There is something almost magical about Louisiana food. It's such a combination of flavors resulting from the blending of several distinct cultures. Of course, the big debate in Louisiana is “Cajun or Creole”? Just what is the difference? Asking that of a Louisiana native can be the start of a lengthy conversation but, according to Jay Ducote of BiteandBooze.com, the simplest way to determine the difference is that Creole cuisine uses tomatoes while proper Cajun food does not. In fact, Creole food is usually called “city food” while Cajun cuisine is known as “country food.”
The word Cajun comes from the Acadians—the French colonists who settled in Canada's Acadian region (today's New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia), and were forced out of Acadia in the early 1700's, relocating in the swamps of Louisiana. This area of Louisiana today is defined by the food, the rural Louisiana swamp lands, Cajun French music and a unique Cajun French language. Cajuns are known for boudin, a Cajun sausage with pork meat, rice and seasoning that is usually stuffed in a casing. Other Cajun specialties include tasso; andouille sausage; the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine that is onion, celery and bell pepper; garlic; paprika; thyme; filé (ground sassafras roots); and green onions.
The Creole people were born to French colonial settlers in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans. Creoles were originally descended from the upper-class French and Spanish residents who ruled old New Orleans. The term went on to include the native-born slaves of African descent and free people of color. Sometimes people differentiated between French Creole (those of French heritage) and Louisiana Creole (those of mixed racial ancestry). The food is an amazing blend of cultures, including Italian, Spanish, African, German, Caribbean, Native American and Portuguese. Creole foods usually include creamy soups and sauces, such as a remoulade sauce.
During my recent travels through Louisiana, I found some amazing flavors. I was able to gather a few recipes so that I can share some of my favorite dishes with my readers. I've also added in a few fun drinks to help wash down all that great food. Click here for more of my Recipes from the Road.
Soups and Appetizers
Somehow the appetizers in Louisiana were bigger than appetizers in other places and the soups were so full of flavor. In fact, I was usually full on appetizers before the main dish—or dishes—ever arrived. Here are a few of my favorites.
Easy Corn & Crab Chowder
This recipe from Visit Louisiana Coast is courtesy of Anna Lee Breaux Saltzman of Guyedan, Louisiana
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 stick margarine/butter
- 1¼ cups whole milk or 1 carton Half & Half Cream
- 1 lb. picked crabmeat
- 1 can cream style corn
- 2 cans whole corn
- 2 cans potato soup
- Parsley, for garnish
- Sauté bell pepper and onion in margarine or butter.
- Add corn, potato soup, milk (or cream) and crabmeat.
- Cook chowder for 20 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency. A
- dd parsley and season to taste.
- To reduce calories, you may use skim milk and reduce the amount of butter you use to sauté the ingredients.
This recipe is from the Louisiana Culinary Institute and was one of my favorite bites of the entire trip
- 1 lb chicken strips
- 4 TBLS Crawfish Town USA Seasoning (or other Louisiana seasoning – here are some of my favorite Cajun seasonings)
- 4 TBLS butter
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 shot Southern Comfort
- 1 cup pecans (crushed)
- 4 cups seasoned flour
- 4 cups seasoned egg wash
- oil for frying
- Take chicken strips and season with CT USA Seasoning (or other Cajun seasoning).
- Next, in a medium pot, melt the butter.
- Once the butter is melted, add brown sugar and cook until sugar dissolves.
- Once the sugar dissolves, add heavy cream.
- Let the sauce simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes then add Southern Comfort, being careful because the alcohol could catch on fire.
- Add pecans and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Keep warm for later use.
- Batter the chicken in seasoned flour, dip in egg wash, then flour again.
- Deep fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
- Once chicken is cooked, pour some praline sauce over chicken, then serve.
New Orleans BBQ Shrimp & Grits
This recipe is from the Louisiana Culinary Institute and serves 6. I was able to help prepare this dish and enjoyed eating it very much.
This is one of Susan's Favorite Recipes
- 2 lb. Louisiana Shrimp (21-25 and traditionally with head and shells on)
- 1 TBLS Cajun Seasoning (Some of my favorite Cajun seasonings)
- 4 oz unsalted butter
- 1 cup red onion, finely diced
- ¼ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
- ¼ cup green bell pepper, finely diced
- ½ cup celery, finely diced
- 1 TBSP garlic, minced
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 cup Abita Amber (or similar Amber beer)
- 1 cup shrimp stock
- ½ cup cream
- ¼ cup green onions, sliced
- Kosher Salt, to taste
- Black Pepper, to taste
- 2-4 ounces unsalted cold butter, to finish
- In a mixing bowl, season the shrimp with the Cajun Seasoning and set aside for later use.
- Next melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.
- Add vegetables and sauté 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add flour to make a roux, stirring until slightly golden, usually 3-5 minutes.
- Pour in the beer to deglaze the pot, and then add the shrimp stock and heavy cream.
- Once the sauce comes together, add the shrimp and poach the shrimp 3-4 minutes in the bbq sauce.
- Taste the sauce after the shrimp are cooked and then adjust the seasoning.
