Cookbook Review: Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen

November 14, 2010

Crawfish Etouffe

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen was the cookbook I learned to cook from. Don’t get me wrong – I learned how to cook from my family, but this was one of the first cookbooks I ever used, which explains why I don’t think taking two hours to make dinner is a bad thing. The recipes in this book are delicious; I’ve never had a bad meal from Chef Paul. However, the first time I made the Cajun Shepherd’s Pie from this book, it took four hours. That wasn’t because I was in middle school, just honing my knife skills. It still takes me quite a bit of time (it might have been because I had an aversion to vegetables, and I minced the heck out of the ones that went into the meal). But as anyone who has ever had a slice of this pie can attest, it is completely and totally worth it.

One of the things that made this book so easy to learn to cook from is Chef Paul is very exacting in his instructions. Get everything ready beforehand. If there’s a chance you wouldn’t be able to find the ingredients (with the exception of tasso and andoille), he tells you what to sub. And once you get cooking, he tells you how long to cook for and what the result of cooking for that time will be (down to the second, sometimes).

For my husband’s birthday, as we sat around deciding what to do for the day, he said he really wanted to have some Cajun food. Since I had some langoustine tails in the freezer, I decided to make “crawfish” ettouffe. The recipe looked like it would be super-simple. I only needed to chop 1/4 cup each celery, onion, and green pepper. I might have at last found a simple Chef Paul recipe! Indeed, it didn’t take long to prep, often the longest part of one of his recipes. As I got into cooking, though, I realized I needed to use 3 skillets/pots just for the ettouffe (plus one for rice). Sigh. Well, it still wasn’t too difficult, and it did take a lot less than the four hours (less than one, actually). Was it worth it?

The birthday boy was ecstatic! He loved it, as did I. We had some leftovers for the week, and I guarantee the food was better than any Cajun or Creole food we would have found around town. So I’m adding this to my long list of favorite meals from this book (seafood gumbo, the aforementioned shepherd’s pie, Cajun big mamou, curry, sweet potato pecan pie, and so many, many more). I’ve added many, many cookbooks to my library over the years, but this splattered book is still one of my favorites.

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