By Stephanie Burt
There’s something almost mythical about pralines in New Orleans. The pecan-y, old fashioned confection has a strong cult following in the South, but in New Orleans its status reaches even beyond that. There is something about the way the scent of caramelizing sugar and pecans and the sound of large paddles or spoons scraping against copper pots that mixes with the New Orleans air and somehow fuses into the life and breath of the city.
When Chef Lisa Marie White first visited a praline confectionary in New Orleans, the pastry chef was “simply blown away,” she recalls. “I couldn’t believe they still did it that way.” ‘That way” is completely by hand, mixing in large copper pots at just the right speed and just the right temperature so the candy comes out creamy, not grainy. Then each one is poured out to cool on large marble counters, then wrapped. It’s labor intensive, it’s time consuming, and it’s hot work, especially in New Orleans where the women she visited worked in a building where air conditioning had never been installed.
“That praline process was magical, and some of those ladies had been working there for 40 years or something,” she recalls. “It just hit me on all senses, walking into that space and seeing and smelling everything all at once.”
Lisa Marie spent years living and working in New Orleans, but she’s recently located to the Marsh House and Killebrew Coffee, located inside the ultra-chic Thompson hotel in Nashville. To bring a little of that New Orleans magic to the end of a Marsh House meal, each check is presented with one of these mini pralines.
Marsh House Pralines
Chef Lisa White, Marsh House, Nashville, TN
Chef’s note: How you know you made a perfect southern praline? It should snap when bitten and melt in your mouth.
1 lb. brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
2 ½ c. sugar
2 ½ c. buttermilk
6 tbsp. butter
2 ½ cups pecans, roasted (makes for a crunchier nut)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
Zest of ½ orange
Servings: approximately 3 dozen
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