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Louisiana Creole cuisine (French: Cuisine créole, Spanish: Cocina criolla) is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana, United States, which blends French, Spanish, West African, Amerindian, Haitian, German, British, Vietnamese, and Italian influences, as well as influences from the general cuisine of the Southern United States.
Louisiana sits at a crossroads for a large variety of immigrant influences. It is widely known that Louisiana was founded by the French, thus in Louisiana Creole is placed in a French aesthetic, with an emphasis on complex sauces and slow-cooking. Later, émigrés came to New Orleans from the French and Haitian Revolutions and added further elegance and gallic influences to the cuisine.
The following is a partial list of ingredients used in Creole cuisine and some of the staple ingredients.
Creole folkways include many techniques for preserving meat, some of which are waning due to the availability of refrigeration and mass-produced meat at the grocer. Smoking of meats remains a fairly common practice, but once-common preparations such as turkey or duck confit (preserved in poultry fat, with spices) are now seen even by Acadians as quaint rarities.
Game is still uniformly popular in Creole cooking.
Also included in the seafood mix are some so-called trash fish that would not sell at market because of their high bone to meat ratio or required complicated cooking methods. These were brought home by fishermen to feed the family. Examples are garfish, black drum also called gaspergou or just "goo", croaker, and bream.
Beef and dairy
Though parts of the Louisiana where Creole cooking is found are well suited to cattle or dairy farming, beef is not often used in a pre-processed or uniquely Creole form. It is usually prepared fairly simply as chops, stews, or steaks, taking a cue from Texas to the west. Ground beef is used as is traditional throughout the southern US, although seasoned differently.
Dairy farming is not as prevalent as in the past, but there are still some farms in the business. There are unique dairy items produced in Creole cooking such as Creole cream cheese.
Other game meats
Knowing how to make a good roux is key to Cajun and Creole cooking. The technique was inherited from the French. A roux is "a mixture made from equal parts of fat and flour, used especially to make a sauce or soup thicker." The fat and flour are cooked together on the stovetop until the mixture reaches a certain level of brownness, or darkness. Creole roux in New Orleans are known to be lighter than Cajun roux and are usually made with butter or bacon fat and flour. But certain Creole dishes use a dark roux. Dark roux are usually made with oil or bacon fat and flour. The scent of a good roux is so strong that it stays in clothes until they are washed. The scent is so widely recognized in Louisiana that others can tell if someone is making a roux, and often infer that they're making a gumbo. The secret to making a good gumbo is pairing the roux with the protein, similar to pairing the right wine and protein.
Gumbo - Gumbo is the quintessential stew-like soup of Louisiana. The dish is a Louisiana version of West African okra soups which the dish gumbo is named for. The name "gumbo" is derived from the French term for okra, which entered Louisiana French from West African languages as "gombo", from the West African "kilogombo" or "quingombo". Okra, often one of the principal ingredients in gumbo recipes, is used as a thickening agent and for its distinct flavor. In modern Louisiana cuisine, okra is not a requirement any longer, so gumbos can be made either with or without okra. Often gumbo that is not made with okra is made with a Louisiana spice called filé, a spice made from ground sassafras leaves. Chicken gumbos are often made without okra and made with filé instead. Tradition holds that a seafood gumbo is more common in summer months when okra is plentiful and a chicken or wild game gumbo in winter months when hunting is common. But of course, in Louisiana, a variety of different gumbos is eaten year long.
A filé gumbo is thickened with dried sassafras leaves after the stew has finished cooking, a practice borrowed from the Choctaw Indians. The backbone of a gumbo is roux of which there are two variations mainly used. A medium roux, or a dark roux, which is made of flour, toasted in fat or oil until well-browned.
Jambalaya - a most beloved of Louisiana dishes is the classic Creole dish named jambalaya. The only certain thing that can be said about a jambalaya is that it contains rice, some sort of meat (such as chicken or beef) or seafood (such as shrimp or crawfish) and almost anything else. Usually, however, one will find green peppers, onions, celery, tomatoes and hot chili peppers. Anything else is optional. Jambalaya is a dish of Spanish origin in Louisiana from the time when Spaniards were attempting to make their beloved dish "paella" in the new world. The dish has later evolved, going through a creolization of Louisiana influences. Jambalaya is a highly seasoned rice casserole.
Shrimp Creole - Shrimp Creole is a favorite of Creole cuisine in the greater New Orleans area. It's a dish made of shrimp, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and cayenne pepper. Classic shrimp creole does not contain a roux, but some cooks may add one. It's an early Creole dish that shows its strong French and Spanish heritage.
Red Beans and Rice - Red beans and rice is one of the most common dishes found in New Orleans, cooked in homes and restaurants throughout the New Orleans area. Red beans arrived with white French Creoles from Haiti who escaped Haiti during the slave uprising, settling in New Orleans. The wonderful stew of red beans has a strong Caribbean influence.
Rice and gravy - Rice and gravy dishes are a staple of Creole cuisine and is usually a brown gravy based on pan drippings, which are deglazed and simmered with extra seasonings and served over steamed or boiled rice. The dish is traditionally made from cheaper cuts of meat and cooked in a cast iron pot, typically for an extended time period in order to let the tough cuts of meat become tender. Beef, pork, chicken or any of a large variety of game meats are used for its preparation. Popular local varieties include hamburger steak, smothered rabbit, turkey necks, and chicken fricassee.
The crawfish boil is a celebratory event that involves boiling crawfish, potatoes, onions and corn in large pots over propane cookers. The crawfish boil is an event central to both Creole and Cajun cuisines. Lemons and small muslin bags containing a mixture of bay leaves, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper and other spices, commonly known as "crab boil" or "crawfish boil" are added to the water for seasoning. The results are then dumped onto large, newspaper-draped tables and in some areas covered in Creole spice blends, such as REX, Zatarain's, Louisiana Fish Fry or Tony Chachere's. Also, Cocktail sauce, mayonnaise and hot sauce are sometimes used. The seafood is scooped onto large trays or plates and eaten by hand. During times when crawfish are not abundant, shrimp and crabs are prepared and served in the same manner.
Attendees are encouraged to "suck the head" of a crawfish by separating the abdomen of the crustacean and sucking out the abdominal fat/juices.
Often, newcomers to the crawfish boil, or those unfamiliar with the traditions, are jokingly warned "not to eat the dead ones". This comes from the common belief that when live crawfish are boiled, their tails curl beneath themselves, but when dead crawfish are boiled, their tails are straight and limp. Seafood boils with crabs and shrimp are also popular.
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