Creole Cooking-Definition

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[KREE-ohl] In the 18th century, the Spaniards governing New Orleans named all residents of European heritage Criollo. The name, which later became Creole, soon began to imply one of refined cultural background with an appreciation for an elegant lifestyle. Today, creole cookery reflects the full-flavored combination of the best of French, Spanish and African cuisines. Its style, with an emphasis on butter and cream, is more sophisticated than Cajun cooking (Which uses prodigious amounts of pork fat.) Another difference between the two cuisines is that Creole uses more tomatoes and the Cajuns more spices. Both cuisines rely on the culinary “holy trinity” of chopped green peppers, onions and celery, and make generous use if FILE POWDER. Probably the most famous dish of Creole heritage is GUMBO.

Gumbo – Definition

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[GUHM-boh] The CREOLE specialty is a mainstay of New Orleans cuisine. It’s a thick, stew-like dish that can have any of many ingredients, including vegetables such as OKRA, tomatoes and onions, and one or several meats or shellfish such as chicken, sausage, ham, shrimp, crab or oysters. The one thing all good gumbos begin with is a dark ROUX, which adds an unmistakable, incomparably rich flavor. Okra serves to thicken the mixture, as does FILE POWDER, which must be stirred in just before serving after the pot’s off the fire. The famous gumbo z’herbes (with herbs) was once traditionally served on Good Friday and contains at least seven greens (for good luck) such as spinach, mustard greens, collard greens and so on. The name gumbo is a derivation of the African word for “Okra.”

Filé powder – Definition

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[FEE-lay; fih-LAY] Choctaw Indians from the Louisiana bayou country are said to have been the first users of this seasoning made from the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It’s since become an integral part of CREOLE COOKING and is used the thicken and flavor GUMBO and other Creole dishes. Filé has a woodsy flavor reminiscent of root beer. It must be stirred into a dish after it’s removed from the heat because undue cooking make Filé tough and stringy. Filé powder is available in the spice or gourmet section of most large supermarkets. As with all spices, it should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.