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Recipes, Rascals and Reptiles: Coastal Louisiana

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Alligators and Alcohol

Lots of Fun in the Pelican State

When most people think of visiting Louisiana, they think New Orleans. However, Louisiana is a big state and there is so much more to Louisiana than New Orleans. So much more to experience and enjoy.

I’ve visited Louisiana several times and honestly can’t wait to visit again. The people are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. The food is delicious and the history of the state is fascinating.

While we are all quarantined I thought there was no better time to send you on a virtual tour of Coastal Louisiana!

Come Fall in Love With 
Louisiana All Over Again

Louisiana is one of only two U.S. states that don’t have counties as their political subdivisions. (The other one is Alaska.) In Louisiana they have “parishes.” When you see a reference to the name of a parish, that’s the equivalent to what you’d know as a “county” in your area.

Here’s a map that shows you the parishes so you have a frame of reference.

coastal Louisiana virtual tour

We will be focused on the bottom part of the state. Be sure to reference the map to see exactly where we are in our different areas of the post.

Lafourche Parish, is about 45 minutes from New Orleans and which is named for the giant bayou that bisects the parish, Bayou Lafourche. Translated from French, “Lafourche” means “The Fork” – and it’s a reference to the Mississippi River. But when your parish is named for an eating utensil, you must have amazing food, right? And they do.

For tourism purposes, Lafourche Parish is branded as “Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou.” Two years ago, they debuted their Cajun Bayou Food Trail, which is comprised of several restaurants, some special events and a really kickin’ butcher shop.

That shop is called Bourgeois Meat Market and they bill themselves as specializing in “Miracles in Meat.” They’re not lying!

This family business has been around since 1891 and everyone has lost count of which generation they’re on. Grandpa Lester, who’s in his 90s, lives across Main Street and pedals his bike over several times a day to catch up with patrons, keep an eye on the current generation running the place, and see if anyone might want to go fishing with him.

This family specializes in “boudin,” which is basically the Cajun version of sausage … only better. Boudin can be made with a variety of protein ingredients, but right since it’s crawfish season so you guessed it – the boudin is made from crawfish.

They’ve shared a very simple recipe using crawfish. If you don’t happen to have any crawfish boudin handy, not worries – They ship! 

This is what they look like before they go into the oven.

Bourgeois Boudin Stuffed Bell Peppers

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound Bourgeois crawfish boudin
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • Bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise and clean out the seeds.
  3. Remove the boudin from its casing and stuff it into the pepper halves.
  4. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and put in the oven for 2 hours or until the peppers reach desired softness.

When you visit Louisiana and are eating your way through boudin and crawfish and fried shrimp and oysters and gumbo and bread pudding and king cake and all the other deliciousness that IS this state – You can still get your exercise in.

A great place for a walk is the Wetland Trace in the town of Lafitte, which is in Jefferson Parish. (If you’re following along on your map, look right near New Orleans. In fact, if you’ve ever flown into The Big Easy … congrats! You’ve been to Jefferson Parish! It’s where Louis Armstrong International Airport is located.)

The town of Lafitte is named for the legendary pirate Jean Lafitte, a total rascal who did a lot of really horrific things in the swamps … but he also helped Andrew Jackson kick some British butt in the final battle of the War of 1812, so he’s also a bit of a local hero.

The Wetland Trace is a one-mile raised boardwalk that allows you to explore the region’s scenic swamps without being in a boat of any type. When our pals from the local tourism office walked the trail recently, they captured the video below so you can see some of the natural beauty of the region. It features the area’s famous giant blue irises, flowers that bloom for four to six weeks each spring and which are only found in Louisiana’s swamps.

And you’ll also see some alligators and a snake … so consider yourself warned if you’re freaked out by reptiles.

If you are freaked out by reptiles, scroll past this next picture really fast. This is one of the alligators the Jefferson Parish tourism team saw on their recent walk.

coastal Louisiana virtual tour

In the picture below, can you spot the gator? If not, when you visit, perhaps you should take someone with you on your walk or kayak through the swamp. It’s helpful to have a “gator spotter” in your group. The shot below was taken along the Creole Nature Trail in southwest Louisiana. To get there on our virtual tour, check your map and go all the way left … over there to the border of Texas.

Let’s get real about alligators. I’ve spent some time in Louisiana, at all different times of the year, and I’ve seen at least one gator on every single trip. Believe me when I tell you that“social distancing” is not a new concept in the swamps. I love watching alligators … from a safe distance.

There are parts of Louisiana where the alligator population outnumbers humans by about ten to one. That would explain how the tourism team at Visit Lake Charles, (one of my all time favorite spots to visit in Louisiana) which helps visitors explore “Louisiana’s Playground,came up with this entertaining social distancing chart:

Though a portion of the area represented by Visit Lake Charles is nicknamed “Louisiana’s Outback,” this place is about way more than wildlife. In the Lake Charles area, they’re also lucky enough to have a rum distillery called Bayou Rum. When we’re not in the midst of a pandemic, you can tour the distillery and participate in a tasting. 

