Writing about art, food and changes

Theresa Rice

Theresa Rice
North Georgia Mountains, Georgia, United States
August 24
I write. I paint. I teach. I grow things. I cook. I eat. Louisiana-born and Southern bred, I love people wise enough to be optimistic and generous enough to bring their gifts to the table.


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MARCH 6, 2011 4:37PM

Creamy Creole Pralines

Rate: 25 Flag

489px-MardiGrasPaull1897CoverIf you're born and raised in New Orleans, you don't fit anywhere else. Nothing against any other city, but it's just a way of life, a culture, that's so unique. It's just the idea of having Mardi Gras, the idea in the face of everything that's happened, taking the time to celebrate. It is something you need to do to keep yourself going. ~ Fred LeBlanc





This year's trickster Mardi Gras moon is a waxing crescent—a good omen for the Crescent City. Fat Tuesday promises to be sweet and spicy, wriggling into her final costume of this year's season—sequin-covered thundershowers. But that's South Louisiana in the Spring, y'all. C'est la vie! 


A broad scattering of beads, beer cups and deserted King Cake babies will fall laughing in her sassy wake. She will touch her children, native and foreign, with madness and magic so they dance, march, eat, drink and strut in a riot of feathers and face paint. Gilted dreams and glitter are the bonheur du jour.

WMardi_Gras_beads_metallic_styleednesday morning Madame Mardi Gras will head for home on unsteady high heels and laddered stockings, sloppy drunk, lipstick smeared and underwear on backwards. She will reverently cross herself as she staggers past the cathedral, high-fived Wednesday’s Lenten dawn in passing just before she slips down the street for beignets and café au lait, fortified from the flask tucked into her garter. She will hand a dollar to the praline man to get her final little bit of too much. With sweet pecans stuck in her teeth, powdered sugar on her chin and whiskey and chicory on her breath, she’ll wobble down to The River and into the past, one more gone Mardi Gras, a lá New Orleans.


     rotate right mardi gras beads MR900384842rotate left mardi gras beads MR900384842



Rhymes with N’Yaw-leens



Coming as I do from the land of its birth, I admit complete partisanship in the pronunciation controversy around this confection. It’s very simple: “Praw-LEENS”.  Anything else is wrong, wrong, wrong!
New Orleans still has Voodoo_Coins1old-fashioned confectioneries in the French Quarter and elsewhere around town that specialize in this brown sugar and pecan marvel. Pralines were sold on the streets of New Orleans and were a good source of income for many women of color before the dawn of the twentieth century. If you're lucky, you'll have one handed to you in a glassine sleeve instead of a plastic bag.
Voodoo_Coins2There's at least one street vendor left, a man who frequents the St. Charles streetcar stop at Canal and Carondelet. Y'all say "hi" if you get down that way.
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PECANS:  Pronounced puh-KAHNS, people. Don't be talking about no pee-can around me.


Pecans resizeThe pecan is at the heart of a good Louisiana praline. The French who settled in the New World yearned for the sugar coated almonds from home, called "pralines." Alas, almonds did not grow in Louisiana--but pecans did. Cane sugar was abundant, as was rich cream. So the Louisiana French set about improving on the delightful treat and a Creole confection was born. 

It's amazing how you can give a few of the same  ingredients to different people and come out with candies that have completely different personalities. Some pralines are sugary and thin, some are thick and creamy. Some have little pieces of pecan, others have halves. I don't think I have ever had a bad praline, but I like them best creamy and chunky with big old pieces of pecan.

cooking on the horseshoe cropI began to develop my ultimate praline when I taught Creole and Cajun cooking. The original recipe I used was in one of Louisiana's many venerable regional cookbooks, Cookin' on the Horseshoe. (False River, in Pointe Coupee Parish, is a sizeable horseshoe shaped lake left behind after the shiftings and twists of the great Mississippi. Hence the name of the cookbook.) Tweaks and adjustments over time have turned this recipe into my standard, the one I'll pass on to my grandchildren.


  • 3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups pecan halves

Spray sides of a heavy 4-quart saucepan with non-stick spray. In it, combine sugars and cream. Cook and stir over medium-high heat to boiling. 

