Cliff Crochet’s Five favorite Cajun foods

Eating on the bayou is an affair steeped in tradition, seafood stock and a whole lot of spices. Most who live north of Interstate 10 would to have a hard time recognizing the festive atmosphere of a Cajun supper, but once acclimated to the bon temps spirit, anything else seems plain.

Mealtime in Cajun country is often a day-long affair, and is a time to gather with friends, have a few cold beverages and watch the Tigers chew up opponents on the gridiron.

“Cookin’ and eatin’ in Louisiana is different,” Elite Series pro Cliff Crochet said referring to the atmosphere of a Cajun supper. “A thing that makes a big difference is the people you’re eating with; that makes a big deal. If you’ve got the best bowl of gumbo in the world, it isn’t worth anything unless you’re with your friends and family.”

Crochet hails from Pierre Part, a town of 3,000 where French Creole is still spoken and several alligator hunters of Swamp People fame live. Crochet had no problem coming up with these Cajun favorites.

1. Boiled crawfish

No surprises here, but boiled crawfish topped Crochet’s – and many Cajuns’ – list as his No. 1 favorite food. Crochet will down five or six pounds of these mini-lobsters in a sitting. “I’m not big into peelin’ ‘em, so I pop the head off, put the meat in my teeth the push the tail forward and it goes right into your mouth,” he said. Peeling the tail with your hands is for amateurs and Yankees (to a Cajun, this is anyone who resides north of I-10).

2. Boiled shrimp

“The key to boiled seafood is how you boil it,” he said. “It needs to be well-flavored but not spicy; that’s the key. I personally want to keep eating without my mouth burning. It doesn’t have to be painful to be good.”

3. Crawfish stew

If done right, this takes a few hours. You start with oil and flour, cook it down for a while to get a rue. This is the base of the stew. You then add onions, peppers, and other veggies, let it all cook down then toss in the crawfish. “This is kinda like a beef stew; it’s got onions and stuff in it,” Crochet said. “The best crawfish stew is when you use leftover boiled crawfish in it.”

4. Seafood gumbo

Unlike the previous foods, you can get gumbo year-round (crawfish can be had year-round, too, but frozen mudbugs are considered sacrilege on the bayou). “Gumbo is kinda like a pot luck thing; you throw in whatever you got leftover, he said. “My favorite has shrimp, crab and crawfish all in the same pot. It’s more like a soup with onions, okra, green onions and other flavor stuff. When you eat that over rice, dude, mmmmmm.”

While gumbo can be had in restaurants, Crochet says it just isn’t the same as a pot that’s been cooking over a fire all day. “In a restaurant, they’re trying to get you in and out. Down home, we sit around all day, watch LSU play football, drink a few beers, and enjoy ourselves all day long. The longer and slower you cook it, the better it gets.”

5. Jambalaya

“Jambalaya is kinda like a Cajun rice dressing, sorta,” he semi-explained. “There is a lot of chicken and sausage, so you cook that down first, then throw your rice in there after. It’s just good.”

When Crochet is on the road and gets a craving for Cajun food, he reaches for Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning. “That stuff is for real, it’s awesome,” he said. “Plus, it goes on anything.”

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