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Before I email the owner/chef..... [Moved from New Orleans board]

Monch Apr 21, 2008 10:11 AM

Hounds,

We're from Wisconsin. Have been to NOLA several times and cooking class there twice. Have eaten at many of the quintessential establishments and have, we think, learned how to cook the cuisine.

We ate at a new-ish restaurant, here in town, that holds itself out as a "semi-fine Cajun/Creole" establishment. As the area has a NOLA take-out house that ROCKS and a very nice high-end restaurant that does a very nice job with Cajun/Creole, we need this niche filled.

We wanted to like the place.

Before I proceed with my judgement of the place, I would like some CH feedback to ensure that my frame of reference is in order:

1) My Sazerac was served on the rocks - Should I have had to order it "up"? I've never had this served on the rocks.

2) The gumbo was, in my wife's words, a "nice soup but not a gumbo" - It was tomato-based and definitely not roux-based. Can it be gumbo without starting with the mantra "first you make a roux..."?

3) Should etoufee be thin and watery? Again, not roux-based.

4) Jambalaya - This is a dish OF rice and other ingredients, not a dish served OVER rice, correct?

5) Rice - They used Chinese style sticky short-grain rice rather than good, fluffy, long grain. Long-grain for this cuisine, correct?

We really need this place, in town, and want to go back. However, if you're going to do a NOLA restaurant I would think you'd need to get the basics of gumbo/etoufee/jambalaya really down to a science.

Your opinions?

Thanks in advance,

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  1. speyerer RE: Monch Apr 21, 2008 10:40 AM

    My Sazerac was served on the rocks - Should I have had to order it "up"? I've never had this served on the rocks.

    Galatoire's serves their Sazeracs on the rocks. Everywhere else in New Orleans serves them straight up

    1. crimsonfancy RE: Monch Apr 21, 2008 11:00 AM

      I'll offer my opinions:

      I prefer my Sazerac on the rocks but most often I've seen them up.
      Roux shouldn't necessarily thicken a gumbo as much as it should flavor it. When flour is cooked slowly in fat to very dark, it loses most of it's thickening "power." Okra or file' thicken gumbo for the most part. I do not believe tomatoes belong in gumbo, ever....etouffee and jambalaya either...never.
      If etouffee or gumbo sit on a steamtable, they become thin and watery. This should be prevented. Shortcuts result in substandard food. Of course it shouldn't be too thick either.
      Jambalaya is prepared in one pot and the rice should "split". Short grain rice is common in Louisiana. Never use converted rice. If the stuff has tomatoes in it, I'm out and I'm mad.
      I reckon we won't be able to find out which restaurant you refer to but I'd really like to know so I can avoid it.

      1. b
        Blumie RE: Monch Apr 21, 2008 11:07 AM

        What you experienced really is no different than what I've experienced at Cajun and Creole restaurants around the country. I have found that it is very difficult to get authentic (or inauthentic but still good) Cajun and Creole food outside of Lousiana, to the point that I've given up trying.

        1. s
          Shiloh RE: Monch Apr 21, 2008 11:10 AM

          I find #4 to be the most bothersome. I've actually seen jambalaya prepared that way on a TV cooking show, and it's absurd. Never should some kind of sauce served over rice be confused with jambalaya. On #2, not all gumbos are made with a roux, and many gumbos do have a tomato product.

          1. c
            Carrolltonsnob RE: Monch Apr 21, 2008 11:11 AM

            You'd think the owner/chef would have had some good recipes before he opened, wouldn't you?

            You don't have to use a roux in gumbo, but I agree it woudn't taste very good. My recipe uses a roux, tomatoes, and okra.

            Jambalaya should be like a cajun paella. You can get a box of Zataran's mix at Wal Mart. It's a good product.

            Once I was in Denver at a "New Orleans" style restaurant and got 2lbs of crawfish, they served it as an entree for over $10, and the crawfish were all washed and clean and lined up very prettily. I had to laugh.

            Are there any good "New Orleans" restaurants outside of New Orleans?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Carrolltonsnob
              Cheflambo RE: Carrolltonsnob Apr 21, 2008 11:23 AM

              Carrolltonsnob, I think you just nailed it. OP is in WISCONSIN !! New Orleans food gets a lot of its flavor by being in the city itself. Im not saying that the gumbo/jambalaya etc. cannot be replicated authentically outside the state (we've got some great NO style restaurants here in Houston, with chefs that were trained in NO) but sometimes things like etoufee and gumbo are recipes that reflect individual styles and preferences. Sort of like every Italian grandmother has HER own sauce.

              1. re: Cheflambo
                crimsonfancy RE: Cheflambo Apr 21, 2008 11:51 AM

                Ok. One's cuisine represents his styles and preferences, I'll agree completely. And I tend to see more tomato product in New Orleans proper.
                If I were to sample a gumbo or jambalaya that was a generations old family recipe, *where you were born and raised becomes more apparent. Without trying to get into this too much, the difference is creole and cajun. New Orleans is big but in my opinion, the best gumbos, jambalayas and etouffees are found outside and south and would never include tomato.

                One of the favorite gumbo memories was served to me while on break in the kitchen of La Provence when Besh was chef de cuisine and well before he owned it. Probably around 1997. A very nice recipe can be found here:
                http://www.gumbopages.com/food/soups/...