Clip candy thermometer to side of pan. Cook and stir over medium-low heat to 234 degrees—soft-ball stage.

Remove from heat. Add butter, but do not stir. Cool, without stirring, to 150 degrees.

Stir in nuts. Beat till candy just begins to thicken but is still glossy (about 3 minutes.)

Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. If candy becomes too stiff, stir in a few drops hot water. Store tightly covered. 


SouthernCandymakersPralines crop

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I have a soft place in my Louisiana heart for Professor Longhair. Young Henry Roland Byrd (1918-1980) made his way from Bogalousa to New Orleans as a boy and tapdanced on the streets for coins. He learned piano from his mother and practiced on broken-down pianos behind buildings and in alleyways. Rumor is that working around broken keys helped him develop his unique rhythmic style of playing.

Despite enormous talent he had trouble making a living playing gigs and recording and reverted to his early card-sharping skills to support himself. He was fifty-four and working as a janitor in a music store when he was located after a lengthy search by the organizers of Jazz Fest. They didn't find him in time for the first Jazz Fest, but he was a complete showstopper at the second one. The performance is historic.

fess album coverHis career revived and he began to garner the recognition that was his due. His first album,  Crawfish Fiesta, was completed when he was sixty-two. He died the day before its scheduled release in 1982. He received a posthumus Grammy in 1987 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

'Fess was the spiritual daddy of Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll. He did not achieve the stature his music deserved but greats like Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Doctor John were his gifted spawn. He was a man so far ahead of his time I don't think we've reached him yet.

 The Professor recorded a song called Go to the Mardi Gras, that might have fit the theme here, but the tune that get me every time is "Tipatina." This version includes legendary New Orleans band, The Meters.





Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Cookin' On The Horseshoe cover art by Eugene Sherburne

Video courtesy of YouTube

All text copyright 2011 Theresa Rice



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I have been waiting all week long for your blog. Thank you..thank you.
Steve and I are salivating over it now.
Rated with hugs
Wow, puhKAHNS are surely popular, aren't they? I just learned a new meaning to pralines which I didn't know. Now, if you covered these in choloclate, would they become turtles ? Very nice and colorful, Teresa.
My dentist keeps a bowl of these in his waiting room.
Hey Linda. Thanks to you and Steve for stopping by to salivate.

Fusun, pecans are da bomb. Loved yours, dear heart.

Larry, where's his office?
Extra delightful this week, Theresa! I grew up thinking Texas had a lock on he praw-leen, except they were pray-eee-leens. And I love Professor Longhair! R
Yum and I can't wait. -R-
This was so fun, so festive, and so dangerously delicious for a praline fan like me! Thanks!
Lisa, ya'll in Texas can make pralines, but you talk funny. And isn't 'Fess great?

Hi, Christine, nice to have you visit.

I know, I know, Alysa. Me, too
I have a dear friend who left New Orleans after Katrina was finished with her. I've sent her this blog because I know she will laugh and weep and miss her city a little more but with a lot of love. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
Beautiful blog to look at...until I got down to the pralines, which made me whatever the hungry equivalent of horny is, and now I can't sit still. Fortunately, or otherwise, I'm an hour away from any source of brown sugar, etc.
I was hoping you'd write a recipe for pralines this week! I made a bundt cake with penuche icing and pecans last night, and was hoping for an honest-to-goodness praline recipe. Laissez les bon temps roulez!
It makes me happy that you're sharing this with your NOLA friend, Dawn. Thank you for letting me know.

Myriad, yes, a praline jones can interfere with life. I understand.

You got it, Grace. And let the good times roll right back at you!
I must have these right now! Happy Mardi Gras! xox
Mardi Gras, pecans, prailines, N'Awlins, Jazz Fest, Tipatina's and the Meters... love this post, every bite of it.
My son went to Tulane; New Orleans is one of the places in my heart. Thanks for this post.
I once went to Mardi Gras and got sick on crawfish. Praline cookies are a different story. Do pralines grow down there?
I tried to avoid reading your blog because I am afraid of what might happen with an authentic pralines recipe in me hands!

