Thursday, April 19, 2007

Louisiana's culinary heritage also on display at Jazzfest

By Beth Swindle

Jazz is only half the story at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. To me, "Heritage" means FOOD! So as you prep for a trip to N'awlins, plan your weekend menu using the Jazzfest food list. Then, pack up your twelve-pack soft cooler with unopened liters of water — both being allowed on festival grounds — and grab a case of antacid. Louisiana cuisine is notoriously spicy and rich!

Hidden among the po-boys and seafood I found the Holy Grail: spicy Natchitoches meat pies from Mrs. Wheat's Foods. My favorite Louisiana fare. Natchitoches is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, founded in 1714 – a standard tourist attraction. In junior high, I went on a school trip to see antebellum homes and the downtown National Historic Landmark District. For lunch each child received a fried pastry, my first meat pie. It looks like a calzone, but it's not cheesy. It's savory, almost like a fried taco. Full of beef and pork, onions, bell peppers and cayenne. So rich that it's a delicacy I only indulge once a year.

Actually, meat pies are traditionally served in Louisiana at Christmas, much like Texas tamales, because both are time- — and care- — intensive. I learned that when I moved to Austin and wanted to share them with my friends. That first pie I had was fried, and I'm betting Mrs. Wheat's will be too, but I found a way to bake them and reduce some of the ill effects without loosing the flavor. As you prep for Jazzfest, check out Chef John's take on the recipe for meat pies and many other southern standards available at Jazzfest. And make sure that as you laissez les bon temps rouler in the Crescent City, you also amuse your bouche!

1 comment:

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