Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cajun Cooking

Being from South Louisiana, I have to write about Cajun Cooking.  It's my favorite type of cuisine.  I cook it all the time.  I grew up eating it.  In fact, my first solid food as a baby was red beans and rice.  My family has a tradition of making gumbo every Christmas Eve and Easter get-togethers always include Crawfish Boils.  Needless to say, this type of food plays a big part in my life.  But there are a lot of misconceptions about Cajun food.  The first and biggest is that all Cajun food is super duper spicy.  Not true.  Cajun food is very flavorful, but not necessarily hot and spicy.  It can have a kick, but it doesn't have to make your lips burn and your forehead sweat!

The second misconception is that it's complicated and difficult to cook.  Again, not true.  The Cajuns were a simple people living off the land and using what they had to make delicious food.  Many dishes are one-pot meals, like the two I'm sharing with you today.

Jambalaya (pronounced Jum-ba-lie) is a one-pot wonder!  Meat, rice and seasonings mingle together to make a filling, delicious meal!  It's easy to make a little or a lot.  That's why when people down here get together, jambalaya is almost always on the menu.  My Mama made jambalaya once a week.  It was a staple in our house, like meatloaf.  When I'm cooking it and I smell the sausage and onions, I can't help but think of home.  It reminds me of a simpler time in my life when Mama and Daddy took care of everything.  That's why it's a staple in my house, too.  


1/2 lb pork smoked sausage, sliced
2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups long grain rice
3 3/4 cups chicken broth
Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's)
1 capful Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce (secret ingredient)

In a dutch oven (cast iron if you have it), brown sausage on both sides until very brown.  Remove and set aside.  Season chicken with Tony's then brown chicken in sausage drippings.  Remove and set aside.  Saute onion, celery and bell pepper in drippings (add a little oil if needed).  Season with Tony's.  When they are cooked down and brown, add meat back to pot.  Add rice and toast it up a little (stirring often).  Add in Kitchen Bouquet for color.  My Mama would never use this!  My Maw Maw called it "cheating".  But I find it gives the jambalaya the brown color you want every time!  Our little secret!
Add broth.  Bring to a boil.  Give it a good stir then put the lid on and lower heat to a simmer.  Do not open the lid again for 25 minutes!  Stirring will make it gummy and that's not what you want!  After simmering for 25 minutes, remove the lid and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Then fluff it with a fork before serving.

The next recipe involves crawfish.  If that freaks you out, you are not from Louisiana.  We love our "mud bugs" down here and you will too, once you try this recipe.  It is an easy Etouffe, which is a French word meaning "stewed" or smothered, and it's another one-pot dish.  It's easy because you don't even have to make the usual roux (oil and flour mixture used to thicken a stew).  You can find crawfish all over the country now, but please be sure to buy Louisiana crawfish.  Support our local fishermen!


1 lb peeled crawfish tails with fat
Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup green onions (scallions), chopped
1 stick butter
1 cup chicken broth

Season crawfish with Tony's and set aside.  Saute onions, bell pepper, and green onions in butter until tender.  Add crawfish and broth.  Cook on medium heat for 30-45 minutes.  Serve over rice.
So easy, but so good!

So there you have it, simple, delicious Cajun food.  Try these recipes and who knows, maybe they'll become part of your family memories, too.

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