Louisiana Creole cuisine

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Dishes typical of Creole food
An example of creole Jambalaya.

Louisiana Creole cuisine is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana, United States which blends French, West African, Amerindian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian influences,[1] as well as general Southern cuisine. The Cajuns largely assimilated and adopted Creole cuisine for their own. Although the Creole cuisine is closely identified with New Orleans culture today, much of it evolved in the country plantation estates so beloved of the pre-Civil War Creoles.[2] (Despite its aristocratic French roots, Creole cuisine does not include Garde Manger or other extremely lavish styles of the Classical Paris cuisine.)

It is generally known that there are two types of Creole cuisine: Urban Creole and Rural Creole. Urban Creoles cuisine is observed and prepared for mainly tourist of New Orleans. Rural Creole cuisine is usually hidden in the bayous and swamps of the Old Creole Parishes/Acadiana or Creole Country. Since the 1980s, Rural Creole cuisine has largely been mistakenly labeled as Cajun cuisine (due to Cajunization and CODOFIL ).

Overview[edit]

The African influences, which were extensive, came about because many of the cooks were African and/or Creole of African descent. They brought with them the use of hot peppers and okra, which is called "gombo" in some West African languages. The importance of rice with many creole dishes was also influenced by African cooks as well as the layers of flavors in creole cooking techniques. The Indigenous people of Louisiana introduced sassafras leaves, also known as filé, a thickening agent used in gumbo, along with corn dishes like maque choux. The Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Canarian influences on Creole cuisine were the wide usage of citrus juice marinades. The Portuguese, Spaniards and the Italians also used tomatoes extensively, which had not been a frequent ingredient in the earlier French era. Pasta and tomato sauces arrived during the period when New Orleans was a popular destination for Italian settlers (roughly, 1815 to 1925). Many of them became grocers, bakers, cheese makers and orchard farmers, and so influenced the Creole cuisine in New Orleans and its suburbs.

The first French, Spanish and Portuguese Creole cookbooks date back to the era before the Louisiana Purchase. The first Creole cookbook in English was La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes, From Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous For Its Cuisine, written by Lafcadio Hearn and published in 1885.[3]

By that time Creole was already an identifiable regional cuisine recognized outside Louisiana: for example, an 1882 Florida hotel menu now in the New York Public Library's collection offered "Chicken Saute, á la Creole."[4]

Starting in the 1980s, Creole cuisine began to be relabeled Cajun cuisine. An example of this relabeling is by Chef Paul Prudhomme. A national interest in Creole cooking developed, and many tourists went to New Orleans expecting to find true Creole food there (being unaware that the city was culturally and geographically separate from the Old Creole Parishes/Acadiana). The "New New Orleans Cooking" of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse includes Creole dishes, both rural and urban. In his writings and TV shows, Lagasse both draws the distinction between the misnomer "Cajun" for rural Creole and urban Creole. [5]

With the rise of southern American Cooking in the 1980s, a New Creole (sometimes called Nouvelle Creole or Neo-American Creole Fusion) strain began to emerge. This movement is characterized in part by a renewed emphasis on fresh ingredients and lighter preparations, and in part by an outreach to other culinary traditions, including rural Creole, Southern, Southwestern, and to a lesser degree Southeast Asian. While the label "Cajun" on rural Creole food eventually passed, Modern Creole has remained as a predominant force in most major restaurants throughout Louisiana.

Classic Creole dishes[edit]

Appetizers[edit]

Oysters Rockefeller

Soups[edit]

Southern Oxtail Soup

Main dishes[edit]

Lobster creole

Side dishes[edit]

Desserts[edit]

Austin Leslie's Creole bread pudding with vanilla whiskey sauce, from the late Pampy's Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana

Beverages[edit]

Breakfast[edit]

Eggs Sardou with gulf shrimp added and grits on the side

Condiments[edit]

Rural Creole Cooking Methods[edit]

  • Barbecuing - similar to "slow and low" Southern barbecue traditions, but with Creole seasoning.
    • Baking - direct and indirect dry heat in a furnace or oven, faster than smoking but slower than grilling.
    • Grilling - direct heat on a shallow surface, fastest of all variants; sub-variants include:
      • Charbroiling - direct dry heat on a solid surface with wide raised ridges.
      • Gridironing - direct dry heat on a solid or hollow surface with narrow raised ridges.
      • Griddling - direct dry or moist heat along with the use of oils and butter on a flat surface.
    • Braising - combining a direct dry heat charbroil-grill or gridiron-grill with a pot filled with broth for direct moist heat, faster than smoking but slower than regular grilling and baking; time starts fast, slows down, then speeds up again to finish.
  • Boiling - as in boiling of crabs, crawfish, or shrimp, in seasoned liquid.
  • Deep frying
  • Smothering - cooking a vegetable or meat with low heat and small amounts of water or stock, similar to braising. Étouffée is a popular variant done with crawfish or shrimp.
  • Pan-broiling or pan-frying.
  • Injecting - using a large syringe-type setup to place seasoning deep inside large cuts of meat. This technique is much newer than the others on this list, but very common in Creole Country
  • Stewing, also known as fricassée.

