En route to New Orleans and whilst we were waiting in Washington, Dulles airport for -that’s right- FOUR hours (yes, yes, that’s another story), I took the opportunity to look up some websites I had read about on the flight from Toronto. Taking a cooking class when we travel is something we both love to do – I really enjoyed ArtHome and Lenôtre in Paris and we both enjoyed Tamarind in Laos so any chance we can get a bit of an inside look at local cuisine we are up for it.
We made a call to the New Orleans School of Cooking as they seemed to offer workshops every day for $27 including “generous tasting portions” (uh, yeah, they were not wrong about that!).
On the menu, classic Southern fare – red beans and rice, cornbread, pecan pie and pralines.
Our instructor was the very jovial Anne who turned what might have been a boring morning sitting and watching into a fast-paced race through the history of new Orleans through its food. Fascinating, to say the least. So often, on guided tours and cooking demonstrations, the facilitator makes or breaks the experience and in this case, we really lucked out. Anne was hilariously entertaining, extremely knowledgeable and down to earth.
Since, you know, the course started at 10am and we wouldn’t be eating the “generous tasting portions” until after noon, they brought us some “biscuits” with butter and syrup to stave off the hunger pangs. (these are what I would call scones and reminded me of my Nana’s home-made scones. All that was missing was the jam and cream!)
These were SO good. The syrup was cane syrup – kind of like a cross between golden and maple syrup and I really liked the strong, rich flavour. Went well with the buttah, you know!
Anne made the cornbread using whole corn kernels which I have never seen before. Mind you, I haven’t eaten much cornbread before either…
And what’s that we see being poured over the cooked cornbread? Why some more BUTTAH!
There was also a touch of brown sugar in this recipe and it was absolutely delectable – sweet and salty and, of course, buttery!
Could it be… MORE buttah in the red beans? Why of course!
These beans were absolutely outstanding. Smokey (cheers to the ham hock) and meaty (courtesy of the andouille sausage she added) and simmered for a few hours to really seal in the flavour. I am going to be making my own beans sometime in the very near future.
Pecan pies – neither Neil nor my favourite dessert but it’s classic Southern stuff so when in Rome, right?
And we were pleasantly surprised. While they seem to be quite deep, the pastry was fairly thick (not in a bad way) and so the filling was not too thick. It had a light, flaky pastry crust and the filling was not dense at all as some pecan pies can be – this was a delicate flavour as opposed to one that hits you on the head. Loved this and will be trying the “add the nuts to the pie crust” trick next time I make pies/ tarts – helps keep the crust crisp too.
Next up was pralines…
Ah pralines (or “praah-leans” as they say in NOLA). Developed in the 17th century for the French diplomat César du Plessis de Praslin originally as a digestive aid (back then it was simply almonds covered in cooked sugar), these sweet treats have evolved into one of the symbols of New Orleans eating scene. Now pecans are used instead of almonds and you can find all manner of flavours and modifications but Anne made the classic version containing sugar, light cream, pecans and butter.
The final dessert plate (people looked at us like we were crazy because we shared this between two of us!):
And of course, no Southern meal is complete without an Arbita – available in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions:
See, they were not kidding about the “generous tasting portions” – we were worried that for the price, it might have been a bit expensive but actually, since that could be your main meal of the day, it’s a bit of a bargain. Whilst this was not hands on, they do offer some hands-on classes that you can read about here. But if you are on vacation and want to just sit back and be entertained, this would suit you just fine. Book a few days in advance if you can and get there at least 15 minutes before the start of the class
524 Saint Louis Street,
New Orleans,LA, United States