A Cajun Thanksgiving
We eat well in Louisiana and Thanksgiving is no different. Our tables are full of Cajun and Creole delicacies or the traditional American fare accented with a little spark or two. Here are a few Cajun/Creole dishes we enjoy during the holidays.
Frying a turkey can be difficult and dangerous if not done properly. And trust me, don’t tackle this feat unless you’re confident you know what you’re doing because basically, a turkey is lowered into a vat of hot cooking oil. The result is delicious, moist turkey with a crispy skin. I prefer to drive over to the many places in Lafayette that offer fried turkeys (Champagne’s and Dwight’s to name two) and pick one up, let the experts handle the flames. Fried turkeys can be found in many places these days, including your neighborhood, so do a Google search and skip the hours of cooking your own.
Before a turkey is fried, it’s helpful to inject the bird with seasonings to ensure that the fried goodness will deliver an inside that’s moist and flavorful. There’s plenty of Cajun injections on the market these days but the original Cajun Injector offers flavors such as Creole butter, roasted garlic and herbs, chop house steak, lemon butter garlic and honey bacon barbecue.
The Acadiana-born “turducken” is a marriage of three types of meat — deboned turkey, chicken and duck — with each layer separated by cornbread dressing and pork stuffing. The creation is delicately prepared, well-seasoned and absolutely delicious. There’s debate over who invented this dish but I lean toward Hebert's (pronounced A Bears) Specialty Meats in Maurice, Louisiana. Since this is such a labor-intensive dish to prepare, I suggest purchasing one directly from Hebert’s. While you’re at it, grab some of the well-seasoned stuffed, deboned chickens as well. Yum-ee.
These tubers are grown with love in Louisiana so it’s a must to have them on your Thanksgiving table. I like to boil my sweet potatoes, then mash them with butter, brown sugar or Louisiana cane syrup and dashes of cinnamon. Many people top the dish with marshmallows but I prefer them without. If you’re feeling spirited, here’s a fun recipe for Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
My grandfather left downtown New Orleans in the 1920s to settle in what was then the country, an acre of land alongside the Mississippi River in neighboring Jefferson Parish. The region which is anything but rural now has been recently labeled “Old Jefferson.”
When my grandfather arrived, he planted several pecan trees which produced pounds and pounds of the nuts every holiday season. I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without a pecan pie. But here’s my secret — my favorite recipe is the one on the Karo syrup bottle. Makes a great pie every time.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking reading this. I’m lazy when it comes to cooking. And you’d be right.
Boudin is a Cajun sausage that contains rice, pork and seasonings within a natural casing. To say it’s popular among South Louisiana residents is a gross understatement. Today, boudin comes in a variety of ways, including fried as boudin balls, boudin egg rolls, boudin paddies for sandwiches, sprinkled on pizza and used as a savory cake for Mardi Gras. Here’s a boudin-stuffed turkey recipe from Emeril Lagasse.
And in the December issue of Acadiana Profile magazine, I have a feature story on boudin and all its variations.
Bon appetite, y’all. Happy Thanksgiving.
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