~ Bayou Pork Burgers w/Ragin'-Cajun Remoulade ~
"I will never be blue, my dreams come true, on Blue Bayou." Hold that beautiful thought because Roy Orbison singing Blue Bayou is as close as I'll get to the Louisiana bayou -- or any bayou. Plenty full of pretty pelicans, herons and spoonbills, it's the alligators, snakes, and leeches that will keep me out. That said, many Cajuns, and a few Creoles too, feel right at home in these mysterious reaches of Southern Louisiana -- bayou life has its own pace and culture.
A bayou is a body of water found in flat, low-lying areas. It can refer to a slow-moving stream or river with a poorly defined shoreline, or, to a marshy lake or wetland. The name "bayou" is native to Louisiana, originating from "bayuk", a word meaning "small stream" in a Native American tongue local to Louisiana which referred to: the wide and narrow streams fed by the Mississippi River that braided their way through the low-lying areas of Southern Louisiana.
These extremely slow-moving streams provide an ideal habitat for alligators, crawfish, certain species of shrimp, frogs and catfish -- all of which are popular bayou fare. While there's plenty of Creole flavors in the bayou, the most closely associated culture to the bayou is the Cajun culture. Cajuns were French-speaking settlers who relocated from Nova Scotia. They were actually known as "Acadians" but the local slang eventually led to the word becoming "Cajun".
Cajun cooking is a simple, rustic, country-style of cooking born out of the necessity of peasants and represents a combination of French and Southen fare. Cajun cooks use copius amounts of inexpensive pork fat along with anything they can hunt, trap or harvest from the swamps and bayous. Cajun food tends to be one-pot, low-and-slow-cooked stew-like meals prepared in a single cast-iron pot or skillet.
Creole cooking is the more refined, sophisticated-style of city dwellers, born out of restaurant chefs accessing the best ingredients of French, Spanish and African cuisines. Creole cooks, who are continuously supplied by the commerce of the ports, place emphasis on rich and fresh butter, cream and eggs. Creole food is more elegant and requires two or three cast-iron cooking vessels.
Both cuisines rely upon the "holy trinity" (onion, celery and green bell pepper) and rice, however, Cajun food is based on inexpensive additions and is plain looking, while Creole food is based on more exotic ingredients and is quite flamboyant. When it comes to spice, they both use the same spices, in quantities determined by how spicy the food is supposed to be or they want it to be.
"Cajuns eat in the kitchen and Creoles eat in the dining room!" ~ Chef John D. Folse
A bit about Classic French, Cajun and Creole remoulade sauce: French remoulade (ray-muh-LAHD) is a creamy to yellowish-colored condiment, containing lemon- or vinegar-laced homemade mayonnaise, mustard, shallots, capers, gherkins, herbs and sometimes anchovies. Cajun remoulade, which is mayonnaise-based too, differs from the French original in that it has pink hues and a piquant flavor due to the addition of ketchup, cayenne pepper and/or paprika. Creole remoulade, is a slightly-chunkier, reddish-hued oil-based condiment-sauce containing ketchup, finely-chopped vegetables (usually green onion, celery and parsley), stone-ground or Creole mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, and, sometimes horseradish. In all cases, remoulade is served chilled to accompany or dress cold meats, poultry, fish or shellfish. Occasionally, Creole remoulade will contain a small amount of mayonnaise to give it a slightly creamy texture. Read on:
3/4 cup Creole-style remoulade sauce (Note: You can use your favorite store-bought brand, like Zatarain's, your own favorite recipe, or, my recipe for ~ Remoulade Sauce: A Staple in the NOLA Kitchen ~, which can be found by clicking to Category 8.)
4-6 tablespoons mayonnaise
Ground pork loin + Cajun seasoning = My kinda pork-burger!
A pork loin, if left untrimmed, when ground, has just the right amount of fat on it to cook up into a very juicy burger that can compete with the best of beef burgers. While it may feel looser-textured, do not be inclined to add an egg or any type of binder to it -- it grills up just great!
1 1/2 pounds pork loin, untrimmed & cut into 1/2"-3/4" cubes
1/2 cup very coarsely-chopped onion (2 ounces)
1/2 cup each: very coarsely-chopped, sweet yellow and orange bell pepper (2 ounces each) (Note: green bell pepper may be substituted but I like the subtler flavors of the sweet peppers better.)
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
~Step 1. Cube the pork as directed, placing it in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Using a series of 25-30 on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the pork. Transfer the ground pork to a large bowl. There is no need to wash the processor bowl. Add the onion and bell peppers to work bowl and using a series of 15-20 on-off pulses, chop the vegetables.
~ Step 2. Add the chopped veggies to the bowl containing the ground pork. Add the Cajun seasoning and the Tabasco. Using your hands, thoroughly combine. You will have slightly under 2 pounds of burger mixture (1 pound, 14 ounces).
~ Step 3. Divide and form burger mixture into four, 4" round, 3/4" thick discs, about 7 1/2 ounces each. I use a kitchen scale to insure they're indeed even-sized. Place burgers on grill pan on stovetop over medium-high heat. Cook until golden-brown brown on both sides, turning only once, 5 1/2-6 minutes per side.
No cheese please! Just lettuce, tomato & remoulade!!!
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; kitchen scale; 12" grill pan
Cook's Note: Two more of my favorite and classic NOLA recipes that use Creole remoulade sauce ~ Mardi Gras Shrimp Remoulade a la Galatoires ~, and,~ Louisiana's Famous Shrimp Po' Boy Sandwiches ~ can be in Categories 2, 11 or 14. Both are a perfect Cajun-Creole change-of-pace choice to make for or take to almost any outdoor picnic or gathering.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)