The Wandering Kitchen: New Orleans
In the Skagit Valley Food Co-op’s Wandering Kitchen Travel Blog Series, we’re taking you on a virtual trip to some of the best places on Earth for world-class cuisine. Whether it comes from your backyard or a different continent, good food has the power to transport you anywhere you want to go. So while you might not travel to the heart of India, the Caribbean, or the boot of Italy by plane, train, or automobile, you can take your taste buds on a trip simply by turning your dining table into a delicious destination for some of the world’s best food.
We’ll be featuring locations near and far known for their food, inspirational recipes to try in your own kitchen, as well as products you can find in the Co-op to give you a taste of the cuisine.
In this edition of The Wandering Kitchen, we’re taking you way down south to experience some of the best food New Orleans has to offer. And given that it’s Mardi Gras week, we can’t think of a better food destination to highlight this month.
Why New Orleans?
New Orleans is probably best known for its wild Mardi Gras celebrations, and with any good party comes even better food. And this is certainly the case in New Orleans. With Creole and Cajun-style food as their specialty, you’ll find that a lot of their recipes are packed full of spices, the “holy trinity” of vegetables (bell peppers, celery, and onion), and chicken, pork, or seafood.
New Orleans Inspired Recipes
Get ready to add a little bit of spice to your plate. Here are some of our favorite New Orleans-inspired recipes to transport you to Bourbon Street. Mardi Gras beads and colorful face masks not included — but encouraged.
We’ll start off with arguably the most famous Louisiana staple: jambalaya.
A Creole dish of West African, French, and Spanish influence, Jambalaya traditionally features smoked meat, oftentimes andouille sausage, as well as either chicken or pork and seafood. All those proteins are combined with celery, onions, and green peppers, along with rice and lots of flavorful, aromatic spices.
Other veggies you’ll often see in the mix are okra, carrots, tomatoes, and chilis, though those ingredients aren’t necessarily traditional.
Over the years, many cookbooks and food bloggers have taken jambalaya in all sorts of creative directions, but for the sake of honoring this New Orleans classic, we’re featuring a recipe with a fairly traditional take on the dish:
While jambalaya and gumbo are very similar dishes, there are a few distinct differences. One of which is how rice is served with the dish.
Gumbo has more of a soupy, saucy texture and is served with rice on the side. Jambalaya, on the other hand, has the rice cooked into the whole dish. And as far as texture goes, jambalaya has more of a dry consistency while gumbo is more of a stew.
Traditionally, gumbo features similar ingredients to jambalaya, including onions, celery, and bell pepper. Gumbo also tends to utilize chicken as the protein source, but can also incorporate shrimp, crab meat, and oysters.
When it comes to creating that thick sauce with a gravy-like consistency, traditional gumbo calls for either okra pods, file powder (from sassafras leaves), though rouxs are also used. The gumbo recipe below from Gimme Some Oven calls for you to make a roux to thicken up your dish, but okra is also incorporated for extra support and of course, flavor.
And while it definitely isn’t traditional, if you don’t eat meat, you can always get in on that rich gumbo flavor with this vegetarian version.
Southern Red Beans & Rice
There’s a reason rice and beans are a staple in so many different cuisines. They’re made up of ingredients that are readily available, feed a crowd, and take on the flavor of whatever you cook them in. And these Southern Red Beans and Rice might be the best example of that.
Developed by Eric Jones, a Louisiana Native, this recipe is basically a mash-up of the two versions of red beans that he ate growing up, with a bit of a Caribbean twist.
Dried red beans are soaked ahead of time before being cooked in a broth of veggies, coconut milk, and some Caribbean-inspired spices. Though pork is a traditional option to add (and you certainly could add it), this recipe calls for beef sausage:
If you’re the type of person who has no shame getting down on a plate of wings or breaking into a king crab to get ahold of that succulent meat, this next New Orleans-inspired meal is definitely up your alley.
Though big outdoor crawfish boils have only really gotten popular in the last couple of decades, eating crawfish is a Louisiana tradition that dates back to the pre-colonial times! It comes as no surprise, indigenous peoples were eating all sorts of shellfish long before the state was founded.
Now, back to modern times, a crawfish boil is exactly what it sounds like. Crawfish is boiled with Creole-style seasonings alongside corn, potatoes, onions, garlic, lemons, and Andouille sausage.
This is definitely a recipe meant for sharing, and oftentimes the whole boil is spread out across a table for easy grubbing. Save this recipe for the next time you want to hold a backyard party!
Craving something sweet after all those savory dishes? Consider whipping up these classic New Orleans beignets! Served as a breakfast item in Louisiana, beignets are light, fluffy, perfectly sweet, and yeast-raised to achieve their pillow-like texture.
It all starts with a simple dough made up of water, milk, butter, egg, sugar, salt, yeast, and flour. After rising, the dough is gently deflated and is allowed to expand again. The dough is rolled and cut up into small squares before being fried to crispy perfection.
Once they’re cool, dust them with powdered sugar and serve them alongside a pot of black coffee for an authentic New Orleans treat.
Mardi Gras King Cake
And Mardi Gras just simply isn’t complete without a slice of king cake! With festive Mardi Gras colors and a fairly simple ingredient list, this cake can definitely be replicated in your own kitchen.
But beyond the frosting and the festive sprinkles, the king cake has an interesting twist. Typically, the tradition goes that whoever bakes the king cake hides a small porcelain baby somewhere in the cake. The baby is said to symbolize luck and prosperity to whoever is the first to find it in their slice of cake. That person also becomes responsible for making the cake the following year.
A sweet treat with a fun game and tradition — what could be better?
Can’t be bothered with making a cake or just really want the real thing? You can order a king cake from Gambino’s Bakery in New Orleans and they’ll ship it right to your door!
New Orleans Food Staples Available at The Co-op
- Andouille sausage and shrimp – for Jambalaya & Gumbo
- Tabasco Sauce – Louisiana-based hot sauce
- Rice – for Jambalaya & Gumbo
- Creole-style seasoning
- Okra (when it’s in season), corn, onions, bell peppers