A Lil' Cajun History

Howdy Cajun Fans!

Thought a fitting first blog post would be to help educate about Cajun food as a whole. I took some liberty, with content sourced mostly from Wikipedia and grabbed out the nuggets I thought most important to educate those interested about the history of Cajun food. Hope you learn something!

The aromatic vegetables bell pepper, onion, and celery are called by some chefs the holy trinity of Creole and Cajun cuisines. Roughly diced and combined in cooking, the method is similar to the use of the mire poix in traditional French cuisine — which blends roughly diced onion, celery, and carrot. Characteristic aromatics for the Cajun version may also include parsley, bay leaf, green onions, and dried cayenne pepper.

Acadian refugees, who largely came from what is now modern-day New Brunswick and Nova Scotia adapted their French rustic cuisine to local ingredients such as rice, crawfish, sugar cane, and sassafras. Cajun cuisine relies heavily on game meats, frequently smoked, supplemented with rice or corn. French, Native American, Caribbean, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and African culinary influences can be detected in Cajun food.

Cooking bases

Dark roux: The Acadians inherited the roux from the French. However, unlike the French, it is made with oil or bacon fat and more lately olive oil, and not butter, and it is used as a thickening agent, especially in gumbo and étouffée.

Light roux: The secret to making a good gumbo is pairing the roux with the protein. 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.

Stocks: Acadian stocks are more heavily seasoned than Continental counterparts, and the shellfish stock sometimes made with shrimp and crawfish heads is unique to Cajun cuisine.

Some Well known Cajun dishes

Boudin

Boudin also spelled "boudain" is a type of sausage made from pork, pork liver, rice, garlic, green onions, and other spices.  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 Cajun cooking are the soups called gumbos. Contrary to non-Cajun, or Continental, beliefs, gumbo does not mean simply "everything in the pot". Gumbo exemplifies the influence of African and Native American food cultures on Cajun cuisine. The word originally meant okra, which is a word brought to the region from western Africa. Okra, which can be one of the principal ingredient gumbo recipes, is used as a thickening agent and for its distinct vegetable flavor.

Jambalaya

Another classic Cajun 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 and hot chili peppers. Anything else is optional.

Food as an event

Louisiana-style crawfish boil

The crawfish boil is a celebratory event where Cajuns boil crawfish, potatoes, onions and corn over large 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 spice blends, such as REX, Zatarain's, Louisiana Fish Fry or Tony Chachere's.  The seafood is scooped onto large trays or plates and eaten by hand.

So, there you have it. If you didn’t understand Cajun fare before now, you should have a pretty good grasp! Most of this information came from Wikipedia, so if you want to dive in and do more research, feel free!  Here is the link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cajun_cuisine

See you soon!

~The Cajuns

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