Iconic eats: Louisiana
By the Editors of Saveur
Created in 1951 at the legendary Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans to honor Richard Foster, a friend of the restaurant and local businessman, this boozy, buttery concoction of caramelized bananas flambéed in rum sauce has since become a dining-out classic.
The crawfish boil—crawfish and other seafood cooked in a roiling brew of aromatic vegetable and fiery spices—is a Gulf Coast tradition of Cajun origin. As with many other Louisiana dishes, there are plenty of variations; our favorite includes crawfish, shrimp, potatoes, celery, garlic, and plenty of Old Bay.
From the French word for smothered, étouffée is a thick, spicy Cajun stew composed of meat—traditionally crawfish—engulfed in a thick sauce made from a dark roux, a flavorful thickener made by cooking fat with flour.
Named for the French word for fritter, these pillowy squares of fried, yeasted dough dusted with powdered sugar were brought to Louisiana by the Acadians. They're now a staple New Orleans dessert, most famously served at the iconic Café du Monde.
Jambalaya is a highly seasoned Creole dish in which any of several combinations of seafood, meat, poultry, and vegetables is cooked with white rice. Unlike many other Louisiana dishes, the rice is not cooked separately, but is added raw to the broth to cook and absorb the flavors of the dish. No two jambalayas are alike; most cooks usually use whatever they have on hand.
King cakes, which commemorate the Epiphany—the wise men's discovery of the baby Jesus—are eaten the world over in various forms, but they're nowhere more beloved than in New Orleans, where the cake is associated with the festivities of Mardi Gras, and is brightly festooned with colorful sanding sugars or icing.
Salvatore Lupo, who opened Central Grocery in 1906, created the muffuletta for the Sicilian farmers selling their goods at the French Quarter market. (The name derives from muffuliette, a Sicilian colloquialism for soft rolls.) The wide, sesame-seeded round loaf and the salad of pickled carrots, celery, peppers, cauliflower, and olives that slowly soak into the bread overnight make the sandwich legendary.
Oysters Rockefeller were created in New Orleans, at the legendary Antoine's. The restaurant refuses to release a recipe, but the dish has been pieced together over the years by intrepid home cooks: Oysters are topped with a roux full of herbs and vegetables, then combined with bread crumbs and broiled until the bivalves are tender and a delicate crust forms.
The po'boy is at its most basic a sandwich of crisp, airy French bread housing fried oysters, catfish, or roast beef, always "dressed" with lettuce, tomato, pickles and ketchup and hot sauce. But beyond the traditional renditions, New Orleans joints like Crabby Jack's are thinking (and serving) up more unconventional versions of the lunchtime classic, from slow-roasted duck po'boy dripping with rich gravy to a fried green tomato po'boy topped with a creamy, spicy shrimp remoulade.
Written mentions of gumbo go back centuries, but no one knows when exactly it was born. A medley of West African, Cajun, Creole, and French influence, it is a thick, comforting, and versatile stew. It frequently features spicy, smoky andouille sausage and is usually built up from a roux, a flavorful thickener made by cooking fat with flour, but as home cook Janice Macomber says, "there are as many gumbos in Louisiana as there are mamas."