Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Louisiana Cookbooks for Cookbook Wednesday

My favorite Louisiana cookbook is The New Orleans Cookbook by Rima and Richard Collin, first published in 1975. It begins with lists. First, ingredients -- alphabetical from Absinthe through Tabasco, Tomatoes, and Yam. Second, techniques from Boiling to Smothering. Its recipe organization is just as indicative of the unique New Orleans cuisine: Chapter 1, Gumbos and Soups; Chapter 2, Red Beans and Rice! and Jambalya; then chapters titled Crabs, Crawfish, Oysters, Shrimp, and so on until Desserts and Drinks. I've written about New Orleans and Louisiana cookbooks before, starting with this, and I've based today's post on my earlier ones. 

The New Orleans Cookbook's illustrations of historic food ads, restaurants, and menus are fascinating, and the descriptions are lushly appealing:
"The steaming aroma of fresh caught crabs, shrimp, and oysters; the smell of butter and flour browning slowly in a large iron pot over an open fire; the sizzle of freshly chopped onions, green peppers, and 'shallots' added at just the moment the flour and butter turn a rich brown; the scent of chicken or duck slowly cooking into the mixture of onions, vegetables, and roux; the taste of good fresh okra or exotic sassafras -- this adds up to a good Louisiana gumbo." (p. 15)
For simpler home cooking, people from Louisiana recommend River Road Recipes, which is published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, LA. It's another book with staying power. The number of copies was already in the hundreds of thousands when I bought one of 20,000 copies in the forty-fourth printing (November 1976).

My copy of River Road Recipes is yellowed and marked up. First, there's a little red check-mark next to many recipes, indicating the favorites of a woman we met in Baton Rouge (the mother of my brother's college friend). She recommended, for example, the Sauce Meuniere or Remoulade Sauce (p. 119) on trout. Over the years I've tried a large number of cakes and cookies from this book, and found most of them quite nice. As in many charity collections, some of the contributors were much more skilled at cooking, baking, and recipe writing than others.

Both of these books reflect the old-style Creole, Cajun, and New Orleans traditional cooking styles. Just reading through them is a fascinating reprise of one of our rapid trips into the city, when I seem to recall we ate three large meals between noon and evening, because our host wanted us to sample everything we possibly could. The dish that most impressed me was the bread pudding with rum sauce at a little home-style restaurant a bit away from the tourist area, but I've never had another bread pudding that delicious again.

Evelyn's Gumbo from Tiana's Cookbook: 
Evelyn says the recipes are good & amazingly easy to follow!
Another New Orleans cookbook in my collection is a spin-off of Disney's film "The Princess and the Frog." 

Tiana's Cookbook: Recipes for Kids,
includes quite a few serious recipes that kids may like to eat, but it takes a grownup to really cook them. Tiana's two most special dishes: beignets, which are deep-fried and gumbo.

There are also some very Disney things such as cupcakes frosted to look like frogs and a cake made in the shape of an alligator, which aren't precisely New Orleans cooking, more like Disney movie cooking. I wrote about the movie here: What do princesses eat?

Tiana's Cookbook includes versions of several recipes from another New Orleans classic: The Dooky Chase Cookbook which documents the life and recipes of Leah Chase, owner of the Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans. Leah Chase was a source of ideas for Disney studios when they planned the movie.

I did a full review of this fascinating cookbook and memoir in two posts -- Leah Chase: New Orleans Princess and Cooking.

The Louisiana Seafood Bible is the title of a series of cookbooks by Jerald and Glenda Horst. There are separate volumes for oysters, clams, crayfish, and two for fin fish, of which I have the first volume. There's an encyclopedic coverage of all types of information about fish, and lots of recipes. I've been meaning to try some of the recipes, but so far I have not, and I haven't written about it.

Finally, Tom Fitzmorris, a food journalist with a widely followed radio show originating in New Orleans, provided a great overview of the fascinating cuisines of New Orleans, along with a selection of recipes. When my culinary book club read his Hungry Town: A Culinary History of New Orleans, I'd never heard of him, but I read his book with enthusiasm. I wrote much more about this book here: "Hungry Town": All About New Orleans.

I liked Fitzmorris's view of food, food fads, food celebrities, and food hype. His observations of trends that started in New Orleans and were misappropriated elsewhere are interesting -- blackened redfish would be one of them. I've definitely eaten some bad burned fish as a result of that fad, and he suggests that I can't blame the originators as much as the pathetic imitations.

Again, this post celebrates both the wonderful food of Louisiana and New Orleans, and Cookbook Wednesday as invented by Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations.


~~louise~~ said...

What a nother GREAT selection of books, Mae. I have that Dooky Chase Cookbook on my wish list. I do have another book by Leah Chase but of course I want this one too, lol...

I guess I better add that first book to my list too, one can never have enough southern cookbooks you know:)

Thank you so much for joining us for another Cookbook Wednesday Mae. I'm expecting a busy one, lol...

Marjie said...

Your selection of cookbooks is amazing! I look forward to seeing your link on Louise's site each week. And I giggled at your inclusion of the Disney Princess cookbook in Louisiana cookbooks. It was logical yet humorous.

Linda said...

I love this selection of cookbooks! I love old cookbooks, even way, way back from the 1920's, 30's and 40's. Thank you so much for sharing.

Cakelaw said...

Yummo - I think I'd love Louisiana food.

Shaheen said...

I've come on over from the linky, intrigued by your cookbooks that will probably never appear in the U.K, thank you for sharing.