As of January 2018, the largest population of French American people live in the state of Maine. French Americans also live in Louisiana where the largest French-speaking population in the U.S. is found in St. Martin Parish. Country-wide, there are about 10.4 million U.S. residents that declare French ancestry or French Canadian descent, and about 1.32 million speak French at home as of the 2010 census. An additional 750,000 U.S. residents speak a French-based creole language.
While Americans of French descent make up a substantial percentage of the American population, French Americans are less visible than other similarly sized ethnic groups. This is due in part to a tendency of French American groups to identify more closely with “New World” regional identities such as Acadian, Brayon, Cajun, or Louisiana Creole. Unlike other immigrants who came to the United States from other countries, some French Americans arrived prior to the founding of the United States. In many parts of the country, like the Midwest and Louisiana, they were the founders of some of the villages and cities and were often the state’s first inhabitants.
French immigrants introduced a wide range of interesting foods to America. For example, French Americans made the first yeast bread and brought technical farming skills that vastly improved American rice and wine. Huguenots grew and prepared the first okra, artichokes, and tomatoes. The popularity of French cuisine took off in the 1780s, following the alliance between France and the United States during the American Revolution. Many respected French chefs, such as Arthur Goussé in Los Angeles, immigrated to the United States and established restaurants. A number of French culinary terms remain prominent in modern times, including bouillon, purée, fricassée, mayonnaise, pâté, hors d’oeuvres, bisque, filet, sauté, casserole, au gratin, and à la mode.
Extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes form the basis of Provencal cuisine. This trio appears in sauces, soups, and salads, and as companions for dozens of fish, pasta and meat courses. The combo is often enhanced with fresh herbs, including parsley, oregano, fennel, basil and rosemary, as well as black Nicoise olives, capers, shallots or leeks. The stew below is classic French cuisine where beef and vegetables are simmered in red wine.
Slow-Cooked Provençal Beef Stew
Serve the stew with homemade biscuits.
2 scallion tops (about 6 inches long)
1 bay leaf
1 medium celery stalk
2 sprigs fresh parsley, with stems
3 sprigs fresh thyme
One 2-inch-long strip orange peel
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 ounces bacon
2 pounds beef stew meat, such as chuck, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 large, red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 pound mixed mushrooms (I used portabella and cremini), halved if small, quartered if large
1/2 bottle (375 ml) full-bodied red wine, such as Burgundy or Pinot Noir
2 cups of water
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated zest of 1/2 orange
Preheat the oven to 250°F.
To assemble the bouquet garni: Place one scallion top on the counter. Top with bay leaf, celery stalk, parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and orange peel. Place the second scallion leaf on top and tie the bundle together in four spots with kitchen string. Set aside.
To prepare the stew: Place the bacon in an ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook until barely brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving any drippings in the pot. When cool break into small pieces.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add half the beef cubes (do not crowd the pot) and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer to a large bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Repeat with the second batch of meat, salt, and pepper.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot and add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onions are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the beef.
Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; set aside.
Pour wine and water into the pot and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Return the browned beef, the carrot mixture and the reserved bacon to the pot. Press down on the beef and vegetables, making sure to submerge them completely in the liquid; if necessary, add just enough hot water to make sure they are covered. Place the bouquet garni on top.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pot and press it directly on top of the stew, covering it completely. Transfer the stew to the oven and cook, with the lid off, until the beef is tender enough to cut with a fork, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Check every hour to be sure the ingredients stay submerged in liquid during the entire cooking time. If too much wine evaporates, add a little hot water to make up for the loss. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, stir in the reserved mushrooms.
Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Combine chopped parsley and orange zest in a small bowl and scatter on top of the stew just before serving.
Chinese immigrants to the US in the 19th century worked as laborers, particularly on transcontinental railroads such as the Central Pacific Railroad. They also worked as laborers in mining and suffered racial discrimination at every level of society. In 1924 US law barred further entries of Chinese and those already in the United States had been ineligible for citizenship since the previous year. Also by 1924, all Asian immigrants (except people from the Philippines (annexed by the United States in 1898) were excluded by law, denied citizenship and naturalization, and prevented from owning land. In many Western states, Asian immigrants were even prevented from marrying Caucasians.
In the 1940s when the United States and China became allies during World War II, the situation for Chinese Americans begin to improve, as restrictions on entry into the country, naturalization, and mixed marriage were lessened. In 1943, Chinese immigration to the United States was once again permitted—by way of the Magnuson Act—thereby repealing 61 years of official racial discrimination against the Chinese. However, large-scale Chinese immigration did not occur until 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 lifted national origin quotas. After World War II, anti-Asian prejudice began to decrease, and Chinese immigration increased. Currently, the Chinese constitute the largest ethnic group of Asian Americans (about 22%) in the US. As of the 2010 census, there are more than 3.3 million Chinese in the United States, about 1% of the total population. The influx continues, where each year ethnic Chinese people from the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and to a lesser extent Southeast Asia move to the United States.
Foundations for American Chinese cuisine were brought by immigrants from the southern province of Guangdong, the origin of most Chinese immigration before the restriction of immigrants from China in 1924. These Chinese families developed new styles and used readily available ingredients, especially in California. The type of Chinese American cooking served in restaurants was different from the foods eaten in Chinese American homes. Of the various regional cuisines in China, Cantonese cuisine had been the most influential in the development of American Chinese recipes. Stir-frying, pan frying, and deep frying tended to be the most common Chinese cooking techniques used in American Chinese cuisine, which are all easily done using a wok (a Chinese frying pan with bowl-like features that can withstand very high cooking temperatures. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the United States got its first taste of “authentic” Chinese cuisine. The 1960s brought new arrivals from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Mainland, who in turn brought with them the foods they had enjoyed in areas like Hunan, Sichuan, Taipei, and Shanghai. Today, according to the Chinese American Restaurant Association, there are over 45,000 Chinese restaurants currently in operation across the United States.
Here are two of my favorite recipes.
Sichuan Peppercorn Shrimp
Adapted from Sang Yoon, Los Angeles Chef
1 ½ teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
1 pound large shrimp—shelled, deveined and butterflied
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 scallions: 1 finely chopped, 1 thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large or 2 small jalapeño peppers, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
2 whole dried Tien Tsin chile peppers
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Sesame oil, for drizzling
In a small skillet, toast the peppercorns over moderate heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds; let cool. Transfer the peppercorns to a mortar or spice grinder and grind to a powder. Put the shrimp in a bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon of the ground peppercorns and season with sea salt.
In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil. Add the shrimp and stir-fry over moderate heat until almost cooked through, 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in the skillet. Add the chopped scallions, garlic, jalapeños and chile and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the scallions and garlic are softened, 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of ground peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and lime juice and stir until the shrimp are just cooked through 1 minute. Remove Chinese chile. Transfer to a bowl; garnish with the sliced scallion, drizzle with the sesame oil and serve.
Adapted from David Chang, New York City Chef
4 cups cooked white rice or cauliflower rice
4 thick slices bacon, diced
½ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely diced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 green onions, sliced
Bring the cooked rice to room temperature; set aside.
In a large deep skillet cook the bacon for 4-5 minutes.
Add the onions and celery, and sauté together for 4-5 minutes more, turning down the heat slightly if too much browning occurs.
Add the peas, and stir to combine. Then gently stir in the rice and sesame oil.
Let the rice mixture heat thoroughly over medium heat. Make a well in the middle, and add the eggs. Stir occasionally to make sure they’re cooking, then stir them into the rice. There should be little bits of cooked egg throughout the rice.
The pronunciation is PAH-nay and the name indicates cutlets that are breaded and fried. The term “panne” comes from the French word for bread, “pain” and/or the Spanish term “pan” for the same. This is a common recipe made in New Orleans cuisine and served with a Creole Sauce. The sauce definitely elevates these simple cutlets. I used turkey cutlets in today’s recipe but any cutlet works well. Serve the cutlets New Orleans style with cooked greens and rice on the side.
If you are following a low carb or gluten-free diet use arrowroot powder for the flour and low carb or gluten-free bread for the crumbs.
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 chopped garlic clove
1 large ripe tomato, seeds removed, diced
1 cup chicken stock
3 green onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 small sprig fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cutlets, pounded thin (chicken, veal, pork or turkey)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon salt-free Creole seasoning (store-bought or homemade, recipe below)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup freshly grated bread crumbs
Fresh parsley, chopped
For the Creole Sauce
Heat butter in a heavy saucepan and sauté the onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic until just tender, but not browned–about five minutes.
Add the fresh tomatoes to the pot, along with the chicken stock. Bring to a light boil.
Add all the remaining sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat for five minutes.
Lower to a simmer and cook until the sauce becomes very thick. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning if needed, and keep warm until time to serve.
For the cutlets
Tip – I like to prepare the cutlets earlier in the day and refrigerate them uncovered until ready to cook because the breading stays in place better when frying.
Pound the cutlets between two pieces of waxed paper (or inside a large food-storage bag) until they are evenly thick and about twice their original size.
Mix the salt and Creole seasoning into the flour, and lightly coat the cutlets.
Place the cutlets in the beaten egg and then dredge in the bread crumbs.
Heat a coating of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high and cook the cutlets for about a minute and a half per side, or until the exterior is golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Spoon about 1/4 cup of the Creole sauce on each cutlet and serve garnished with chopped parsley.
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons black pepper
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons paprika
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl or jar and stir so that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Store in an airtight container or zip lock bag.
