Halloween has come and
gone, and the dentists’ offices are making appointments by the boatload. All those sugary treats definitely played
tricks on the teeth of many. The next
autumn holiday, sorry, yes, we are still, technically, in the fall season, is
Thanksgiving. Typically, we will begin
seeing recipes on turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing/dressing, sweet potatoes
and pumpkin pie. We have our family favorites;
we do the traditional Thanksgiving array. So, I am going down the road less
traveled once again, and giving you something completely different.
Creole Cuisine originated
in Louisiana, primarily in the New Orleans area; it is a melting pot of various
cuisines: French, Portuguese, Spanish, Canadian (the Acadians, known for
“Cajun” cuisine), Caribbean, Italian, Greek, Southern USA Native American, West
Indies and African. These cultures were able to come together due to the
various slave trade routes; the enslaved people brought, not just their cultures
to the United States, but their cuisines.
A basic ingredient for many
Creole dishes is a roux. A roux, French for “brown sauce,” is a base used for
gravies and sauces in Creole cuisine. When
making a roux, using a saucepan or a skillet is dependent upon what recipe is
being made, and how much is needed. It begins with equal parts of a fat (oil,
butter, lard, etc.) and flour; the fat is heated on medium heat. The flour is
stirred in until well incorporated and the mixture is smooth. The color of the
roux is dependent upon the flavor desired for the recipe, so can be lightly
browned to dark brown; this can take 15-30 minutes. The mixture must be
continually stirred and watched; if any black flakes appear, it has burned and
must be started over. Once the desired color is achieved, additional
ingredients can then be added such as broth (stock), milk, cream, herbs,
Jambalaya is a Louisiana
classic which can be claimed by the Creoles when it has tomatoes in it, or the
Cajuns when it does not. Either way, jambalaya consists of rice that has been
cooked with shrimp, oysters, spicy sausage, ham, or chicken; seasoned with
spices and herbs. It is similar to
Spanish paella, popular at fairs and social events, and can be easily made in
large quantities. It can be also equated to the children's story, "Stone
Soup" where a little bit of this and that added to a large pot makes a
wonderful meal for all. Any way you want to look at jambalaya, it is a classic
feast that pleases everyone.
4 Tbsp. peanut oil
½ lb. spicy sausage
(Chorizo, Andouille or hot Italian), cut into ½ pieces
½ lb. boneless, skinless
chicken breast, cut into ½” pieces
½ cup each of diced
celery, onion, red bell pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. each minced fresh
leaves of sage, thyme and parsley
1 (28 oz.) can diced
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 diced jalapeno peppers
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long grain rice
½ lb. large shrimp,
shelled and deveined
¼ cup diced green onion
In a large, deep skillet;
heat oil on medium-high heat; brown sausage and chicken pieces; about 7
minutes. Mix in celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic and herbs; let cook for 5
Mix in tomatoes, paste,
jalapenos, broth and rice; bring to a boil. Stir together, cover and reduce
heat to low; let cook for 30 minutes. Add in shrimp and cook additional 5
minutes. Garnish with diced green onion.
Makes 6 servings.
Now, since jambalaya can
be either Creole or Cajun influenced, here is something simply Creole, again,
easy to create, and so very delicious in texture and flavor. First things first, the seasoning mixture to
make it all come together.
Creole Seasoning Mix
While salt is usually part
of this mix; it is up to the person making it to decide how much to put in. If
you like it salty, start with two tablespoons and add more if desired; or add
less, or leave it out altogether; the cook is the boss.
2 Tbsp. each of onion
powder, garlic powder, dried oregano and dried basil
1 Tbsp. each of dried
thyme, black and white peppercorns, dried cayenne pepper and celery seed
5 Tbsp. paprika
Using a blender, food
processor, mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (labelled for herbs and spices
only); grind all the ingredients together till well blended. Store in an air
tight container. Makes 1 cup.
This dish is often served
over rice, but can be served over grits, polenta or mashed potatoes.
3 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup each of diced green
bell peppers, onions and celery
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. flour
1 (14 oz) can diced
1 (14 oz) can crushed
1 Tbsp. hot sauce (add
more if more heat desired)
1 Tbsp. Creole Seasoning
Mix (add more if more spice desired)
2 lbs. medium shrimp,
peeled and deveined (Yes! Chicken can be
In a large skillet, on
medium heat, heat oil; add in peppers, onions, celery and garlic; sauté for 10 minutes.
Add in flour and stir till well incorporated.
Add in tomatoes and hot
sauce; reduce heat to low and cover; cook for 45 minutes, stirring
occasionally. Add in seasoning mix and shrimp; cook an additional 5 minutes
(shrimp will turn pink and be opaque inside).
Makes 8 servings.
The other cuisine, that is
a staple of Louisiana, is Cajun. While Creole is a hodgepodge of different
backgrounds, Cajuns hail from their Canadian ancestors, the Acadians.
I was introduced to Cajun cuisine
by a former neighbor of mine, David Prudhomme, who happens to be a nephew of
the famous chef, Paul Prudhomme. David, and his wife Sharon, owned The Lost
Cajun Kitchen, once located in Columbia, PA. They have since retired, sold the
restaurant, but still cook up homemade Cajun dishes. Their restaurant is where I first tried a
dish that I never thought I would ever have, alligator. Alligator, if cooked
properly, is tender, and I believe it tastes like shrimp.
Here is my take on a Cajun
dish, Etouffee, which means "smothered. Normally is it made with crawfish,
but good luck finding them, so I used shrimp instead.
(A Cajun dish normally
done with crawfish, but works well with shrimp, scallops, langoustines or
lobster; only one type of shellfish or scallops should be used for this dish.)
8 Tbsp. butter
½ cup each diced green
bell pepper and onion
¼ cup diced green onions,
5 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne
pepper (add more if more heat desired)
¼ tsp. each salt, ground
black pepper, dried oregano and thyme
2 cups hot water
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 lb. of shellfish (peeled
and deveined) or scallops (foot removed)
Melt butter, over
medium-high heat, in a large skillet; sauté bell pepper and onions until
peppers are soft and onions translucent, about 10 minutes.
While vegetables are
sautéing, in a small bowl mix together flour, paprika, cayenne, salt, black pepper,
oregano and thyme. Stir this mixture into the skillet and continue to stir as
it bubbles to keep from clumping or burning.
Add one cup of water and
mix thoroughly; repeat with 2nd cup of water. Stir in parsley and garlic; bring
to boil. Reduce heat to low, add in seafood, cover and let cook for 7-10
minutes, depending on seafood used. Serve
Makes 4 servings.