Canadian Thanksgiving evokes thoughts of gumbo, cornbread, bananas foster, and pralines. Wait, what?! It’s true! In our house this year we skipped the traditional turkey meal and did something completely different: an authentic New Orleans menu!
My grandparents passed away this year, and Thanksgiving was the first holiday without them. So in an effort to keep things happy and to make new memories, we skipped the same old stuffing and cranberry sauce routine and went with this crazy idea, and boy was it ever fun! The food was amazing and we all had a great time preparing (and eating) it. We’ve decided that every year we will chose a new region and do different ethnic food.
I actually lived in Louisiana for a couple of years, so I’ve experienced the real deal when it comes to Cajun and Creole food. But the one thing that stands out most of all my New Orleans flavours is the rich, creamy praline. And you better not call it a “prayleen” because I got reprimanded for that: “Giiirl, unless you be from nahth of the Mason Dixon line, it is prahleen not prayleen!” I have such clear memories of eating Aunt Sally’s Creamy Pralines and going to the Aunt Sally’s Praline shop in the French quarter on Decatur street in New Orleans!
All my recipes were from Emeril, and while they all tasted great I have a few things to say about each:
one: Gumbo. It takes a long time for the roux to turn a chocolate brown colour, so don’t plan for your gumbo to be done quickly.
two. Cornbread. I used bacon fat for the cornbread and while everyone agreed the texture was perfect, it was missing some sweetness that maybe would have been better with the butter?
three: Bananas Foster: The bananas foster was delicious but my rum didn’t flame. I think that was due to two things: (a) I didn’t pour it slowly enough so the alcohol was diluted into the sauce right away; and (b) when I added the rum there was still too much liquid in the skillet, I should have waited for the sauce to thicken first.
four: Pralines. Boy oh boy this recipe was all wrong for me. It took two failed attempts before I gave up following it and just went by instinct. I believe there are two problems with the recipe as it is written: (a) you can’t add the pralines and vanilla and butter before your sugars have reached the right temperature or else it just hardens up; (b) the liquid to sugar ratio is off–when I followed the recipe my pralines turned into a solid slab of hard candy, but when I doubled the sweetened condensed milk and didn’t stir too much it turned out just right.
So, here is how I finally got my pralines right (on my third try!). I am writing it as a full recipe but when I made it I only did a half serving because I had used up almost all of my pecans on the first failed attempt. You can see in the picture my pralines are low on pecans, but they were perfect in flavour and texture!!
Pralines (modified from Emeril’s recipe)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups small pecan pieces
one: using a wooden spoon, dissolve the sugars, syrup and salt in the sweetened condensed milk over medium heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom so nothing sticks and burns.
two: bring it to a boil by stirring less frequently. Don’t stir constantly or you will just be decreasing the temperature–you need it to be liquidy and very hot. The way I did it was to stir and scrape the bottom for a few rotations, wait ten seconds, scrape down the sides, then stir again. Keep doing this until it turns a light brown colour. Other recipes will tell you to go to the softball stage which is 235 F, but mine only got to 214 F before I started worrying the bottom was going to burn. To me it just looked right.
three: remove the pot from the heat. Quickly add the pecans, butter and vanilla and stir until combined–move fast because it’s already cooling off. Then drop by the spoonful onto wax paper. Because I only went to 214 F my end product wasn’t very liquedy and didn’t pour off the spoon into little praline pancakes but rather were more like cookie dough batter. No big deal, I just used a layer of wax paper as a barrier and pressed them flat with my hand.
four: allow to cool completely (don’t burn your mouth!!), peel them off the wax paper and enjoy, these are insanely delicious! You can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks, but they won’t last that long!
Let me know if you’re able to get all the way to softball stage in the comments below–I will go buy some more pecans and will try again myself! Stay tuned for an update.
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