Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cooking Cajun Style

October 25, 2008

We opted for sleep in lieu of breakfast this morning. We had to be at the New Orleans School of Cooking by 9:45am, which is a little too early to be functioning for a weekend.

We had signed up for a two-hour cooking demo, during which we would watch our lunch being made. Our instructor, Miss Pat, reminded us a bit of Paula Deen. She had several of the dishes partially prepped before class started and had a nifty mirror so we could see every step. While she cooked she gave us an overview of the culinary history of New Orleans. We started with a chicken and andouille gumbo. I told Eddie to pay close attention, since he had been having a cup of it at every meal. If there is anything he should learn to cook, this should be it. I was pleasantly suprised to learn that it is not as complicated as I thought it would be to make. Apart from all the onion and bell pepper chopping, the trickiest part seems to be making the roux. I've made a roux for mac n'cheese before, so I think I could handle this.
Next up was a cajun style jambalaya. The cajun style differs from the creole style in that the creole version utilizes a tomato-based sauce for moisture. This preparation used chicken stock. My parents gave this one two thumbs up. Eddie preferred the creole style. I was Switzerland.
We learned how to make bread pudding for dessert. Miss Pat decided to get creative and made a pina colada bread pudding. I was skeptical while watching her pour in the pina colada mix, canned pineapple and shredded coconut, but this was actually quite tasty. The pineapple and coconut flavors turned out to be much more subtle than I anticipated. We also learned how to make pralines. I suspect my neighbors will be receiving some of those for the holidays.
Everything tastes better with a local brew in hand.
After our lesson, with recipes safely tucked away in my purse, we hopped on one of the trolleys for a ride around the city. The original plan was to ride along the Riverfront, but due to the Voodoo Experience several trolleys were being rerouted. We ended up taking the St. Charles trolley out into the Garden District.
I probably should have tried to take some pictures of the homes, but (a) it was crowded, (b) I didn't have a window seat and (c) I was zoning out. I did manage to catch this odd billboard as we came around a corner. It says simply "EDDIE". No one seems to know why. Someone's head expanded a bit after seeing it.
We transferred trolleys and hit up the shops and stands at the French Market for souvenir shopping. A lot of the merchandise was repetitive and somewhat tacky. After finally finding some kiddie t-shirts for the grandkids and godkids and a faux Venetian mask for myself, we headed back to the hotel.
My parents headed up for a nap, but we stopped in the lobby since I finally spied empty seats at the Carousel Bar. The main attraction is obviously the slow, rotating bar but the rest of the interior was to my liking as well: a dark, sparkly ceiling, oversized booths and a grand piano. It was difficult to get a good picture without flash; New Orleans really seems to like its dark and mysterious spaces.
The drink you are supposed to have at the Carousel Bar is a sazerac. However, I chose to have a sidecar in honor of FogCityDweller (it's her favorite). I think she would have been pleased with the quality. The sidecar actually ended up being a conversation starter with the two couples seated next to us, since neither had heard of the drink before.
Post-cocktail we went upstairs to get ready for dinner at a place owned by this dude named Emeril. I think he has a show on tv or something.
I have to admit, Emeril's was not my first choice for our dinner. But what the birthday boy wants, he gets. And my parents watch Emeril's show often. I started off the evening with doubts based on a bad experience I had at another one of his restaurants. Fortunately my doubts were laid to rest. Our table had a view into the open kitchen; if I were to go back I'd love to sit at the counter.
We shared the Barbeque Shrimp with Petite Rosemary Biscuit and Fresh Chives as an appetizer. We scarfed all of them down before I could take a picture. :-) Instead of the standard loaf of french bread that we encountered at most restaurants, the waiters at Emeril's brought around miniature sized brioche buns, french bread loaves & corn muffins. I ordered the special salad of the evening: Warm Duck Confit with mixed greens, pecans, blue cheese and satsuma vinaigrette. I'm usually not a fan of mixing sweet with savory, but this was wonderful.
For my entree I departed from my usual choice of seafood and instead had the Pan Seared Filet of Beef with Creamy Mascarpone Polenta, Slow Roasted Pork Belly, Wilted Swiss Chard, Tomato Confit and Goat Cheese. This.was.SO.good. I was the last one to finish dinner because everyone else claimed they were too full to finish their entrees. Wimps. I ate every single perfect bite of this deliciousness.
The perfect ending was a light tasting Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée with Seasonal Fruit and Shortbread. The only issue with this was that the seasonal fruit consisted of a strawberry, blackberry and raspberry, all of which are not in season. They were tasty though, not bland and watery like most out of season fruit, so I'm left wondering where Emeril's secret berry hook-up is.
After dropping my parents off at the hotel, Eddie and I took a leisurely stroll down Royal St., pausing to admire the window displays at all the art galleries. I even found a jewelry store still open and walked away with another souvenir. We headed up to Bourbon St., to see all the craziness one last time. Suprisingly, it seemed rather quiet in comparison to the previous night even though it was still bustling with pre-Halloween revelers. It was just fine with me.


WeezerMonkey said...

So is there anything around here that can serve as an approximation of New Orleans fare? I must know!

dapotato said...

oh yum. gumbo AND jambalaya. and your menu choices at emeril's sound pretty good, actually.

A Feminist Gold Digger said...

I too would have been a little skeptical about Emerils, but damn, it sounds totally fantastic.

valerie said...

Sidecar! Yum! Did you bring me back one? I feel like a trip to Absinthe for my fix now.