New Orleans Musts

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.

Royal Sonesta

Provides an excellent view of any second lines.
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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.
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  • Langlois Culinary Crossroads a next-generation New Orleans dining experience, offering hands-on Cajun and Creole cooking classes.
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  • The popular historic Cafe DuMonde, while you’re there be sure to check out the French Market.
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  • Cafe Beignet actually has the BEST beignets in the entire city if you ask me. img_0092
  • Jazz Brunch Buffet at the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Also good are the crab cakes and alligator sausage at Oceana Grill.
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  • The menu at Bayona is fantastic and the daily specials worth trying.

Places to see/visit/do:

Oyster shucking at home and chargrilled oyster recipe

Oysters are amazingly delicious, but not easy to get in to. It can be intimidating to open an oyster, particularly after seeing the professionals use special chain-mail oyster-shucking glove and knife. After our jaunt to New Orleans in March, we decided not to be intimidated by oyster opening anymore. Plus, we really wanted to recreate the chargrilled oyster recipe from Acme Oyster house.

What you’ll need: An oven mitt, a flat-head screwdriver and a pairing knife serve as a low-cost alternative to the traditional tools.

First set the Oyster  flat side up.  Second, near the hinge, insert the flathead screwdriver between the shells. Then twist to pop the oyster open.How to easily shuck an oyster aurorameyer.com

It might take a few tries. How to shuck an oyster aurorameyer.com

Use the screwdriver to twist and pry the oyster all the way around if it doesn’t just pop open. How to shuck an oyster aurorameyer.com Shucking an oyster aurorameyer.com How to use a screwdriver to shuck an oyster at home

Eventually, you’ll see the oyster flesh. Using a screw driver to shuck an oyster at home aurorameyer.com

Scrape the oyster from the top shell. Then lift the top completely off. Take the paring knife and release the oyster from the bottom shell. Now, you’re ready to move on to the recipe.

For the Chargrilled oysters, we adapted this recipe from Food.com to mimic the dish we had at Acme Oyster house.

Oysters shucked at home final product aurorameyer.com

When the oyster liquor starts to bubble, spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce on top of each, then top with 1 tablespoon of Romano cheese. Let the cheese melt. When oysters begin to slightly brown at the edges, remove from grill and place on a heat proof plate or tray.  Top each oyster with an additional tablespoon of the butter sauce and serve immediately with slices of French bread for dipping. Garnish with minced Parsley. Serve while still sizzling with Lemon wedges and fresh bread.

Note: It stormed the day we made this and there was no way we were going to grill, so we just made use of the broiler on high in our oven. It worked perfectly. Just make sure to keep an eye on the dish while it is under the broiler, you can go from perfect to burnt pretty quickly.

Homemade Chargrilled Oysters by aurorameyer.com

My opinion:
The only thing missing was the family-style tables and neon signs.

Print Recipe
Oyster shucking at home and chargrilled oyster recipe
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place in a baking dish (we used a pie pan) filled with ice cream salt (to keep the oysters steady) with the meat up.
  2. Melt half the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add your lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, green onions, and all herbs and seasonings.
  4. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, and then stir in the wine.
  5. Keep stirring and remove from heat as soon as the green onions wilt. Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add the rest of the butter and stir until completely incorporated.  
  7. Heat grill to 350 degrees and place oysters without the sauce on the grill.

Langlois Crusty Bread

 

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.

Print Recipe
Langlois Crusty Bread
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Wish together the flour, salt and yeast in your favorite mixing bowl.
  2. Add the water and mix until a "shaggy mixture" forms.
  3. As Chef Matt said when showing us how to make this, it should look like a wet dog.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 12 hours or overnight. Longer in this case is better.
  5. 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.
  6. Turn out the dough on a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. Cook covered for 30 minutes.
  10. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  11. Bake for an additional 30 minutes.
  12. Remove the bread from the oven and place on a cooling rack. (This means take it out of the dutch oven.)

My opinion:
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!