                1. re: crimsonfancy
                  s
                  soupkitten RE: crimsonfancy Apr 22, 2008 09:47 AM

                  as you say, Crimsonfancy: authentic creole recipes will/may have tomato, authentic cajun recipes will (almost certainly) not. creole cooking= in the new orleans melting pot, cajun= acadian, country cooking, louisiana outside of new orleans. both are venerable and respected cuisines which influence each other and overlap at times, but they are distinct.

                  but a restaurant (no matter where it is located-- moscow for all we should care) that bills itself creole/cajun, well, then it would seem that it can use a creole(tomato) *or* a cajun(no tomato) recipe as it sees fit.

            2. h
              hazelhurst RE: Monch Apr 21, 2008 01:17 PM

              Sazeracs are properly served "up" although, in the summer, I will have them on the rocks sometimes (they were better on the rocks when Galatoire's still had real ice as opposed to that machine-made crud). You cannot make a Sazerac without Peychaud's bitters, though. Angostura can be used (many places use both) but I do without it myself. And it is properly made with rye, not bourbon.

              Despite the bleatings of Paul Prudhomme, you cannot make a gumbo without a roux. A soup, yes, a gumbo? No. Tomato can be employed subtly but it has to cook to Hell and back. This is a nice trick for an experienced cook, like adding a little red wine. Wine is not essential but it makes a nice sounding board. I used it when our team won an award at the New Iberia World Championship Gumbo Cookoff several years ago.

              Etouffe that is thin is an affront to Man & God but oftentimes frozen crawfish throw a lot of water. The real, original etouffees had no roux at all. Tomato sauce was used just for color. The best Cajun cook I know now uses a little bit of Ro-Tel tomato in his.

              As to jambalaya, you are correct. One upon a time jambalaya was often made on the stove and then baked in a casserole (see recipes from the 1930's) but it is now all done together. New Orleans jambalaya has tomato more often than not but I rarely see it in Acadiana.

              Rice. Long grain OR medium grain. The preferred medium grain is Doguet's which comes from Texas but the family is from Louisiana.

              As an afterthough, the really fun part of a jambalaya is the burnt bottom part (which you NEVER break up when making it or the whole thing will taste burnt...kids fight over it when the pot is emptied. It is known by any one of a hundred names "gradoux" or "gratin" are the most common names that I hear. Using beer in the cooking liquid makes a really fine jambalaya)

              2 Replies
              1. re: hazelhurst
                h
                Hungry Celeste RE: hazelhurst Apr 23, 2008 07:39 AM

                Oh, hazel, baby, we might have to meet under the Dueling Oak in City Park. You can make a gumbo without a roux, if you have to. Okra will provide sufficient thickening, and if you brown your seasoning meats sufficiently, you can get good color in the dish without relying on trickery.

                1. re: Hungry Celeste
                  h
                  hazelhurst RE: Hungry Celeste Apr 23, 2008 11:47 AM

                  Well, if you HAVE to, sure....I saw a guy forget his flour at the N.I. festival and he just plodded along(although anyone would have given him some if he wanted it). And okra thickening, of course. I always cook that down first to get the slime off, using a little lemon. Contrary to some views, it thickens just fine.

                  This whole thing reminds me of the perfect howls that went up years ago when Gourmet magazine, which Jolly Well should have known better, gave a red-eye gravy recipe that called the coffee "optional."

                  By the way, if you can find a copy of "The Transcendental New England Boiled Dinner" you can have tons of fun with similar ukase-like dicta....

              2. c
                cajungirl RE: Monch Apr 21, 2008 02:28 PM

                With regards to #2 and 3,
                You can have an okra gumbo with a little bit of tomato and no roux...and it's perfectly legit. I like my shrimp and okra gumbo this way.
                True etoufee does not have a roux. It's smothered crawfish, and it will be thinner than a stew.

                8 Replies
                1. re: cajungirl
                  crimsonfancy RE: cajungirl Apr 21, 2008 03:11 PM

                  While I only take Wikipedia for what it is...open source, a loose conglomeration, I have similar opinions to the "Etouffee" page. I don't agree with blond roux and certainly not tomatoes. The page mentions that tomatoes convert it to a stew but I consider it crawfish creole which I usually prepare with shrimp. I would suggest the entry could use some expanding ;-)
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89to...

                  Mine starts with a dark roux, which thickens quite a bit less, the standard "trinity", crawfish stock and crawfish. Finish with parsley and green onion. It becomes quite dark orange in color from the fat and I make it after we boil. So, when crawfish are out of season, I don't serve it; I won't use frozen tails.

                  All in all I love that this post so much reflects Louisiana, it's people and their micro-regional cooking techniques. It is a very educational and enjoyable read to say the least.

                  1. re: crimsonfancy
                    Monch RE: crimsonfancy Apr 21, 2008 03:42 PM

                    All,

                    Thanks and keep the opinions coming.

                    To begin to distill:
                    - Yes, we're in Wisconsin. It's not now, nor will it ever be, NOLA. We're a long ways away. In fact, when I ordered the 40# of live crawfish for our annual boil this year, the warehouse manager was aghast at what he'd have to charge us for freight. In good humor, I explained to him that it wasn't HIS fault that we were dumb enough to live that far away from the crawfish. We didn't expect, when we chose this restaurant, to be magically transported to NOLA. However, I would have thought that the establishment would have been able to "channel" a BIT of the flavor. No dice.

                    - Sazerac - Rocks are acceptable, but not common. They get a pass.

