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February 26, 2018

A Taste of New Orleans Cuisine: A Fusion of Worldly Flavors

Shrimp Jambalaya Pasta 35664123 AdobeStockRF

It only took one visit for writer Mark Twain to declare: "New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin." The Crescent City’s cuisine is a distinct fusion of flavours, resulting from the long-standing influences of France, Spain, and Africa. This melting pot of cultures has led to a creation of dishes that are distinctive, bold, and quintessentially New Orleans.

The culinary offerings here often begin with a base referred to as “the holy trinity,” a trio that consists of bell peppers, celery, and onions. Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Étouffée are three dishes found on many traditional Louisianan menus. Each meal is savoury and involves some portion of rice and spice. However, each meal has their own distinct flavour profile. Let’s explore what makes each one unique.

Jambalaya:Akin to paella, jambalaya is a rice dish that typically features shellfish, Andouille sausage, and vegetables. The Creole version of this meal includes tomatoes but the Cajun version does not.

Gumbo:A roux-thickened stew, typically containing either poultry and sausage or seafood along with vegetables. The rice is served on the side of the dish, not in it.

Étouffée:A thicker, spicy stew most commonly made with crawfish and served over rice. The term étouffée, is derived from the cooking method of smothering.

One of the best examples of New Orleans’ melting pot of cultures is found in its gumbo. Combining West African, Native American, and French culinary influences, the dish is imbued with a history as rich as its flavours. You can cook up your own large batch using this recipe from The Court of Two Sisters restaurant:

Seafood Gumbo from the Court of Two Sisters restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana:

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup bell pepper, diced

2 cup white onion, diced

2 cups okra, sliced

1½ tsp. pureed garlic or garlic paste

1 cup margarine or cooking oil

1½ cups flour

¼ cup parsley, chopped

1 ½ lbs. small or medium shrimp, peeled

6 qts. Water

4 scallions, chopped

1½ lbs. gumbo crabs

2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 pint oysters

1 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. basil

1 bay leaf, crushed

2 tbs. salt

1½ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. black pepper

2 tbs. Kitchen Bouquet (a browning and seasoning sauce) Rice

In a large stockpot make a medium-dark roux of the flour and margarine, heating the margarine until it is sizzling and gradually adding the flour and darkening. Add seasonings and vegetables, and cook until vegetables are limp, and let cool about half an hour. Boil shrimp separately, reserving stock. Add roux and vegetables to stock and blend well until thickened. Add oysters, crab, shrimp, and Kitchen Bouquet for colour. Simmer one-half hour. Serve over rice. Yields 20 servings.

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