Spice up your meals with a tasty Louisiana influence.
Cooking On The Go
By Janet Groene, F47166
Some call the northwest corner of Louisiana the state’s “Other Side.” Here you will find the remote, rural back roads of Louisiana that run along the ancient route known as El Camino Real de los Tejas, a National Historic Trail that winds from Natchitoches (NACK-ah-tish), Louisiana, to Nacogdoches, Texas. My trip, all within Louisiana, took me on the portion of the trail between Shreveport/Bossier and Natchitoches. Then I traveled on to Alexandria/Pineville.
Along the way I sampled local cuisine, saw culinary demonstrations, and searched for the world’s best king cake. I found it at Julie Anne’s Bakery in Shreveport. Once a holiday treat in which a tiny bauble was hidden to guarantee the finder good luck through the year, king cake is now served and shipped every day.
In this area Creole women still use Indian fry bread, not tortillas, as the base for their taco salads, and they make their tamales with parched corn that they treat with lye before grinding, much as their forebears did 10 generations ago. For the RVer, travel to this area is the perfect contrast to New Orleans’ razzmatazz. Don’t miss the meat pies at Lasyone’s in Natchitoches; see the countless old plantations; sample the fare at down-home restaurants; and enjoy the beauty found in the nature parks.
Plan your visit to Cajun/Creole country with the help of www.louisianatravel.com.
The following recipes were chosen for their Cajun connection and because they are chic, but simple, for the motor coach cook.
Corn Macque Choux Chitimacha Nation
Among the best tourism treats in this region are the many American Indian heritage centers and powwows. Corn, native to the Americas before Europeans arrived, is a staple in Creole cuisine.
This recipe from Cooking in Cajun Country (see below) calls for fresh sweet corn, scraped from the cob with the “milk” saved, too. If you can’t find crawfish tail meat, use lobster tail or any firm, white seafood.
6 ears corn
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 sticks butter, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 12-ounce can tomatoes with chiles
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 15-ounce can cream-style corn
1 ½ cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons Cajun/Creole seasoning
1 pound Louisiana crawfish tail meat
4 cups cooked Louisiana rice
Scrape the corn off the cobs and into a bowl, scraping repeatedly to get all the “milk,” and set aside. Saute the onions, peppers, and celery in one stick of butter mixed with the olive oil. When the vegetables are tender, add the tomatoes and garlic, stirring for five to seven minutes. Add the corn and broth. Add the Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste. Add the crawfish tails and remaining butter and cook for an additional 20 minutes. This recipe makes eight servings, allowing ½-cup rice per person.
Pears In Red Wine
The Spanish came to this area first, and then the French settlers. Credit both with the tradition of using wine in Louisiana cuisine. Make this easy but elegant dessert with fresh pears, cooked just until tender, or with drained, canned pears. It improves with age, so make it ahead of time and keep it cold.
1 ½ cups dry red wine
3/4 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
10 pear halves, cooked until just tender, drained
Cook the wine, sugar, water, and cinnamon until the mixture is as thick as pancake syrup. Arrange the pears in a flat, nonreactive pan; pour hot syrup over them; and refrigerate for several hours or up to two days, turning if necessary, to flavor them evenly. This recipe makes five servings.
Cook’s tip: If you don’t have a nonmetal pan for marinating the pears in a shallow layer, slip a large plastic bag over a metal casserole or sheet cake pan. Place the pears on the plastic bag; cover with hot syrup; then slip it all into another plastic bag and refrigerate.
Louisiana Oysters In Puff Pastry
Bake the patty shells ahead of time, warm up the oyster filling, and you’ll serve the easiest, classiest dinner that ever came out of your galley. The filling keeps well in the refrigerator and can be reheated as needed. The patty shells should be baked fresh for each meal. This recipe makes enough filling for eight to 10 shells.
1 puff pastry patty shell per person
1 ½ quarts oysters, drained, liquor reserved
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1 bunch scallions, sliced white and light green only
1 large stalk celery, diced
½ stick butter
½ cup flour
1 quart half-and-half (you’ll need 2 to 3 cups)
Salt, white pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Paprika and/or minced parsley
While the shells bake according to package directions, sprinkle the drained oysters with lemon juice and set aside. Saute the scallions and celery in butter and stir in the flour until it bubbles. Stirring constantly, slowly add the reserved oyster liquor, oysters, and enough half-and-half to make a medium-thick sauce. Add salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Heat the sauce until smooth and thick, but do not boil. Spoon the oyster filling into the shells and sprinkle with parsley, paprika, or a little of each.
Louisiana Rice Harvest Brown Gravy
Rice and gravy is a Creole staple, served with braised beef or pot roast. This recipe is reprinted from the Cooking in Cajun Country cookbook (see below).
3 tablespoons cooking oil
3-pound chuck or shoulder steak
2 ½ tablespoons Cajun/Creole seasoning
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
4 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup beer
1 tablespoon beef base
3 cups water
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 cups cooked Louisiana rice
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and brown the meat, gradually sprinkling with Cajun/Creole seasoning as you brown and turn it. Turn frequently for 35 minutes. Remove the meat and set it aside. Add the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic to the Dutch oven, stir-frying until they’re soft and somewhat brown. Deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping to dissolve the brown bits. Dissolve the beef base in the pan juices and add the meat and enough water to cover it. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 90 minutes, adding water as needed. When the gravy is thick enough to coat a spoon, add the green onions. Slice the meat and place it on plates with ½-cup rice per person to serve eight. Spoon the gravy over it all.
FMCA member recipe. This is one of the best scalloped potato recipes ever, so rich it easily serves as a vegetarian main dish. It’s from Dian Miller, F258174, aboard “Miller’s Legacy” in Sarasota, Florida.
Scalloped Potatoes To Die For
1 teaspoon butter or margarine
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced (Dian uses minced, bottled garlic)
6 medium potatoes
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Butter a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish and set it aside. In a saucepan combine the cream, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook the mixture just until bubbles begin to form around the sides of the pan. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes and then pat them dry with paper towels. Layer half the potatoes in the greased baking dish; top with half of the cream mixture and half of the cheeses; repeat layers. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. Let stand for five to 10 minutes before serving. This recipe makes six servings.
While you’re in Creole country, look for books containing authentic recipes. You’ll also need to stock up on ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere, such as black cane syrup; custom spice blends; and Panderina Soumas’ own mixes for rice pilaf, gumbo, jambalaya, cobbler, etc. The books listed below are written by local experts and are highly recommended.
Soumas Heritage Creole Cookbook is sold in regional shops and at Amazon.com. Although its $28.95 price tag is hefty for a paperback, this is a thick book you’ll keep for years, both for its recipes and as a souvenir of your trip. It’s packed with family recipes, tips, memoirs, and delightful legends unique to this Spanish-French-African-American Indian culture.
Cooking in Cajun Country ($16.99, Gibbs Smith) is the perfect book for traveling foodies, because the authors provide tourism Web site addresses, chef Web site addresses, and a list of annual food festivals in the area. It’s written by Karl Breaux, a TV chef who has won many honors, and Chere Dastugue Coen, a journalist who lives in Lafayette. Background stories make the book a good armchair read, and the recipes are clear, reliable, and authentic.