We are going to the land of gumbo for Thanksgiving — breaking a long cycle of Fort Worth Thanksgivings in exchange for a holiday in the land of okra, French beignets and rice in the Cajun style of southern Louisiana. I am ready for a change in the Turkey Day traditions this year and New Orleans is the perfect alternate spot. With the street ripped up on dear old Ashland for extensive and lengthy repairs, it is a great time to get out of Dodge. RM did buy a turkey the other day and slipped it sheepishly into the chest freezer. We just won’t eat the bird on Thanksgiving Day. We plan on brining and roasting it the first week-end in December when we put up the Christmas tree. We must have leftovers for turkey sandwiches for goodness sakes.
We are having our Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant named Luke on Charles Ave. in the French Quarter owned and operated by chef John Besh. http://www.lukeneworleans.com/ The restaurant is crafted in memory of the grand old Franco-German brasseries that once reigned in New Orleans. Here are some of the menu items:
paneed pork, heirloom tomatoes,
grilled wild salmon, blue crab, corn
croque-madame et frites
grilled Chisesi ham & Emmenthaler
herb roasted local chicken,
Allan Benton’s bacon, farmers’ market
vegetables & whipped potatoes
roasted duck breast,
confit duck leg, plum glaze
handmade sausages, pommes
lyonnaise, house mustard
Hungry yet? I’m drooling. To appreciate South Louisiana foods fully, one must remember that Cajun and Creole cooking are the products of 300 years of continuous sharing and borrowing among the region’s many cultural groups. For example, the French contributed sauces (sauce piquant, étouffée, stews, bisque), sweets (pralines, a modified French confection with pecans instead of the original walnuts), and breads (French bread, beignets or square doughnuts with powdered sugar, and corasse, fried bread dough eaten with cane syrup). The Spanish added jambalaya (a spicy rice dish probably from the Spanish paella).
Africans contributed okra, barbecue, and deep-fat frying and reinforced the Spanish preference for hot spices and soups. Germans contributed sausages (andouille and boudin) and “Creole” or brown mustard. Hauck and Hovorka clan members love our sausages as good decendents of Germany and Czech Republic or also lovingly known as the “big boned people”. We are hardy, resilient and food is deeply tied to how we express love in our heritage and traditions. I tried to make homemade sauerkraut last week-end which was a total disaster four days later. Did anyone smell it fermenting on Ashland? The cat and RM were going crazy with the acidic odor so had to throw it out.
Caribbean influence, in New Orleans cuisine, is seen in the bean and rice dishes of red beans and rice and congri (crowder peas and rice). Native Americans contributed filé and a fondness for corn bread. Many of these foods are generally known, but far fewer are aware of lesser-known food delicacies in Louisiana as the prairie Cajun langue boureé (stuffed beef tongue) or chaudin (sausage-stuffed pork stomach)
Food in Louisiana is relished and the standards for mere adequate preparation are much higher in this region. You need to arrive in NOLA hungry and ready to taste the melding of 300 years of food from a rich variety of cultures and traditions. Everyone has a favorite restaurant in NOLA that they wish to recommend to friends. What is yours?