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
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.