Cooking Louisiana - Cajun Cooking

Cajun cooking, why is it so special? In the hearts of flavor artists Cajun Cooking holds a special place. But why?

Here's what I believe. Cajun cooking takes the basic ingredients of many foods found throughout the United States and adds a depth of flavor unlike any other. It's all flavor, the height of flavor... and... the fine matching of the flavors. Don't think for a moment that Cajun flavor equals pepper hot seasoning. That's not what it's about. 

Yes, Cajuns like pepper but the pepper is only an "add on". If you give a true Cajun a dish that was only seasoned with pepper and didn't have a seasoned body to it... he or she would not be satisfied!

What is a seasoned body? First the blend of seasoning must match the dish. Second the amount of seasoning must equal the portion served. How can I figure out how to get the right blend? Well first thing is to read Cajun recipes and "get a feel" for the seasonings used per dish. 

Remember, us Cajuns grew up doing what we do... if you're not that fortunate, it will take learning on your part. Be patient... 

You will see many recipes that involve hours of cooking. Unlike today, back in the "olden times" (I love that saying) the women (without day jobs) took the time to prepare exquisite meals day after day. Isn't it funny that the famous chefs are mostly men? Here's my explanation... the guys watched their mother or wife cook and got crazy with it. No really.... it's all what's in your heart and most great chefs all love to go back home and eat "Mom's" cooking. 

The exile of the 1700's scattered the Nova Scotia (Acadia) French in various locations. Most eventually wound up in South Louisiana. They lived off the land, and, the land had plenty to offer in Louisiana. Exposure to the Spanish, Indians and Germans had a food influence and then the Creole styles put the finishing touches on many a fine dish. As you can imagine the foreign travelers brought their native seeds to plant here. Did you know okra and tomatoes are not native to North America? As with several other foods they were welcomed with open arms and the dishes got better and better.

Even though the foods were a little different the cooking styles stayed the same. If you read some recipes from the Nova Scotia area you'll see what I mean.

Time went on and as we fast-forward to the 1970's the famous chef Paul Prudhomme from near Opelousas made Cajun Cooking a national craze. His famous "Blacken Redfish" was a hit around the U.S. Given the new-found style, up popped Cajun restaurants all over the place. Some were imitators and some were the real thing. How do you know if you're eating real Cajun food at a restaurant? Ask the name of the owner or chef... if it's a South Louisiana name you'll probably enjoy your meal.

Today, with the Food Network and other shows, the word "Cajun" is well known. Emeril Lagasse brought Cajun/Creole to New York when he left his post at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. He continues to practice the styles on his TV shows. Before Emeril Justin Wilson displayed his skills and comedy on PBS. 

Cajun cooking is not only a food but a history of survival from a culture of giving people.  

Eat well, live well....

 

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