Real Cajun Cooking lets you choose from hundreds of authentic Cajun recipes. Learn to easily prepare and cook original Cajun-style family meals with help from south Louisiana's Cajun cook and connoisseur, Jacques Gaspard, who's been preparing great Cajun meals for over 50 years. Create the best gumbos, seafood, jambalaya, stews, salads and deserts – the way they were originally prepared. Besides great original recipes, you will discover a hodgepodge of stories, recordings, music, videos and humorous anecdotes to entertain. So enjoy! Don't forget to tell all of your family and friends about Real Cajun Cooking. They will thank you for it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Baked Panfish

It was fun and a real pleasure landing these plump pan fish which had developed a veracious appetite during one of our recent outdoor camping adventures. These were the only fish taking our bait at the time, but we did manage to catch a few dozen of 'em for the freezer.

We parked our 23' RV at Malden Lake Park located about 3 miles south of Maud, TX on Hwy 8 South.

Malden Lake Park is an excellent place to park your RV and camp. If you like friendly people and the latest improvements in park facilities with prices starting at $18 per day (half-price with a Golden Pass) and includes a spacious parking area for your RV, two vehicles and a boat – plus electricity and clean running water with trash pick-ups included, then maybe you should consider checking them out. They also have clean and well-furnished and maintained restrooms and shower facilities which meet all ADA requirements. I would recommend this place to anyone.

During this camping trip the water in the lake rose so high that we only had to walk-down a few short steps to catch our pan fish from where the RV was parked, instead of walking down the usual steep hill to the river to find them like previous times. Although we were in the mood to catch large-mouth bass and catfish, they were not as cooperative this season because of the incessant rains.

So, yesterday I prepared a few crappie and bluegills from that catch. But, this time I wanted to cook them in a different and healthier way from the old traditional method of filleting and frying (doctor's orders).

I cleaned and dressed the fish at camp (did I mention Malden Lake Park also furnishes a fish-cleaning station at each camp site?) and removed all of the fin-bones so that I could cook them whole. I don't know what it is, but there's something about cooking them whole that somehow adds another dimension to the overall flavor. I could have easily filleted them and fried them up and probably everyone at my dinner table would have been just as happy.

Nevertheless, this is a surprisingly simple way to cook crappie and bluegill. Besides, I know it came out good because all two of my guests that evening loved it so much there were none left over.

Ingredients

  • 3 large white sac-o-lais (crappie)
  • 9 plump bluegills (bull bream)
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice
  • Rosemary twigs, fresh
  • Oregano twigs, fresh
  • Sliced onions
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sliced yellow squash
  • Italian bread crumbs
  • Salt & pepper

Pat all the fish dry. Starting with the sac-o-lais cut shallow parallel slits across the skin of the fish on both sides to allow the seasonings to get through to the flesh of the fish while it is baking. Arrange the fish on a heavy metal or glass cooking platter. Sprinkle ground-up sea salt and black pepper on both sides. Next, on one side, sprinkle bread crumbs on the fish then apply a generous helping of melted butter and lemon juice to each pan fish. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. And 'er done!

I baked the bluegills in a separate digital-timer table-top oven. I drizzled the remaining lemon-butter on top of the smaller fish (herb side up) and sandwiched them between wire racks. I set the digital timer to 15 minutes at 275 degrees F. then I turned them over once and repeated the process (another 15 minutes).

I also served oven-baked Russet potato chunks coated with a mixture of onion soup mix and olive oil, homemade Cajun tartar sauce for the pan fish, and, of course, libations were available for the spirit. The yellow squash and red tomato slices added more color to the plate and were tasty as well. I did all of this in less than an hour with plenty of time to enjoy a couple glasses of my favorite wine. I broke tradition and drank some fine Merlot (2008 ... I think it was?)

Try it! You might like it. The wine was delicious, too. Ahheee!!

KT

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Margarita Redfish (Matagorda Seafood Platter)

The Matagorda Seafood Platter is something I have been perfecting for a number of years. It is actually a compilation of scratch recipes that add up to create a delicious meal. There are a couple of important pieces of this compilation missing, namely the Mexican Rice and Borracho Beans. My wife has refused to divulge this information, and who can blame her? It has taken her years to perfect these two recipes, and I can honestly say they cannot be improved upon. It is her well-earned right, and I have to respect that. So, you will have to fill-in-the-blanks and be content to see the pictures. Maybe someday she will come around, but I wouldn't hold my breath. She is as stubborn as a burro, and twice as tough!