                    - Gumbo - I gotta say that my favorite gumbos (My wife's and Frank Brigtsen's) are roux-based. However, this WAS okra. They get a half a pass.

                    - Etouffee - Construction notwithstanding, unpardonable that it was thin and watery. They stand convicted.

                    - Jambalaya - Convicted!

                    - Rice - I neglected to mention that it was badly overcooked to the point that the middle of the "glob" was impenetrable by even the thinnest "Etouffee Water" or "Jambalaya Water". Convicted; sentence suspended due to apathy.

                    Please keep your opinions coming.

                    1. re: crimsonfancy
                      h
                      Hungry Celeste RE: crimsonfancy Apr 23, 2008 07:43 AM

                      And my "people" never-never-never use crawfish in a gumbo (either stock or peeled tails) under the belief that they taste "muddy" when used in a brothy, long-cooked dish. Aren't the variations fascinating?

                      1. re: Hungry Celeste
                        Monch RE: Hungry Celeste Apr 23, 2008 10:54 AM

                        Celeste,

                        SUCH good info. Thank you.

                        My curiousity led me through the Gumbo Trails website to the Larose French Food Festival website.

                        Just got off the phone with Jasmine, 'cause I couldn't be without the festival cookbooks!

                        If I have my way, we'll be at the Festival this October.

                        Thanks again,

                        1. re: Monch
                          h
                          Hungry Celeste RE: Monch Apr 23, 2008 11:03 AM

                          Oh, please look me up if you do make the trip. If you're interested in helping to make the gumbo, I'm sure we can find you a volunteer job or two as well.

                          1. re: Hungry Celeste
                            Monch RE: Hungry Celeste Apr 23, 2008 11:14 AM

                            Oh, my.

                            With an offer like that, I might have to make the trip even if my wife can't!

                            She's the family gumbo chef, but I'd love to have a recipe in my bag of tricks to compete!

                            Getting OUT of Wisconsin in late October is a VERY good thing.

                            Thanks for the offer, the opinions, and everything.

                        2. re: Hungry Celeste
                          Bill Hunt RE: Hungry Celeste Apr 23, 2008 07:15 PM

                          In my decades of searching for the perfect gumbo, I do not recall any crawfish. Now, there might have been some stock (depending on the recipe, who knows?), but not any meat. I'm not saying that it doesn't exist, it's just that I have not encountered it.

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                            h
                            hazelhurst RE: Bill Hunt Apr 24, 2008 07:05 AM

                            Crawfish in gumbo is like the Louisiana Bigfoot..I heard of it but never seen it(or him or her). Now, I do remember back in the late 1970's when shrimp were in short supply we had a bumper crop of crawfish and made some big seafood jambalayas with them.

                            It occurs to me that we might find some legislative guidance --or maybe jurisprudence--on this. Louisiana Revised Statute 40:4.2 provides protection "to prepare jambalaya in the traditional manner for public consumption, including the use of iron pots, wood fires and preparation in the open...." Obviously, this and other laws regarding cochon de lait, Italian food, and crab boils, is to cover fesitival cooking, but one wonders if the committee testimony provides any guidance (or, better yet, muddling) for such debates as this one. Could be fun. It seems that the Legislature hath determined there _is_ a "traditional manner" of preparation.

                            In a similar spirit, google "Soggy Sweat's Whiskey Speech."

                    2. Bill Hunt RE: Monch Apr 21, 2008 05:59 PM

                      As for the gumbo question: I have sampled gumbo throughout most of Louisiana, south of Alexandria, plus the MS, FL and TX Gulf Coast. These dishes have been in private homes and every ilk of restaurant, that you can imagine. Gumbo can range from a light broth, almost clear, to thick and black, that must be eaten with a fork. The "light broth," version was served to me in Donaldsonville, by a fifth generation native. It was her great-grandmother's recipe. It was served over long-grain white rice and had tiny shrimp in it, but was quite thin. However, the flavors were wonderful, and I cannot imagine how, as it looked like watered-down chicken stock. Only garnish was a bit of chopped fresh parsley - no file in sight. My wife's, that I have alluded to in another thread is roux-based (as are most, that I have had), and a very dark brown. There are tomatoes, but it is not tomato-based, though I have seen that as well. Wife's is a toss-up between fork and spoon. Since I am more a fan of "seafood gumbo," that is probably what I have the most experience with.

                      I do not know where one would go to get the final definition of gumbo, especially as there are so many forms of it. It's probably more difficult to define, than say, B'BQ, without any modifiers attached.

                      Hunt

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                        Monch RE: Bill Hunt Apr 21, 2008 06:53 PM

                        Oh,

                        Forgot this one: Ordered a second glass of wine and the bartender up-ended the dregs of the first glass into the fresh second glass..."We don't want to waste anything".

                        Off-topic on the food, but thought that would put the icing on the cake.

