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best cookbook for the cooking of louisiana/ new orleans?

any thoughts for this New Yorker who wants to get his louisiana cooking on?

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  1. My favorite New Orleans cookbook is the classic by the recently deceased Richard Collin and his late wife, Rima. The recipes are accessible and very easy to follow. This is the book I always give to folks who want to try New Orleans cooking. I also like La Bouche Creole by Leon Soniat.

    John Besh's recent My New Orleans is a huge, beautiful book, as much a love letter to the area as a cookbook. I've cooked only two of the recipes, so I don't have a lot of practical experience with it. But it is lovely.

    As for "Louisiana" cooking (the cooking of South Louisiana is pretty distinct from that of the northern part of the state), I'm guessing you're probably thinking more along the lines of Cajun cooking, and for that the standard is Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, currently the COTM. I learned how to make roux and gumbo and many other standards from it and swear by it, despite its many peculiarities ( most of which are discussed in the current COTM threads, which you may find helpful). LK includes a lot of classic Cajun dishes as well as some New Orleans standards, but there are also many fancied-up (deliciously so) versions of the Cajun standards as well as cajunized versions of American standards. Warning: Prudhomme's recipes call for copious amounts of fat, which can easily--and without flavor sacrifice--be reduced. John Folse's Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine is another weighty tome, and while I've never cooked from it, cooks I respect love it.

    12 Replies
    1. re: nomadchowwoman

      Paul Prudhomme's book is still wonderful for Cajun. For Creole, I love any of Leah Chase's books, and "The 100 Best Dishes in Louisiana History." John Folse's book is excellent, but huge.

      1. re: nomadchowwoman

        I'm sorry to hear of Richard and Rima Collin's demise. I always loved the New Orleans Cookbook; it was the first "true" New Orleans cookbook I ever purchased. I also recommend it and second the accessibility and "easy to follow" opinions.


        Paul Prudhomme is still the king of Cajun and his Louisiana Kitchen will definitely get anyone started.

        1. re: nomadchowwoman

          I know I'm late to the table on this one.
          I've just recently picked up the book by Chef Besh and am looking forward to sitting down and reading through it.
          Have you made many of the recipes since this last post almost a year ago?

          I also love this one from Brennan's.

          1. re: grnidkjun

            Since the thread is revived...Real Cajun by Donald Link. It reads really well, and I am teetering on purchase...anyone cooked from it? Feels contemporary and traditional at the same time...

            1. re: pitu

              I haven't, but I am a fan of his restaurants. I thought the book looked really good, and I bought it for my brother, who craves Cajun food, for Christmas. He told me in an e-mail last week that he really likes it and has been cooking from it (I think he made both gumbo and etouffee) although he was having trouble finding the proper ingredienst in Denver.

              1. re: pitu

                What a wonderful cookbook. To date, I've made the sausage stuffed chicken thighs, his decadent bread pudding and the old school chicken and sausage jambalaya, which is among the best things I've ever cooked out of a book. Definitely buy this.

                1. re: Mr Bigglesworth

                  chicken and sausage jambalaya is the thing I made from the book when I had it out from the library - loved it

                  1. re: pitu

                    This dish alone is worth the cost of the book. I crave it constantly.

              2. re: grnidkjun

                Hi there grnidkjun--I did love reading through this book, and I love showing it to people, but I haven't cooked a whole lot out of it. Everything I've tried has been good so far, and there are several more recipes I want to take a crack at.
                I cooked a few recipes, trying to recreate experiences. The most spectacular was "Momma Rochelle's Stuffed Quail Gumbo," which I used to always get at La Provence (before Besh owned it). I had tried to do this, without a recipe, years ago, in Michigan, and it came out great. But, with recipe in hand, I made it again last summer (in Michigan, where for some reason it's easier to find the boned quail), and it was much more like the real thing. A fair amount of work but delicious.
                A few months ago, I also made the Fall Greens Salad w/Pumpkin Seed Brittle, something we always order at Restaurant August . It, too, was a bit of effort for a salad, but it was delicious, and we were able to make several salads once I'd made the brittle and the dressing.
                I've also made a quail-chanterelle salad, and I used his recipe for horseradish-rubbed standing rib roast this past Christmas. Other than that, I've only used the recipes for spinach madeleine and trout amandine and meuniere. (His remoulade sauce recipe and his peach jam recipe are almost exactly like recipes I already had been using, so I guess they don't count.)

