What: Creole Cuisine and Cecilia’s Catering.
Film By: Erin Harris
Editors Note: ViaNolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöp, pairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. Erin Harris, a film student at University of New Orleans, provides us with a documentary about Harris Creole Cuisine and Cecilia’s Catering in New Orleans.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of New Orleans? The music? The architecture? Mardi Gras? What about the delicious Creole cuisine? Red beans and rice, gumbo, beignets, and po’boys are a few of the mouthwatering delicacies you can indulge in if you’re in the Big Easy.
The word Creole comes from the Spanish word Criollo, a variant of the word Criar, which means “to rise”. In the 1700s, Creoles were the offspring of the Spanish and French upper class. Eventually, the term would include people of African descent and freed people of color. Creole food was also considered elite because it was prepared for upper-class members of society. The food is a combination of many cultures ranging from Spanish, African, Caribbean, Native American, Italian, and many more. Now before we dive into the dishes, there’s one thing to remember – Creole and Cajun cuisine aren’t the same. To help elaborate on this here’s someone who knows a lot about the topic.
My name is Lorie Bell. I have a catering company named Cecilia’s catering. My connection with Creole cuisine is that the majority of the items that I serve on my catering menu are Creole cuisine recipes that I learned from my mom. My mom grew up in New Orleans and she traditionally was the best cook in her family. So, a lot of her recipes are the recipes that I use for my catering. Creole cuisine was created in New Orleans, and it arrived before Cajun cuisine. The population during that time was wealthy and privileged when it came to having access to ingredients like okra, butter, cayenne pepper, and other spices. Cajun food was created in the bayou of Louisiana. The people weren’t that privileged and had to hunt or grow their own ingredients. Another difference is that Creole cuisine uses tomatoes; Cajun cuisine doesn’t. Creole Roux uses butter and flour. Cajun Roux is made from animal fat or sometimes vegetable oil.
To keep it simple, think of city food when it comes to Creole cuisine and country food for Cajun cuisine. Another important part of Creole cooking is the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a seasoning base that is derived from the original Mirepoix of France, which consisted of onions, carrots, and celery. The Holy Trinity in New Orleans consists of onions, bell pepper, and celery. So that’s the slight difference between the two. We think they use carrots out in France because of their availability of it. We grow a lot of bell pepper down south and that’s what we use a lot for our different ingredients. Then another ingredient that is sometimes added to a lot of the dishes in New Orleans is garlic. So, the garlic is referred to as “The Pope”. The recipes that usually use the Holy Trinity are like red beans, rice, etouffee, jambalaya, gumbos, you know things that New Orleans is famous for.
Gumbo is a thick-based stew that covers a bed of rice and is made with a roux combination of flour and butter, which helps thicken the sauce and several other ingredients. The late chef Leah Chase, the queen of Creole food and owner of Dooky Chase’s restaurant, believed that a bowl of gumbo could solve any problem.
Two Creole delicacies that are about to be prepared are New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp and pralines. New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp was invented in the early 1950s by the restaurant Pascal Manale. There isn’t any barbecue sauce, so the name can be pretty deceiving. It’s actually shrimp kept intact, not peeled, with a butter sauce, and it’s usually served with French bread for dipping. I’m making traditional New Orleans barbecue shrimp today. I got three pounds of fresh jumbo shrimp that we got from the seafood mart. I put a little black pepper on it – just sprinkled it. I have one stick of butter and one cup of olive oil in this bowl. That’s going to be mixed with the spices blend and used for the barbecue seasoning along with a half cup of Worchester sauce. After I do that, I whisk it in a pot, melt it all together, and pour it over the shrimp. I top it with bell pepper, onion, garlic, and lemon slices. I put it in the oven on the high broiler for about maybe seven or eight minutes to cook, and it’s all done. Usually, we use French bread. I used Ciabatta Bread, and I ran it through the oven to kind of warm it up a little bit. Then it’s ready to be served.
My name is Victoria Jones. My connection with Creole cuisine is that my mom is a caterer in the south. She’s known for her Creole recipes that she uses to cater for people’s events, and I am the baker in her company. My title is “Sticki Vicki’s Sweets”. I make an array of sweets from the south, such as pralines or pecan pies, but what we’re focusing on today is pralines. So, what you will need to make these pralines is three cups of pecans, eight tablespoons of butter, which is a stick of butter, two cups of sugar, two tablespoons of vanilla, and two cans of condensed milk which is already in my bowl. So, the first thing you will do, you’ll take the two cups of sugar, pour it in with the condensed milk that’s already in, and your eight tablespoons of butter. The pecans and the vanilla will be a later step. So, then you will stir until everything is all smooth. I’m going to microwave in increments of two minutes for about three times. So, I’m putting it in the microwave for two minutes for the first time. So, after three minutes, it should look like this. And then now we’re going to add our three cups of pecans and our two tablespoons of vanilla extract. Get a spoon about this size to start dropping them. So, start like this.
If you’re craving delicious flavorful food look no further than Crescent City. Other cities try to replicate the recipes but they can’t replicate that authentic Nola taste.