- Turn the heat off and add the 2-4 ounces of cold butter to melt into the sauce.
- Serve over grits (below).
Stone Ground Yellow Grits
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup Stone Ground Yellow Grits (not instant grits)
- 1 oz unsalted butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Cajun Seasoning to taste
- Start by cooking the grits in water with the butter for 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Once the grits are cooked, add the milk or heavy cream and Cajun Seasoning to taste.
- Once the grits are fully cooked, keep warm until the shrimp are cooked.
Because of its proximity to the water, much of the food of Louisiana features shrimp, fish and the classic Louisiana crawfish. But you'll also find a hearty dose of sausage, especially that flavor-rich andouille sausage. Here are a few of my favorite main dish bites.
This recipe is courtesy Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana and Hunter's Harlequin Steaks & Seafood of Lake Charles.
- 2½ sticks of butter
- 8 TBLS flour
- 1½ cup white onion, finely chopped
- 1½ cup celery hearts, finely chopped
- 1 TBLS crushed or minced garlic
- 4 chicken bouillon cubes
- 4 cups very hot water
- 1 TBLS Worcestershire sauce
- Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning (Some of my favorite Cajun seasonings)
- 2 lbs. crawfish tails (pick off black veins; do not wash)
- Make a very light roux by melting butter and adding flour a little at a time, stirring constantly to remove lumps.
- Cook roux until light brown in color. Do not over brown.
- Add onion, celery and garlic, stirring constantly.
- Cover and sauté, stirring occasionally. Add chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in hot water.
- Stir well.
- Cover and continue to cook on medium heat until vegetables are very soft. Consistency should be comparable to a heavy cream sauce.
- Add Worcestershire sauce and Tony's seasoning to taste.
- Add crawfish.
- Bring to a quick boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes until crawfish are tender.
- Taste for seasoning, you may want more depending on your personal taste.
- Serve over hot steamed rice or your favorite pasta.
Louisiana Seafood Gumbo
- 1 lb (35-count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat
- 2 dozen shucked oysters, reserve liquid
- 3 quarts shellfish stock
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper
- ¼ cup diced garlic
- ½ lb sliced andouille sausage
- 1 lb claw crabmeat
- 2 cups sliced green onions
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- salt and cayenne pepper
- Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce (Purchase Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce here)
- In a 7-quart cast iron dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.
- Sprinkle in flour and, using a wire whisk, stir constantly until brown roux is achieved. Do not allow roux to scorch. Should black specks appear in roux, discard and begin again.
- Once roux is golden brown, add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic.
- Sauté approximately 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted.
- Add andouille, blend well into vegetable mixture and sauté an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Add claw crabmeat and stir into roux. This will begin to add seafood flavor to the mixture.
- Slowly add hot shellfish stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until all is incorporated.
- Bring to a low boil, reduce to simmer and cook approximately 30 minutes.
- Add additional stock if necessary to retain volume.
- Add green onions and parsley.
- Season to taste using salt, pepper and Louisiana Gold.
- Fold shrimp, lump crabmeat, oysters and reserved oyster liquid into soup.
- Return to a low boil and cook approximately 5 minutes.
- Adjust seasonings and serve over cooked rice.
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
- 3 lbs chicken, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 lbs sliced andouille or smoked sausage
- ¼ cup shortening or bacon drippings
- 2 cups diced onions
- 2 cups diced celery
- 1 cup diced bell peppers
- ½ cup minced garlic
- 8 cups beef or chicken stock
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup sliced green onions
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- salt and cayenne pepper to taste
- Louisiana hot sauce to taste (Some of my favorite Cajun seasonings)
- 5 cups uncooked long-grain rice
- In a 7-quart cast iron Dutch oven, heat shortening or bacon drippings over medium-high heat.
- Sauté chicken 30 minutes or until dark brown on all sides and beginning to stick to bottom of pot. This process is important because jambalaya's brown color is derived from the color of the meat.
- Add sausage and stir fry 10-15 minutes. T
- ilt pot to one side and ladle out all oil, except one large cooking spoonful.
- Add onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic.
- Continue cooking until all vegetables are well caramelized, being careful not to scorch them.
- Pour in stock, bring to a rolling boil then reduce heat to simmer.
- Cook 15 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
- Stir in mushrooms, green onions and parsley.
- Season with salt, cayenne pepper and hot sauce.
- If desired, slightly over-season dish since rice has not yet been added.
- Add rice, reduce heat to low, cover and cook 30-45 minutes.
- Stir every 15 minutes. Do not uncover except to stir.
Creole Dirty Rice
This recipe is from the Louisiana Culinary Institute and serves 6. I had the opportunity to prepare the dirty rice for our dinner in Louisiana and I loved the flavors of this dish.
- 4 oz unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ lb ground pork or beef
- 1 cup diced onions
- ½ cup diced celery
- ½ cup diced bell pepper
- 2 TBLS diced garlic
- 2 TBLS Cajun/Creole Seasoning (I used Tony's – here are Some of my favorite Cajun seasonings)
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 ripe tomatoes, small dice
- ½ lb chicken giblets, pureed
- ½ lb chicken livers, pureed
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 5 cups cooked rice
- ½ cup sliced green onions
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- In a small cast iron pot, start to melt the butter and brown off the beef, onion, bell pepper and celery.
