Chicken biryani in Pakistan
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What: It’s French for “pig,” the animal long sliced and shredded and cured and smoked in the Cajun tradition of boucherie, or whole-hog butchery. In New Orleans proper, cochon is most often heard in association with cochon de lait, or “pig in milk,” which usually refers to a (young) suckling pig that’s been slow-roasted to porky perfection; the cochon de lait po’boy (see below) is a particularly famous dish making good use of the final product (see also: eggs cochon de lait). Since 2006, however, the term cochon has become forever entwined with one outstanding restaurant that pays respect to the pig as no other restaurant does…as well as its namesake pork-piled dish, which is the subject of this entry.
Where: Modern presentations, old-world techniques, and Cajun traditions collide with great success at Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St., map), from James Beard Award-winning chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski. Located in the city’s Warehouse district, the locavore-centric restaurant is a permanent fixture in “must-eat New Orleans” discussions.
When: Mon-Thurs, 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-11pm
Order: The namesake dish, Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled peaches, and cracklins ($24), made us giddy with excitement, as only a pile of perfectly cooked pork can. The veggies form a delicious, sweet base to complement the richness of the meat, and there’s a lot of meat: first the golden, slow-roasted pork itself, molded into a patty shape—crispy-fried around the edges, mouth-meltingly tender within—and then the massive curlicue of fried pork skin topping it all, a crunchy exclamation point to drive the point home. There are lots of great pork dishes on this menu, like fried boudin sausage with pickled peppers and the boucherie plate (headcheese, rillettes), and plenty that have nothing to do with pigs, such as the smoky-spicy wood-fired oysters with chile-garlic butter and the oven-roasted Gulf fish “fisherman’s style” (it was redfish during our visit).
Good to know: Vegetarians shouldn’t hesitate to enter this temple to pork—the chef happily puts together beautiful vegetable plates with whatever is seasonally available, if requested.
Alternatively: Another of the city’s favorite way to eat cochon is in a po’boy. If you’re not here during Jazz Fest, where the sandwiches are a perennial favorite (at the Love at the First Bite stand), drive over to Walker’s Southern Style BBQ (lunch only, Wed-Sat; 10828 Hayne Blvd., map) for its famous cochon de lait po’boy. Or try Atchafalaya (901 Louisiana Ave., map), in the Irish Channel neighborhood, for its own take on this po’boy, with Creole mustard slaw and jalapeño aioli. Got room for one more? There’s a cochon de lait pressed sandwich on the brunch/lunch menu at Chef John Besh’s Lüke (333 St. Charles Ave., map), in the CBD, that’s sure to be good.
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