Tag Archives: earls cookbook

Cajun. Ah Gha-rawn-tee!

11 May
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Like a ghost from the past, Cajun chef Justin Wilson lives on, laughing and wandering the endless hallways of YouTube. His 1980s Cookin’ Cajun episodes from PBS are well worth squandering your free time.

As kids, we thought he was pretty hilarious. The New Orleans patois: Awn-yawn! That red string tie! Those matching suspenders. What a kook.

Gumbo. Jambalaya. Red beans and dirty rice. Hush puppies. Pralines. It was all so exotic compared to our WASPy facsimile of cut up hot dogs sauteed with onion and crushed tomato sauce, Worchestershire and scant red pepper flakes, served over steamed white rice.

More refined was chef Paul Prudhomme, clad in his head-to-corpulent-toe chef whites. His Cajun blackening craze was everywhere by this point. Blackened red snapper, anyone? Get that pan smoking hot, flip the hood fan and for god’s sake, don’t breathe in!

Decoding blackening spice pre-internet era was a labour. Long before Emeril was hawking his Essence, you had to make your own. It didn’t take long for Cajun chicken Caesar salad to find a home on every chain restaurant menu. Even our beloved 1980s-era Seventeen Magazine took a crack at jambalaya. Cajun- and Creole- inspired cuisine charged throughout the 2000s with chicken pasta dishes that were parmesan creamy, spicy and loaded with veggies: slivered onion, slices of rainbow coloured bell peppers.

Cajun refuses to go away. We can’t think of anything more fitting than a sophisticated Louisana remoulade to enjoy with some shrimp or crab cakes while relaxing on deck with something cool.

Just yesterday, we spotted this:

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Earls restaurant chain has steadfastly kept Cajun blackened chicken breasts on its menu for decades.

cajun

You can see by the amount of paprika in their recipe, they’ve toned down the pepper’s kick. Paul Prudhomme would never stand for it. And you just know Justin eschewed black pepper for his love of the scorching cayenne: “That’s much more better. Ah gah-rawn-tee!”

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

12 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne

34 teaspoon white pepper

34  teaspoon black pepper

12 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

12 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

CAJUN CHICKEN PASTA

4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup blackening spice (recommended: Paul Prudhomme’s Chicken)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup roughly chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup white wine

3 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound cooked fettuccine

1/2 cup sliced scallions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dredge the chicken breasts in the blackening spice and place in a cast iron skillet over very high heat. Blacken both sides of the chicken and place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Slice in strips on the bias and set aside.

In a saute pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add garlic and lightly caramelize.

Then add the sun-dried tomatoes and the chicken slices. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the heavy cream, increase the heat to a simmer, and reduce the cream sauce by half. When the cream sauce is to desired consistency, stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt, pepper, and pasta.

Plate and add with scallions and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.