Anything Cajun has a surprisingly long history--and it doesn’t start here in the United States. Many seafood dishes have been inspired by Cajun spices and traditions.
The term ‘Cajun’ comes from the term ‘Acadian.’ In the early 1600s, a group of people in France migrated from (with high hopes of land and independence), to North America where they inhabited the colony of Acadia. This area is now known as the Canadian Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
From there, they didn’t exactly migrate...they were exiled due to their resistance to authority--AKA the British Crown, in 1755; therefore, they continued their journey down South where they nestled into their final destination, Louisiana, where they took up the cultural and culinary roots we now know of today. The Acadians’ overall journey was wrought with devastating hardships such as disease, death, and even slavery, which many people today have forgotten about or do not realize.
Between having to creatively live off the new land and water and coming into contact with other groups of people, the Acadians merged into the Cajun culture that is familiar today.
Cajun Culinary Influences
The Cajun people were, and still are, a group that prides themselves in solidarity and are a tight-knit community. These qualities are shown through their community and culinary meals and events even today. The Cajun take great pride in producing culinary experiences that will delight, inspire, spice up your repertoire, and will make you come back wanting more.
First, let’s take a look at the French influences upon the Cajun meal.
Acadians brought to North America the provincial cooking styles from France including:
- Breakfast being the largest meal of the day
- Heavy on the meat, seafood, and bread
- A preference to boil or simmer foods
- “Summer savory” is a number one seasoning
- One-pot meals
- Minimal ingredients used
- Using the entire animal for different recipes
Hearty soups and broths
For more information on the Acadian culture and to get delicious, traditional Acadian culinary ideas---visit Acadian.org.
As the Acadians merged with other cultures during their beginnings in Louisiana, they began to learn about new culinary practices and ingredients that were available to them right off the land, rivers, bayous, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Cajun cooking is influenced by the cuisine of the French, Acadian, Spanish, German, Anglo-American, Afro-Caribbean, and Native American cultures, as well as the geographical locations they chose to inhabit. Those living on the frontier made due by using a diverse collection of meats available to them: turtle, alligator, raccoon, possum, and armadillo. Have you ever had Cajun-fried gator bites? Give them a try! And the Cajun people didn’t stop at the white and dark meat of an animal--they went all in with organs, guts, and fat. They used the whole animal...and still do in certain recipes, (Every Culture).
Enough about that kind of meat...let’s learn about Cajun seafood.
A culture’s menu is most often reflective of their surroundings. Due to Louisiana's easy access to water, seafood is definitely a primary food source. Their cuisine often includes alligator, shrimp, catfish, crab, redfish, and oysters, which are all caught in the Gulf and in the bayou; while cod, lobster, and salmon are all caught near the Acadians’ first North American home--from the Atlantic Ocean.
Learn new facts about Cajun seafood and get delicious recipe ideas you may have never heard about before!
- Cayenne pepper is the main spice you may taste.
- Onion, celery, and bell peppers are very common in dishes...along with garlic, parsley, and scallions.
- Cajuns shop from the “swamp floor pantry” for many of their ingredients.
- Boiled, stuffed, and stewed seafood dishes are favorites.
Do any of these popular Cajun seafood dishes intrigue your tastebuds?
Crab and Corn Bisque
Redfish Sauce Piquant
Seafood Gumbo (general)
Fried Oyster Muffuletta
Garlic and Chile Roasted Dungeness Crab
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for cooking the crabs
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 head garlic, minced, peels reserved
1 onion, minced, peel reserved
4 large Dungeness crabs*, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, or 6 to 8 fresh red chiles, such as serrano, minced and seeded, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro leaves
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Grab a large pot and fill two-thirds the way with water. Add salt to the water so that it tastes like the ocean--just what crabs want! Add half of the sliced lemon and the reserved peels from the garlic and onion, and bring to a boil. Place your live Dungeness crabs into the boiling water and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes. Once cooked thoroughly, remove and set aside to cool.
- Once the crabs are cooled-off enough to handle, crack and clean the crab (see Fathom’s blog about cleaning Dungeness crab). Place crabs, bottom side down, on a cutting board and halve them lengthwise with a heavy knife.
- You will now make a spicy, Cajun mixture, bake it for a bit, and add to the crab. Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, the minced garlic, onions, butter, olive oil, crushed red pepper, and black pepper in a large roasting pan. Place the pan on the lowest rack in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes while stirring occasionally. Keep an eye out for the garlic so that it does not burn.
- Remove the pan and add in the crab; coat it thoroughly with the garlic butter mixture.
- Place the pan back into the oven for about 13 to 15 minutes; continue to stir occasionally until the crabs are heated through and the garlic mixture is braised onto the shells.
- Once you remove it from the oven, feel free to sprinkle parsley or cilantro on top.
Serve hot and enjoy!
As you can see, the history of Cajun seafood is a lengthy and fascinating one. It is obvious that the migration from France to Canada and the Northern Atlantic, down south to Louisiana has inspired methods of cooking, ingredients used, and cultural twists within the Cajun culinary experiences that we are used to today.
Crab, or Dungeness crab, are often used in Cajun seafood recipes. Are you thinking about planning a spicy Cajun meal soon? Consider buying fresh, live Dungeness crab from Fathom Seafood. Need it tomorrow? Order now and it will ship to you within 24 hours! It’ll be the best seafood experience you’ve had in a while.