Special Sub-Topic: Cajun or Creole? It's All Good!
|There is one thing we need to cover before we delve too far into the fine points of Louisiana cooking. What is the primary difference between Creole and Cajun cooking?|
Creole has a European heritage. Creole cooking was derived by wealthy landowners whose cooks, often European, would modify original European recipes to accommodate local foodstuffs. Cajun (derived from the word "Acadian") was developed by poorer classes who made much more practical dishes, also from local ingredients. Both use rice, seafood, and a proper roux.
|The "roux" is the basis of a lot of Louisiana cooking. Without it, you can't make an authentic gumbo or étouffée. Normally a roux starts with about equal parts of fat and flour. A properly made roux, for Louisiana purposes, is made to be light, medium, or dark. If you were making an authentic Cajun gumbo, would you use a dark roux?|
y. Creole cooks ordinarily go for a light or medium roux, while Cajun food normally depends on a darker roux with its heavy, smoky taste. Cajun food is derived from more practical cooking techniques, including mixing everything into a single pot and making it quite spicy.
|When in New Orleans, you may come across a dish called "Trout Marguery." This delightful dish probably arrived in New Orleans thanks to one Jean Galatoire, who created Galatoire's Restaurant. How is this dish prepared?|
Either of these ways. It isn't known whether Galatoire invented it here or brought it with him when he came to America. However, the original recipe, like most in these styles of cooking, was never written down. You can find varieties of this dish throughout New Orleans. Every one will be a bit different, but each will be based on one of these basic methods.
|One of the great soups of New Orleans is turtle soup. Whether enjoying lunch at Commander's or dinner at Arnaud's, this very rich soup is made with a brown roux with beef stock, celery, garlic, tomato purée, and other herbs and spices. Is it made with real turtle meat?|
y. If you are at Arnaud's, Brennan's, or Commander's Palace, you can count on it! If you are in New Orleans, be sure to stop by the Mardi Gras museum at Arnaud's to see some of the incredible gowns and other memorabilia there. Germaine Wells, whose father founded Arnaud's, was Mardi Gras queen 22 times - a record!
|Switching from the elegance of turtle soup, let's move on to this Cajun specialty! This is a sausage made with pork butt, bacon, pork liver, herbs and spices, and above all, lots of cooked rice. What is this down home delicacy?|
Boudin. There is even a fast food restaurant called Boudin King in Lafayette - and it makes McDonald's look like Lean Cuisine! Boudin Blanc is the normal variety, but boudin rouge (blood sausage) is sometimes available. Chaurice is a Creole sausage, Andouille is a Louisiana ground pork sausage, and Tasso is a spicy meat used for seasoning.
|One of the fine egg dishes typical of New Orleans is this one created by Antoine's Restaurant. It consists of a bed of creamed spinach (in Béchamel sauce), artichoke hearts, poached eggs - all covered with hollandaise sauce. What is this divine creation?|
Eggs Sardou. Try each of these great dishes on your next visit to New Orleans for a real cholesterol rush! Antoine's was founded in 1840. If you visit the 1840 room when you dine there, don't miss the silver duck press or the 17th Century cookbook! Even more famous are the Oysters Rockefeller, created by Antoine's. And don't forget to order the baked Alaska when you first get there so it will be ready for you when it is time for dessert!
|There is only one real pepper sauce in Louisiana. Founded by Edmund McIlhenny, Tabasco has been produced on this island by the McIlhenny company since 1868. On which island was this concoction created?|
Avery Island. Edmund's son, Ned, founded a bird colony to protect the egret, which had been hunted for the purpose of making ladies' hats. He also added Japanese camellias, papyrus, and azaleas to the natural flora of the island, creating the Jungle Gardens and Bird City, a wildlife refuge. Tours are available of the factory and the 200-acre garden.
|"Estomac mulâtre" is a traditional New Orleans confection. A stiff gingerbread, this item consists of flour, molasses, buttermilk, lard, ginger and baking soda. It was originally made by Creole women of the New Orleans area and given to children as a treat. It has since been manufactured and sold by several commercial bakeries in the area. What is the more common name of this ginger cake?|
Stage planks. The original name, "estomac mulâtre", literally means "mulatto's stomach", which would not be an appropriate name today, of course. It is included here as a strong reminder of the influence that the African-American culture had in the development of the grand Creole cuisine we treasure today. "Stage planks" was a simple reference to what this confection looked like.
|Often in the streets of old New Orleans, you could hear the Creole women shouting, "Calas, tout chaud". What are calas?|
Fried rice balls. Calas are made with dough and leftover rice, fried, and powdered with sugar. They are especially good with honey on a cold morning.
|Saving the best for last, this divine creation is long a specialty of Brennan's Restaurant and served as part of their famous breakfast. It consists of bananas cooked in butter, banana liqueur, and rum (151 proof). This mixture is ignited and served over vanilla ice cream along with some sprinkles of cinnamon. What is this famous dessert?|
Bananas Foster. The secret to making this at home for your special guests is first, don't set yourself on fire, and second, sprinkle the cinnamon from a little pouch and say a few mystical words - explaining that it was good "juju." (Just a little "good voodoo" between friends!) I hope you have enjoyed this epicurean adventure. Y'all come back, ya hear?
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