Ever since my son started college at Tulane University, we have become obsessed with New Orleans style food. When we visited, we made sure to try all different types of traditional dishes and desserts, including delicious Cajun and Creole food. In New Orleans, you will find that everyone knows the difference between these two schools of cooking, but to my suprise barely no one understands the differences between these two outrageously amazing, yet completely different styles of food. Cajun food comes from the Cajun people of Southern and Western Louisiana, who can trace their ancestry back to the Acadian French people who settled in the region after being kicked out of their homeland in northeastern Canada.
Cajun food is inspired by the basics of classic French cuisine, but has incorporated the ingredients that are common in the tropical Louisiana climate. Cajun food is spicy and heavily seasoned with different spices such as paprika, green onions and parsley, and is usually cooked for a long period of time in one pot. The beginning of all authentic Cajun food begins with the “holy trinity” of vegetables: green bell peppers, onions, and celery. Along with this, many recipes begin with creating a roux, which is a mixture of oil (or any other fat on hand) and flour, which can be cooked at any degree from blonde (a beige color) to very dark (which looks like a burnt caramel). The longer you cook your roux, the more flavor it will impart to the dish that you are making.
Creole cuisine is the other major style of food in New Orleans, and it comes from a mixture of French, West African, Caribbean, and Italian cuisines. Creole food and Cajun food seem very similar, but they have a few defining differences. Creole food relies more on the use of tomatoes and creamier sauces and recipes, and a Creole style roux will use butter (unlike the Cajun use of oil). Creole food is a little spicier, yet both Creole and Cajun cuisines have many of the same dishes, such as jambalaya and gumbo, yet they will be prepared differently.
This past weekend, my son was reminiscing about the amazing bounty and quality of food that was available to him in New Orleans, and decided to make a crawfish boil. In Louisiana, a crawfish boil is an excuse to throw a party in the springtime, and it is a time to be around family and friends, while enjoying the spicy and sweet flavor of the fresh crawfish. We ordered 15 pounds of live crawfish online from Louisiana, and when they arrived, cooked them in a boil flavored with many different Cajun spices, like paprika, chili powder, garlic and onion, and added in aromatics like lemon and scallions. The proper way to boil crawfish is to season your boil, add your crawfish, and turn off the heat.
The crawfish absorb the seasonings, and then you place them in a closed box or bowl for 15 minutes to steam and continue to absorb flavor. While the crawfish steam, you make corn, potatoes, and andouille (or kielbasa) sausage, and then eat them all together. This is a time to put your utensils down, grab a roll of paper towels and a beer, and enjoy your food and company! Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Where to order your crawfish: