Choosing a favorite food out of the great encyclopedia of New Orleans cuisine can be complicated. However, I find that the big winners always taste best when made at home with a family recipe. For me, Red Beans and Rice has always been an easy choice. It's been a part of my life forever and I've finally figured out how to make it with 100% of the taste I love and 0% of the guilt that comes from the deliciousness of salted pork and a ham hock.
As I've mentioned before, Tonys Chachere's Cajun Cookbook is the guiding light in my kitchen. My guilt-free red beans and rice recipe is closely adapted from his guidelines, as they have never failed me before. Also, they are abundantly simple (a fantastic trait for any recipe, IMHO).
Tony recommends pickled pork, but I swap that out with a little bit of turkey bacon and this glorious new find I came across at the grocery store last week: Richard's Cajun Selects All Natural Chicken Sausage.
At first, I was hesitant about using chicken sausage in the red beans but now I am completely sold. I think I've officially called my entire family to tell them about this sausage - but you know the secret has got to be that it's from a local company that knows it better be good or they're going to have a bunch of ruined red beans on their hands.
No pot of red beans and rice is complete for me without a Jiffy corn bread muffin and a hit of Tobasco. TBH, if the corn bread is not available, this dish goes down in my favorites ranking. Try the recipe below and let me know how it goes in the comments!
Guilt-Free New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
Easy to make and lightened up with cajun chicken sausage, this guilt-free authentic New Orleans red beans and rice recipe is sure to please.
1 pound dried red beans, soaked overnight if possible,
8 oz package of turkey bacon, sliced into 1/2 inch bites,
12 oz package of cajun chicken sausage, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped Tony's Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
1. Combine all ingredients except bacon and sausage in a large pot. Cover with enough water to cover and cook 1.5 hours.
2. While beans are cooking, pan fry turkey bacon and chicken sausage, set aside.
3. Add meat after beans have been cooking for two hours and continue cooking until beans are tender. Add more water from time to time to make a thick, rich gray.
4. Serve with steamed rice. Pairs great with Jiffy corn bread and Tobasco.
There are no weddings quite as good as a southern Louisiana weddings. As with all things in our culture, the plain Jane version just won't do. We'll trade a full seated dinner for a buffet of catfish and etouffee any day and we'll have you second lining around the reception hall right after we cut the cake. Such an occasion deserves a gift with a bit more pizzazz than a toaster, so I often find myself trying to find the perfect New Orleans wedding gift ideas to start a proper Louisiana household. If you're feeling uninspired by a set of bath towels and feel the itch to go off registry, make it something undeniably good. Here's my old faithful list of New Orleans inspired wedding gifts:
MIGNON FAGET GLASSWARE - $45-$55
These things will make you want to put your pinky up. Steal the show with the fanciest gift bag on the gift table. With patterns available in everything from gold foil purple and gold tigers to water meter stars and creole cottages, you can match anyone's personality. (crawfishes, oysters, fleur de lis, and more also available)
PHOTO CREDIT: MIGNON FAGET
BAYOU CLASSIC CRAWFISH POT, BURNER, AND PADDLE - $175+
If you really love someone, give them a gift that will bring joy for years to come. Caveat for this one - make sure your newlyweds have a place to store this stuff. Our crawfish pot had to live at my parents for a hot minute there.
A GOOD GUMBO POT | MAGNALITE CLASSIC 14-QT STOCK POT - $145
When I opened this gift from my Maw-Maw, I cried. She has cooked in the same Magnalite pot for my entire life and it felt so special to have one of my own. I take this thing out every time I make gumbo, etouffee, or red beans - or any other giant soup. It will probably outlive me. If you gift this, make it extra special by throwing in your family recipes
PHOTO CREDIT: BED BATH AND BEYOND
ICE CHEST BACKPACK - $25
Festival season is never the same once you own one of these. Our ice chest backpack comes everywhere with us - Red Dress Run, Jazzfest, Gulf Shores. Bonus if you buy some large ice packs so the newlyweds don't have to deal with the pain that is melting ice.
PHOTO CREDIT: AMAZON.COM
LOCAL ART - $30+
A few years ago in the quarter, we picked up a small George Rodrige print and a poster with a map of the French quarter. They're now some of my favorite decor. I'm currently crushing on these Makin' Groceries signs from Home Malone NOLA.
PHOTO CREDIT: HOME MALONE
SATSUMA TREE / LIME TREE - $30-$50
Help the newlyweds put down literal roots. These things grow like crazy in south Louisiana and are a fun treat when they start to grow. It's good practice for taking care of something if they aren't quite to kid level. Shop your local nursery for the best plants.
PHOTO CREDIT: LOUISIANA NURSERY
THE LOUISIANA COOKING BIBLE - TONY CHACHERE'S CAJUN COUNTRY COOKBOOK - $15
When I was just starting out in the kitchen, Tony was my spirit guide. Today, I still have this thing out on the counter at all times. I love that it starts with the basics - a great roux and the perfect proportions for an onion, celery and bell pepper blend. Confused on the best red beans recipe? consult Tony. Confused on the best mirliton casserole? consult Tony. He leaves no rock unturned.
PHOTO CREDIT: TONY CHACHERE'S
LOUISIANA ADDRESS STAMP - $25+
Give them the gift of not having to hand address your thank you note. Loving this state outline one from My Splendid Summer on Etsy.