                I don't have the Brennan Seafood Book, but I've been tempted to buy it. We eat at Ralph Brennan's restaurants often. If their recipe for BBQ shrimp is there, that alone would probably make the book worthwhile.

                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                  The recipe for the shrimp is on the web site and it is outstanding and so easy. The Brennan's recipe for Crawfish Ettouffee is always a hit as well.
                  I can't get fresh crawfish here so have to use frozen. Both of these dishes I've made many times and everyone always loves them.


                  1. re: grnidkjun

                    I often use frozen crawfish tails myself. As long as they're from Louisiana, I'm fine w/the frozen--and have never noticed any difference in etouffee.

            2. "Cookin' Up A Storm" is a nice volume from the Times-Picayune, recipes that ran in the paper before Katrina. It's a nice contemporary survey.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pitu

                I have to agree. I bought this a few weeks back and have had great success with it. Not just good to read, but good to cook out of.

              2. Justin Wilson's books have always done me right. Made a feast from his recipes 22 years ago as a teen and have loved them ever since.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dcfb

                  Justin Wilson's Homegrown Louisiana Cooking was the first one I picked up. I used to watch his show many years before and when I wanted to start making gumbo, felt he was the go to guy. I still use the book a lot but have since picked up Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen and Heaven on Seven books. Justin and Paul are the two I use most with extremely great results!

                2. John Folse, "Encyclopedia of Creole and Cajun Cuisine."

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Ernie Diamond

                    That book is incredibly beautiful - I took a browse through it at Kitchen Arts & Letters. Would love to own it. I looked at Cookin' Up a Storm at the same time, and thought it had a lot of recipes for dishes one doesn't traditionally associate with Louisiana/New Orleans.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I looked at Cookin' Up a Storm at the same time, and thought it had a lot of recipes for dishes one doesn't traditionally associate with Louisiana/New Orleans.


                      Seeing a recipe for Sauerbraten, followed by Osso Bucco, Bruccioloni, and then Pork Chops with Turnips, and Rabbit or Squirrel Sauce Piquant may be a bit confusing until one remembers the distant past and present day influence of the Italians, German's and others who have contributed to the foodways of the area...HTH


                    2. re: Ernie Diamond

                      I have to agree about Chef Folse's "Encyclopedia". I have a personalized copy (long story) and Chef Folse speaks of "South Louisiana cooking" in his note.

                      That seems to fit the OP's request to a tee.

                      If you can see your way clear to investing in this tome, please consider it! It's wonderful.

                      However, "River Road", "Talk About Good", anything by Leon Soniat cannot be overlooked.

                      I have WAY too many books in this genre to be able to choose!

                      (And here's to the Collins' for forging the trail!)

                      1. re: Monch

                        Love Folse's Encyclopeida. What an incredible read of food and history.

                        1. re: FoodChic

                          Just looked at it.

                          What other book, of similar value, gives you a 5-pound recipe for andouille on one page and starts the next with "50 pounds of ground pork butt" for the following recipe.

                          Does anyone have any input about his "After the Hunt" book?

                          I'm not a sportsman, but if it's worth a look, I'll consider the purchase.

                      2. "River Road Recipes" by the Junior League of Baton Rouge is in a class by itself.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: grampart

                          I second the River Road Recipes!! Wonderful book- even if you don't cook from it, it's well worth it in terms of entertainment! (But the recipes are great too).

                          1. re: happybellynh

                            wondering what recipes you particularly recommend in this book. It has sat on my shelf for years without being used and I am starting to feel I have too many books in that category.

