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Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana [Hardcover]

by Donald Link, Paula Disbrowe
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If bacon does not immediately come to mind as an essential ingredient of Cajun cooking, then clearly you have been missing Link, the chef-owner of two New Orleans restaurants, Herbsaint and Cochon. He not only begins his premiere cookbook with instructions on making four pounds of homemade bacon, he includes such tempting items as a fried oyster and bacon sandwich, tomato and bacon pie, and catfish fried in bacon fat. Even in his vegetarian twice-baked potatoes, he cannot help mentioning, Normally I like crisp bits of bacon in stuffed potatoes. And where bacon leads, the rest of the pig is sure to follow. A classic boudin recipe is rich in pork liver and shoulder; deer sausage combines venison with pork butt; and a hearty/scary breakfast dish, oreilles de cochon (pig ears), is boudin-stuffed beignets. There is also plenty of crawfish, be it in a crawfish pie, a traditional boil or in a boulette (deep fried balls of crawfish meat and stuffing). A bourbon cherry lemonade or a plate of fresh peach buckle would cleanse the palate nicely, Eighty color photos enhance Link's efforts, as do his brief meditations on crawfish farming, family gatherings and the joys of making a perfect roux. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Donald Link’s book simply makes me hungry the way I used to be around my grandmother’s kitchen down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He is more than a chef. He is a southern artist using tradition as a canvas and acquired culinary magic as his box of paints, with which he brings to life masterpieces of southern cuisine that ignite our taste buds as well as reminding us of who we are and where we come from.”
—Jimmy Buffett

“Donald Link’s childhood in Cajun Country taught him that cooking is all about family, local ingredients, and, most important, taste. There's no blackened redfish here, just delicious recipes (think Crispy Softshell Crab with Chili Glaze or Satsuma Buttermilk Pie) and great memories, informed by his wry sense of humor and passion for food and place. Real Cajun is the real deal and proves, once again, that Link is not only the soul of New Orleans but also one of the most talented chefs in the country.”
—Julia Reed

“Donald Link is rediscovering traditional Cajun food in all of its diversity and simplicity. His flavors come from backyard organic vegetables, local fish, and heritage breed pork. The essence of Cochon’s cooking is beautifully revealed in this inviting book.”
—Alice Waters

"Donald Link's cooking embodies the very best–the heart and soul–of New Orleans cuisine; there's no one in the business with more credibility. Real Cajun captures the straight-up, un-cut, raw, and wonderful rustic classics in all their unvarnished, unprettified glory."
—Anthony Bourdain

“Real Cajun tells Donald Link’s captivating story of growing up in southwest Louisiana and shares with us the incredible no-holds-barred type of cooking and eating that Cajuns live for. With great traditions, vivid tales, and passionate cooking from a real Cajun chef, this cookbook will be a treasure for all who turn its pages.”
—Frank Stitt

“Real Cajun
is honest, gutsy, and proudly provincial. Read this book and you'll want to mainline shrimp and crab gumbo. Cook from this book and you'll rationalize an all boudin diet.”
—John T. Edge, general editor of Cornbread Nation

About the Author

DONALD LINK is the chef-owner of Herbsaint and Cochon in New Orleans. He won the James Beard Best Chef South Region Award in 2007.

PAULA DISBROWE is the author of Cowgirl Cuisine and co-author of Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Lake Charles Dirty Rice
Serves 6 to 8

This recipe appears at just about every occasion in Cajun Country. Whether it’s a holiday, funeral, family reunion, or potluck dinner, you can bet there will be at least one form of dirty rice or rice dressing. At the Link family reunion in Robert’s Cove, I counted six versions, all different. The essential ingredients are few, but flavor and texture vary greatly.

The main difference between dirty rice and rice dressing is that rice dressing is generally made with ground beef or pork, whereas dirty rice is made with pork and chicken livers. Many people think they don’t like liver, but when it’s balanced with other flavors, the liver taste is not overpowering. I’ve served this deeply flavored rice to many people who claim they hate liver, only to have them love it.

2 tablespoons canola oil
4 ounces ground pork
1/2 cup chicken livers (about 4 ounces), pureed1
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 cups cooked rice
1/2 bunch scallions (white and green parts), chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pork and chicken livers and cook, stirring, until browned. Add the salt, black pepper, and chili powder and stir often, but resist the impulse to stir constantly: You want the meat to stick to the pan and get crusty. Add ¼ cup of the chicken broth and cook until it has evaporated, allowing the meat mixture to get browned and crusty and stick to the pan once again. Add the onion, celery, garlic, jalapeño, and oregano and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are nicely browned and crusty and beginning to stick to the pan. Add the rice, the remaining 1 ¼ cups broth, the scallions, and parsley. Stir until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is heated through.

NOTE: When making dishes that involve rice, remember that your flavor base will seem overly seasoned until the rice absorbs the flavors. In Cajun cooking, salt is the most crucial ingredient to get right, so you’ll want to taste the dish after the rice cooks and adjust accordingly.
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