Never use "rage" to describe Cajun and Creole food to Terry Thompson. After all, says the author of "Cajun-Creole Cooking," (Ballantine, 1986, $3.95), "it's a food that's been over 200 years in development."
In fact, she says, this cuisine offers a respite from trendiness. "Everything is always so trendy with food in America. People are always fussing, asking, 'What new fruit do you use?' 'Have you seen the new yellow peppers?' 'Are kiwis in or are they out?'"
This food, says Thompson, is comfortable food, just like the flannel nightgown from your childhood."
And although the cuisine itself is easy to prepare, the authentic taste might be evasive. "La Creole bouche," the instinctual recognition of the perfectly seasoned dish, is hard to come by. "When I do restaurant consulting, I try to get the chefs to develop this taste. It is different from other cuisines. If you gave a gumbo recipe to a French chef and a Creole chef, they would not come out at all the same."
The good news, she says, is that to acquire the taste, you've just got to keep on tasting.
Thompson is aghast every time she sees a restaurant trimming the animal fat to lower the cuisine's cholesterol level. "They're sabotaging the whole effort," she says. "People outside of the bayou don't need to worry -- they're not going to make a steady diet of it. So go ahead and present the food authentically. Skimp somewhere else."
Describing the difference between the Cajun and Creole factions, she says, is like describing the relationship between a country food and its city cousin. The Cajun uses a very dark roux, with lots of spice and creamy animal fat. The Creole is more refined, using more tomato, cream, wines and liqueurs. "But Paul Prudhomme likes to say that the Cajuns would never waste wine in the food -- they like to drink it."
Here's a delicious recipe for Creole Trout Amandine.With milk, flour, butter or margarine, vegetable oil, salt and pepper in your cupboard, it's a fast dash through the express lane.
Express Lane List: trout fillets, cayenne pepper, almonds, worcestershire sauce, lemons, hot pepper sauce, scallions, parsley CREOLE TROUT AMANDINE (4 to 6 servings)
6 (6- to 8-ounce) speckled trout fillets, skinned
Milk to cover
About 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted START NOTE should be included, above END NOTE1 cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
6 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup minced parsley, preferably flat-leaf
Lemon wedges for garnish
Place fillets in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish; add enough milk to cover. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Drain, discarding milk. Pat dry with paper towels; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne. In a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons butter or margarine and oil. When oil mixture is hot, dredge fish fillets in seasoned flour; shake to remove excess. Gently lower fillets into hot oil in batches. Saute' until fish turns opaque, about 4 minutes on each side, turning once. Place on individual serving plates; keep warm. Pour oil from skillet, leaving browned bits in pan. Add 1 cup butter or margarine; scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add almonds; cook, stirring, until almonds are light golden brown. Stir in worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce. Remove from heat; stir in scallions and parsley. To serve, spoon almond-butter sauce over each fillet; garnish with lemon wedges