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Cajun Dictionary




Andouille (ahn-do-ee) - A spicy country sausage used in Gumbo and other Cajun dishes.

Atchafalaya (uh chaf uh ly uh) - Choctaw Indian word meaning “long river.” The Atchafalaya River runs through a scenic river basin east of Lafayette, Louisiana. This swamp area is rich with wildlife and seafood that are the basis of many Cajun dishes.

Batture - The land between a river and a levee.

Bayou (bi-yoo) - The streams crisscrossing Louisiana.

Beignet (ben-yea) - Delicious sweet doughnuts, square-shaped and minus the hole, lavishly sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Sometimes served with café au lait (coffee with chicory and milk).

Bisque (bis-k) - A thick, cream or milk-based shellfish soup, usually made with crawfish, shrimp or oysters.

Blacken (black-end) - Blackening is a method of cooking invented by Chef Paul Prudhomme. Though he is a Cajun country native, the dish isn't part of traditional Cajun cooking. To blacken fish or meat, the chef coats it with spices and quickly sears it in butter in a cast iron skillet. The goal is to get a crunchy coat. It is not supposed to be burned, over-charred or excruciatingly spiced with pepper.

Bon Appetite! (bon a-pet-tite') - Good appetite - or "Enjoy!"

Boucherie (boo-shuh-ree) - A community butchering which involves several families contributing the animal(s), usually pigs,  to be slaughtered. Each family helps to process the different cuts of meat, like sausage, ham, boudin, chaudin, chops, and head cheese. Each family gets to take home their share of the yield. This process was done in late fall to provide meat throughout the cold months.

Boudin (boo-dan) - Hot, spicy pork mixed with onions, cooked rice, herbs, and stuffed in sausage casing.

Bourre (boo-ray) - French for "stuffed”, it is the name of a Cajun card game which requires the loser of a hand to stuff the pot with chips.

Bread Pudding - A traditional New Orleans dessert made from yesterday's French bread. The loaf is broken up, soaked in custard and baked until golden brown. Restaurants usually serve it with whiskey sauce.

Café au Lait (kah-fay-oh-lay) - Coffee with steamed milk.

Cajun (cay-jun) - Slang for Acadians, the French-speaking people who migrated to South Louisiana from Nova Scotia in the eighteenth century. Cajuns were happily removed from city life preferring a rustic life along the bayous. The term now applies to the people, the culture, and the cooking.

Cajun Cuisine - The cooking of the Cajun people, the transplanted Acadians expelled from Nova Scotia in the 1750s who settled in Louisiana. Coming out of hard times, Cajun cooking traditionally involved one large pot and often stretched limited offerings to feed many.

Cayenne (ki-yan) - A hot pepper that is dried and used to season many Louisiana dishes.

Cher (sha) - Honey or dear when speaking to the opposite sex. Buddy or pal when addressing the same sex.

Chicory (chick-ory) - An herb, the roots of which are dried, ground; roasted and used to flavor coffee.

Cochon De Lait - A Cajun tradition, in which a young pig is roasted over and open pit. Today, this describes a method of preparing pork.

Coonass (koon-ass) - A controversial term in the Cajun lexicon: to some Cajuns it is regarded as the supreme ethnic slur, meaning "ignorant, backwards Cajun"; to others the term is a badge of pride, much like the word Chicano is for Mexican Americans. In South Louisiana , for example, one can often see bumper stickers reading "Registered Louisiana Coonass". The word originated in South Louisiana , and is derived from the belief that Cajuns frequently ate raccoons. It is proposed that the term contains a negative racial connotation: namely, that Cajuns were "beneath" or "under" blacks (or coons, as blacks were often called by racists).

Couche-Couche (koosh-koosh) - A popular breakfast food, made by frying cornmeal and topping it with milk and/or cane syrup.

Courtbouillon (coo-boo-yon) - A rich, spicy tomato-based soup or stew made with fish fillets, onions, and sometimes mixed vegetables.

Couyon (koo-yon) - A fool, from the French word "couillon."

Crawfish (craw-fish) - Crawfish, sometimes spelled "crayfish," resemble lobsters, but are much smaller. Locally, they are known as "mudbugs," because they live and grow in the mud of freshwater bayous. They can be served many ways: in etouffees, jambalaya, gumbos or, simply boiled.

Creole (cree-ol) - The word originally described those people of mixed French and Spanish blood who migrated from Europe or were born in Southeast Louisiana and lived as sophisticated city or plantation dwellers. The term has expanded and now embraces a type of cuisine and a style of architecture.

Crescent City - Nickname for New Orleans which is located at a bend of the Mississippi River that is shaped like a crescent.

Doubloon - Aluminum coins that are imprinted with the name of a Krewe and the theme of its parade and are thrown from floats during Mardi Gras.

Dirty Rice - Pan-fried leftover cooked rice sautéed with green peppers, onion, celery, stock, liver, giblets and many other ingredients.