                          2. re: grampart

                            I was in New Orleans a few weeks ago and my colleague recommended the River Road series (along with the John Folse book). She said the second River Road was the best, but I haven't been able to find it.

                            I stumbled across the first one at a used book store and gladly picked it up. Great, straightforward recipes.

                            1. re: grampart

                              The problem with community cookbooks is figuring out which recipes are "the good ones."

                              1. re: grampart

                                I totally agree with the recommendation for River Road Recipes. All of them are excellent. I have never made anything out of RRR's that was not great.

                                1. re: grampart

                                  I agree with everyone else as well. I picked it up on a lark and was very pleased with it.

                                  1. re: Crockett67

                                    add me to the fan base of river road recipes.

                                2. That old Picayune cookbook may be old-fashioned and outdated, and the way it goes on about "those good old Negro cooks" is just plain creepy nowadays, but it's still The Word as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't have it as the one and only, but I wouldn't be without it either.

                                  1. For "New Orleans" cooking the previously mentioned The New Orleans Cookbook Collin and Collin is a great starter collection for many of the classics.

                                    For "Creole" ...The Picayune's Creole Cookbook (1901) offers an excellent glimpse into the window of Creole Kitchens in New Orleans during the early 20th century ~~ La Bouche Creole by Leon Soniat is another that delves into recipes, memories and the art of Creole Cooking.

                                    "Cajun"... Since Cajun cooking is "home cooking" finding an "It and all" Cajun Cookbook IMO can be challenging....There are many, many good books that dabble on the subject...some mentioned up thread...I suppose you might try the Prudhomme Family Cookbook...A collection of recipes/stories/memories of Chef Paul and eleven of his brothers and sisters as they grew up on the family farm in the backwoods of rural Louisiana. HTH


                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Uncle Bob

                                      the times-picayune's cookbook is superb. the real deal!

                                      also, i really enjoyed the commander's palace cookbook i recently borrowed from the library. i think it was this "commander's kitchen" http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0767...
                                      excellent historical and foodlore info -- and recipes! ;-).

                                      i think you might get some video of john folse from various shows. he's a treat to watch. http://www.jfolse.com/

                                      he's got a radio podcast: http://www.jfolse.com/stirrin/index.htm

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        The T-P Creole Cookbook is wonderful. A real necessity to know Creole food. BUT, it is really hard to cook from unless you already have a pretty good idea of what you're doing.
                                        A lot of very vague measurements, odd ingredients, and strange methods which we no longer have to use in modern kitchens.
                                        That being said, you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands....

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          making sense, yes, you're right about the vagueness. i guess i was thinking more of the authenticity and range of information. i love the old cookbooks where i have to ask, now how big is that "teacupful," or a "large dessert spoonful"?

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            sadly i cant find it for less that 35 for a copy in fair shape at best, so far in my searching. right now i settled on Besh's new orleans and the new orleans cookbook. but i will keep seeking a copy of the TP

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              The cookbook may be more true to the way people actually cook using what they have. You always have to adjust and adapt, adding or not, depending on so many things. Most older cookbooks made the assumption of basic skills and common sense, unlike today's cookbooks which are so specific.

                                              A classic story in my family is about my grandmother, a wonderful instinctive cook, who became impatient with a relative who kept pressing her for the exact amount of liquid in a recipe. Finally, she snapped, "About a mouthful of water!" and no one ever asked again.

                                      2. For "real" cooking - John Folse.

                                        1. My copy of Richard and Rima Collin's New Orleans Cookbook is stained and tattered. All you need to know. I'm from New Orleans, my family has been there forever, I grew up eating this food and learned to cook it from relatives, but I still use this book. These recipes are the real thing.
                                          Food critic and expert on NOLA cooking Tom Fitzmorris's cookbook "New Orleans Food" is great. The real taste of the food you'll get in the restaurants and private homes.
                                          Roy Guste's "The 100 Greatest Dishes of Louisiana Cookery" has both Creole and Cajun food. Great source for the classic Creole dishes and some "hunting camp" specialties. Cordon Bleu-trained, he was the proprietor of Antoine's which his family founded in the 1840s.