PHOTO CREDIT: MY SPLENDID SUMMER
What's your go to New Orleans wedding gift or Louisiana wedding gift? Share in the comments!
I'm convinced that one of the best way to explore New Orleans is by bike, but there is no arguing that it is especially true in Uptown, New Orleans. On the few weekends per year when nothing else is going on, biking around is my favorite way to spend the day. Over the past few years, I've made a solid list of essential stops to make a great ride. Here's the destinations and routes that are always worth the trip:
LAUREL STREET // CONSTANCE STREET - THE BEST UPTOWN BIKE ROUTE
While it is very tempting to kick back and relax with an easy ride down historic Magazine street, it is usually anything by relaxing. The tiny street has a heavy stream of cars (especially on the weekends) and very little room for freedom on the road. Scoot on down a block or two towards the river, into the neighborhood streets. The one-way streets Laurel and Constance are of my favorites (depending on your route direction). With limited stop signs, one-way slow traffic and classically New Orleans homes to oogle over, it makes a great ride.
I have said it before and I will say it again - Hansen's is the best snoball in New Orleans. That's it. Case is closed. Don't @ me. Nothing gives picturesque New Orleans neighborhood bike ride vibes like a trip out for a snoball and with it's location right in the middle of uptown, it's always on the way. As an added bonus, biking with a snoball in my cupholder is my favorite way to travel.
There is no better way to start a weekend than with a great bagel. Stiens has never disappointed in this department. After biking a mile or so down to them, I always feel very deserving of the generously giant dollop of delicious roasted garlic cream cheese. If the bagel doesn't sound quite right, treat yo self to one of their incredible classic sandwiches. Once, I saw a chef recommend Stien's as the best sandwiches in New Orleans during an interview at his own sandwich place - if that isn't a glowing recommendation, I don't know what is.
THE TCHOUP YARD
This place is like a giant back yard turned neighborhood bar - a great recipe for an ideal biking destination. Park the bike in their giant (read: luxurious) bike rack and stop in for a drink. It can get a little crowded at night, but afternoons are a sweet spot at this place (especially when paired with a little corn hole and a frozen margarita). Ample bike parking is a nice added plus.
OTHER NOTABLE UPTOWN BAR STOP MENTIONS: PORT ORLEANS BREWING COMPANY, NOLA BREWING & URBAN SOUTH BREWERY
THE FLY // AUDUBON PARK
Quaintly positioned at the end of Magazine Street, these two offer a little something for everyone. Want to chill and watch the river go by? The river side of Audubon park behind the zoo, aka "the fly", is for you. Want to bask in the history of one of the oldest parks in the country in a beautiful loop surrounded by hundred year old oak trees, some fancy ducks and an antique fountain? See you at the main Audubon park. Also, it's even got the perfect spot if just you want to hang with some giraffes and a 300 year old live oak known as the Tree of Life.
This is the definition of an Uptown institution and a worthwhile stop for any day out on your bike. It's a tiny little place, open since 1924 and just being there will make you happy to be part of it all. You can't be open for that long and not make a great poboy, that just isn't how New Orleans works. Plus, you get to drop the french bread guilt since you're ~eXerCisINg~.
THE FRENCH QUARTER
Look, I get it, this is not an uptown destination. However, one of the best parts about biking uptown is that it is so close to downtown! The French Quarter is a cool little 30 minute ride and half of the way the city treats you to dedicated bike lanes! Also, it adds to the adventure of it all. I'm not headed there every day, but if I'm going all the way to the quarter, I might as well make an event out of it. Also notable is getting to skip uber surge pricing for festivals and events (read: basically every weekend). Here's our usual route: take Constance Street towards downtown. Take a left on Jackson Ave. Take a right on Camp. Head straight under the interstate into downtown, keep going straight across poydras and canal - and bam, you're there.
Looking for more? See all the bike routes in New Orleans here.
Did I miss your favorite stop? Share in the comments!
Safe travels, y'all!
Seriously, wear a helmet and make good choices. (:
There is no contest - Pat O'Brien's is, hands down, my all time favorite bar in New Orleans. With a dominance as one of the most popular bars in the city since it's opening in 1933, it's obvious that I'm not the only one that feels this way. Despite it's appeal to tourists, multiple chain locations and Bourbon Street entrance, the central truth to the New Orleans location of this bar is that is also powered by the deep love of a dedicated local crowd. In a city and culture that is designed around celebrating every day, it is the perfect pair.
The history of the 1791 building at 718 St. Peter's street is palpable, especially in the dark piano bar. Originally home to the first French Theater Company in New Orleans, it feels like you're part of one of the longest running parties in the country. Dying to be a part of the tradition, I was waiting at the gate with ID in hand at 12:00 am on my 21st birthday and It's been a whirlwind romance ever since.
The dueling piano bar is one of the most popular draws of Pat O'Briens (as it has been since it's start as a new idea in the 1940's). Spending so much time in the piano bar has taught me a lot about what makes a great song request. Here's my advice - when you put your dollars inside a napkin and pass it to the pianist, make it worthwhile.
Here's my hints for the best, high-quality requests you can make -
Average Requests you can make that someone else is probably already requesting:
(Note: You can do better.)
Do us all a favor and don't request any of this:
In the immortal guiding words of this establishment: HAVE FUN!
Also, don't forget to celebrate Mr. Alvin like the national treasure he is.
Did I miss your top request? Share in the Comments below.