Originally Posted by Margi Cintrano
The shrimp creole looks lovely ... I just took a quick scan ...
Have to spend some time understanding the ingredients of Cajun and Creole and the various stocks, etc.
"Zatarain's" is a brand of premixed Louisiana spice products. One of those is shrimp and crab boil. It can be red pepper, cloves, black pepper cloves, garlic thyme, bay marjoram, and lemon juice. Also maybe mustard seed, coriander seed, dill, allspice, etc. Whatever you like. Boil the shrimp with all that in water and dump the spices afterward.
It's sort of interesting how there was (and in some ways still is) a distinction between Cajun and Creole. Classic Cajun is real subsistence cooking and commonly featured what you could kill and catch. Louisiana Creole cooking was more what you got when French cooking meets Spanish, African, and whatever else was around, but when classic ingredients were hard to find. The true Cajun was real basic and intended to stretch a limited quantity of protein into enough food to fill up a bunch of people. Kind of like paella. If you made your paella with opossum, you'd approximate Cajun. It's not that you have to use meat lightly in Cajun, but it's still valid Cajun when you do. Creole could be some high level cooking indeed. And some people claim high class Cajun cooking should be called Acadian. They say Cajun is what you eat when your mama cooks.
Today, they're much closer to each other and really always were, in much the same relationships as "country" cooking to "restaurant" cooking everywhere. And Cajun came to be in the environment of the evolving Creole mix of cultures. The existence of Creole cooking should be credited to Madame Langlois. She was a French-Canadian who kept house for Governor Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville of Louisiana. (This was about 1701 to maybe 1720, some years before the British chased the Acadians out of Canada so they could become Cajuns.) She had been taught by the local natives how to cook the local plants and animals, like sasafras and crawfish and she adapted predominately French cooking to the use of those ingredients. (They would have all learned how to cook with okra from slaves, since okra was just arriving in North America about then.) There were few enough people in French Louisiana at that time that one clever cook could have a lot of influence. Nearly everyone there was from somewhere else, so they needed someone to help adapt their cooking. In today's geography, it wouldn't even be Louisiana Creole. Where she was cooking is today Le Moyne, Alabama.
Madame Langlois and her fellow cooks would have invented gumbo, since Creole gumbo isn't Creole gumbo without okra. And gumbo was as often as not served over corn grits, another Indian thing that served when rice was expensive. Rice was just arriving in Louisiana. Cajuns generally made their gumbo with sasafras as the thickener instead of okra and used dark roux, "black" roux. Gumbo tends to be cooked all day, largely as a memory of the time when livestock wasn't killed for meat until it was too old to produce anything else and was therefore tough. (Not the okra, though. It's cooked first until it's the right thickness, and added back in later. It gets stringy if it's overcooked.) You can still travel fairly short distances through southwest Louisiana and detect distinct local variations in gumbo.
You get a pretty good idea of the proper consistency of gumbo when you know that "gumbo" was also used to describe the liquid mud that the streets there were churned to in those times. "I had to walk, and I got gumbo up to my knees."