How would you define Creole cuisine?
Numerous cultures arrived in America fleeing famine, war, and homeland hostilities. These included nations like France, Nova Scotia, Spain, Africa, England, Germany, and Italy. These cultures and many others joined the Native Americans, who were already well established here in Louisiana. They intermarried, and the word used to describe this was “Creole.” Eventually, it was used to describe everything in Louisiana from vegetables to furniture to even the state itself, which became known as the “Creole State.” Simply stated, Creole is an aristocratic “melting pot cuisine” that developed in New Orleans.
What dish at Restaurant R’evolution most epitomizes Creole cuisine?
My turtle soup. And the reason being, turtle soup was brought to America at the hand of the English sailors. They made a clear broth soup using the meat of sea turtle. When it arrived in New Orleans, the French, preferring a rich, thickened soup, added their famous dark brown roux and trinity (onions, bell peppers, celery [plus garlic]). The French created a rich stock by boiling the turtle meat on the bone, and then they pulled the tenderized meat off the bone. This luscious stock gave the soup an entirely different look and certainly a more robust flavor. At that time, the city came to realize that the combination of flavors, techniques, and ingredients supplied by the different nations into a single pot would create a dish unique to the city of New Orleans.
Why should foodies visit New Orleans?
New Orleans is a food center like no other. With the founding of New Orleans in 1699 by La Salle and the city being built by Bienville in 1720, an influx of seven nations eventually arrived. The French arrived to set up the flag of La Nouvelle-Orléans. The Germans arrived as the workers who saved the city of New Orleans from starvation. The Spanish arrived with the spices and different culinary techniques. The English, who came with the War of Independence, brought the herb gardens and the desire for pastime. Lastly, the Italians came after the reunification movement failure in Italy. Families of cooks arrived, and many of these Italians had incredible pastry talents. Nowhere else in the world did seven distinct nations come together and intermarry. This created a melting pot cuisine that did not exist anywhere in the world. To come to New Orleans to search out this cuisine is what makes us so different.
What’s a local dish out of towners won’t be able to get elsewhere?
There are certain dishes in New Orleans that you must experience because they are unique to our city. One of those being gumbo, the wonderful soup that gets its name from the African word for okra. Gumbo has different versions from wild game to seafood to shellfish to domestic meats. Gumbo is usually thought of as a soup; however, in some areas, it’s a stew. It’s always served over rice and definitely a “stick to your ribs” dish. At the same time, our wild game dishes like duck, rabbit, wild goose, and mélange of seafood available in the Gulf of Mexico are wonderful as well.
What’s the best thing you ate recently?
One of the early dishes that came to New Orleans from the Spanish was salt-baked fish. The Gulf of Mexico has so many large-bodied fish, like redfish and red snapper. Fish of this type are easily scaled and put into a pan covered with salt. Then, the fish is baked under this salt crust for a couple hours. After, it’s removed and placed in the center of a communal table with friends and a good glass of wine or dark beer. A small hammer removes the salt crust, revealing the luscious, sweet, and moist fish. This is typical of many dishes that we love as Creoles, Cajuns, and Southerners. Dishes like these bring people together like crawfish boils oftentimes do. We love to join our friends around the table. That is what is so unique to our culture.