|My homemade Mardi Gras Salad|
The foods and recipes of Old New Orleans (Old NOLA) are many, but three of the oldest are fairly simple dishes, inexpensive, and served almost daily anywhere in restaurants or eaten at home in New Orleans. These are the classic dishes of Red Beans and Rice, Gumbo, and Jambalaya.
New Orleans shares some of its cuisine with its neighbors in Acadiana, the Cajuns. Cajuns make jambalaya and gumbo too, for example. But there is a difference between Creole food and Cajun food.
Cajun food is country food and comes from the Cajun people who are of French Canadian descent, mainly from Nova Scotia. They were exiled by the British during the French and Indian War. Some Acadians went to France or other French colonies around the world. And others came to Louisiana because of its strong French background. They did not settle in the city of New Orleans as much as in the neighboring countryside, south and west of the city.
Creoles, on the other hand, are the American descendents of French and Spanish settlers in the City of New Orleans. So, Creole food will have a mixture of French and Spanish ingredients and have an urban style to it rather than a simpler country style.
|My homemade jambalaya|
As an example, Cajun jambalaya will be brown while Creole jambalaya will be red. This is because the Creoles usually add tomatoes or even tomato sauce to their jambalaya, in the Spanish style, while Cajuns simply brown the meat in oil which gives the Cajun jambalaya a brownish color.
Another example would be gumbo, a thick soup generally believed to be of African origins. Both Cajuns and Creoles make a roux first. This is a mixture of flour and oil cooked slowly in a pot. It thickens the soup and provides flavor. Then to this are added various seafoods and/or meats like shrimp, smoked sausage, Andouille, ham, chicken, and for seafood gumbo perhaps even oysters and crab or crab claws for flavor. Vegetables are usually "The Trinity" in Creole and Cajun recipes which consists of celery, onions, and green bell pepper. (In French cooking this would be onion, celery, and carrots. In New Orleans the carrots go away, and the more exciting bell peppers come in.)
To this gumbo the Creoles would add tomatoes, but the Cajuns would usually not. The Creoles would thicken the soup, after it is done cooking, by adding file' to individual bowls. This is a spice discovered by the local Choctaw Indians. Cajuns usually would make their roux so dark and thick that file' would not be necessary.
Additionally, Creoles might use okra instead of file' which thickens the soup and adds substance. Cajuns almost never use okra.
Red Beans and Rice is really just a New Orleans dish. It is Creole and not really Cajun. Red kidney beans are soaked overnight, then cooked slowly on low for many hours with The Trinity (celery, onions, and bell pepper) and Creole spices (salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic), and some meats are usually added, although Red Beans can make a fine vegetarian dish as well. The meats are usually ham, sausage, or pickle meat (a type of pork), or Tasso (a type of smoked pork). The beans are usually served over white rice and eaten with French bread on the side.
|My homemade Muffuletta|
Another popular New Orleans dish is the Muffuletta, a great Sicilian sandwich, invented in New Orleans. It has various Italian meats -- like ham, pepperoni, or salami -- and various sliced cheeses -- like Provolone and Swiss -- placed inside a loaf of seeded Italian bread. Also inside would be an olive salad which is made from green and black olives, olive oil, garlic, diced califlower, carrots, and celery, and various spices. It is the best sandwich New Orleans has along with the Fried Shrimp and Roast Beef Po-Boy. (The Po-Boy is a large sandwich served on French Bread.)
|My homemade Boeuf Gras|
The Mardi Gras Salad is a salad which contains the three colors of Mardi Gras -- purple, green, and gold. This could include, for example, purple cabbage, green spinach or lettuce, and gold bell pepper. Or you could use any other vegetables or fruits with those colors. Then serve with a dressing which does not take away from those colors, such as a simple vinegar and oil base.
New Orleans cuisine is unique and sensational, even decadent. It is one of the things that makes New Orleans a great place to visit.
Note: The photo above is my own homemade dish of jambalaya, made with smoked sausage. Also seen are my photos of my homemade Boeuf Gras, Muffuletta, and Mardi Gras Salad.