Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creole vs. Cajun

From today's Your Table section in The Anniston Star, we tackle an age-old debate:

If you want to find out if Creole and Cajun are interchangeable, all you need to do is go to good ole' south Louisiana and mention that you believe there's no difference.

Let's begin with the Creoles — they are the city dwellers. Originally the term Creole was not reserved for residents of New Orleans, but today the best way to describe a "true Creole" is a New Orleans native whose heritage includes the Native Americans, French, Spanish, African, Italians, and others that settled the city. This melting pot is best illustrated through the food that developed when all these collided. As you may know, bouillabaisse is a soup/stew that came from France. The Africans brought okra from their home soil, and the Native Americans introducing new ingredients like file powder and bay leaves.

At this intersection of cultures there was a three-car wreck, and gumbo came stumbling out.
Creole is a cuisine that developed by drawing from all these ethnic backgrounds with particular influence from the African Americans who were not only the cooks at home, but also the cooks in professional kitchens.

Now Cajun came from the French-speaking Acadians — folks originally banished from France who then fled to Nova Scotia. They were kicked out of Nova Scotia in the early 1700s and settled in rural southwest Louisiana. While the Creoles were cosmopolitan, the Cajuns throughout their history were fairly isolated. They were great farmers, fisherman, and hunters and truly lived off the land.

Creole food was served in restaurants from its earliest days, but Cajuns served country food, often one-dish meals, not found on public menus until midway through the last century.

Cajun cuisine is spicier and incorporates a lot more hot peppers than Creole. In Creole seasoning, you will find more herbs and more subtle flavors, whereas in Cajun dishes you will find their "holy trinity": cayenne pepper, white pepper and black pepper.

Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 2 teaspoons ground bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon chili powder

Cajun Seasoning
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon sage

For each recipe, combine all ingredients well and store in an airtight container.