How does one go to New Orleans, yet not experience the city or even the food?
Answer: with the sole purpose of taking an orchestra audition.
Whenever I think about New Orleans, I always forget that I’ve actually been there, but really, it shouldn’t count. It was four years ago that I auditioned for the orchestra there, and all of my time was spent in my hotel, a church (audition location), an airport shuttle, and an airport. Good times!
As for the food… Oh, how I would love to tell you about the blissful beignet that I consumed with a perfect cup of coffee, or even a po-boy or a simple bowl of gumbo, but alas; I try to keep the truthiness levels of my blog high. I’ll spare you the details of my boxed granola bars and subpar hotel burger.
Instead, let’s talk about New Orleans style iced coffee. What makes it different from the regular stuff? It’s brewed with chicory! Yeah, I didn’t know much about chicory either, but it’s the root of endive, AKA that lettuce that I’ve somehow never bought. It can be roasted and brewed with coffee! Apparently it gives the coffee a deeper and less bitter flavor. In fact, back in times when coffee was not easy to come by, folks would brew pure chicory. Maybe it tastes similar coffee (or does it?), but I want to know how they then got their caffeine fix!
Anyway, the only chicory I was able to find was some pre-ground stuff in a little orange box located in the coffee section at the grocery store. (I think it smells similar to those wood chips (not cedar) used in flower beds.) It’s possible that Whole Foods might carry the actual root in their produce section, but I didn’t think to check while there. If you want the real stuff, you can be like Hank Shaw and grow and roast your own. Hello, badass! He can also tell you loads more about the stuff, of course.
New Orleans Style Iced Coffee
from Blue Bottle Coffee
Why cold-brew coffee? It’s less bitter and acidic! You don’t even need a special coffee maker. However, you do want to grind the beans with the French press setting of a coffee grinder. You can ask your local roaster or coffee shop to grind it coarsely for you, or your grocery store most likely has grinders with multiple settings for their bulk beans.
1 pound coffee beans, coarsely ground (I went with a dark roast)
1 1/2 ounces chopped, roasted chicory (I used the ground stuff)
2 1/2 quarts good-tasting, cold water
simple syrup (optional)
1. Put the ground coffee and chicory in a large stock/soup pot. Pour in the water and stir with a wooden spoon. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 8 – 12 hours.
2. Uncover and stir the coffee, breaking up the crust. At this point, Blue Bottle just says to place a sieve over a 1 1/2 quart mason jar and pour in the concentrate, but that’s a big pot with a ton of coffee. Instead, I placed the sieve over a 4 cup measuring cup and ladled in the coffee/grounds. Once the sieve was full, I emptied the grounds into a container (for compost!), then poured the concentrate into the jar. Repeat until all the concentrate has been strained. They say it will resemble used motor oil, and it really does.
3. To serve: fill a glass with ice and pour in concentrate and milk. They suggest a 1:1 ratio. Sweeten with simple syrup if that’s your thing. Store the concentrate in the refrigerator where it will keep for 5 – 7 days.
I major heart me some iced coffee, so this was a huge win. Honestly though, I don’t know if I can taste the chicory which is likely due to the kind that I used. I really want to try the fresh stuff some time! If you’ve had cold-brewed coffee from a coffee shop though, that is basically how this tastes, but it’s WAY cheaper. I’m estimating that I’ll get about 15 – 20 cups of coffee (this is including milk) from this batch, which cost less than $10 to super easily make. Most places charge at least $2 for a small cup of iced coffee!
And FYI: I’ve never been to Blue Bottle, but found out about their New Orleans iced coffee via the Amateur Gourmet, then saw that they had the prep for it up on their site! So no, I don’t know how this compares to a cup at their shop…or of course to what you would experience in New Orleans. sadface. (It is only a 10 hour drive from here…ha, “only”. You can tell I’m a native Texan.)