Louisiana

The New School Old Cool of Brennan’s

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The meal began with a Cajun-spiced Bloody Mary. And it just kept getting better. A rain-free interlude during our mostly water-logged family vacation to New Orleans this spring. Day after day of downpour, triggering memories of those 100% humidity bad hair days that were a fact of life for all us girls who grew up in south Louisiana during the years B.C. (“before Chi”).

But we didn’t let the rain stop us from getting to everything we wanted to do on this trip–browsing the shops on Magazine Street, exploring the 19th century Creole mansions that line the edge of the Quarter along Esplanade, even making a side trip to Chalmette during the height of the “monsoon” to take in the museum and soppy grounds at the site of the Battle of New Orleans. And then Friday morning, while the clouds held onto their contents for a few hours, we put away the umbrellas and made our way to Brennan’s, where the food and surroundings seem to make their own sunshine.

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Sunday Night at Galatoire’s

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Years ago, on a crowded night in the French Quarter, we had no reservations for dinner and seemingly no prospects of eating anything worthwhile, having been firmly rebuffed by every hostess desk within walking distance of our hotel. All, that is, except for Galatoire’s. With its “no reservations” policy for the downstairs dining room (and that is the place to be), you’ve got an equal opportunity shot of getting into Galatoire’s.

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Delicious Detours: You Want to Eat at Guy’s

You do want to eat lunch at Guy’s Oyster Bar in downtown Amite, Louisiana.

When you are heading north on I-55 from around Hammond, Louisiana, not long before you reach the Mississippi border, look for the Amite exit. Yes, Guy’s is a bar, and it’s a little dark in there, and there are die-hard patrons perched on the stools who may give you a little glance upon entering. Yes, there is lots of kitschy memorabilia and there are a few politically pointed signs and posters.

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Delicious Detours: Destination Boudin

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Traveling the dreaded I-10, from Baton Rouge to Houston, my family knows what to expect: like forcing an elephant through a drinking straw, it often seems the entirety of the Gulf Coastal U.S. is trying to get over the Mississippi River Bridge at the same time as I am. This is the usual state of things. (I am hoping against hope for a lane addition or the construction of a second bridge before I am too old to drive anymore.)

What we didn’t bargain for this time around was an overturned tanker truck in the pre-dawn hours of the the foggy, drizzly morning, happening at a crucial point near the foot of the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge and blocking our route home. The closure and cleanup had been underway for going on 4 hours when I decided that we couldn’t just hang around eating fast food chicken biscuits on the east side of the river forever, so we made the long slog across the bridge to the other side of the Mississippi and took the official detour that had been set up to get around the accident, Highway190 West.

In a way, this was fine, since it’s always fun to see what I’m missing on my regular route. But it did take us out of our way. We drove through Krotz Springs and then Opelousas, heading south to Lafayette and back to Interstate 10, where I could have picked back up with my usual route and hightailed it for the Texas border. But I had to stick to my original plan, the one I had made before we even left Houston, which involved heading south from Lafayette to the unincorporated community of Broussard. There’s a little Shell station on East Main Street, and in the back of the convenience store is a meat market that makes some of the best boudin anywhere.

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Friday Night Maque Choux

Mild days and cool nights. Our hybrid summer/fall weather this month has been glorious. So on a crisp Friday night, what better way to enjoy the last of the Texas summer sweet corn than with a transitional dish that showcases the freshness of local corn—an easy shrimp maque choux stew. This is a heartier, richer variation of the traditional skillet corn that is a common side dish in Louisiana and other parts of the south. The name maque choux may be of French origin, or Native American, or both, depending on who you talk to. And actually, our family made plenty of skillet-cooked fresh corn when I was growing up in Louisiana, but we didn’t call it anything at all. Except delicious.

This is an adaptation of that simple corn dish that many of us grew up eating. I’ve added seafood stock and small shrimp so that it can be enjoyed as a main dish with a leafy green salad. It makes a big batch of stew, but you can easily halve the recipe to serve around 6 people.

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Summer Salads, Creole Style, Courtesy of Chef Johnny Schulze

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The summer doldrums of late July have hit–I can’t stand the heat, and I want to get out of the kitchen! You would think with the extra hours of daylight in the evenings, I would be inspired to dive into some of those really involved recipes that are waiting for me in my recipe file. (No, I still have not switched over to the “cloud.”) Maybe it’s because the kids don’t have a set schedule, or maybe it’s just the heat and humidity working on me. But like a lot of people, I turn to lighter, faster, simpler fare–grilled meats, grilled fish and fun, creative salads.

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Baby, You’re So Classic

It’s lunchtime, and I am driving the I-55 overpass in southeast Louisiana, between LaPlace and Hammond. Lake Maurepas is below me, old fish camps on slender stilts and moss-covered cypress trees dot the sparkling noonday water–a gorgeous, classic Louisiana photo-op, if you are willing to risk your life and pull over to snap a picture while the 18 wheelers roar by!

Instead, I take the Manchac exit to another Louisiana classic, its cheerful white and red exterior visible from the interstate–Middendorf’s Seafood Restaurant.

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