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Cajun Cooking Made Easy 

A new cookbook pares the recipes down to size.

Monique Boutté Christina has eaten Cajun cooking all her life, and as the daughter of Mulate's founder and owner Kerry BouttŽ and manager of his renowned New Orleans restaurant and dance hall, she also knows something about how to cook. In her new cookbook, Recipes from Mulate's The Original Cajun Restaurant (Pelican Press, 2006, $19.95), she shares her family's secrets with readers and home cooks.

Christina not only has included recipes from Mulate's, which Gambit Weekly readers voted "Best Cajun Restaurant" in the 2005 Best of New Orleans issue and former New York Times food editor Raymond Sokolov calls "one of the most underrated restaurants in the United States," she also shares directions for dishes she learned how to cook from other family members.

"I learned to cook by observing my family -- my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles," she says. "Almost everyone in my family is a great cook." Another of her secrets, she says, is to keep things simple. "All you need to cook a good meal is a little skill and lots of patience. ... Finding the patience and the time is the hard part!"

In presenting Cajun recipes, Christina has followed her father's example of keeping ingredients simple and just cooking everything perfectly. Most of the directions in her book are contained in a small paragraph and are so easy anyone could follow them. The variety of dishes ranges from appetizers of blackened alligator and bite-size catfish to entrees of eggplant casserole, several types of jambalaya, corn macque choux, shrimp and oysters en brouchette, seafood casserole and mirliton dressing. There's also a section on salads, including lump crabmeat salad, arugula salad with fig-infused vinaigrette and more. Desserts such as chocolate praline sheet cake and Mulate's homemade bread pudding and butter rum sauce will sate your sweet tooth, while cocktails such as Cajun bloody Mary, Hurricane, mint julep, Twisted Cosmo, Zydeco Tornado and Plantation Tea loosen you up for some Cajun dancing.

The book even shares the secrets to making olive salad, remoulade dressing and a special general-cooking seasoning blend from Christina's mother, Tiffa BouttŽ. There also are photos of food, dancing and Mulate's and get-togethers of the BouttŽ family to get you in the mood for some down-home cooking. The book is available at Mulate's The Original Cajun Restaurant as well as local bookstores.

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