Simply Cajun Cuisine

By Rowan Jacobsen, "Simply Cajun," September/October 2012

Louisiana's best chefs discuss creating the distinct southern flavors that are the essence of Cajun classics like gumbo and étouffée.

"Best summary of Cajun Food that I have ever read. "

In contrast, Cajun cooks kept it simple. “Cayenne, black and white pepper are the core spices,” says Patout. “I didn’t even know what thyme or oregano were growing up.” Today, thanks to the blackened-redfish craze spawned by chef Paul Prudhomme in the ’80s, Cajun seasoning, which usually adds thyme, garlic and onion powders to that mix, is ubiquitous. But historically cooks left the addition of hot sauce up to diners. The region has had a hot-pepper-sauce habit since the mid-1800s when Edmund McIlhenny planted tabasco peppers on Avery Island, aged his pepper mash in white oak whiskey barrels and mixed it with salt mined from beneath the island. Today you won’t find a lunch counter in Acadiana that doesn’t hold a bottle of Tabasco sauce, still made using the same original formula McIlhenny perfected.

And that’s the kind of thing that keeps drawing me back to bayou country. Because when I’m there, whether it’s at a crab boil in Terrebonne Parish or a crawfish stand deep in the Atchafalaya Swamp, I know I can turn off Google Earth and toss my GPS in the bayou. I don’t need ’em. To understand exactly where I am, all I have to do is close my eyes and taste.

Rowan Jacobsen’s latest book is Shadows on the Gulf.

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