In the New Orleans of the nineteenth century, to be a Creole was a matter of birth and culture. The term ‘Creole’ is the French version of ‘Criollo’, the Spanish name for children born in the colonies, but the word described much more–it was a way of life.
Everyone pretty much agrees that the French, The Spaniard, the African and the Indian each contributed to the unique form of cooking known as Creole. Disputes arise when any one group is singled out to receive the lion’s share of the credit.
One did not have to be French to be Creole. Spanish, German and Irish all intermarried with early French settlers in Louisiana. But certainly being Creole had a lot to do with being French in thought, word, and deed. Charles Gayarré (1805-1895), born in New Orleans and best known as an historian of Louisiana said of the Creole who was not French by birth: “They became so Frenchified, that they appear to be of Gallic parentage”. “German family names, were, in many instances literally translated; Zweig, for instance, became La Branche. An Irish family of O’Briens pronounced their name Obreeong!”, say the authors of Gumbo Ya-Ya, a fascinating work about Louisiana social life and customs.
French was spoken in Creole homes. Boys were often sent to Paris for their schooling; girls to local convents to be taught by French nuns. To be a part of one of these families in any capacity was to be…’Creole’. Thus, the servant and the slave were Creoles, too.
Whatever creature or object fell within the scope of their domestic life also became Creole. As the authors of Gumbo Ya-Ya put it: “Everything they used or possessed, received the Creole appelation: their cooking, horses, chickens, vegetables, and axe handles. To become acclimated was to be ‘Creolized.’
Against this background, Creole cooking looks like a quintessential American melting pot phenomenon. Under an umbrella of a common culture that was called Creole and which loudly, self-consciously proclaimed itself to be French, there were a lot of other strong, very un-Gallic cultural influences at work, making their presences felt, shaping and changing their common world. Parsing out who contributed which element to the cuisine that emerged in those days from this international melange is less to the point than what, together, these different groups created. Creole cuisine is one of the enduring outcomes of the days and times they shared.
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Timing: The lamb may be marinated in the refrigerator for up to two days.
I. Making the Lamb and the Marinade
- 7 boneless Loins of Lamb: A loin divides into 6 or 7 reasonably thick (1/2-inch) slices. Five slices is a good size for a serving.
- 1/2 cup of tomato-based Chili Sauce (Heinz brand was used for the Sauce Creole in the photos)
- 2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
- 1 Beef Bouillon Cube dissolved in 1 cup of Water and cooled or 1 cup of canned Beef Bouillon
- 1 Tablespoon of Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of coarsely cracked Black Pepper (aka Steak Poivre)
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 medium sized Onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup finely chopped)
- 2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of fresh Rosemary
- Optional Last Touch: Bottled Roasted, Marinated Pepper or Bottled Roasted (unmarinated) Red Pepper, cut into strips (See below in Part III: Serving Suggestions for ways to decorate the plates with the strips.)
- Another Optional Last Touch: some coarsely chopped Parsley
- For the Sauce: Ingredients are listed below in Part II: Making the Sauce.
- a glass or earthenware Casserole or a large ziplock plastic bag in which to marinate the lamb
- an Outdoor Grill: A Charcoal Grill was used to make the photographed lamb. The loins are very good grilled on a Stovetop Grill, too. For this indoor method, the cooking times remain the same.
- For the Sauce: Equipment is listed below in Part II: Making the Sauce.
1. Mix together the marinade ingredients: the chili sauce, red wine vinegar, olive oil, beef bouillion, sugar, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, onion, garlic and rosemary. Pour the marinade into an earthenware or glass casserole or a ziplock plastic bag large enough to hold the loins of lamb, add the lamb and marinate it for up to two days in the refrigerator.
2. Remove the lamb from the marinade. Reserve the marinade for making the sauce:
3. Oil the grill rack well. (If using a stovetop grill, brush it with some oil after heating it and just before placing the lamb on it.) Light the grill and while waiting for the coals to turn ashy gray, make the Sauce Creole. (See Part II below.)
4. When the coals are ready (or when the stovetop grill is very hot) place the loins on the rack and grill them on the first side for 4 minutes with the grill cover closed.
5. Turn the loins and grill them on the second side for 3 minutes. (Turn them only once.)
6. Transfer the loins to a pan and tent them loosely with aluminum foil. Let them rest for 10 minutes before slicing them.
8. Just before serving, cut each loin into slices..Each loin cuts easily into about 6 or 7 1/2-inch slices. See Part III below for suggestions for arranging the lamb on plates and decorating with pepper strips.
II. Making the Sauce Creole (for about 2 cups)
- the reserved Marinade
- 1/2 cup of Demi-Glace (Click here for suggestions about using prepared Demi-Glace and making your own Demi-Glace in this previous diplomatickitchen post.)
- 1/4 teaspoon of Tabasco or up to 1/2 teaspoon if you know your audience and everyone likes more than a trace of hot
- a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed Saucepan or Casserole
1. Pour the reserved marinade into the casserole and bring it to a boil. Add the demi-glace and reduce the sauce, uncovered, over medium heat until it thickens…
III. Suggestions for Serving and Decorating with a Last Touch:
- Bottled Grilled, Marinated Peppers, cut into strips or Bottled (unmarinated) Grilled Red Peppers, cut into strips
A Note: Grilled Boneless Loin of Lamb with Sauce Creole is the Main Course of the Dinner Menu: Dinner ‘Louisianne’.
A Recommendation: Gumbo Ya-ya by Lyle Saxon, Edward Dreyer and Robert Tallant is an engrossing collection of personal profiles, folklore, and vignettes of New Orleans life and may be read online here at the internetarchive. The book was an outcome of the Louisiana Writer’s Project which was funded by the Works Project Administration that provided work for many of the unemployed in the United States (including writers) from 1935 – 1940.
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012