While growing up, one of my favorite special meals was the traditional seafood platter. You know what I am talking about... It is usually made up of fried catfish, fried oysters, fried shrimp, fried stuffed shrimp, fried crawfish, fried crab claws, and fried stuffed crab. Oh, and did I mention French fries? While absolutely delicious, I am positive that over the years it has been a major contributor to the expansion of my waste-line. And my wife will no longer allow me to order it, even on my birthday. Well, I don't know about you, but I think that a seafood platter is one of the joys of living. So, in order to keep this passion of mine from slipping away, I set out to create a more healthy alternative. And I have to tell you, that I think I have it. This is not necessarily a Cajun recipe, you see I married a Latina woman. So it has some influences of Mexico as well as Louisiana, but mostly it is a coastal Texas flavor. Specifically, it is through and through Matagorda. I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Bon Appetit! Or, more appropriately, Buen Provecho!

Scott Gaspard


Perfect Margarita:

  • 1 fresh squeezed lime
  • 1 ounce orange liquor (Paula's Texas Orange)
  • 2 ounces 100% agave tequila (Sauza Blanco)
  • 4 ounces sweet-and-sour (Tavern)
  • Course ground salt
  • chilled glass
Pour some course ground salt into a shallow dish. Rub rim of chilled glass with lime, then roll it in the salt. Start with the lime, then add tequila, orange, and sweet-and-sour. Add cracked ice until the glass is full. Add a straw, and gently stir. Take a long sip. Smile.

This is absolutely the first and most important thing you should do, before even starting on the rest of the recipe. It helps to have some good Latin music. You have to get in the mood to make the recipe work.


Marinade:

  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime
  • 1 cup fresh Orange Juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp Camino powder (cumin)
  • 1 tsp fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 oz 100% agave tequila (Sauza Blanco)
  • 2 fresh redfish fillets
Combine marinade ingredients in a large glass bowl. Smells good doesn't it? Place the redfish fillets into the bowl, and carefully coat with the marinade mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.


Ranch Sauce:

  • 1 cup buttermilk ranch dressing
  • 1 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. pickled jalapeño, chopped
  • 1 tsp Camino powder (cumin)
Combine ranch sauce ingredients in a small glass bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. This is not required, but it does kick up the recipe a notch. It adds just enough heat and tanginess to enhance but not overpower the flavor of the fish.


Pico de Gallo:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • Juice 1 lime
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp Camino powder
  • 2 fresh Roma tomatoes, flesh only, chopped
  • Sea-salt to taste
Combine Pico de Gallo ingredients into a small glass bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. I love the fresh taste of Pico de Gallo. If you prefer guacamole, take a large avocado, smash half of it, chop the other half, mix in half of the above Pico de Gallo.

Pico de Gallo










Mexican (Spanish) rice:


Mexican (Spanish) RiceMexican (Spanish) Rice




























Borracho Beans:

Borracho Beans










Misc:

  • 1 large fresh avocado
  • corn tortillas

Crab:

  • 3 or 4 large live blue crabs, rinsed well.
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 Tbs liquid crab boil
  • 1 Tbs white vinegar
  • 2 tsp bay seasoning
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
Using a large steamer pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Add lemon, cut in half. Add crab boil, bay seasoning, and white vinegar. Add live crabs. Bring water back to boil, then turn off the heat. Let crabs soak in hot water for 30 minutes.

Clean the crabs, extracting the lump crab meat from all but the largest crab. Crack the largest crab in half, keeping two clusters with legs attached.

Lightly sprinkle the lump crab meat with bay seasoning. Saute the lump crab meat and clusters in butter and lime wedges for about 5 minutes.


Redfish:

Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium flame until oil is hot. Cook redfish fillets about 6 minutes per side, carefully turning once with a large spatula. If your kitchen doesn't smell wonderful at this point, something went terribly wrong.


Margarita Redfish










To Serve:


Serve hot with Mexican Rice, Borracho Beans, and warm corn tortillas. Drizzle some of the ranch sauce over the fish. Halve and slice an avocado. Lay onto a lettuce leaf. Top avocado with lump crab meat. Add a large spoonful of fresh Pico de Gallo to the center of the plate. Add a couple wedges of lime. Place crab cluster on the plate with the legs facing out.

Its a good idea to have some extra napkins handy. Another round of margaritas would do well at this point.


Matagorda Seafood Platter










Eat well, and enjoy!
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How to Vacuum Seal Redfish Fillets



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Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Gumbo Gu-roux

Gimmie 'dem onions, celery and bell-
peppers, too,
Throw-in a little love and spice and
some of my roux,

Gimmie some chicken and sausage
when times are good,
And I'll brew you the best gumbo in
a way that I should.

Or, throw-in a coon or 'possum
when times are bad,
And I will still make you the best
gumbo you ever had.

If you like a lil' mo' spice and you
want it a lil' mo' thick,
Aheee!, mon amie, I know exactly
how to do 'dat trick.

