Key Ingredients for Louisiana Cuisine
the rich, complex Creole cuisine of New Orleans and
the homey, country-style Cajun cuisine of Acadiana (French
Louisiana) rely heavily on many ingredients that are
made and grown locally. Substitutions can be made
for some, but if you're going for anything like the
real thing, try to get authentic ingredients. But first,
as my grandmother says . . . "First ya make a roux."
Just as it is in classical French cuisine, roux is a
mixture of flour and fat, usually butter or oil. The
proportion is roughly 1:1, but I tend to use slightly
more flour than oil; maybe 1.5 cups of flour to 1 cup
of oil. It is the basis for many Louisiana dishes, particularly
gumbo, but also etouffees, sauce piquantes, and more.
are three basic types of roux: light (or what the Cajuns
call "blond"), medium (or "peanut butter"
colored), and dark. There is white roux also, which
is cooked for just a minute to get the flour taste out,
but this is rarely used in Louisiana cooking. For gumbos,
for instance, Creole cooks tend to prefer a blond or
medium roux, where Cajun cooks tend to prefer a very
dark roux, which is wonderfully smoky tasting. (There
are, of course, exceptions to this.)
is used to thicken gumbos, sauces, étouffées or stews,
and in the case of a darker roux to flavor the dish
as well. Dark roux has more flavor, a wonderful roasted
nutty flavor, but tends to have less thickening power.
of a roux is dependent on cooking time; the longer you
cook, the darker the roux. A blond roux will only take
four or five minutes; a dark roux up to 20 or 25 minutes
at high heat, or up to an hour at low heat. Roux must
be stirred constantly to avoid burning. Constantly means
not stopping to answer the phone, let the cat in, or
flip the LP record over, and if you've got to go the
bathroom ... hold it in or hand off your whisk or roux
paddle to someone else. If you see black specks in your
roux, you've burned it; throw it out and start over.
you're stirring your roux, be very careful not to splatter
any on you. It's extremely hot, and it sticks. They
don't call it Creole napalm for nothing ... I have a
lovely burn scar on my forearm from last year's Christmas
Eve gumbo, when I got sloppy with the stirring.
dishes (like crawfish etouffee) would benefit from a
butter-based roux, but if you're going to make a dark
roux, this will take a long time. Butter roux must be
cooked at low to low-medium heat, or the butter will
scorch. Darker roux are better suited to being made
with oil. If you know what you're doing, you can make
an oil-based roux over medium-high to high heat, whisking
like hell, and you'll have a beautiful near-milk-chocolate
colored roux in about 20 minutes rather than an hour.
Peanut oil works best for high-heat roux cooking.
told that some home cooks are making roux in the microwave
now. "No stirring!", they say. "It works!"
Bah. Humbug. There's a certain satisfaction to stirring
it by hand that I myself refuse to delegate to a microwave.
Some things simply must be done by hand if you're serious
A Louisiana delicacy. Ecrevisse in French.
Some folks call 'em "mudbugs", hillbillies
(Jed Clampett, for instance) call 'em "crawdads",
tourists and Yankees call 'em "crayfish".
If you go to New Orleans and ask for "crayfish",
you'll be asked, "Oh hey dawlin', where ya from?"
They are crawfish. Crawfish have a marvelous,
delicate flavor, and the crawfish fat adds a mind-bogglingly
delicious enrichment to sauces and the like. There no
substitute for crawfish; if you want to make crawfish
etouffee and you substitute shrimp, you've made shrimp
does export some of its crawfish crop (but 90% of it,
or about 10 million pounds per year, is consumed within
the state), so some markets around the US do offer them.
BEWARE! Crawfish do not keep well, and if they smell
or taste the least bit "fishy", they're off.
Best bet is to have them shipped live (or the frozen
tails) from a source in Louisiana.
and Seasoning Meats
A spicy Louisiana smoked pork sausage. Not to be confused
with the continental French "andouillette",
which is a tripe sausage and is icky. Hot smoked sausage
of any brand can be substituted, but good andouille
is a joy.
Tasso is a very highly seasoned lean pork butt, used
as a seasoning meat. It has an intense, delicious
flavor, and a little goes a long way. I suppose
you could substitute smoked ham, but you will not
get remotely the same flavor. You can obtain
tasso from a few mail-order sources.
The clear or brown syrup made from sugar cane, and
often used locally instead of maple syrup or those
thin, nasty, artificially-flavored "pancake syrups".
Fiery ground red pepper made from the cayenne chile.
Powerful stuff, and used liberally in Louisiana cooking,
especially in combination with white pepper and freshly
ground black pepper.
shrimp and crawfish boil
Spices for boiling seafood. They come either
in a flow-through packet, in dry powdered form, or
as a liquid concentrate, used to flavor the water
in which seafood is boiled. It's strong, pungent
and spicy. Zatarain's, Rex, Yogi and Tony Chachere's
are the prevalent brands. Zatarain's comes in
the well-known "flow-through" packet; the
others are granulated, which you can add to the water
and/or sprinkle on the seafood itself after boiling.
