As a girl who grew up on her momma’s home-cooked jambalaya and gumbo, I am occasionally a little skeptical of Creole cooking classes. But whenever mom tries to teach me what she knows, we end up fighting about the correct ratio of Tabasco to butter. So in the interest of brushing up on my cooking skills in a drama-free environment, my friend Meg and I signed up for a class at Langlois, one of NOLA’s newest cooking schools.
Named after Madame Langlois, who is heralded as the originator of Creole cuisine, Langlois Culinary Crossroads is located in the Marigny on the site of the old Ferarra and Sons Italian Grocery. According to our two fabulous (and history savvy) instructors, Chef Tess and Chef Jodie, Madame Langlois was former Louisiana governor Jean-Baptiste de Bienville’s French-Canadian cook. When Parisian women in the Louisiana colony grew tired of the limited colonial diet, Bienville had Langlois teach the ladies how to cook with local ingredients and adapt Native American culinary practices.
Creole food is the culmination of French, Spanish, and African influence mixed with local New Orleans ingredients. It’s important not to confuse Creole cuisine with Cajun cuisine, which began in Southwest Louisiana. Creole cuisine typically uses more fat and fresher ingredients, while Cajun cuisine is marked by large pot dishes and its use of cayenne pepper.
“I want you all to feel confident and empowered in your kitchen.” That was one of the first things Chef Tess said to our group as the class began. “Chacun son goût!” she added. Meg and I exchanged an enthusiastic glance. We both spent a year in France and appreciate the use of the phrase, which could be translated “to each his own,” but also has culinary connotations since “goût” means taste.
The cooking class began with a delicious oyster artichoke soup. Chef Tess and Chef Jodie let us be as hands on (or hands off) as we wanted. I chose to try mixing the soup and adding ingredients, while Meg preferred to watch and take notes. And good thing she did – the chefs were full of insider tips and tricks!
After the soup was finished, we moved on to Jambalaya garnished with chicken cracklin. I helped pull the chicken, Meg seasoned the rice, and some of our other classmates perfected the art of cracklins. Now I can’t wait to teach my mom a trick or two next time we are in the kitchen together!
Throughout the class, Chef Tess and Chef Jodie continually stressed the importance of the right garnish – it has to make sense with the style and flavor of the dish. They also stressed attention to other details, like serving warm food on warm dishes, and recommended heating plates in the oven for a few minutes before serving.
Finally, it was dessert time. Meg and I embraced our inner Francophile as Chef Jodie announced we would be making Crepe Suzette. Who could possibly resist the combination of delicate crepes, cream cheese, and fresh citrus? Chef Tess and Chef Jodie even taught us how to do fancy flips with the skillet. Now not only will I be able to make a delicious dessert, I will look cool while doing it.
The best part of the class may have been enjoying our delicious creations with our other classmates and the chefs, while sipping house-made iced tea and chickory coffee. Meg and I left comfortably full and armed with new recipes, which we resolved to try out on friends and family.
Langlois Culinary Crossroads is located at 1841 Rampart Street. You can find out more information and make reservations online or by calling 504-934-1010. You can also find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. In addition to traditional cooking classes, Langlois offers Walking Food Tours, which provide guests with an interactive culinary history experience.
If you are looking for something to do with your special someone on Valentine’s Day (or if you want to subtly hint to your significant other that he or she should learn some new cooking skills), consider Langlois’s Valentine Dinner Class. You’ll learn to make:
Fried Goat Cheese Salad with Raspberry Dressing
Sweet Potato Ravioli
Butter Poached Shrimp, Saffron Grits and Citrus Salad
Chocolate Soup with Berries and Madelines
Pecan Praline Bites
Enjoy! And don’t forget to bring your own bubbly!