Chasing the Gator is an uproarious and irreverent romp through Cajun country.
THIS is the Modern Cajun book you need! Isaac Toups boasts both prairie and coastal Cajun DNA so the chapters cover a whole lot of delicious territory.
I have visited NOLO a few times and fell in love with what was (to me) a whole new mind bending world of flavors and techniques. Naturally, I came home with a cookbook. Alas it wasn’t the best book, so I have relied on internet recipes ever since.
I humbly admit to making a pretty darn fine roux, and a pretty awesome shrimp, chicken, andouille gumbo. I thought I had a deft hand with dirty rice and collard greens, until I looked at Isaacs recipes and quickly realized that this book is really going to ramp up my repertoire to a whole other level!
Chapters headings and a selection of some of the recipes that caught my eye are as follows:
Covers roux from white to brick to dark. With photos. You need photos cause if you have never made a roux before you are never gonna let it get dark enough unless you have pictures telling you everything is gonna be ok, just keep on stirring!
Covers stocks. More than you thought you needed. Chicken, duck, veal, seafood, crawfish. All of the stocks.
Gives recipes for spice mixes, mayonnaises, aioli, mustard (yes, making mustard from scratch), vinaigrette. All the necessities in one great chapter.
In addition to lots of sausages, Terrine, Stew, Trotters, Rillons (Pork Belly Meat Candy) Cracklins…. Some other treasures are:
The Boucherie Ham (uncured ham injected with apricot beer, garlic, cayenne, vinegar brine)
Double Cut Pork Chops with Cane Vinegar Gastrique. Of course they are brined, but then they are grilled. So dinner happens fast on the night, with some forethought.
Trotters and White Beans. My husband would be all over this recipe. Pigs Trotters AND Beans AND cayenne AND beer? Hell yeah!
Whole Roasted Leg of Lamb brined in red wine and herbs and a whole lotta garlic (50 cloves. Yes, 50! 30 for the brine, 20 to squish into the lamb before roasting. This is not a leg of lamb for the faint hearted. But, in all honesty, if you are faint of heart and delicate of stomach, then don’t buy this book.
Which brings me to a couple of recipes I admit, even I might not attempt.
Hogs Head Cheese (yes you need a whole pigs head, jowls, ears, eyes, tongue, brain and snout intact) I have no idea where to get this, and don’t really want to. But if someone else made it for me, I would eat it.
Chaudin (stuffed pigs stomach) In the forward to this recipe, even Isaac sounds amazed that you would actually manage to score a pigs stomach, so yeah. I applaud the fact that this recipe is included in case you are canny enough and brave enough to track down a stomach. But for me, maybe the stuffing could be made into sausage instead? Kinda wish he had provided a variation in case you are able to make something with the stuffing recipe, apart from putting it in a stomach?
Braised Lamb Neck with Black Eyed Peas? Now that, I can do!
THE COMMUNITY TABLE
Peel and Eat Shrimp (hell yeah)
Maw Maw Toups Gulf Seafood Couvillion (Isaacs grandmothers recipe, and it sounds amazing)
Crawfish Cornbread Dressing
Dirty Rice (my old recipe just got thrown in the trash)
Tata Bouille (a sweet custard pie, omg) There is no dessert chapter in this book. But this chapter has two desserts. This one and Cane Syrup Hand Pies. Just the two, but maybe with that custard pie one would have even been enough. Can’t wait to make this.
Gumbo Chicken and Sausage (guess I am about to see how mine stands up) SEE PHOTO
Toups Burger – a burger to die for. Or one that will kill you. As a burger should. SEE PHOTO
Confit Chicken Thighs – with herbs. I have never confited anything. But would like to try. SEE PHOTO
Parmesan Braised Tripe – um, ok I am not a fan of tripe. But my Italian husband would dive face first into a vat of this.
Annnnndddd finally we come to the vegetables. I am always all about the vegetables. There aren’t many. They aren’t healthy but that’s not what we are here for are we? Here we have Roasted Vegetables in a Bacon, Sherry, and Mayonnaise Vinagrette. Grilled Garden Vegetables with Bacon Vinaigrette. Braised Multi Greens with Andouille. Lacquered Collards (yes, also with bacon and brisket, and beer, and cayenne….) Sweet and Sour Roasted Brussels Sprouts (what? No bacon?) Roux Peas? (yes please)
Then there is cornbread and a heap of pickle recipes.
THE FISH CAMP
Blue Crab Camp Stew
Cajun Queso (crab fondue)
Seafood Gumbo (oysters, crab and shrimp)
Crab Fat Rice (made with crab fat butter – recipe given and green onions)
Drunken Shrimp (with fennel seeds, white wine, cherry tomatoes served with rice) SEE PHOTO
Oysters (recipes for raw, fried and roasted)
THE HUNT CAMP
Smoked Duck Gumbo
Brown Sugar and Soy Roast Duck
Rabbit (bacon tomato braised, or black pepper with sherry lentils)
Smoked Turkey Legs (in the oven or in a smoker)
Frogs Legs (two ways)
Venison (or beef) with Onion Barley Horseradish Cream and Jam
Pasta in Purgatory a simple pasta with smoked sausage. Also three variations on the theme – eggs in purgatory, evil chicken thighs in purgatory, purgatory Chili.
To sum up, you might not have a smoker but Isaac is sensitive to this, providing oven instructions. You might not have the cojones (or should I say Boudin Balls) to track down a pigs head, pigs stomach or ditch chicken (frog) or have a great butcher who can supply rabbit or venison, BUT, never fear, this will only exclude a small handful of recipes.
There are lots of chicken or turkey recipes, seafood recipes, a couple of beef recipes and a heap of pork recipes.
You might not want to eat like this every day (my cholesterol levels shot up just looking at the photos) but trust me, you sure do want to eat like this SOME days! You only live once. If you love food you will love Cajun food and you want to cook from a book written by someone who lives and breathes Cajun food then Isaac Toups is that person.
As for the photos. In general, I am not a fan at all of completely non-essential page filler non-dish photos in a recipe book. I am talking about those books with those full page photos of a bunch of carrots on crumpled paper - but no actual photo of the carrot dish on the opposite page! What did that add to the value of the book for me? Zilch. If it's in addition to the carrot dish, then ok. But please, not instead of.
That said, this book includes a smattering of glorious non-essential wonderful photos. In addition, most every recipe has a full page photo of the actual finished dish, sometimes 1.5pages, sometimes a two page spread with no less than 12 instructional photos PLUS a photo of the finished dish. So I would excuse a number of non essential ingredient photos (that fennel pic firmly falls into that category – but Isaac, I forgive you) because the ambiance photos are brilliant! I have included some of these pics for your perusal too, 'cause if they don’t make you smile then you do not deserve this book.
This is a man who loves what he does and loves where he lives and loves cooking and I haven’t had as much fun reading a recipe book for, well, ever!
-Pasta in Purgatory - Now my husband is Italian/Sicilian and he thinks chili with pasta is sacrilege but being the rabble rousing woman that I am, I had to make this first. It contains Isaacs Pickled Pepper Paste of Pain, although I found that the 2 tsps it called for just wasn't anywhere near enough so I added a heap more 'cause I'm just that kind of girl. This dish was spicy, garlicky, fatty and delicious and even my husband thought it was good!
Adding this update to my review reminded me of how much I like this book. Will try some more recipes and report back soon!
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown & Company; 1 edition (23 October 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316465771
- ISBN-13: 978-0316465779
- Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 2.5 x 26.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 1 Kg
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)