Day 2 of Sur La Table's "Tasting New Orleans" culinary tour started off with a morning excursion to the Crescent City Farmers Market where locals sell fresh produce grown on their farms, freshly caught seafood (fish, shrimp, crabs, etc), homemade jams and jellies, baked goods, popcorn and kettle corn, popsicles, citrus fruits, locally grown strawberries and other fresh, local foods.
We had our own personal tour guide in Poppy Tooker, a culinary icon in New Orleans who hosts "Louisana Eats!" on the Louisiana NPR affiliate station, brought the slow food movement to New Orleans, and was recognized by the International Association of Cooking Professionals with their first Community Service Award for her efforts during Katrina.
And if that wasn't enough, she also won a Throwdown with Bobby Flay for her seafood gumbo. Poppy's cookbook, "Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook" features many of these vendors and it was great to meet some of them in person before reading their stories in her book.
Poppy introduced us to many of the vendors at the farmers market (while also buying fresh ingredients for our lunch). Their stories of rebuilding after Katrina and their tenacity in continuing their businesses are nothing short of amazing. It was wonderful to meet a group of people with such pride and knowledge of what they were doing and the hard work going into the success they were building.
After the tour, we had some time to wander around a bit. I bought a jar of Mayhaw Jelly from Briarhill Farms to take back for my mom as well as some kettle corn for me (naturally!). Then our tour group of 11 people was taxied over to the New Orleans Cooking Experience, a cooking school where Poppy was waiting to show us how to cook the four-course meal that was to be our lunch.
This was probably one of the highlights of the trip for me. The ladies at the cooking school were so graciously charming and welcoming. I've sat in on cooking demos before and I went to culinary school for eight months to get my pastry certification but what set this apart was the rich culinary history Poppy shared with us as she went about making each of the dishes. I wish I had thought to take notes or even video but I think even that would have been a thin representation of how vibrant she was and how interesting the history was behind the dishes she was making.
Our first course was Shrimp Remoulade. I was a bit leery when it was being made as I'm not fond of mustard and the remoulade uses quite a bit of it. But I tried it and I'm almost embarrassed to say I couldn't eat it fast enough. It was so good, didn't taste mustard-y at all and the fresh shrimp (bought at the Crescent City Farmers Market just that morning) in the remoulade sauce was delicious. Poppy put it together effortlessly and it was just yummy.
1 cup Creole mustard
1 bunch green onions
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1 celery heart
4 tablespoons paprika (you want the sweet Hungarian paprika)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
juice of one lemon
Combine green onions and parsley in food processor. Process together until finely minced Add the remainder of the ingredients. Serve over boiled shrimp on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce or as a dipping sauce of savory calas.