Cultured Palate: Dishes from the American Southeast
Creole-style turtle soup, known as caouane, is unique: unlike other versions of turtle soup, it uses snapping turtle instead of soft-shelled turtle. In New Orleans, this is a delicacy only served by traditional Creole restaurants that have served it for decades. Caouane starts with a deliciously dark roux, which lends a caramelized flavor to the soup that complements the turtle meat beautifully.
Another popular dish that put Southern cuisine on the map is gumbo, a delicious stew made from either meat or shellfish and thickened with unique ingredients that can only be found in Louisiana. Gumbo is thickened with either okra, filé powder, or a dark roux. Filé powder is the most unique ingredient and is essential for making Creole gumbo. Made of powdered leaves and stems of the sassafras plant, it gives the dish an earthy flavor. Cajun gumbo doesn’t use filé powder and is often garnished with green onions. Both types of gumbo are usually served over rice and can include various types of meat, sausages, and shellfish.
4. Pimento Cheese
If you’ve ever attended a party in the South, you’ve probably sampled pimento cheese. Made with either sharp cheddar or processed American cheese that’s mixed with mayonnaise and pimento peppers, the mixture is scooped up with crackers or sandwiched between two slices of bread. It’s one of the most popular appetizers south of the Mason-Dixon line – it’s even called the ‘Caviar of the South’. Although it’s easy to find commercially made pimento cheese dip in most grocery stores, homemade is definitely best.