[What's In Our Kitchens]


ANDOUILLE [AHN-doo ee]: A garlicky smoked Cajun sausage made from beef and pork, which is sliced into rounds, sauteed and served with red beans, greens, gumbo and other pot food.

BANANAS FOSTER: A dish made of bananas and rum, flamed and served over vanilla ice cream. It was created at Brennan's Restaurant to honor Owen Brennan's friend, Dick Foster, who in the 1950s was vice chairman of the Vice Committee in charge of cleaning up the French Quarter.

BEIGNETS [BEN-yays]: Puffy squares of deep-fried dough dusted with powdered sugar. Traditional fare at New Orleans coffee houses, most notably Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter. They taste better than they sound, but be warned: You may end up with more sugar on your clothes than on the French doughnuts.

BLACKENED REDFISH: A dish made by searing seasoned redfish fillets in a smoking hot skillet popularized by Chef Paul Prudhomme. As the dish's fame grew in the late 1980s, stiff limits had to be placed on redfish catches to prevent the disappearance of the species from Gulf Coast waters. These limits inspired creative chefs to start "blackening" everything from chicken to veal in order to continue to cash in on the craze.

BOUDIN [BOO-dan]: A Cajun white sausage made with rice, ground pork, chicken and vegetables, ranging from mild to hot.

CAFÉ AU LAIT [KAH-FAY oh-lay]: Hot coffee mixed with boiling milk; not "cafe ole" as The New York Times once wrote.

CAJUN/CREOLE COOKING: Yes, there is a difference between these two cuisines. Cajun food is the earthy, robust creation of fishermen and farmers in the bayou country of southwest Louisiana, which remains the only place you'll find Cajun food that has not been refined and urbanized to within an inch of its life for restaurant customers. Creole food is more citified, often a shade more delicate, in both preparation and presentation. Creole food - the cuisine of New Orleans and the Mississippi River region - also enjoys Caribbean influences not found in Cajun food. But Creole cooks often use the same meats, seafoods and seasonings used in the bayou country, and the fullness of the flavors are similar. For more information, check out our history of Cajun/Creole cookery.

CHICORY: A plant whose leaves are used in salads and whose roots are dried, roasted and ground for
mixing with coffee for thickness and special flavor. The chicory was originally added to stretch the coffee beans
but it also gives the coffee a little bite. New Orleans coffee blenders are known for incorporating chicory into
their dark, rich coffees. Non-natives might find the taste to be a bit bitter.

COURTBOUILLON [COO-bee yawn]: A spicy tomato sauce usually served over fish.

CRAWFISH: The guests of honor at many New Orleans springtime gatherings, served on back issues of The Times-Picayune right from the huge cauldrons of spicy boiling water they share with new potatoes and half ears of corn. Crusty French bread is served on the side. You can impress the natives by pinching the tails and sucking the heads (although, admittedly, this is an acquired taste). You may know these local delicacies as "crayfish," but no New Orleanian would ever use that term. The local nickname is "mudbugs."

CREOLE MUSTARD: It's a little more pungent than American mustard because the mustard seeds are coarsely ground rather than pulverized.

CREOLE TOMATOES: Vine-ripened tomatoes grown in southeast Louisiana. The large tomatoes are known for their eccentric shapes and pinker-than-usual color. They are available from late spring through summer.

ÉTOUFFÉE: A dish in which seafood or meat (shrimp and crawfish etouffee are local favorites) is smothered with seasonings and herbs. It is similar to stewing but with less water.

FILÉ [FEE-lay] : Powdered sassafras leaves used to thicken gumbo.

GUMBO [GUHM-boh: A Creole-Cajun soup usually made from a roux, seafood, okra, tomatoes and filé; it can also be made with other ingredients such as chicken or sausage. It is served over rice.

HOT SAUCE: You can buy it at your grocery store back home, but it won't have the same sentimental value and you won't find it in gallon containers. The grandaddy is Tabasco, which comes from Cajun country, but there are many other blends.

HURRICANE MIX: Mix a packet of this powder with some water and booze and relive a truly great New Orleans hangover.

JAMBALAYA [JUM-buh li yuh]: A Cajun rice dish usually made with seafood and sausage; a close cousin of a Spanish paella.

KING CAKE: A sweetroll-like cake made in a ring served during Carnival season (Jan. 6 - Epiphany or "Kings' Day" - through Mardi Gras). It contains a plastic doll, and the person who finds the doll in his or her piece of cake must provide the king cake on the next occasion. For more information, see the king cake history.

