New Orleans is known for its food. In fact, the new state tourism slogan is “Feed Your Soul,” and both locals and tourists look toward New Orleans as the food capital.
Recently, some local chefs have ventured away from traditional items and have gotten pretty adventurous with their menus. Here are a few menu items we found at some local restaurants that take a walk on the wild side.
Squid Ink Pasta
Would you try this daring, charcoal-colored pasta from Domenica? Domenica’s squid ink pasta is house-made tagliolini enhanced with squid ink and tossed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, lemon, and Louisiana Blue Crab meat. However, don’t let the shocking color of the pasta fool you. It is relatively neutral in flavor, so it tastes quite similar to regular pasta.
Sac-a-lait has received rave reviews since it opened in 2015. The menu at the farm-to-table restaurant follows three seasons – farming, fishing and hunting. The latter part of the seasonal menu features duck hearts.
According to chef Samantha Carroll, the texture of duck heart is similar to liver and actually quite soft. Hearts pick up flavors of the seasoning.
Chef Carroll browns them in olive oil, adds a ton of onions, baked flour, stock and lots of black pepper.
Sac-a-lait earns another spot on the list with a unique menu item called Cerveau De Veau, which is basically French for “veal brains.” Chefs deep fry the brains with black garlic bread crumbs and garden tartar. If you like the texture of firm tofu or scrambled eggs, then you’ll love this dish!
Often described as a meat-flavored butter, beef marrow is popping up on menus all over town. Bouligny Tavern serves it on a grilled baguette similar to a bruschetta.
Chefs prepare the marrow by extracting it from the bone and hand cut it into medallions. Then, the silky, rich marrow is sautéed in butter with garlic, thyme, and shallots.
For the even more adventurous foodies, restaurants like Stokehold inside the Port Orleans Brewing Co. serve the marrow in the bone, so you can have the pleasure of scooping the marrow out yourself.
Chef Isaac Toups knows his meat. So, you can trust that his lamb neck is well worth a visit to Toups’ Meatery.
Lamb’s neck is inexpensive and full of flavor. It’s a lot like oxtail in that it contains plenty of collagen, a natural compound in red meat that lends a silky richness to stews, braises, ragus, and other slow-cooked dishes.
Chef Toups serves his version with a black eye pea ragout and fennel. First, he sears it in a Dutch oven. Then, the chef braises it with vegetables, tomato paste, red wine, and herbs for four to five hours until the meat is tender. The result? A really flavorful, tender and juicy cut of meat.
Canned Squid and Eel
N7 serves up French cuisine with a Japanese flair in the Bywater. The menu is quite interesting, with their most adventurous items being canned seafood imported mostly from Europe.
The canned seafood is served similar to a charcuterie plate with sliced baguettes and other accompaniments. Some of the canned items on the menu include sardines, baby eel, spiced calamari, mackerel, scallop and oysters.
Sweetbreads have been around the upscale restaurant scene for several years now, but some still consider it adventurous. Why? Because it’s organ meat from the thymus gland, typically from lamb or calf. Don’t let that discourage you though.
When cooked properly, sweetbreads can be quite delicious, and Bayona serves some of the best. Chef Susan Spicer sautés hers until crispy. She serves them with sauteed diced potatoes, mushrooms and raspberry vinegar marinated beets. Diners have a choice of pairing the sweetbreads with lemon caper sauce or sherry mustard butter. You can’t go wrong with either.
Pig Ear Chilaquiles
The crispy pig ears at Johnny Sanchez is a twist on the iconic Mexican breakfast dish “chilaquiles.” Chilaquiles typically consists of lightly fried corn tortillas with salsa, cheese and an egg.
Thin strips of the pig ears are slow cooked and flash-fried. Then, executive chef Miles Landrem tosses them in a spicy and vinegary salsa macha (think Mexican hot wing sauce) and tops them with crumbled queso fresco, a sunny-side up egg and fresh herbs. The pig ear does have a meat component, so it’s more than just skin like cracklins.
Tacos and Beer is known for serving authentic Mexican food, and you can’t get more authentic than beef tongue tacos. Seasoned and cooked until the meat falls apart, this dish is so tender you would think you were eating a filet.
With locations in Slidell, New Orleans and Hammond, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sink your teeth into this dish.
We realize pig ear already made the list, but this one is prepared differently. So, we had to include it again. Sac-A-lait once again comes up with this unique menu item.
The restaurant’s crispy pig ears are just like cracklins. These pig ears are deep-fried and served with goat’s milk creole cream cheese and choupique caviar.
Blood Sausage Boudin
The Boudin Noir at Lilette is made like a traditional Southern French blood pudding sausage. The sausage is made with pork and pig’s blood.
Lilette pairs the lightly-breaded and pan-fried boudin noir with grain mustard and cornichons, which are pickled cucumbers. The inside is soft and moist, while the outside is crunchy.
Alligator Sausage Cheesecake
This is actually a pretty popular dish at Jacques-Imo’s. If you haven’t tried it yet, consider putting it on your food bucket list. Chef Jacques Leonardi takes alligator sausage, cooks it with a bunch of typical New Orleans seasoning and sautés it with shrimp. Once cooled, he adds a cheese mixture and bakes it.
What you get in the end is a rich, delicious, savory appetizer. Leonardi talks about what inspired him to create his iconic dish and takes us into his kitchen.
You may also like: