Posts Tagged ‘Cajun’

What to buy in a Cajun grocery store

grocery2 Usually Pat and I write about buying specialty foods in overseas grocery stores, but Cajun cooking stands so far apart from most other American regional food that the grocers have developed lines of goods we can rarely find anywhere else.

The pickled tabasco peppers, gumbo file powder, and various hot pepper sauces shown above are cases in point. In fact, I was once told by a northern grocer that file powder was illegal. (Not true, but it is allegedly mildly carcinogenic. If you eat three pounds at a time, you might develop a tumor in 20 years.) Needless to say, file powder can be hard to find up here in the chilly north.

grocery1 The ingredients immediately above are even more local. Dried shrimp might be a worldwide commodity, but Louisiana dried shrimp has a distinctive flavor of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s great in a shrimp cream sauce or a soup. The garlic sauce from Poche’s is an essential ingredient in some quarters for dousing boiled crawfish tails. The instant roux mix, while not so different from Wondra flour, makes a great tan roux.

grocery3 The last item is a latecomer, at least to legitimate grocery stores. At 100 proof, this colored corn likker has the requisite kick to be called moonshine — minus the chemicals to make you go blind.

Off to Crawfish College in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Crawfish dance
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana’s annual Crawfish Festival pretty much celebrates everything that is great about Acadian culture, from the mud bugs to the music to the Cajun proclivity for a darned good party. The heart of the festival, of course, is the mass consumption of crawfish farmed and wild-caught in St. Martin’s Parish. This year the organizers put a little twist on the festivities by offering a crash course for those of us who did not grow up on intimate terms with the Bayou Teche and the Atchafalaya Basin. They call it Crawfish College — a little introduction to the world of Cajun country’s signature crustacean. Over the next few days HungryTravelers will be hitting some of the course highlights.

The photo above, taken last night at Pont Breaux’s Cajun Restaurant (325 Mills Ave., Breaux Bridge, LA, 337-332-4648, www.pontbreauxscajunrestaurant.com), might explain the appeal. When crawfish are in season (March into June), people eat a lot of them – and then dance the calories away to the accordion, fiddle, and guitar of a Cajun band.

Crawfish Randy Leblanc Randy LeBlanc, the gentleman holding a platter of boiled crawfish, owns Pont Breaux’s, and he is an aficionado of all matter Cajun, most notably music and food. The restaurant has a live band every night and also prepares some other terrific seafood. My favorite (non-crawfish) dish might be the shrimp and oyster brochette, which consists of a good-sized prawn and a fat oyster wrapped in a piece of bacon and deep-fried. It’s served with a stuffed potato, jambalaya, and bread.

Crawfish eatersThe all-you-can eat crawfish boil is exactly what it sounds like. I watched one old boy (a disk jockey at the Cajun-Zydeco-Swamp Music radio station KBON, 101.1FM) devour three entire platters of boiled crawfish. Most folks, like those shown here, had enough to handle just eating one.

All in all, lots of crawfish and Cajun music made a perfect overture to Crawfish College. You have to eat ’em before you study ’em.

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05 2013