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Mardi Gras seems late this year — it’s on Feb. 28 — which means there is still time to plan a celebration at home, with delicious Cajun foods. Some of the options are obvious — raw oysters, red beans and rice, gumbo, and bread pudding, to name some of the best known dishes from New Orleans.

But if you’re interested in expanding your repertoire a bit, you might consider these recipes from “In a Cajun Kitchen: Authentic Cajun Recipes and Stories from a Family Farm on the Bayou” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006) by Terri Bischoff Wuerthner who, until a few years ago, lived in Sonoma County. (She now lives in San Francisco.) The book is delightful, with vivid stories and delicious recipes that are easy to reproduce in a Sonoma County kitchen.

The definitive book on Nola cuisine is, of course, “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kithcen” (William Morrow & Co., 1984) but the recipes are a bit more challenging for the home cook new to the nuances of this cuisine. You need a well-stocked pantry and a mastery of roux, which forms the basis of many traditional dishes.

Today’s recipes are all from Wuerthner’s book, with just a few changes to conform to Seasonal Pantry’s style. The biggest difference is my use of kosher salt instead of standard table salt.

For more information about Wuerthner’s writing and cooking, visit terris-kitchen.com.


Here, if we trace the recipe to its roots, we see the influence of German immigrants, who settled along the Mississippi River north of New Orleans in the 1700s. If you do not keep distilled vinegar on hand, use a white wine or Champagne vinegar instead. And be sure to plan ahead, as the pork must marinate at least overnight. To make a full meal, serve with rice and a Cajun-style coleslaw.

Pork Chop Étouffée

Serves 6

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 pork chops, preferably not loin chops, about 2 pounds

4 cups chopped yellow or white onion

1 cup distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup corn oil

2 cups chopped celery, from about 6 large stalks

1 cup chopped green bell pepper, from 1 large pepper

6 garlic cloves, minced

— Bottled hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Crystal, optional

Put the kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Set the pork chops on a clean work surface and sprinkle the mixture over both sides. Set them in a dish that holds them in a single layer and spread two cups of the onions over them. Add the vinegar, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight or as long as three days.

To finish, lift the chops from the dish, brush off any onions that cling to them, and pat them dry with a clean tea towel or paper towels. Discard the marinade.

Set a large heavy pot over high heat, add the oil, and brown the chops on both sides, about 3 minutes per side; they should be golden brown. Transfer the browned chops to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the celery, bell pepper, garlic and remaining onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables have softened; scrape the bottom of the pan to release the crispy bits. Season with salt.

Return the chops to the pan, add 3/4 cup water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer gently for 45 minutes, stirring now and then. Check occasionally and add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time, if the pan starts to become dry.

Taste, correct for salt, and transfer to a serving dish. Enjoy right away, with hot sauce alongside if you like a bit of heat.


As with the recipe for the Pork Étouffée, this recipe does not require a roux and is actually quite easy to make. You can substitute any smoked sausage or even use leftover chicken (dark meat only!) or leftover pork.

The original recipe called for lard instead of corn oil, but the author made the adjustment to accommodate her father’s restricted diet after he suffered a heart attack. Lard is no long considered the demon food it once was and if you have it on hand, feel free to use it in place of corn oil.

Quick Sausage Jambalaya

Serves 8

1/4 cup corn oil

1 cup chopped white or yellow onion

1 cup chopped celery (from about 3 large stalks)

1 cup chopped green bell pepper, from 1 large pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

11/2 pounds andouille or other smoked sausage, coarsely chopped

2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained

3 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste

— Kosher salt

2 cups raw long-grain white rice

1/2 cup fresh parsley

— Bottle hot sauce

Set a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat and add the oil. When the oil is heated through, add the onion, celery, and bell pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften; do not let them burn.

Add the garlic and sausage and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring a few times.

Add the tomatoes, stock, thyme and black pepper and season lightly with salt. Add the rice, stir, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir again, reduce the heat to very low, and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes more.

Stir, taste and correct for salt and pepper. Divide among individual plates, sprinkle with parsley, and enjoy right away, with hot sauce alongside.


Pecan pralines are a classic New Orleans and Cajun Country sweet. And they are not at all difficult to make at home, though you should have a candy thermometer. These have a somewhat crisp texture. To be entirely authentic, you should shell the pecans yourself but given how busy we are all these days, feel free to cheat with pecans that are already shelled.

Pecan Pralines

Makes about 4 dozen

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon butter, chilled

4 cups brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups (about 8 ounces) pecan pieces or halves

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cover two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper. Use a bit of the butter to secure the paper to the baking sheets.

Use the rest of the room temperature butter to coat the paper, the inside of a medium saucepan and two teaspoons.

Put the chilled butter, brown sugar, milk, salt and 1/4 cup water into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a long-handled wooden spoon. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 236 degrees on a candy thermometer, which is just under the soft-ball stage; it will take about 6 minutes.

Remove from the heat and immediately add the pecans and vanilla and stir vigorously until the mixture loses some of its glossy sheen, about 3 minutes.

Working quickly, as the mixture can firm up fast, drop generous teaspoons onto the prepared paper, using the buttered spoons. Let cool and then store in an airtight container, with layers separated by wax paper or parchment.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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