By Wendell Brock
Some cookbooks you read for stories and personality. Others you devour for the sake of the recipes.
George Graham’s new book of Cajun and Creole recipes falls in the latter category. It makes me slap-dog hungry for rib-sticking cold-weather dishes like Stuffed Turkey Wing Gumbo; Smoked Wild Duck Cassoulet; and Collard, Black-Eye, Andouille, and Sweet Potato Soup.
Graham, a former restaurant owner and longtime food writer and blogger, begins with the basics. He roux-minates on the difference between New Orleans-style Creole cuisine and Cajun cooking, which was born 100 miles away in the marshes of southwest Louisiana. “There is no clear answer, and that is the beauty of the culture and the cuisine,” he writes.
The opening chapter, “First You Make a Roux” is but three recipes long: Cajun Seasoning Blend, Rox’s Roux (Dark Cajun Roux), and Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo. Master that holy trinity, and the world is your oyster, as it were.
Graham’s 320-page, 125-recipe opus has me drooling for Lemon-Pecan Pancakes with Southern Comfort Molasses for breakfast; Fried Oyster and Crawfish Caesar Salad for lunch; and perhaps Coq Au Vin or Grilled Baby Eggplant with Parsley-Pecan Pesto for supper.
I love the way Vietnamese influences pop up in the book: Soft-Shell Crab Bahn Mi and Cajun Pho. (The broth is made with pork neck bones, pig’s feet, and smoked ham hocks.) And I grinned at fusion smash-ups and novelty dishes like Seafood Pastalaya and Fried Pickled Okra with Sriracha Mayo.
Think of it as the ongoing creolization of the region’s cuisine. And it sure looks fine.
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