Jay D. Ducote was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, grew up in Southeast Texas, and now is back in Louisiana where he makes a living eating and drinking, then writing and talking about it. He enjoys cooking a little bit too! Jay competes and judges in both Cajun cooking and professional barbecue tournaments, appeared as a contestant in Season 2 of MasterChef on FOX, hosts two radio shows in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is currently working on his first book, the "Bite and Booze Cookbook," which will be published by the LSU Press. You can find Jay on his blog, Bite and Booze, on Facebook, or Twitter. You can also contact him via email at [email protected]
The distinction between brines, marinades, and rubs can come down to a few simple ingredients. For the barbecue aficionado, what to use when is second nature. But each has its own history, its own flavor possibilities, its own chemistry, and its own place in the barbecue world.
Brining meats dates back to ancient communities. Salt was a precious commodity, and its ability to preserve food (even for an extra couple hours) created a high demand. Landlocked areas with larger cities received salt from caravans traveling across Salt Roads. Brine is a saltwater mixture that adds extra moisture and flavor to the meat while it’s soaking, and helps meat preserve its moisture during the cooking process. Meat already has its own natural salts intact, but adding a higher concentration of salt outside of the meat allows the flavors and spices to be absorbed into the meat through diffusion. This chemistry process involves changing protein bonds in meat to where they allow extra water to get trapped inside, resulting in flavor and moisture in the finished product. (more…)
At LSU, tailgating is as important as the Fighting Tigers themselves. Some families hold onto tailgating spots for generations, passing them down from friends and family along with each tailgate’s own rules, traditions, and recipes. The food that LSU Tiger Tailgaters cook up on game day is legendary throughout college football, and it takes excellent chefs with some special equipment to get the unique Louisiana foods that are found around Death Valley.
A black cast iron pot is a tailgate stalwart. Craig Messer of the Chest Box Tailgate has used his custom fabricated pot for “several different types of jambalayas, gumbos, and alligator sauce piquant… We have also fried huge batches of freshly caught speckled trout.” Frying may be standard at any college tailgate, but the only place to find hot, fresh cracklins is at LSU. CBT always cooks a few batches in their black pot. This way, the pot is well seasoned for a jambalaya. The pot also serves a secondary function on the grill: as a windshield. (more…)
For most Americans, barbecue season begins on Memorial Day and unofficially nears its end around Labor Day. Here in Louisiana, we keep our pits out all the way through football season, but then again, it never really gets cold. Serious ‘que lovers crave more than just a few summer months to keep the coals hot, so many take their love of slow-cooked meats on the road and enter the competitive barbecue circuit. (more…)
In small towns across South Louisiana, one of life’s challenges is catching a whiff of a fresh fried batch of pork fat and skin and trying not to stop. Cooked fresh every morning in corner stores, bags of crunchy, golden, greasy nuggets tempt the senses. Once inside, the battle is only half over. There’s no denying yourself a link or two of fresh ground pork meat mixed with rice and seasoning and stuffed into a casing, better known as boudin. These two items make up a true Cajun breakfast. The back roads and highways of the Acadiana region of Louisiana are spotted with signs that read “hot boudin and fresh cracklins.” With names like Babineaux’s, T-Jim’s or Hebert’s, these small-town grocers provide two staples of South Louisiana cuisine while keeping alive long-running Cajun traditions. (more…)
In Australia there’s lamb’s fry, in Asia lamb is served as a kebab, and in the U.K. it’s regularly cooked in a curry. Lamb is popular around the world, and in areas such as Central Asia, it’s often the meat of choice. In the United States, however, it’s often overlooked, especially when it comes to barbecue. When people think of barbecue, they usually think of chicken, pork, and beef as the main ingredients. Even turkeys get thrown in a smoker every now and then. The last thing that usually comes to American’s minds when it comes to barbecue is a sheep.
In the United States, lamb has the reputation of being a delicacy. Similar to veal, lamb is usually slaughtered when it is less than a year old. Any sheep older than a year yields meat called mutton. And there are some areas that specialize in mutton dishes and have made strides in the movement to broaden mutton’s appeal. (more…)
Compared to Louisiana, other states have it easy. Sure, Louisiana is home of the Big Easy and we locals are known for our joie de vivre, but we are also parents to some of the most precious cuisines in the world. While we may, on occasion, have one too many Bloody Marys at Sunday brunch or add some “punch” to our milk, we don’t take this responsibility lightly. Even when away from the motherland, Louisianans still find ourselves bragging about and defending our pride and joy. Perhaps the most difficult task is explaining our food in a few short sentences. Of course, a Louisianan would prefer to sit down, put on a pot of coffee or pour a cold beer, and talk about it at length. However, we’ve come to learn that most people don’t have the time to do that. So if you’re versed on Louisiana history and culture, then all you really need to know is that Creole cuisine uses tomatoes, and proper Cajun food does not. That’s how you tell a Cajun versus Creole gumbo or jambalaya. You can stop reading now. You’re welcome. However, if you’d like to go a bit deeper, please continue reading so that you can learn why the terms Cajun and Creole that have become used so loosely and interchangeably when describing Louisiana food, are not at all the same. (more…)
Like all of the great foodways of the world, modern-day barbecue is riddled in history and culture. While the Spanish introduced the term barbacoa to Europe after discovering the technique during Columbian exploration in the Caribbean, the method of cooking meat over fire or indirect heat is as old as cavemen. Barbacoa, which ended up being synonymous with traditional Mexican barbecue, derived itself from the term barabicu which the Taino people of the Carribean used prior to Spanish conquest of the New World — or so one story says. Many other folktales exist about the history of the term barbecue. According to one tale, French visitors of the Caribbean described the process of cooking a whole pig as barbe à queue, which translates to “from beard to tail.” I might start using that terminology instead of the trendy “nose-to-tail” method of cooking! Regardless of stories passed down through generations, barbecue is undoubtedly one of the most popular cooking methods in the United States, varying from region to region with the people who cook it. (more…)