Tips and Information

There are many things about South Louisiana cooking that aren't always readily apparent or available to non-residents. For example: Do you know how to make a Roux? What about finding crawfish tails? What the heck is Tony's???

In addition to presenting tips to make things easy in the kitchen, I am hoping to assist you in finding necessary ingredients for Louisiana cooking as well as providing informative resources available through the internet. Hopefully, this page will become a valuable resource for your endeavors into South Louisiana cooking!


In my recipes, I frequently list an ingredient called Tony's. Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning (pron: sash-er-ee) is the full name of the product and it is found in most all Louisiana kitchens. It is a mixture of commonly used seasonings in the cajun kitchen: salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt, etc.

I've lived all over the country and spent extensive time in Canada and have always been able to find Tony's in every grocery store I went to, particularly after Hurricane Katrina, when so many people from South Louisiana were dispersed throughout the nation. If you can't find it, you can ask your grocer to stock it or you can order directly from the website Tony's website has lots of wonderful products that you might enjoy. I particularly like the Crawfish Stuffed Chickens! Enjoy exploring Tony's website, the products and read about his history...he was a very interesting man!



If you don't live in Louisiana or have access to Louisiana Crawfish Tail Meat, Walmart carries a frozen product from China usually labeled Boudreaux's Crawfish Tail Meat. While I advocate purchasing Louisiana crawfish, I understand that it is not available in other areas of the country, hence the Chinese crawfish. Since I no longer live in Louisiana myself, that's what I'm going to be purchasing from my local Walmart. Please note that my recipes call for pounds of tail meat and the Chinese packaging is usually only 12 oz versus 1 lb, so you need to check the weight and buy accordingly. It's ok to have a little more or a little less. Additionally, shrimp may be substituted for crawfish in all of my recipes, so cook away!!!



Zatarain's is another seasoning that I use particularly for boiled seafood, whether its crawfish, crab or more often, shrimp. Which product I use depends on the quantity of the food I am boiling. If it's just a few pounds of shrimp, I solely use the liquid crab boil. However, if it's a larger quantity of anything, seafood or vegetables or a combination, I use a bag of the dry boil combined (if necessary) with some liquid boil and other seasonings. Like Tony's, Zatarain's also has other food products that are wonderful. Their dry mix products, such as Jambalaya, Dirty Rice and Red Beans and Rice are quick and easy ways to get a good cajun meal on the table and are the best around. The history of Zatarain's is also very interesting. Check out their website at!



A roux (pron: Roo )is the foundation for most cajun cooking such as sauces, gravies, gumbo's, and stews. It is an equal mixture of oil and flour that provides a base and thickener. The quantities vary by recipe and if you want your recipe to be thicker or thinner. The standard norm is:

1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup flour

Add oil and flour to pot or pan and blend well. Over medium high heat, stir constantly until dark brown being careful not to burn. I cannot emphasize it enough when I say stir constantly. If it is starting to stick or thickening too fast, lower the heat a little. The roux will smoke and smell like it's burning but it's not, you want it very dark. It is burned when it is sticking to the bottom and dark pieces appear. If this happens, discard and start over. When your roux is ready, add your onion first and blend very well, then add your other vegetable ingredients. If you are making a gravy, lower the heat considerably and slowly add room tempurature broth, stirring constantly. If you add any liquid that is cold, the roux will separate.

Here are examples of the darkening process from beginning to end:



Out of frustration, I simplified my life and freed up a lot of space in my kitchen by getting rid of nearly all of my counter-top appliances. In doing so, I purchased a heavy weight, good handed Henckel's 8" Chef's Knife and the hand-held counter top sharpener to go with it. While expensive, this was the best kitchen purchase I ever made.

I swear, I use this knife for everything. In doing so, I paid for it many times over by selling my appliances on Ebay!!! Goodbye, Cuisinart! I am a happy little camper! I can slice, dice, chop, mince, julianne and darn near puree with this thing...remember the GuinSue commercials?

I was more than ready to make that transition and I know that most people would never give up their gadgets. However, having a good quality, heavy handed 8" Chef's knife is essential to being good and efficient in the me. Forget the knife set, just get a good chef's knife.



