Without a doubt, Creole and Cajun cuisines have a lot of similarities, but true blue Louisianans will tell you that they aren’t quite the same thing. Both boast a French heritage but Creole is much more refined while Cajun food is a lot more rustic. Anyone who finds themselves living in New Orleans is sure to learn their differences in no time at all.
Creole food has much more genteel beginnings. This is the cuisine of the original European settlers of New Orleans who could afford the finer things in life. Creole were well-to-do members of society who had their pick of the best produce from local markets. As befitted their wealth, they also had a bevy of slaves in their kitchens to prepare the food.
Cajun cooking is more down-to-earth, likely stemming from the fact that the Cajuns lived off the land. They used seasonal ingredients and food was usually prepared in a large communal pot.
A major difference between Creole and Cajun food is in the roux – a blend of flour and fat – that is used as the base for many sauces. Creole roux uses butter, which is typically used in France, to which is added milk, cream or broth. A Cajun roux, on the other hand, uses lard or oil in lieu of butter, as butter was often scarce in Acadiana (Acadia + Louisiana). Both cuisines do, however, share dishes such as Gumbo and Jambalaya, with some differences. Creole gumbo is more soupy and has a tomato base, while Cajun gumbo is more of a stew with a roux base.
The origins of Creole cooking
Creole is best described as the fancy gourmet food of the wealthy. Given the greater access to exotic ingredients the Creoles had, Creole dishes boast a lot of variety. Chefs who were imported from the great culinary European capitals such as Paris and Madrid contributed to the cuisine, flavoring their dishes with spices from various regions. Think rich creamy soups, sauces and elegant pureed bisques.
As very few of the ingredients these chefs normally used were available locally, they learned to use many of the native ingredients, including pompano, snapper, and various types of seafood found in Louisiana. Refined European cookery methods as well as methods learned from Creole chefs gave birth to luxurious new dishes using native game and produce such as mirlitons and cushaw.
Cajun country cooking
Acadiana comprises 22 parishes or counties in Southwest Louisiana. The Cajun people are historically French-speaking; a unique French dialect is still spoken in the area today. The original settlers settled in the swampy, bayou-laced areas near New Orleans. They learned to use their French cooking techniques on smoked and stewed exotic meats, game, as well as seafood and fish. Their preferred grain is rice, although sweet potatoes are also often used in dishes.
Today, distinctly rustic Cajun cooking is considered among the best regional cooking in America.
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