Thanks to its history as a French colony, which resulted in a Creole and Cajun culture, the food in New Orleans bears little resemblance to other dishes you find only in the South, let alone anywhere else in America. Over the years, certain New Orleans dishes have become certifiably iconic, and we’ve rounded up recipes for 20 of them, contributed by some of the city’s most notable chefs.
Eggs Sardou was invented at the famous Antoine’s, one of the oldest restaurants in America. Today, it’s one of the stars of the menu at Brennan’s, home to one of America’s best brunches. This dish features a poached egg and creamy Choron sauce on top of a crispy fried artichoke heart and creamed spinach.
The po’boy is so much more than a sandwich. This particular po’boy recipe, from chef Isaac Toups of Toups Meatery and Toups South in New Orleans, tops cornmeal-fried oysters and shrimp with a salad of thin-sliced tomato and onion, sherry vinegar and horseradish.
The muffaletta is a cold sandwich of Italian meats, cheeses and olive salad piled onto a crusty round Sicilian sesame loaf. The Central Grocery muffaletta may be the most iconic, but you can find great versions all around town. Chef Chris Montero at The Napoleon House kicks it up a few notches by serving it hot.
Shrimp remoulade may look like your standard mayo-based shrimp salad, but it’s anything but. The addition of mustard, horseradish, hot sauce, Creole spice and other seasonings gives it a decided New Orleans kick in the pants. This recipe comes from David Kinch, who began his career in New Orleans and is best known as the force behind the Bay Area’s three Michelin-starred Manresa (one of America’s best restaurants).
Like a po’boy is more than a sandwich, a gumbo is more than just a great bowl of soup. A classic New Orleans gumbo is an amalgam of flavors, all stewed together and served atop rice. This recipe comes from chef Stanley Broussard, the executive chef at Roux on Orleans at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. It contains shrimp, crab and oysters and is the recipe that chef Broussard prepares every Wednesday when he leads a weekly gumbo demonstration and tasting.
If you’re not a fan of seafood, there’s a gumbo recipe for you, too. This one comes from Justin Devillier, the executive chef and owner of New Orleans’ acclaimed La Petite Grocery (a restaurant you need to visit when in town). It contains andouille sausage and duck. If you’d rather not include duck, you can swap in the poultry of choice.
New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp doesn’t bear a resemblance to any regional barbecue style out there. It was invented at Pascal’s Manale in 1953, and since then it’s become a staple around town and one of the absolute best things to eat in America. To make the dish, head-on shrimp are coated in a rich and buttery sauce loaded with Creole spice, which gets mopped up with a hunk of French bread. This take on this classic dish is from Steve McHugh, who spent lots of time cooking in New Orleans before opening Cured in San Antonio.
GW Fins was opened by Gary Wollerman and chef Tenney Flynn in New Orleans in 2001, and since then it’s gone down as one of the city’s finest destinations for high-quality seafood. This is the restaurant’s recipe for shrimp Creole — sauteed shrimp tossed in a traditional Creole “mother sauce” of tomatoes, the holy trinity (onions, bell peppers and celery) and Cajun seasoning.
Like gumbo, etouffee starts with a roux and the holy trinity, but it is thicker and cooks up quicker than its Crescent City cousin and generally only contains shrimp or crawfish. This classic interpretation also comes from chef Brian Landry of New Orleans’ Jack Rose.
Blackened redfish, popularized by chef Paul Prudhomme at his restaurant K-Paul’s, is made by coating a filet of redfish (or a similar fish) in Cajun spices and searing it in a cast iron pan until it appears to “blacken.” It’s actually one of the most iconic restaurant dishes in America. This version comes from Ralph Brennan, the owner of New Orleans restaurants including Brennan’s, Red Fish Grill and Napoleon House.
Jambalaya is one of the most iconic foods in America. This big pot of rice cooked with tomatoes, the trinity, spices, your choice of meats including sausage, chicken and shrimp and a dose of Louisiana hot sauce is perfect for a crowd. This version is about as classic as it gets and also comes from Ralph Brennan.
Dirty rice, one of those regional dishes you might not have heard of, contains ground meat (and occasionally chicken liver), and ts foundation is a rich, brown gravy. Chef Isaac Toups makes his with ground beef and amber beer, and it’s ideal as both a side dish or main course.
Crawfish are synonymous with Louisiana, and they’re arguably best enjoyed as part of a traditional crawfish boil, shared with friends over a few beers. This recipe, from Bywater’s David Kinch, boils the crawfish in a supercharged blend of water, Worcestershire, beer and hot sauce.
Unlike a crawfish boil, most shrimp boils also toss sausages, potatoes, and/or corn into the pot, and are served by dumping the whole mess out onto a newspaper-lined picnic table and letting your guests go to town. This version comes from chef Todd Pulsinelli, who spent time at the helm of New Orleans fine dining gem August (one of America’s most romantic restaurants) before taking over The Parlor at New Orleans' Hotel Chloe.
Bananas Foster is arguably the most famous of all New Orleans desserts. This sweet blend of caramelized bananas and booze, flambeed tableside and served with vanilla ice cream, was invented at Brennan’s in 1951 for a special dinner in honor of the New Orleans Crime Commission chairman, Richard Foster, and it remains the most-ordered item on the menu. This is the original recipe, and one of the regional desserts you absolutely need to try.
King cake is a pastry that’s closely associated with Mardi Gras. Making one from scratch involves making a brioche dough and is a labor-intensive process, so New Orleans-born chef David Guas, who runs Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Virginia, has contributed a much simpler recipe that the whole family can help make.
Pralines are a decadent New Orleans treat made by carefully heating chopped pecans, butter, sugar and cream and letting it cool into a luscious and creamy indulgence. This recipe for traditional pralines, which can be found at many of the city’s top sweet shops, comes from chef Nina Compton of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans.
Nobody makes a soufflé quite like chef Tory McPhail, the chef at Commander’s Palace, one of the best special occasion restaurants in America. McPhail makes a batch of bread pudding and folds it with whipped egg whites, turning it into a light and airy soufflé, and then douses it with whiskey sauce.
Ask anyone who’s ever sunk their teeth into a hot, pillowy fresh-from-the-fryer beignet topped with a heap of powdered sugar, and they’ll tell you that it’s head-and-shoulders above what you’ll find at your local doughnut shop. This recipe, from David Guas, adds buttermilk for a hint of tang. These are so good that you’ll quickly understand why beignets in Louisiana are the one food you need to try in the state.
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