But as you were sinking to the last of the 4 hour feed, I couldn't resist. So all that comes of this will be your fault!

5 yums!
Wow. this is great! Rated with fond memories of Nawlens. My brother and sister and law live up the road in Baton Rouge and I attended Mardi Gras 3 years ago and it was so great. I've been wishing I could be there, so your timely piece on praline is perfect :)
So simple and yet so heavenly! I'd make these but I think it would be dangerous to have these around.
Love pecan pralines. Yum!
Your columns are always the best looking and best sounding in Salon.
Happy Mardi Gras, Robin. All the best of the season to you.

Thank you kindly, Miz Vivian. Happy to oblige anyone with NOLA love.

Titus, you got to be careful who you let make your crawfish, dawlin'. Glad the pralines went down a treat. And no, they don't grow, but we raise up the ones who make them.

Thank you for not letting me drop off into obscurity. Say what you will though, xenonlit xl, I take no responsibility for the actions of a perfectly capable adult, even where pralines are concerned. Take it on your own self, baby.

Hey Ron, nice to make your acquaintance. I originate from BR myself. Glad you love the Mardi Gras.

Yes, Linda, dangerous is the appropriate word choice for this innocent confection. Very, very dangerous.

Me, too, Anjali

Thank you kindly, B&G. Mighty kind of you to declare. I wish you were making the picks. I seem to be largely under the radar . lol
You keep outdoing yourself every week. Your posts are so lovely, I could frame them. Pralines look yummy. Maybe I'll look for a vegan version.
A fantastic post, the music is bouncing around my head propelled by a sugar buzz (the pralines sound great!).
A healthy dose of Mardi Gras education for me. From up here in the dark woods of the Pacific Northwest, the flavor is much appreciated. Excellent post.
You are a darling heart, Mom. Let me know about vegan. I suspect you could make pecan milk and try that. I'd love to hear what you do.

Love dat 'Fess, Paul. Love dat 'Fess.

Rei Momo, it's good that some Fat Tuesday glitter got up your way. Thank you.
The post and recipe both sound fantastic! Every year I wish to travel to New Orleans and escape the horrid Minnesota winter. The flavors speak to me...even if I am allergic to shellfish. Can't wait to try the recipe!
Mmmm, those pralines look to die for! I know what I'm eating this weekend. Thanks!
"If you're born and raised in New Orleans, you don't fit anywhere else. Nothing against any other city, but it's just a way of life, a culture, that's so unique. "

So true - whether you're born and raised there, or adopted the city later in life, as I did. There's nowhere else like New Orleans!

Your praline recipe looks great! ~r
I'm drooling! It's been so long since I've had any, or made any. I'm going to have to break out my candy thermometer and get off of some of my precious pecans. My dad loves pralines, and his birthday is coming up!
Pralines are like icing on icing. Almost too much of a good thing, but why let that stop you. Regional accents are so - well - regional. I grew up in the state to the North of Louisiana and it was puh-CAHNS, puh-JAHM-as, but PRAY-leens, not PRAH-leens. As Cyrill Neville - one of the Neville brothers - said, "New Orleans is not the southern most city in the South, it's the northern most city in the Caribbean."
I can sure see why you'd want to leave the cold Far North to head for Mardi Gras, Brandi Jo Plaster. Here' to your making to to Big Easy next year.

Tart & Soul, happy you found a good goodie for the weekend.

NOLA viajera, I'm sure you are a natural born child of New Orleans--just took you a while to show up. Bon temps, cher.

Hi Bell. I'm sure your daddy will love you even better for making him pralines. Let me know how they come out.

Hiya Rodney. Cyrill Neville, whom you quoted, was drummer for the Meters, btw. Bet he's eaten a praline or two in his time.
This post made me tear up. We used to go to the Jazz Fest every year, before it got so big. I love most everything about New Orleans, especially the music and food. Thanks. R
PS I love had you did this post in Mardi Gras colors, pictures, etc.
Wonderful! And yummy! I miss Mardi Gras already.