                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                          r
                          Rum Runner RE: Bill Hunt Apr 22, 2008 08:46 AM

                          This post makes the most sense. What people forget is that gumbo, strictly speaking, is not a "dish." It's almost a cuisine unto itself. I happened to grow up with a mother whose background was both Cajun and Creole (the Caucasion version) and a father whose background was Acadian ("Cajun," if you will). My mother's gumbos were hand-me downs from generations of cooks. Sometimes they contained a roux, but not always. Shrimp and crab gumbo (sometimes with oysters added) was made with okra and no roux. Chicken gumbo (without sausage) was made without a roux, also, but was thickened with filé, a pinch or two of which was added to the gumbo after it was served.
                          Paul Prudhomme has served what he calls "seven-steak gumbo," made with a beef chop with a bone shaped somewhat like a seven. It is as authentic a gumbo as any other I've eaten. What black Creoles in New Orleans call "Creole gumbo" contains no roux. And it contains a combination of meat and seafood -- shrimp, sausage, chicken and crab.
                          The variations, as Bill Hunt says, can go on almost ad infinitum.

                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                            r
                            Rum Runner RE: Bill Hunt Apr 22, 2008 09:54 AM

                            In my previous message, by "this post," I meant Bill Hunt's post, not necessarily my own.

                          2. t
                            terpsichore RE: Monch Apr 22, 2008 06:39 AM

                            Some of this will be repetitive.

                            Sazerac can be served on the rocks or up.

                            Gumbo absolutely positively does not have to be made with a roux. Some may think that it must have a roux, just because non-roux based Gumbo has mostly fallen out of favor. But as Hunt pointed out, it's a murky spectrum of exactly what defines a gumbo. File' is not a necessary ingredient either, hence the references to "file' gumbo."

                            Similarly with etoufee, there seem to be a couple of different directions to take it. The most common way is with a blond roux, but there's also another way of preparing it that puts more emphasis on the trinity aspect of the dish, rather than the creamy, almost buttery version you see most often.

                            What you said about the jambalaya I agree with. FWIW, jambalaya is another dish that can vary widely, from having a heavy tomato emphasis, and being almost sweet...to a darker jambalya that is brown, aromatic, and not sweet at all. Both are completely valid takes on the dish.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: terpsichore
                              h
                              hazelhurst RE: terpsichore Apr 22, 2008 08:15 AM

                              I respectfully diasgree as to the roux issue on gumbo. (I also take the hard line that one uses either file or okra but never both.) This is no knock against the gumbo-like soups that are sans roux. Part of the fun of this is trying to draw bright lines. Have a look at grillades, for example. What you get in New Orleans is completely different from what you'd get in Ville Platte. You can almost draw a line on the map seaprating the two. This is also similar to the eternal Mushroom Soup in etouffee debate. I can show you exactly where the western dividing line of the camps is on Highway 14...I cannot draw the other boundaries as precisely.

                              OK, I'm a stick in the mud...or coffee, since I still make coffee in a drip pot.

                              1. re: hazelhurst
                                t
                                terpsichore RE: hazelhurst Apr 22, 2008 09:32 AM

                                But...and I'm not trying to be combative in any way...it's just a fact that Gumbo doesn't have to be roux based. Gumbo dez Herbes (I know the spelling varies a lot) doesn't even have meat, and isn't usually roux based. While I'll admit that it's rather bland and is essentially a soup, the fact is that it's referred to as a gumbo just like any other. I vastly prefer roux based gumbo, but that isn't to say that the roux is necessary for it to be a gumbo.

                                My Grandmother lived in Mobile, and they made something there that was referred to as a "Gulf Coast" Gumbo. It had tomatoes, okra, and seafood. No roux, but very tasty. I've had that style in New Orleans, but frankly, it seems like it disappeared in the late 70's.

                                Also, the okra/file' issue probably has a lot to do with the philosophy about thickening. I've had it in many places with both okra and file', and sometimes it's remarkably liquid, i.e., not all that thick. I've read cookbooks that talk about using only one of the two, but in practice--homes, restaurants, etc, I've never seen that kind of dividing line.

                                I agree that what you might get in New Orleans can be vastly different than what you might get in Cut Off or Ville Platte. But New Orleans is the biggest city in the regioin, and consequently, you almost always find a little bit of everything there.

                                Maybe we're just arguing about semantics and colloquialisms. But in my own experience there is nothing to back up the notion that gumbo has to have a roux. I think it's become a more common expectation--but to me, it's a akin to the fact that so many restaurants that carry po-boys, have only oyster, shrimp and sometimes roast beef. There was a time when you'd see ham and cheese, liverwurst, cold cuts...whatever.

                                1. re: hazelhurst
                                  Bill Hunt RE: hazelhurst Apr 22, 2008 05:31 PM

                                  Hazelhurst,

                                  I respectfully beg to differ. Maybe in your world, okra and filé do not appear together, but in other worlds, they do. My wife’s recipe contains both. This was handed down with translations from a Parisian chef grandfather and a Cajun chef grandfather. Now, I admit that she uses less okra, than many, but we’re probably the only household in PHX, that has three jars of filé in the spice drawer.

                                  One would have to trace the roots of the dish, and probably about 6 *different* roots, to find out what was originally included/excluded. After one does this research, I’ll bet that others could find equally old recipes, that are different. It is a real melting-pot of a dish, and is based on some vague generalities, often handed down, word of mouth for many generations.

                                  Yes, my wife’s version can hold a fork upright for a bit, but it is not the thickest version, that I have encountered. It is, also, not the thinnest, by any stretch.

                                  It’s rather like saying that mole MUST contain chocolate. In many states of Mexico, it does, but in many others, it does not. Also, within each state, the family recipes differ. A friend, whose family comes from many generations in Morelos, uses peanut-butter, while that is not normal for that state. Pretty much the same with gumbo. Considering that it is basically a stew, made from whatever was handy, or growing, or could be caught off of the hummock, it probably differed from pot to pot, depending on the seasons. Factor in personal preferences over a few hundred years, and we now have a myriad number of variations and permutations. Is one more “authentic?” My answer to that would be, “authentic to what?”

