Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cajun Hash Browns: to brighten your breakfast or supper

So many eateries and food companies label something sprinkled with 'Cajun Seasoning' as 'Cajun'-- French fries, chicken, potato chips, even tofu -- that I can probably get away with one too.

The actual Cajuns are Louisianans of French ancestry, descendants of the 'Acadiens' (ah-'kah-dienh), French Catholic settlers who were driven out of the colony of Acadie (now Nova Scotia) in the mid-18th Century when the conquering British ethnically cleansed the area. Louisiana was at the time a French colony (although ironically had been transferred to Spain before the Acadiens arrived), and one of many destinations where the exiles sought refuge.

'Cajun Seasoning' is a packaged mixture from Louisiana Fish-Fry Products, Tony Cachere, McCormick, and others, and typically contains garlic salt, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, thyme, and ground celery seed and bay leaf. It is not something that Acadiens would have used in chilly maritime Canada. Cajun cooking, while having strong French influence and French names, was heavily influenced by Spaniards, local Indians, and especially people of African ancestry (who do you think got stuck doing a lot of the cooking in the old days in the deep South?). 'Gumbo', for example, has the recognizeable form of a West African 'soup' of fish or meat and vegetables stewed with smoked fish and chilies -- even the name 'gumbo' is a West African word for 'okra'.

The hash browns in my recipe use commercial 'Cajun Seasoning,' one of the few pre-mixed seasonings I cook with. Several brands are available at supermarkets. Be careful they do not contain MSG. (I'm using 'Louisiana', but I also like 'Cachere's'.) Unless you buy the low-salt variety, the mixture is quite salty. I simply add enough seasoning to salt the potatoes, and the amount of herbs and spices that come along with the salt is what the dish gets.

The recipe serves six for a side dish with breakfast or supper.

Cajun Hash Browns Tim

1-1/2 pounds russet (baking) type potatoes, equal sized
1 small-medium or half a large red bell pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon commercial 'Cajun Seasoning' plus more to taste
3 large scallions (green onions)

Boil the potatoes in their skins until tender. Drain and cool. Peel if the skins are rough. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then into quarters. Slice them across into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.

Seed the bell pepper and cut it into 1/2-inch dice. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the oil medium hot and fry the peppers, turning them occasionally with a spatula, until tender. Add the potatoes, sprinkle with Cajun Seasoning, and fry, turning frequently until well heated. Cut the scallions, white and green parts, into 1/4-inch lengths. Add these to the potatoes when they are hot. Stir and turn with the spatula for several minutes over low heat. Taste a piece of potato, and if not salted enough, sprinkle either with more Cajun Seasoning or with plain salt, depending on whether they are spicy enough to your taste.


Blogger Carter said...

Came by Dondero's for the first time today, the Cashew Chicken was superb. I had tried a sampling of your food at Taste of Athens, but finally made my way to your restaurant. Very impressive.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Tim Dondero said...

Thanks for the kind words, Carter. I'm delighted you enjoyed our food. Now you should try some of the blog recipes -- in addition to coming back to the restaurant! Tim

10:59 AM  

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