There are few things more delectable than food made with a good Creole sauce. The zippy flavors of tomato, onion, garlic, and celery are a sure way to tantalize the taste buds. It is a very versatile sauce and is the basis for many New Orleans-style dishes. However, in the modern world, with so many cultures colliding and melding, it can be difficult to find out how to make Creole sauce in the traditional form.
Creole and Cajun cooking are not just collections of ingredients. To create true Creole dishes, one must put their heart and soul into it. To do this, you need to understand what a Creole is, and have a little knowledge of the culture. You especially need to know what Creole is not.
Creoles are not just another kind of Cajun (making this mistake is a foolproof way to start a fight in Louisiana). Creoles date back to the 1700s, when Spain, and later, France had control of the Louisiana Territory. They used the term crioulo to distinguish between persons born in the New World Colony, from persons born in Spain, Portugal and France who had immigrated to the colonies. It was a kind of class distinction. After the Louisiana Purchase, the term evolved into Creole, and was applied to persons of European decent who were, or are descendants of, the original coloniy, regardless of race. The heart of Creole culture centers in the New Orleans area.
Cajuns are descendants of refugees ousted by the British from the Nova Scotia, and nearby Maritime Provinces of Canada, and the extreme northeast coast of America, known at that time as Acadia. This occurred after the French lost the French and Indian War to the British. Britain evicted all persons of French decent from the provinces, which even included parts of Quebec. These people became known as Acadians. They trekked all the way to French-held Louisiana to get as far from the British as possible. The name later became shortened to Cajun.
There are many differences between Cajun, and Creole culture. Both groups are fiercely proud of their heritages. Creoles tended to live in the cities and urban areas, and adhere more to traditional French culture, with many Spanish, and other cultural traits mixed in. They speak a particular dialect of French known as Creole French, which is much different from Cajun French. Creoles can be Caucasian, African-American, Native American, Spanish or any mixture. There are also Creoles in the West Indies, Bahamas, and most former Spanish or French colonies. Cajuns, on the other hand, tended to live in the rural areas, away from cities, especially the swamps and bayous, and have a more closed society. They are almost exclusively Caucasian.
From a culinary standpoint, one of the first and most noticeable differences is that Creoles have a tendency to use more tomatoes in their dishes. For example, although both cultures have Jambalaya (a delicious dish made with chicken, sausage or seafood, served over rice), New Orleans-Style, or ‘Red’ Jambalaya will have lots of tomatoes, and seafood in it, where as the Cajun-Style, or ‘Brown’ Jambalaya uses no tomatoes or seafood, instead relying on chicken and sausage to create the myriad of wonder flavors. Creole cuisine more closely follows classic French cooking, while Cajun Cuisine is much more static, with looser rules. Creole food has a more refined character to it. Cajun food has a wonderful feral quality and character, very rebellious in nature. With the influx of tourism, and commercial popularity of these cultures that started in the 1970s, the cuisines have overlapped somewhat. Is one better than the other? Absolutely not. They are both outstanding. However, I do believe a lot is lost from both when they are combined. It is best to stay with the traditional versions of each. They are each so wonderful that it should be a crime to mutate them.
Now you are ready to learn how to make Creole sauce, and I mean the real deal. Put on some Creole music and we will get started.
You will need roux to make this. It can be bought already made, but making it yourself is better. The traditional way of making roux takes hours, but you can make a fast roux, as we do in restaurants, by heating an iron skillet to the hottest temperature your stove will go. Heat oil (not butter, it will flame up) and slowly stir in flour until you get a texture like thin gravy. Stir it continuously (and don’t stop for anything, or it will burn) and watch it closely as it changes color from tan, to red, to brown, and finally black. As soon as it gets about three shades from the final color you want, pull it immediately from the fire.’ It will continue to cook for a few minutes. If you need to, you can transfer to roux into another pan to get it out of the hot skillet. This will cool it down quicker. For Creole sauce, you need a dark roux. It doesn’t have to be black, coffee, or even milk-chocolate-colored (the various stages of dark roux). Peanut butter-colored is perfect for this recipe. It takes less than 10 minutes. Just be sure to let everyone know you are making roux and cannot be disturbed for anything. This takes intense concentration with no distractions. In addition, there is an element of danger. The roux will reach temperatures of 500° F. and will stick to whatever it gets on, so caution is strongly advised. In restaurants, we call this Cajun Napalm.
Traditional Cajun Sauce
Around 2 cups chicken stock
14-16 oz. diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 medium onion, julienned
2 stalks celery, julienned
1 green bell pepper, julienned
3 green onions, sliced thin
2 Tbsp Dark Roux (or more to taste or texture)
2 Tbsp parsley
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
I clove crushed garlic, or 1 Tbsp minced garlic, or Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 Bay Leaves
Louisiana Hot Sauce to taste (if you want to keep it traditional, only use McKillhenny’s Tabasco)
In a medium large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and peppers, and sautee until they are slightly wilted. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add enough stock to just cover the ingredients, and add’ everything except Worcestershire Sauce, parsley, hot sauce, and green onions.
Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, checking and stirring often. If it gets too thick, just add water, or more stock. You are going for a thin gravy consistency, like a good marinara sauce.. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Remove the Bay Leaves before using the sauce.
This can be made up ahead of time and stored for several days ion the refrigerator, or frozen for long-term storage. Nevertheless, it is best when used immediately.