Dressing - In Louisiana, dressing is synonymous with stuffing, or a side dish for a meal.

Etoufee (ay-too-fay) - A succulent, tangy tomato-based sauce. A smothered dish usually made with crawfish or shrimp. Crawfish and Shrimp etouffees are New Orleans and Cajun country specialties.

Fais do do (fay-doe-doe) - The name for a party where traditional Cajun dance is performed. This phrase literally means "to make sleep," although the parties are the liveliest of occasions with food, music, and dancing.

File (fee-lay) - Ground sassafras leaves used to season, among other things, gumbo.

Float - Lavishly decorated vehicle used in Mardi Gras parades, from which beads, doubloons and other small trinkets are thrown.

Fricassee (free-kay-say) - A stew made by browning then removing meat from the pan, making a roux with the pan drippings, and then returning meat to simmer in the thick gravy.

Gris Gris - A (voodoo) spell

Gumbo (gum-boe)    - A thick, robust roux-based soup sometimes thickened with okra or file'. There are thousands of variations, such as shrimp or seafood gumbo, chicken or duck gumbo, okra and file' gumbo.

Hushpuppies - A cornbread-type mixture, formed into balls & fried until crispy & golden on the outside.

Jambalaya (jum-bo-lie-yah) - Louisiana chefs "sweep up the kitchen" and toss just about everything into the pot. A rice dish with any combination of beef, pork, fowl, smoked sausage, ham, or seafood, as well as celery, green peppers and often tomatoes.

Joie de Vivre (zhwa-d-veev) - An attitude towards life.

King Cake - A ring shaped oval pastry, decorated with colored sugar in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, purple, green, and gold, which represent justice, faith, and power. A small plastic baby is hidden inside the cake. Tradition requires that the person who gets the baby in their piece must provide the next King Cake.

Lagniappe (lan-yap) - This word is Cajun for "something extra," like the extra donut in a baker's dozen. An unexpected nice surprise.

Laissez les bon temps rouler (lay-zay lay bon ton rule-ay) - You often hear this popular Cajun phrase during Mardi Gras. It means "Let the good times roll!" and that's what we do in Louisiana!

Levee (le-vee) - An embankment built to keep a river from overflowing; a landing place on the river.

Maque Chou (mock-shoo) - A dish made by scraping young corn off the cob and smothering the kernels in tomatoes, onion, and spices.

Mardi Gras (mardi graw) - Commonly known as Fat Tuesday, it is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Roman Catholic season of Lent. It's also the day of the Biggest Party on Earth!

Marinade - A mixture of liquids and seasonings in which foods are soaked before cooking. Marinades are an important part of Louisiana cuisine.

Neutral Ground - The little strip of ground in the middle of a road. Legend has it that the neutral ground got its name from early New Orleans when the French and Spanish could do business between sections of the city standing on the "neutral ground."

Pain Perdu (pan-pear-doo) - Means "lost bread"; a breakfast treat made by soaking stale bread in an egg batter, then frying and topping with cane syrup or powdered sugar.

Parish - Political division similar to counties in other states. Louisiana is the only state which has parishes rather than counties.

Pirogue (pee-row) - A Cajun boat, similar to a canoe for usually no more than 2 people.

Po-Boy - A sandwich extravaganza that began as a five-cent lunch for poor boys. Always made with French bread, po-boys can be stuffed with fried oysters, shrimp, fish, crawfish, meatballs, smoked sausage and more.

Praline (praw-leen) - The sweetest of sweets, this New Orleans tradition is a candy patty made of sugar, cream and pecans.

Red Beans & Rice - The traditional Monday meal in New Orleans , red beans are cooked with ham or sausage and seasonings, and served over rice.

Remoulade (rem-oo-lard) - A spicy sauce used with shrimp and other seafood.

Roux (roo) - Base of gumbos or stews, made of flour and oil mixture.

Rue (roo)
- The French word for street, used in the New Orleans French Quarter.

Sauce Piquante (saws-pee-kawnt) - Means "spicy sauce"; is a spicy stew.

Second Line - A celebratory dance accompanied by jazz, and decorated umbrellas; a New Orleans tradition at weddings, jazz funerals and other festive occasions. The First Line consists of the somber mourners at a jazz funeral.

Tasso (tah-soh) - Strips of spiced pork or beef which are smoked like jerky and used to flavor many dishes; a sort of Cajun pepperoni.

The Big Easy - A nickname for New Orleans meaning people here take it easy.

Two-step - A traditional Cajun dance similar to a polka.

Vieux Carre (voo ca-ray) - French, meaning "old quarter," and referring to the French Quarter.

Where Y’at - Contraction for “Where are you at?’ In some neighborhoods in New Orleans this is how you say “How are you doing?”

Zydeco (zi-de-co) - A relatively new kind of Creole dance music that is a combination of traditional Cajun dance music, R&B, and African blues.



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