New Orleans thrives on 3 things, music, booze and food. As home to 2 unique food styles, Louisiana is proud to offer up some of the finest cajun and creole cooking in the country.
As a lover of food and touter of all things good about it, it then seems a natural obligation that since I am on vacation in this fair city that Food State should also take a vacation from the usual content regarding legislation and action for a better a food supply system here in America, and instead I could write about my journey here in the land of Gumbo and Jambalaya.
Walking around in the French Quarter one is struck by the shear amount of bars and restaurants, most of them claiming to be the home of this or that, or being the best whatever in the city. Obviously, most of it is marketing, but with a little research and some intuition finding the best spots is easy. My intuition in this case refers to my nose. The city is full of wonderful cooking smells, but rarely were they enough to make me stop and take it in. Walking down Chartes Street today in the French quarter however I was arrested by the succulent smells emanating from K-Pauls Louisiana Kitchen, not knowing anything about it I shuffled inside for lunch. It wasn’t long before I learned that this was the restaurant of the famed Paul Prudhomme, the chef who almost single handedly brought Louisiana’s unique cuisine into the forefront of American culture. Having never been much impressed with any celebrity chefs restaurants that I had eaten at prior I became a little hesitant, but I was hungry and it just smelled to good to pass up.
The decor was nice, unpretentious and inviting, while the open kitchen was a real treat as its always fun to be able to watch a good chef work.
Lunch at K-Pauls is served ‘diner style’ meaning you order at the bar and pick any table in the house. Finding the best view of the kitchen I sat down with my menu and looked it over. The first thing to strike me was that it was dated with todays date, this was not your everyday lunch menu. Not many places change their dinner menu daily much less their lunch menu ( some research later revealed there are no freezers in the restaurant, ensuring the freshest ingredients daily), so I knew it was going to be a good meal.
The menu was diverse with many offerings, but what caught my eye was the deep fried oyster po boy. Fried to perfection the oysters were crispy and flaky on the outside, while still being moist and firm on the inside. Even the consummate seafood hater would have a hard time not enjoying these for the freshness and flavor were top notch. I enjoyed my sandwich alongside a bowl of no less then spectacular gumbo and some sweet potato fries. All told it was a fantastic meal of old favorites brought to life with vibrancy and creativity.
With my stomach full it was of to a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking
Having always been in love with gumbo it was a shame I didn’t know how to make it, and though there are many options for learning some of the signature recipes of this area, the New Orleans School of Cooking offered an economical option for seeing some recipes made first hand.
I always knew the key to good cajun cooking was first making the roux, but had never seen it done or understood the intricacies. Unlike most of the world who makes their gravy last, they make it first and use it as a base for the creation of some their most famous dishes.
Happily for me, on the menu today was gumba, jambalaya and pralines, but they also have demonstrations on crab bisques, seafood boils, beignets and other sundries.
The recipes are simple and teach you the basics to making the dishes, which is helpful for me being able to see something made first hand, but unlike watching a cooking show at home you get to taste it when they’re done which makes it all the better. Having learned the secrets to some of my favorite dishes I walked away satisfied and excited to get home and try them for myself.
Coming up this week, I’ll visit some of the cities oldest restaurants where many of Americas favorites were invented over a 100 years ago, a crawfish boil competition, a veggie fest and some of the cities most prominent farmers markets.