Acadiana Table: Cajun And Creole Home Cooking From The Heart Of Louisiana is a brand new cookbook published by the Harvard Common Press. The author is Louisiana chef George Graham, who grew up and learned to cook in the Acadiana area.
Maps on both inside covers make it clear just what regional cuisine is covered in the book; they show a 10-parish area bounded by Jefferson Davis in the west, Evangeline in the north, Vermilion in the south and St. Martin in the east.
Leading off the recipes is one for an eight-ingredient Cajun Seasoning Blend. Graham notes that herbs are omitted from the recipe; one can, therefore, add these to dishes according to taste. After two more recipes for Louisiana basics — a Dark Cajun Roux (Roy’s Roux) and Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo — Graham ends his introductory chapter and launches into recipes for foods for special times and circumstances.
The first is breakfast. For the most part, in Acadiana Table, you can expect exotic variations on Cajun and Creole favorites, or popular dishes with Cajun and Creole twists applied. For instance, Graham will tell you how to make a Duck Egg and Squash Blossom Tart or Gator Grillades and Grits for breakfast.
Each recipe is accompanied by a full-page photograph. From the looks of things, I believe the Lemon-Pecan Pancakes with Southern Comfort Molasses might be a bit much for me. But those with hearty appetites might develop a hankering for this unorthodox mix.
Some dishes — such as the Blackberry Sweet Dough Pies and Shrimp Omelette — take a pass on the fancy variations and come right from the Cajun and Creole mainstream.
A chapter on dishes that can be cooked in big pots includes such items as Blackened and Smothered Ribeyes with Rice and Gravy; Short Rib Chili with Jalapeno Croutons and Cracklin Corn Cakes; and Whole Catfish in Creole Red Gravy. For those with lighter appetites, there are such dishes as Sweet Corn Soup and Cajun Pho. Pho — when it doesn’t have the Cajun twist — is the national beef soup of Vietnam.
The dishes in Acadiana Table’s chapter on “Lagniappe” — or sides and appetizers — include several items that are not-so-light; for instance, the Cheesy Beef and Potato Skillet. Among the culinary extras in this chapter is the Chic Steak Sandwich that was served in Graham’s father’s Bogalusa diner — the Acme Cafe — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the 1940s. The sandwich is a variation on the chicken fried steak sandwich; specially treated pork is used as the meat.
The chapter titled “Farm Fresh” covers the “lighter side” of south Louisiana cooking. Its emphasis is on fresh vegetables grown in the area, many of which can be bought at Lafayette’s Horse Farm. Graham says this outdoor market is accompanied by Cajun musicians on the accordion and fiddle. He calls it “a celebration of Acadiana’s joie de vivre.”
Some of the book’s photos show dishes with vegetables or fruits that have been grilled until they’re charred. Charred Persimmon Salad with Agave Nectar Vinaigrette, Blackened Brussels Salad, Griddled Cantaloupe and Goat Cheese Salad and Grilled Baby Eggplant with Parsley-Pecan Pesto are among these dishes. I’m a big fan of the grilled-in char; I think it often enables me to enjoy vegetables I otherwise dislike (such as Brussels sprouts). The photos in this chapter will get you interested in vegetables.
Other chapters include “The Cajun/Creole Coast,” “If It Flies, It Fries,” “Meats and the Mastery of the Boucherie” and “Drinks and Drunks.” “Sweet Surrender” covers desserts.
A few dishes that might have special appeal to the SWLA diner are the Beer Can Duck with Raisin Cane Glaze, the Rabbit Pot Pie and the Blackened Bloody Mary (with crispy bacon!). The number of recipes in the book totals 125.
Along with recipes and photos, Acadiana Table includes short essays about Acadian culture or cuisine. Among these are “The Pride of Speaking French,” “Acadiana’s Evolving Foodways,” “Duck Hunting on Pecan Island,” “Along The Boudin Trail,” “Poirier Cane Syrup,” “The Long, Hot Simmer” (on making chicken stock), “Buy Louisiana Crawfish,” and “Beware the Dead Man,” which concerns the catching and eating of blue crab.
There’s also an essay about Duos Cajun Corner in Nuba, which features such food items as whole smoked rabbits. Buster Holmes’ Creole lunchroom in the French Quarter is the subject of an essay.
The book’s “Sources” page tells readers where they can buy the staples and hard-to-find ingredients for Cajun and Creole cooking.
Although this is a big (323-page) cookbook you can use in your kitchen, it’s also a coffee table book. The 9 1/2-inch by 11-inch pages are printed on thick stock, and the many photos are in rich, vibrant color. If pictures of Cajun food are your thing, you’ll want this volume.
The book retails for $30 — not bad for a book of this type. You can buy it (as well as The New Southern Table) at quartoknows.com.
Lake Charles Sesquicentennial Pop-Up Museums
You may have heard about the series of “Pop-Up Museums” that will appear at the Central Library at 301 W. Claude St. in coming months. These small “museums” are all about celebrating Lake Charles’ sesquicentennial — a big word that means “150th anniversary.”