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                    h
                                    hazelhurst RE: Bill Hunt Apr 23, 2008 11:33 AM

                                    I took a highly scientific survey yesterday---a collection of people at a long mahogahny bar and a mob from a cigar store. Eveyone agreed as to a roux: two of them (and I make a third) put file into a okra gumbo when no one is looking because we like the taste but wwe know we'd be caned by the people who taught us.

                                    Obviously there are millions of variations...grillades with venison is right tasty, for example. But for codification purposes I think we need to have a few abolsute rules even if we break them all the time. It's more fun that way.

                              2. N.O.Food RE: Monch Apr 22, 2008 03:47 PM

                                This thread is ironic, as I'm making gumbo as I type this. Yes, my gumbo is roux based. However, some only use okra as a thickener. It's all about getting the right texture and thickness to the dish. Certainly, a roux based gumbo and an okra based gumbo will have different tastes, but the goal is the consistency. Gumbo is a West African word for okra, if that tells you anything. So, there are really two general gumbos: roux based, and okra based, and you might see some that start out as roux based then the cook adds okra. Personally, I think they just add the okra for the flavor and not for the thickening properties. File can also be added, but it should really only be added at the end. Cooking with file can cause real problems.

                                My etoufee uses a "red roux" base, and I wouldn't make it any other way, and I've never heard of any other way to do it.

                                Jambalaya is akin to Paella. Everything goes in and then you cook it just like rice. Simple enough.

                                As for the tomato issue. Some say the essential difference in creole v. cajun cooking is the use of tomatoes. Creole cooking uses them, cajun cooking doesn't. Most cajuns wouldn't put tomatoes in gumbo, etc. I'm not sure that it's that simple, but I generally agree that I don't see too many tomatoes in cajun country. Personally, I like the theory and generalization that creole food is simply Louisiana city food (i.e. New Orleans food) with spanish, african, french and carribbean influences while cajun food is from the country around southwest louisiana.

                                I use different rices from time to time, but generally I use long grain. However, I only eat rice grown in Louisiana - that's my main requisite. Buy Louisiana rice, then you'll be sure you're eating what we eat down here.

                                Long story short, it sounds like your restaurant is in the right ballpark, but if I got jambalaya as a dish served over rice, I'd probably send it back!!!

                                By the way, this is a fascinating site. You can get the lowdown on some of the best chefs in New Orleans' gumbos. They have as many different opinions about it as we do. Lots of oral histories and such. Enjoy.

                                http://www.southerngumbotrail.com/int...

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: N.O.Food
                                  Bill Hunt RE: N.O.Food Apr 22, 2008 05:34 PM

                                  Thanks for that link. I had never seen it, but it's now bookmarked.

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                    N.O.Food RE: Bill Hunt Apr 22, 2008 08:15 PM

                                    You're welcome. I love to do research about louisiana food, and I came across it one day. I also love to talk to the old folks about their food traditions.

                                    1. re: N.O.Food
                                      Bill Hunt RE: N.O.Food Apr 22, 2008 09:03 PM

                                      The Smithsonian has done a very good job, re: the music, but I think that much is missing, regarding the cuisine. What a great PhD project, this would make. There are some great cooks, up and down River Road, who need to be documented.

                                      Again, thanks for the link,
                                      Hunt

                                2. h
                                  Hungry Celeste RE: Monch Apr 23, 2008 07:51 AM

                                  2)I like thin, homestyle gumbos. Overly reduced, stock-enriched gumbos are typical in New Orleans restaurants, but thin gumbos rule in home kitchens all over SE LA. Those gumbos tend to get thicker & darker on the west side of the Atchafalaya.
                                  3)no, etouffee isn't generally thin. "Etouffee" means smothered, and it is generally thick enough to cling to rice. Except when it is clinging to pasta, common in southern Lafourche parish as a dish called "etouffee du macaroni" containing other oddities like green olives.
                                  4)You MUST cook the ingredients with the rice for the dish to be jambalaya. But hell, this very website has a recipe for a stuff-over-rice jambalaya--just NOT traditional.
                                  5)Medium grain rules with old-school home cooks in south Louisiana. You'll find a marked preference for slightly sticky rice---it should hold the shape of the scoop, yet be fairly easy to separate with a fork. Too loose to be easily eaten with chopsticks, but NOT the dreaded converted/parboiled stuff. That said, many LA restaurants use converted rice, many prize-winning cooks use converted rice....but it isn't what traditionalists use. The starchy nature of medium or well-cooked long grain soaks up the juices--the converted stuff doesn't soak up anything.

                                  So does it have a real "chef" or just a bunch of cooks executing a menu developed by a consultant? Maybe you could make friends with the guy and invite him on an eating trip to NOLA....

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Hungry Celeste
                                    h
                                    hazelhurst RE: Hungry Celeste Apr 23, 2008 11:40 AM

                                    That is true about the thin versus thick gumbos. In New Iberia we tried to make them pretty thick and sometimes a really thin one would win. But the trick down there was salt..must be the proximity of the salt mines but those folks like a lot of salt.

