Earlier this week, Matt and I took a romantic getaway to New Orleans. We were there for four glorious days, enjoying sixty-degree temperatures, beautiful architecture, drunk college students, art galleries, and some of the most scrumptious and amazing food you can find anywhere. I do seriously believe that New Orleans boasts possibly the best food in the United States.
This was an anniversary trip for us. Not our wedding anniversary, but the anniversary of meeting each other. We met on March 12, 2003, at the Tropical Isle, on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s a long story. 😉 So for our ten-year anniversary, of course we had to return to the scene of the crime.
NOLA is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite places to visit. I first went there with my family as a kid. It was a brief stop on a road trip returning from Orlando, and even then I thought it was a neat place. I visited several times during my twenties and twice now in my thirties. And isn’t it funny, I find that in my twenties, the trip held much more emphasis on drinking than eating, whereas in my thirties, I am much more interested in eating than drinking. I guess I’ve just matured. Or something…
Anyways, there was much deliciousness enjoyed on this trip. I had shrimp and grits at Mr. B’s Bistro (part of the Brennan’s family of restaurants); fried green tomatoes (twice!), pralines, praline cheesecake (oh my), alligator sausage at the French Market, turtle soup (the best thing ever – try it if you have never done so), crawfish etouffee, gumbo, the BEST buttermilk pancakes of my life – seriously!, bread pudding, two po’boys, and fried cheesecake. Yes, fried cheesecake. Uh huh.
I also tried hog’s head cheese for the first time (interesting…) and of course I was the typical wife who kept sneaking her fork onto her husband’s plate! So I also had some fried chicken, the best jambalaya I’ve ever tasted, a bite of muffalletta, some biscuits and gravy, and crawfish cake eggs benedict.
And I can’t forget, we also dined at Emeril’s New Orleans, which was truly a fantastic meal. At Emeril’s I had a life-changing appetizer of buffalo duck wings. Oh lerd… there are no words. I then ate a delicious salmon dish and some whiskey pecan cake for dessert. Also, I had a few bites of Matt’s decadent chocolate peanut butter pie.
Oh New Orleans….. such a foodie paradise. Ironically, I did not have the NOLA classic I’m blogging today, probably because I had made and eaten it a couple weeks prior. But I could have. I saw it on many menus down there. And it’s delicious. So make it soon and enjoy!
Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, January & February 2010
1 lb. dried kidney beans, rinsed and picked over for rocks
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 bell pepper of any color, seeded and chopped fine
1 celery rib, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Fresh cracked black pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
6 cups water
8 oz. andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and chopped into a 1/4-inch dice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
3 scallions, sliced thin
Hot sauce, for serving
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 tbs unsalted butter
3 cups water
1 tsp kosher salt
Dissolve 3 tbs salt in 4 quarts cold water in a large mixing bowl. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
Place the bacon in a large Dutch oven and heat to medium. Stirring often, cook the bacon until crisped and the fat has rendered, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. To the drippings, add the onion, pepper, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, paprika, bay leaves, cayenne, and some black pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the beans, stock, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and keep at a good simmer until the beans are just soft and liquid begins to thicken, 45 to 60 minutes.
Stir in the sausage and red wine vinegar. Cook until liquid is thick and beans are fully tender and creamy, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and additional red wine vinegar, if needed.
Meanwhile, make the rice.
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and stir to toast and coat with the butter. Add the water and salt, and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Steam for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork when done.
Serve the beans over the rice, sprinkle with the scallions and put on a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired.