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  Wikipedia: Cajun cuisine

Wikipedia: Cajun cuisine
Cajun cuisine
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Overview

Cajun cuisine originates from the French-speaking Acadian or "Cajun" immigrants in Louisiana, USA. It is what could be called a "peasant" cuisine--locally grown ingredients predominate, and preparation is simple. An authentic Cajun meal is usually a two-pot affair, with one pot dedicated to the main dish and the other pot or pan dedicated to steamed rice, skillet cornbread, or some other grain dish.

The aromatic vegetables bell-pepper, onion, and celery, called by some chefs the "holy trinity" of Cajun cuisine, are ubiquitous. Characteristic seasonings include thyme, parsley, garlic, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper (either dried and powdered or in the form of one of the locally made pepper sauces such as Tabasco, but never fresh!) The overall feel of the cuisine is more Mediterranean than North American.

Cajun cuisine developed out of necessity. The Acadian refugees, mainly poor farmers rendered even poorer by the British expulsion, had to learn to live off the land and adapted their French peasant cuisine to local ingredients such as rice, crawfish, and sugar cane. In addition to the obvious Canadian and French peasant influences, Cajun cuisine was influenced by African and Native American food cultures. For example, 'gumbo', the name of a family of stews prepared in south Louisiana is a word brought to the region from western Africa. In parts of Africa as well as in standard French and in Caribbean creole languages "gumbo" means okra, which is a principal ingredient in some of the stews calld "gumbo". A filé gumbo, on the other hand, is made with sassafras leaves, a practice borrowed from the Choctaw Indians.

There is a common misconception outside of south Louisiana that Cajun food is hot and spicy. An authentic Cajun dish will usually have a bit of a "kick" but will not be eye-watering hot. Cajun dishes prepared outside of Louisiana, especially by chefs who are not ethnically Cajun or have never visited Acadiana or New Orleans (where Cajun dishes are popular) are hotter than their Louisiana counterparts, often very much so. Even andouille sausage, mild and smoky in Louisiana, gets the pepper treatment elsewhere. This is a result of the "Cajun" foods craze of the 1980s, when Cajun-style seasoning was popularized by chef Paul Prudhomme's creation of the very spicy dish called Blackened Redfish.

Outside of southern Louisiana, foods prepared using Cajun-style seasoning are called Cajun, including some decidedly non-Cajun dishes such as red beans and rice, and blackened redfish. Sometimes the label is applied to any abomination involving inferior meat coated with stale cayenne pepper or merely as a slogan, as in McDonalds's "Spicy Cajun McChicken". Cajun cuisine is sometimes confused with Creole cuisine, and many outside of Louisiana don't make the distinction. This matter is complicated by the sharing of several dishes between the cuisines, including gumbo, gumbo z'herbes, seafood à l'etoufée, and jambalaya, although New Orleans jambalaya is prepared differently than its Cajun counterpart. Further complicating this is that the term Creole is used to designate several somewhat distinct New Orleans food cultures. So-called 'haute-creole' cuisine was influenced in the past few decades by Cajun food as Creole restaurants such as Commander's Palace, Jacques Imo's, and K-Paul's created a distinct "Cajun-Creole fusion" cusine combining Cajun flavors with Creole ingredients and preparation. Dishes endemic strictly to the New Orleans metropolitan area such as smothered cabbage, po'-boys, barbecued shrimp, beignets, or red beans and rice are in general Creole, not Cajun, as are pasta dishes like pasta jambalaya, and anything involving a cream sauce or the French mother sauces.

Cajun Ingredients

This is by no means a comprehensive listing of all ingredients used in Cajun cuisine, rather, it is a list of some of the staple ingredients of the Acadian food culture.

Grains

Fruits and Vegetables

Meat

Acadian folkways include many ways of preserving meat, some of which are waning due to the availability of refrigeration and mass-produced meat at the grocer. Smoking of meats remains a fairly common practice, but once-common preparations such as turkey or duck confit (preserved in poultry fat, with spices) are now seen even by Acadians as quaint rarities. The traditional pig-slaughtering party, or 'boucherie', where people would gather to socialize, play music, dance, and preserve meat does still occur in some rural communities, but the exploitation of every last bit of meat, including organs and variety cuts in sausages such as 'boudin' and the inacessible bits in the head as
head cheese is no longer a necessity. Game (and hunting) are still uniformly popular in Acadiana. The recent increase of catfish farming in the Mississippi Delta has brought about an increase in its usage in Cajun cuisine in the place of the more traditional wild-caught trout and redfish.

Seafood

Poultry

Sausages and Seasoning Meats

  • Pork Sausages
    • Andouille, similar to some of the smoked polska kielbasas
    • Boudin, a fresh sausage made with green onions, pork, rice, and, less common, blood
    • Chaurice, similar to the Spanish chorizo
  • Duck sausage
  • Tasso, a highly seasoned, smoked pork shouder
  • Head cheese

Other

Seasonings

"Cajun spice" blends such as Tony Chachere's are sometimes used in Acadian kitchens, but they tend to be avoided because they are inferior, too salty, and because Cajun-style seasoning is simply achieved from scratch, even by taste. Seafood boils such as Zatarain's Shrimp and Crab Boil are, on the other hand, in common use.

Other

  • Sugar cane
  • Cane syrup
  • Dark roux: The Acadians inherited the roux from the French. However, unlike the French, it is made with oil or bacon fat, and not butter, and it is used a flavoring, especially in gumbo and etoufée. Preparation of a dark roux is probably the most involved or complicated procedure in Cajun cuisine, involving heating fat and flour very carefully, constantly stirring for about 15-45 minutes (depending on the color of the desred product), until the mixture has darkened in color and developed a nutty flavor. A burnt roux renders a dish unpalatable.
  • Stocks: Acadian stocks are more heavily seasoned than Continental counterparts, and the shellfish stock sometimes made with shrimp and crawfish heads is unike to Cajun cuisine.
    • Fish stock
    • Shellfish stock
    • Chicken stock

Cajun Methods of Preparation

Some of these are traditional, and some are recent innovations. Deep-frying of turkey or turducken is included because it has become an Acadian folkway. Blackening of fish or chicken and barbecuing of shrimp in the shell is excluded because it is not, in general, prepared in Acadian homes or Acadian restaurants.

Famous or Characteristic Cajun dishes

  • deep fried turkey
  • Gumbo
  • Gumbo z'Herbes
  • Jambalaya
  • Cush-cush (Cajun corn mush)
  • Boiled crawfish
  • Crawfish etoufée
  • Skillet cornbread
  • Crawfish pie
  • Andouille sausage
  • Dirty rice

Non-Cajun Dishes

This is a listing of dishes sometimes mistakenly called or thought to be Cajun but having origins elsewhere, usually in New Orleans or in northern Louisiana, and remaining relatively unadopted in Acadiana:
  • Beignets
  • Calas
  • Red Beans and Rice
  • Smothered Cabbage
  • Chicken and Dumplings
  • Rice and Gravy (a specialty endemic to the Opelousas area)
  • Bananas Foster
  • Tomato gravy (a North Louisiana specialty)
  • Popeye's Chicken (a US chain originally based in New Orleans)
  • Blackened anything
  • Cajun fries
  • Spicy Cajun McChicken
  • Cajun sausage (other than those listed above)

Famous Cajun or Cajun-influenced chefs

  • Justin Wilson
  • Paul Prudhomme
  • Jamie Shannon
  • Emeril Lagasse

References

  • 'Louisiana Real and Rustic' (ISBN 0688127215) by Emeril Lagasse with Marcelle Bienvenu. Despite Emeril's association with the Cajun/Creole fusion movement, this collaboration with Times-Picayune food writer Bienvenu is a bona fide and authentic look at the food folkways of Louisiana, with much focus on rural Acadiana.
  • 'Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen' (ISBN 0688028470), from the main populizer of Cajun flavors, probably a little less traditional and a little healthier than Emeril's book.
  • 'Cajun Cuisine: Authentic Cajun Recipes from Louisiana's Bayou Country' (ISBN 0935619003) by W. Thomas Angers.

External Links

The Creole and Cajun Recipe Page, written by a native New Orleanean, includes some Cajun recipes and a few pages explaining the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine and between Cajun cuisine and what unscrupulous restauranteurs try pass off as Cajun.

See also


  

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona