By Kara Kimbrough
I’m not here to reignite an argument about the differences between Cajun and Creole food. I’m gun shy about mentioning ANY food from these regions after causing a furor on social media last year. I innocently said I "didn’t like okra in my gumbo." There were a few supporters who agreed it wasn’t a prerequisite for old-school gumbo, but others disagreed. Vehemently. I distinctly remember the words, “You can’t make gumbo without okra or it’s NOT gumbo!” Ouch.
Arguments aside, almost no cuisine surpasses either Cajun or Creole. Every dish includes some variation of seafood, tomatoes, sautéed vegetables, spices, fragrant rice…the list of delicious ingredients goes on. With the exception of oysters, I love each and every item that goes into a multitude of dishes representing these cuisines.
That’s all I’ll say about it, other than sharing a few food ideas from last weekend’s Cajun/Creole tailgate party, along with a few recipes I tried in advance of the football game.
First, our menu consisted of jambalaya; muffalettas; hot shrimp dip and Zapp’s chips; a grilled Cajun shrimp, sausage and vegetable dish; Creole potato salad; Cajun-spice chicken wings and tenders and a variety of desserts.
My contributions were the muffalettas, chips and dip. I’ve shared the recipe for a crowd-size muffaletta in past columns, so I won’t repeat it. However, if you missed it, drop me an email and I’ll send the recipe.
A few days before the game, I dropped by a library book sale and picked up an old cookbook filled with Cajun/Creole recipes. I revised them a bit to fit my tastes and am sharing them below, along with the shrimp dip enjoyed by my friends at the tailgate party.
I hope you’ll be inspired to host your own dinner or gathering with a similar them and as the French say, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”
Hot Baked Shrimp Dip
1 pound small raw shrimp, roughly chopped (use popcorn shrimp to eliminate chopping)
2 tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
½ Vidalia onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (or Creole seasoning)
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2-1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add butter, chopped bell pepper, chopped onion and garlic in the skillet. Sauté for 3-5 minutes to soften. Once the vegetables are softened, add shrimp and Cajun seasoning. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Stir in cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and hot sauce, if using. Stir until the cream cheese, and shredded cheese melts into a thick sauce. Turn off heat.
Sprinkle top with the remaining ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are bubbly. Serve warm with chips, crackers or cut vegetables.
Shrimp Boat Potato Salad
4 large red potatoes
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup olive oil
1 cup bottled Italian dressing
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bunch green onions, minced
2 bell peppers, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper to taste
Boil potatoes; peel and slice in quarter-inch rounds. Place in a large bowl. Boil shrimp in seasoned water; drain and place over potato rounds. Add remaining ingredients – garlic, onions and bell peppers seasoned with salt and pepper. Refrigerate and allow to sit overnight for flavors to blend.
(can be used as a salad dressing, dipping sauce for boiled shrimp,
crackers or chips or to make shrimp remoulade)
½ cup tarragon vinegar
4 tablespoons Zatarain’s Creole Mustard
1 teaspoon horseradish
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped fine (I omit this in mine)
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 large rib celery, chopped fine
3 green onions and tops, chopped fine
2 teaspoons paprika
Dash of thyme and garlic salt
½ cup olive oil
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
In a food processor or blender, whisk together all ingredients except olive oil. Whisk in olive oil a little at a time. Taste for salt and pepper. Chill well. If serving shrimp remoulade, add cooked shrimp before chilling.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org