April 30, 2008


Cochon: French for pig, Unfinished Dad for love. Our last meal in New Orleans was so by far the best, that writing about it is almost certainly futile. Yet I will forge ahead and attempt to impart to you some of the joy that this meal gave to me. Detailing the ingredients and manner of cooking for each dish is beyond my epicurean knowledge. I lack the lexicon and kitchen experience. But what I can tell you is how they tasted and how I felt about them.

Before we get to the meat of it though, I would like to give a quick shout out to the restaurant as a whole for combining superb service and food with an atmosphere that was completely welcoming to a ten month old. A few weeks before we left for our trip, my wife asked the many readers of Chowhound for recommendations on baby friendly dining in New Orleans that was still adult in cuisine. The response was interesting in that some were very supportive of our choice to bring Annie, but a few (check out N.O.Food’s comment) were clearly opposed to it. Cochon turned out to be perfect. The tables were large enough for her to play, the din was such that her babbling was not an issue, and the staff, naturally, was enamored with my baby.

Okay, the food.

First: Deep fried boudin balls. For you Yankees out there, boudin is a combination of sausage and rice that is typically stuffed into a traditional casing. I have been intrigued by boudin (pronounce boo-dan) since our first drive to New Orleans in the fall, when it appeared on many, many signs. It became clear that boudin was a cultural phenomenon when, the further south we drove, the more its availability swelled. By the time we reached Baton Rouge, this ubiquitous meat could be found not only at food purveyors, but also at every gas station we passed.

The Cochon version of Boudin was probably a bad way for me to be introduced to Louisiana’s State Meat. Their lightly packed, deep fried balls were what I have always dreamed a hush puppy should be. Forget filling a golf ball sized bite with nothing more than cornmeal; fill that thing with salty meat and rice, then top it was some spicy whole grain mustard.

Also First: Deep fried pig ears. Can you tell the direction this meal is headed? There really isn’t much to say about deep fried pig ears that you can’t already imagine. I will tell you a couple of things about them. One, having cooked an entire pig once a year for the last ten years at my family’s annual pig roast, the ear is very tough. It is something traditionally given to dogs. Cochon gets around this by cutting them into slivers before frying and then laying them in a pretty little tee-pee over mustard. This dish was my least favorite of the night, but scores high on the “you ate what?” scale of dining.

Main: Oyster and bacon sandwich. Every time I eat out with my wife she gives me a distressed look while I peruse the menu for something new and exciting. I can see her turn green (during two pregnancies, nausea has been a villain lurking around every corner) each time I order a variation of some animal’s liver or marrow or brain. Consequently, she likes me to order something that we can “share.” Yech. Eating out is about gorging on what you love. However, I am sensitive to my woman’s needs at this time and passed up the fried rabbit livers, the pork cheeks, and the grilled tongue for a sandwich whose concoction was imagined just for me. Let me explain it this way. Take some oysters and deep fry them. Make your own bacon. Stack multiple pieces of both between two pieces of toast and dress with homemade mayonnaise, tomato and lettuce. Add hint of lemon. Eat.

Also Main: Louisian cochon, with turnips, cabbage and cracklins. In the spirit of sharing, my wife ordered the one dish that I refused to go home without. The recipe for this dish must be as closely guarded as a nuclear launch code. The best I can do is that they slowly roast the most delicate pig meat, then form it into a casserole on top of sweet turnips and cabbage and bake it until the fat gets crispy. For added measure they then top it with cracklins, a new word for me that is defined simply as deep fried ribbons of pig skin. Yes!

Extra: Broccoli and pecan rice dressing. The pecan is even more common in Louisiana then boudin. From pralines to pies to golf courses. Yes, I have walked the fairways of Louisiana’s golf courses and eaten pecans fallen from the trees above. This dish was a nice complement to my porcine gluttony; a sweet amalgam of broccoli, rice and sugary pecans baked in a small dish so that the edges were almost dessert like.

Dessert: Strawberry cobbler. My wife loves her a good cobbler. Cochon’s was great. Hot, crispy, syrupy, and ridiculously decadent. The three of us gobbled this one up faster than I would recommend, both because we didn’t savor it and because once a ten month old tastes whipped cream (especially the homemade variety) they turn into crazed cream-raged monsters. My wife literally had to leave the restaurant while I finished my dessert. The only thing that could have made this dish better would have been N.O.Food sitting next to us while Annie clawed to get her fingers in more cream.

Also Dessert: Chocolate pudding parfait. The dessert course is one that my wife likes to pick for me because she knows that chocolate is the only direction I head. Typically, I don’t even read the menu. The parfait I was served was made with two puddings, one dark, one light, and topped with whipped cream. I was alone with my parfait when a cab was hailed outside. So I inhaled it all, much to the detriment of my digestive track and the pacifier and wipes that were left behind, as I was whisked out of a new favorite place to eat.


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