If you're traveling this holiday or just don't feel like cooking and want to find a restaurant to feast at this Thanksgiving, you're in luck! Some of the city's top restaurants will not only be open on Thanksgiving day, but they will also have special menu offerings to make you feel right at home with Cajun and Creole versions of Thanksgiving classics. It's not too late to make your Turkey Day reservations at one of these fine establishments:
If you want to experience New Orleans like a local, eating red beans and rice on a Monday is a must! Red beans and rice is the traditional Monday meal in New Orleans, dating back for hundreds of years! Historically, Monday was always wash day for the family cook or the lady of the house, so she could put a pot of red beans on the stove to cook for hours with little to no attention while seeing to the laundry. When the washing was done, the beans were ready to eat! The dish in New Orleans is seasoned with ham or smoked sausage (but usually both!) This version is considered a Creole dish, though the lines between Cajun and Creole food have blurred significantly. Cajun or Creole, they are delicious and an easy one pot meal to satisfy a crowd. You can even find FREE red beans on Mondays in some of the local bars. It doesn’t get much better than that!
New Orleans has a sizable Honduran population. It is now almost as large as the Vietnamese population. We already had a number of immigrants from Honduras thanks to the banana import business prior to Katrina, but since then it has increased tenfold. In 1888 we started to import bananas from Northern Honduras and sold them to trade centers for cheap. This started the United Fruit company. Food trucks owned and operated by Honduran immigrants are now feeding construction workers in many parts of downtown New Orleans. These are definitely filling a need by providing workers with familiar foods. Tortillas made with mayonnaise, pineapple, watermelon and chicken are their specialty. From 6:30 AM to 5 PM these food trucks dispense the best Honduran specialties like 'baleadas' to the local construction workers and everyone who wishes for this delicious and unique fare.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina provided numerous demolition, clean up and construction jobs for newly arrived Hispanic immigrants. After the Katrina workers came in, then the cooking started. Feeding day laborers was a way to establish starting capital for many Hispanic entrepreneurs. A lot of people in America tend to think all Hispanic food is Mexican, they don't realize some of the Honduran specialties are really unique to that country. Some NOLA Honduran restaurants like 'Casa Honduras', 'Telamar' and 'Norma's ' are starting to get such a good reputation that they are attracting many Anglo-American patrons as well, and they are here to stay!
Spring in New Orleans is wonderful. Warm, sunny days without the searing heat and stifling humidity that arrives in the late summer, cool evenings to keep the mosquitoes at bay, and–best of all–crawfish season. Also answering to the name of mudbugs or crawdads, the little shellfish resemble miniature lobsters and are a classic symbol of Louisiana cooking. Although you can find crawfish year round in certain parts of Louisiana, you can only get them fresh mid-February through early June. An as ubiquitous as crawfish are to the local food scene, there are of course hundreds of ways to prepare them, from gumbo to etouffe to the plain old fashioned back yard boil. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of a crawfish boil; as many locals will tell you, it is really the only way to truly appreciate fresh crawfish and celebrate spring. If you aren’t toting crawfish home, you can always find great boils at any seafood shack in the city, but if you want to get the scoop on how to boil crawfish perfectly, check out this recipe from Frank Davis, a local seafood authority from our own WWL TV:
Frank’s Recipe for Perfectly Boiled Crawfish
For every 43 pound sack of crawfish, use:
1 whole stalk of celery (don’t trim the greens!)
4 heads of garlic
12 lemons, sliced or quarterred
6 large onions
10 bay leaves
3-4 boxes salt
1/2 cup cayenne pepper (yes, 1/2 CUP!)
8 oz. liquid crab boil, or 6 bags dry crab boil
10 ears of corn (cut in thirds)
30 medium red potatoes
3 lbs smoked sausage
The first thing you do is empty your crawfish in a No. 3 washtub and cover them completely with cold water. Makes no difference where your crawfish come from (farm pond or swamp), the only thing you must do is wash them. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PURGE CRAWFISH IN SALTWATER! That’s an old wives tale. It isn’t necessary and it doesn’t work! All it does is kill the little critters! But it is necessary to wash them several times. I recommend you do at least 4 or 5 washings, dumping the old water after each filling of the tub.In short, you should wash until the water comes out clean. Then drain off the last rinse completely and get your boiler ready. In a large pot – 90 to 102 quart is suggested if you plan to boil the entire sack at once – put in enough water to completely cover the crawfish when they are added, and bring it to a rapid boil. Then, toss in all the ingredients except the corn, potatoes & sausage and boil them for about 15 minutes – you want the flavors to mix and create a seasoned stock. Next, drop in the corn on the cob, potatoes and smoked sausage. You want to put them in before you put in the crawfish (because the crawfish cook quickly, and if you don’t pre-cook the lagniappe, the entire boil won’t be finished at the same time). Let the lagniappe cook for 8 to 10 minutes. When all the extras are three-quarters done, add your crawfish and cover the pot. The water will stop boiling immediately.So here’s how you figure cooking time.Just watch the pot, and when the water comes back to a full boil, time your crawfish for just about 2 minutes, shut off the fire, and remove it from the burner. Then drop some crushed ice on top of the crawfish, (which will make them sink), and soak the crawfish for about 25 minutes so that they pick up the seasonings.I do suggest you test the seasoning every 5 minutes or so to keep the crawfish from getting too spicy for your taste.
New Orleanians love their desserts (Bananas Foster, anyone?), and Mardi Gras is the perfect time to load up on one of our favorites, king cake! These ubiquitous pastries can be found all over the crescent city in the first few weeks of the year as they are a required part of any Mardi Gras celebration. The traditional king cake is a circular cinnamon roll topped with purple, gold, and green icing, the three colors of Mardi Gras–which represent justice, power, and faith, respectively–but there are many varieties that can be found around town, including cream cheese or fruit filled cakes, single serving cakes, like the one offered by La Louisiane, and even a peanut butter, marshmallow, and bacon concoction cooked up by Cochon! Some purveyors have gotten so creative as to liquify their cakes; local coffe house, PJ’s Coffee, offers a king cake coffee blend available through Mardi Gras, and you can even find king cake flavored vodka. But no matter how creative the bakers in New Orleans get, there is one thing that always remains the same: the baby. Every king cake comes with a plastic baby which must be inserted into the cake before serving. Whoever is lucky enough to get the slice with the baby is in charge of bringing the next cake!
Today is August 1, which means one of our favorite summertime events in New Orleans has arrived–COOLinary New Orleans! COOLinary New Orleans is a partnership between the New Orleans Convention and Visitor's Bureau and many of our wonderful local restaurants where participating locations offer special menus at a wildly discounted price. During the month of August, locals and tourists alike can enjoy meals at 58 different restaurants in New Orleans including Brennan's, Galatoire, the Pelican Club, and Red Fish Grill just to name a few! All participating restaurants are offering 2 or 3 course lunches for $20 or less and 3 course dinners for $35 or less–a delicious meal that won't hurt your wallet! Find more details and a complete list of this year's participartin restaurants here.