Monday, November 10, 2008

Cajun Napalm

Some of you may know that I love to cook Cajun and Creole food. I'm not from Louisiana at all, but somehow I feel that it is in my blood. I've spent a lot of time eating and visiting in New Orleans and points south and west all over South Louisiana. I even speak a bit of the language. My first college French professor was a Cajun from Thibodaux on Bayou Lafourche, where I've been and eaten several times. But I gotta say that y'all speak some crazy French là-bas!

That reminds me of a former life in the software world about twenty years ago, when I was temporarily at Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake, TX, there was popular Cajun hole in the wall just past the Center on the curve of the lake. The servers took a shine to me and would drag me through the kitchen and force me to sample everything. By the time I got back to the dining room, I was too full to eat any more, but I had to order something and no matter what I ordered, there were always more things on my table than I ordered. I learned a lot from tasting those dishes and from the gazillions of questions that I peppered the cooks and the servers with.

Anyway, having cooked the food for just shy of 30 years now, I am so comfortable with it that I would have no problem stepping onto the line at any New Orleans restaurant and banging out the food.

What brings all this to mind is that Saturday, I had only a little bit of alligator sausage left, not enough to serve on its own, so like frugal cooks everywhere, I made it into soup, gumbo to be exact. And while I was making the roux (in a very big hurry, perhaps too much of a hurry), somehow it got me in three places on the lips and four or five on the cheeks. And I was reminded yet again why Paul Prudhomme calls it Cajun Napalm!

By all means, do make your own roux over high heat and don't be afraid of it. Just be careful, more careful than I was! Oh yeah, one other word of wisdom from the been-there-done-that school of learning, don't put your flour into wickedly hot oil as a lot of chefs do. What happens when you pour water into hot oil? It flashes to steam and explodes hot oil everywhere. If your flour contains a lot of water from the ambient humidity, things can go kaboom! Not good.

Epilogue, March 14, 2009: I posted a step-by-step roux making photo essay which you might want to see.

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