Take a Cooking Class in New Orleans – #NOLA

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Take a cooking class in New Orleans.  Learn how to cook gumbo and maque choux at the New Orleans Cooking School @DownshiftingPRO
Taking a cooking class in New Orleans was the best activity.
I recommend you work it into your New Orleans itinerary

It’s very likely there is one dish or one ingredient or even one cocktail made famous in a city or state. When you are in the United States of America, you will find many regional dishes and takes on local favourites. Just thinking about the countless ways to make barbeque sauce, a lobster roll or a delectable hamburger boggles the mind. By taking a cooking class in New Orleans you learn how to make dishes like gumbo, étoufée, maque choux and so much more.

Savouring regional foods helps you to get to know a destination. The dining experience brings us together, whether it’s in a restaurant or at a cooking class, we love to eat and socialize. Having a chef walk you through a recipe while discussing the historical origins of the meal, make for a happier foodie experience. I learned this lesson the first time I took a cooking class when traveling to Spain.

Take a cooking Class when you travel New Orleans School of Cooking @DownshiftingPRO scaled

Don’t be dissuaded if you are not a great cook or even a good cook. This is one of those times when it’s really not about the destination but the journey. Taking a cooking class can help you understand how to use local ingredients and be able to take some home if you want to recreate your dishes. I bought some of the special seasonings and dried garlic, they were a great gift!

At the New Orleans School of Cooking, you will learn about the history of food in the region. Cooking both Creole and Cajun dishes from gumbo to etouffee, maque choux to red rice and beans.

Creole cooking is based on seafood with French cooking techniques. Creole, represents a highly eclectic mix of French, Spanish, German, West African, Caribbean, and Native American influences. It combined preparation techniques from slaves as they were the cooks in the home. New Orleans-style creole is considered city food: prettier upscale food that looks beautiful and tastes beautifully. Stylishly plated to entice the eye as well as the palette.

Cajun food comes from the Acadians, Canadian immigrants of French origin, who were expelled in 1755 and came to the south from Acadia now Nova Scotia (a Canadian province). When they arrived, Cajuns lived off the land and because of limited access to markets, their food is considered more country but no less delicious. The dishes are more one-pot meals with an emphasis on layering flavours. Seasoning is very important in the cooking process.

The Menu

Pralines and Bread Pudding

We began our cooking lesson with a simple Louisiana dessert. Which was sweet treats and dessert: bread pudding and pralines (that’s PRAWlines, not PRAYlines). Both desserts are readily available in the south but know this, you cannot go anywhere in Louisiana without being offered bread pudding. Ours was very simple but was one of the best that we tasted on our trip to the US Gulf Coast. Was it because we made it ourselves or because it tasted like my mom’s version of bread pudding? Hard to tell but it was so good!

Mixing the Pralines New Orleans School of Cooking @DownshiftingPRO scaled
It’s properly pronounced:
PRAWleenes and not PRAYleenes

Duck and Andouille Gumbo

The Duck and Andouille Gumbo was the star of the show and certainly took some time to make but it was worth it. A decent gumbo will always have Andouille sausage (a spicy sausage made from smoked pork) our chef told us you can substitute in chorizo if you need to. The key to gumbo is the roux which, if made correctly, will take 15-20 minutes of constant mixing – with a wooden spoon – until it is the colour of chocolate.

Maque Choux and Gumbo from the New Orleans School of Cooking @DownshiftingPRO
Maque Choux and Gumbo

We quickly learned, in Louisiana, you are measured by how you make a roux. You can buy a mix (and never live down that lazy option) or you painstakingly make it very slowly and with key ingredients. There are three parts to a roux: (1) the flour & fat; (2) the holy trinity of vegetables and (3) the stock. The perfect gumbo is defined by what type of fat you use (it should be lard, not oil), how long it takes you to make the roux (until it is dark brown) and which combination of ingredients you add.

There are different variations of gumbo which generally contain some sort of seafood (shrimp) and most likely andouille (smoked sausage).

Take a cooking class in New Orleans.  Learn how to cook gumbo and maque choux at the New Orleans Cooking School @DownshiftingPRO
Gumbo and Shrimp & Tasso Maque Choux
The deep colour of the gumbo comes from the roux – it’s a slow process

Shrimp and Tasso Maque Choux

A stand-alone side dish or served over rice, the maque choux is a simple layering of textures, flavours and seasoning. Our Shrimp and Tasso Maque Choux made with Tasso ham (a smoked pork shoulder with its origins in Louisiana), was easy to make. The dish is a mixture of onions, bell peppers and corn with a bit of diced tomato sauteed on high heat with the butter-fried tasso and stock. The shrimp are the last items added just before serving. You can see the ingredients in the first image in this post!

Take a cooking class in New Orleans.  Learn how to cook gumbo, pralines and bread pudding at the New Orleans Cooking School
Take a cooking class in New Orleans

What you need to know

The New Orleans School of Cooking is family-owned and has been open since 1980. It has a large selection of hands-on cooking classes, cooking demonstrations and a fully stocked General Store. I picked up a gift package with spices, dried onions and a tiny Louisiana Hot Sauce.

Menu items from the New Orleans School of Cooking detail from website 1
Top Row: Crawfish étoufée, Shrimp & Artichoke Soup, Shrimp Creole, Pralines
Middle Row: Bananas Foster, Chicken étoufée, Red Beans & Rice, Yam-Crab Bisque
Bottom Row: Shrimp étoufée, Bread Pudding, Corn & Crab Bisque, Chicken Creole

What’s included

  • New Orleans School of Cooking Apron
  • House Red & White Wine
  • Abita Beer (a local brew)
  • Iced Tea
  • Lemonade
  • Lessons on how to master the perfect roux. A sit-down meal for you to enjoy your cooked meal with your fellow chefs.
IMG 9635 rotated

Cost

Hands-On – $145 per person/3 hours of instruction and meal (including alcoholic beverages or pop)
Demonstration Class– $32.5- – 37.50 sample menu that the demonstration chef cooks & non-alcoholic beverages.

Location

New Orleans School of Cooking
524 St. Louis Street
New Orleans, La 70130
(504) 525-2665

Key Ingredients & Tools

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Bourbon Street and beignets aside, fundamentally, New Orleans is a foodie city. Restaurants are plentiful and people love to eat creole and cajun food. Learning about food history, its impact on society and how to make a regional dish makes the travel experience that much more authentic. If you are planning a trip to a unique region, where food is so very important, consider taking a cooking class when visiting New Orleans.


Take a Cooking class in NOLA New Orleans School of Cooking @DownshiftingPRO 1
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Disclosure: As a guest of New Orleans & Company, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the chef of the New Orlean School of Cooking for a cooking class & meal. I would like to thank them for organizing such an entertaining event. Part of a press trip, no other compensation was received.

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.