Rushville Republican

March 10, 2012

Cook's Corner: Cajun cookin'

Ron Tolliver
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — Creole and Cajun cooking is synonymic with Louisiana style of cooking. Cajun cooking originated with folks from the southern part of France. Several groups migrated to Nova Scotia in the 1600's, formed a colony called Acadia. In the early 1700's the British forced them to leave their settlements and a large number of them settled in the bayou country of Louisiana. There they lived a simple life of farming and fishing. They adapted to living off the land and using what was available to them in order to survive. The rich and fertile soil along with a long growing season provided an excellent area to raise a diverse variety of crops. From the brackish waters of the deltas to the fresh water of the bayous there was an abundance of meat sources. From the waters came fish, turtles, alligators and the ever popular crawfish. Deer, rabbit, squirrel and various other wildlife provided a diversity of food supply.

With the abundance of new foods available to them that they quickly incorporated into their lifestyle, life was good. Indians and a few Spanish taught them there was spices available just by taking a walk in the woods. An example of this gumbo file' which is dried and ground sassafras. Mirlitons which is a squash like vegetable had been brought into the area by the Spanish, bringing it up from Mexico where it is still called chayote.

Black pepper, white pepper and cayenne pepper are used extensively in meat and vegetable dishes. White pepper is the outer part of the pepper while the black is is the inner part While imparting different flavors that excite the taste buds it creates a full flavor in foods. A major thing to bear in mind is that you do not want to taste the pepper first but to notice it only as an accent. White pepper while costing a little more than black pepper is certainly worth the difference. Cayenne pepper as we all know imparts a stronger heat sensation in foods. Used in different ratios these three can and will make a huge difference in your dining pleasure. Beside improving flavor pepper also cleanses the palate to the point of wanting another bite.

Onions, celery and bell peppers are the trinity or big three of Cajun cooking along with garlic, which is also used extensively, round out the basics of Cajun cooking. Again like using pepper changing the combination ratios can make a huge difference. Sauteing them at the beginning of the cooking process will create a caramelizing with a deep rich flavor. You can also saute half of them and add the remainder later and alter the textures of your food. Your imagination, experience and creativity are your only limitations in cooking. Don't be afraid you might make a mistake, we all have and will again. No two cooks enjoy exactly the same flavors and textures in food. A little more of this or a little less of that can make a difference while maintaining the same cooking style.

Creole cooking on the other hand started in New Orleans. A good cook in New Orleans was a prized and highest paid member of the household staff. New Orleans was ruled under seven different flags in it early history. When a new ruling class took over the the previous ones generally left and returned to their home countries leaving the cooks behind. They then worked for the new governors and incorporated new styles and preference in tastes. The combination of cooking styles along with the ethnic style as most of these cooks were black brings us to what we know as Creole cooking. In Cajun country it was also known as city cooking.

Over the last 150 years much of each styles of cooking has been intermingled until today I would just call it Louisiana cooking. What a wonderful marriage of the two. The full richness of flavors and different textures bring a dining pleasure unique to New Orleans and the delta country. While rich in seasonings it does not mean that the flavors are hot to the taste. But I might add that there is a variety of recipes that distinctly to Cajun or Creole cooking. Quite a few of these recipes go back as far 250 to 300 years with little deviation. While each family had their own combination of spices and textures the basic were still the same. Of course everyone thought their Mom's was best.

Another feature of Louisiana cooking is that when they created a stuffing mixture they used some of the same food they were stuffing. For example if they were stuffing squash, they will scoop out a portion of squash and incorporate it into the stuffing mixture. This creates a singular flavor that will compliment the squash. This is not not really any different than creating a turkey stuffing for Thanksgiving. We use giblets and broth to enhance the flavor. This alone can make the difference between a good dish and a great one. If you did not like the flavor of a food you would not be cooking it in the first place. So why not make what you do enjoy better?

