New Orleans Recipes from Mary Jane Clark

Today’s guest post comes from mystery author Mary Jane Clark. Mary Jane’s novel, That Old Black Magic, is on sale today and follows wedding cake decorator and sometime sleuth Piper Donovan as she heads to New Orleans where Piper races to solve a voodoo-inspired murder before becomes the next target! Below, Mary Jane shares her knowledge of New Orleans cuisine and two of her favorite recipes. 

Ah, food!

If you are reading this, it’s a safe bet that you love food as much as I do.  And if you love food, you have to love New Orleans, the setting for my new book, That Old Black Magic.

What fun it was to do my research in New Orleans!  The food is unlike anywhere else in the country.  Even if you can find it elsewhere, it’s probably isn’t going to taste as good as when prepared by a New Orleans cook.

If you aren’t familiar with some of the most popular New Orleans dishes, here are the basics:

Po Boys are sandwiches.  That’s the short answer.  But I’ve heard them called the best culinary creations known to man.  French bread is the most important part – crispy and flaky on the outside, and unbelievably soft on the inside. The bulk of sandwich is varied – fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, soft-shell crab, or roast beef smothered in gravy.

Crawfish etouffee is a thick stew, seasoned to perfection and packed with plump crawfish or, depending on the season, shrimp.

Gumbo is a soupier stew, pretty much always served over rice.  Each chef has his her own way of making it. Some use seafood instead of chicken, sausage or ham.  The base seasonings are sassafras and bay leaves, which were introduced to Louisiana settlers by Native Americans.  African slaves brought over okra, which seasons and thicken the soup stock.  In fact, gumbo is said to have gotten its name from the West African name for okra – kimgombo.

Jambalaya is a traditional dish whose ingredients vary though rice is always at its core.  Andouille sausage, chicken, seafood, or any mixture of the three plus spices or hot sauce gives it a bold flavor.  You’ll want more.

A Muffuletta  is a massive cold-cut sandwich served on an entire round loaf of Italian bread (about 10 inches across), piled high with Provolone cheese, Genoa salami and Cappicola ham, and then topped with olive salad – chopped, green un-stuffed olives, pimientos, celery, garlic, cocktail onions, capers, oregano, parsley, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, salt and pepper. It’s delectably salty and mouth-watering.  Don’t struggle with the name.  Just ask for a muff.

Beignets.  Heaven.  Think donuts but even better.  Beignets are made from square-cut pieces of yeast dough. The dough is fried and then covered with mounds of powdered sugar. When served hot, oo la la!  The most famous place to get a plate of beignets is Café Du Monde, located on Jackson Square.   But here’s the recipe for the beignets at That Old Black Magic fantasy bakery, Boulangerie Bertrand.

MJC Beignets Recipe Card

And don’t forget Bananas Foster.  Yum!   It’s a decadent dessert, featuring bananas, butter, brown sugar and rum.  It was invented at New Orlean’s famous Brennan’s  restaurant…but here’s a recipe you can easily make it at home.

Happy reading and happy eating!

Bananas Foster
(Serves 4)

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 4 bananas, cut in half, lengthwise, then halved

Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

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