A thick, pungent, spicy, coarse local mustard used
on po-boys as well as an ingredient in many dishes.
The mustard seeds are marinated before preparation.
Most common brands are Zatarain's and Horse Shoe.
If you can't find this where you live, substitute
a coarse-grained, country-style Dijon mustard.
Filé powder is made from dried and ground sassafras
leaf. It is used as a seasoning and primarily
thickening agent in gumbo, and has a wonderfully pungent
and aromatic flavor. Common local brands are
Zatarain's, Rex or Yogi. There is no substitute.
Remember that file' should never be added to a pot
of gumbo while it's cooking, but rather added at the
end and to individual servings. If cooked or
reheated, it will turn stringy. Pronounced (FEE-lay).
The King of All Pepper Sauces. Available worldwide,
and made in Avery Island, Louisiana by the McIlhenny
family since the 1880s. Used as a table sauce and
as a cooking ingredient. Other good pepper sauces
that are not as distinctively flavored as and are
mellower than Tabasco are Crystal and Louisiana Red
Hot. Sample and pick your favorite, remembering
that there are
over 60 different brands of hot sauces made in Louisiana.
DU MONDE RECIPE
is Chuck Taggart's Gumbo Recipe which I've made - it
takes time and effort, but it is delicious. He
shares his great sense of humor while explaining his
is by no means a "definitive" gumbo recipe.
There are an almost infinite number of ways of making
gumbo, but this is the way I make it. I say with no
trace of arrogance and with complete honesty that this
may well be the best gumbo you've ever had.I call this
my "everything" gumbo. It's a bit unusual
in that the chicken stock is also infused with a seafood
flavor from the shrimp shells and heads, and that it
contains chicken, sausage and seafood. I believe this
makes for a much richer and more complex set of flavors
for the gumbo. Get this recipe while you can - if I
ever end up serving this in a restaurant I'm not going
to give my secrets away anymore . . .
that you MUST go through the stock making process for
this dish; plain water or a canned stock will simply
not do. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this
step. Yes, you'll see gumbo recipes that call for plain
water, but I do not believe that it's worth it to make
a gumbo this way. You simply cannot get the depth and
multi-layered complexity of flavors without
starting with a homemade stock. Don't believe me? Listen
to one of your fellow Gumbo Pages readers who wrote
me and said,
wanted to tell you that I used your Gumbo recipe, and
went ahead, on your pleading, and spent a whole day
making the stock. It's the best gumbo I have ever made."
stock can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen.
quarts cold water
8 -10 pounds chicken parts (backs, necks, etc.) and
bones, or a whole chicken, cut up and oven-browned
Shrimp shells and heads, reserved from the 4 pounds
of shrimp that have been
peeled for the final step of the gumbo (the heads are
8 ounces onions, chopped
4 ounces celery with tops, chopped
4 ounces carrots, chopped
2 heads garlic, cut in half horizontally
a small cheesecloth bag or tea ball place:
tsp or so black peppercorns, cracked
A few parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried tarragon leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
at all possible, please try to get shrimp with the heads
on. Shrimp heads impart a wonderful flavor to the stock,
and it just ain't the same as a real New Orleans gumbo
without them. Do whatever you have to do.) Remove the
skin from the chicken and chop into 3 - 4 inch pieces,
making sure to cut through and expose the bones. Brown
the chicken parts and bones in a 350ºF oven for
about 20 minutes. Put the chicken in the stockpot with
the water and bring slowly to a simmer. Periodically
skim off any scum that forms, and if you wish use a
skimmer to skim off the fat. (This stock simmering process
makes your house smell REALLY good!) Let this simmer
for at least three, and preferably four hours. It is
this long simmering process that extracts the maximum
flavor from the chicken meat and bones, as well as the
natural gelatin from the bones. When refrigerated, a
good chicken stock will be clear and gelatinous.
the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Place the peppercorns,
parsley sprigs and dried herbs into a 4-inch square
piece of cheesecloth (making a sachet d'epices) and
tie it into a little sack; add the sack to the stock
(you can tie the sack closed with some twine and tie
the long end of the twine to the handle of the pot;
this makes the bag easier to retrieve.) Simmer for one
more hour, then add the shrimp shells and heads. Simmer
an additional 30 minutes.
that during the simmering process, it's best not to
stir the stock. The end result will be much clearer
if it is not agitated while simmering.
thoroughly; the best way to do this is to ladle the
stock out and pour it through a strainer which has been
lined with a couple of layers of damp cheesecloth.