If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the states Bayou Rum can legally ship to, you can have a tasting in your very own home. If you’re unlucky enough to live in a state that is forbidden from receiving alcohol from Louisiana, try another white rum in the recipe below. I can assure you it might not be as good since Louisiana is sugarcane country, and it’s that local ingredient that makes this rum so delicious.

coastal Louisiana virtual tour

Bayou Mojito

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 ounces Bayou White
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • .75 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce club soda
  • 8 mint leaves

DIRECTIONS:

  • Build, mix, add ice and garnish with mint.
  • Optional: Add unsweetened cucumber and mint sparkling water.

Let’s head back toward Lafourche Parish – so we can discuss another distillery. This one is in Houma, which is the biggest city in Terrebonne Parish (that translates from French into “good earth”), a brand new distillery that just opened in an old shrimp processing plant

Bayou Terrebonne Distillers is run by the great-grandsons of Lily, the town’s first Mardi Gras queen … and an illegal moonshiner. THIS is one more thing we love about Louisiana! They have badass royalty!

The guys make Contraband, a 90-proof clear corn whiskey that was inspired by Miss Lily. Sadly, they’re not able to ship their whiskey anywhere yet … so to recreate this recipe you’re going to need to check your cabinet to see what high-proof spirits you have on hand. They had a little fun when they were naming this drink. And yes, it’s another recipe that’s perfect in its simplicity.

Contraband Quarantini

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 ounces Contraband (you can substitute your favorite moonshine or whiskey)
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice

DIRECTIONS

  1. Shake and pour! (SOOO easy!)

We talked about crawfish earlier and I referenced the old shrimp factory that’s home to this new distillery. I should tell you that the shrimp in Louisiana is amazeballs. As in “this-came-right-off-this-boat-over-there” fresh. Most self-respecting and all hardworking Louisianans have a pair ofwhite rubber “shrimp boots” that can get mucked up while you’re doing whatever it is you need to do. If you’re ever in Houma and you need some travel guidance, stop by their tourism office. You can’t miss it. It’s the place with the giant shrimp boots out front.

coastal Louisiana virtual tour

Up next – St. Tammany! Their alter-ego is “Louisiana Northshore,” giving you a sense of their geography. They’re located across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. (On your map, look for New Orleans and then head north.) The two places are connected by the Causeway Bridge, which – at 24 miles – is the longest over-water bridge in the whole world. 

coastal Louisiana virtual tour

St. Tammany Parish has had a complete dining revolution in the past 10 or 15 years, and everything from seafood to Brussels sprouts has been elevated to a higher level.

That’s why I’m super-excited about Sherri Hansen’s Culinary Kids program, because she’s training the next generation of culinary professionals. In fact, two former students won “Chopped Junior” and one was on “Top Chef.”

She instills a passion for cooking among young residents and visitors alike, and these days since the kids can’t come to her, she’s been hosting Stir Crazy Cook-Along parties every Sunday at 4 p.m. Central/5 p.m. Eastern. She livestreams it on her Facebook page.

Here’s a link to a recent live cook-along, which welcomed participants from such far reaches as Iowa, Colorado, Michigan, Austria and Dubai. The classes have been led by Culinary Kids’ Chef Clare Reding, and other guest chefs have shared their culinary expertise, giving some of the parish’s stellar restaurants a little shout-out. 

Sherri releases the menu and ingredient list about a week in advance so families can make sure they have what they need, and she encourages participants to write in for recommendations for ingredient substitutions.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little virtual tour of the Louisiana coast, where you’ll find delicious food and drink, stunning natural beauty, and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

As someone who travels and helps promote all kinds of destinations, I say this all the time: “The people make the place.” I don’t know any place where that more resonates with me than in coastal Louisiana, where multiple cultures have blended to create a rich human gumbo – it all works together well, but each ingredient also retains its own special personality. You’ll find French, Spanish, African and Native American cultures here … and lots of Cajun.

The people of Louisiana have faced a whole lot of drama in their history, especially over the past two decades. But facing adversity and winning – and coming out with a smile on their face – seems to be in Louisianans’ DNA, which is one more thing I love about them.

I will end this tour giving you what the Cajuns call “lagniappe” – a little something extra, a gift from me to you. In this case, the folks in Lafourche Parish’s tourism office did the heavy lifting. Here’s a video they put together to remind people where Louisianans came from … and that brighter days are ahead.

The people that call Louisiana home are some of the nicest people you will ever come across.

They welcome each visitor as if they are old friends and spend time to share their area with you. No matter what time of year you visit, you will find that the people of Louisiana welcome you with open arms, a great big smile and lots of good food.

coastal Louisiana virtual tour