As I live so close to New Orleans, Creole cuisine as been a basic part of my life since childhood, so of course I’d want to do a food post about it. Some of you have eaten these dishes, but if you haven’t had them in New Orleans, then I’m sorry to say that you more than likely have not had them properly.
I hear from people about their recipes for such dishes and it honestly makes me wince. Gumbo should not take a mere twenty minutes to prepare and your étouffée should not be primarily tomato based. All four-ish (there are variations… you’ll see in a minute) of the following recipes we cook somewhat regularly, and they are from the 1972 issue of The Plantation Cookbook by The Junior League of New Orleans. The tastes found in this cookbook are the same that you would enjoy from a restaurant (or someone’s home) in New Orleans.
Gumbo in its most basic form is a West African dish. It is a soup with okra in it and anything else you add because you have it lying around. Ki ngombo is the Bantu word for Okra. There is also speculation that it comes from the Choctaw word kombo, which is the sassafras filé (fee-yae) that is sometimes used in Gumbo. No one knows for certain and many Cajun and Creole dishes get their influences from France,
Space (<– Space was too amusing not to leave in somehow), Spain, Africa and Indigenous tribes that were in the area.
All of these recipes take a long time, but are so very worth the effort and time that is put into them.
Red Beans and Rice
Mondays in New Orleans, and the surrounding area’s, were always known as Red Beans and Rice day… as well as laundry day. For the entirety of the day you’d be doing nothing but hand washing all of your clothes out-of-doors and one would not have time to prepare food. So, this dish was easy to put together in the morning and let it cook all day while you were busy doing something else.
- 1 ham bone
- 11 1/2 C water
- 2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/4 tsp Tabasco
- 1 tsp Worcestershire
- 1 lb red beans, washed
- 1 C celery, chopped
- 1 C onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbs butter
- 1/2 lb ham, cubed
- 1/4 lb hot sausage, sliced
- 1/2 lb smoked sausage, sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste, course ground
- 1/4 C parsley, chopped
- 2 C cooked rice
Place ham bone in large pot and cover with water, adding the garlic salt, Tabasco, Worcestershire and beans. Cook, uncovered, over low flame. Saute celery, onions, and garlic in butter until transparent. In another pan, saute ham and sausage; drain. Add cooked meats and vegetable seasonings to beans. Add bay leaves, salt, pepper, and continue to cook on low flame until beans are soft and creamy (at least 2 1/2 hours). Remove bay leaves and add parsley before serving. For additional thickness cook longer. Serve over hot, fluffy rice.
- The original recipe calls for sauteing the vegetables in oil. Butter works just as well and tastes better.
- We omit the hot sausage as well as the Tabasco.
- Notice in the above photo how it’s all creamy. There’s no hard lumps of beans sticking out all over? This is how you want your dish to look. The beans should basically melt in your mouth, though are apparently somewhat solid-ish in looks.
This dish is pronounced ay-too-fay. The one found in the cookbook is for crawfish, and while we have made that, we primarily make chicken. I supply the recipe in its original entirety and in the notes, I’ll say how to make chicken.
- 2 sticks butter or 1 1/2 sticks butter and 1/2 C crawfish fat
- 1/4 C flour
- 1 C green onions, chopped
- 1 C yellow onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 C green pepper, chopped
- 1/2 C celery, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- 1/2 – 1 tsp basil (optional)
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbs Worcestershire
- Tabasco to taste
- 2 C liquid*
- 2 lbs cooked crawfish tails
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 Tbs lemon rind, grated
- 1/4 C parsley, minced
- 2 Tbs cognac (optional)
- 1/2 C green onion tops, chopped (optional)
*Liquid should be one of the following:
- 1 C dry white wine plus 1/2 C clam juice and 1/2 C water or
- 1 C clam juice plus 1 C water or
- 2 C water
Make a walnut-coloured roux* with 1 stick of butter and the flour. Add green onions, yellow onions, garlic, green pepper, celery, bay leaf, thyme, basil and then the remaining butter or crawfish fat. Saute, uncovered, over medium flame for 30 minutes.
Add tomato sauce, white pepper, salt, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer slowly, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Turn off fire. Add crawfish tails (if frozen, do not thaw), lemon juice, lemon rind, parsley, and cognac if desired.
