When traveling, Ellen and I make a concerted effort to experience the food for which that area is famous. On the gulf coast, that means seafood, and particularly Cajun-style seafood, often served in an unusual ambiance. This blog illustrates three forays into this particular genre of southern cuisine.
The first restaurant was in Houston, near the Space Center. We chose it for the setting. You are alongside a giant aquarium, watching eels, rays, and large ocean fish as you eat. The second was a high-volume seafood place in Lake Charles, on the way to New Orleans. Here, seated near the stuffed alligator, we had the chance to try “boudin.” Growing up, Mom would make salmon croquettes. Boudin is similar, except that it shaped like a donut hole and the meat is pork and/or seafood. We also checked out “alligator bites.” Think chicken nuggets with alligator tail replacing the chicken, dipped in jalapeno ranch dressing. Rounded it out with Cajun boiled shrimp. We saw and photographed, but did not yet try, the broiled crayfish shown in the pictures below. The person ordering this platter demonstrated how to eat them: twist them in two, pull out the meat from the tail (sort of like an ultra-mini lobster tail), then suck out the juice from the body by either taking off the head or the tips of the claws. It is a dish not for the faint of heart (or stomach).
The last place was a food stand in the French market within the French Quarter of New Orleans. We were drawn to this place because they served shrimp & grits. The shrimp is cooked Cajun-style, with added jalapeno peppers. To this we added a seafood tostada, choosing this latter dish because the seafood was the aforementioned crayfish. I thought I would let someone else twist apart the animal, and I would just get the flavor. Seating was at a premium, so we joined another couple under the open air, carport-style covered structure. They turned out to be a delightful retired couple from a nearby town who invited us to park our RV on their property for a visit if we ever came to their town. It doesn’t fit our current itinerary, but we felt honored by the offer and just might take them up on it someday.
Every dish was delicious, but our favorites were the gator bites, boudin, and shrimp & grits. And of course, the various types of Cajun coast ambience.