RUSTIC HOME COOKING FROM DONALD LINK'S LOUISIANA
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
Real Cajun - Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana
(Clarkson Potter) ISBN 978-0307395818 0307395812
Learn about Cajun food and Cajun Country cooking from Donald Link, chef-owner of Cochon and Herbsaint restaurants in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In Real Cajun, Chef Link gives readers family recipes and stories from Acadiana, a rural region of swamps, bayous and farms along the Gulf Coast.
Difference between Cajun and Creole cooking
Donald Link introduces each recipe and chapter in the 256-page Cajun cookbook with the role and history of Cajun foods. For example, in his recipe for old-school chicken and sausage jambalaya, he explains that Cajun recipes are simpler, whereas Creole versions cook the rice in tomato sauce and may include shrimp with the meat. Southern cooking is known for grits. In Louisiana, he says, the Cajun equivalent of grits is coush coush, a cornbread without eggs, fried in bacon fat and covered with milk.
Sidebars add additional information to Real Cajun recipes, e.g., curing salt, made from sugar, nitrites and salt, helps preserve meat and its color.
How to make and serve cracklins
Other Cajun recipes include techniques, such as how to make cracklins by deep-frying pork belly chunks. Donald Link also suggests ways to serve Cajun foods, such as cracklins. Besides snacks, he says cracklins are delicious on top of grits, on pork roasts and in cornbread.
Delicious color photos by Chris Granger illustrate the cover of Real Cajun and traditional Cajun dishes, such as crab cakes with jalapeno remoulade. Photos also depict cooking techniques (smoking meat and stuffing sausage casings) and Cajun Country scenes, like catching catfish, crayfish farming, eating crayfish and dancing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
How to make Cajun food
Born in Louisiana and raised on Cajun cooking, Donald Link shows readers how to make Cajun dishes from scratch, including tasso (Cajun smoked ham), how to stuff sausage into casings and how to make boudin (garlicky pork and rice sausage).
Sidebars provide helpful information like how to clean soft shell crabs, the differences between using butter or oil to make a roux, how to make a quick cocktail sauce, how to truss a turkey breast, how to dry oregano and how to carve duck.
Substitute for buttermilk
Real Cajun recipes also include tips. For example, an equal amount of milk combined with one beaten egg is a great substitute for buttermilk.
A resources page contains websites and phone numbers for companies that sell sausage casings, duck confit, heirloom pork for cracklins, tasso, boudin and andouille.
Sample Cajun recipes
Pork belly cracklins. Baked oysters with Herbsaint hollandaise. Louisiana crawfish boudin. Spicy shrimp creole. Hot pepper jelly. Homemade bacon. Super Bowl Sunday seafood gumbo. Garden lettuces with scallion buttermilk dressing. Uncle Robert's smoked brisket. Crawfish boulettes. Smothered collard greens. Maque choux with fried green tomatoes. Natchitoches meat pies. Breaux Bridge crawfish pies. Boudin stuffed beignets (oreilles de cochon). Absinthe cocktail. Satsuma buttermilk pie. Blueberry cobbler. Buttermilk ice cream.
Notes on Cooking
- La Vie Cochon
- From Louisiana Waters
- Family Gatherings
- All the Fixin's
- Outdoor Living - Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!
- Louisiana Sweet Tooth
James Beard award-winning chef, Donald Link, is the owner of two restaurants, Herbsaint and Cochon, in New Orleans.