• Tommy Centola

Recipes with Arkansas roots Cajun Flair

While doing this research, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum was looking for help with their Gallery of the South: States of Taste. I put together some of the food history, agricultural staples and food companies that represent Arkansas. Not only was I able to help the museum, but I learned a lot about my new home. I am very proud to be one of the Curators of Arkansas’ exhibit.

Today, I am happily sharing with you three recipes that have Arkansas roots with a Creole/Cajun flair; Cajun Fried Pickles, Mona’s Hot Tamales and Watermelon Sorbet.

Fried pickles were created by Burnell Austin in 1963 at the Duchess Drive in Atkins, Arkansas, home to the Atkins Pickle Festival. A friend of mine asked me if I had a Cajun Fried Pickle recipe. Since I did not, I developed this one. It is one of the earliest recipes on my blog, www.creolecajunchef.com.

Dill Pickle Slices

1 Egg, beaten

1 cup Milk

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

6 Drops Crystal Hot Sauce

2 cups + 1 Tablespoon Flour

Creole Seasoning

Heat Fryer to 350 degrees

Mix egg, milk, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and 1 tablespoon flour in a bowl. Mix 2 cups flour and Creole Seasoning to taste in a bowl. Dip pickles in milk mixture, then flour, then mixture, then flour, and fry until golden brown.

Tamales are found in the Delta region, the eastern part of the state. In New Orleans, we have our own version of the tamale. It is close to the tamales found in Arkansas. This recipe is from the person who shaped my culinary beginnings, my mom, Mona Centola.

3 pounds Ground Meat

2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder

4 Tablespoons Salt

1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper

½ Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

½ Cup Cornmeal

2 Tablespoons Chili Powder

3 Tablespoons Cumin

3 medium Onions, minced

1 can small can Tomato Sauce

½ cup Water

Tamale Paper

Sauce Mix (follows)

Mix together ground beef, garlic powder, salt, cayenne, black pepper, chili powder, and cumin. Mix together onions, tomato sauce and water. Add this mixture to above mixture and mix well. Roll about 1 tablespoon in palm of hand oblong and roll in cornmeal. Wet tamale paper and put the meat mixture on the paper and fold at one end. Roll tamale in paper. In a heavy pan or roaster, put 1 layer and then in the opposite direction lay another row. Pour sauce mix over tamales. Place Pyrex covers or any oven utensil on top so the tamales don’t float. Cook over low fire for 2 hours.

Sauce Mix

2 ½ Quarts Water

2 (6oz) cans Tomato Paste.

Put tomato paste in a pot with the water. Bring to a boil.

Watermelons are so popular here in Arkansas, there are two yearly watermelon festivals, one in Cave City and one in Hope. This recipe is a refreshing way to end any meal. It is a light pick-me-up that you always have room for.

4 cups Watermelon, seeded and cubed

1/2 cup cold Water

1/3 cup Sugar

1 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice

2 Egg Whites

Place watermelon in blender or food processor and puree until smooth. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and boil until the sugar is absorbed completely, to make a simple syrup. Sugar may be adjusted according to the sweetness of the watermelon. Combine all ingredients, except egg whites, and churn in the bowl of an ice cream freezer for 20 or 25 minutes until frozen. Whip the egg whites into stiff meringue peaks. When the ice is done, fold carefully into the ice mixture. Pack into a covered container and place in the freezer to harden completely.

Arkansas cuisine has a great history. I would like to share one last recipe that was created here in Arkansas, Cheese Dip. Take Velveeta, cut it in cubes and melt over medium heat. Add a can of Rotel tomatoes and serve with chips. OK, I know it’s not original but it is often asked for.

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