Southern Flavours: Creole Cuisine Highlights
The southern part of the United States – and Louisiana especially – should represent a point of interest for any food-lover. This is where flavors and techniques from all over the world have fused, thus giving birth to some of the most popular and beloved culinary movements in US cuisine: Creole and Cajun. The differences between these two styles can be quite subtle sometimes, and since they both originate from Louisiana people often mistake them. In an older post on this blog we have already presented some of the distinguishing tastes and cooking methods of Cajun cuisine. Today we go further with the exploration of America’s cuisines, and present another episode in our quest for the best southern flavors: creole cuisine highlights.
The French influence
Creole cuisine has a strong French influence, but this is not to say that French cuisine is the only European cuisine that has something to say in the creation of creole food. Spanish, Portuguese or Italian dishes and cooking methods have also brought their contribution to Louisiana cuisine. So how did all these different cuisines come to create a new cooking style across the ocean. Well, it is quite simple, actually. Immigrants from these countries arrived to America, and they had to adapt their own recipes to the ingredients available there. This is particularly valid for the upper classes, the plantation owners and entrepreneurs who had not only the resources, but also the culture of elaborate dishes.
Favorite ingredients and techniques
This is not to say the Creole cuisine today is very luxurious, but it does preserve many of the techniques and sophisticated recipes which are typical for French gourmet cuisine. The Creole cuisine relies heavily on butter, cream, aromatic herbs, and gives new twists to classic French recipes such as souffle or quiche. The traditional Spanish, Portuguese and Native American cuisines have also enriched the Creole cuisines with numerous spices. Other less glamorous ingredients are also well-represented, especially rice, beans and potatoes. Nature has brought its own contribution, as the climate in the region and the geographical position make seafood, citrus fruits, rare spices and tomatoes readily available. The Holy Trinity sauce (made of bell peppers, celery and onions) is an important ingredient in Creole cuisine.
The highlight dishes of Creole cuisine vary from very elaborate to deliciously basic. Jambalaya and gumbo soup are two of the most popular dishes. Some more sophisticated foods include oxtail or turtle soup, as well as sumptuous appetizers based on oysters. Many Creole restaurants will also include Creole-style chicken or seafood on their menu – these meats are usually served in a rich sauce. Desserts include puddings, crumbles and pies, with bananas, apricots and pecan as popular ingredients.