Louisiana Creole cuisine ……………………………………………….Is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana (centered on the Greater New Orleans area) which is a melting pot cuisine that blends French, Portuguese, Spanish, Canarian, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Deep Southern American, Indian and African, influences. It also bears hallmarks of British, Irish, Italian, Dutch, German, Albanian and Greek Cuisines. There are some contributions from Native Americans as well. It is vaguely similar to Cajun Cuisine in ingredients (such as the holy trinity), but the important distinction is that Cajun cuisine arose from the more rustic, provincial French cooking adapted by the Acadians to Louisiana ingredients, whereas the cooking of the Louisiana Creoles tended more toward classical European styles adapted to local foodstuffs. Broadly speaking, the French influence in Cajun cuisine is descended from various French Provincial cuisines of the peasantry, while Creole cuisine evolved in the homes of well-to-do aristocrats, or those who imitated their lifestyle. Although the Creole cuisine is closely identified with New Orleans culture today, much of it evolved in the country plantation estates so beloved of the pre-Civil War Creoles. (Despite its aristocratic French roots, Creole cuisine does not include Gard Manger or other extremely lavish styles of the Classical Paris cuisine.)
The Spanish and Canarian influences on Creole cuisine were in the heat of the peppers, the wide usage of citrus juice marinades, the supreme importance of rice, and the introduction of beans. The Spaniards and the Italians also used tomatoes extensively, which had not been a frequent ingredient in the earlier French era. Pasta and tomato sauces arrived during the period when New Orleans was a popular destination for Italian, Albanian, and Greek immigrants (roughly, 1815 to 1925). Many Italians, Albanians, and Greeks became grocers, bakers, cheese makers and orchard farmers, and so influenced the Creole cuisine in New Orleans and its suburbs. The African and Indian influences, which were extensive, came about because many of the servants were either African-American or Asian Indian American, as were many of the cooks in restaurants and cafes.
In the 18th century, the Spaniards governing New Orleans named all residents of European heritage Criollo. The name, which later became Creole, soon began to imply one of refined cultural background with an appreciation for an elegant lifestyle. Today, Creole cookery reflects the full-flavored combination of the best of French, Spanish and African cuisines. Its style, with an emphasis on butter and cream, is more sophisticated than Cajun Cooking (which uses prodigious amounts of pork fat). Another difference between the two cuisines is that Creole uses more tomatoes and the Cajuns more spices. Both cuisines rely on the culinary “holy trinity” of chopped green peppers, onions and celery, and make generous use of File’ Powder. Probably the most famous dish of Creole heritage is Gumbo
What is my fascination with New Orleans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! well it is definetely not the Bourbon or the amazing Jazz scene but the way Italian roots and traditions have found them selves tangled up in Creole cooking creating great synergy between the old world and the new world…………i would like to share a few extracts that are what the excitement, the freedom and the soul of this great state are all about………………………..
The History of Creole-Italian Cooking…………..Sicilian Immigrants Meet Creole Cooking………………….
Little has been written about the history of the Sicilian immigrants who settled in Louisiana. Once in bayou country, the food traditions they brought with them from Italy encountered established Creole cooking, and their adaptations formed a sub-cuisine that many have studied in great depth. Aware of the importance of this aspect of Creole cooking, whilst i was in Louisiana I devoted 4 entire days to Creole-Italian dishes. There were many Italian families that opened up and talked about days gone by and what their great great grandparents had brought to the new world.
The following is an excerpt that she has generously shared with us so we may learn more about the heritage given to Louisiana by these Sicilian immigrants.
In the late 1800′s, large numbers of immigrants from Sicily began to settle in South Louisiana. Many stayed in New Orleans to establish businesses. With the arrival of the Italians, a new dimension was added to Creole food. Like the many other earlier influences, Italian cuisine contributed subtle nuances of taste. From the Italians the Creoles cultivated a love of garlic. Its sensuous, sultry presence is encountered just barely beneath the surface in many classic Creole dishes. My personal theory is that it was from these hearty, vivacious, and fun-loving Sicilians that the Creoles inherited much of their intense love affair with fine food.
Conversely, the Spanish roots of the Creole cuisine had a profound impact on Sicilian-American foods. An entire sub-cuisine evolved within the Creole cooking of New Orleans. Today some of New Orleans’ finest restaurants are owned by descendants of these Creole-Italians. They serve excitingly different food that started out many years ago as robust Sicilian fare but that, through the years of Creole influence, developed its current piquant patina – due largely to the Spanish love of ground chilies. After you’ve eaten two or three bites and a warm, titillating glow has developed at the back of your throat, you realize that this is no ordinary spaghetti sauce!
The most unique feature of the cuisine is its tomato sauce, commonly referred to as “red gravy” or “tomato gravy.” This rich sauce, used over meats and pasta, has dozens of variations from family to family. Some red gravies are based on a brown roux. Some contain eggplant. Others contain anchovies, whole boiled eggs, or meat. Two consistent threads in red gravy are the addition of sugar and the frying of tomato paste!
When I learned the secret of frying tomato paste, everything I cooked for a week contained fried tomato paste! The procedure produces a specific taste without which you simply do not have authentic Creole-Italian tomato gravy. After the vegetables are sautéed in olive oil, tomato paste is added and, literally, fried before the liquids are added.
Creole-Italians incorporate local fish and shellfish in their cooking with delicious results in dishes such as Crawfish Fettuccine, Crabmeat in Garlic-Cream Sauce, and many more. Some dishes were borrowed from Creole kitchens and topped with red gravy, as is the case with Creole Daube
Other dishes, among them some of the best, came directly from the heart of the Creole-Italian homemaker’s domain. Spinach Bread is such a dish. This could be filled with nothing but the many versions of this delicious and versatile bread. You can bake loaves of the bread, slice them into inch-thick slices, and serve them in bread baskets as party food. And nothing will complement your best pasta-and-tomato-gravy meal like a hot loaf of Spinach Bread. When your guests lift the napkin covering the basket, the aroma that rises says “Italian.”
The Creole-Italians are very serious about their pasta. My favorite New Orleans pasta is made from semolina flour, eggs, and a little dry white or red wine, depending on the sauce. The taste of the wine is not pronounced or even discernible, but it adds a little extra flavor.
Penne with Eggplant and Sausage.……………….a recipe from Zia Rosina Calogero……………………for the Altar of San Giuseppe
Ingredients for 4 pax
500gr Penne or any other short pasta
50gr of Celery diced small
50gr of Onion diced small
50gr of Peppers diced small
1 medium eggplant cubed
2 Italian spicy sausage skin removed and rolled into small meatballs
2 tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and cut into small chunks
1 clove of garlic crushed
2 table spoons of tomato paste
50ml olive oil
1/2 glass of red wine
800gr of Italian chopped toamtoes
60gr of Smoked scamorza or mozzarella
50gr Pecorino Cheese
5 leaves of basil
5gr of dried oregano
Salt and Freshly ground pepper