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Wednesday, 25 July 2012 18:15

Cooking with the California Cajun

Cooking with the California Cajun

By Lanny Kilchrist

 

Morris Press Cookbooks, 2006125 pages, $19.95

 Cookinng with the California Cajun

Lanny Kilchrist has lived in California for quite a few years, but he’s still Cajun.

A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, Kilchrist graduated from The University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette). He settled in Sacramento after being exposed to the area while teaching at nearby Mather Air Force Base. The man knows food in the many definitions exhibited in his adopted state. He’s also a talented home winemaker.

His book is subtitled “A Collection of Recipes by Lanny Kilchrist,” and while there are recipes attributable to him, there are also many from relatives and friends. His book is really an homage to his Cajun heritage. References to his parents, Frank and Rubie Kilchrist, and grandparents, Eunice and Edger Kilchrist and Dalton and Gladys Guidroz are here, as well as recipes from their kitchens. Included in the Lagniappe section is a salute to “The Ladies That Help Make A House A Home.” Kilchrist calls these African American women “the very backbone of our families” and calls their culinary expertise “unquestionable!” He says his respect for these women and the family and friends he grew up around inspired him to publish the recipes, lest they be lost over time. A portion of each sale is donated to people of Louisiana still suffering the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

The author did graduate study in art at Cal State University, Sacramento and that experience led to his founding a business dealing with glass temperature monitors. His wife Sally, also a native of Lafayette and a graduate of Louisiana State, teaches junior high school in Sacramento and is the source of some of the recipes.

The word Cajun has been subjected to many more lengthy and scholarly explanations, but briefly explained, the term refers to people who emigrated from France to eastern Canada (Acadia) and eventually pushed southward to settle in Louisiana. Along the way these Acadians became known as Cajuns as language evolved or corrupted.

The recipes in California Cajun are put forward in straight forward and easy-to-understand English. Kilchrist is never far from his southern Louisiana roots, though, and can segue to reminiscences in dialect when the mood strikes. Included one page before a Wine Tasting Glossary is a list of malaprops compiled by Betty Vigorito. These include (First: as spoken by at least one Cajun and Second: standard English in parentheses):

Hears Hard (Hard of Hearing)

Dementia Republic (Dominican Republic)

Decliner (Recliner)

Allergy on the River (Algae)

Very Close Veins (Varicose Veins)

Creative users of the English language, Cajuns are also creative in their preparation of food. Their Louisiana pantry included cultivated crops, but also the bounty of the diverse wild plants and animals available to people living in rural areas. Couple those conditions with the food consciousness of their French ancestors and you have the elements for an innovative and very tasty cuisine.

A few of the 150 recipes are typical of an era when not every ingredient was freshly sourced. Lanny’s Asparagus Casserole, for instance, includes canned asparagus, crushed Ritz crackers and a can of mushroom soup. However this might sound to trendy Californians, the Cajun transplant insists the dish is not only simple to prepare, but that it really does taste good. Though other recipes are more sophisticated, the techniques are fairly simple and most of the components are available in parts of the country outside Louisiana. A roux, for instance, requires only two ingredients; flour and oil, but being a cornerstone of Cajun cooking, merits preparation instructions and commentary taking all of page 105.

Among the recipes that caught the reviewer’s eye were these two:

Duck Gumbo

3 lbs duck, (3 to 4 large ducks like Mallard or 5 small ducks like Teal or Woodduck)2 stalks celery, rough chopped1 bay leaf2 tsp. Saltwater

Place ducks and rest of ingredients in a large pot and cover ducks with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until tender. Remove ducks and set aside to cool. Discard liquid. When ducks have cooled remove skin and debone.

Gumbo

¾ to 1 cup roux1 lg. onion, chopped1 lg. green bell pepper, chopped3 lg. cloves of garlic, minced1 lb. smoked pork link sausage6 cups chicken broth or water2 tsp. salt1 tsp. ground black pepper1 tsp. Cajun seasoning½ tsp. cayenne pepper1 tsp. garlic powder green onion, chopped

Make roux according to recipe in This and That section. When roux reaches desired color, add chopped vegetables and cook until they start to wilt. Add broth or water and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Add seasonings and simmer for 20 minutes. Add duck meat and sliced sausage. Cook on low heat for 40 to 50 minutes. Adjust seasonings according to taste.

Recipe Note: Serve over rice and garnish with chopped green onions. Some areas of Southern Louisiana serve potato salad with this gumbo.

--Ellin Busch--Sally Kilchrist

Gus’ Oyster Stew

2 green bell peppers, grated2 onions, grated2 cups water

Grate bell pepper and onions and place in pot with the water and boil until wilted. Remove and drain, save water.

Oyster Stew

5 qts. half and half1 gal. milk1 T. garlic powder1 tsp. black pepper1 T. salt11/2 gal. oysters1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet1 tsp. cornstarch, dissolved in water that was used to wilt onions and bell peppergreen onion tops and parsley, chopped for garnish

Bring half and half and milk to simmer; be careful not to boil. Add vegetables and seasonings and cook for 5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and Kitchen Bouquet and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Add drained oysters and cook until they curl. Adjust seasoning, if needed. Remove from heat and serve with green onion tops and parsley.

Recipe Note: This will feed several people. If desired, the recipe can be reduced proportionally for smaller quantity.

--Gustavia McZeal

Cooking with the California Cajun, 125 pages, is printed in hard cover/loose leaf format and priced at $19.95. Published by Morris Press Cookbooks, it is available from L K Enterprises ($23.75 including tax and shipping), 5643 Camellia Avenue, Sacramento, Ca 95819, (916) 451-0211.

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke