Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Simple Chicory Syrup to Boost Your Coffee NOLA-style...

If you've ever had the pleasure of sipping and savouring a cup of coffee in New Orleans, you'll perk up reminiscing how distinctive and full-bodied the heavenly brew is. They are famous for their dark strong coffee diluted with equal parts milk in their café au lait. What's the secret? Chicory. It is the finely ground root of the endive plant often mixed with ground coffee, resulting in Creole coffee or New Orleans blend. 

This vegetable was added to coffee grounds to stretch the scarce supply of coffee beans, in the late eighteenth century. Acadian pilgrims began making the trek to Louisiana from their Native Nova Scotia and they had to find ways to extend their provisions for the length of their trip. Even after they reached New Orleans and coffee was a-plenty, they preferred the bitter richness they've grown accustomed to on the trail. Other sources say the practice came from France during the Napoleonic era. The French loved their coffee and when a naval blockade denied them of their supply, they tried to extend the beans with barley but it was so bland, peppery chicory was added to pep it up. Napolean fell, the French continued to stay thrifty with this practice, brought it to New Orleans and it became a part of the culture. Authentic New Orleans coffee is dark roasted and blended with 30 and 40 percent chicory, and has a pungent flavour resembling marijuana smoke.

Chicory root has great health benefits. It is said to help optimize blood composition, has anti-inflammatory properties and protects the liver and gallbladder. It contains inulin, a soluble fiber that aids gut health and relieves constipation.

I came across a simple chicory syrup recipe during a food project for a client and thus my research into it. It was a delightful Eureka moment :). Super simple to make, the potent roasted root darkens the syrup instantly and all it takes is waiting a mere few minutes for the sugar to dissolve. I couldn't wait to use a teaspoon of it in my regular morning brew to kick-it-up-a-notch NOLA-style with some added goodness, and welcome a bit of energetic N'awlins flair to start my day! Yay!

Granulated roasted chicory root bought in a local Indian Spice store.

The famous French Quarter 1860 coffee stand that originated as a coffee kiosk.

A trip is not complete without a cuppa' café au lait and heavily powdered beignets.

My everyday hot beverage sugar is Sugar In The Raw.

Simple Chicory Syrup
Makes 1 cup

1 cup water
1 cup granulated or brown sugar (I used Sugar In The Raw)
1/4 cup roasted ground chicory

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Turn heat to medium and stir until sugar is completely dissolved and chicory has been well-steeped. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a mason jar to reserve for future use. A teaspoon in your mug of coffee goes a long way in flavour and sweetness.

The flavour of chicory is very similar to coffee. Alone, it is a dark and bitter brew, completely uncaffeinated for those who enjoy the taste of coffee but not the effects of caffeine. I love adding the syrup to give that extra bit of earthy, slightly nutty taste, and a touch of acidic note which is just how I love my coffee. And it's my nice mind-escape transport to the good ol' times sitting under the softly whirring ceiling fans at Café du Monde's large patio in the French Quarter eating a classic breakfast of fried beignets and sipping café au lait. 

If you want to try savoury seafood beignets (donuts), check out my delicious crispy shrimp beignets or whelk fritters :).

Whelk Fritters

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