This is better made the day before or early in the morning. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from fridge 1 hour before serving. Heat quickly, without boiling, and serve immediately over steamed rice with French bread. If desired, garnish with raw green onion tops. It is recommended that if you use wine and/or cognac that you omit the raw green onion tops.
- For Chicken Étouffée: Use 2 sticks of butter, omit cognac and lemon rind. Use cooked chicken in place of the crawfish tails. For the liquid use only 2 C water. Do use raw green onion tops for garnish. Follow original directions with these omissions and substitutions.
- *Roux, pronounced roo. This is simply mixing the butter and flour together in the heated skillet to cook it. Use a wire whisk or fork to keep it from sticking or becoming lumpy. Continuously stir until the desired colour is reached, in this case a walnut shade.
- Personally, the chicken version is to DIE for! It’s so creamy and buttery and is an absolute party in my mouth. But, then I do prefer chicken to crawfish or seafood.
- It’s divine the day of, but they’re correct, it’s absolutely phenomenal the next day after reheating. In the fridge all the flavours co-mingle over that long period of time taking it from green to grand!
- The above photo is of crawfish étouffée. Notice how it’s not day-glo orange or red, but a nice caramel shade? This is because it’s not chocked full of unneeded tomatoes, tomato paste, and sauce. This is what your étouffée should look like; chicken and crawfish. If you follow a Cajun recipe, it should be very dark brown because of all the cayenne pepper. But my recipe is of the Creole variety so does not go so dark or spicy.
Pronounced gree-yahds. This dish is really quite wonderful. You may have heard this dish referred to as Grillades and Grits. The cookbook says you can serve it over rice or grits, but honestly it’s best served over grits in my opinion.
- 4 lbs beef/veal rounds, 1/2″ thick
- 1/2 C bacon grease
- 1/2 C flour
- 1 C onions, chopped
- 2 C green onions, chopped
- 3/4 C celery, chopped
- 1 1/2 C green peppers, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 C chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp tarragon (optional)
- 2/3 tsp thyme
- 1 C water
- 1 C red wine
- 3 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp Tabasco
- 2 Tbs Worcestershire
- 3 Tbs parsley, chopped
Remove fat from meat. Cut meat into serving-size pieces. Pound to 1/4″ thick. In a Dutch oven brown meat well in 4 Tbs bacon grease. As meat browns, remove to warm plate. To Dutch oven add 4 Tbs bacon grease and flour. Stir and cook to make a dark brown roux. Add onions, green onions, celery, green pepper, garlic and saute until limp. Add tomatoes, tarragon, thyme, and cook for 3 minutes. Add water and wine. Stir well for several minutes; return meat; add salt, pepper, bay leaves, Tabasco, and Worcestershire. Lower heat, stir, and continue cooking. If veal rounds are used, simmer covered approximately 1 hour. If beef rounds are used, simmer covered approximately 2 hours. Remove bay leaves. Stir in parsley, cool, let grillades sit several hours or overnight in refrigerator. More liquid may be added. Grillades should be very tender. Serve over grits or rice.
- I have never made this with lamb as that is not easy to come by in the grocery stores here, so I follow the recipe for beef.
- I’ve only ever let the grillades sit a few hours, and never over night in the fridge. I also heat them up just a tad after they have been sitting idle, as I don’t enjoy them completely cold.
- I never use the Tabasco sauce.
- Again bacon grease is essential for a recipe. If you simply don’t eat bacon or don’t save it, butter can be used.
- It really is good. It’s like browned butter comfort. I also highly suggest (and I can’t seem to say it enough) serving it over grits, as it’s just not as delicious over rice.
If you’re new to grits, I’ll give you a run down. This is basically ground corn or ground hominy. It is typically a breakfast food, but as you’ve seen with the grillades recipe, not always. They’re easy, though tricky, to make and there are several ways to eat them. Loads actually, but I’ll only supply recipes/uses for four.
I’ve read some places about people comparing it to polenta and trying to hipsterfy it all up by saying to get the super coarse ground, super fresh variety. Keeping it in the fridge in special containers and boiling it for 40 minutes. Adding crème fraîche and strawberries and cheeses and all sorts of things and ways. You can do that if you want, but if you just want some basic grits for the above recipe or for eating by themselves, you don’t have to put yourself to all of that unnecessary trouble.