MAKIN' GROCERIES: Going grocery shopping.

MIRLITON: [MER-lee tawn] A tropical, pear-shaped squash popular in Louisiana. They are often stuffed with cheese, meat or seafood.

MUFFULETTA: A sandwich invented in the 1930s by Salvatore Tusa, owner of the Central Grocery on Decatur Street. It is made with thick round Italian bread, imported olive oil, several layers of cheeses, ham and salami, and homemade olive salad. One is enough to feed two people (or maybe more).

OYSTERS, RAW: Oysters served raw on the halfshell are another one of those delicacies that separate the natives from the tourists. Connoisseurs insist that the oysters be opened in their presence, preferably while seated at a marble counter with a cocktail fork at hand. Some diehards gulp the oysters down in their pristine state letting them slide down the throat, but another breed of purists insists on coating them first in an ad hoc cocktail sauce made by mixing ketchup with hot pepper sauce, horseradish and lemon juice - ingredients that any oyster bar worth its salt will have available on the counter for each customer.

OYSTERS BIENVILLE: Oysters on the halfshell topped with a rich shrimp, cream and cheese sauce. The dish was invented by "Count" Arnaud Cazenave, founder of Arnaud's restaurant.

OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER: Absinthe-flavored, spinach-topped oysters on the halfshell. The dish was created by Jules Alciatore, son of Antoine Alciatore, founder of Antoine's restaurant, in the late 1800s during a visit by John D. Rockefeller.

PO-BOY: A sandwich made with long loaves of French bread filled with meat and gravy or fried seafood. It was invented in New Orleans in the 1920s to feed the "poor boys" who couldn't afford a large meal. Po-boys are served either "dressed" with a full range of condiments (usually mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes) or "undressed" (plain).

POMPANO EN PAPILLOTE: An old French recipe in which the fish is heavily sauced, steamed and served in a paper bag.

PRALINE: A confection made of sugar, cream, sugar, butter, pecans and more sugar. If they seem overpoweringly sweet, that's because they're supposed to be.

REMOULADE: A spicy sauce usually made of mustards, horseradish, oil, ketchup, chopped vegetables, eggs and seasonings, usually served over boiled shrimp as an appetizer.

ROUX [ROO]: A gravy made from browning flour in fat. It is used as a base for many Creole dishes such as gumbo and etouffee.

SAUCE PIQUANTE: [PEE-cawnt] A dish similar to a spicy gumbo or etouffee but usually made with wild game such as turtle, alligator or rabbit. It is not to be confused with a bottled picante sauce, a tomato-based cocktail sauce. That stuff is made in New York City and has Tex-Mex origins.

SAZERAC: A drink made with whiskey , generally associated with the Sazerac Bar at the Fairmont Hotel. The bartender coats an Old Fashion glass with herbsaint, pours out the excess, pours in the Sazerac mix and tops off the uniced drink with a twist of lemon. If you want to look like a tourist, ask the bartender for a Sazerac on the rocks. The drink was developed in 1850 at an Exchange Alley bar. In 1949, the
bar was moved to the Roosevelt Hotel (now the Fairmont), which pays an annual fee to Sazerac Co. Inc. That company owns the rights to the formula and bottles the drink in a New Orleans suburb called Metairie.

SEAFOOD BOIL: Much like a bouquet garni, with a variety of herbs and spices, it gives just the right touch to boiled seafood. Zatarain's and Rex are popular local brands.

SHRIMP CREOLE: A sauce of tomatoes and shrimp served over rice.

SNOWBALLS: Finely shaved ice with the texture of velvet infused with a strongly flavored sweet syrup served in a paper cup with a straw and a spoon. Any self-respecting snowball stand will carry upwards of 50 flavors of syrup, but certain time-honored favorites will always be on the list. They include nectar (New Orleans talk for vanilla), wedding cake (almond) and ice cream (unidentifiable but wonderful). This is a summertime treat designed to beat the afternoon heat. Like wearing white, eating snowballs is most easily gotten away with from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It can be noted that outside the South Louisiana area these are referred to as "Snow Cones". And along with that thought it may also be noted that outside the South Louisiana area, the staple diet is Meat and Potatoes !!

TASSO: Very heavily smoked beef or pork with a peppery coating, usually used in tidbit-sized cubes to give a jolt to red beans or other pot food.

ZATARAIN: A local manufacturer of a line of products such as pepper mixes for cooking seafood, fish and Creole dishes. Zatarain's also makes root beer extracts and flavored syrups to be poured over shaved ice and served as that New Orleans summertime staple - the snowball.