by Max Brantley
Amy Brawner, late of the Times and now with the NLR Library, files this photo and a food report from a recent trip to New Orleans.
We embarked on a culinary journey a month ago in NOLA at a place called the Praline Connection, quite a few streets away from Bourbon, where we passed an auburn-haired gentlemen who devilishly stopped in front of us and invited us to "see how big it grows."
And thus we ventured into soul food heaven. We waited a good thirty minutes, it was December 31, and the place was hopping, high school cafeteria style, and one had to be quick of the eye and feet. We judged who would be finishing up their victuals first and held vigil on the periphery as close to the table as we could without being obvious. We were gonna get that thing -- The Connection Platter (above).
The dish starts out with a layer of lettuce, iceberg and wilted under the massive offering, Why the lettuce is there, I do not have an explanation. It is not to be eaten, I am hoping. It adds form and perhaps serves as a base for the grease, trickling down from easily 7 inches above. Stay with us here, 'tis a needful thing.
The canvas of the platter, wistfully and artfully arranged -- consists of easily 6 cups of fried okra --of the cornmeal-coated variety. We could have had them more crispy, but acknowledge that there are lovers of the more giving kind.
Arranged above this were chicken livers, perfectly and lightly battered. On the side wwas a pickled sweet and spicy relish. Perhaps the livers could be called the star of the show. These were fresh, and many a fowl hath lost their lives, though honorably, for the sake of our jaded palates. Okay, maybe not jaded, but we were impressed by the perfectly sized, two-bites-per-liver organ. A rarity it is to find chicken livers (unless made at home) so fresh and toothsome.
Like just made potato chips, fried pickles, twisted atop the chicken livers like rounded breaded curlicues, creating a sort of askew crown. From it rose 4 serpentine-shaped catfish fillets. All hot, battered with plenty of dipping sauces (and they were generous with these sauces -- we hate restaurants that skimp on the condiments).
Spicy chicken wings, perhaps a humorous antithesis -- dotted the base of the platter.
Presentation was also key --when the platter was brought out, other patrons craned their neck to see the gluttons that had ordered such.
Recommended, but only on special occasions, where exercise is a key element later in your day plans.
Share, do, but share with friends.