• Tommy Centola

Making side dishes made with staples

One of the first things people tell me when they find out I am from New Orleans is “ so your a Cajun.” People often associate Louisiana with the people who were driven out of Nova Scotia and settled into the swamp lands of Acadiana in South Louisiana. While I grew up in the City of New Orleans, I often cook in the style of the Cajuns.

The Cajuns lived off the land, eating whatever they could catch or grow. The best example of this is in the side dishes you can find on a Cajun table. Corn, beans and rice were easily grown by the early Cajuns. So, they became staples on their dinner table. Today, I am sharing three tasty Cajun side dishes to accompany your daily meal.

Macque Choux is a traditional Cajun side dish that has its roots in Native America. Corn was abundant in America. The Cajuns used this Native American staple in many of their recipes. Here is one of their more popular ones.

Macque Choux

2 slices Bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 medium Green Bell Pepper, chopped

2 1/2 cups canned Tomatoes, peeled and chopped with juice

2 cups Corn Kernels, fresh or canned

1 Bay Leaf

1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside, reserving the drippings. Sauté the onions and bell peppers in drippings until tender. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer again for about 5 minutes. Add the Creole seasoning and bacon. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Cornbread is a staple in the south. There are two types of cornbread eaten, sweet and non-sweet. Here is a third option. This cornbread has a little kick to it. Be careful, it can be addicting.

Cajun Cornbread Dressing

1/2 cup Butter

3/4 cup Onion, chopped

3/4 cup Green Bell Pepper, chopped

1/2 cup Celery, chopped

1 tablespoon Garlic, minced

2 Bay Leaves

2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning

1 pound Andouille Sausage, chopped

1 cup Chicken Stock

1 tablespoon Tabasco Sauce

5 cups Cornbread, crumbled

1 1/2 cups Evaporated Milk

3 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a large sauce pan, melt butter. Add onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic and bay leaves; cook over high heat, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add Creole Seasoning and continue cooking 5 more minutes. Stir in sausage, chicken stock and Tabasco and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Add cornbread, milk and eggs and mix. Spoon into a greased baking dish. Bake until brown on top, about 40 minutes.

Black-eyed peas are traditionally eaten on new Years Day. However, they make a great accompaniment to any meal. Served with or with out rice, the peas will add an extra zip to your meal.

Cajun Black-eyed Peas

1 pound Black-eyed Peas

10-12 cups Water

2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

1 large Onion, chopped

1 Bell Pepper, chopped

2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

1 pound Andouille, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup Parsley, chopped

2 Bay Leaves

Ham Bone or Ham Hock

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper. Sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes. Brown andouille in a large heavy skillet. Add the andouille , hambone and peas to the onion mixture. Add enough water to cover peas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook one hour or until the peas are creamy and tender. Add additional water if necessary during cooking.

Add a little spice to your dinner with one of these Cajun side dishes. Laissez les bon temps rouler! (Let the Good Times Roll!)

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