A Gumbo of Cultures
Different regions of the country have distinctive characteristics for their food. In New Orleans, there is a unique history of food related to the environment, history, and culture of the area. Many people in other parts of the United States have never heard of foods that New Orleanians eat everyday, such as gumbo, red beans and rice, jambalaya, and
crawfish etoufée. An assortment of cultural elements provides the foundation for these culinary differences. The types of food available and the people who settled and lived in Louisiana during its first 100 years shaped Creole cooking in New Orleans. The diet of early Louisianians was dependent on what they could easily find in the area.
Louisiana had a vast source of wild game, fish, and seafood. The trees indigenous to the area provided the settlers with a variety of fruits and nuts. However, New Orleans soon became an international port city, expanding the variety of foods available for purchase and the variety of foods that are grown there. The population grew and diversified as
well which meant that new types of cooking were introduced. Each of these ethnic groups made up Louisiana’s early population and contributed to the development of Creole cuisine:
The Native Americans
exposed the new settlers to the sassafras plant, whose leaves were dried and ground to make filé for use in gumbo.
translation of “sassafras powder” is “kombo ashish.”
were the first European settlers in Louisiana to possess agricultural skills. They supplied the colony with fresh vegetables, corn, rice, and indigo.
settlers from Acadia of Nova Scotia, Canada (known as Acadians or Cajuns) were experts at draining swampy land and making the land suitable for agriculture.
New Orleans is famous for its coffee which is still a very important part of New Orleans’ culture today. General historical references to and recipes for coffee are abundant in cookbooks from New Orleans, and other parts of the United States and the world. While coffee is not actually grown in Louisiana, it is roasted and prepared there. It is the preparation process, especially the addition of chicory, that makes Louisiana’s coffee unique and famous.
From a New Orleans’ cookbook entitled The Original Picayune Creole Cook Book originally published in 1901:
Travelers the world over unite in praise of Creole Coffee, or “Café a la Creole,” as they are fond of putting it…. There is no place in the world in which the use of coffee is more general than in the old Creole city of New Orleans, where, from the famous French Market, with its world-renowned coffee stands, to the old-time homes on Bayou St. John, from Lake Pontchartrain to the verge of Southport, the cup of “Café Noir,” or “Café au Lait,” at morning, at noon and at night, had become a necessary and delightful part of the life of the people, and the wonder and the joy of visitors.Hermann-Grima/Gallier Historic Houses
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 bunch shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rib cerery, chopped
½ cup fresh, sliced mushrooms
½ cup butter
1 (10 ¾ oz. can) Cream of Cerery Soup
4 Tablespoons tomato sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ cup minced, fresh parsley
½ cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 pound fresh or frozen peeled crawfish tails
1 deep dish pie crust
Saute' onions, shallots, garlic, celery, and mushrooms in butter until tender. Add soup, tomato sauce, sugar, and parsley. Cook 10 minutes.
Gradually add breadcrumbs and mix well. Add cream and seasonings; mix well. Stir in crawfish tails. Pour into unbaked pie crust.
Do NOT cover pie with a top crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from oven and allow to stand until firm and will not run when cut. Serve warm.
Yield 6 servings. Note: May freeze after cooking and reheat
in microwave. Pepper may be adjusted to suit taste.
Recipe: Charles J. Custer - Memphis, Tennessee - "Boss Pit" Barbecue Team.
Creole Chicken Fricassée
This recipe uses traditional ingredients of creole cooking: green peppers, onions and tomatoes.
1 3 lb. chicken, cut up and seasoned with salt & pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 green peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
1/4 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
2 parsnips, sliced into 1/2" slices
2 large carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
1. Heat the oil in a dutch oven and when it is hot, add the chicken pieces.
2. Brown them, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
3. Drain all but 1-1/2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
4. Add the onions, half of the bell peppers, 1 tablespoon parsley, bay leaf and thyme. Cook 5 minutes.
5. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon.Stir in the tomato sauce.
6. Return the chicken to the pan, along with the juices that are on the plate.
7. Add the rest of the bell pepper, parsnips and carrots.
8. Add enough wter to barely cover and bring it up to a boil.
9. Reduce heat, partially cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes.
10. Uncover pan, and cook another 10-15 minutes.
Sauce should be slightly thickened and the chicken will be done.