Deep-frying of turkeys or oven-roasted turduckens entered southern Louisiana cuisine more recently. Also, blackening of fish or chicken and barbecuing of shrimp in the shell are excluded because they were not prepared in traditional rural Creole cuisine.[citation needed]

Ingredients[edit]

The following is a partial list of ingredients used in rural Creole cuisine and some of the staple ingredients of the Acadian food culture.

Grains[edit]

  • Corn
  • Rice — long, medium, or short grain white; also popcorn rice
Rice proved to be a valuable commodity in early Creole Country. With an abundance of water and a hot, humid climate, rice could be grown practically anywhere in the region and grew wild in some areas. Rice became the predominant starch in the diet, easy to grow, store and prepare. The oldest rice mill in operation in the United States, the Conrad Rice Mill, is located in New Iberia.
  • Wheat (for baking bread)

Fruits and vegetables[edit]

Meat and seafood[edit]

Rural Creole 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.

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 Creole cuisine in the place of the more traditional wild-caught trout (the saltwater species) and red fish.

Seafood

Also included in the seafood mix are some so-called trash fish that would not sell at market because of their high bone to meat ratio or required complicated cooking methods. These were brought home by fishermen to feed the family. Examples are garfish, black drum also called gaspergou or just "goo", croaker, and bream.

Poultry

Pork

  • Andouille - a spicy dry smoked sausage, characterized by a coarse-ground texture
  • Boudin - a fresh sausage made with green onions, pork, and rice. Pig's blood is sometimes added to produce "boudin rouge". Other versions can contain seafood, such as crawfish.
  • Chaurice, similar to the Spanish chorizo
  • Chaudin or "ponce" - a pig's stomach, stuffed with spiced pork & smoked.
  • Ham hocks
  • Wild boar or Feral Hog
  • Head cheese
  • Gratons - hog cracklings or pork rinds; fried, seasoned pork fat & skin, sometimes with small bits of meat attached. Similar to the Spanish chicharrones.
  • Pork sausage (fresh) - not smoked or cured, but highly seasoned. Mostly used in gumbos. The sausage itself does not include rice, separating it from boudin.
  • Salt Pork
  • Tasso - a highly seasoned, smoked pork shoulder of the Choctaw

Beef and dairy
Though parts of the Creole Parishes/Acadiana are well suited to cattle or dairy farming, beef is not often used in a pre-processed or uniquely Creole form. It is usually prepared fairly simply as chops, stews, or steaks, taking a cue from Texas to the west. Ground beef is used as is traditional throughout the southern US, although seasoned differently.

Dairy farming is not as prevalent as in the past, but there are still some farms in the business. There are no unique dairy items prepared in Creole cuisine. Traditional Rural Creole and New Orleans Creole influenced desserts are common.

Other Game Meats

Creole Seasonings[edit]

Individual

Blended

  • "Creole spice" blends such as Tony Chachere's and REX King of Spice are sometimes used in Creole kitchens, but do not suit every cook's style because Creole-style seasoning is often achieved from scratch, even by taste. Whole peppers are almost never used in authentic Creole dishes — ground Cayenne, paprika, and pepper sauces predominate.
  • Hot sauce
  • Seafood boil mix
  • Vinegar seasoned with small, pickled, hot green peppers is a common condiment with many Creole meals.
  • Persillade
  • Marinades made with olive oil, brown sugar, and citrus juices
  • Various barbecue rubs similar to those in other states

Cooking bases

  • Dark roux: The Rural Creoles inherited the roux from the French. However, unlike the French, it is made with oil or bacon fat and more lately olive oil, however, not normally with butter. It is used as a thickening agent, especially in gumbo and étouffée. Preparation of a dark roux is probably the most involved or complicated procedure in rural Creole cuisine,[citation needed] involving heating fat and flour very carefully, constantly stirring for about 15–45 minutes (depending on the color of the desired product), until the mixture has darkened in color and developed a nutty flavor. A burnt roux renders a dish unpalatable. The scent of a good roux is so strong that even after leaving one's house the smell of roux is still embedded in one's clothes until they are washed.[citation needed] The scent is so strong and recognizable that others are able to tell if one is making a roux, and often infer that one is making a gumbo.
  • Light roux: The secret to making a good gumbo is pairing the roux with the protein.[citation needed] A dark roux, with its strong (dense) nutty flavor will completely overpower a simple seafood gumbo, but is the perfect complement to a gumbo using chicken, sausage, crawfish or alligator.[citation needed] A light roux, on the other hand, is better suited for strictly seafood dishes and unsuitable for meat gumbos for the reason that it does not support the heavier meat flavor as well. Pairing Roux with protein follows the same orthodox philosophy as pairing wine with protein.
  • Stocks: Rural Creole stocks are more heavily seasoned than Continental counterparts, and the shellfish stock sometimes made with shrimp and crawfish heads is unique to rural Creole cuisine.

Rural Creole dishes[edit]

Three popular local dishes in the Creole Parishes/ Acadiana are noted in the Hank Williams' song Jambalaya, namely "Jambalaya and-a crawfish pie and filé gumbo."