In South Louisiana cooking we have something called The Cajun or Holy Trinity or The Trinity, for short. By that, we mean: Onion, Celery and Green Bellpepper. These chopped ingredients are included in about 95% of our recipes and we are always, always chopping these same vegetables over and over again.

Once, when I spent a long weekend on a houseboat on Lake Verret in Louisiana, an old Cajun woman taught me a very efficient and valuable lesson about dealing with The Trinity. She taught me to buy in quantity, each of the three vegetables, and spend time chopping them all in one sitting. For example purchase:

4 very large onions (I prefer sweet onions)
4 bunches of green onions...yes they are onions & part of The Trinity
3 large full bunches of celery
3 large full green bellpeppers

Then put on some great music, pour a glass of wine, start chopping, relax and zone out! Chop all the sweet onion, place it in a gallon size ziplock bag and squeeze the air out before sealing it closed. Then chop the celery and do the same. Move on to the bellpepper and then the green onion. These last two should each fit in their own quart size ziplock bag.

Lay all the bags on their sides on the counter and flatten each bag out as much as possible so that they are not big round balls of veggies, then lay them on their sides flat in the freezer. By doing this, they freeze somewhat thin and flat and are easily broken up so that you can measure out the quantity you need without unthawing anything. WHA-LA! You've got vegetables at the ready and you don't have to chop all each and every time you cook a dish! Replinish when your supplies run low...that way you can plan this activity ahead of time instead of it catching you unprepared. :-)



You hear everywhere that plunging tomatoes in a bath of boiling water then cooling them in ice water is the best way to peel a tomato.  WRONG!  Hot water makes them mushy, ice water dilutes the flavor and it's just more unnecessary work and clean up all just to peel a silly little tomato.  A properly ripe tomato shouldn't need extra help; it's skin should come off easily when pulled by the blade of a knife, however, that's not always the case.  This is what I've learned:

Using a paring knife, without breaking the skin, firmly scrape the BACK (dull part) of the knife blade all over the tomato (turn the knife over; ie sharp edge facing away from you and use the thicker part of the blade pulling that edge towards you).  I work in a methodical pattern so that I don't miss a spot:   I go around the top circling the core until I get to the even smooth flesh, then from the outer "band" I created, I scrape the back of the blade down the sides to the bottom, overlapping my strokes.  This bruises the tomato which breaks the membrane separating the skin from the meat.  You'll see the slight change in color as the flesh bruises.

Core the tomato.  Then using the sharp edge of the paring knife, slip the blade under the skin at the edges where the core was, grab the skin with your thumb and the blade and gently pull the skin down.  It should peel very easily. This whole process only takes a minute!  No extra mess, no extra work, no hassle!



Manda's Sausage, I believe, is the best and this is the sausage I use in my recipes.  In addition to sausage, Manda's produces all kinds of fine quality cajun meats that can be found in the deli section of your grocer.  I have found Manda's meats in other areas of the country but not very often.  You can ask your grocer to stock it or you can buy it online at  One of their meats that I particularly like is their cajun roast beef!  I make a fabulous sandwich with it, havarti cheese, Hellman's mayo and Grey Poupon mustard (with the brown husks) on whole wheat.  Heat it for 15 seconds in the microwave, remove, take a bite and your eyes will roll back in your head!!!!



The only rice I use is parboiled rice. Parboiling is a processing step that begins before the rice is milled.  It results in a rice that is firm, less sticky and holds its shape.  It can be cooked a long time without getting gummy and gooey making it an excellent choice for jambalaya and it can also be kept a longer time after cooking.  This is the type of rice that restaurants use and I began using it exclusively years ago.  My preferred parboiled rice is Zatarain's but Uncle Ben's makes it as well.  Both are equally good.



How many times have you needed to open a bottle of wine but didn't have a corkscrew because you either forgot it or it broke? Well, here is your solution! You don't need to know French to understand this video! Tres' Bien!



