Laissez les bons temps rouler! Eatocracy is in New Orleans this week getting ready for the second edition of our Secret Supper. We'll be sharing the people, purveyors and places that make this such a significant food town, and hope you'll join in with your questions, memories, restaurant suggestions and general bonhomie.
But first, how much do you really know about the distinctive eats of New Orleans? Consider this your crash course to the Big Easy's best bites.
Beignets - Rectangular pieces of dough are deep-fried and covered with powdered sugar. They are typically served in orders of three alongside a blend of dark roasted coffee and chicory.
Boudin - A spicy Cajun sausage. Boudin blanc is a light-in-color variation typically made with rice and pork meat - seafood can also be used. Boudin noir is a darker-colored pork sausage that is made using the pig's blood as well.
Cochon de lait - This translates from French to English as "pig in milk," but in actuality cochon de lait is basically pit-roasted whole suckling pig.
Couche couche - A traditional Cajun breakfast of fried cornmeal mush. It is typically served with hot milk and cane syrup.
Crawfish - Also known as crayfish or crawdads, crawfish are freshwater crustaceans that resemble a tiny, spiny lobster.
Étouffée - Derived from the French word "étouffer" meaning to "smother," this gravy-like dish is poured over crawfish and rice. Étouffée typically uses a lighter roux and one type of seafood, whereas gumbo uses a more cooked, darker roux and multiple proteins.
Filé powder - A powder of ground and dried sassafras leaves used to flavor and thicken gumbo. It's also sometimes called gumbo filé.
Fried alligator - Alligator meat is typically cut into bite-size nuggets before being seasoned, battered, fried and served with remoulade, mustard sauce or aïoli for dipping. Louisiana alligator is often also used in jambalayas and gumbos.
Gumbo - A spiced stew thickened with a roux, okra or filé and cooked with whatever meat (Andouille sausage, tasso, chicken, etc.), seafood (shrimp, crawfish, etc.) and vegetables the cook has on hand.
Gumbo z'herbes - A Cajun-spiced gumbo of mixed greens (turnips, collards, kale, etc.) typically served at Lent because it's typically made without meat (though, you can throw some ham hock into the mix if you wish.).
Hog's head cheese - First of all, this ain't your average Parmesan. Hog's head cheese, often called souse, is a pâté-like mixture of boiled pork parts, pigs’ feet and vinegar.
Jambalaya - A stew-like dish of meat (chicken and Andouille), vegetables (including the trinity: celery, peppers and onions) and rice - comparable to a zesty paella, if you will.
King Cake - This cinnamon dough confection is brightly iced in purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. Whomever finds the plastic baby Jesus in their slice is supposed to have good luck, and is responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party.
Maque choux - Similar to succotash and often served as a side dish, maque choux combines corn, green and red peppers, tomatoes and onion. The traditional way sautés the ingredients in bacon grease, but butter and oil are often used.
Muffaletta - A sandwich made on round Italian bread and filled with cold cuts (salami, soppressata, ham, etc.) cheese and an olive salad spread. Whether it should be served cold or hot is a topic of hot debate.
Oysters Rockefeller - This baked oyster dish (oysters are baked in their shells with a mixture of finely chopped herbs, breadcrumbs and lots of butter) is traced back to 1899 at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans. It was such a rich dish, the restaurant's proprietor thought the dish could only be appropriately named after the nation's richest man at the time, John D. Rockefeller.
Po’ Boy - A French bread sandwich typically filled with fried seafood (oysters or shrimp) or roast beef and gravy. According to Michael Mizell-Nelson, a history professor at the University of New Orleans, the name comes from the Martin Brothers' Coffee Stand and Restaurant in the French Market. In 1929, New Orleans transit workers went on strike and the Martin Brothers, in support, fed the protestors. They wrote in a letter, "We fed those men free of charge until the strike ended. Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, 'Here comes another poor boy.'"
Pralines - A sweet patty candy made of brown sugar, butter and pecans.
Sazerac - Back in 1838, Antoine Peychaud, used to mix brandy, absinthe and a dash of his secret family bitters recipe for guests at his pharmacy. The cocktail spread in popularity so much that the Sazerac cocktail turned into a bar that ultimately turned into a bottled liquor company, according to the Sazerac company. The official Sazerac cocktail today contains sugar, Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Herbsaint, Peychaud's Bitters and lemon peel.
Ramos gin fizz - According to the New Orleans Bar Association, this alcoholic beverage, also called the New Orleans Fizz, was created by Henry Ramos in 1888. The cocktail is made by vigorously shaking gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, simple syrup, cream, orange flower water, and soda water together.
Red beans and rice - This dish was traditionally supposed to be made on Mondays when people had a leftover hambone from Sunday supper. Monday was also wash day, and before the washer and dryer were invented, folks needed a dish that could slow simmer on the stove without needed too much tending to.
Roux - The French term for cooked flour and oil, it is usually used to thicken soups or other sauces. It is the foundation of many New Orleans dishes, including gumbo.
Tasso - Tasso ham is a Cajun-spiced (typically cayenne pepper and garlic) pork shoulder (Boston butt) that has been cured and then heavily smoked.
Turtle soup - Pretty self-explanatory. A soup flavored with the flesh of a turtle.
Did we happen to miss your favorite taste of New Orleans? Give us sometime for lagniappe in the comments section.