                                    The epedemic of diabetes has caused me to adjust etoufees in a non-traditional way to avoid rice for people who are watching carbs. So I put it over a spinach pasta. Works fine but it won't get mentioned in an Authentic Cookbooks.

                                  2. Uncle Bob RE: Monch Apr 23, 2008 10:32 AM

                                    My Great-Grandfather once shared this venerable truth; “He who pays the fiddler… calls the tune” May I say here, “He who stirs the pot…calls the dish”… There are as many varieties as there are cooks. I have known close knit families who cannot agree, where it is brother against brother, and sister vs. sister debating/arguing over the ingredients, and preparation methods of jambalayas, gumbos and etouffees. In the end they can only muster to agree to disagree in order for peace and harmony to prevail within the larger group. It is in this light I offer my humble opinions, observations and experiences. It may be of keen interest to many of you that while I do not consider myself to be the quintessential authority on the subjects,….. I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!!!

                                    1) My Sazerac was served on the rocks - Should I have had to order it "up"? I've never had this served on the rocks.

                                    Stirred…Not Shaken…Strained into a coated glass. Sazerac Rye Whiskey Please.

                                    2) The gumbo was, in my wife's words, a "nice soup but not a gumbo" - It was tomato-based and definitely not roux-based. Can it be gumbo without starting with the mantra "first you make a roux..."?

                                    Gumbos all have a roux base (or else it is a Soup)…All Gumbos are thickened with either Okra or File, but never both. (File served at the table along side Okra thickened versions can/do add another interesting level/dimension of flavor.) Tomatoes seem to work well with Seafood varieties that are Okra thickened. Not so well with fowl/sausage/game varieties that are file thickened. Beyond the basics there are no hard and fast rules. No “authentic” one size fits all recipes exist, and no clear documentations as to the origins of this ancient dish can be found. One only needs a good roux, a pile of chopped vegetables/seasonings, okra or filet for thickening/flavor, an excellent stock, and a vivid imagination!.... Armadillo filet Gumbo anyone?

                                    3) Should etouffees be thin and watery? (NO!!) Again, not roux-based.

                                    Etouffee (smothered) does not contain a roux. If you make a roux…you make a stew.
                                    (Stew-Fay?) In the case of Crawfish, the color comes from adequate amounts of fat...never tomato based products in this version… or any other.

                                    4) Jambalaya - This is a dish OF rice and other ingredients, not a dish served OVER rice, correct?

                                    Correct! This is a no-brainer….Jambalaya is as you say, OF (IS) Rice based, not anything served OVER rice. I’ve seen three varieties: Red (containing tomato based products) seemingly predominant inside the City. Brown ( the color coming from the browning of meats and vegetables prior to the addition of the stock and rice to the pot) Seen mostly outside of the city. Lastly White. Prepared by nonsensical neophytes who remain clueless, and who seem not to be able or willing to master the ‘one pot’ methodology. The meats and vegetables are cooked in one pot, the rice in another with the two being combined just before service….Could this group, and the “Served Over Rice” crowd be one and the same???

                                    5) Rice - They used Chinese style sticky short-grain rice rather than good, fluffy, long grain. Long-grain for this cuisine, correct?

                                    Both long grain, and medium/short grain is/can be used with success. I use both… with maybe the long grain getting the edge….

                                    Fair Winds & Tides……..

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Uncle Bob
                                      Bill Hunt RE: Uncle Bob Apr 23, 2008 07:40 PM

                                      Uncle Bob,

                                      I agree completely (except for a few "nevers," and "always,") re: gumbo. I always tell my wife to ingore her family's input on the recipes. Hers comes from her grandfathers and is by far the best, by my palate. There are bacially three recipes "in the family." Her god-mother has one, her mom has another (based on her second husband's recipe, when he owned a seafood business and a restaurant in NOLA) and the one that she distilled from her grandfathers. One from FR Algeria via Paris, and the other from deep in the Bayou Country. They were similar, and she borrowed elements from each. To me, her's is the best that I have ever had, even given the changes, that must be made this far from S. Louisiana and the right ingredients. She uses sheepshead, when she can get them, but in Phoenix, even our fish monger has problems with this one.

                                      For twenty years, she did a gumbo-dinner in Denver, and I still get e-mails from clients, who offer to fly down to Phoenix, should she be doing another pot. I think many only used me, so they would be on the "gumbo list."

                                      For rice, she usually goes with long-grain, and while she loves "sticky rice," for her gumbo, will usually do a slightly oily, individual grain prep. Glad I do not have to eat this with chopsticks!

                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: Uncle Bob
                                        N.O.Food RE: Uncle Bob Apr 24, 2008 04:34 PM

                                        What I meant by my other post, which someone kindly flagged down, was that you can certainly have gumbo without roux. The roux in a roux gumbo is the thickener. Will okra make it thicker? Yes. But in a roux gumbo, the roux is the primary thickener. You can make a gumbo without a roux with nothing but okra as the thickener.

                                        Also, my etouffee starts with a roux, and I wouldn't call it a stew any more than I would call gumbo a stew.

                                        Again, one too many nevers and always for a gumbo/etouffee discussion.

                                      2. Sam Fujisaka RE: Monch Apr 26, 2008 01:09 PM

                                        Just a note on the rice. sticky, short grain is a Japanese (or Japonica) rice. Long-grain fluffy is Chinese (or Indica).