Don’t ever, ever buy Instant Grits. Please, do not. If anything ever was an abomination, it was Instant Grits. However Quick Grits are an entirely different affair. Traditional Grits will take you 40 – 50 minutes to boil. Quick grits take anywhere from 5 – 8 minutes. Grits are tricky, you do not want to be standing by your pot, frequently stirring for almost an hour. If you’re not right there attending them, they’ll lump up and stick to the pot. You want creamy grits, not weird porridge.
As long as they aren’t instant, then grits are grits. I’ve had grits all sorts of which-ways and the basic variety of butter, salt, and pepper and it doesn’t matter if they were quick or traditional, stone ground, super fresh, or extremely coarse or not. Try these simple versions first and then by all means branch out and try different styles of grits and different fancy recipes.
Really what makes all the difference is in how you prepare them after they’ve boiled. Cheese grits are really good, but I suggest using higher end cheeses like Gouda and not American or Velveeta or anything like that. Also, grits are a savoury dish. Save your sugars and syrups for oatmeal and porridge, please.
You’ll really follow the instructions on the back of the packaging, but this is a heads up before you’re in the store, and I’ll show you how to make grits for a serving of four. For one person, this is enough to try all the varieties I’ll show.
- 1 C Quick Grits (any brand)
- 4 C water
- 1/4 tsp salt
Slowly stir grits and salt into briskly boiling water in sauce pan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover. Cook 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
- The package will say that the salt is optional, but you’ll need it for all four varieties.
- Even though these cook quickly, you can’t run off and leave them like I’ve said previously. You’ll end up with burnt and lumpy grits stuck to your sauce pan. Stir them frequently. More than occasionally and not as much as constantly.
- To eat as is, simply spoon some into a bowl, then add butter, salt, and black pepper to taste. This might take a few times of mixing and tasting, but it is worth it to go slowly, so that you get the perfect taste, and so that you don’t over spice them.
- If you’re intending to use these for a recipe, like the grillades, there’s not need to do anything except put them on a plate or in a bowl when you are ready and spoon grillades over them.
- If you would like to try fried grits, and I recommend that you do, spoon what you’re not eating into a square or rectangular dish (can be Tupperware or a baking dish), spread smooth, cover and refrigerate. When they’re nice and solid and cold, you can cut them in to any shape you wish and fry in a little bit of bacon grease in a skillet over medium heat. You can eat them as is or you can drizzle some syrup on them. Yes, this is the time that something sweet is allowed with grits.
- It’s not for everyone, but cold grits are really quite good. You have two options here; to leave them in the pot until they reach room temperature or to put them in the fridge to truly make them cold. The salt is important for all of the varieties I’ve listed and especially so for this one. If you didn’t salt them, they’ll be gross. If you did salt them… well, you might still think they are gross. But give ’em a whirl since you’ve made yourself some grits.
- And that is the basics of grits and how to make them and utilize them. They’re not scary, they’re really delicious and quite versatile.
There are three recipes for gumbo in this cookbook; Duck, Turkey, and Seafood. We make Seafood or Chicken, where chicken is a cobbled together form of all three recipes. I’ll write out the seafood one, then I’ll write out how we make the chicken one; not in the notes section, but separately so as not to be too confusing.
- 5 qts water
- 2 dz boiled crabs
- 3 lbs raw shrimp (heads and shells on)
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1/2 C celery, coarsely chopped
Fill a 6-quart stock pot with the 5 quarts of water. Pull off back shells of crabs, adding shells to the stock pot. Discard inedible spongy fingers, break crabs in half and set aside. Peel shrimp, adding heads and shells to pot. Set shrimp aside. To stock pot, add carrot, onion, and celery; cover and simmer for 2 hours. Strain stock and return to pot.
