Happy New Year! Happy New Decade! Here’s to the 20’s! Sorry I could not help myself. I tell you what, the teen’s, is that what we are calling the last decade? Well my teen years were awesome – so much happened in just ten years. I truly feel like it was one of the best decades of my life, two kids, another dog, three moves, new careers, a doctorate and lots of travel and food. What more could you ask for? Well naturally, I want to keep on traveling, blogging, cooking, and enjoying this beautiful planet. I thought I would share one of my all time favorite food cities in the world. I have been to 5 of the 7 continents (Africa and Antartica – I am coming to you this decade) and of all the places I have traveled, New Orleans (NOLA) is one of my favorite places. I love the atmosphere, ambience, and the aroma of fabulous food.
If you are going to NOLA, first you must understand the history of the city and the state. It was claimed by the French in 1682 by LaSalle (not the guy from NCIS, New Orleans) and the city was founded in 1718. The center of the city was formed around the Vieux Carre (a square) which is where the French Quarter is currently located. This beautiful city that sat at a high point above the mighty Mississippi river was a hub for trade for France. The territory was given as a part of the Treaty of Paris to the Spaniards in 1763. This succession allowed for beautiful baroque architecture, iron work and arches throughout the city that enhanced the French influence but two great fires in the late 1700’s destroyed parts of the city and the architecture. Spain later ceded Louisiana back to the French and three years later, Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in 1803. The Brits wanted a piece of this precious real-estate as well, thus the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson played a tremendous role in this war and was the victor thus Jackson Square in his honor.
I tell you all this to give you what the city weathered and yet keep tradition and customs alive. Still in the city today you have French, Spanish, and Creole customs alive within the city. This city truly became the blend of a unique, rich culture. This heritage is what I think draws me to this city time and time again. This is also a town that has weathered wars, slavery, storms, and fires and yet has stood the test. When Katrina came, many believed New Orleans would not survive and yet it still stands and it celebrated its 300th anniversary, in style might I add, in 2018.
For my 35th birthday, my husband had a work trip in New Orleans. We both had never been to the city and instantly signed up! This was the absolute best birthday. I had so much fun! I celebrated my birthday at several of the restaurants in the quarter or right off of the quarter. Here are a few of my favorite NOLA things: If you are in NOLA, you must go to Mothers. It is the red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo and the famous po’ boy mecca. Do not be dissuaded my the menu on the wall and the walk up-order counter. Trust me you cannot go wrong with any of it. This restaurant was established in the late 30’s and during World War II, it was coined the “TUN Tavern New Orleans” because 5 of the 7 children of the owners joined the United States Marine Corps and became a local hangout for many Marines. As a wife of a Marine, this was a must and our first dining experience in the city!
We also had another wonderful dinner of prime ribeye, garlic shrimp, and asparagus at Brennans for my actual birthday. This restaurant has been around since the 40’s and the chandeliers and ambience of the place was the perfect setting to celebrate. To top off the evening, I had the traditional bananas foster for dessert. We dressed up and made reservations for the beautiful place and it did not disappoint.
The following evening, I was still celebrating. As you are aware, I like to celebrate this momentous event multiple times. We went to GW Finn’s. The amount of mounted fish on the walls and ceilings were quite unusual but intriguing. We started with oysters on the half shell, Swordfish, Red Snapper and to top off my fabulous birthday, cheesecake. Again, you will need to make reservations for GW Finn’s.
If you are going to take time and go to this iconic city, you need to go to Cafe Du Monde’s and get you a chicory coffee and a beignet. We went to the original location that year and the line to get a beignet was two blocks long. We went back to NOLA last year but, we went to River Marketplace and had zero line. I recommend seeing the original location in the quarter and if the line is too long visit the one just down the river. They not only have the traditional beignets but also beignet fries which was easier and a little less messy.
Now if you are in NOLA, you will see iconic places like Pat O’Briens and the Funky Pirate. Here you can get the traditional a Hurricane and a Grenade. It is a wonderful way to celebrate birthdays – trust me.
No matter where you go in the city, the blend of cultures, religions, people, food, and drink create an amazing experience in this beautiful city. The traditional Red beans and rice always brings back these amazing experiences. So here is my recipe for red beans and rice – New Orleans style.
Red Beans and Rice
2 Smoked Sausage links cut into bite size pieces
1 can of Dark Kidney beans, drained
1 can of Light Red Kidney beans, drained
1 red onion diced
1 tbsp of minced garlic
1 can of rotell
2 tbsp of chili powder
1 tbsp of oregano
1 tbsp of olive oil
3 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of Jasmine Rice
1 Bay leaf
Green onions diced – optional
salt and pepper to taste
In a rice cooker, take two cups of Jasmine rice and three cups of chicken broth and set to cook. I have used a Hamilton Beach rice cooker for the last 10 years and it is a must in our house.
In a large stock pan, add the oil, cook the onions, garlic, sausage, and beans till the onion is translucent. Once the rice is cooked, add the rice to the pan, rotell, chili powder, oregano and bay leaf. Stir, cover, and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Once it is done, add sliced green onions for garnish – optional. If you wish to add more heat, you can add more chili powder, red pepper flakes, your favorite hot sauce, or an actual chili pepper in there. If you want to add a bit of extra flair, in the last 4-5 minutes add peeled, deveined, shrimp. Salt and pepper to taste.
This is a one pot meal. My kids love this and it brings me back to the French quarter each time. My husband and I will add a bit of red pepper flakes to our bowl for extra heat. I hope you have enjoyed NOLA and red beans and rice. If you haven’t been to New Orleans, do it! You will love the city as much as I do. If you haven’t subscribed yet to my blog, please do so to get the latest blogs.
Happy New Year, Happy New You, Happy New Decade, and may this be a year of good food, glorious travel and great friends! Saluer!