Properly pronounced “puh-kahn,” this spectacularly delectable nut has long been a staple of Southern cuisine. Just one of these enduring trees from the hickory family can produce “fruit” for over 300 years and while Louisiana may not produce the most pecans in the country (though we’re in the top three), the state still yields 5 to 7 million pounds per year. In New Orleans, we have a particular affection for the profuse pecan. After all, what would we be without our pralines, pecan-crusted trout and pecan pie? Gone pecan…
Like other nuts, pecans versatility allows for all different kinds of culinary creations, from savory to sweet and everything in between. Take, for example, the Hot & Sweet Pecan appetizer from Vacherie. Located in the French Quarter on the corner of Toulouse and Dauphine, this Cajun-inspired restaurant offers all kinds of back-on-da-bayou dishes from fried oysters and blackened alligator bites to seafood étouffée and rabbit cassoulet. But, for only $5, they offer toasted Riverbend Farms pecans seasoned with cayenne, salt, Steen’s Cane Syrup, cane sugar and chili powder. If you happen to be at Vacherie for breakfast, you can also try their “Johnnycakes” that feature cornmeal pancakes drizzled in Steen’s and sprinkled with … you guessed it … toasted pecans.
If you happen to be Uptown, squish yourself into the tiny District Hand Pie & Coffee for a cuppa joe and one of their flaky, buttery and oh-so scrumptious pies. On the corner of Magazine and Arabella, this new, itsy-bitsy cafe is wowing the neighborhood with their pastry-wrapped concoctions like Pina Colada, Apple Strudel, and the popular “Pop” pie stuffed with fried chicken, red beans and rice. Though we can’t promise it’ll always be available, District recently introduced a Boudin & Sweet Potato Pie topped with smoked-salt marshmallow and stout-glazed pecans. But if it’s not there the day you decide to drop in, will you suffer? We doubt it.
Another newcomer also features pecans on its menu and with a name like Brown Butter Southern Kitchen & Bar, we’d be shocked if they didn’t. Hop on over to North Carrollton Avenue in Mid-City for what could possibly be one of the best lunches you’ll ever have in a strip mall. Along with warm pork rinds and duck leg confit, try their toasted pimento cheese sandwich with apple-pecan preserves and baby arugula on seven grain bread. By the way, if they have crème brûlée on the dessert menu that day, you’d be crazy not to get it!
It’s hard not to love New Orleans’ pralines, whether they come from Pralines by Jean, Aunt Sally’s or Southern Candymakers. That irresistibly sweet confection is perfect with a hot cafe au lait or just as something to munch on after lunch, but the New Orleans Ice Cream Company has taken it to a whole new level with their Praline Crunch ice cream. Now we’re all used to the ever-present pralines and cream, but instead of vanilla swirled with praline, Praline Crunch features praline ice cream (yes, you read that right) with huge hunks of caramelized pecans.
Finally, you could finish of your pecan-laden meals with a couple of bottles of Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Ale, a Mississippi brew that you can find on tap at almost every bar (or restaurant) in town. Though booze is rarely featured in $15 & Under, it just seemed a fitting end for a piece on pecans. Southern Pecan Ale is the first beer brewed from whole, roasted pecans in the world and the resulting product has a dark brown color with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Best part? You can probably score a whole six pack for less than ten bucks.
*Article originally published in the April 2015 issue of Where Y’at Magazine
**District Hand Pie & Coffee is closed.