History of The New Orleans Cuisine
New Orleans may be on American soil; it is in a country strongly influenced by the France of Louis XIV, the colonists from Spain, the African slaves and the Creoles of the Caribbean that we immerse ourselves during a trip in the south of Louisiana. The scenery is first culinary.
At first glance, this deep red, spicy soup looks like a Mexican chili. The waitress explains that the dish cannot be perfect without a drop of cherry. I don’t reject what seems to be a local custom. Relish! The small pieces of grilled meat add consistency to a refined sauce, filled with Creole spices that explode under the palate. But… what is it exactly? Turtle soup! This is a typical New Orleans dish, commonly found in City restaurants, at a reasonable price (between$ 5 and$ 10 per bowl, as a starter). Commander’s Palace in the Garden District, cooking excellent.
It is often said that New Orleans is the very expression of gumbo: a mixture of cultures, colors and flavors. Gumbo takes its name from the African plant of the same name, which serves to thicken the stew. It is made up of rice and tomatoes – inherited from the Spaniards-a brown sauce better known to the French (a roux) as well as vegetables and spices brought by the Amerindian culture. In restaurants in Louisiana, the menu often features a gumbo with shrimp and crayfish caught in the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Cooks now add beef or fish to appeal to as many people as possible. For a taste of popular cuisine, go to Mother’s Restaurant, avenue Poydras, for dinner in a real Louisiana canteen!
A real Louisiana boy has to respect three rules: the bread has to be soaked in sauce, there has to be so much toppings that it overflows from the sandwich, and you don’t have to have room for dessert after eating one… Nice start to the recipe for this New Orleans version submarine. It is prepared with a French bread baguette two feet long, lined with shrimp, oysters or crayfish, all fried in oil, or roast beef. The perfect lunch to last until the next meal. They can be found everywhere, often at very low prices, both in fast-food restaurants and in brewery-style restaurants.
This dish with Creole accents is an institution among the best rooted in Louisiana gastronomy. It can be eaten at a traditional family meal on Sunday or on the go in a plastic tray at lunchtime. It’s been pleasing everyone for hundreds of years. According to the recipes, this rice-based paella is made with ham and sausages,or shrimp, or beef. The origin of the word is still uncertain (basque, Acadian or African), but one thing is certain: the jambalaya is as exotic as its name.
A specialty par excellence of chef cajun Paul Prud’homme, blackened fish is a delicious way to prepare fish. It is dipped in melted butter – a tradition inherited from the French-and then in a mixture of herbs and spices. Cooking in a very hot pan grills the herbs creating a dark brown crust. Thyme, oregano, chilli, garlic powder, salt and pepper combine their flavors and perfectly enhance the taste of fish. We enjoy the best blackened fish in Paul’s kitchen, in the Vieux Carré, where this authentic recipe was created.
Eating Rockefeller oysters at restaurant Antoine’s, also in the Vieux Carré, goes back in time to more than a century ago when this recipe was invented by Jules Alciatore, son of the founder of the mythical restaurant in New Orleans. This one was inspired by the preparation of French snails, replacing the main ingredient, not found in cultivation at the time in Louisiana, by the oysters of the Gulf of Mexico. The creamy sauce that covers the oysters, seasoned with a mixture of herbs and green vegetables, took its name from John D. Rockefeller – at the time America’s richest entrepreneur-for the richness of its ingredients.
Arnaud’s spicy shrimp dish, another classic restaurant in the historic district, revisits this rather common crustacean with a colourful accompaniment. It is with its sauce called “remoulade”, great pride of the brand, that the dish takes on all its flavor, both sweet and salty, enhanced by Parsley and lemon. This restaurant, with its fast-food storefront, is the only one in town to offer this personalized recipe with shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. We dine either in the fast-food restaurant (in Bourbon Street), or in the incredible maze of luxurious rooms in the back of the shop. You choose your style!
For breakfast, coffee, snack or dinner, there is no time to sweeten your beak (in every sense of the word) with Louisiana doughnuts. It is a must after a little walk in front of the tourist stalls of the French Market. These doughnuts, fried in the style of our grandmothers, sprinkled with lots of sugar and accompanied by a café au lait, are tasted on the terrace of the Café du monde, at the corner of Jackson Square and the market. Careful, these doughnuts are threefold and supernumerful. You can also buy them to take away and then enjoy on a bench along the Mississippi…
King of the brunch at the French, Brennan’s is a centuries-old institution in New Orleans. In this restaurant with the charms of the bourgeoisie of old, one forgets the traditional pancakes and scrambled eggs American style. We come here by tradition, to drink strawberry champagne in the morning and enjoy Benedictine eggs on an asparagus bed. But that’s the dessert everyone’s waiting for. And the waiters know how to make a real spectacle of it: a pan filled with bananas cut in slices in one hand, they ignite the preparation with rum and cinnamon. The result: the famous Banana’s Fosters by Brennan’s, a feast for the eyes and the palates.
At least once in your life, you should try these sweet delicacies made from sugar syrup and pecan nuts, another delicious tradition inherited from the French settlers. But to taste it is to succumb! Tasted in the form of a fondant cookie or crushed into small pieces to be eaten, Les pralines is a specialty of the Leah’s Praline house, located right in front of the Antoine’s restaurant. perfect for a sweet note after a gourmet meal! You can even see them being made in this store that grinds chocolate and hot pecan…
Behind the scenes of cajun gastronomy
You can’t visit New Orleans without tasting its local flavours. Like music and heritage, gastronomy is an integral part of the city’s identity. When you step into the kitchens of some of the city’s most famous restaurants, you’ll learn more about cajun culture than any historical tour of the area.
The guide of NO Culinary Tours, who knows the service doors of restaurants better than their main entrance, shares unconditionally her passion for good cuisine and her favorite addresses. Better to be warned: We are not just observing during this visit, we are tasting! Save a little room in your stomach for the dozen tastings that follow each other, but don’t look alike. Turtle soup, gumbo, pralines and shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico can be enjoyed at the restaurant kitchens. A real foray behind the scenes of Louisiana cuisine.
And if you like to put your hands to work, put on your cook toque to take part in the New Orleans School of Cooking workshops. In an old molasses warehouse, renovated and transformed into a kitchen and conference room, the chefs offer to learn how to cook their own typical Louisiana recipes. Seasoned with a good dose of anecdotes, legends and local history, the workshops allow you to learn the secrets of cajun and Creole cuisine, and then to taste the fruit of your own work. The activity ends with a must-see visit to the Louisiana General Store to obtain the ingredients needed to reproduce these tasty recipes in its kitchen.