                                          John Folse is little known outside Louisiana but is the expert on Cajun and Creole food. No need to buy his beautiful but expensive book unless you will enjoy it, because many of his recipes are available online http://www.jfolse.com/fr_soups.htm
                                          Folse's site has classics, updated classics, solid home cooking, and fancy restaurant-style versions of Louisiana recipes suitable for entertaining. My father was Cajun and I can find recipes here similar to what I ate in my relatives' homes.
                                          I'm not a fan of Prudhomme's cookbooks unless you already know what you're doing and can adapt the recipes. Way too much fat, way too much meat, way too much pepper, way too complicated for simple food, and the use of some odd and unnecessary ingredients. He also fails to make the important distinction between Creole and Cajun cuisines, doing a disservice to both.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            l am a fan of Prudhomme cookbooks, have all of them and still get additional copies to use as presents for friends who wish a N.O. cookbook. Yes they are complex but some of his recipes define the breed for me, e.g. some of his gumbos and his bread pudding.

                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                              I really like Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen although I also think the recipes include far too much cayenne for most people's palates (including mine, and I do like heat). But it isn't really a New Orleans cookbook; it's much more a Cajun cookbook (though he often blurs the distinctions). But I definitely agree that his gumbos are wonderful, and his cajun seafood-andouille gumbo is one of the best I've ever had--and all my gumbo recipes are derived from that one.

                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                While I do like Prudhomme's gumbos, I actually prefer Justin Wilson's gumbos. They are pretty basic and a nice base for creating your own versions. You may want to check out some of his stuff for comparison.

                                                I use Lousianna Kitchen for everything else. I like the heat in his recipes and noted in some later books that he toned it down some. I haven't made a bad dish from Louisianna Kitchen yet.

                                                1. re: Dee S

                                                  I haven't looked at JW recipes in years (my parents had a cookbook; my dad was a fan of his shows), but they never appealed to me, but I'll have to take another look. IIRC, his gumbo usually included wine (nothing against wine, but it never seemed to me it belonged in gumbo) and file (which I really don't like). By now, I'm kind of entrenched in my own gumbo recipes, which are based on LK (which I agree is a terrific book). I prefer roux-based gumbo, with no tomatoes, and my husband doesn't like okra, so the aforementioned Prudhomme really worked for our tastes.

                                            2. re: MakingSense

                                              Two more Prudhomme recipes l forgot. New Orleans sausage and eggplant, as well as his fab 'smothered potatoes'

                                            3. Anyone have opinions on a New Orleans cookbook called Recipes From Miss Louise by Elaine Jones from 1978?

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Nata Tariko

                                                I have never seen that one--or heard of it. But am curious about it; could you describe?

                                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                  The book was ebay a few days ago for 59.00 auction ended- AMAZON has them for much much less. You can see a good description on e-bay under completed listings.

                                                  Here's a cut and paste of the description from e-bay.....
                                                  RARE - Out of Print Vintage New Orleans Cookbook
                                                  Recipes From Miss Louise
                                                  edited by Elaine Douglass Jones and illustrated by Tim Trapolin

                                                  collection of recipes compiled from the combined efforts of alumnae, parents, faculity and students of the Louise S. McGehee School 1912-1978.