I'll throw-in some cayenne and some
black pepper, too,
And a couple mo' tablespoons of
my magic gumbo roux,

If you turn Creole on me, mon cher,
I will still know what to do,
I'll just throw-in a pound of cut-okra
and tomatoes into the stew.

When it comes time to eat do you
know what is really nice?
It's to spoon your favorite gumbo
on a bed of Cajun rice.

Ahheee!!


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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Easy Microwave Gumbo Roux | No Oil. No Fuss. No Mess.

This is a written version of the previous post, Easy Microwave Gumbo Roux (video), with annotations.

The 4,3,2,1, plus formula used in my video demonstration was for a 700-watt oven. You may want to adjust the minutes in this formula to fit your particular circumstances, especially if you are going to use a more powerful microwave oven. In other words, you may want to begin your cooking cycles with 3 minutes, or perhaps 2 minutes, then move on to the 1 minute cycles until the desired color is reached. There were times when a more powerful oven compelled me to reduce the ending cooking cycles to 30 seconds rather than 1 minute ... to prevent burning.

Remember that the color of the roux does not correctly reflect the color of the gumbo until it is dissolved in water and mixed well. Then it will appear several shades darker.

Here are a few advantages of preparing powdered gumbo roux over the traditional method:

  • No need for oil.
  • No stove-top oven.
  • Less likely to burn.
  • Saves time & money.
  • Versatile applications.
Obviously there is no need for oil to make my powdered roux. As long as you press-out all the flour lumps (which begin to accumulate during the first few minutes of cooking), and as long as you scrape the bowl, mix the flour thoroughly and return it to a powdery state within a minute of the next cooking cycle, you'll do just fine.

You can make powdered roux without a conventional stove-top oven. This means you can process your roux in an RV while camping ... or on a road trip ... or anywhere there happens to be a microwave oven for that matter. I always have a couple coffee cans full of powdered gumbo roux handy. It stores well and doesn't need refrigeration. There's no oil so there's no chance of it becoming rancid.

Unlike preparing the oil-based roux, if you make a mistake using my formula and burn it, it will usually be a small lump or two which you may not have pressed-out well enough. If this happens use a spoon to take out the burning lump or lumps and discard them in the sink or in cool water. You do not have to throw out the whole bowl of flour as you would with an oil-based roux.

Caution: Do not press-out any burning lumps in the bowl with the rest of the flour or you will have to throw out the entire mixture.

The microwave method saves you time and money because to make the powdered roux does not require specialized cooking materials and is surprisingly simple to make.

Finally, the powdered roux gives you more versatility when it comes to cooking and preparing other meals besides gumbos. You can use it for gravies, fricassees, piquantes, etouffees, stews and sauces.

We die-hard Cajuns love to make roux the old fashion way when we can ... along with our favorite oils like Mazola Canola, cottonseed, or peanut. And, the crowning moment with making gumbo roux the old fashion way is when it comes time to add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the mix while it is still sizzling hot. The magnificent aroma which it produces is truly out of this world.

But, there are occasions when time or circumstances will not allow us to prepare our favorite gumbo roux the traditional way, or we may not have the right equipment on hand, like a heavy cast-iron skillet or pot, to complete the job.

So, I am going to reveal to you my secret -- a way to prepare world-class powdered gumbo roux right from your microwave oven in less than 30 minutes using only a few simple utensils and 2-cups of all-purpose flour (enough to produce a gumbo which will feed a half-dozen, or more, hungry eaters). You will need to set aside about one-half hour of time to prepare your roux without interruptions, because once you get started you do not want to lose the heat you will have built-up.

Please keep children and infants away from you while preparing your powdered roux because the bowl and the flour will get VERY HOT before you are finished. Now, let's get started.

You Will Need:
  1. A non-plastic microwavable vessel (3-cup capacity).
  2. 2-cups of all-purpose flour.
  3. Oven mitts and heat absorption pad.
  4. A sturdy metal fork for scrapping and mixing.
  5. A small container of water to test the color of your roux.
Instructions:

On the high setting begin by first cooking the 2-cups of flour for 4 minutes, according to the formula, then remove the bowl from your oven and scrape all sides with the metal fork. Press-out all the lumps and mix well. Level-off the bowl of flour and return it to your oven within a minute of the next cooking cycle -- which will be the second step of our cooking-time formula (3 minutes).

Repeat this process through each stage of the formula (4, 3, 2, 1, plus) until you have reached the desired results.

Note: You can control the heat better by using transparent vessels or bowls rather than white or lightly-colored ones which retain more heat and cook faster. In my personal experiences I've noticed that they have more of a tendency to burn the flour. So, when I do use a white bowl I have to keep a closer eye on what I am doing and sometimes adjust my ending formula to 30 second cycles.

