Cajun cuisine has been somewhat unapproachable to many home cooks due to limitations in ingredients and/or a general lack of technique required to pull off this specialized style of cooking.
Once you get past the mystique and get going this is a very rewarding (and delicious) way to experience the great flavors of the Bayou. Let me show you in easy steps how to prepare a classic Cajun Feast you can create no matter where you live.
First,lets look at what Cajun or "Acadian" cuisine is. Over 200 years ago the Acadien-French brought La Bonne cuisine to south Louisiana from Novia Scotia where they were banished by the British.
Here they met Spanish,native indians,defined and evolved these influences to develop what is a unique and lively flavor. Together with local seafood,spices from these cultures, and thier classic French cooking style they created through generations of patience, practice and necessity what we have come to call Cajun cooking.
I won't go into great detail about the mechanics and subtleties of this cooking style, it would fill 10 pages. The slight nuances between Acadien and Creole cuisine and the basics of sauces, roux, and soups. These recipes can be prepared from ingredients anyone can get from thier local grocery store, so living in south Luisiana is not mandatory. :=)
So lets put on our aprons,pour a glass of wine and get cooking! To make things easier assemble the listed ingredients off to the side and they will be there for you to grab quickly. Organization is key to success in the kitchen. First order of business and a must for many Cajun recipes-the Roux.
Easy now,it's very simple! A roux is simply butter and flour browned and reduced. It is the classic base for most soups,stews,bisques and many recipes. It is also used as a thickener for many sauces. It can be cooked ahead of time and frozen/thawed for later use. It is always half and half of flour/butter, oil, or lard.
So lets make a Roux-
1 cup all-purpose flour.
1 cup oil(butter can be used but be careful not to burn it).
In a heavy skillet(cast iron is ideal)heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour,shaking into the oil and whisking constantly. Keep stirring and lower heat to low when the roux gets light brown. Continue stirring(never walk away from a roux)until it is thicker and is a dark brown. This should take about 30-45 minutes. With practice you get a "feel" for when the roux is right. Do not burn it,or it will be bitter and useless. It can be frozen or stored in a sealed jar(if oil is used instead of butter)and then stirred later for recipes that call for roux.
Now that we have a roux we can begin to cook our family and friends a great Cajun feast! For an appetizer lets make some Seafood Gumbo.
1 cup prepared rue.
5 quarts of water.
1 pound of crabmeat.
1 can of salmon,cleaned,broken up(don't chop).You can substite other types of fish.
1 pint of oysters w/juice.
5 pounds of shrimp,peeled/deveined.
2 cloves of garlic,crushed or chopped.
1 red or green bell pepper,chopped.
3-4 stalks of celery,chopped.
3 onions ,chopped.
1 10 or 12 oz can of rotel(or any brand)tomato/chili peppers(crushed is ok).
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco(you can add more later if you like it hot).
salt,pepper to taste.
You will need to make enough rice later for about 10 servings as the Gumbo will be served on top. OK, pour yourself a glass of good wine and lets get cooking!
1.Take a large pot(2/3 gallon) put in the roux,the water and bring to a boil until the roux is
2.Reduce the heat and add your vegetables,garlic and rotel(you can dice fresh tomatoes/chilis if you wish).
3.Chop about 1/4 of that shrimp and toss it in.
4.Simmer on low for 3 to 4 hours.Stir occasionaly.
5.Add the rest of the shrimp(unchopped),and simmer for 5 more minutes. Then add the crab, oyster(with juice),Tabasco and salt/pepper. Simmer for 15 more minutes and serve in bowls over rice.
That wasn't too hard!! So now lets get to the main course.You would have begun making this after the Gumbo began its 2-3 hour simmer. Before you started your Gumbo you would have begun baking your cornbread(2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread mix is ideal) and real easy.
Bayou Brisket/Cornbread Stuffing-
For this you will need to prepare the stuffing first.This will consist of a roux. We will alter our basic roux proportions of flour/oil for this becouse of the cornbread involved but don't panic just do what I do. And remember to assemble your ingredients off to the side before you begin so that everything goes smoothly and efficiently.
1 5-7 lb Beef Brisket.
1/4 cup of oil.
7 tablespoons of flour.
1 lb ground pork.
1 lb ground beef.
1 cup pecans(well chopped).
2 cloves garlic chopped well.
2 celery stalks(chopped).
1 large onion(chopped).
1 red or green bell pepper(chopped).
2 or 3 scallions(chopped)(if ya got em).
1/4 cup parsley.
2 slices of cornbread(you can add more/less to adjust)approx.2-3 cups.
1.prepare a roux with the flour and oil in a small skillet(see above about making roux),set aside off heat.
2.Get a big,heavy pot and brown the pork and beef(together) in it until browned.
3.Add all vegetables and "sweat them"(cook until translucent,stirring,coupla minutes).
4.Add your roux and some water(add gradualy,we want a thick,saucy liquid)stirring until it feels right.
Cook at low heat for about an hour.
5.Add pecans and simmer for another 15 minutes or so and remove from heat.
6.Now take some of that great cornbread you baked earlier and crumble it into the pot gradually until you get a nice traditional stuffing thickness,(You'll know when its right).Have another glass of wine, becouse the hardest part is done now!! OK, with our awsome stuffing ready we can now prepare the Brisket.
1.Take the brisket and make a pocket on the thin side.Leave the ends closed.
2.Season the inside of the brisket with salt,pepper.(I like Season-All).
3.Fill the pocket of the brisket with your excellent stuffing mixture. Tuck the flap over and under the meat. (ok,some chefs will cringe becouse they expect you to actually SEW it shut,if you want to wrap it with butcher string feel free). The idea is to keep the stuffing inside of the brisket,nuff said.......
4.Bake in a roasting pan (covered)at 325 degrees for 3 hours,basting with those awsome juices every hour or so.
This will serve about a dozen of your closest family/friends. By now your Gumbo and your Brisket will be done at approximately the same time. The brisket can rest while you serve the Gumbo to your hungry guests.
Need a dessert?
Ok,I thought this would be too much for one day. Well,go back in time and make this pie and put it in the fridge,it will be ready now and you can relax.
"Nalins" Pecan Pie.
3 tblspns butter.
3/4 cup sugar.
1/4 teaspoon salt.
1/4 cup of honey.
3/4 white corn syrup.
1 tsp vanilla extract.
2 cups chopped pecans.
1/2 cup pecan halves(for topping) (optional).
1 unbaked pie shell.
1.Grab a bowl,add sugar and butter and cream it together with a spoon.Add the salt and the eggs and beat it well. (you can use a spoon,just try not to get to much air into it,use the side of the spoon and slicing motions)until blended. Syrup and honey is next, stir it in good, then the vanilla extract, give it all a good stir.
2.Take your chopped pecans and cover the bottom of that pie shell.Now pour in the filling in that bowl you just mixed. Now if you decided to include the pecan halves this is where you will cover the top of the pie with them, if not it will still be mmmmm good.
3.Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.