New Orleans Style Eats

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Although I am a culinary instructor, I am also a life long learner who loves continuing my culinary education.  With this in mind and knowing I have a soft spot for anything New Orleans, my sweet husband gave me a cooking class for my birthday.  The class was taught by Chef David Heide  in his restaurant, Liliana’s, located in Fitchburg, WI.  IMG_7058

Specializing in New Orleans dishes, we have dined here several times but this time we got to cook what we ate under chef Dave’s capable and entertaining guidance.  I was able to invite six friends making a class of eight with me and my husband.  My hope was to learn technique for making the dark chocolate roux that serves as the base of any good gumbo and I was not disappointed.  We made sausage gumbo with an added bonus of a pot of jambalaya fresco, one of the chefs favorites.

Interesting and different from my classes, no written recipes were dispensed.  The chef emphasized that these dishes rely more on technique than recipes as they were originally born out of whatever was available that season or in a particular household depending on economic status.  The culmination of cultures; French, Spanish, Italian, Native American and African melded into a regional style of cuisine we now associate refer to as New Orleans style.

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Many food preparations from this area start with the “holy trinity.”  A flavor base similar to the French mirepoix, Spanish sofrito, or Italian soffrito.  The trinity referred to here is a combination of celery, onions and bell pepper, traditionally green but like myself, Dave also used some red for sweetness and color.  Deserving mention, he also prefers using red onion or Vidalia also for their sweet flavor.

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Let’s take a minute to discuss the hardest part of making gumbo, the development of the roux.  Simply a mixture of flour and fat, it is slowly cooked until it reaches the color you desire.  There are three classic roux–white, blond, and brown. Both flavor and color are determined by the length of time the mixture is cooked.   What makes gumbo tricky is cooking until the roux is the color of chocolate sauce, or a mahogany brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning.  This dark nutty flavor base is indispensable for this most famous of Creole stews.  In our class, we all took turns stirring and scraping the sides of the pan until it was just perfect!  Trust me, this is a labor of love.  For more on roux and Louisiana cooking check out Acadiana Table.IMG_7091

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Another o f Creole cookery’s hallmarks,  jambalaya was a bit easier.  This dish also varies widely from cook to cook but usually combines cooked rice with a variety of ingredients including tomatoes, onion, green peppers, and almost any kind of meat, poultry or shellfish.  It is thought that the name derives from the French jambon, meaning “ham,”  the main ingredient in many of the first jambalayas.  In our class the ham was replaced by high quality chunks of bacon (WI made Neuske’s).  In addition, we added Andouille sausage, giving it a nice kick.

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When it was all made, we got to dine on the fruits of our labor followed by Dave’s version of Banana’s Foster, another New Orleans classic.  His advice?  Make sure you cook the fruit until it is soft as most cooks take it off too early for they fear it becoming mushy.  Apparently good advice as this dessert was delicious. IMG_7117IMG_7121

With full bellies, we said farewell carrying the New Orleans spirit in our hearts and thanking Chef Dave for spreading the love, one dish at a time.  If you have never visited this area of our fine country I say it is a must for your bucket list.  The cuisine is as unique as the people and the music and will leave you with a hunger for the love that goes into each dish and every piece of Dixie land.  I can’t wait to go back.  Sending my love of Bayou country to your house.  Jeanne

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19 responses to “New Orleans Style Eats

  1. Patti Bendoritis

    We love Lilliana’s ❤

  2. Debora Morton

    Jeanne—this was a really good one!!! For lots of reasons. Like the backstory with the chef. Great pics. So hungry now to go to Liliana’s–Thank you!!—Debi

  3. Glad you enjoyed it, Debi. Are ready for the tourist season? Our kitchen remodel has been delayed but hopefully they will start this week. Hope to see you soon. Let us know if you go to Liliana’s, we will meet you there. Thanks for your comments. Jeanne

  4. We had a great time, and this great post says it all!

  5. Thank you, dear friend. I hope I captured the moment. Thank you for your support and I am so glad you two could be part of it.

  6. Elizabeth Palmer

    Sounds like a wonderful birthday gift! You obviously had a great time.
    I make a good crawfish or shrimp etoufee. Making a roux for the first time was a revelation to me. The complexity of flavor that develops out of browning flour and fat together was such a surprise, and bringing it along to a darker and darker hue is truly a labor of love. Quite zen,though; like tending a risotto…

  7. I know what you mean, dark roux is a commitment but so worth it. The first time I labored over making a roux it separated when I added the liquid. What a disappointment! I have learned since then. I also make etoufee with shrimp and crawfish. Yum, my mouth is watering. Thanks for your thoughts and comments.

  8. What a special adventure for your birthday from your special guy. One could say he knows what side to butter his bread…lol 🙂

  9. I am, Jeanne. Thank you. But it will be better when I see Margie and others at our reunion 🙂
    Great summer to you as well. Stay calm during your kitchen renovation. At least it’s summer and you can grill…grillin’s great!!!!

  10. I so enjoyed this post and it made me more resolute than ever to get to New Orleans. Looks like you all had a good time. We enjoyed a great night of Dixieland music at Liliana’s last fall, but we only had dessert. So much good food to try…so little time.

    • New Orleans is so alive! The food is fabulous, the music great and such a blend of cultures. Maybe we should meet at Liliana’s for a taste. Thanks for your comments, Terri, always appreciated.

  11. What a wonderful post! I am so glad that you guys had such a wonderful time!! Can’t wait to see you guys again!!

    • Thanks, Dave. We all had so much fun and learned a lot. I appreciate your comments and am glad you enjoyed the post. We hope to come back soon. Thank you again. Jeanne

  12. Jeanne, sigh… simply sigh. What a fabulous birthday gift! I was just listening to an ‘old school jazz’ station while reading your post — felt like I was there with you. Sounds like you savored every minute and bite!

    FYI, can’t remember if I’d shared this link w/u or not (and apologies for doing it in your comment section…) but these ‘LA cooking tutorials’ (or the closest I can get to them) are fun & entertaining! (Authentic, too.) https://plus.google.com/103690058602666498385/posts

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