Cajun Food Q&A with Chef John Folse

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Chef John Folse, Louisiana’s Cajun ambassador, has been touring New York City this week, sharing Cajun fare–from nutria and crawfish to alligator and wild boar–with hungry locals. Chef Folse answered questions from HISTORY fans on Facebook, dishing on his secrets to delicious and authentic Cajun cuisine.

Erik Clouse: Is cajun food always spicy?

CHEF FOLSE:
Cajun food is always seasoned, but not always hot and spicy. Spicy insinuates that the food is highly flavored with peppers such as cayenne, Tabasco, etc. However, highly seasoned, which Cajun cooking certainly is, refers to flavor in our food: onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, green onions, parsley and even herbs, such as basil, thyme, tarragon and rosemary. (A combination of these vegetable seasonings is often referred to as the trinity.) So, is Louisiana food highly seasoned? Absolutely. Is Louisiana food highly spiced? Absolutely not

Mark Holm: I live in minnesota and we have crawfish up here and i want to try some what’s the best way to cook them? Thanks Chef Folse

CHEF FOLSE:
For the novice cook I’d recommend boiling “a mess” of crawfish before attempting to cook our etouffee, stew or bisque. Boiling requires much less work on the part of the fisherman because it only requires rinsing the crawfish in clear water then boiling in seasonings. Normally, for 30 pounds of crawfish we add 1 package of dried boil mix such as Zatarain’s or Louisiana Fish Fry products along with a half cup of celery salt, one cup of granulated garlic, three or four lemons halved, six onions halved and two or three bunches of coarsely chopped celery. The seasonings are boiled in enough water to cover the crawfish by six inches for at least 30 minutes prior to adding the crawfish to the boiling liquid. During this period corn, potatoes, artichokes or even smoked sausage can be added for your enjoyment. Once the crawfish are added, stir quickly and when the water returns to a boil, cook two minutes and remove from heat. Stir every few minutes while allowing the crawfish to sit in the seasoned water, 10 – 15 minutes or until they have picked up the flavoring from the liquid. Recipes for boiling crawfish are available from my web site at www.jfolse.com. If you wish to cook with peeled crawfish tail meat (if available in your area), my web site also contains numerous recipes for etouffee, pasta sauces and even our famous crawfish bisque.

Scott Jackson: I love blackened seafood but would really love a good recipe for blackened seasoning do you have one? Thanx chef folse.

CHEF FOLSE: There are as many recipes for blackened seasoning as there are cooks in Bayou Country. Each and every one will add a touch of their own cultural influence to the mix. This is a good, all-purpose blackened seasoning recipe that I use when seasoning fish destined for the skillet.
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning blend
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Place all ingredients in a Zip-Loc bag and shake well to blend. Store seasoning in a tightly covered glass jar in a cool, dark place such as your cupboard until ready to use. Seasoning will retain its potency and flavor for about six months. When ready to cook, place a cast iron skillet on a propane burner outside under a covered area, such as a patio or porch. (The blackening process will create quite a bit of smoke once the fish is added to the super-hot skillet.) To cook sprinkle approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of the blend over the top and bottom of a 7-9 ounce fillet of fish. When the skillet develops a white ring in the center, indicating extreme heat, generously coat each side of the fillet with a butter-flavored vegetable spray, melted butter or oil. Toss the fish, skin-side up, into the skillet and cook until the edges of the fish start to turn upward, 2-3 minutes, then flip to the other side. Thin fillets, such as redfish, snapper or trout, are better to blacken than thick fillets such as tuna.

Courtney Colston Lonadier: Chef Folse, what’s the best Cajun way to cook Sac-a-Lait aka White Perch aka Crappie? I live here in Northwest LA on Toledo Bend Lake where we have lots of white perch. Between me, my husband and father-in-law, we have a freezer-full of this tasty fish. I’m looking for a new way to cook it up, Cajun-style. Please pick my question to answer, thank you :)

CHEF FOLSE: Courtney, I think when it comes to white perch or crappie, there is nothing better than mustard-battered, cornmeal-coated, deep-fried sac-au-lait served with remoulade sauce. The recipe is available on my web site: www.jfolse.com.
However, if you wish to experiment with an interesting yet flavorful dish using filleted sac-au-lait, I offer this one. In the bottom of a cast iron pot add ¼ cup olive oil, then top with ½ cup diced onions, ¼ cup diced celery, ¼ cup diced red bell pepper, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 2 tablespoons sliced green onions. Top with 4 to 5 fillets of fish. Lightly season the fish with salt, pepper and granulated garlic along with a dash of paprika and 1 tablespoon of powdered dark-brown roux sprinkled evenly across the fish. (This roux is available in most grocery stores and contains no oil.) Continue the process until the cast iron pot is filled to the surface. You would normally need 15 to 20 fillets for a large cast iron pot. Finish the top of the pot with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and an extra shake of paprika. If you wish, a small amount of your favorite Creole seasoning may be sprinkled between the layers as well. Place the covered pot on a low fire; remember, there is no liquid in this pot. Cook for 1 to 1½ hours, checking for doneness after 1 hour. As the fish cooks, fish stock will be released from the fillets. It will be thickened and flavored with the oil-less roux and the seasonings will cook to perfection. Do not stir during the entire cooking process. Just remember to keep the flame on low or simmer. Serve over steamed white rice or alongside jambalaya. The recipe is available on my web site: www.jfolse.com.

Alecia Smith Cairns: I love to make your “Oyster Rockerfeller Soup”….but being unable to have fresh oysters shucked and the ability to reserve the liquour needed from the oysters ….. what do you do? or would you do to make the soup? I live on the Coast of MS, Diamondhead and since the BP Oil Spill we have not been able to get fresh oysters…..Thanks so much!….LOVE your cooking!…..Alecia Cairns

CHEF FOLSE: My oysters Rockefeller soup is very easy to make. Thankfully, oysters are becoming more plentiful each day in the Gulf region. If oyster liquid is not available from your local seafood market, simply buy an extra pint of fresh oysters, place them in a blender or food processor along with 2 to 3 cups of cold water, a pinch of salt and pepper. (You may wish to replace the water with shellfish stock that is available on the shelf of your local grocery store.) Simply puree the oysters to a liquid and add them to the recipe in place of the oyster liquid.