Friday, February 5, 2010


I spent last weekend celebrating my 30th birthday in one of America's greatest cities: New Orleans. (Here's a hint... if you want to entice your friends from all over the country to come in for your birthday celebration... pick a kick-ass party city like New Orleans. You'll have no problem, no problem at all). Now, sure... New Orleans isn't the most glamorous and it isn't really all that tourist-friendly (can we just talk for a minute how weird it is that they don't get on the "accepting credit cards" bandwagon? I mean, credit cards have been around for about 30+ years now... I think they're here to stay. Also.. splitting checks. I mean, I understand not splitting checks for like 4+ people. But, 2? or 3? WEIRD. And slightly annoying when we're living in a very non-cash society) but you forget these things when you're surrounded by all the greatness that New Orleans represents.

First of all... the booze. I mean, hands down the coolest thing New Orleans has going for it, is that you can carry your booze around with you wherever you go. You may not think that this is a big deal... but just picture this for a moment... we all have that friend who nurses their drink like it's being rationed. Everyone else is finished, someone in your party attempts to stand up to leave and this "drink nurser" says... "WAIT! Let me finish my drink, first." And the rest of your party groans, because if that had been any of the rest of you, you'd stood up and pounded the drink and walked out. But not drink nurser, drink nurser can't pound. (incidentally, this is the same person who "sips" shots. Yes, Mom, I'm talking about you) This way.... everyone can be happy! Drink nurser can take their drink with them!

Secondly, the food. Holy shit. Every morsel of food I had there (with the exception of the pizza by the slice, which honestly wasn't terrible, but let's be honest... it's drunk food) was delicious! From the amazing Muffaletta sandwich at Cafe Maspero's to the Turtle Soup at Palace Cafe to the Cochon De Lait (which, I think is french for... "the most amazing freaking sandwich you will ever have in your entire life.") at Pierre Maspero's Restaurant to the Burger and Baked Potato at Port of Call everywhere you turn is an authentic, non-chain, delicious restaurant. And... did I mention the drinks? The bloody marys? And the triple crown of NOLA? The Monsoon, the hurricane, and the hand grenade? Mmmmm. Oh, right... I'm talking about food now, don't forget bananas foster and pralines! YUM.

Thirdly, it's just a cool ass city. I guarantee you, it's the one place in America where I can walk around hungover as shit with a green and white feather boa wrapped around my neck holding a bloody mary and yelling out 'Who Dat?" at 10 am on a Sunday morning and no one even casts a second glance your way. Why? Because everyone else is doing the exact same thing.

I came home from NOLA with the flu, pralines I bought at the airport (that were GROSS and that I threw away as soon as I got home), about 10 extra pounds, and new found appreciation for the New Orleans Saints. (It doesn't hurt that I spent about 4 hours on Sunday crammed in a crowd of crazy ass Saints fans during a parade of dudes wearing dresses (don't ask, just read about it)).

I mean, here in Nashville we LOVE our Titans. We do. We talk about them, we root for them, it's our small-talk banter... "did you see the game yesterday? etc..." we love our team. We really do. I mean football is king here. But... it's not the same. And I just realized it this past weekend being submersed in Saints Country. I used to always think... ohhhh all fans are passionate about their team. And they are. But, it's almost like the Saints ARE New Orleans. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the excitement that's all over the city. My friends and I even spent a good bit of time on Sunday morning looking for Saints Merchandise to wear. I became a Saints fan last weekend (well... The Titans are of course still my team... but as far as the NFC goes... Saints all the way, baby!) and even though I wouldnt' have rooted for the Colts anyway (Booooo division rivals! boooo!), I will be rooting my ass off for the Saints. 'Who dat??' (god, I love that phrase and song.... Titans... take note.. we need a phrase and song! STAT!).

I'd like to take something NOLA-esque to watch the big game with and these pralines would be awesome. They are actually better than the pralines I bought at praline connection (yes, at the airport, I know). A little gritty, very nutty, and definitely sweet (exactly like New Orleans, itself, eh?).

If you're a new Saints fan like me and headed to a party this weekend... do yourself a favor... whip up a batch of these, they'll be no denying who you're rooting for.

Go Saints! Who Dat!!!!


So, here's what I did. I cheated. Instead of dipping out the pralines one by one, I poured them into a 13x9 inch pan that I had put a big piece of parchment paper in. That way, after they cooled, I lifted them out of the pan, by the parchment paper and cut/broke them into bite-size pieces. You'll get thicker pralines, but it's so much easier this way.

I am not a candy-maker, by any means, so as long as you have a candy thermometer you should be able to make this recipe.

Buttery and firm but with a soft give these pralines are delicious.

flavorless vegetable oil for oiling the baking sheets
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups pecan halves

Have ready 4 oiled large baking sheets. In a heavy 2-quart saucepan combine the sugars, the cream, the salt, and the cream of tartar, cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring and washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the side with a brush dipped in cold water, until the sugar is dissolved, and boil it over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until a candy thermometer registers 238°F. Remove the pan from the heat, let the mixture cool until the candy thermometer registers 220°F., and stir in the butter and the vanilla. Beat the mixture until it is creamy and stir in the pecan halves. Working quickly, drop the mixture by tablespoon onto the baking sheets and let the pralines cool. Remove the pralines carefully and store them, wrapped individually in wax paper, in airtight container in a cool place. The pralines keep for 2 weeks.

yield: Makes about 36 pralines, weighing approximately 2 pounds.