                                                  Balloon Wine, Brandy Ice, Rum Coffee Diabolique (Harcourt's Crazy Coffee), 24 Hour Cocktail, Artichoke Appetizers, Chicken or Duck Liver Pate, Crab Dips, Fungi MNarinati (Marinated Mushrooms), Oysters de la Gueronniere, Russian Pasha (for a Cocktail Party), Pickled Oysters, Salmon Hor's D'Oeuvre, Seafood Spread, Eggs Anthemion, Eggs Benedict, Swiss Toast, Sherried Ham and Eggs, Cold Oven Popovers, Calas Tou' Chauds (Vieux Carrre vendors used to sell this), Beignets (French Market Doughnuts), Pain Perdu (Lost bread), Beer Babies, Houlihan's Salad Dressing, Amy Reinhardt's Turtle Soup, Bisque a la Ecrevisse, Zucchini Soup, Crayfish Bisque, Cream of Crayfish Soup, Gumbo Z' Herbes (Green Gumbo), Commander's Hawaiian Shrimp, Fruits De Mer with Green Spaghetti (Shrimp, Lobster, Crab and Shallots over spinach noodles), Oysters "A la Fille de Coeur" (Oysters well seasoned, and spiced with a touch of Absinthe), Shrimp Arnaud, Bammy's Best Oyster Stuffing, Chicken "Ute City Banque", Partridge in Vinegar Sauce, Cold New Orleans Chicken Spaghetti, 12 Boy Curry, Fake Lemon Butter Veal, Stuffed Tufoli, Stuffed Veal Pocket,eggplant and Tuna Casserole, Cushaw Pie, Eggplant Fritters a la Mother B., Green Tomato Flan, Forsythe rice, Blackie's Stuffed Tomatoes, Henry's Creole red Beans, Ratatouille, Mushroom Business, 7-UP Casserole, Absolutely Fool Proof Hollandaise Sauce, Hot Cooked Mustard Sauce, Remoulade Sauce de la Nouvelle Orleans, Lemon Parsley Clam Sauce, Cherry Torte, French Velvet Cake, Rum Cakes, Plum Cake, Fruit Cake, Tea Cakes, Vanilla Wafer Cake, Creole Cookies, Date Fingers, Pralines, Lemon Squares and Lemon Bars, The Real Famous Amos Cookies, Chocolate Pies, Fruit Pies, Pecan Pie, Bread Puddings, Cold Orange Souffle, Coffee Souffle, Coffee Mousse, Charlotte Rousse, Idiot's Mousse, Hot fudge Pudding, Peau de Creme, Pudding That Makes It's Own Sauce, Ice Crea, Praline Sauce, Fig Butter, Sherry Coffee Jelly, Pear Chow (Relish) and many more recipes.

                                                  1. re: Nata Tariko

                                                    Aha! It's the McGehee School (a very exclusive private girls' school here, founded by "Miss Louise") cookbook.
                                                    That looks like a pretty interesting, somewhat eclectic selection of New Orleans recipes--old-fashioned, contemporary, and classic. I know someone who likely would own this, so I'll have to take a look.
                                                    Thank you.

                                                    1. re: Nata Tariko

                                                      Well that looked so intriguing that it had to go into my collection.

                                                      Found a copy at Alibris for $36.

                                                      Thanks for the tip!

                                                2. I have a falling apart copy of Talk About Good, Le Livre de la CUISINE de LAFAYETTE,
                                                  which I'm quite fond of. Doesn't seem to get the love of the River Road series.
                                                  Any of you familiar with this Junior League beauty?

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: bbqboy

                                                    Yes, I have Talk About Good. My mother gave me her copy when I moved away to go to college, many years ago. Lost it in Katrina, but my sister got me another copy (this one's in much better shape!). I still refer to it, and there a few recipes I use over and over.

                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                      I reread this thread and realized Monch had mentioned my mention.:)

                                                  2. It's more modern than some of these excellent suggestions, but I like Emeril Lagasse's Louisiana Real and Rustic. Feels more real than his first restaurant book, relies a lot on local sources for info and recipes.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Splendid Spatula

                                                      Emeril's red beans and rice recipe is my go-to for that dish. Only thing I've made from the book so far.

                                                    2. I just mentioned this on another board.. my favorite:

                                                      Of course the church and junior league cookbooks from the various parishes are good too if you can find them.. I have a few that had belonged to my grandmother and mother.

                                                      But the Ralph Brennan book has some really tasty recipes.. and good information.

                                                      1. Heaven on Seven...great gumbo.

                                                        1. I just returned from my first trip to nola, and I fell completely and hopelessly in love with the city, the food and THE BREAD! Po boy bread, muffuletta bread, those little loaves they serve at dinner (what are these called?). Can someone suggest which of the books recommended would have good NOLA bread recipes? TIA!

