Cajuns are the descendants of the Acadians, who were French settlers in eastern Canada deported by the British around 1750. They settled in the Acadiana region of Louisiana, USA. Cajun caramelized potatoes is a simple dish of their cuisine, which combines rustic French and South American cuisine.
Cajun cuisine extends to much of the South, a region with a unique culture, history, customs, literature, music, the local Native Americans and European settlers, and also carries the consequences of slavery and the Civil War. This complex historical legacy has not only affected the distinct cooking approaches of the region, but has also formed a regional Culture, distinguishable from that of others in America, and characterized by conservatism, religiosity of an extreme stripe, and lingering racial discrimination.
Although the Acadiana region is among the fastest developing industrial regions of the USA since the beginning of the 20th century, Southern cuisine makes the most of the available ingredients in a poor rural economy (with the exception of Virginia and Florida), with dishes whose preparation is usually simple.
Characterised by its ample use of animal fats, such as lard mixed with flour to form a roux (dense base for white sauces, such as bechamel sauce), the food is generously seasoned with spices, the main spice being a mixture of garlic, onion, chilli, black pepper, mustard and celery.
The actual amounts depend on the taste of each cook and type of main ingredient (meat or vegetables). Flavours are bold, but not very spicy or peppery. The signature dish of Cajun cuisine is Jambalaya, a dark-coloured dish with pieces of meat, the “holy trinity” of vegetables (the so-called mix of onions, celery and green pepper) combined with stock and rice.
Cajun caramelized potatoes is an example of this culinary approach ―sweet and slightly spicy, flavoured with cinnamon and orange― and can be made with red sweet potatoes or regular potatoes. The colour of the potato determines the colour of the dish, not only tasty but visually appealing as well.
Cajun caramelized potatoes
Preparation: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour to cook. You may substitute the orange juice with grapefruit juice, even though it will affect the taste and colour of the dish. The result will also be Cajun-style and equally interesting.
Use rather long potatoes and cut them into equal in size slices. Also, use a medium-size ovenware, to layer the potatoes into up to 2-3 layers. Very easy recipe!
Ingredients (serves 5-6)
800 gr potatoes in slices 0,8-1 cm thick
80 gr butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup of brown sugar
½ lemon, juice and zest
½ cup orange juice and zest of one orange (2 tsps of zest)
1 cinnamon stick or 1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp small black currants
2/3 tsp turmeric
1/3 cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180-190oC.
Prepare the Cajun caramelized potatoes: Place the potatoes in a roasting pan or glass oven dish, sprinkle on top with sugar, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and turmeric, season with salt and pepper and add the lemon and orange juices. Mix well and add the butter. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Stir gently and remove the cinnamon stick, if used.
Add currants, lemon and orange zest and continue baking uncovered, for about 20-30 minutes more, until caramelized.
Note: You may cook the first stage in microwave oven for about 10 minutes and continue with oven baking.
To serve: Serve Cajun caramelized potatoes as a vegetarian dish or first course or as a partner for meat dishes.