- Once the meat and vegetables are brown, quickly add garlic, seasonings, and diced tomato, cooking only for a few minutes.
- Next, pour in the pureed chicken giblets and liver.
- Let the liver and giblets cook a few minutes, then slowly add the chicken stock.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, simmering for 10-12 minutes.
- Next step is to taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Once it is seasoned to your liking, add the cooked rice, green onion, and parsley. Now the dish is ready to serve.
Desserts are amazing in Louisiana. I found many sweet and hearty desserts with flavors that capture the region. One of my favorite findings was Steen's Cane Syrup. It's a staple in Louisiana and a bit pricey to buy online, so if you know someone in Louisiana, have them ship you a few cans. One of my favorite uses of the cane syrup was on popcorn with a bit of Louisiana spices on it. It was addicting. Here are two more recipes for great desserts, one of which makes great use of the cane syrup.
Cane Syrup Éclair
Recipe is courtesy of Pastry Chef Camille Charvet, Ye Olde College Inn, New Orleans, Louisiana.
- 8 large eggs, divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 cups cane syrup, divided
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 vanilla beans, halved and seeds scraped and reserved
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1½ cups water
- 12 TBLS unsalted butter
- 1 TBLS sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 TBLS water
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- In a large bowl, combine 2 eggs, yolks, ¾ cup cane syrup and 1 cup flour. Mix thoroughly.
- In large saucepan, add vanilla bean and seeds and milk, and bring to a boil.
- Add 1 cup hot milk to egg mixture, and whisk until combined.
- Add egg and milk mixture back to saucepan of hot milk, whisking rapidly.
- Return to heat, and continue stirring continuously until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
- Pour into a shallow pan, and remove vanilla bean; cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large saucepan, heat 1½ cups water, butter, sugar and salt over high heat.
- Once mixture boils, remove from heat.
- Add remaining 1½ cups flour, and stir until combined.
- Reduce heat to medium, and return to heat, stirring continuously for 3 minutes.
- Immediately transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on low speed for 1 minute.
- Increase speed to medium, and add remaining 6 eggs, one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.
- Transfer dough to a piping bag with a large round tip. On prepared baking sheet, pipe 12 (6-inch) eclairs; brush with egg wash.
- Bake, leaving the oven door slightly ajar, until eclairs are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack.
- Transfer reserved cream to a piping bag with a small round tip.
- Once cooled, turn eclairs upside down, and pierce each 2 times with the piping tip evenly spaced along the length of the eclair.
- Fill each with reserved cane syrup cream by inserting the tip of the pastry bag into each hold and squeezing the bag.
- Turn eclairs over.
- In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup cane syrup and confectioners' sugar to desired consistency. Dip top of eclairs in glaze, and let dry.
- In a small pot, heat remaining 1 cup cane syrup over medium-high heat.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a rolling simmer, and reduce mixture by half.
- Drizzle over eclairs, or use as dipping sauce.
Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce
This recipe is courtesy Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana and Pujo St. Café in Lake Charles, LA.
- 15 oz cheap white sandwich bread
- 2½ cups sugar
- 5 eggs
- 3½ cups skim milk
- 2 TBLS vanilla
- ¼ lb butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup white rum
- In a large bowl, tear bread slices into small pieces.
- Add rest of ingredients for bread pudding and stir until well mixed.
- Coat a 10″ x 13″ pan and pour mixture in.
- Let come to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown.
- Let stand for 30 minutes before slicing.
- To prepare rum sauce, cream butter and sugar in mixer at high speed, until light and creamy.
- At low speed, add egg and mix until blended.
- Then add rum and mix until blended.
- Mix on high for 20 to 30 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Serve atop the bread pudding.
No Louisiana meal is complete without a drink and I discovered Bayou Rum, a product of Louisiana Spirits, LLC. Here are a couple of great drinks you can make with Bayou Rum (or you can substitute a similar rum if you can't get this Louisiana specialty).
- ¾ oz Bayou Rum Silver
- ¾ oz Bayou Rum Spiced
- ¾ oz Grand Marnier
- 1¼ oz Orange Juice
- 1¼ oz Pineapple Juice
- Splash of Simple Syrup
- Squeeze of 3 lime wedges
- Dash of Grenadine
- Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, stirring well.
- Pour over ice in a tall hurricane glass.
- Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
- 2 oz Bayou Rum Silver
- 5 mint leaves
- 1 tsp raw sugar or ¾ oz Simple Syrup
- 2 oz Sparkling Water
- Juice of 1 fresh lime
- Put mint leaves, sugar and a splash of sparkling water in a tall glass.
- Muddle well.
- Squeeze lime into glass, add Bayou Rum and stir well.
- Fill glass with ice and add rest of sparkling water.
- Garnish with sugar cane stalk prepped for chewing.