Cajun or “les Acadians” was used to describe French colonists who lived in the Acadia region of Canada (present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia). With the British Conquest of Acadia in the early 1700s, the Acadians were forcibly driven from their home and eventually settled in the swampy regions of Louisiana. Those distinct areas are the levees and bayous (Lafourche and Teche), prairies (Attakapas Indian land), swamplands (Atchafalaya Basin), and coastal marshes (New Orleans area and Houma).
The Acadians were an extremely resourceful people who combined the resources of the flatlands, bayous, and the wild game of South Louisiana with its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico to create a truly unique local cuisine. While many Acadiana residents today have Native American, German, French, or Italian roots, their way of life is strongly influenced by the Cajun culture. Along with its food, this rural area of Louisiana is famous for its Cajun French music and language.
Seasoning is one of the most important parts of Cajun cooking, and that comes from much more than a heavy helping of cayenne pepper. Most dishes begin with a medley of vegetables based on the French mirepoix. “The holy trinity of Cajun cuisine” utilizes onion, celery, and bell pepper to provide a flavor base for many dishes. Garlic, paprika, thyme, file (ground sassafras leaves) are also very common ingredients in Cajun kitchens.
The term “Creole” describes the population of people who were born to settlers in French colonial Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans. In the 18th century, Creoles consisted of the descendants of the French and Spanish upper class that ruled the city. Over the years the term Creole grew to include native-born slaves of African descent as well as free people of color. Typically, the term “French Creole” described someone of European ancestry born in the colony and the term “Louisiana Creole” described someone of mixed racial ancestry.
Like the people, Creole food is a blend of the various cultures of New Orleans including Italian, Spanish, African, German, Caribbean, Native American, and Portuguese, to name a few. The dishes consist of an array of spices from various areas, for example, remoulade sauce. Creole cuisine had more variety because of the easier access Creoles had to exotic ingredients and the wide mix of cultures that contributed to the cuisine. That’s why you find tomatoes in Creole jambalaya and not in Cajun jambalaya or why a lot of times you find a Creole roux made with butter and flour while the Cajun roux is made with oil and flour.
1 lb steak bites (cut into 2-inch cubes) (Sirloin, New York Strip or Ribeye)
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, purchased or use the homemade recipe below
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
Place the Cajun seasoning and 1 tablespoon oil in a shallow bowl or a plastic ziplock bag. Add the steak bites and toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate for several hours.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
Sear the steak bites for 2-3 minutes on each side until the edges are crispy and browned and remove to a serving bowl. Set aside.
Reduce heat to medium. Add butter to the skillet and heat until melted. Sauté the chopped garlic for 30 seconds, while scraping the bottom of the pan.
Take the pan off the heat. Place the steak bites back in and toss through the garlic butter to evenly coat. Pour onto a serving plate.
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon onion powder
Combine the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine. Store covered at room temperature.
Cajun Rice Saute
You may also substitute frozen and defrosted cauliflower rice for the regular rice in this recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 small bell pepper (baby bell), diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 1⁄2 cups cooked rice (¾ cup uncooked)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
Cook the rice in chicken broth. Set aside
In a skillet heat the oil and saute the onion, celery, and bell pepper until tender.
Add garlic, Cajun seasoning and thyme. Saute for 1 minute. Add the cooked rice and heat until hot stirring frequently until combined with the other ingredients. Spoon into a serving bowl and top with chopped parsley.
Southern Style Greens
Bacon fat is often used in this recipe but I use olive oil instead.
2 pounds greens (collards, mustard, chard), washed and drained
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt and pepper
Use a knife to cut on either side of the large rib running up each green leaf. Remove it and discard it. Stack about 4 to 5 leaves, roll them up and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Repeat with remaining leaves.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened.
Add broth, vinegar, sugar and hot sauce to pot. Stir to combine.
Add greens and use tongs to turn and mix them until they reduce in size some. Cover, turn heat to low and cook until tender (30-60 minutes depending on the type of greens used), stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.