Monday, February 3, 2014

A Brief History of Creole Cooking in New Orleans - Part 5

Blogger's Note: While reading this article about New Orleans written in the 1930s, it becomes quickly apparent that Creole food and Louisiana seafood, spoken of here in luxurious poetic phrases, is king.  With none of the health conscience or politically correct restrictions of today, this article offers a window in to the origins of food in New Orleans' Creole community, built on a tradition of simple ingredients; well-prepared and well-seasoned.  Filled with charming details of day-to-day New Orleans of the recent past, this collection studies the character and historical resonance of the traditional Creole way of life.  Enjoy!

From the Louisiana Works Progress Administration article A Brief History of Creole Cooking in New  Orleans, 1930s:

Red Beans
"Red beans are to New Orleans what the white bean is to Boston and the cowpea is to South Carolina.  This is a very nutritious and economical dish and is one of the most popular of all Creole cuisine.  Red beans are always served with a dish of boiled rice.  Until a few years ago when New Orleans was not so commercialised, you could purchase a "quartee beans, quartee rice and a lil lagniappe to make it nice".  Quartee means half a nickel and lagniappe was a gift given with a purchase, seasoning of some sort, for instance.

The red beans are soaked in water until the skins shrivel.  Pour off the water and put in a deep pot.  Cover with water, add chopped parsley and onion and green onions, a tablespoon of lard, salt and pepper, a slice of salt meat, ham or several strips of bacon.  Cook for several hours on a slow fire until thick and creamy.

When wood stoves were in use the old Creole method for cooking rice was to use an iron pot, a very low fire and adding just enough salted water to cover the rice.  This was cooked for several hours, until the rice was done and every grain separate.

The modern way is as follows: Wash rice thoroughly and cook in rapidly boiling salted water until tender.  Drain in collander, letting cold water thoroughly run through it.  Place the collander with the rice over boiling water, cover and steam until every grain flakes or "stands apart".

Creole gumbo is a cherished possession of old and young in New Orleans.
1/2 doz. hard shelled crabs                    2 stalks of celery
1 lb. shrimp                                          1 onion
2 doz. oysters                                       2 pods of garlic
1 green pepper                                    Thyme, bay leaf and parsley
             Salt and black pepper and cayenne to taste.
Scald the crabs, clean and cut in quarters.  Make a roux by browning a kitchenspoon of flour in the same amount of hot lard.  Add the sliced onion and brown.  Put in the crabs and shrimp, cover and cook about fifteen minutes.  Add the other seasonings, chopped and two quarts of warm water.  Cover and cook on a slow fire about two hours.  Fifteen minutes before serving add the oysters and  their liquor.  Just before serving turn off the fire, add a tablespoon of file'.  Pour into a tureen and serve with boiled rice.  Never cook the file' as it will become very stringy.  Okra may be used in place of the file', but it is cooked with the gumbo.  The basic recipe is the same but chicken, veal and ham or the combination of veal and a hambone can be substituted for the crabs and shrimp.  After Thanksgiving and Christmas the left over turkey is always made into a gumbo with oysters.  

A deep iron pot is preferable for making gumbo."