Yes, Lake Charles turns 150 this year, and you can celebrate the birthday by bringing your historical photos and mementos to the Central Library, where they’ll be placed in a 150th anniversary museum.
I’ll show you just how easy it is to do. On April 29, the Central Library will start a “pop-up” museum on the topic of “Businesses and Restaurants” in Lake Charles. So … have you got any old photos, receipts, contracts or other historical material related to Lake Charles department stores, coffee and soda shops, auto mechanics, grocery stories, restaurants or watering holes? Bring them to the library and loan them to the pop-up museum. Later, if you like, you can contribute them to the library’s permanent collection.
You’ll have the opportunity to talk to the public about the significance of your heirlooms if you want to.
New pop-up museums on new historical topics will debut from time to time. Here’s a list of opening dates and topics:
• May 20: Industry and transportation
• June 17: Sports and outdoors
• July 15: Libraries and education
• Aug. 19: Entertainment and media
• Sept. 16: Churches and neighborhoods.
Need more info? Call 721-7116.
Dutton’s Portraits Collected
Local painter Marcia Dutton recently put quite a bit of work into collecting her many portraits for an exhibit at the Gallery by the Lake at 106 W. Pryce St.
The majority of the 30 or so portraits were of Dutton’s relatives, many of whom are no longer with us. Some of the works were of models; some of figures Dutton encountered in the half-dozen foreign countries she lived in and the many other countries she spent time in.
My favorite image was of the necks and heads of three camels clustered in a group. A notebook of artifacts that accompanied the exhibit showed two of the camels standing in the bed of a Toyota truck. Dutton added a third camel to give the image the right symmetry.
Dutton’s portraits were created with pastels. She won’t be doing any more as her eyesight is no longer up to the challenge.
There are, I would think, more than a dozen artists exhibiting at the Gallery by the Lake at any one time. I especially like the photos of Tim Fontenot and the recent paintings of Pat Craft. The latter are abstract works that look like simplified versions of the old action and drop paintings made famous by the great American abstractionist Jackson Pollock. In both Craft’s and Pollock’s abstract paintings, it doesn’t matter whether the painting’s structure is extremely complex or quite a bit simpler. It’s all a matter of texture. The viewer can choose which texture suits him. (And perhaps all will.)
The Gallery by the Lake has a gift shop and a large educational annex where students can take a variety of classes in ways to make art. There are plenty of high-tech devices that enable instruction to be shown on big screens and so forth.
In upcoming events at the Gallery by the Lake, there will be an exhibit of art by Ellen Anthony, whose sometimes whimsical work often shows the influences of impressionism, post-impression and early abstraction. Her 40-painting show, “Abstract Thinking,” will run through June.
On April 28, the Gallery will be open for the annual Art Walk. For this event, there will be a show of paintings by Boston Washington’s gifted and talented artists, who are students of Gallery member Debbie Laverne. Portraits of distinctive women of L.C. will also be on display. Crawfish posters will be displayed in an exhibit sponsored by the Parkinson’s Group. Those who stop by will be able to contribute to Parkinson’s if they’re inclined to.
Refreshments will be served.
Tuesday morning watercolor classes led by Sue Zimmermann will continue. And the gallery will offer a few weeks of live drawing of live models in August.
The gallery is just off Ryan St. If Pryce St. isn’t familiar to you, think of a spot a wee bit north of McFarlane’s and kitty-corner with Sweets and Treats. The gallery now has one of those balloon men with flying arms, so you might just look for that.
Gallery hours are Tues-Fri noon-5 pm and Sat 10 am-2 pm. To learn more, call 436-1008; visit gallery-by-the-lake.pixels.com; or search for Gallery by the Lake on Facebook. You can order items from the shop online, if you like.
National Recognition? Well, La Di Da!
I always read any email I get from Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. I never could pass up a chance for excitement.
Nungesser’s latest really threw me for a loop. The headline read “Lt. Gov. Nungesser Recognized Nationally For His Leadership On Energy & The Environment.”
I had lots of questions. What national group would give Billy Nungesser an award for anything? And how does somebody get an award for leadership in both energy and the environment? Wouldn’t that be kind of like the same party getting an a award for best fox leadership and best chicken coop leadership?
It turns out that the national entity giving the award was General Electric. That explains the energy and environment part. But why does General Electric care about Billy Nungesser?
Turns out that the only candidates for the award were the country’s 50 lieutenant governors. That clears things up a little. But I still have questions. For instance, which lieutenant governors have the most personal wealth? Which state is in the best position to give General Electric the power or fuel supplies it needs? It’s fun to ask questions like this.
I think Billy Nungesser would be pleased as punch to get any national award, be it from Scholastic Magazine or Purell or Tang (if Tang still exists). But one of the differences between me and Billy Nungesser is that I would not accept an award from General Electric (or from any company that happened to be one of the 40 biggest defense contractors in the U.S.).