If you're using the stock immediately, skim off as much
fat as you can with a fat skimmer or a piece of paper
towel, otherwise cool the stock right away by placing
the container into an ice-water-filled sink, stirring
to bring the hot liquid from the center to the sides
of the container. Don't just put hot stock in the refrigerator;
it won't cool enough to prevent possible multiplication
of harmful bacteria. To defat the stock easily, refrigerate
so that the fat solidifies on the surface, then skim
about 5 quarts of stock.
for the shrimp shells, this is an excellent general-purpose
chicken stock. The shells are added at the last minute
for the additional seafood flavor for that I like especially
for this dish; for general use, though, it's best to
make separate chicken or fish stocks. The stock will
keep for a few days in the refrigerator or 6 months
in the freezer.)
- 1/4 cups flour
1 cup oil
thoroughly in a thick skillet and cook over medium-high
to high heat, stirring constantly. Be very careful not
to burn it! If you see black specks in the roux, you've
screwed it up. Dump it out and start over.
Keep cooking and stirring until the roux gets darker
and darker. It's best to use a very heavy pot
or skillet for roux-making, especially cast iron. With
a good cast iron Dutch oven or skillet, you can get
a beautiful dark roux in only about 20 minutes.
Orleans people tend to like a blond or peanut butter
colored roux, so feel free to make it that way if you
like. Cajuns tend to like it dark, and so do I - if
you feel comfortable that you won't burn the roux, cook
it until it's a dark, reddish-brown, almost but not
quite as dark as milk chocolate. The roux, when finished,
almost smells like roasted coffee . . . yum!
you prefer a blond or medium roux, cut down on the amount
of roux you use; dark roux does not have as much thickening
effect since the starch is so thoroughly cooked.
should turn the fire down or off as the roux nears the
right color, because the heat from the pan will continue
cooking it. You can also add your onions, bell
peppers and celery to the roux as it's near the end
of cooking to arrest the cooking process and to soften
the vegetables. Keep stirring until the roux is
relatively cool. Add the roux to the stock.
don't call roux "Cajun napalm" for nothing.
Don't let any splatter on you.
you don't have a heavy enough pan, or if you're nervous
about cooking roux at high heat, remember that a dark
Cajun-style roux will take about an hour of constant
stirring at low heat, so if you're pressed for time,
a nice blond Creole-style roux will still do nicely,
and will take about half the time. Also remember
that the roux can be prepared in advance, and refrigerated
or frozen. With a little practice, you'll get
good at it.
chicken or guinea hen, without giblets, cut up
1 pound smoked sausage and/or fresh Creole hot sausage,
4 pounds shrimp
6 blue crabs, cleaned, broken in half and claws pulled
3 pounds okra, sliced
2 onions, chopped
1 bunch green onions with tops, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
5 ribs celery, chopped
several cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Creole seasoning to taste, or black, white and cayenne
peppers, to taste
Salt to taste
Few dashes Tabasco, or to taste.
Steaming hot Louisiana long-grain rice
the chicken pieces with Creole seasoning and brown in
the oven. Slice the sausage and brown, pouring off all
the fat (especially if you're using fresh Creole hot
sausage). Sauté the onions, green onions,
bell pepper and celery if you haven't already added
them to the roux, and add to the stock. Add the chicken
and sausage(s). Add the bay leaves and Creole seasoning
(or ground peppers) to taste and stir. Bring to a boil
and immediately reduce to a simmer; let simmer for about
45 minutes. Keep tasting and adjusting seasonings as
the okra and cook another 30 minutes or so. Make
sure that the "ropiness" or "stringiness"
from the okra is gone, add the parsley, crab halves
and claws. Cook for another 15 minutes, then add the
shrimp. Give it another 6 - 8 minutes or so, until the
shrimp are just done, turning pink. Be very careful
not to overcook the shrimp; adding the shrimp should
be the very last step.
there is any fat on the surface of the gumbo, try to
skim off as much of it as possible.
generous amounts in bowls over hot rice, claws, shells,
bones and all. Remember that the rice goes in the bowl
first, and it is not an optional step, despite the trend
among some New Orleans restaurants to serve a riceless
may, if you like, sprinkle some gumbo file' in your
individual serving; just remember not to put it in the
pot and cook it with the gumbo; it doesn't work, and
will make the gumbo stringy.
labored for years refining this recipe. If you make
this gumbo and serve it to your guests without crediting
me and singing my name . . . Okay, just kidding . .
. all I want is for you to enjoy it!
article was contributed by Shirley Cline.
was a great inspiration when I first started working
on the idea of creating a recipe and cooking web site.
Not only did she encourage me but she also supplied
a great many recipes and other pieces which are featured
throughout the site. Her great achievement was to teach
me to cook risotto over the internet!
I never had the chance to meet Shirley, or even talk
to her, I regarded her as a good friend. It was with
great sadness that I learnt that she passed away in
Autumn 2004 and that there would be no more emails.
I think she will be sadly missed by a lot of people
like me to whom she gave such pleasure with the sharing
or her recipes. The pleasure my children have had from
her recipe for Strawberries
with Balsamic Vinegar and Mint - not to mention
the fights for seconds - has been a joy to behold.