Place chicken pieces on a serving platter and pour the vegetables and sauce over the pieces. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.
Red Beans and Rice with Smoked Sausage
Red beans and rice is a delicious and popular Louisiana dish traditionally served on Mondays using the ham bone left over from the previous Sunday's ham dinner. Red kidney beans are most often used, but
many purists feel the flavor is too strong and use the small
South Louisiana red beans.
"In all the ancient homes of New Orleans, and in the colleges and convents, where large numbers of children are sent to be reared to be strong and useful men and women, several times a week there appear on the table either the nicely cooked dish of Red Beans, which are eaten with rice, or the equally wholesome White Beans a la Creme, or Red or White beans boiled with a piece of salt pork or ham." - The Picayune Creole Cookbook 1900
1 pound dried red beans
1 ½ pounds smoked sausage cut into chunks
1 ham hock
1 large onion chopped
salt to taste
1 clove garlic minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon sage
teaspoon cayenne pepper
freshly cooked white rice
Soak beans overnight in cold water. Drain. Add remaining ingredients
to beans except salt and rice. Bring to boil over medium high heat.
Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer until beans are tender,
adding more water if necessary (about 2 ½ hours). Add salt to taste.
Discard ham bones. Remove about ¼ cup of beans from mixture and
mash to paste; return to Dutch oven and stir. Simmer 15 more minutes.
Serve over hot rice.
New Orleans was settled by the French in 1718 and then ceded to the
Spanish in 1766. These two groups of colonists intermarried and their
offspring became Creoles. Creoles combined their food and spices
with those of Africans, American Indians and West Indians to create a
new type of cuisine that included gumbo.
Gumbo is commonly thickened with a dark roux and file (ground
sassafras powder). Okra is a mandatory ingredient that indirectly thickens the stew.
There are many different ways to prepare gumbo. It can contain chicken, sausage, seafood, catfish or even any blend of those meats, but it is always slow-cooked and has roux as a base.
To begin, make a roux by stirring together ⅓
cup flour and ⅓
cup oil in a two-quart sauce
pan until it's smooth. Place over medium-high heat for about
five minutes, making sure to stir consistently. Reduce the
heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes until it becomes
a dark red/brownish color. Set aside to cool.
Saute vegetables in the roux and be sure to brown meats before adding them.
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup flour
½ cup minced carrot
cup minced celery
cup minced onion
½ cup minced red bell pepper
cup diced tomato
1 Tbs. thyme
2 Tbs. paprika
3 Tbs. file powder (ground sassafras root)
4 sliced garlic cloves
4 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
3 quarts shellfish stock, or fish stock,
or at the very least homemade chicken stock
1 cup sliced tasso ham, cooked
1 cup (or more to taste) thinly sliced andouille sausage, cooked
cup sliced okra
3 blue crabs
6 Tbs. minced parsley
1 scotch bonnet or habanero chili, roasted and minced
1 lb. shrimp, 15-count, cleaned and sliced in half lengthwise
18 freshly shucked clams with liquids
18 freshly shucked oysters with liquids long-grain rice
Place a large iron soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil and the flour,
stirring to mix. This is the roux. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until the roux is reddish brown. Add the carrot, celery, onion and red pepper. Stir while it cooks for five minutes.
Add the tomato, thyme, paprika, sassafras and garlic. Cook for several
minutes then add the Worcestershire sauce and the stock. Bring to a boil
and add the ham and sausage, which have already been browned.
Reduce heat to the lowest possible flame needed to maintain the barest
simmer possible. Simmer for one hour, then add the okra and simmer for
two more hours. If the liquid reduces by more than ⅓
, add stock to bring it back up to ⅓
of the original mixture.
Add the crabs and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the gumbo
and clean and quarter them. Return crabs to the pot along with the
remaining ingredients. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Season and serve with rice. Use long-grain rice, and cook with a two-to-one ratio of water to rice. Do not wash the rice.
Recipe: Food and Lifestyle - Home and Garden Television
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