I love a good Cajun meal. Whether it’s red beans and rice, a crab boil or a hearty gumbo, the food is satisfying and flavorful. I’ve found that even if I get the same dish at two different restaurants, they’re never exactly the same, but they do share many of the same qualities. Here are a few tips and facts about those qualities that make Cajun cooking Cajun. You can put them to use in your next recipe or keep them in your back pocket for the next time you’re ordering at a Cajun restaurant.
There are a lot of recipes that add a dash of paprika or cayenne pepper and call themselves Cajun or “Cajun-inspired.” While these spices are a big part of Cajun and Creole cuisine, they aren’t just used to add heat to a dish. The real goal in Cajun cooking is full, bold flavor. John Folse, a New Orleans chef says, “A properly prepared Cajun or Creole dish should leave you with a warm feeling in the back of your throat – not running to gulp down a glass of milk to put out the fire spreading down your esophagus.” Cayenne, paprika, garlic and any number of other spices blended with fresh vegetables and meats make Cajun food the flavorful experience we know and love. So, remember not to skimp on the spices when you’re cooking your next Cajun recipe.
The basis of many Cajun recipes is the “holy trinity” of vegetables: celery, onion and green bell pepper. These vegetables are found naturally in Louisiana and are a play on the French mirepoix, which is made of onion, carrots and celery and is the base of many dishes in French cuisine. Garlic, parsley and green onions are also a staple of true Cajun cooking. Next time you’re looking for a Cajun recipe, find one with these ingredients to get a true taste of Louisiana.
I don’t know about you, but I always thought a gumbo and a jambalaya were interchangeable, and I was never sure what an etouffée was. It turns out there is a difference between them. A gumbo is a true soup made with meat and vegetables with rice on the side—not in it. Gumbo is usually served before a meal or as a side. Jambalaya, while it also has a variety of meats and vegetables, is thicker and is combined with rice either while cooking or before serving. Etouffée, on the other hand, is considered a main course and is usually made with a single type of shellfish smothered in sauce and served over rice. Keep these definitions in mind the next time you’re looking for a recipe, and remember to leave the rice out of the gumbo.
Are you interested in learning more about cooking Cajun food? Join us for our Cajun Cuisine short course, where you’ll learn some more tips and techniques to wow your guests. To register click here or call 405.377.3333. To find out about more courses like this, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. View all of our upcoming courses in our digital catalog.
Abby McCain is a Communications and Marketing Specialist at Meridian Technology Center.