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Creole-Cajun Cuisine

 
 

Mississippi Masala!

   

 

  

 

Louisiana: images of oaks wearing sarees of Spanish moss, bayous that lazily meander in the dusk, the beautiful wrought-iron work like fine lace in the Vieux Carré… and the piquant food of New Orleans…

Creole and Cajun food merge into what is really South Louisiana cuisine - a complex melding of cuisines that originated in New Orleans and the southern part of the State, an area that has historically been a mix of native Americans, the French (from France as well as its colonies), English-speaking settlers, Africans, Germans, Spaniards and Acadians.

Cajun food is simple and flavorings are basic - salt, a mirepoix of onions, garlic, celery parsely, bell peppers.  A preponderance of easy one-pot dishes: shrimp or crayfish stew, chicken and sausage gumbo, pork roast au jus over rice.  Creole cuisine, on the other hand, was brought by aristocratic refugees from Europe.  It is a cuisine with a bit more culinary élan and usually consists of several courses. Cajun and Creole evolved and have this in common - the use of peppers and herbs, always rice…as main or side dish, roux as a basis for soups and gravies.  

Today, Cajun-Creole food is a fascinating mélange of haute cuisine principles and local ingredients and customs introduced by Acadians (wild game and fish, sassafras and bay leaves) and settlers of Caribbean, European and Southern American origin who introduced base ingredients such as rice, beans and tomatoes.  Familiar dishes like the jolly-sounding jambalaya, that close cousin of paella, made from rice, chicken, seafood, andouille sausage, vegetables and tomatoes.  The rather dangerously-named crawfish étouffée (French for smothered or strangled), made with large succulent crawfish redolent of the roux-based spicy sauce.  In the 1980's star chefs Paul Prudhomme, Emile Lagasse and John Folse updated and popularized the cuisine with inventive variations such as quail gumbo and shrimp or crawfish flavored with Pernod.  But, traditional staples such as gumbo (a thick stew made from shrimp or meat with celery, onions, okra and peppers), Spicy Shrimp Creole and the grandly-named Oysters Rockefeller have also remained popular.

While good fare can be found in New York - try Mara's Homemade in the East Village for a great crawfish or shrimp boil - we recommend taking a trip down to the city that is the Queen of the Mississippi to visit old standards such as Brennan's and Antoine's or the lovely Sazerac Bar and Grill with its stunning cut glass chandeliers (be sure to order its delectably tart namesake made from rye whiskey, sugar, herbsaint, bitters, and lemon peel).

Try a Po' Boy (fried meat or seafood submarines served in a soft baguette) or an apple beignet from Café du Monde, fried to subtle perfection and dusted with confectioner's sugar.  The Vieux Carré (the French Quarter) slowly reveals its many-layered history, architectural and cultural subtleties that will surprise even the most refined eye...a perfect weekend getaway while contributing to this historic city's revival...    

 

 

Eat: Mara's Homemade, New York

Eat: Antoines, New Orleans 

Eat: Brennan's, New Orleans 

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