It makes sense that New Orleans cuisine is known worldwide, because a lot of the world participated in making it what it is. People from across Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere arrived in New Orleans over the 18th and 19th centuries. Different culinary techniques and recipes arrived with them, and these customs collided and intermingled. The result was the cuisine of New Orleans, reflective of its global heritage but altogether new and unlike anything else.
Saffron was virtually impossible to come by in New Orleans in the 1780s, which meant Spanish colonists were unable to make their beloved paella. Enter jambalaya! Like paella, jambalaya is a blend of meats, rice, vegetables and seasonings. Traditionally, the meats are sausage (introduced to South Louisiana by German immigrants) paired with chicken, shrimp or pork. Seasoning usually comes from cayenne pepper and the “holy trinity” of New Orleans cuisine (an evolution of the French mirepoix), a mixture of diced onion, celery and bell pepper. Even the name “jambalaya,” derived from the Provençal word jambalaia, meaning a mix or mishmash, reflects its unique fusion of flavors.
Gumbo is a meat or shellfish stew believed to be derived from West African dishes or French bouillabaisse, or most likely a little of both. The word “gumbo” comes from a West African word for okra, a vegetable sometimes used in gumbo. The foundation of most every gumbo is a roux, a blend of oil and flour that’s browned over heat and used to thicken a stock made from shellfish or meat. The mixture is seasoned with the “holy trinity,” spices and herbs, and served with rice. Ask a handful of New Orleanians what they put in their gumbo and each will give a different answer, but all will tell you there exists no better recipe than their own.
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Red Beans & Rice
The versatile red beans & rice can be enjoyed as a main course or as the chosen side dish of almost every New Orleans meal. It is so beloved, it even has its own day: Mondays. The dish began as a way to incorporate the leftover ham bones from Sunday meals into a new creation the following day. Ham, andouille sausage, the “holy trinity” vegetables and spices slowly simmer and then are poured over rice. The concoction is adored in New Orleans. The city’s own Louis Armstrong famously signed his letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.”
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This “dirty” dish gets its name from the tiny bits of meat that infuse every bite with flavor. A simple yet delicious combination of rice, spices, celery, onion, bell peppers and protein is also known as rice dressing. Though this concoction originated in South Louisiana, it has become popular in most southern states.
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In French étouffée means “smothered.” In New Orleans, étouffée is a dish that’s most popular during crawfish season but is also enjoyed year-round with shrimp or even chicken. These meats are simmered in a rich sauce of stock, and sometimes wine, and then thickened with roux. Served over a bed of rice, étouffée has been a local favorite since the 1920s.
Jazz it up!
These New Orleans recipes are wonderful both in their flavor and in their simplicity. Zatarain’s is a New Orleans company that makes it easy for people around the world to experience the flavors of New Orleans. There are Zatarain’s products designed to help you make any of the dishes above, quickly and easily, any night of the week. So it’s always the right time to jazz it up with Zatarain’s.