The praline (originally "prasline", pronounced "prah-leen") is believed to have been named after the French diplomat and sugar industrialist "Marèchal du Plessis-Praslin (1598-1675), whose cook, Clement Lassagne reportedly invented pralines at the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte. The cook, after retiring, established the "Maison de la Praline", a confectioner's shop that still exists today in Montargis, France, approximately 110 km south of Paris.
Pralines are confections made chiefly from nuts and sugar. In France, almonds are individually coated in delicately caramelized sugar. The French pralines found their way to New Orleans in the 1800's, where Black Southern cooks and confectioners embraced them.
New Orleans Pralines
In a relatively short time, pralines became an immensely popular confection in New Orleans and throughout the South.
Unfortunately, the almonds that were called for in the French version of pralines were not as easy to come by; however, the delicious paper-shell pecans (pronounced "pe-kons"), grown throughout the South, were plentiful and were substituted for almonds in the "New Orleans praline" recipe with delicious results. Southern cooks, as they often are, were considerably more generous with their use of ingredients and used "hand fulls" of pecans to create small praline "patties." The "New Orleans" versions of the praline are also different from their "French cousin" in that cream and butter have been incorporated into the recipe.