Side Dish: Essays trace history of Louisiana classics _lowres

 

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“Hungry for Louisiana: An Omnivore’s Journey” by Maggie Heyn Richardson

LSU Press, $22.50

144-page hardcover

Baton Rouge food writer Maggie Heyn Richardson focuses on eight of Louisiana’s iconic foods — crawfish, jambalaya, Creole cream cheese, snoballs, filé, blood (red) boudin, tamales and oysters — in her first book, “Hungry for Louisiana: An Omnivore’s Journey.”

While she ends each of her book’s chapters with two or three of what she terms “carefully selected recipes,” the book isn’t really a cookbook. Instead, it’s a small volume of nicely written essays about Louisiana culinary traditions.

Each chapter traces specific aspects of Louisiana’s menu, highlighting each ingredient or dish’s history and culinary significance. Richardson also writes about how the state’s people relate to food and how their food traditions continue to evolve.

Attractive little black-and-white drawings by Elizabeth Randall Neely open each chapter, but I would have liked to see some photographs to illustrate each food’s history. An index also would be helpful.

Richardson’s book is no stuffy academic read. It’s a pleasant way to learn more about why we remain “Hungry for Louisiana.”

And, as she notes in the chapter on crawfish, now is the perfect season to enjoy this freshwater crustacean.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com. Crawfish Étouffée

Serves 8. Recipe is from “Hungry for Louisiana: An Omnivore’s Journey” by Maggie Heyn Richardson (LSU Press, March 2015).

44 tablespoons (half a stick) butter

1 large green bell pepper, diced

1 celery stick, diced

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons roux (see recipe)

1 cup water or chicken or shellfish stock, divided

2 (1-pound) packages peeled Louisiana crawfish tails

1?8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and ground black pepper

Hot, cooked white rice for serving

1/4 cup chopped green onions (green parts only) for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley for garnish

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1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper, celery and yellow onion4 and sauté until soft.

2. Add roux and half of water and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.

3. Add crawfish tails and cook until tails curl, about 5 minutes.

4. Add cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste.

5. Add remaining 1/2 cup water and simmer 15-20 minutes. Add more liquid if necessary to reach a stew-like consistency.

6. Serve over rice and top with green onions and parsley.

4 R4oux

41/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

41. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet, heat vegetable oil to medium high. Sprinkle flour in oil and whisk to combine. Whisk or stir with a flat-edged wooden spoon constantly so that mixture does not burn. Roux should be light brown, or the color of peanut butter, in about 10 minutes. For a dark brown roux, cook 5 more minutes. If roux browns too quickly, remove from heat for a minute or two.

2. When it reaches desired color, remove from heat entirely and set aside, or continue with recipe. Refrigerate for 1 week or freeze for 3 months.

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