Primary favorites[edit]

Boudin that has been smoked
Seafood gumbo

Boudin, sometimes spelled "boudain", is a type of sausage made from pork, pork liver, rice, garlic, green onions and other spices. It is widely available by the link or pound from butcher shops. Boudin is usually made daily as it does not keep well for very long, even when frozen. Boudin is typically stuffed in a natural casing and has a softer consistency than other, better-known sausage varieties. It is usually served with side dishes such as rice dressing, maque choux or bread. Boudin balls are commonly served in southern Louisiana restaurants and are made by taking the boudin out of the case and frying it in spherical form.

Gumbo - High on the list of favorites of Creole cooking are the soups called gumbos. Contrary to non-Creoles or Continental beliefs, gumbo does not mean simply "everything in the pot." Gumbo exemplifies the influence of African and Native American food cultures on Creole cuisine. The name originally meant okra, a word brought to the region from western Africa. Okra which can be one of the principal ingredients in gumbo recipes is used as a thickening agent and for its distinct vegetable flavor. Many claim that Gumbo is a "Cajun" dish, but Gumbo was established long before the Acadian arrival by the French Creoles of Louisiana.

A Choctaw filé gumbo is thickened with dried sassafras leaves after the stew has finished cooking, a practice borrowed from the Choctaw Indians. The backbone of a gumbo is roux of which there are two variations: rural Creole, a golden brown roux, and creole, a dark roux, which is made of flour, toasted until well-browned, and fat or oil. The classic gumbo is made with chicken and the Creole sausage called andouille, pronounced {ahn-doo-wee}, but the ingredients vary according to what is available.

Jambalaya - Another classic Creole dish is jambalaya. The only certain thing that can be said about a jambalaya is that it contains rice, some sort of meat (such as chicken or beef) and/or seafood (such as shrimp or crawfish) and almost anything else. Usually, however, one will find green peppers, onions, celery, tomatoes and hot chili peppers. Anything else is optional.This is also a great pre-Acadian dish, established by the native of Louisiana, the French Creoles.

Rice and gravy - Rice and gravy dishes are a staple of Creole cuisine[6] and is usually a brown gravy based on pan drippings, which are deglazed and simmered with extra seasonings and served over steamed or boiled rice. The dish is traditionally made from cheaper cuts of meat and cooked in a cast iron pot, typically for an extended time period in order to let the tough cuts of meat become tender.[7] Beef,[8] pork, chicken or any of a large variety of game meats are used for its preparation.[9] Popular local varieties include hamburger steak, smothered rabbit,[10] turkey necks,[11] and chicken fricassee.[12]

Food as an event[edit]

Crawfish boil[edit]

Louisiana-style crawfish boil

The crawfish boil is a celebratory event where Creoles boil crawfish, potatoes, onions and corn in large pots over propane cookers. Lemons and small muslin bags containing a mixture of bay leaves, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper and other spices, commonly known as "crab boil" or "crawfish boil" are added to the water for seasoning. The results are then dumped onto large, newspaper-draped tables and in some areas covered in Creole spice blends, such as REX, Zatarain's, Louisiana Fish Fry or Tony Chachere's. Also, Cocktail sauce, mayonnaise and hot sauce are sometimes used. The seafood is scooped onto large trays or plates and eaten by hand. During times when crawfish are not abundant, shrimp and crabs are prepared and served in the same manner.

Attendees are encouraged to "suck the head" of a crawfish by separating the abdomen of the crustacean and sucking out the abdominal fat/juices.

Often, newcomers to the crawfish boil or those unfamiliar with the traditions are jokingly warned "not to eat the dead ones". This comes from the common belief that when live crawfish are boiled, their tails curl beneath themselves, but when dead crawfish are boiled, their tails are straight and limp. Seafood boils with crabs and shrimp are also popular.

See also[edit]

New Orleans restaurants[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Beggs, Cindy, Gipson, Bridget, Shaw, Sherrie. "Cajun and Creole Cuisine." University of West Florida. Accessed July 2011.
  2. ^ George Washington Cable, The Creoles of Louisiana, Pelican Press, ISBN 1-56554-752-7
  3. ^ The full text and page images can be found at Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project.
  4. ^ "Windsor Hotel" restaurant (Jacksonville, Florida) menu dated January 5, 1882, item: "Chicken Saute, á la Creole"
  5. ^ Emeril Lagasse, Emeril's NEW New Orleans Cooking, William Morrow, ISBN 0-688-11284-6
  6. ^ "Eat". Lafayettetravel.com. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  7. ^ Reed, David W. "Smothered Meat With Rice and Gravy". Texas A&M University. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  8. ^ "Smothered seven steaks". WAFB. Retrieved 2012-11-26. 
  9. ^ "Rice and Gravy". Realcajunrecipes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  10. ^ "Smothered rabbit with mushrooms". Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Retrieved 2012-11-26. 
  11. ^ "Smothered Turkey Necks in Onion Gravy". Chef John Folse & Company. Retrieved 2012-11-26. 
  12. ^ "Chicken Fricassee". Allrecipes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 

External links[edit]