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Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana Hardcover – April 21, 2009
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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.)
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“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
"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."
“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.”
“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
Top customer reviews
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But the heart of any cookbook are the recipes. And there are some good ones here! So far I haven't found a bad one in the bunch. I've made the Vietnamese marinated shrimp. (Delicious, but I did have to get used to pulling off their heads....hey I'm a Yankee...and I just couldn't bring myself to suck the fat out of them). The crab cakes with jalapeno remoulade (mine fell apart despite using almost double the bread crumbs recommended but it was still out of this world....and using fresh crabmeat as Mr. Link suggests DOES make a difference). Lake Charles dirty rice, German Festival Ham and White Bean Stew (great in the winter), Post K meatloaf, smothered collard greens, cast iron hush puppies (a little bland but still good...I'll tweak it next time). The Jambalaya was very tastey but I found the rice did not cook evenly. I'll use instant rice next time. Still on my list is the Baked Oysters with Herbsaint Hollandaise, Billy Boy's Crawfish Etouffee, Chicken Sauce piquant, Spicy Shrimp Creole, grilled oysters with garlic chili butter, chicken and bacon hash to name a few. I've also made his spice mix that he uses for the Vietnamese shrimp. This is a great all purpose spice mixture you can use in many dishes. Seafood, poultry, pork are all represented (there are surprisingly few beef recipes) He also gives recipes for cocktails and desserts but I'm not a big sweet fan so I haven't made any of those.
If your looking for good "home cooking" type recipes (like his Link Family Crawfish Boil recipe), this book will more than meet your expectations.
Visiting a bookstore, I spent a good 20 minutes reading a lot of the recipes and some of the commentary... and I was severely impressed. It makes plain the point that Cajun cooking is far from pretentious, and suggests certain types of paprika and other spices with the assurance that whatever says "paprika" in the grocery store will work fine. There's a lot of very practical advice on basic ideas like roux (and some reasoning for using butter in some cases and oil in others), three really great gumbo recipes, a good jambalaya recipe, even tasso, a simple sausage recipe, and at least three recipes that depend on homemade boudin -- for which he provides what seems to be a pretty good recipe and technique. There is cornbread.
The recipes are great, the text is very honest and... earthy... and the whole thing just exudes "this is what works, it's not that complicated, and this is how to do it." I bought my sister a copy for her birthday (didn't leave myself time to wait for shipping), and after wrapping it, used the web browser in my cell phone to hit Amazon and buy myself a copy -- as well as a cast iron pan, which I've needed for a while, and of which this book makes excellent use.