New Orleans continued

As promised here is more on our early March trip to New Orleans for the National Century 21 convention.

I hardly know where to begin as there’s so much to tell – the music, the architecture, the culture, the food. I’m thinking this will turn into a series!

About the food – we had it all: jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish, shrimp, oysters on the half shell, red beans and rice, alligator sausage, white chocolate bread pudding, catfish.

While driving from the airport to our hotel, we saw the word, “NOLA,” on billboards everywhere. I thought this NOLA gal must be the town matriarch as NOLA means, “noble or famous.”

We learned the letters stand for, “New Orleans, La.” Very fitting for this gracious and celebrated city.

The parts of town we were in bore no evidence at all that Hurricane Katrina had whipped through there in 2005. The weather was sunny, 60s and 70s, sometimes breezy but pleasant.

We stayed at a Marriott Hotel and from its front door you could almost reach out to touch the French Quarter, the oldest neighborhood in the city.

I’ll tell about the French Quarter another day.

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was about three miles from the Marriott. We walked it the first day but then took advantage of the shuttle buses provided for us.

The convention center, with 1.1 million square feet of continuous exhibit space, is the sixth largest convention facility in the nation. It seems miles and miles long. Not only did it have room for 4,000 Realtors, it also accommodated 4,000 cheerleaders in town for a cheerleading competition

Their event went on the entire time our conference did but we were never in each other’s way. The girls we saw, ages about 7 to high school seniors, and their parents, were friendly and having such a great time. Later in the hotel lobby, I spotted a trophy as tall as one cheerleader, so I had to ask. Her team took first place and they were from Sugarland, Texas.

Being the birthplace of jazz, NOLA always seems to be swinging. Everywhere you go there is music in the air.

One morning, while on our way to Riverwalk, one of NOLA’s top visitor attractions and a marketplace with 140 stores and restaurants, we stopped to watch the Steamboat Natchez dock on the Mississippi. The Natchez is one of just five true steam-powered boats with stern wheels in North America. It makes 2-hour round trip cruises down the river.

We ate breakfast in one of Riverwalk’s outdoor courtyards and enjoyed the music of a band with a female drummer.

I’m always drawn to a band with a female drummer as I’m a drummer, too. Plus I liked one song they sang about Jesus so I came home with one of their CDs.

We shopped our socks off in Riverwalk and just before leaving stopped for a treat. Oh, NOLA has so many treats.

This time it was a beignets, a square fried donut with no holes that’s liberally dusted with confectioners’ sugar. We watched them being made at this little stand and ate them hot out of the grease. Talk about heaven!

NOLA resident Kit Wohl has published a cookbook titled, “New Orleans Classic Desserts.” In there she states that beignets’ origins are attributed to Africa, France and the Celts. She also writes, “While no one seems to have bragging rights to actually creating beignets, many cultures have their own versions of fritters, fried pastry and other donut-like-treats. But we (NOLA) claim beignets.”

Here’s how to make them:

  • 1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
  • ¾ cup warm water (110 degrees F.)
  • ¼ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 to 4-1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Method:

Stir together yeast and ¾ cup warm water in a 2-cup measuring cup. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl stir together yeast mixture, evaporated milk, sugar, salt and egg until blended. Gradually stir in enough flour to make soft dough. Cover the dough and chill for at least 8 hours.

Place chilled dough on a well-floured surface and knead 5 or 6 times. Roll dough into a 15×15-inch shape and cut into 3-inch squares. You can cut them into 2-inch squares if desired. Smaller beignets will puff and brown faster, so do not leave them unattended.

Pour oil to depth of 3 or 4 inches into a deep skillet or Dutch oven and heat to 375 degrees F.

Using tongs, place each beignet into hot oil. Working rapidly, fry several at a time not letting them touch, for approximately 1 minute each side or until golden brown. Turn gently with tongs to brown each side evenly. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle warm beignets with confections’ sugar. Serve immediately, piping hot.

Trust me – they are heavenly.

There’s much more to tell about New Orleans. Please stay tuned.

Until Soon

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