Enjoying creole food and history


Three cuisines mixed to make a new one

April 16, 2003|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Long before fusion food became all the rage in trendy New York restaurants, Africans, Europeans and Native Americans mixed techniques and foods, creating a cuisine called creole.

Culinary historian Jessica B. Harris explores this cuisine in Beyond Gumbo, Creole Fusion Food From the Atlantic Rim (Simon & Schuster, 2003, $27), a collection of 175 recipes. Harris says creole cooking can be found not only in New Orleans, but also in Mexico, South America and the Caribbean islands.

For her purposes, creole cooking is characterized by rice dishes, vegetable-filled stews, hot sauces, and confections rich in fruit and nuts.

The recipes in this book range from appetizers to desserts, including chapters on beverages and condiments. Harris provides a glossary of common ingredients and sources where they can be found.

Today, with grocery stores carrying an increasing array of ethnic foods, it shouldn't be hard to find most of the ingredients to make these dishes. When the recipes do call for hard-to-find items, Harris gives acceptable substitutions.

The recipes are not difficult, but Harris doesn't offer a lot of hand-holding, either. You're expected to know that you should cook the white rice that will be served alongside your string beans. Historical photos are interspersed among the pages, showing street vendors and farmhands, but if you want to know what the food will look like, you will not find pictures of it here.

What you will find are interesting recipes encompassing a surprising range of food called creole.

Chorreadas (Corn Pancakes)

Makes about 20

2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 eggs

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

oil for frying

cream cheese or sour cream, for serving

Place all of the ingredients except the oil and cream cheese in the bowl of a blender and process until a thick paste forms. It will be lumpy because of the corn kernels. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and pour enough of the batter into the skillet to form a silver-dollar-sized pancake (see note). Fry for 1 minute on each side, turning once, or until they are golden-brown on each side. Serve warm topped with cream cheese or sour cream.

Note: Bigger pancakes tend to fall apart when they are flipped. So although it takes longer, make them small.

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