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Real Cajun

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Written by foodie pam   
Saturday, 10 April 2010

From Real Cajun by Donald Link and Paula Disbrowe (Clarkson Potter, 2009) is a 2010 IACP Cookbook awards finalist in the American Cooking category AND a 2010 James Beard book awards finalist in the American category. For a list of all the finalists check out the Project Foodie IACP Finalists' Guide and James Beard Finalists' Guide.

ImageHave you ever had Cajun food?  Not blackened fish from a restaurant that claims you're getting Cajun food, but authentic Cajun food. If you haven't then Real Cajun by Donald Link is a great place to learn what Cajun food is really about.

Donald Link was raised in the heart of Cajun country (Acadia Parish in Louisiana).  He grew up on Cajun food, explored his passion for food by becoming a chef and then returned to Louisiana to focus on Cajun food. 

Not surprisingly, in Real Cajun Link shares recipes for gumbo and jambalaya as well as recipes that make use of Louisiana's bounty of crawfish, crab (see recipe below) and shrimp.  Rice and pork also take center stage in much of Cajun recipes. But, you may be surprised to also find a lot of sausage and other foods that may at first glance appear German.  That's because many of the people who settled in Cajun country were German.  Explore these recipes more and you'll see how the German influence morphed into Cajun food. 

Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Remoulade

From Real Cajun by Donald Link and Paula Disbrowe (Clarkson Potter, 2009)

Serves 4

I have a list of things that I almost never order in a restaurant, and crab cakes head the list. Too often they are made with low-quality crab meat and taste more like wet bread than crab. For those craving the real deal, look no further: This recipe creates entirely different crab cakes. They are both rich and zippy, thanks to the chile, scallions, mustard, and dashes of hot sauce and lemon juice. The Jalapeño Remoulade truly sends them over the edge.

The most important thing to remember when making crab cakes is to not overwork the mixture. The cakes should be loose, just barely holding together. Chilling them before they are cooked helps firm up them and hold together without too much binder (bread crumbs).

Dungeness and Peeky Toe crab can be used in this recipe, but my favorite is blue crab from the Gulf. I have actually gone to the trouble of cooking live crabs and picking them myself, but trust me-if you can buy good lump crab, that's the easier way to go. Even for a pretty accomplished crab picker like me, it takes a while to get enough for these cakes-maybe because I always eat half of it before it ever gets into the bowl.

  • 1 pound best-quality lump crab meat (not pasteurized)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pure chile powder (like ancho, New Mexico, or chipotle)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten        
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Creole (or whole-grain) mustard
  • Several dashes of Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1 scallion (white and green parts), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ¾ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • Jalapeño Remoulade (recipe follows)

Place the crab meat in a large mixing bowl and carefully pick through for shells, then set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, poblano, garlic, salt, chile powder, black pepper, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened but not brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.

Add the crab, the egg, mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, scallion, parsley, lemon juice, and ¼ cup of the bread crumbs to the vegetable mixture. Using your hands, gently combine the ingredients.

Using a 1-cup measuring cup, form the mixture into cakes, packing gently; they should look like hockey pucks, about 2 inches thick with straight sides. Cover the cakes and chill for 20 to 30 minutes, or overnight.

When you are ready to cook the crab cakes, place the remaining ½ cup bread crumbs in a pie tin. Dredge both sides of each cake in the crumbs, shaking off the excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, fry the crab cakes for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pan-fry in batches if necessary, adding more oil if needed. Serve immediately, with Jalapeño Remoulade.

Jalapeño Remoulade

From Real Cajun by Donald Link and Paula Disbrowe (Clarkson Potter, 2009)

Makes about 1 ¼ cups

For the best results, make this spicy condiment a few hours in advance and then cover and refrigerate, so the flavors have time to develop.