- 3 C onions, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 C celery, finely chopped
- 1 C green peppers, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 lbs okra, cut into 1/4″ pieces
- 1 C and 1 Tbs cooking oil
- 2 Tbs flour
- 1 can (16 oz) tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 C diced ham or sliced sausage
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp basil
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/4 C parsley, chopped
- 2 C cooked rice
Saute onions, celery, green pepper, and garlic in 1/4 cup of oil until soft. Fry okra separately in 3/4 cup of oil over medium flame, about 45 minutes or until soft and the ropy texture is gone. Stir often. More oil can be added if okra sticks. In separate frying pan, make a brown roux with 1 Tbs of oil and the 2 Tbs of flour. Add tomato pulp and cook into a paste. Add ham, thyme, basil, and bay leaves. Cook for 5 minutes. Add sautéed seasoning and okra to stock and while stirring, slowly add in the roux. Simmer for 1 hour. Add peeled shrimp, crab halves, parsley, and cook an additional 1/2 hour. Season with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire to taste. Serve over hot rice. Freezes beautifully.
- We generally add the salt, pepper, and Worcestershire to taste while it’s cooking.
- We never add the Tabasco, finished dish or otherwise. We’re just not fans of it, if you couldn’t guess.
- You can play around with the seafood in this recipe. Shrimp, crab meat, whole cracked crabs, fish; just one or a combination.
- This is a dish originally used by poor people adding whatever seafood they had around to add in. This is not meant to be an expensive dish, nor a small one. I’ve heard people say that it cost them $60 – $80 to make and the amount only fed 4 – 6 people.
- Buy fresh seafood when it is in season. The price is higher out of season. Shop around and find a good price. If you live coastally, then visiting the source (at the boats) is always a great option. It’s perfectly OK to buy frozen. Also, this is not meant to be a soup where it is all seafood and barely any liquid and vegetables. The seafood is an accent to everything, this dish shouldn’t be chocked full to brimming on seafood.
- The cookbook writers are correct, this does freeze beautifully. The finished product. You can put it into freezer Zip-lock backs or Tupperware that you know will withstand freezing. Just let it thaw in the fridge, then put it in a sauce pan or pot, bring to a boil, then simmer until it’s warm enough to eat.
- As in the above photo, crab parts are not an uncommon sight in seafood gumbo prepared in New Orleans. Crab claws, half of crabs, crab legs. You do not have to do this if you do not wish, though if you used the crabs for the stock, you should at least add the meat if not the parts, shell and all.
We rarely have a poultry carcass lying around, so we generally use chicken broth or prepared chicken bouillon cubes and then frozen, defrosted pieces of chicken. Either will work. If you are working with a whole chicken and want to make the stock from scratch*, I’ll add that into the notes section.
- 6 C chicken broth
- 4 Tbs flour
- 4 Tbs bacon grease, plus 2 Tbs
- 1 C onions, finely chopped
- 1 C celery, finely chopped
- 1 C green peppers, finely chopped
- 1 lb okra, cut into 1/4″ pieces
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 2 -3 bay leaves
- 1 C sausage, sliced
- 3 C chicken meat, cooked
- 1/4 C parsley, chopped
- 2 C cooked rice
In a skillet, add flour to the 4 tablespoons of bacon grease until mixture is a rich dark brown. Add onions, celery, and peppers; saute 5 minutes. In a separate skillet, saute the okra in 2 tablespoons of bacon grease until all ropiness is gone, about 20 minutes; drain.
In a soup pot, warm stock and slowly stir in the roux and vegetable mixture. Add okra; add thyme, bay leaves, sausage, and chicken meat. Salt and pepper to taste, and cook over low heat 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Remove bay leaves, stir in parsley, and serve over hot, fluffy rice.
- *Making your own stock: In soup kettle, cover whole chicken with at least 2 quarts of water and boil about 45 minutes, or until meat is easily removed from the bone. Remove chicken, pick meat from bones and reserve. Strain and reserve 6 cups of chicken broth.
- There are three types of gumbo; two use a thickening agent, one does not. Okra and filé are both thickening agents; it is permissible to use filé in a gumbo, but the gumbo’s that you are working with here are always served with okra, so it’s advisable to use okra, it really is best. It can be fresh or frozen, it doesn’t matter.
I always see recipes with varied measurement abbreviations. I always use the standard form, but if you are not familiar with that, it is as follows.
- C = cup(s)
- lb/lbs = pound/pounds
- Tbs = tablespoon
- tsp = teaspoon
- oz = ounces
- qts = quarts
- dz = dozen