                                        19 Replies
                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                          h
                                          Hungry Celeste RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 27, 2008 06:37 AM

                                          So what is medium grain? Another species entirely, or a hybrid, or what?

                                          1. re: Hungry Celeste
                                            Sam Fujisaka RE: Hungry Celeste Apr 27, 2008 09:27 AM

                                            The thousands of varieties of Indica rices vary in length from long to medium. The Japonicas are mostly short(er) grained The key difference is that the Japonicas are low in amylose, a starch, and, as such, are more opaque and stickier.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                              johnb RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 27, 2008 04:02 PM

                                              Sam

                                              OT, but you being the closest to an expert on rice that I have ever known (albeit an agronomist not an economist???), what is your take on what's going on in the rice markets these days? I haven't seen you posting in any of those threads, but inquiring minds want to know.

                                              1. re: johnb
                                                Sam Fujisaka RE: johnb Apr 27, 2008 06:09 PM

                                                I'm an agricultural-ecological anthropologist and agronomist now working a bit less in the field and more on global environmental and agricultural trends.

                                                Rice (and food) market difficulties have rippled outwards from: a) Australia's long drought and now conversion of rice lands to vineyards, b) increased consumer demand in China and India for just about everything that developed countries consume, c) biofuel production in the north, and d) increased demand for meat and dairy throughout a world no longer facing basic food grain shortages.

                                                Countries throughout south and SE Asia (and elsewhere) in any year both export and import rice. Vietnam and Thailand have been major exporters. Indonesia, the Philippines are about net even for imports and exports. India and China are in the process of becoming substantial importers. Rice is an important staple in places like Madagascar, parts of west Africa, and throughout Latin America. Governments in rice producing countries start to limit exports in the face of perceived supply threats--food riots being very bad for the image of those who govern.

                                                At the same time, food has been abundant and cheap for the last 30 years or so. Funding for research centers like mine has fallen as no one any longer believes in starvation or famine.

                                                The future will likely see economic response to the new threats in the form of increased production (motivated by higher prices paid to producers) followed by greater supply and a drop in price. On the other hand, permanent higher energy costs, absolute natural resource depletion, greater global demand, and the impacts of global climate change means that we are all in for a very, very challenging future.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                  johnb RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 28, 2008 05:21 PM

                                                  Sam

                                                  Excellent discussion. Thank you.

                                                  I'm a port economist and was recently in Ghana where I saw first hand import rice being discharged in great quantity, mostly from Thailand (duh) but India and the US among other places as well. It's a very big and complex international market. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in both the short and long run. In the short we may have problems, since it will take a while to ramp up production. And of course by now it's hard to tell just how big the root problem is since there is so much hoarding going on at every level and that is distorting the short term supply picture.

                                                  We shall see.

                                                  1. re: johnb
                                                    Monch RE: johnb Apr 29, 2008 10:40 AM

                                                    Hungry Celeste:

                                                    Just received the two edition of Larose's "Down the Bayou" cookbooks and they're KILLER.

                                                    Better than "River Road" or "Talk About Good", in my opinion.

                                                    Can't wait to try some of the recipes.

                                                    Any chance you can provide a recipe for "Seafood Gumbo a la Uzee" in smaller proportions?

                                                    Thanks,

                                                    1. re: Monch
                                                      h
                                                      Hungry Celeste RE: Monch Apr 29, 2008 10:43 AM

                                                      Look in the second book--first recipe is my mother's recipe for "wedding gumbo"--it is essentially a scaled-down (not too far down) version of the recipe in the first book. BTW, in book II, all of the recipes by "anonymous" are really by me (somebody threw out the email with my name on it, so I didn't get credited). Try the seven steak grits-n-grillades for brunch some time.

                                                      1. re: Hungry Celeste
                                                        Monch RE: Hungry Celeste Apr 30, 2008 07:43 AM

                                                        Thanks Celeste,

                                                        I already have an opportunity, this Sunday, to try the seven steak grillades recipe on some friends.

                                                        Any problem substituting round steak for seven steak? That's a particular cut that doesn't seem common up here in Wisconsin.

                                                        1. re: Monch
                                                          h
                                                          Hungry Celeste RE: Monch Apr 30, 2008 08:35 AM

                                                          Boneless round is fine; pound it a bit before you cut it into cubes.

                                                      2. re: Monch
                                                        Bill Hunt RE: Monch May 3, 2008 04:19 PM

                                                        Interesting. Since "River Road" is our most-used tome, your post says a lot. Next trip down, I know what we'll be buying.

                                                        Thanks,
                                                        Hunt

                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                          Monch RE: Bill Hunt May 5, 2008 10:07 AM

                                                          Well, the proof of the recipe is in the making!

                                                          We had our "This Day in History" eating "club" over last night.

                                                          Since it was the anniversary of Audrey Hepburn's birth, we chose for our additions all breakfast/brunch items ("Breakfast at Tiffanies").

                                                          Made the grillades and grits and they were a SMASH!

                                                          They'll be even better when I get a proper meat mallet instead of the flat-bottomed whacker I presently own.

                                                          The grillades had wonderful flavor and the recipe was very well-written.

                                                          Thanks Celeste!

                                                          1. re: Monch
                                                            h
                                                            Hungry Celeste RE: Monch May 5, 2008 01:46 PM

                                                            Glad it worked out for you. I used to make that recipe every year for the krewe of Toth parade, when I lived just off of the route. It goes well with bloody marys, too. Next time, toss a few ounces of chevre into the grits.

