of Blue Runner can help out in a pinch. (The advantages of cheating with bottled and canned products shouldnever be underestimated..I know peoplewho prefer LeSieur canned peas to fresh cuz they grew up with them. And they isgood. And there is only one Lea & Perrins--what you can do with that stuff beggars description).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hazelhurst

                        You nailed it hazelhurst. To this day a can of LeSieur peas in traditional at holiday dinners (altho' we rarely to never have fresh here), and can hardly cook w/o using Lea & Perrins - buy it in bulk at Sam's along with hot sauce (Franks for one). Blue Runner may just sell in the South, they are good beans.

                      2. http://www.nolacuisine.com/

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                          Mmmmm good one!

                        2. I strongly recommend Rima and Richard Collins' "The New Orleans Cookbook." I don't know whether it is still in print or not, but if not, there are enough copies of it floating around in both hardback and softback that I am certain that you could find one used on Amazon.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: gfr1111

                            They also did Pleasures of Seafood, one of my favorite all-type cookbooks. Gonna check out the other one...

                            1. re: gfr1111

                              New Orleans Cookbook is available at amazon.com used (5.84) or new!

                              1. re: gfr1111

                                If you get the Collins book and the Fitzmorris book that bayoucook recommended above, you'll be in really good shape.
                                Those recipes taste like home to me. They are the way that people really cook in New Orleans. Not terribly complicated, just good.

                                Now I have to buy Pleasures of Seafood since bayoucook suggests that too...

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  Hi. Did you buy it yet? Just pulled my copy dated 5/31/77 !!
                                  If I didn't have so many notes in it I'd replace it - but really I love raggedy much-loved cookbooks. The Shrimp Creole page 266 is the ONLY one I've made since 1977 - so good and rich, kind of brown from the roux. Shrimp Stuffed Peppers page 275 we make about once a month. It even has a chapter on curries!

                                  1. re: bayoucook

                                    Yep! Apparently out of print but sellers had used copies through Amazon. Because of your recommendation and since I'm a major fan of Collins' other cookbook, I bought two copies. One for the house in town and the other for the house over on the Chesapeake.
                                    Now I'll be watching for the mailman every day! Can't wait...

                              2. Gumbo tips:
                                The flavor of a gumbo is(or should be) based on 3 things:
                                -the trinity (bell pepper, cellery, onion). All sauteed until translucent.
                                -the roux. Practice makes perfect, and you want a dark, flavorfull one.
                                -the stock

                                Many recipes go really light on the above, but just over do the amount of both that you make. A good pot of gumbo IMO has 1/2 to 1 cup of a dark roux in it, and about 2 bell peppers, 6 sticks of cellery and 2 onions in it.

                                As for stock, make it yourself from chicken, beef, pork, shrimp/lobster/crab shells, whatever. But making it yourself is key, and will produce a vastly better gumbo than one made with store-bought mock-stock. Though I sometimes add a teaspoon of bouillon to my stocks for the MSG, mmm :)

                                After that, it's whatever you want to put in. I always do bay leaves, thyme, pepper and salt, maybe a little smoke flavor if I feel like it. Cayenne pepper. I don't cook it long though, long cooking times are often called for for some reason, but I prefer my sausage/meat/shrimp added in stages and properly cooked. Same with okra, overcooked okra ain't as good as just-tender okra.

                                Sasafras powder goes on at the table, and hot sauce and fresh steamed rice too.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Botch

                                  Second that whole thing, Botch. I ALWAYS make my own stock for gumbos. If I take the time to make it, I don't scrimp on it, go all the way. Seafood/shrimp stock is the one I hate the worst, tho' - all those shrimp eyes staring at you!

                                  1. re: bayoucook

                                    I always fry the okra in a littel oil and add lemon to prevent the gumbo from becoming "rope-y" It should also be emphasized that the reason for file (sassafras) going on at the table is that boiling it into the gumbo will wreck it f'sure

                                    1. re: hazelhurst

                                      I always fry my okra too - in oil with a dusting of Wondra flour to get the ick out.
                                      Will try it with lemon juice. We love okra, always add it to the gumbos.

                                      1. re: bayoucook

                                        Huh, I never fry it, but I leave em pretty long and just trim off a bit of the stem end. I never cook it enough for it to get ropy though, I like it just barely cooked with a bit of the bright-green color left. It's never slimy or ropy that way. (I've tried the fried in butter method too, and like it, I think I like okra every way)

                                        1. re: Botch

                                          I don't cook mine for long, maybe 10-15 minutes, they're still green and hold up really well.

                                2. try a really good local cookbook.. Marcelle Bievenue's " Whose Your Mama, are you Catholic and can you make a roux?".. not only a good cookbook- but great stories told by Marcelle.. who- by the way- worked with Emerill and Emerill often mentions her .
                                  jml