Cajun and creole foods are popular year-round in some Southern states, but they move to center stage across the country when it’s Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday.” This marks the last night before 40 days of Lent, a season of praying and fasting, and revelers celebrate by partaking in rich, fatty foods.
A couple of dishes Louisiana is known for is jambalaya — a hearty, inexpensive rice-based dish flavored with spicy Cajun seasoning — and étouffée, a classic sauce and seafood mixture.
For more on these, we turned to chef Phil Duhon, owner of Oscar’s Oyster Bar. With his Louisiana ties, he’s known for his way with Cajun and Creole dishes.
“Cajun dishes are more country style of cooking,” he said. “Creole dishes are more popular in cities, especially New Orleans. They are more refined.”
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Jambalaya and étouffée are based on a roux. Duhon makes his with lots of butter and flour and cooks it just until it’s lightly browned — what he calls a peanut butter or blond shade of roux.
“It’s lighter than what some other chefs might call roux, which are much more deeply browned,” he said.
Both recipes are based on what’s called “the trinity,” which is chopped onion, bell pepper and celery. Duhon cooks this in, again, “a lot of butter” and uses it to thicken his recipes for jambalaya and étouffée, which follow.
For Cajun jambalaya, he uses cooked chicken and smoky andouille sausage, resulting in “a meal unto itself.”
One of the most popular dishes on Duhon’s menu, especially at his Mardi Gras celebrations, is catfish étouffée.
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“Étouffée is French, which means to smother,” he said. “I deep-fry the catfish fillet and top it with crawfish étouffée, which is rich and creamy.”
The French influence on this dish is evident with the heavy cream that finishes the recipe. If you can’t find crawfish tail meat, which Duhon recommends, shrimp is another popular seafood used with the bold-flavored, luscious sauce. Serve it on steamed rice.
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So stock up on butter and seafood and let the good times roll!
Contact the writer: 636-0271.
contact the writer: 636-0271.