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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis April 22, 2011
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Delectable Tidbits for All Palates in the Big Easy

Andouille (ahn-DOO-ee): Spicy Cajun sausage. Don’t ask what’s in it.

Angelo Brocato: ices and creams. Some say pistachio; others say lemon ice. Two words: rum custard.

Bananas Foster: Brennan’s first whipped up this flaming ambrosia of bananas and rum, spooned over vanilla ice cream.

Barq’s: A great local root beer, served in glass bottles or frosty mugs.

Beignet (BEN-yay): Creole pastry carrés (square, like the Vieux Carré), fried to crusty perfection and generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Got café au lait? Tip: wear light colors to camouflage the powdered sugar.

Blackened Redfish: Highly seasoned redfish filets sizzled in a hot skillet. When Chef Paul Prudhomme made the Cajun dish a national craze, it put a strain on redfish supplies, so inspired chefs began blackening poultry and veal.

Blue Runner Gumbo to go: Canned okra and shrimp gumbo or gumbo base, beans, and other canned produce to take home. No muss.

Boudin (boo-DEHN): Spicy pork sausage stuffed with onions and herbs.

Cajun vs. Creole: Cajun food is the earthy, robust creation of fishermen and farmers in the bayou country of southwest Louisiana. Creole food is the cosmopolitan cuisine of New Orleans—a mix of Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Chicory (CHICK-er-ree): Endive roots are roasted and ground into Louisiana coffee. Indigenous coffee houses like C.C.’s and Café du Monde serve up local coffees all day and into the night.

Courtbouillon (COO-boo-yawn): Cajun for “short soup,” it is fish simmered in spicy tomato sauce.

Crab boil or shrimp boil, or crawfish boil: The standard brands are Zatarain’s and Rex. Why bother to boil if you don’t do it right? Seafood gets a flavor jolt in these aromatic blends of spices and seasonings.

Crawfish (a.k.a. mudbugs or crawdads): Cooked with lots of crab boil, these succulent little second cousins to shrimp hold the flavor in the heads and the meat in the tails. So you suck the heads and peel the tails. Dishes include crawfish pies and Crawfish Monica, a creamy pasta dish.

Creole cream cheese: Once close to extinction, now making a comeback (Robert’s Markets and Dorignac’s Supermarket still carry it), it’s close to France’s light crème fraîche. Add a little sugar or fruit, and breakfast will never be the same.

Creole Mustard: More pungent than American mustard; the mustard seeds are ground coarsely into piquant nuggets rather than bland dust.

Dressed: A po-boy sandwich with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo (known locally as “MY-nez,” usually Blue Plate).

Etouffée (ay-too-FAY): It literally means “suffocated,” but in New Orleans it simply means smothering great shrimp or crawfish with spicy tomato sauce and slathering it over rice.

Gumbo: New Orleans’ and south Louisiana’s signature Creole dish. Not an imitation of French bouillabaisse. “Gumbo” began with okra, or nkombo in Bantu, a vegetable of African origin. Native American filé (ground sassafras leaves) is the essential spice. Caribbean-born chefs, gens de couleur (free people of color), first whipped up this piquant potage—more soup than stew. In southern Louisiana, it’s made with a dark roux (gravy base made by browning flour in fat), shellfish, and sausage, served over rice. In north Louisiana, the roux is lighter and the meat is venison, duck, or squirrel.

Jambalaya (jahm-ba-LIE-ya): New Orleans’ answer to Spain’s paella, this Cajun rice dish makes a clean sweep of the kitchen, full of sausage, seafood, and, of course, spices.

King Cake: These racetrack-shaped cakes are served only between Twelfth Night (Jan. 6, the Feast of the Three Kings) and Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday. Originally a version of French brioche, they are typically decorated in purple, green, and gold sugar. By tradition, whoever gets the piece with the tiny plastic baby or bean baked inside throws the next party and serves the next cake.

Mirliton (MER-lih-tawn or MIL-lih-ton): A tropical, pear-shaped squash. Louisianans love to stuff them with seafood, meats, and cheese. Elsewhere, they’re called vegetable pears, chayotes, chochos, or christophines.

Muffuletta: It’s not a sandwich; it’s a meal packed into a pizza-sized Italian bun. The calories don’t count when you’re having fun: salami, ham, and provolone lavished with olive relish. Go to the source: Central Grocery on Decatur Street, an Italian import store where the sandwich was invented about a century ago to satisfy hungry Sicilian stevedores on the nearby docks.

Oysters: Eating them raw on the half shell still separates the natives from the tourists, the sushi craze notwithstanding. Connoisseurs like to oversee the process, watching as the shells are pried open. Most natives dip them in a sauce made with ketchup, Tabasco, horseradish to taste, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

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