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                                            The little French bread rolls are often called "pistolettes."
                                                            You might as well use any old French bread recipe. No one in NOLA bakes bread. It's so easily available at even the most humble corner grocery that there's no reason to heat up the kitchen.
                                                            When I was young, Daddy would often wake us up early in the morning to go get fresh bread. We would chase the bread truck around (since we knew his route) until we found him. The bread was sometimes still slightly warm but always very very fresh. Why would we bother baking?
                                                            We laugh that most of us don't have the "bread gene" in NOLA. French people buy bread from the few who were ordained by God to be bakers. Bless them.

                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                              Great story, SM. I have many good bread books (Bread Bakers Apprentice, my favorite), but the "pistolettes" where so much lighter with a completely different crumb and flakier crust. Just lovely.

                                                              I certainly do not have the bread gene either - but I try sometimes. I made muffuletta bread earlier this week - again, not as good as what y'all have, but it served it's purpose. If only I lived in a town that had good bakeries. I miss the hoagie rolls and Italian bread from back home in PA too.

                                                              I may just have to return to your fair city to get my NOLA bread fix. :-)

                                                          2. I originally mentioned the River Road series and while I do like those, they are not much more than a collection of recipes. If that's what you're looking for, give them a try.

                                                            Otherwise, I will heartily recommend (as others have) John Folse's "Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine". The first 100+ pages are dedicated to the history region and all the groups that influenced the cuisine. Beyond that, you will find everything from basics (making various types of roux) to finished dishes of all sorts. Yes its a monster of a book, but absolutely worth a look if you're on the hunt for New Orleans cuisine.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: BigE

                                                              And the "Encyclopedia" makes a great coffee table book!

                                                              Inspiration and deliciousness always at your fingertips!

                                                            2. The Dooky Chase cookbook is marvelous. The recipes don't fail, and the history is terrifically interesting.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                Although my daughter did mention once that any cookbook with "Dooky" in the title might not be something to tell people about.......

                                                              2. I got this a few yeas ago and LOVE it. Cook Along with Scoop http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listin...

                                                                My second favorite is http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/Book_Re...

                                                                1. a bit OT, but typically before lent, create tv network has a louisiana cooking marathon day with john folse and besh shows... maybe prudhomme, too. so, count this as your "BOLO" alert. here's my post from 2009 : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598045

                                                                  edit: i just checked, and this year's pre-mardis gras schedule is "african" themed....with a few shows discussing african influences in louisiana cooking: http://www.createtv.com/CreateProgram...

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                    Thank you, excellent, a great lineup! I will be sure to check it out.

                                                                  2. About 10 years ago I got a "Commander's Palace" cookbook and have enjoyed several recipes from it. So far - everything I've made has been very good. I find it to have reliable recipes.

                                                                    1. "Cookin' Up A Storm" by The Times-Picayune Newspaper

                                                                      "River Road Recipes II: A Second Helping" by The Junior League of Baton Rouge

                                                                      You will also find some French and African influences (part of what makes New Orleans so special) in another old cookbook, actually from South Carolina. It really is a big melting pot of cuisines down here in the south.
                                                                      "Charleston Receipts" by The Junior League of Charleston
                                                                      I pick these 3 up often, secondhand, and the 3 together make a unique and always appreciated housewarming gift.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: DpBluSea

                                                                        Does anyone cook from Galatoire's cookbook? Any favorite recipes?

                                                                      2. My favorite is the Plantation Cook Book, it is out of print but you can find it on Abebooks, link below. The book was put out during the New Orleans World's Fair in 1984 and it is a collection of the best recipes by Junior League of New Orleans. The recipes feel very 1984 before the advent of low fat food and healthy eating so I hope you like butter.

                                                                        There is a wide variety of recipes but do cover the best classics, Jambalaya, gumbo, corn bread, BBQ shrimp and many of the other southern favourites.