Basic Cajun Seasoning

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

mix all ingredients

stores well

To Make A Roux

use equal parts lard or shortening to flour

melt lard over medium high heat

add flour stirring constantly

cook to desired color

roux can be made in advance and stored

in an airtight jar for several days in a


in general a light golden to medium brown

rouxs are used in sauces and gravies for

dark heavier meats such as beef and elk,

deer or other wild game

this gives you wonderful toasty-nutty flavor

dark red and black roux are best used in

sauces and gravies for sweet, light, white meats

such as pork, chicken, veal, rabbit as well as

fresh and saltwater fish and shellfish

In addition a black roux is best to use in gumbos

the darkest roux results in the thinnest, best tasting


it takes practice to make a black roux without burning it

A Taste Of Louisiana

Easy to make and fantastic flavors

serves 8

2 tablespoons butter

1 large white onion chopped

1 large red bell pepper chopped

1 stalk celery chopped

1 lb andouille sausage cut in 1 inch pieces

1 lb boiled chicken deboned and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 1/2 lb shrimp peeled and deveined

2 8oz cans tomato sauce

1 can rotel tomatoes with green chilis

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons Louisiana hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

3 1/2 cups water to cover ingredients

in a large dutch oven melt butter over medium heat

add onion and bell pepper

saute until onion is translucent

add remaining ingredients except the shrimp

bring to boil

reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes

add shrimp and continue to simmer for 10 minutes

stir occasionally

serve over hot cooked brown rice

Ron's Louisiana Style Chicken Breasts

serves 6

6 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup diced onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 16oz can petite diced tomatoes

3 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce

1 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon chili powder

between 2 sheets of wax paper pound chicken to 3/8 inch thickness

in a large bowl combine flour, salt and garlic powder

mix well

add chicken and toss well to coat

in a large heavy skillet heat oil over medium heat

add coated chicken and saute for 5 minutes per side

remove chicken and set aside

add onion, celery and bell pepper to skillet

saute until onion is translucent

add undrained tomatoes and deglaze skillet

add remaining ingredients and bring to simmer

return chicken to skillet and simmer for 10 minutes

serve hot over cooked rice

Cajun Steak

serves 4

2 to 2 1/2 beef flank steak

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 10oz can rotel diced tomatoes with green chilis

1 large white onion halved and sliced

1 large green bell pepper halved and sliced

1 large tomato cut into 1/8s

slice steak into tin strips cross grain

combine flour, salt and pepper

add meat and toss to coat well

over medium heat in a heavy skillet heat oil

add meat and brown on all sides

add onions and bell peppers

saute for 5 minutes

add rotel tomatoes, tomato and hot sauce

note: do not drain tomatoes

cover and simmer for 1 ? hours

add a little water if needed

serve hot over rice

Jambalaya Creole Style

true New Orleans flavor and richness

serves 4

4 tablespoons rendered bacon fat

1 lb ham diced into ? inch cubes

2 medium onions chopped

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1 16oz can petite diced tomatoes drained

1 1/2 cup long grain rice uncooked

2 cloves garlic minced

3 cups chicken broth

1 medium green bell pepper chopped

1/2 tablespoon white pepper

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

1 1/2 lb shrimp peeled and deveined

1 quart oysters shucked, juice reserved

in a large dutch oven over medium heat melt rendered bacon fat

add ham and cook for 5 minutes with a tight fitting lid

add onions more fat if needed

stir over medium heat until ham is lightly browned

onions should be translucent

add flour and stir for about 1 minute until flour has reddish brown color

stir in tomatoes, cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes

stir occasionally

add chicken broth, bell pepper, white, black and cayenne pepper,

parsley, thyme and reserved oyster juice

bring to slow simmer

add rice and continue simmering until rice is cooked but firm

add salt and shrimp stirring in gently with fork

simmer for 5 minutes until shrimp s are pink

stir in oysters and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes

serve hot