Frequently, I've mentioned in my recipes and here in Tips and Information, that you can freeze something in a zip-lock bag, just squeeze the air out, seal it closed and flatten it out as much possible. These are the reasons behind that instruction:

1. Air, over time, causes the contents to become freezer burned. By removing the air from the bag before sealing it closed, you are retaining the moisture necessary to keep the food from drying out therefore, it remains fresh thus preserving it.  The food, then, can remain frozen indefinately this way without becoming freezer burned.

2. Flattening out the contents of the bag as much as possible enables it to thaw out faster than a big round ball of stuff. With vegetables, it's easier to break them up to remove the quantity you need without thawing out the entire bag.

3. Additionally, the bag lays flat in your freezer thus helping with organization and space efficiency!

Note: Raw meat is much more susceptible to freezer burn. Therefore, when freezing any kind of meat ALWAYS wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then you can either wrap it again in foil or put it in a ziplock bag and squeeze the air out. The plastic wrap adheres itself to the meat and keeps ALL air off of it, thus ensuring against freezer burn.




One of the things that simplifies life for me when cooking is Better Than Bouillon paste vs. bouillon cubes.  I don't like having to wait until the cubes are dissolved when I can just use a teaspoon, dip out what I need and stir it into whatever it is that I'm cooking.  Plus, these pastes are fresh and not dehydrated and pressed into a cube, so to me, it has a better flavor.  The only ones I've used so far is the beef and chicken flavors.  They are found with the rest of the bouillon in your grocery store but are usually on the top shelf.  They are a little more expensive and need to be refrigerated after opening but are well worth it!



Recently, I was helping a friend come up with some recipes that her picky little eaters would be receptive to.  After purusing my recipes and cookbooks, I realized that it's really just the sight of the vegetables that they are opposed to so they think they don't like it.  Usually, those vegetables are the common ones used in most recipes:  onion, celery and bellpepper.  It dawned on me that if the kids can't see them, they don't know it's in there and will heartily eat away.  Case in point....Spagetti sauce, Pizza sauce, Hot Pockets and Bites, Chef Boy-Ar-Dee.  That kind of stuff has onion, celery and bellpepper in it but they are pureed and can't be seen!  Ding, Ding, Ding! 


The bell and the lightbulb go off in my head....use a food processor and finely chop or puree those veggies, add them to the pot and they will cook down...sight unseen!  If necessary do it for carrots, peas, green beans but only if they are going in something like a soup or pot get the picture.  I hope this help you with your little monsters!!

***Note:  This is not an excuse to allow your children to get away with not eating vegetables.  You should require that they try at least 2 bites of any vegetable, period.  However, please know that children's tastes buds are not developed, so there are many things that they truly just don't like.  Their taste buds do develop over time so continue to enforce the 2 bite rule while holding off on known disliked veggies and introduce new ones. (I hated mustard greens all of my childhood and into my early 20's.  Now, I love them!)



I've been asked by several people about the cookware I use.  My grandmother and her siblings owned a department store that my great-grandfather founded in the 1920's.  In addition to being an owner and corporate secretary, she was responsible for the gift and housewares department and would go all around the nation and Europe on buying trips.  Descoware, from Belgium (pictured above), was the premier cookware we sold at the store. 

I inherited many great pieces of Descoware from her and have filled in missing/needed items with Le Creuset.  The color I have is Flame which is represented in the above picture but I also had a Le Creuset set in Dark Blue.  These are the pots and pans you see in the pictures on the blog.  They are enameled cast iron and are wonderful!  I won't use anything else except a non-stick pan every now and then.

You can find Descoware on Ebay.  Le Creuset can be found in department stores, kitchen stores, on the internet and also on Ebay.


Spinach Madeline is a southern holiday favorite on tables throughout South Louisiana. One of the most important ingredients in the original recipe was Kraft's Jalapeno cheese roll.

However, in the late 1990s, Kraft foods discontinued it. Actually, it had already been repackaged and remarketed as Mexican Velveeta cheese to appeal to, and obtain, a larger market. Smart move on Kraft's part by capitalizing on the Mexican food popularity, but bad move on reintroducing it as such and not informing their existing market.

It's slowly getting around by word of mouth but it has a long way to go! Most people are using regular Velveeta and adding chopped jalapeno's, not realizing the Mexican cheese is right there on the same shelf and is the same product!! you know!