                                                            1. re: Monch
                                                              Bill Hunt RE: Monch May 5, 2008 08:32 PM

                                                              Monch,

                                                              If we ever move back to NOLA, I hope that you will sponsor my membership app. for you "eating club." Sounds like something that we would love.

                                                              Hunt

                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                Monch RE: Bill Hunt May 6, 2008 04:59 AM

                                                                Hunt,

                                                                You're in...but you'll have to move to Madison, Wisconsin.

                                                                We're Cheeseheads that love NOLA, that's all (Oh, and I'm in an untreated state of compulsive cookbook collecting.)

                                                                We just pick a Sunday evening (one of us is a pastor) and then EVERYTHING that's brought must tie into that day in history.

                                                                No other rules and NO comparing notes prior to the event.

                                                                It's great fun and results in a very eclectic menu. Sometimes we have more deserts than entrees, but that's the tough luck of the draw.

                                                                1. re: Monch
                                                                  Bill Hunt RE: Monch May 6, 2008 07:47 PM

                                                                  Madison, Wisconsin?!?! OK, I may not move, just to join you, but it still sounds like a wonderful group and idea.

                                                                  Glad that WE love the cusine of NOLA, regardless of how ever many miles separate each of us from it.

                                                                  OT question: being "cheeseheads," where in the meal do YOU serve the "cheese course?" For me, it's always after the mains, but before the desserts. This gives us time to finish the last of the main's wine, and then offer up a btl. of older Bdx, or Cab (and maybe a worthwhile white, depending on the cheeses), before the Port, or otherwise. Just curious.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                    s
                                                                    soupkitten RE: Bill Hunt May 7, 2008 11:30 AM

                                                                    you can't walk fifteen steps into wisconsin without being offered some cheese, a grilled or beer-boiled sausage, and a strong beverage. . . life is one constant cheese course in wisconsin! can't wait til my next wisconsin expedition. *drool*

                                                                    1. re: soupkitten
                                                                      Monch RE: soupkitten May 7, 2008 11:35 AM

                                                                      Ha!

                                                                      I was trying to come up with a witty retort to Hunt, and you've helped set me up:

                                                                      At least if those 15 steps were to the NORTH, you've left Illinois!

                                                                      (I'm a FIB by birth and a Cheesehead by choice...I can make that joke.)

                                                                      Wasn't it the old Lowenbrau commercial that went "Anytime's the right time....." for CHEESE?

                                                      3. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                        Catskillgirl RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 30, 2008 08:19 AM

                                                        Thank you so much for your insight. It's very hard to me to follow world markets - all I see is the price fluctuation in my invoices from vendors for flour, dairy products, and other things used by my bakery. This is really interesting stuff, but I need to be spoon-fed the info. *G*

                                                        Challenging is an understatement. I see a lot of fear in my area - there's a lot of poverty and unemployment in my county. People are all wondering just where it's going to end - $6.00 for a loaf of bread? $9.00 for a gallon of milk? $10 for a gallon of gas?

                                                        Scary stuff.

                                                        Ooops, this was a reply to Sam's info.

                                                2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                  Bill Hunt RE: Sam Fujisaka May 3, 2008 04:17 PM

                                                  Sam,

                                                  Thanks for the edification. For me, it was either Mahatma, OR WaterMaid... Glad you added this tidbit.

                                                  Hunt

                                                3. CajunChefRyan RE: Monch May 7, 2008 08:45 AM

                                                  In reference to the #2 gumbo question I have to agree with Uncle Bob and a few others who mentioned that there are just about as many different variations of gumbo as there are people who make them. Typically though, the "city style" gumbo is thicker than the "country style". And you will always find a better gumbo from "ya mama's" house than at any restaurant in New Orleans or elsewhere for that matter. Why, because the restaurant still has to make a buck, and will not put in as much ingredients as most homemade versions. I can guarantee you that my gumbo has more sausage, chicken, duck, andouille, rabbit, shrimp, oysters, okra, file, roux, etc...than any store bought or restaurant. And it's going to cost less per serving too!

                                                  By it's very nature gumbo means a "melting pot" and many of my gumbos come out different each time because they are made with what is fresh on hand and what is available at the time or season that it is made. The typical thickening agents for gumbo are either a roux, okra, or file, or any combination of the three.

                                                  As far as the #3 Etoufee question, typically it is served over rice and is thickened with a roux and has an amount of tomato in it as well. My etoufee also includes both red and white wine in the sauce, this preparation is typical of the Volute style of mother sauce that originated in France. A basic Volute is a sauce made from chicken stock and thickened with a roux.

                                                  Yes, Jambalaya is a rice based dish and again there are many styles of this popular Cajun favorite. If you go to the Jazz Fest and get the typical Jambalaya it will be dark colored rice with smoked or andouille sausage and chicken, no tomato products and a bit dry. Some variations of jambalaya also resemble the Paella mentioned and include shrimp and tomatoes. My mom makes a version of Jambalaya with pork shoulder and blackeye peas, now that is some good eatin cher!

                                                  #5 Rice is another personal preference. In rice country in and around Acadia Parish they grow both long and short grain rice. Some of my cousins still work at the rice dryers for the Mahatma and WaterMaid brands.

                                                  Culinarily yours,

                                                  Chef Ryan
                                                  http://cajunchefryan.rymocs.com/blog2/

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