I love cooking and I always want to learn about the history of food, different techniques, and unique recipes. Every time I see cooking classes online I always want to sign up. So when I found out that New Orleans School of Cooking was only a couple of blocks from our hotel, I knew I had to sign us up. As a matter of fact, I signed us up for two classes.
Since the school was so close to our hotel, we arrived a little early for our morning class. It was a good thing we did because there were so many fun things to look at in their little shop. Shelves and counters were filled with spices, books, jams, jellies, and even pralines they make right in the shop.
Look at all these Tabasco products! Ehhh I love pepper jellyyyyyyyyyyyy…
I had no idea they even made Spicy Beans. I bet they would be delicious in a Bloody Mary.
As the room filled up, Chef Michael DeVidts walked out and introduced himself. He called roll, answered a few questions, and the then led us to the classroom.
Before the cooking (and eating) began, he started off with a brief history of New Orleans and how his passion for cooking started. It was really interesting because he was able to explain to us how New Orleans cuisine is really a blend of different cultures. Little did I know that French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and African cultures all have influenced Creole food. Then he went on to explain to us that Cajun food actually came from the Acadians that immigrated from Nova Scotia. If you want to read more about the history of New Orleans food, checkout The History of Creole and Cajun Cuisine.
The pure cane syrup was so delicious! The flavor is complex and reminded me of sweet caramel with a touch of bitterness from burnt sugar. It’s definitely sweet, but it’s not in your face. Steen’s have been around since 1910 and is still a staple on many Louisianans’ breakfast tables. They still harvest the sugar cane at the peak of ripeness and press it for it’s sugary juices. Once the juices are cooked and its clarity and consistency are perfect, they bottle it.
Next up was Cajun Power Sweet Treat. The taste is familiar to me because it reminded me of Mexican Churros. It’s a blend of cinnamon, sugar, and pure vanilla. It would probably be delicious on buttered toast or even on a cappuccino.
As we ate our biscuits, Chef Michael began to teach us the fundamentals of making a good roux. I’ve made roux before but I had no idea that you could make any other color besides light brown (think chicken gravy). As he talked, he began to cook this roux from a thin white color, to a thick warm brown, then suddenly it was a gritty dark chocolate brown.
WOW! Apparently that’s how you get those amazing flavors in gumbos and jambalayas. Every New Orleans secret family recipe has specific color of roux they preferred, so he encouraged us to experiment making all the colors before settling on one.
As he chit chatted some more, he started working on the gumbo recipe. Boiling the stock, sauteing the “Holy Trinity” (Onions, Celery, Green Pepper), adding the stock into the vegetables, and even going back to the map to point out more history. He was a master multitasker!
As he began to ladle the gumbo, we were offered a drink of choice. Since we were in Louisiana, we had to try their hometown Abita beer. I’m not a beer aficionado, but it was light, smooth, and went very well with our lunch.
Here’s the finished gumbo. It was so good! The flavors were so deep that it must have come from his dark roux. I added a little bit more File, and it thickened my gumbo just a bit more. Even though it was delicious on its own, I was a little sad that I had eaten up my biscuit so quickly. I kept imagining how delicious it would have been if I had some left to dip into the gumbo… lol
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our morning class at New Orleans School of Cooking.