  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions (white parts only), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime

Whisk together all the ingredients in a mixing bowl; cover and refrigerate until needed. Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 September 2011 )
Rebecca H. (Unregistered) 2010-04-10 11:37:57

When the taste changes with every bite and the last bite is as good as the first, that's Cajun.” -Paul Prudhomme

That quote makes me CRAVE Cajun. And Real Cajun seems like a great book that'll help me fulfill my cravings! Don't mess with a pregnant woman who loves some flavor!
Are You Kidding
jettrash23 (Registered) 2010-04-10 11:43:57

This cookbook is a wonderful revelation, thoughtful,inventive, and accessible. Ya'll eat yet? Cause I'm coming to light a fire.
Anu (Unregistered) 2010-04-11 04:47:01

What I like is the practicality and simplicity of real cajun food like red beans and rice on wash days.
Lisa H (Unregistered) 2010-04-11 09:37:51

My 1st experience with authentic Cajun cooking was on a mission trip to New ORleans 3 years ago. We went with Operation NOAH to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I fell in love with the people of New Orleans and of course with the food.
enlighten me please~
edda (Registered) 2010-04-11 14:33:54

What do I know about Cajun cooking? Next to nothing! Please enlighten this ignorant home cook with this amazing book!
California Cajun
Username (Registered) 2010-04-11 14:40:55

As a Louisiana native, transplanted to California over 40 years ago I know good food. My family operated a roadside restaurant outside of New Orleans for over fify years, where cajun food was features waaay before anything was blackened or ANY cajun restaurant existed in New Orleans.

I'm looking forward to purchasing this book to jump start some fond culinary memories.
Well, it's worth a shot...
Dixie (Unregistered) 2010-04-11 19:38:14

I'll be honest with you. I'm dating an addict. Yes, that's right. My boyfriend can't go a day without firing up his PS3 and shootin' some bad guys on Bad Company 2. Guys, I'm at my wit's end! Even the Jennifer Aniston nudey-stroll method from The Break-Up didn't help me! He merely glanced up and said, "Babe, isn't the laundry dry yet?" So here I am. This is a cry for help! I *think* we just might be able to save my fella from the seductive cry of machine guns and rocket launchers. But I'll need a darn good cookbook to help me on my way! There was once a time when this man drooled over my homemade dinners, but I think I need to kick it up a notch with some ragin' Cajun cuisine. So, what do you think? Can you help a girl out?
dishie (Registered) 2010-04-11 19:42:07

Well, it's me, Dixie, again. I seemed to have overlooked the little "registering" detail. Once I posted the above comment, I got to thinking. "Hey, Dixie," I asked myself, "If they pick my comment, how will they contact me? I don't remember entering my email address!" *scrolls up* Oops. This calls for a face-palm. So if I win, can you check my ip address for confirmation that the comment above is, in fact, my doing? Because I would really love a new cookbook!
fins2west (Registered) 2010-04-12 09:09:23

Thanks for sharing the recipe from the cookbook. I hope to win the cookbook. If your Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Remoulade is any indication of the rest of the cookbook I will be making every dish the cookbook contains. I hope I am the cookbook winner.Thanks for sharing and congrats on your award!!
Carmen (Unregistered) 2010-04-12 19:01:59

I like Cajun food but some of it a bit too spicy for us - so if I can make it at home I could adjust the heat to what we like. Thanks for the giveaway!
cnuland (Registered) 2010-04-12 19:03:48

I like Cajun food but some of it a bit too spicy for us - so if I can make it at home I could adjust the heat to what we like. Thanks for the giveaway!
nkopan (Unregistered) 2010-04-13 05:45:08

This is one of the best Cajun cookbooks I've ever read!
Real "Real Cajun" Please!
deila1 (Registered) 2010-04-15 12:05:42

With a recipe teaser like Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Remoulade, who could possibly resist this cookbook? I'm afraid I may be falling into the category of those who are told they are eating "real cajun" at restaurants and friend's crawfish boils! I would love to be enlightened with the real stuff and there is no better way to start than with this cookbook... soon after it will be I who hosts the party with real authentic "real cajun" deliciousness!
And the winner is....
pam (Publisher) 2010-05-01 14:46:56

Lots of great Cajun stories and love here! Dishie (aka Dixie) let's hope your plan works and you can indeed transform your boyfriend cause you've won Real Cajun. Congratulations!
do i cook the crab 1st
tara (Unregistered) 2013-01-19 17:39:23

so i bought king crab legs from the grocery store but im not sure if i steam them & then take the meat out of take it out raw & then put it in the crab mixture ?! help making this now thanks
pam (Publisher) 2013-01-19 20:50:27

The crab meat needs to be cooked first. Most store bought crab legs are already cooked.
Crab cakes
They were wonderful. My whole (Unregistered) 2013-07-17 21:03:24

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