Now in its third printing, Cajun-Creole Cooking sets the gold standard for books on these rich cuisines of the deep south. In the beautifully written introduction, author Terry Thompson-Anderson speaks of the myriad influences on Cajun and Creole cooking, a list incorporating almost every group of people that immigrated into the southern United States. She tells us that "With such a rich and mixed historical background in mind, it is possible to unravel the mysteries that together make up Cajun-Creole cuisine." Thompson-Anderson spent years living in the southern bayou country of Louisiana pulling apart the interwoven threads for us. Her book gifts us with recipes that are deep with understanding and written with such clarity that we may all cook with abandon. No matter where we live, we can enjoy one of our few native cuisines, one which opens the palate and haunts the taste buds.
Thompson-Anderson is a disciplined cook who respects the subtleties of Cajun and Creole cooking. Her discipline translates into fail-proof recipes, and even a novice can venture with confidence into recipes such as New Orleans Seafood Filé Gumbo, Shrimp Creole, Cajun Oyster Pie, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Jalapeno-Cheese Grits Piquant. Dessert brings sweet dishes such as Cajun-Country Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce and Chantilly Cream, New Orleans Butter Pralines, Chocolate Voodoo Cake. For the really bold at heart, she has even included an Acadian Alligator Sauce Piquant that evokes images of Spanish moss hanging over a bayou.
Knowing that all good food is built on the right foundation, Thompson-Anderson insists that a good roux and good stocks are the important basis to Cajun-Creole cooking. She gives recipes for court bouillon, the all-important roux, and for stocks which have such a brilliant list of tips that you may throw away all other stock recipes you have used.
Stating that "Cajun-Creole foods are steadfastly untrendy," she stays true to the spirit of the people who originated the foods, but has great fun adding the twists that have developed since chefs have dropped savory touches into the dishes. She lauds Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Legasse for their contributions, and for bringing the cuisines to a larger awareness.
Working with this book, you might develop la bouche Creole which translates literally as "the Creole mouth." The bouche Creole is an awakened palate, one that savors the complexities of taste. The author tells us, "Thankfully, the Creole mouth may be attained by diligent dedication to eating and cooking things Cajun and Creole."
Though this is a cookbook Thompson-Anderson is an elegant and entertaining writer. We advise you to sit down with this book and enjoy the pleasure of her words before you enliven your palate. They are occasionally garnished with some of the local patois.
Here is the source of this rich cuisine as expressed by Ms. Thompson-Anderson: "It was formed with French roots, livened with Spanish spices, inspired by African vegetables and general magic, "Caribbeanized" by West Indian hands, laced with black pepper and pork by the Germans, infiltrated with potatoes by the Irish, blasted with garlic and tomatoes by the Italians, and even touched in some small ways by the Swiss, Dutch, Malagans, and Malaysians. Small wonder that what emerged was a complex taste!"
Vive la bouche Creole!