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Cajun Cooking Class

May 6, 2011

New Orleans Cooking School

“People will ask: ‘Why doesn’t mine taste like yours?’ It is because I’m a better cook than you are,” explained Chef Belton of the New Orleans Cooking School. The truth of that statementwas  undoubtedly confirmed by the group of sixty or so people crowded around tables for nearly three hours hoping to learn a couple of his Cajun cooking secrets; or maybe folks were just there to eat his creations.

Who can blame them? The menu included Andouille gumbo, chicken jambalaya, bread pudding, and pralines; complete with recipes for each, a start-to-finish cooking demonstration, and – most importantly – time to eat. But it became apparent early on that there was another reason why our attempts to recreate these dishes may fall short: Chef Belton doesn’t exactly follow the instructions he hands out. The basic bread pudding of our recipes became Pina Colada bread pudding with rum sauce in the classroom (nobody complained about the change).

The alterations are more than just a Chef showing off his skill, though. That flexible style reflects generations of Creole cooking tradition. New Orleans cuisine developed around whatever the land, or more often the swamp, provided. If fishermen came back with shrimp, seafood jambalaya was on the menu. Alligator? Well, that makes good jambalaya too. Knowing how to take a basic recipe and adjust it for what’s on hand, or what you’re in the mood for, is a great cooking skill to master – and one that Chef Belton tried to impart. By instructing what aspects of the recipe were critical, and which ones we should tinker with, the class went beyond the typical approach to cooking as the prevue of craftsman strictly following direction. Instead, we learned the basic rules so that we could break them. That’s my kind of instruction – and my kind of food.

From beginning to end the meal he prepared, in about two hours from basic ingredients, was one of the best we had in New Orleans. I know (from personal experience, on multiple occasions now) that my praline making prowess jumped a couple of notches thanks to this class. Next up? Jambalaya. It won’t be the same as Chef Belton’s, but it’s not supposed to be. That’s kind of the point.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Victoria Fuller permalink
    May 16, 2011 3:01 am

    Hi! Finally got around to checking out your blog after meeting you at the cooking class. I was at your table, the person from Orygun. :-} [Sorry but we get tired of people pronouncing it Ore-gone.] Love your blog. Great pix. Interesting entries without taking yourselves too seriously. Put you on my facebook page so my kids’ friends will find your inspiring blog. Life is short…everyone should “take off” sometime in their lives. Good for you. Nice you have each other to share your experiences. Travel safely.

    • May 16, 2011 8:07 am

      Hi Victoria,
      It’s always nice to have people we meet on the road stop by and say hello. And good timing, too. Just last night I tried my hand at jambalaya for the first time. I followed Chef Belton’s directions loosely, but basically made a recipe of my own. He’s absolutely right, mine didn’t taste like his . . . I think mine came out better. Ha. Stay tuned. I’ll probably post that recipe in the coming days.

      It was a pleasure to meet you. Take care.
      Brian

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  1. Delicious Update: Jambalaya « Wanderings

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