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.
This pie makes use of leftovers. I used chicken in this recipe but this could easily be a beef pot pie using leftover roasted beef or steak, beef gravy, and leftover vegetables.
If you are on a low carb or gluten-free diet, I have included recipes for both regular pastry and a low carb/gluten-free pastry.
1 ½ cups leftover cooked chicken, cubed
(leftover from Oven Roasted Butterflied Chicken)
½ cup frozen peas
2 cups chopped leftover vegetables or a combination of carrots, onions, green beans or peas
1 cup leftover chicken gravy
Pie Crust Dough for a double crust (store-bought or homemade recipes below)
In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, vegetables, and gravy. Mix well and set aside.
Place one rolled out pastry crust in a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Add the chicken filling and cover with a second crust. Crimp the edges and seal the crust all around the pie. Cut 4 slits in the top crust and brush the top with melted butter. (Pie can be refrigerated until ready to bake.)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower oven heat to 375 degrees F and continue to bake the pie until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly about 30 minutes.
All-Purpose Flour Pastry
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 sticks (16 oz) COLD unsalted butter diced into 1/4″ pieces
6 tablespoons of ice water
Place flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
Add cold diced butter and pulse the mixture until coarse crumbs form.
Add ice water and pulse just until moist clumps or small balls form and the dough sticks together when pinched. If the dough is too dry, add more water a teaspoon full at a time. Be careful not to add too much water or the dough will be sticky and difficult to roll out.
Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and gather dough together into a ball. Divide dough in half and flatten to form 2 disks.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour before using in the recipes.
Low Carb-Gluten Free Pastry
4 cups almond flour blanched
1 teaspoon of sea salt
4 tablespoons butter melted
2 egg whites (I use the refrigerated carton of egg whites, such as Egg Beaters)
4 tablespoons water
Combine egg whites and water.
In a food processor, combine almond flour, salt, and butter. Pulse for 5-6 pulses. Drizzle in egg white and water mixture. Pulse all ingredients together until a dough forms. If the dough seems dry add another tablespoon water.
With hands, form dough into two balls and then flatten each on a piece of wax or parchment paper.
Cover the top of each dough disc with wax paper or plastic wrap and then roll out into a pie crust circle to fit a 9 to 10-inch pie plate. Follow directions about for completing the pot pie.
4 lb Whole Chicken
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, zested plus the juice of half the lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, 3 carrots, and 3 celery stalks, each cut into 3 or 4 pieces
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Optional – Kitchen Bouquet (gravy browning sauce)
Remove the giblets from the chicken and rinse the cavity. Pat dry. With poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut away the backbone by cutting along both sides of the bone.
Set the cooking rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 450°F.
Coat the bottom of a large roasting pan with olive oil or cooking spray.
Cut the vegetables into pieces and place them in the prepared roasting pan. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, thyme, and rosemary
Crack the peppercorns until coarsely ground. Add the garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add just enough oil to form a paste. Rub the chicken with the oil paste and place some of the paste under the breast skin.
Place the chicken in the prepared roasting pan, breast side up, on top of the vegetables. Pour the chicken broth into the pan but don’t pour it over the chicken.
After 30 minutes cover the breast area if necessary with foil. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 175° to 180°F. Place the chicken on a serving platter and allow it to rest for 10 minutes then carve.
Drain the vegetables from the liquid in the pan and place on the platter with the chicken.
Pour the drippings into a small saucepan and add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and gravy browning additive, if using. Bring to a boil and stir until the liquid thickens. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve with the chicken and vegetables and mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower.
Folklore tells us that what has come to be known as Italian Wedding Soup began as a dish traditionally served to the bride and groom at their wedding reception. However, that story is not exactly true. Italian Wedding Soup gained its name, not from the occasion that might bring it to the table but rather from the harmony of its ingredients. The name of the dish in English, “wedding soup”, actually means “married soup” (minestra maritata) in Italian. The modern Americanized version of wedding soup is a far lighter dish than the original, which was a rib-sticking dish intended as the main (and sometimes only) meal of the day. The Italian Wedding Soup history also has ties with America, where it was brought here by the Neapolitan immigrants. In Italy, the soup went out of fashion around the time the immigrants took their recipe with them to America. There are many, many versions of this soup. Below is my version of the dish and the one my family loves. This soup tastes better if made a day ahead.
Italian Wedding Soup
For the meatballs:
1 pound lean ground chicken
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 medium stalks celery with leaves, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
12 cups chicken broth
1 cup small pasta, such as ditalini
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.
For the meatballs:
Place the ground chicken, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, Parmesan, cream, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
Form 1 inch balls (I use a small cookie scoop) and drop the meatballs onto the prepared pan They don’t have to be perfectly round. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
For the soup:
Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the Italian seasoning and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan.