I’ve huge fan of Cajun food. Seriously, don’t ask me why – I grew up the Midwest and don’t think I tasted anything from the cuisine until I was in my twenties.
It was a revelation to me, my first tastes of blackened this and blackened that. Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Po’ Boys. Nothing shy about it, nothing really fancy, either. Nothing expensive. Often the ingredients were dirt cheap, but the flavors! Flavors that you couldn’t forget, seared into memory. Not necessarily hot (It’s a myth that Cajun food it hot – that’s what hot sauce is for) but spicy, earthy, rich and true.
I’ve dabbled a bit with Cajun cooking, traveled a bit over the years, and tasted Cajun in New Orleans and in the homes of Southern friends, but everything I thought I knew about Cajun was turned on its head last week. I ate at a restaurant that served Shrimp and Grits with a “Cajun Gastrique,” Grille 26 in Sioux Falls.
“What the “h” “e” double l hockey sticks is a Cajun Gastrique” you might ask. I know that’s what I thought!! The waitress was stumped and came back with “a reduction of vinegar and Cajun spices.” Ok, I thought to myself, “La di da. I’m going to be sorry I ordered Cajun in South Dakota” and did it anyway.
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. My Shrimp and Grits were perhaps not true Cajun food, but Cajun food elevated by a genius of a chef. I want to marry him, I don’t care how young or old, I don’t care what he looks like or how much money he has. My folks said, “What if it’s not a him?” I thought for a minute, and then said, “I don’t care, I’m just in it for the food! And I’ll never tell he/she I know how to cook! I’ll just let him/her do all the cooking for me.” This last all said in a Southern accent.
And of course, I came home and dabbled with the Gastrique. And here’s my version, a little sweet, a little sour and reduced until it’s so full of flavor it’s practically a black, tarry mass. As far as flavor, think of hot pepper jelly meets Tabasco, meets the best balsamic syrup you could ever imagine. Of course, none of those ingredients are in here, but that description will take your imagination towards the taste.
I used this Cajun Gastrique for my Shrimp and Grits and saved the excess in a little jar (it will keep a long time, well preserved by the sugar and vinegar) to drizzle on anything else my heart desires. It could be used almost any place you’d use a little hot sauce.
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup vinegar (I used part apple cider and part red wine)
- 1 to 2 heaping tablespoon Cajun spice mix (I used Emeril’s Essence)
Add sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Turn heat to medium-high. Stir now and then until sugar melts. As soon as the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and let the mixture cook until it begins to turn amber in color.
Add the vinegar and spices and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches a slightly syrupy thickness. It will thicken more upon cooling. Watch for the bubbles to become a bit smaller and test by placing a bit on a plate and allowing it to cool. Any crystals forming on the side of a pan should be washed down with a pastry brush and a little water.
- This gastrique does not necessarily taste fantastic by itself; just like a hot sauce, it is very intense in flavor. Feel free to allow to cool a bit and taste, adding more sugar, vinegar or spices as desired. Be very careful of the hot sugar.
- Serve by warming very slightly. You may need to warm slightly to pour into a jar or container for saving.
from the kitchen of www.frugalhausfrau.com
You know I’ll be bringing this to our Throwback Thursday #25 Link Party, hosted by Quinn of Dad What’s for Dinner, Meaghan of 4 Sons are Us, Alli of Tornadough, and Moi! That’s right – me!
Click over to our Throwback Thursday post for links to their blogs and social media, rules and more info or just click on the blue leapfrog, below, to view all the Throwback Thursday Posts or enter your own!
I will also be bringing these over to Angie’s Link Party, Fiesta Friday # 106, Hosted this week, by Stefi from Ginger & Bread and Andrea from Cooking with a Wallflower! It should be another great party!!