When you believe you have reached the desired color (chocolaty), test it by dissolving a small amount in a bowl or glass of water to make sure. If you like the color it produces then set the hot roux aside in a safe place to cool down. If the color is not dark enough for your taste simply cook it for another minute or two until you have reached perfection. It's as simple as that.

Once you have learned the process of cooking roux in the microwave oven, you may never want to go back to the old-fashioned way of preparing it again. Over the last decade I've made hundreds of gallons of gumbo this way. I don't remember receiving even one complaint about the taste.

Remember, when making gumbo you should know that the roux (whether powdered or oil-based) needs to cook a long time on low to medium-heat so as not to impart a slightly-bitter taste to your meal. The roux has to have enough time to absorb all the flavors of your vegetables and meat stock. Hope this helps.

Enjoy! ... and take care not to burn yourself, okay? From the Gumbo Gu-roux ... Ahheee!!

P.S. For the traditional stove-top method of making roux follow this link: Stove-top Gumbo Roux Signature Icon

Saturday, June 06, 2009

What Makes A Gumbo A Gumbo?

What is gumbo? There are two types.

A Cajun gumbo can be a combination of meats and vegetables slow-cooked in an all-purpose flour-based roux which, along with the flavors of the 3 main vegetables (onions, celery and bell peppers), adds a nuttier taste to the soup.

Or, it can be a Creole gumbo--a lighter and more translucent soup which is slow-cooked in a well-prepared tomato base and includes onions, celery and okra along with the choices of meats.

Both types include mostly the same basic ingredients -- meats and/or seafood and vegetables.

The vegetables in the Creole types of gumbos are added in stages and at the right moments to retain their individual flavors and crispness, while the Cajun type gumbos usually incorporate the main vegetables at the beginning of the cooking process. Garlic, green onions and parsley are usually added toward the end of the cycle.

The Cajun gumbos rely on the all-purpose flour-based roux to create taste and flavor. By manipulating the color of the roux during its preparation, one can also change the taste of the gumbo. Cajun gumbos usually do not include tomatoes or file'. And, not all gumbos include okra.

The roux in a Cajun gumbo continues to absorb the spices and flavors long after the cooking process is done. That's why good gumbos always seem to taste better the following day.

This is not the case with Creole gumbos which rely on citric and malic acid-based vegetables, such as tomatoes, for flavoring. Fish Courtbouillon is a Creole dish which is akin to this method of cooking with tomatoes. The fish used to make the meal is usually added toward the end of the cooking time, less it disintegrates and mixes in with the vegetables.

Roux ... the color of the roux will have a direct bearing on the taste of your gumbos. You can use a light peanut-butter colored roux for fricassees and stews, or you can choose to use a darker chocolate-colored roux for gumbos and piquants. It eventually becomes a matter of personal preference.

Stock ... the stock that you create should have no more than a teaspoon of salt added to the water--just enough to draw-out all the flavors of the meats and vegetables, but it can include any other unsalted spices (black pepper, red pepper, bay leaves, etc) so that you can get an idea of what your gumbo will begin to taste like before adding the roux. Chicken stock made from the skin and bones of the bird adds a heightened flavor to certain gumbos and, likewise, the shrimp and fish-head stocks greatly enhances the flavors of seafood gumbos and stews.

Meats ... certain kinds of meats, seafood and vegetables go together better than others. For example, you can mix chicken and smoked sausage, chicken and shrimp, shrimp and sausage … the list goes on … and these can include okra. However, a wild duck and oyster gumbo is an example where okra just doesn't fit in. Okra would merely thicken a gumbo which is meant to be on the thinner side. The same goes with crab gumbos and stews. You will, after a few hits and misses, learn which meats, vegetables and seafood go together and those that don't.

Vegetables ... knowing when to add the vegetables to the cooking pot will certainly enhance the taste of your meals. As previously mentioned, Creole dishes must be prepared with care and diligence. Adding the vegetables to your brew at the proper times will make your gumbos better tasting. The popular trinity of vegetables (onions, celery and bell peppers) can be and should be added to your Cajun gumbos at the beginning so they can quickly cook and meld into the stock. You should add the garlic, green onions and parsley toward the end of the cooking cycle so as not to cook-out their unique flavors. This makes all the difference in the world with respect to taste.

Spices ... use spices sparingly if you have certain guest which are spice-intolerant. In a pinch, you can always add your spices after the gumbo is served without sacrificing too much flavor.

Techniques ... slow and low-heat cooking is always best. Remember that roux takes a long time to cook, less you get a slightly bitter tasting gumbo. Take your time, do it right, and folks will be begging for your recipe, or at the very least, they will be asking you for seconds.


Keep in mind that once you learn the basics of making gumbos, the whole world becomes your oyster. Who knows? You may someday create a gumbo which is world-class.

Bon appetite! Ahheee!!

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