#37 Coush Coush

‘Hot Boudin, cold coush coush Come on, Tigers, Push, push, push!’

-Faithful Tiger Fans

Every culture has its favorite comfort foods, and while we’ve covered most of the Cajun staples here, we haven’t talked about the most important meal of the day – breakfast. When it comes to breakfast, move aside Wheaties, because coush coush is the Cajun breakfast of champions.

Nothing hits the spot better on a cold winter morning than a warm bowl of coush-coush. A simple dish made with inexpensive ingredients, coush coush was a breakfast staple back before the days of the cereal aisle. It is prepared by pouring a mixture of cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and milk into a hot skillet greased with vegetable oil, lard, or bacon drippings. A dark crust is allowed to form before the mixture is stirred, giving coush coush its signature crunchiness. The final mixture is served like cereal with milk and sugar, or as a stand alone dish with cane sugar drizzled (or poured in my case) over it. The result is a warm satisfying meal that’s sweet and chocked full of nice crispy bites.

Unlike other Cajun staples like gumbo, jambalaya, and etoufĂ©e, coush coush is a dying tradition. The last time I recall eating it was as a young boy sleeping over at my grandmother’s house. Loaded with fat, coush coush isn’t exactly a healthy breakfast option, but that’s never hurt the popularity of boudin and cracklins. I attribute the decline of coush coush’s popularity to competition. Cajuns have the same breakfast choices that the rest of this country has, whether it’s choosing one of the many fast and convenient options from the breakfast aisle, or hitting the McDonalds drive through for coffee and an egg McMuffin. In today’s fast paced world, people just don’t have the time to spend 30 minutes cooking breakfast. That’s a shame, because coush coush is a dish that deserves its place in Cajun culture, and shouldn’t be allowed to die out.

Next time you’re about to cook a big Sunday morning breakfast, consider giving coush coush a try instead of pancakes, for old times sake.


Coush Coush (From www.wafb.com)

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Yields:
6 Servings

Ingredients:
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 tsps salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 and 1/2 cups milk

Method:

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, salt, baking powder and milk. Using a wire whisk, blend ingredients until well incorporated. When oil is hot, pour in cornmeal mixture. Do not stir. Allow a crust to form. Once formed, stir well and lower heat to simmer. Cover and cook approximately 15 minutes, stirring often. Serve with milk and sugar or with hot coffee milk as cereal.

#32 Jambalaya

What the hell is jambalaya? This was a question posed years ago to the sixth grade version of myself by a distant pen pal, named Carlos. Since this pen pal was foisted upon me by my Kum Ba Yah singing Catholic school teacher in an idealistic attempt to expose me to the outside world, I didn’t feel a particular need to respond right away. I was much too busy playing Super Mario to write back to some stranger. Well, I might be a lot of things, but let it be known far and wide that I’m not a flake, just an overachieving procrastinator. So Carlos, if you’re out there, here’s your answer, some twenty odd years late.

Jambalaya is the ultimate in single pot Cajun cooking. A combination of rice, vegetables, stock and a mixture of meats all cooked together in a single pot (usually black iron), jambalaya is a deceptively simple meal that takes only minutes to learn, but years to master. Done right, it will bring tears to a Cajun man’s eyes, but done wrong, jambalaya a greasy mushy mess. Unlike gumbo, jambalaya is a great year round dish, whether served fireside at the camp, or at home by your mama.

The jambalaya was an attempt by New Orleanians of Spanish descent to make paella in the New World. Without ready access to saffron, tomatoes were substituted, and the resulting dish bore a red hue instead of the trademark yellow of paella. This new dish was dubbed jambalaya, from the Provencal word “jambalaia,” meaning a mish-mash or mixup. Eventually, the jambalaya made its way to Cajun country, lost those damn tomatoes, and became the more tasty brown jambalaya we know and love today.

Every year a jambalaya cookoff is held at the Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales Louisiana, located on the far eastern outskirts of Cajun Country. Here you can sample some of the best jambalaya you’ve ever tasted. Unfortunately, the festival finished last weekend, so you’ll have to wait a whole year to see what I’m talking about (damned procrastination reared its ugly head again).

If you’d like to try making your own jambalaya, here’s a good recipe I found for feeding 120 people, or as I like to call it, my immediate family. If you don’t have that many mouths to feed, you might try this recipe which won the 1978 Jambalaya World Championship title.

So Carlos, I hope this answers all your jambalaya related questions. If not, just write back, and I promise you an answer sometime in the next 20 years.

Jambalaya (On the Bayou):