One of America’s Favorites – Smothered Food

August 12, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A plate lunch of smothered steak and gravy served over boiled white rice from Garys Grocery in Lafayette, Louisiana

Smothering meat, seafood or vegetables is a cooking technique used in both Cajun and Creole cuisines of Louisiana. The technique involves cooking in a covered pan over low heat with a moderate amount of liquid, and can be regarded as a form of stove-top braising. The meat dishes cooked in this fashion are typically served over boiled or steamed white rice as a rice and gravy, while the vegetables are typically served as side dishes.

A large variety of meats are “smothered” in South Louisiana cuisine, including both domestic animals and wild game. Domestic animals cooked in this fashion include chicken, domestic duck, pork, beef (including such organs as the liver), and domestic rabbit. Wild game commonly cooked in this fashion include squirrel, rabbit, nutria rat, feral pig, woodcock, wild duck, and venison. Originally a dish made from cheap cuts of meat favored by farmers and laborers, popular versions of the dish such as “smothered steak” and “smothered pork roast” are served throughout Acadiana at local “plate lunch houses”. Raised on Rice and Gravy, a 2009 documentary film by Conni Castille and Allison Bohl, chronicles the prevalence of the dish at local plate lunch houses and its enduring popularity in local cuisine.

 

“Smothering” the meat and vegetables

In French, the word “étouffée” means “smothered”. Étouffée can be made using different shellfish, the most popular version of the dish being Crawfish Étouffée, although shrimp is also used. Originally étouffée was a popular dish in the Acadiana area surrounding Lafayette. In the late twentieth century a waiter at the popular Bourbon Street restaurant, Galatoire’s brought the dish in to his employer to try, the dish was added to their menu. Other restaurants in the city of New Orleans soon followed, with the dish gaining in popularity with locals and tourists alike. Many Cajun restaurant owners claim that étouffée is the most popular dish on their menus.

Varieties of vegetables cooked by smothering include cabbage, okra, potatoes and corn. The vegetables are kept from burning by the addition of animal fats or oils, or the addition of meat products such as salt pork or andouille.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Burgoo

April 30, 2018 at 5:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Kentucky burgoo served with mashed potatoes

Burgoo is a spicy stew, similar to Irish or Mulligan stew, often served with cornbread or corn muffins. It is often prepared communally as a social gathering. It is popular as the basis for civic fund-raisers in the American Midwest and South.

Traditional burgoo was made using whatever meats and vegetables were available—typically, venison, squirrel, opossum, raccoon or game birds, and was often associated with autumn and the harvest season. Today, local barbecue restaurants use a specific meat in their recipes, usually pork, chicken, or mutton, which, along with the spices used, creates a flavor unique to each restaurant.

A typical burgoo is a combination of meats: pork, chicken, mutton or beef, often hickory-smoked, but other meats are seen occasionally; and vegetables, such as lima beans, corn, okra, tomatoes, cabbage and potatoes. Typically, since burgoo is a slow-cooked dish, the starch from the added vegetables results in thickening of the stew. However, a thickening agent, such as cornmeal, ground beans, whole wheat, or potato starch can be used when cooked in a non-traditional way. In addition, soup bones can be added for taste and thickening.

The ingredients are combined in order of cooking time required, with meat first, vegetables next, and thickening agents as necessary. A good burgoo is said to be able to have a spoon stand up in it. Cider vinegar, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or chili powder are common condiments.

Cooking burgoo in Kentucky often serves as a communal effort and social event, in which each attendee brings one or more ingredients. In Kentucky and surrounding states such as Indiana, burgoo is often used for fund-raising for schools. This kind of event has been claimed to have been invented by the family of Ollie Beard, a former Major League Baseball player.

In Brighton, Illinois, a local traditional burgoo is prepared and served annually at the village’s summer festival, the Betsy Ann Picnic. Franklin, Illinois self identifies as the Burgoo Capital of the World;[citation needed] they have an annual burgoo cookout over July 3 and July 4. Burgoo events are also held in Cass County, Illinois in the towns of Chandlerville and Arenzville. Arenzville claims to be the home of the world’s best burgoo.

Several cities have claimed to be the burgoo capital of the world such as Franklin, Illinois, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and Owensboro, Kentucky.

 

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