I’ve loved New Orleans since I first visited and ate a mile high ice cream pie (I was 10!) at the now-closed Ponchartrain Hotel’s Caribbean Room and saw the lavish Mardi Gras costumes at the museum. Every time I’ve visited since then, I’ve fallen more and more in love with the city. My list of must see and must do will always have additions with each trip, but here’s the start.
Best place to stay
The iconic and oft-photographed Royal Sonesta is right on Bourbon Street even being right on the street, the hotel is surprisingly quiet though a pair of ear plugs wouldn’t hurt.
Provides an excellent view of any second lines.
Some of my most favorite places to eat are:
- Acme Oyster House, known for fresh, hand-shucked Louisiana oysters. We love the gumbo, raw oysters and the waitress-recommended chargrilled oysters.
- Langlois Culinary Crossroads a next-generation New Orleans dining experience, offering hands-on Cajun and Creole cooking classes.
- The popular historic Cafe DuMonde, while you’re there be sure to check out the French Market.
- Cafe Beignet actually has the BEST beignets in the entire city if you ask me.
- Jazz Brunch Buffet at the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant
- Commander’s Palace, known as much for their white glove service of all patrons as for their food. The restaurant has their own cookbook and shares many of their signature dishes on their website. You must try the turtle soup.
- GW Fins, on Bienville Street a lavish, delightful, perfect dinner. The lobster dumplings are one of the top appetizers in New Orleans, so much that Chef Matt at Langlois highly recommended them. They are some of the best dumplings, but the crab pot stickers were even better. The French 75 was one of the best drinks we had the entire trip.
- Also good are the crab cakes and alligator sausage at Oceana Grill.
- The menu at Bayona is fantastic and the daily specials worth trying.
Places to see/visit/do:
This is another recipe J and I learned to make while at the amazing Langlois Culinary Crossroads. It is perfect for a new year’s day breakfast or brunch. While it looks complicated, it’s actually pretty easy. The hardest part os stuffing the brioche!
Langlois Stuffed French toast
Bread and filling ingredients:
Cut the Brioche into about 6 2 by 2 rectangular pieces. Using a skewer precut the hole for the filling. You will have to turn it around to make a hole larger than the skewer. This is where slightly stale bread comes in handy.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon zest and juice together on medium speed until well blended.
Put the filling into a ziptop bag. Cut off the corner. Pipe into the skewer holes.
If this doesn't work, you can make a sandwich by making a pocket (think pita pocket), just make sure to only cut through one side of the bread or it will be more difficult to brown. Set this aside.
In another medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt. Dip each piece of stuffed bread into the custard and turn once to completely coat. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes (overnight is better!) but no longer than 24 hours.
When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet melt the butter over medium to medium-high temperature.
Brown each piece of stuffed bread on all sides. Do not move it around. Do not check and see if it's browning.
Let it sit longer than you think it needs to. About 5 minutes per side.
Place the browned pieces into a casserole dish and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes. Garnish as you please and serve.
Sometimes we cover this in powdered sugar, other times maple syrup. It’s just as good alone though. We’ve served this to friends and family and everyone has raved about it each time.
In case you haven’t guessed, I love bread. I especially love fresh from the oven, homemade bread. While at Langlois Culinary Crossroads in New Orleans for cooking school, I learned just how easy it is to make delicious, wonderful bread at home. From scratch. Even though it officially takes two days, I promise it is really worth it.
Note: The most important ingredient is a clay or cast iron dutch oven or clay pot with a tight-fitting lid. We found this one from Lodge on sale and couldn’t be happier.
Langlois Crusty Bread
Wish together the flour, salt and yeast in your favorite mixing bowl.
Add the water and mix until a "shaggy mixture" forms.
As Chef Matt said when showing us how to make this, it should look like a wet dog.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 12 hours or overnight. Longer in this case is better.
The next day (or 12 hours later) place the dutch oven and lid in a 450-degree oven so the pot and the oven are heating at the same time.
Turn out the dough on a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.
When the oven (and the dutch oven) reach 450 degrees, place the dough in the center of a piece of parchment paper and put the whole thing in the dutch oven with the parchment paper side down.
Cover with the lid and either return to the oven, or slide the wire rack back in and close the oven door (I find the second way to be the easiest rather than trying to lift the super hot dutch oven in and out of the oven more than once).
Cook covered for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Bake for an additional 30 minutes.
Remove the bread from the oven and place on a cooling rack. (This means take it out of the dutch oven.)
There are directions for stuffed bread, but I haven’t tried it yet. I want to get the basics down first. In my first few trials (and errors!) I learned valuable lessons, like the difference between iodized and kosher salt, that sometimes the times are off and it is ok to cook bread a little longer to get a more golden crust. If you do accidentally use iodized salt and the bread is a bit on the salty side, treat it like a bagel and just don’t salt the eggs for the bagel, egg and cheese sandwich (it evens out in the end). It’s been hard not to make this every single weekend since we returned!
On a recent visit to New Orleans, J and I got to take a cooking class at the amazing Langlois Culinary Crossroads. The very appropriate slogan is “decadent with no apologies” and that proved more than true during our class. We made several wonderful dishes, including an Andouille Cornbread Stuffed Artichoke. Unfortunately, the artichokes at home, didn’t quite look as good. Luckily, Chef Amy told us about 15 ways to use the same stuffing/dressing and we improvised stuffing a green pepper instead.
Langlois Andouille Cornbread Stuffed Green Pepper
If not using pre-made cornbread, bake the cornbread according to package instructions.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the andouille until browned.
Then add the onions, bell pepper and celery (the holy trinity) and the garlic until the vegetables are wilted. Add the pinches of Emeril's essence cajun seasoning to taste. You want it to be a little red. That's from the paprika, not the cayenne, so don't panic. Remove from heat and add cornbread, parsley and green onions.
Mix well and allow to cool. Add the cheese and mix again. If the mixture is too dry and crumbly, add chicken stock a little at a time to make it more like a dough (it should stick together). Stuff the peppers and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
I love this super filling dish. It is light enough for a summer meal, but surprisingly filling. Plus, if you have left over mix, Chef Amy suggests freezing it in patties for a nice side dish.