Cajun cooking uses a wide variety of game meats. Fowl such as geese, duck and quail are popular. For example, duck pate, or confit, is a common Cajun spread made from duck livers. Alligators, bullfrogs, squirrels, rabbits, opossums, skunks, turtles and snakes are hunted and used, as well. A type of game fish known as alligator gar-the largest freshwater fish in North America, weighing up to 200 pounds-often finds its way onto the Cajun menu. Frog legs are popular in Cajun cuisine, too; other parts of the amphibian are eaten, too. Nutria, an invasive river rat, was originally imported for its fur but is also among the game meats used in Cajun cooking.
Cajun cooking originated from the Cajun people, who live mainly in Louisiana. They are descended from French Canadians, who originally settled the area known as Arcadia, near Quebec, Canada. They have been recognized as a national ethnic group since 1980, and their food is a blend of local and international cuisine, including French, Native American, Portuguese and African influences.
Hallmarks of Cajun cooking
In addition to game meats, Cajun cooking relies on the use of many local ingredients. Cajuns typically use all the parts of an animal. For instance, they fry the skin of pigs and combine the parts of the pig not used for other dishes into a sausage. One of the sausages, called boudin, is sometimes made into a ball and then fried.
Grilling, frying, braising and barbecuing are the preferred cooking techniques in Cajun cooking. In the technique known as etoufee (which means 'smothering'), cooks stew meat, fish and vegetables in their own juices to create a type of stew or soup. Vegetables such as okra and mirliton (a type of squash also known as pear squash) add flavor, body and texture. Tabasco and other hot peppers give etoufee its savored, spicy taste.