The Roux

Stocks may be thickened by means of reductions, eggs, butter, vegetable purees, cream, foie gras, various starches and even blood. In classical French cuisine, the roux is the primary thickening agent. Equal parts of butter and flour are well blended over heat to create a roux.This process may produce rouxs of different colors and thickening abilities depending on the cook's need. In Cajun and Creole cuisine, the roux has been raised to a new dimension never before experienced in other forms of cooking.

Butter, lard, peanut oil, bacon fat and even duck fat have been used in combination with flour to produce as many taste and color variations as there are cooks in South Louisiana. In classical cuisine, the brown roux is used for brown sauce, the blonde roux for veloutes and the white roux for béchamel. In Creole cuisine, a brown roux is made from butter or bacon fat and is used to thicken gumbos and stews requiring a lighter touch. The Cajuns, on the other hand, are the originators of the most unique rouxs in modern cookery.

The Cajun dark brown roux is best made with vegetable oil, although in the past, it was thought imperative that only animal fat be used. The flour and oil are cooked together until the roux reaches a caramel color. The word roux is believed to have originated from the French word rouge, meaning red. This roux has less thickening power. Thus, the thickening capabilities of the dark roux are diminished. The dark brown roux is the secret to traditional Cajun food because of the richness and depth it adds to the dish. Butter is used in classical and Creole rouxs, however, the Cajuns use only vegetable oil or lard to produce their lighter colored rouxs. Tan in appearance, these light rouxs are used primarily with vegetables and light meat and fish dishes.

Nothing in Cajun country has greater aroma than a light brown roux simmering with onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. On many occasions, growing up in South Louisiana, my hunger was satisfied with a touch of this vegetable seasoned roux spread on a piece of French bread.

Andouille Sausage

Andouille is the Cajun smoked sausage so famous nationally today. made with pork butt, shank and a small amount of pork fat, this sausage is seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper and garlic. The andouille is then slowly smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane. True andouille is stuffed into the beef middle casing which makes the sausage approximately one and a half inches in diameter. When smoked, it becomes very dark to almost black in color. It is not uncommon for the Cajuns to smoke andouille for seven to eight hours at approximately 175 degrees.

Traditionally, the andouille from France was made from the large intestines and stomach of the pig, seasoned heavily and smoked. In parts of Germany, where some say andouille originated, the sausage was made with all remaining intestines and casings pulled through a larger casing, seasoned and smoked. It was served thinly sliced as an hors d'oeuvre.

It is interesting to note that the finest andouille in France comes from the Brittany and Normandy area. It is believed that over half of the Acadian exiles who came to Louisiana in 1755 were originally from these coastal regions.

5 pounds pork butt
1/2 pound pork fat
1/2 cup chopped garlic
1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
2 tbsps cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dry thyme
6 feet beef middle casing (see butcher or specialty shop)

Cube pork butt into one and a half inch cubes. Using a meat grinder with four one quarter inch holes in the grinding plate, grind pork and pork fat. If you do not have a grinding plate this size, I suggest hand cutting pork butt into one Quarter inch square pieces. Place ground pork in large mixing bowl and blend in all remaining ingredients. Once well blended, stuff meat into casings in one foot links, using heavy gauge twine. In your home style smoker, smoke andouille at 175-200 degrees F for approximately four to five hours. The andouille may then be frozen and used for seasoning gumbos, white or red beans, pastas or grilling as an hors d'oeuvre.

PREP TIME: 6 Hours
SERVES: 5 12-inch links

Boudin Blanc

Boudin blanc, the Cajun pork and rice sausage, is without a doubt the best known sausage in South Louisiana. Its less famous sister, boudin rouge, though made in the same fashion, is colored by the addition of pork blood into the dish and is considered a rare delicacy. The boudin blanc of Louisiana is quite different from the milk based boudin of France. The Louisiana version is much more spicy and normally includes rice as a main ingredient. Boudin rouge originated from the boudin noir or blood pudding of France and was particularly enjoyed around Christmas time. These well seasoned by-products of the boucherie are a delight to savor and well worth the extra effort. The boudins are normally served cold as a Cajun canapé, however, in our house it was best eaten hot as a breakfast item.

10 pounds Boston butt, cubed
2 pounds of pork liver
1 pound green onion
1 pound parsley
6 tbsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsps black pepper
8 ozs salt
6 pounds cooked rice
1/2 gallon cold water
1 cup chopped pimentos
75 feet sausage casing

Using a home style meat grinder alternately grind meat, liver, green onions and parsley. Once the raw ingredients have been ground, season with salt and peppers. Place the mixture into a large mixing bowl then add the cooked white rice, water and pimentos. Using both hands blend the meat, rice mixture until all is incorporated. Using a sausage stuffer fill the casing, twisting into 6 inch links. Once all has been stuffed place the boudin in a home style steamer, cover and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until sausage is firm and fully cooked. Makes approximately 125 links.

PREP TIME: 3 Hours
MAKES: 8-10 pound boudin

Smoked Tasso

Tasso is yet another example of the Cajun and Creole desire for unique flavor in a recipe. Tasso is a dried smoked product that is seasoned with cayenne pepper, garlic and salt and heavily smoked. The word tasso is believed to have come from the Spanish work "tasajo" which is dried, cured beef. Although this delicacy is often thinly sliced and eaten alone, it is primarily used as a pungent seasoning for vegetables, gumbos and soups.

Today in South Louisiana, tasso is becoming a popular seasoning for new and creative dishes. It has also gained wide acclaim as an hors d'oeuvre served with dipping sauces or fruit glazes.

At Lafitte's Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation, we have incorporated tasso into our cream sauces and compound butters to create a new taste unheard of in classical cooking.

4 pounds pork butt
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce
1/4 cup fresh cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cracked black pepper
1/4 cup salt
1/2 cup granulated garlic

Cut pork butt into one half inch thick strips. Place on a baking pan and season with Worcestershire and Louisiana Gold Sauces. Once the liquids are well blended into meat, add all remaining ingredients. Mix well into meat to ensure that each piece is well coated with the seasoning mixture. Cover with clear wrap and refrigerate overnight. Using a home style smoker, and using briquettes flavored with pecan wood and sugar cane strips if possible, smoke tasso at 175-200 degrees F for two and a half hours. Once cooked, tasso may be frozen or used to season gumbos, vegetables or a great pot of white or red beans.

PREP TIME: 2-1/2 hours
MAKES: 3 pounds

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