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Friday, September 29, 2006 

More Delicious Bookbook Haul Musings...

I'm savouring the New Orleans cookbooks that I picked up last weekend. Savouring both the history and taste of the Crescent City.

Today..a little snippet from "Recipes and Reminiscences of New Orleans" ($3.00) from the Ursuline Academy Cooperative Club of the
Ursuline Convent.
History has a way of swirling and eddying, of bringing together people and places to produce the unexpected and the amazing. This is the case with the Ursulines of New Orleans. Who would imagine that this small group of teachers could exert so strong and so lasting an influence upon the cuisine of New Orleans! That they did so is attested to by many of the chroniclers of the city's early history. It was the Ursulines who educated the daughters of the plantation aristocracy and the French officials, and education in the 1700's meant cooking and the "wifely arts" before "reading, writing, and ciphering."

The nuns brought with them recipes from their homeland of France and adapted them to the native food resources. For instance, the praline was a favorite candy in the area of Orleans, France. It is said to have been first concocted by Jean Dulac, the chef of the Duc de Praslin, who was very fond of sweets, although there are several versions of the origion of this particular sweet. The French candy was made with almonds, but in New Orelans the nuns found none of these nuts but a plentiful suppy of pecans. To the Ursulines, then, New Orleans owes it variant of the origional recipe, called the pecan praline, which has remained a specialty of the city throught the years.

Croquettes de Mais is also another product of the resourcefulness of those early pioneering nuns. From the Indians they learned the use of cornmeal, which they combined with other ingredients to produce a deliciously seasoned fried meal cake. The recipe spread throughout the Deep South where, supposedly in Georgia, it received the name of "hugh puppies" when a plateful was given to howling hunting dogs to keep them quite.
COCONUT PRALINES

3 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups coconut meat (grated)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup coconut milk (if coconut does not contain cup of liquid, milk may be added to make cup)

In deep saucepan, combine sugar, coconut and milk: mix well with wooden spoon. Bring to boil over medium heat stirring occasionally until it forms a soft ball when tested in cold water (240 degree on a candy thermometer). Remove from fire, add butter and beat until the mixture begins to sugar. Drop by spoonfuls on wax paper. Yield: 3 dozen pralines.

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